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Three Moves Ahead Episode 41 – Vic Davis and Solium Infernum

December 1st, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 13 Comments · Cryptic Comet, Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


Our first ever guest, Vic Davis, returns for an episode that will not be lost to the ether. Solium Infernum gets invited to a love in as Tom, Troy and Bruce try to explain why it is one of the best games of the year. We get an inside look at game design, how an game about unbalancing your opponents stays balanced and what Vic has up his sleeve for the expansion.

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Ameritrash Games
Cryptic Comet
Quarter to Three Games Forum – Full of AARs
Penny Arcade’s Tycho loves Solium Infernum and links to Tom’s Fidgit diaries so I don’t have to


13 Comments so far ↓

  • Honestabe

    This game would be great if there were some ai combat in it. As it is the ai is pretty much a cakewalk as it doesn’t do anything for 15 token rounds.

    If the developer would add another level of play where full vendetta of all the ai/players behind with 5 token rounds to go this would be a great game.

    It is mostly just a land rush in the beginning then just a collection game to token round 15 then the ai might do something like demand 1 stupid tribute card.

    Needs some war in it badly and the last 5 token rounds to survive would be excellent.

    Just add another way to play it for the hardcore who like much more of a challenge than this ai is giving and I’d vote this game Strategy Game of the Year.

  • Troy

    The AI is cautious, and Vic does explain why that’s the case. But I don’t think the game necessarily needs more combat. This isn’t a wargame like AE and legions are so few even on a large map that the combat is generally over quickly.

  • James Allen

    I actually have yet to have the AI demand or insult me, even as the leader.

  • Bertrand Russell

    Instead of working on a new game, Vic should spend the next two years learning a new programming language and a corresponding development toolkit. If Adobe Director (wtf?) is responsible for the games limitations (as he seems to imply) then stop using it. Either that, or move to a strictly design role and leave the coding up to someone else.

    Also, as the game currently stands, the AI and interface are a travesty. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game. I’ve been up till 2 every night playing it. But if you’re to give an objective review of this game, it should get a low score, and only be recommended to people who truly love the genre and are willing to wait for Vic to bring it up to the level that makes it worth $30.

    Again, I love the game and don’t mean to be harsh. I just think it’s time for some tough love and less fawning. Just think of how truly great this game _could_ have been if Vic designed it, and some other developer coded it.

  • Ian Bowes (spelk)

    Great podcast folks, enjoyed Vic’s comments muchly. He’s very much a down to Earth developer who admits his own failings. But by Lucifer he’s one heck of a games designer. Someone get him a coding team and lock him away with an idea pencil and pad.

    I enjoyed Armageddon Empires to a certain extent, I did require the tutorial blog to get into it, and I found the overly clicky interface a stumbling block on long games. I have been interested in Solium Infernum since it was announced yonks ago, and to find the TMA team live blogging it on Qt3, it sort of stuck a flame to my enthusiasm and really got it burning.

    Having got my sticky mitts on the game, and having explored some of the mechanics at play, all I can say is ‘wow’, we’ve got something special here.

    This games got territory control, army building, hero management, RPG progression, diplomacy, event card and resource collecting, several types of combat and strict rules from Hell to adhere to where combat is concerned. In fact combat is so proceduralised and formal, that it requires a lot of effort to get it going against other players.. fantastic. I could see this sort of setup in Chivalric Knights during the 100 years war. Theres high level intrigue and diplomacy at the heart of the game, yet basic troop movements on the board also control what is possible, theres a good balance there. Even the resource chips of various denominations collected have to be cajoled, melded and wedged into only 8 payment slots, and that is a logistic game in itself, not to mention the phased game actions that require some tough decisions on what you want to do each turn from the off.

    Basically the game design is revolutionary in that it brings an amalgamation of board game tropes to the PC strategy genre, whilst conjuring up something new, and not just porting over a specific board game (which is rarely done anyway). Rather than pursuing RTS, or turn based wargames, Solium Infernum is giving us something we recognise, but has been crafted from what has gone, it feeds our needs for a competitive scenario to play in, but also serves up a healthy amount of different ways to win and lose. I think its the amount of choice on offer, choice which matters so fundamentally, and yet it doesn’t conform to PC hex games that have gone previously.

    I’m no way familiar with all the ins and outs of the game, but I can appreciate there is a lot more scope to my play I can improve upon once I become more familiar with the mechanics available to me.

    I think perhaps a small series of tutorial videos would get the vast majority of interested players off the ground so to speak, I’ve seen Chris Park have more success with video introductions to his indie strategy game, and I’m sure Sol Inf could have a similar boost to its success.

    We have a massive number of players in PBeM games on Qt3 (10+) as well as games being formed on Cryptic Comets forums also! Even Rock, Paper Shotgun has created a Steam group (Rock, Paper, Satan) for players to come together and organise multiplayer groups, and the game isn’t even on Steam (at the moment)! The game screams out for a decent pool of people willing to put the effort in to play this sort of boardgame together, and I hope Vic and Cryptic Comet can capitalise on that and rear a bunch of loyal followers.

    I’m in a PBeM game with Soldats at the moment, so I’ll keep an eye out for “The Beast”, he keeps threatening to take me down, and keeps suggesting I should watch my back.. hmm..

    Keep up the good work Vic, the title is a stunning addition to PC strategy gaming. Possibly break out of the straightjacket that Director seems to hem you into, sit back and do more design, with more coffee!

    Looking forward to your take on the rogue-like, I’m sure it will be equally inspired.

    Then do that decent space themed game you’ve always wanted. You have my support.

  • Tom Chick

    Firstly, Mr. Russell, I just want to say that I love your work.

    I mostly agree with your post, but I just wanted to address this bit that you wrote:

    “But if you’re to give an objective review of this game, it should get a low score, and only be recommended to people who truly love the genre and are willing to wait for Vic to bring it up to the level that makes it worth $30.”

    I couldn’t care less what score the game gets, but I find it interesting that you think the interface and AI problems — which are considerable — mean the game deserves a negative review.

    The way I approached the situation while writing about SI was to blather on about how much I loved it, and to them offer two important caveats. The first is that it’s a tough game to learn (the interface is part of this). And the second is that it really isn’t a viable single player game (because of the AI).

    You seem to think this means it’s not worth $30, but I disagree. Not all games have to be all things to all people. Solium Infernum sits very comfortably in (atop?) the niche of complex strategy games built for online play. I defy you to find a better experience along those lines for $30.

  • Nick

    The AI isn’t great, sure, but it’s not unable to surprise me from time to time. In my second game, full of over-confidence (and the Infernal Engine) my personal guard walked over to beat-up on a AI legion, only to find that the sneaky bugger had 3 combat cards I hadn’t noticed and proceeded to destroy all the carefully built up legions I had.

    I also can’t count the number of times that the AI has pulled out some nasty deceit/wrath ritual which has turned the tables in combat.

    There’re UI problems but as a package it sells the setting and game far more completely than most other games I’ve played this year. I’ve yet to find a rule system that suspends disbelief.

  • Andrew Doull

    Now I’ve got to wait for Vic Davis’ interpretation of the roguelike genre…

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  • Soldats

    I’m glad you enjoyed the Beast as much as I did, Tom. It’s a shame he suffered that Act of Wrath the other night, but at least he’s in a better place now.

    It was great to have Vic back again; I loved hearing his thoughts on the design process and decisions he made for Armageddon Empires, and this time was no different.

    Thanks Troy (and the TMA crew) for your constant work on the podcast.

  • Nikolaj

    Thanks for a great podcast. I’ve been looking forward to this for some time, and I lament the fact that I never had a chance to hear your first podcast featuring Vic.

    I think that the ai of SI gets knocked a bit more than what is fair. It certainly isn’t a great ai, but it’s just as good, if not better, than that of many other games, including AAA titles (Total War anyone?).

    I think one of the problems is that SI games are usually very short, compared to most other strategy games, so the time it takes for the player to realize that he always wins is shorter.

  • Dirk

    Thanks for bringing this game to a wider audience. I wouldn’t have even considered it if not for all of the momentum being put behind it by Troy in particular, between the podcast and the Crispy Gamer article. As more of a boardgamer this is right up my ally, and I agree philosophically with a lot of the things Vic is doing here, even having similar elements in my own designs. I really appreciate being “sold on” Solium Infernum, it is a fascinating game.

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