@milspec thanks for doing the AAR. I’m still a newb after several years, so this is very helpful.
Agreed, thanks for sharing! I’m really enjoying reading along.
I’m also really enjoying this AAR. A question about diplomacy: how binding are your nonaggression packs? Does the game enforce them in any way, or is it solely a player-to-player agreement based on honor? If the latter, I imagine there’s backstabbing, a la the Diplomacy boardgame. (A game I stopped playing because it wasn’t healthy for friendships!)
I am not sure of the game @milspec is in, but we used to have a set of rules/guidelines for games that covered this.
The game itself doesn’t enforce them. Normally it said that agreed upon trades should be binding, but breaking nonaggression pacts are not. However, be aware that you will develop a reputation of being a NAP breaker if you do that, so most people seem to honor them.
EDIT: Latest list used at this site, and hits the main ones I remember:
Diplomacy rules are one of the most important things to get right when setting up a Dominions game.
The group I play with is a core of friends I have gamed with for 30 years, so we are pretty tolerant. It has expanded to friend-of-friends over the years. We make sure everyone is clear on the diplomacy before we start.
We have tried all diplomacy options: public, closed, structured (you can only pick from a short list like 10 turn NAP, etc) unstructured, binding, non-binding, etc. In the end, we prefer non-binding private diplomacy. That means you can agree anything you want with another nation, or a group of nations, but there is nothing stopping you from breaking it early.
Everything else led to more drama. Its much harder to agree to binding diplomacy and then have to be suspicious of someone out of game when you get a malicious unknown ritual cast on your province. Its easier to accept up from that all you have is your honor, and you need to slowly re-build trust each game.
In the Sceleria game we also agreed to only use the in-game messaging client. This worked to limit “diplomacy spam”, but it also cut down on overall interaction and has some annoying technical limits like no way to search past messages.
We are returning to email-based, private non-binding diplomacy next game.
Thanks for the explanation on diplomacy. Interesting!
MA Sceleria, Year Two:
In early Spring my pretender Guxx returned from the dead! It took two months of every priest chanting to bring him back. His Death magic reduced by one, and it said his domain also reduced but I didn’t see any effect on domain. For example I could still recruit the same amount of holy units per turn.
I hired a band of mercenaries and they took back the coastal plains province from Eriu. I continued to hold that throne, which also happened to have many many magic sites on it, and it made me the leader in gems per turn. I started to build a fort on the throne province.
I moved a lot of the animated undead north to the front versus Eriu. I re-equipped Guxx, gave him a fresh squad of vestals from my capital, and he also made his way north. I continued to research at a fairly slow pace. I adjusted my research priorities slightly and headed to conjuration sooner than expected, hoping to get a few Bane Lord thugs into the field to expand my fighting force.
Bandar Log was still the Throne Leader at 7 points. I suspected everyone would gang up on him before he could get 11. My goals for this year were to finish off Eriu and then decide if I was going to head east versus Man or south versus Machaka. I had no intention of trying to head west across the water to fight Bandar Log, Water magic is not a strong path for Sceleria.
I consolidated my forces in the north, upgraded a few forts (I was the fort leader and second in gold income) and made a hard decision. I almost decided not to invade Eriu since I gained little from finishing him off. I even sent him a note that I was withdrawing, and I meant it at the time. Negotiations with my northern neighbors were holding steady, none of us were attacking each other. (I hoped some were attacking Bandar Log.)
However, in the mid-Summer I invaded Eriu’s capital. I wanted to see if I could finish off a human player, and I didn’t want to leave a wounded and angry neighbor on my flank. In the end I decided he needed to go. He appeared to have 200-250 troops, of mixed types, but I didn’t trust the report. I threw everything I had in the north: all my undead, my H4 D3 S2 prophet, and my re-equipped Super-Combatant Pretender.
Here is my prophet, who was the second most valuable asset in my army:
It took three months to breech Eriu’s walls. During that time I summoned about 150 more undead, animated from corpses that were in his capital province. Had there been a large battle there previously? I also built temples in all neighboring provinces and switched my animating priests in those provinces to praying. I managed to shrink his domain advantage in his capital down to almost nothing.
He tried to re-take one of the coastal provinces with summoned eagles. They were beaten by my province defenders.
We stormed the castle in late Fall, won the fight and eliminated Eriu. I killed about 300 units and lost about 75. The biggest losses were my vestals, as always, with 50 dead. However, they killed 150 so they did their job. :-)
My Vestals were always on attack rear. One of the two groups managed to kill the wall defenders then jumped over the wall - maybe because they are ethereal? They ended up inside of the castle in Eriu’s back ranks at the same time that Guxx flew in. Guxx still had on his trample boots, since I figured it was better to sow chaos than to try and kill Eriu’s pretender. I got lucky because his pretender moved forward and was surrounded by my units, who were steadily chewing through his troops, while Guxx trampled his casters in the courtyard.In the final moments the Duiu of Farming was horror marked, suffered two permanent wounds, and was paralyzed by the Shadows, then Guxx came in and did 50% of the damage in a few swings and got credit for the killing blow. Guxx finished the fight with 250 XP total with 70 kills to his name (from all fights), which would put him at #2 in the Hall of Fame (if Pretenders were able to be listed in the Hall of Fame).
However, Guxx did not escape unscathed. Eriu managed to land a SHRINK on him! Not a massive deal because he was still size 4, but that meant trample was now less effective and his icon was a bit smaller. It was an embarrassing reminder of the fight. :-)
I consolidated my forces and planned to send Guxx off across the ocean to fight Bandar Log, with the Prophet leading the main force down south to fight Machaka. Bandar Log had 8 throne points and was close to the win. Machaka had 6 thrones.
I hated splitting my force but I had to keep Bandar Log away from the win while I took the other thrones from Machaka. No one else in the world was effective against Bandar Log - were they even trying??
By Winter I had re-geared Guxx, summoned Wights, and sent him and 2 water ring-wearing casters to capture the throne in the ocean next to my capital. It was a practice round before I sent that whole team across the ocean to attack Bandar Log. I was still moving all of the rest of my forces south, although I wasn’t yet sure how and when to attack Machaka.
In Late Winter Guxx, the Wights and two of my biggest mages with a random water path all invaded the aquatic throne province. We defeated the defenders easily… but maybe we should have been suspicious there were so few.
Bandar Log’s Pretender (a giant earth snake) and a moderate sized army attacked the same water province that same month. 200 of his troops defeated 20 of mine. Guxx fought bravely, killing 15 enemies himself before he died to a Soul Slay (ouch!). The Wights did OK, killing twice their number. Bandar Log’s forces were only moderately tough but most were native to the water - mine were poor in the water. The loss of my pretender just as he started that mission really hurt.
Here is Bandar Log’s pretender, and the aquatic force I stumbled into by accident…
I pulled myself together, set all my priests to recalling their god (again!), and set my mind to invading Machaka. There was nothing I could do against Bandar Log. I sent 500 more gold to his enemies, bringing the total donated that year to 2,000.
The map at the end of Year Two:
Next post … the fourth year.
MA Sceleria, Year Three:
In mid-Spring Guxx had returned and my troops were ordered to march south into Machaka. Guxx was only moderately equipped, I had foolishly not remembered he would return without his gear. He did not have a weapon, nor a second misc slot. I had two approximately equal invasion forces, one which Guxx would join and the other which the prophet would lead.
The coastal invasion force numbered 150 undead plus 50 vestals. The inland force numbered 320 undead plus 50 vestals. I guess the inland force was a bit bigger, but the coastal force was led by my pretender. I continued to recruit mages in all forts (I was still in the fort lead), started for the first time to recruit defensive living shield-men in the border provinces, continued to animate undead in all provinces, and restarted my research machine.
My war goals were to inflict pain on Machaka and see if I could grab some thrones. I was not trying to win, but I was testing to see what would happen. I still saw no way to attack Bandar Log, unless I threw all of my undead into the sea with water mages at the front. But Sceleria only get 1W 10% of the time on their 2-turn recruit capital-only big mages. I held a number of shoreline provinces but not one of them allowed me to recruit aquatic units. None of my other neighbors interested me in the slightest. I continued to send hundreds of gold per month to Nazca, who had proven they were fighting the monkeys.
I won my first two battles versus Machaka, but they were against province defense and not any real army. We had been in a peace truce for the previous 2 years, and it was due to last another 6 months, so I think I caught him by surprise. I decided to hunker down for a month, reanimate the corpses that were created in the battle, search for sites, and pray. I planned to leapfrog and move every other month. I was able to send another 25 vestals to reinforce my pretender’s (slightly smaller) army. I was claimed two more thrones that month.
It felt like Bandar Log was pulling back from the water, I hoped the gold I was sending Nazca was helping. I think I had sent 3,000 gold total to fight the monkeys.
Machaka moved their pretender into their large force and took back their northern throne. The army they beat was my largest amount of undead, lead by my prophet, but the combo of Machaka’s spider’s webbing the undead and then his priests mass-destroying them killed hundreds of undead. My other army split and was able to take two more provinces, razed more of his temples, and took another throne.
Here is Machaka’s pretender (in +10 positive dominion), should have called him Mr Protection.
In the water my very small force was doing well against soft targets. Maybe I should have sent all of my undead into the ocean to fight Bandar Log?
I continued to move back away from Machaka’s single main force, and I had a slight advantage of multiple armies taking multiple provinces. I decided to double-down and sent in two more armies composed of death priests who would summon death creatures on the battlefield. Arming them all with death gems wiped out my reserves, but I thought it was a good test.
In late summer my pretender was re-equipped (in the field) and headed back to friendly dominion - he was way too weak next to their capital with 7 black candles. My single large force was slowly pulling back, hoping to force the fight in my dominion. I had two more priest / summoning armies moving into his terrain, and I was consolidating into the single water throne province. I was also pulling reserve undead down from Eriu’s capital.
I still saw no way to actually win, but I planned to make the fight versus Machaka interesting and hopefully difficult for him. Bandar Log was headed across the water with his earth snake pretender, which I had no counter for, and I assumed he was close to the win.
By early fall my plans had collapsed. My units were unable to pull back and form up. My pretender’s army was picked off while he was in a province with 7 black candles. He went into the fight with 6 (!!!) HP, and didn’t last long. The spiders were an impressive enemy, it was hard to fight their webs and massed priests. Sure, I moved in and re-took a throne, but it was a short term victory. I felt as if Machaka could turn the tables, form up and invade me - and there was little I could do about it.
Time was the final enemy. I had just gotten to my mid-game strategy of continuously summoning Bane Lords, but they were six months too late. Even six months sooner I am not sure I could beat that many priests with a mostly undead army.
Bandar Log pressed into his final thrones and looked poised for the win. One of the last thrones was in the water off my coast…
The game finished on turn 42, fall in year three. Bandar Log had 12 of the 11 throne points needed for the win. Machaka would be second, with over a dozen ascension points. I believe I finished third, strong in many categories but very short on thrones. In the final tally Sceleria was:
Most gold income
Largest army size
Second most provinces
Third highest gem income
Fourth highest dominion
Fifth in Ascension points
Seventh in research
Here is the final map:
Bandar Log is the large yellow mass in the northeast corner. In later analysis it turns out both of his neighbors, Xibalba in blue/black to the north and Shinuyama in the grey/red to the east, had allied with him. Guess what - if the throne leader’s neighbors don’t attack then they are guaranteed the win.
The final message I received from Machaka summed it up well:
Yes, in the end the undead nation embraced death. Surprise surprise …
Next post … some analysis.
MA Sceleria, the final analysis after fighting 11 humans and not winning.
I drew Sceleria in a random pick and I am glad I got the chance to play them. Let’s revisit the major decisions I made along the way.
Pretender Chassis: I went with Prince of Death since it seemed thematic, since Sceleria gets a discount, since it had cool effects like fear and flying and death magic. Against troops and commanders my pretender worked amazingly well (Trample was a big help). Against other Super Combatants he died. The other SC Pretenders that I saw and heard about were able to solo provinces and even L1 thrones. There is no way the Prince of Death could solo anything. I just re-looked at the available Pretenders and if I had to do it again I would pick something with a higher initial protection (the Prince started with Prot 5). I am not saying which one I would pick, I need to save that info for another game!
Magic Paths: The Prince starts with D3, and I built him to D5 and E4. The exact levels were primarily to get to the Invulnerable death bless (+10 versus normal weapons) and the Resistant to Afflictions (75% fewer) earth bless. I liked both of these blesses - they worked. The +10 invulnerability on the ethereal Vestals was great, and I lost maybe 2 out of 200 to afflictions. However, when they died in combat they died in large numbers. Maybe doubling-up on what they were good at (Ethereal, quick) would be better? is there a glamour or quickness or maybe a strong water defensive bless? I glanced at the blessing list again, its not clear what else I could have picked. Overall I am OK with the paths. In obvious retrospect going medium into Water would have been amazing!
Scales: I went with Sloth 1, Cold 2, Drain 1. I had way way way too much gold for an undead army. Some of this was because I had a lot of provinces and forts and income generating sites. But I should have gone Sloth 2 for another 80 points since I didn’t need the production either. And Cold 3, and maybe Death 1 or 2. That would have allowed me to be positive in Magic and Luck, and maybe increased my magic paths. I was not aggressive enough with decisive scales. (The winner later said they went heavy Luck and it was great.)
Early Game: Went perfect, no changes. A more defensive SC with maybe better scales may have allowed me to take 2 provinces per turn. Being prepared for a quick expansion into the water would also have been awesome. That is asking to turn a great opening into an amazing opening. But maybe its time to aim for amazing, like Bandar Log. :-)
Mid Game: My research suffered. In the beginning it was because of a temporary lack of gold, but that excuse ran out. The bottom line is my research suffered because I did not have any interesting plans for mid- or late-game magic. You saw my goals: “make Level 4 stuff” “make some Bane Lords”, that is pretty lame for Dominions. My next game is Early Ages (aka lots of magic) I need to plan immediately for a much cooler, more effective magic strategy and then kick start my research right away. Bandar Log won for a lot of reasons, but he was also research leader (after I killed Eriu) and that ensured he would be tough to fight no matter what.
Thrones: This was my poorest showing, and for some reason I decided to be bad at it. I had a clear plan not to take thrones until a few years had passed. My goal was to build up gold, troops, provinces and power and then take some thrones from other people. In reality, other people taking those thrones made them more powerful, and it gave them time to reinforce those provinces with forts. It would not have changed this game, since I would have taken early thrones from Machaka and still not taken them from Bandar Log. But next game I need to be more aggressive about thrones, right from the start.
So: a more defensive Pretender, with more aggressive paths, a clearer mid to late game magic strategy, and a higher focus on thrones. Sounds reasonable. However, the one thing that would have changed this last game was a faster and focused dive into the water provinces. It was not even on my radar - it was a shock when I saw Bandar Log spread so quickly through the water. Kudos to him, that early game water strategy was why he won.
Here is the provinces per turn graph. Sceleria is dark purple near the top and Bandar Log is the yellow line that shoots up right from the start:
It was a blast playing and role-playing an undead nation. I made good pre-game choices (but not great choices), had a strong opening and was the only player to eliminate another player. Next time I will remember the goal is to take thrones.
I got the random assignment for my next game today, we start in 10 days, its time to start planning. :-)
Thanks for reading!
thanks for this milspec. a great read.
Yes, thanks for sharing this with us!
This was a great read! Thanks!
I have room for two more players in our next game. Does anyone from QT3 want to join us?
It is an Early Ages game with randomly assigned nations. We keep most settings to default, and will agree the final settings in the next week. We generally use 1 L1 and 1 L2 thrones per player, with ascension points set to 40%, so if 12 players than 12 L1 Thrones and 12 L2 Thrones with (12 + 24 = 36 * .4) 14 Ascension points needed for the win. We use the Llama Server for turns.
The turn timer is 48 hours but 80% of turns complete in 24 hours. You need to be able to get in one turn per day. We generally use laptops to get turns in for business travel. We occasionally delay things for 2-3 days if someone gets stuck. One per game we generally have to delay things for a week. Real life happens, but we try not to delay things for weeks multiple times per game.
We always play until the bitter end. :-)
We use real names on a closed email list to communicate about out of game things, with some occasional banter.
We use a separate hosted email system to allow for anonymous national communication in-game. For example, if you get assigned Ulm no one else will know you are playing Ulm, and you can send email messages to other players as Ulm without exposing your real name or real email address.
Right now is assignment and testing phase. If you join you will get a randomly assigned nation, and no one else will know what you got. You can test for about 10 days to get used to the nation and decide on a pretender.
We start the next game aprox 1 March. It will last for 2-3 months. (We try not to let games run 6 months anymore.)
We have 11-12 players right now. Some have played for years, some just started last game. I would call us “moderately experienced”, I have played for years but I still learn new things all of the time. A few of the people are quite good, a few are quite bad. :-)
Interested? PM me here. I will need your real email address to get you set up. This offer ends on Tuesday night US time 20 Feb.
I added two people from QT3 to the game, we have 13 players, should be fun. We will report back in a few months!
I noticed the new Dom manual, with the tables integrated and extra sections. Check it out:
Oooh, cool, thanks man!
Two new nations.
Several new spells, abilities, units, heroes for greek nations.
Today I noticed the game has a steam workshop section enabled (!)
There is a single map on it, uploaded by Johan. It doesn’t really appear on the game if you click on it (but it’s downloaded in a Steam folder on your computer).
I suppose the next version will enable Steam workshop integration.
Workshop for maps is great. Will definitely buy someday. In the future. When the time is right. And the stars align.