Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism

Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
#1
Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
So recently I’ve gotten into a turn based strategy game called Dominions 4. The basic premise of the game is that each player is a pretender to the throne of godhood and must lead his worshippers to world domination. Its main appeals are its strategic depth (I’ve played this game for thirty hours or so, and have really only just started to figure out how to play it) and the fact that you’re playing a god who does some pretty neat stuff for his faction, ranging to freezing the seas, creating a fireball in the sky to function as a second sun, and covering the world in neverending darkness. These sorts of things come up in the late game. For now, we’ll get started with choosing our god and civilization.

One of the big things in Dominions is that you basically want to plan out your game plan in advance, so that you can have a faction and complementary deity to make it work. In this game, we will be playing as the divine embodiment of Utilitarianism. For our faction, we’ll be leading Ulm, a human faction defined by themes of steel, magic, and blood. This faction is comprised of the living remnants of a kingdom that was struck with a powerful curse, which led to the outlaw and execution of their magic smiths. It is now ruled by two groups. The public rulers, and the units which will guide our early expansion and form the backbone of our fighting force, are the Black Priests, who are potent at fighting other magic users and command the remnants of the armies of the Iron Kingdom. The second group is a widespread, shadowy conspiracy of wizards called the Illuminated Ones, who use a mix of astral and blood magic. We will call them ‘Illuminati’ for short.

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Our mundane armies have a decent mix of units, with strong but absurdly expensive cavalry, decent heavy infantry, and (most importantly) the ranger - a long range, armor piercing, highly precise crossbow unit. It is possible to focus our strategy on these units by having our deity focus on our resource acquisition and physical prowess, but Ulm has magical options as well.

Ulm is unique in that it allows us to build Illuminati in any province they control that has a lab, a building which any wizard can make in one turn. The weaker Illuminati are also very inexpensive. Most races require a fort in order to recruit additional mages, which greatly limits how many they can make, and even then need to pay more for each of their mages. While our mages are individually unimpressive, the ability to produce huge numbers of them means that we can use them to research magic very quickly. Astral mages are also capable of casting a spell that lets weak mages link together to give power to a single strong mage - potentially at the cost of their life. This form of magic, called a Communion, fits our thematic ideology to a T. The combination of this magic and our accelerated research means that our mages will be able to cast more powerful spells much earlier in the game than any of our rivals, as long as we can protect our provinces stocked with fragile researchers. We will make this the core of our strategy, and design our deity around it.

When creating our god (the game officially calls them ‘pretenders,’ but we know that ours is the one true god of the realm), the first step is to choose its physical form. We will be playing as a sentient fountain of blood, which is naturally a powerful focus for a civilization based on blood magic. While Ulm isn’t the best race at blood magic (some races rely on it almost exclusively), they can use it to do some very cool tricks. Blood Magic is different from the other forms of magic in Dominions. Instead of relying on ‘gems,’ which are produced by sites that must be discovered in your provinces, Blood Magic consumes people whose blood meets this magic’s unusual and exacting standards. These civilians, who may have trouble understanding that we are increasing their expected utility via murder, are collected from your civilian population by Blood Magic capable spellcasters and, once collected, appear as a resource called ‘blood slaves,’ which may be spent in spellcasting and item creation just as any of the magic gems.

Blood spells are very versatile, and range from demon summoning to healing to literally sending enemies to hell (in both burning and frozen variants). For Ulm, we have a faction-unique blood spell which allows us to bathe nobles meritocratically selected individuals in blood to create Vampire Counts. Though this spell is fairly expensive in slaves, the Vampire Counts are themselves blood and death mages. They are also stealthy, flying, immortal (respawn after being killed in combat), cost no upkeep, are excellent in single combat, and produce thralls for free every turn by simple virtue of being so damn handsome. While the thralls aren’t anything to write home about in combat, they can fill all kinds of roles in your composition - provincial police force, meat shields, arrow catchers - the possibilities are nearly endless! Unlike blood slave collecting, thralls understand that their duty is to the greater good and do not generate unrest when they volunteer for service.

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Unfortunately, none of the units Ulm produces can actually cast this spell, so we need to make sure that our god can. It requires Death Magic 3 and Blood Magic 3. Luckily, our fountain starts with Blood Magic 3, so we’ll just bump up the Death Magic. Next, we’re going to bump up the Blood Magic further - all the way up to 5. This is going to do a few things for us - it lets us build an armor that enhances blood magic to give to our favorite the most deserving commanders, it increases our ability to find blood slaves, and it lets us cast some of the more powerful blood spells without needing to waste slaves on increasing our blood magic level. These are the two essential magic paths - we will add some more later, but those will be luxury options which we’ll look at if we have points left over.

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Next, we are going to adjust his Dominion and Scales. Dominion, for which the game is named, is the representation of belief. If we have no dominion, we will fade away and lose. Dominion is spread from our deity, our prophet, and the temples and priests that we build on our lands.The dominion stat which we are setting now governs how quickly our dominion spreads. Since the enemy factions will be trying to spread their dominion as well, it is possible to lose a game without ever fighting the enemy player simply because our people stopped believing in us. We will set the Dominion to 6 to be safe. The other effects here, called the Scales, cause changes within our provinces as a result of our peoples’ belief in us. These modify the orderliness of our people, control how productive our people are, set the average temperature of our lands, set how fertile our lands are, set how fortunate our lands are, and finally set the potency of magic in our lands. These effects are not based on the political control of the province - instead they are determined by the spread of our dominion.

Order basically makes our provinces more boring. It reduces the chances of receiving random events (which isn’t necessarily a good thing), provides a percentage increase to income, and reduces the level of ‘unrest’ in provinces. Unrest is basically a measurement of unhappiness - the higher it is, the lower our income is and the more likely we are to have problems with the locals. Life increases our income directly by a little bit, and also provides a bonus to population growth. Because our income scales with the population of our provinces, the life bonus will cause provinces under our dominion to increase in value more quickly as the game goes on. In other words, both of these scales not only increase our income, but also give bonuses to other effects that impact our income.

While blood magic does not require magic gems, it does upset the population and also kills some of them. You know, for their blood. While great for our utilitarian ideals, it can also spread unrest amongst our populace, so we will be taking full advantage of the boost to our ability to deal with unrest. Because we can produce wizards everywhere that we have labs and because both labs and the wizards themselves cost a fair bit of gold, we will also want as much gold as possible. Increasing the Life scale is similarly important for blood magic. In addition to helping to pay for all of our wizards, the odds of finding blood slaves is partially dependant on the population of our provinces, so growth provides both an income advantage and a direct advantage to our magic resource of choice. We will increase both of these scales.

The next tab which we will increase is our magic. Every point in magic increases the research generated by each researcher by one. Since our plan is to fill every inch of our land with researchers, we’re going to set this one as high as it can go as well.

Next, we’re going to reduce our productivity, which reduces our gold by a little bit and reduces our ‘resources’ by a significant amount. While gold income is shared between provinces and all flows into one treasury, resources limit the amount of troops that can be built in a single province. The rule of thumb is that the better equipped a unit is, the more resources it costs. Typically, gold will be more of a limiting factor than resources (especially in the early game where you have few provinces to supply income or in the late game when you have multiple places to build units), but having more resources would allow us to concentrate our building in one place more easily, as well as raise more of the heavily armored units where they’re needed. If we were planning on relying on our powerful but expensive cavalry units, we would need as many resources as possible. However, because we are instead relying on gold-hungry mages and crossbowmen, we will almost never be limited by resources before we run out of money, making this a very safe place to take a penalty for additional points.

Fiddling with temperature would give us additional points for making our provinces warmer or colder, but does so at the cost of reducing our income, which we are trying to keep as high as possible.

Throughout the game, random events will occur, ranging from finding bonus magic gems to having your research labs blow up. Luck can be thought of as another income scale in that better luck increases your odds of finding bonus money or events worth gold, while unfortunate events can be costly. Additionally, Luck is the only scale that affects your magic gem supplies directly as a result of events which give you free gems, which are fairly common as long as your luck isn’t bad. However, while we do benefit from luck, increasing our luck is not economical - since we have decreased the chances of any events occurring, the money / gem bonuses that we would receive from having higher luck will occur less frequently. Additionally, we are less reliant on gems than those whose spellcasting isn’t provided by their earnest populace. We still do not want to reduce this scale, if we don’t have to, though. Our utilitarian society doesn’t believe in luck and will earn this victory with the sweat of our brow and the brilliance of our minds, but there’s no need to give fortune the finger. We’ll leave this scale alone.

Unfortunately, we have overspent ourselves on points to get our heavily favorable scales. The easiest way to fix this problem is by setting our deity to be dormant. This means that we won’t be able to use him for the first twelve turns or so. Since our deity is an immobile fountain anyways, he won’t be able to run around conquering provinces for us in the early game. While being able to promote our most meritorious men into immortal vampires is nice, our god’s capabilities really kick into gear only after we have some research completed, so it’s okay to leave him dormant. This more than makes up for our losses, so we can start looking into additional magic to master.

Blood magic has crossover spells with every other school, so no new field of magic will be wasted.

[[One of the elements of blood magic which we will not be exploring is the ‘crossbreed’ spell and its accompanying items. This spell is a nature/blood mix which lets you do crazy experiments to produce units of varying strength, with various items and units that give bonuses to your chance of success. While unlocking the utility of your animals through experimentation sounds great, we do not have any native nature casters aside from the Fortune Teller, and even she has only a ¼ chance of having 1 point in nature. Not the most reliable assistant. This means that only our god would be doing the crazy experiments, and his time is usually better spent being the locus of our people’s collective sacrifice.]]

We’re going to go with Fire for our additional focus for two reasons. First, while each of the elements lets us summon an additional type of demon, the fire demons (called devils) fill a void in our army. Because we are going to lack the resources to build cavalry, we won’t have any units for rushing the back row of the enemy formations - a very valuable tool indeed against enemy spellcasters. The devils have flying and a very high combat speed, allowing them to quickly close on the enemy. Once there, they will deal damage in an area around them due to their heat without even hitting anything, in addition to being able to attack as a powerful melee fighter. This makes them excellent at killing spellcasters even when they have friendly infantry to protect them, as well as great at disrupting large groups of archers. Additionally, fire opens up the option to summon Archdevils later on in the game, a powerful commander unit that is very similar in function to the regular devils, but also has access to fire magic which will work great with our planned magical research. Finally, the fire path allows our god to craft items that will work well with our planned magical advancement. These spells require only two points in Fire. This leaves us enough to add another point to both Blood and Death magic, as well as one more point in Dominion, and we’re all done with only two points wasted.

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Now that we have our nation, our strategy, and our pretender, let’s take a look and see what weaknesses we’ll have to play around. The first is that the fundamental premise of our strategy is having a reasonable amount of territory that is safe from enemy attacks. Once we have some combat magic researched and a large number of mages in each province, they’ll be able to defend themselves against small groups of enemies, but they’ll be vulnerable to attack before then. This is especially true since we do not start the game with our deity and since we will be spending a significant portion of our money on labs that other factions might spend on units. This means two things - First, we are exceptionally vulnerable to being rushed. Second, we want to limit the number of fronts that we engage on until we are ready to start converting our Illuminati from pacifist lab geeks into violent pyramid scheme cultists by way of the Communion spells. Both of these weaknesses will mean that we will want to play into a corner if at all possible. Some dominion maps are wrap-around (meaning that there are no corners!), but the very cool map which we are using is not.

Our second weakness is that we have no native amphibious units and no reliable access to water magic. This means that we should not try to expand into any water territories unless we know that there is no aquatic or amphibious nation nearby. Simply put, we will lose those territories without a fight until we are sufficiently far ahead on research to simply throw magic at all of our problems. Fortunately for us, most aquatic nations are fairly poor at fighting on land, so unless we fight them while we are still in our vulnerable developing phase, we should be able to protect ourselves on land. Given that the water runs through the middle of the map, our play-into-a-corner strategy should allow us to avoid this hassle altogether for the most part.

Now we’re ready to get started and see where RNG places us our wisdom determines would maximize the expected utility of a fountain of blood and its willing followers.

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#2
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
And here's where we landed -
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This is actually really amazing for our strategy. I don't think it's possible to have gotten a better starting position, except maybe for the caverns at the south end of the world. We basically have three pocket provinces on the floating island to our north which are completely unassailable without losing our capital - the perfect place for our burgeoning research department.

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Not only do we have the freebie spaces to the north, we also have spaces on either side of us which will grant us bonuses. Forests produce extra resources, and once we conquer them, they will feed some of that to the adjacent fort. This means that once we have the provinces next to our fort, we'll be able to recruit more heavy infantry than our usually slothful nation would be capable of. Just past the forest to our west is fertile farmland - an area with a naturally high population and income. This will work perfectly with our bonus and help fund our empire if we can conquer it and keep it.

Finally, we have easy access to one of the Thrones of Ascension (the little golden throne to our East). Thrones can be claimed only by units with Holy 3 (which for us will be exclusively our Prophet), but once claimed provide a bonus to your kingdom. They're also how we win the game - victory requires that we claim the majority of the thrones on the map.

We can't see how these spaces are defended yet, but we will at the start of our next turn. Attacking on your first turn is called a 'blind push,' and typically is only done if your god is awake and capable of leading your army in combat.

We start with one commander and one scout. The commander comes with two small stacks of infantry units which, given our early game strategy, we are going to be using as the wall behind which our archers will hide.

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As you can see, we are recruiting one of the Black Priests, whose supporting magic is the best that we'll have in the early game, and as many archers as we can afford.

For our melee units, we are going to use the 'Line' formation to, well, form a line. The pikeneers have longer reach than our shield bearing infantry and weaker armor. They also have a slightly higher movement speed on account of their lack of armor, so if we want them to arrive at the same time as the heavier infantry, we need to have them start further back when they advance.
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Once we recruit our rangers, we will stage them behind the wall of infantry. Our infantry are set to use the 'hold and attack' command, which means they will stay still for two turns while the archers fire, and then attack the enemy after they've crossed some distance beneath our rain of steel.

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If the commander falls in combat and you have no other commanders remaining, your entire army will route. As a result, I'm not a huge fan of melee commanders until we have some other commanders in the same group to take over if they die. Luckily for us, we can declare commander Maximize Pleasure to be our prophet. This will let him claim thrones, as mentioned above, and give him Holy 3, which will let him cast some very useful spells rather than just stand in the back being useless. Becoming a prophet takes a turn's action for that commander, which is fine for us since we aren't looking to use him to expand until we have his archers recruited anyways.

I am going to send our scout to the south. The reason for this is that I want to take the farmland on that peninsula for its income and quite possibly use it as the location of our first additional fort (a place that is hard to capture and allows you to recruit additional national units), but since we know that we are going to be slow at expanding, we need to see who else is coming towards it in order to determine if striking out at it is viable. I would much rather take the safe provinces behind me if I can at all afford to do so, but it may need to wait until I have built a second province capturing army.

With only two units and one province, there isn't a whole lot to do during this turn. We'll have to wait until we see the independent defenses before we can plan any combat.

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#3
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
And now the first potential targets become visible. Selecting a province gives us an estimate of what the defending force is. This estimate can range from 50% to 200% of the province's defenders, meaning there could be anywhere from ten to forty actual troops. Given that the quality of the defenders is very low, we should be able to win even if they end up having a larger number than expected.

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Our first Black Priest was recruited. Each Black Priest has two points in Holy, one point in Earth, and another point in either Earth, Fire, Air, or Astral. This Black Priest, who we named Praise Effectiveness, has an extra point in Earth magic. He will go with Maximize Utility and support him in our first invasion.

We once again are going to recruit primarily archers - this time with one additional infantry unit to make up for any losses in our shield wall that we might suffer.

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The way that magic sites work in Dominions (which we briefly mentioned when discussing magic in the first post) is that they must be discovered by a magic capable unit. Each type of magic corresponds to the sites of that element, meaning that you want as many different elements as possible on your units out searching for sites.Since we can only recruit one commander per province per turn, and since we already have a Black Priest out, we will recruit a Member of the Second Tier - the slightly more advanced Illuminati wizard. These units are guaranteed to have 2 points in Astral, 1 point in Blood, and have a slight chance at getting an additional point in Blood, Astral, Fire, or Death. Once we have labs in additional provinces, we will no longer be recruiting these guys in our capital.

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#4
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Our third turn and our first battle. While you do not directly control your units in Dominions, the formations and scripts which you wrote for your commanders to follow determine how your units will act during the battles. You can see the formations we set up here, with our two priestly commanders in the back buffing the morale of our units and our crossbows firing at the enemy as they advance.

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The enemy has some archers as well - hopefully our kite shield bearing heavy infantry can weather the shots from their regular arrows better than they can withstand our armor piercing crossbow bolts. You can also see that they have their infantry ordered to charge right away given the unevenness in their formation. The independent province AI tends to favor the 'box' formation, which gives units a slight morale bonus, but means that they present a smaller surface area at the front. This means that not all of their units will be able to attack at once, which is a crucial reason that the factions can beat them even when outnumbered by units of similar cost.

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The battle goes more or less as expected from here. Buffeted by crossbow bolts and taking free hits as their mob hits our phalanx, the light infantry break first, making their heavy infantry heavily outnumbered. They, too, soon run away, and when our melee units close on their archers, the battle is over.

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It wasn't a flawless victory. We lost two of each of our infantry units in taking the province. These are acceptable losses, however, and we can trust that every man on the field knew that their lives were sacrificed for the greater good.
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#5
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Onto the rest of our turn. We've run into a problem. The farmland province has a fat stack of Heavy Cavalry sitting on it, and I don't think that we have enough muscle to fight that quite yet. The province to our south has similar troops to the one we just conquered, but it a) appears to have more of them and b) appears to have a higher ratio of crossbowmen and heavy infantry to the light infantry which did nothing in the last fight. This makes expanding in either direction a dicey measure at best, and so we have to waste a turn of movement returning to our home province. Most units can move two or more spaces through friendly territory, but this army is toting heavy infantry which can only move one a time.

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I will have Praise Efficiency build our first lab in the newly conquered province (and, subsequently, he will search the province for sites while we recruit a second Second Order dude) while Maximize Pleasure returns home to collect more troops and the priest currently being built. Discover Efficiency, with nothing better to do, will be the first among our units to begin the research that will define our race. The first track that we are going to go down is Evocation. Like Dungeon and Dragons, Evocation tends towards direct damage spells. In our case, we are going to want to research it to level 3 as soon as possible to unlock Iron Darts. This spell is unique to our race, and essentially lets all of our Black Priests function as a squad of crossbowmen - crossbowmen that never run out of ammo and deal double damage to magical enemies. It will also give our astral mages a damage spell, so they can stop being completely useless in combat.

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#6
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
As a result of the unfortunate power of the nearby independents, this turn was fairly boring as well. With our lab completed, however, we now have a second source of our Illuminati.
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Maximize Pleasure took the troops that had been building up in our capital and Praise Progress, our new Black Priest, to the relatively feeble southern province. We're going for the peninsula fort after all. We will continue building up units in the home province for the eventual second party, which will be sent to the floating island.
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#7
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
At the start of our fifth turn, we see our second battle. With significantly more crossbowmen, we are able to really mess up the enemy mob before they even reach our front lines this time.

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Their light infantry which, taking the brunt of the crossbow bolts, breaks almost as soon as the melee combat erupts. Unfortunately, our own infantry begins to chase them, allowing their heavy infantry then closes on the flank of our formation. We lose one more of each of our melee units when instead of neat formation combat, the uneven angle turns the fight into a brawl where many of their units can focus on one or two of ours. Fortunately, our crossbowmen are firing throughout this affair, which needles down the heavy infantry, causing them to drop quickly once our troops start trading back blow for blow.

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In the end, acceptable losses and I think we'll have enough to carry on to take the forest province to the east of our capital. This will finalize the provinces surrounding our capital, and thus maximize its resource production. It will also make it fairly straightforward to ferry additional troops to the main expansion force as it suffers casualties.

The addition of the resource-rich mountain province already gives our capital a lot of resources to work with, and we can start ramping up the production on our island capturing task force. With 3 black priests to lead it, it should be able to take out the enemies to our north - even if there ends up being 20 of them after all.

In other news, our scout to the south has found our first rival.
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Given that they began on this space, we can see that they chose to expand from the other side of the island. This means that while their capital is close by us, their army is not, and we most likely will not be seeing them until they build a second one. If we were an aggressive faction with an awake deity, we could make an attempt to headshot their capital here. However, given our slower-paced strategy, it will be safe to ignore them for now, especially since we are planning on having a fortress between us by the time they have amassed a large enough second army to be a threat to us. My scout will instead set off to the northeast to see if our neighbors in that direction will be equally placid.
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#8
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
The eastern front is quiet. Too quiet. The entire northern region between me and the throne in the north-eastern corner appears to still be independent. I suspect that there may be an enemy to my west, maybe at the area around the Great Tree, but will need another scout to be sure.

My trio of black priests and their retinue of rangers has finished conquering the floating isle. They also lost all of their heavy infantry front line while doing so. A positive side effect of this is that the squad can now move two spaces overland in one turn, enabling the majority of them to get back to the capital right away. One of the priest will remain behind to search the island for sites.

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My first lab has been churning out Illuminoobies this whole time, two of which have been sent out to build additional labs, while two slave away to advance our research. We have finished our first advancement in evocation, meaning our Illuminati are not completely helpless anymore, but we have not yet turned our black priests into the powerhouses that we need them to be.
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#9
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
SpoilerShow
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#10
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
This is neat. I'm not very strategically-minded, but I might try to understand this one for the sake of the concept.
beware the glus
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#11
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Dominions 4 is a pretty excellent game, and so are LPs of it.

Excited to see more from the fledgling ideology of Utilitarianism o7
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#12
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
One-more-turn syndrome got the better of me, so there won’t be any screenshots of much of our narrative. I will try to recap most of what happened since my turn-by-turn posts. Note that most of these events occurred over multiple turns, and are at least partially described in narrative rather than strictly chronological order.

Expansion Continues

When our armies arrived within range of the throne, we saw that it was heavily guarded by a large group of undead. This is fairly normal (well, the large group part is - the undead bit just has to do with the province itself), but unfortunately means that our army wasn’t able to capture it quite yet, which once again means that we had to shift directions for our expansion. This meant that our main group headed down towards the peninsula, where they were supplemented by our battle hardened black priests from the floating island campaign. We took one of our Il-lame-inati with us to build our first additional fortress three spaces away from our capital.

This fortress will let us recruit our rangers and and heavy infantry here once it’s completed, which will take six turns. Only two spaces away from the enemy capital, it will make the perfect staging point for our war against them. In the meantime, our main army will conquer the surrounding areas which will feed their untapped production to the fortress to allow us to build more units. Research into Evocation has advanced steadily thanks to our growing lab nerd conspiracy. We don’t have labs in all of our provinces, but thanks to cherry picking our targets and avoiding significant losses in our expansion forces, we’ve been able to convert most of our income into research. With our Black Priests now functioning as able ranged units, we have a lot of firepower - a very effective doctrine for fighting the primarily infantry mob defensive forces of the independents.

Our capital has not been silent during this time. Since our main expansion party sustained very few losses and was able to supplement its front line with locally recruited basic heavy infantry (not as strong or heavily armored as our national forces, but able to soak up a few hits which is really all we need them to do), we were able to put together a second expansion force large enough to take on the cavalry guarding the wealthy farmland to our west. Our Dominion had been spreading steadily, given the lack of rival gods nearby, so the populace of the province that we assaulted already had begun to respect utilitarian values. This gave a morale bonus to our troops and a penalty to theirs when we captured it, as well as increased the income of the land, rather than needing to wait for it to ramp up after it was conquered.

Our God Arrives, Our Knowledge Grows

On turn 14, Utilitarianism Incarnate awakens from its slumber. Blood begins to flow from the once silent fountain, and a child is possessed to speak with Utilitarianism’s voice and forge with Utilitarianism’s hands. The people of our land rejoiced and celebrated by changing absolutely nothing about their routines because it would be inefficient to take the day off and there’s still so much work to be done.

With construction of our first additional fort in progress, the first vital evocation spell completed, a reasonable amount of researchers tucked away in our core provinces, and two expansion forces already out and about, we are well positioned to transition into the second stage of our strategy - blood magic.

The first step in this transition is research not into blood magic itself (though we will spare some research in that category as well), but into Construction. We will need to research Construction to level four in order to build Sanguine Dowsing Rods. They do exactly what you’d think - they point blood hunters in the right direction for finding blood slaves. Since the majority of our blood hunters have only one point in Blood Magic, they will be limited in the numbers of blood slaves they can find even in our large provinces. The dowsing rods will be a huge boost to our blood slave economy.

The second step is to go about finding the blood slaves for our first vampire. We had a few Second Order illuminati running about looking for magical sites and building labs, and while they’re not the best at it, they can at least help with our search. In our capital, Utilitarianism guides its possessed child to find citizens whose blood is more utile than their lives. As it turns out, there are a lot of them and it takes only two turns before we have sufficient blood slaves to promote a civilian go-getter into a magic wielding, flying, undead go-getter.

Just as our transition got underway, a large number of events occurred on the same turn. Our scout to the east has found another rival, the faction to our south sends out its first attack, our first vampire is recruited, our commanding priest to the west gets sick and goes on a conquest spree in a Breaking Bad style quest to make the most of his life before he dies, our western scout finds a third enemy faction, and we began to churn out magic items.

Pythia and the Search for War

So having travelled more or less all the way to the throne in the north-east corner of the map, I sent our scout south just to see what was going on elsewhere in the world. I discovered that there actually was a faction very close to the throne, but like the nation on the island in the center, they chose to expand away from us. This nation is Pythium, the Serpent Cult. Pythium is one of two factions that split off from a Rome-like state where the living and the undead lived side by side. The soulless undead formed a worker class to supply menial labor, albeit one that needed to be replaced by mages every so often. The thaumaturges then had the clever idea to open a gate to the underworld so that even the weakest of mages could draw out necromantic energy to reanimate the dead. It worked, but it also tore all of their souls out and allowed a legion of ghosts to stream forth and capture the nation’s capital, from which they began to spread throughout the land. Pythium is the living remnants of this civilization and intended to be thematically similar to the Byzantine Empire. They managed to survive the undead horde through a combination of their distance from the capital and the assistance of the snakemen who made up much of the native populace.

The forces of Pythium are diverse thanks to their mixed heritage. The human legionnaires, who wield spears and javelins and specialize at fighting in formation, make up the core of their forces. They are supplemented by serpentine cataphracts and heavy infantry, hydras, and ‘heretic’ mages. The heretics provide a wide variety of magic types that are otherwise unavailable to Pythium’s armies, but steadily lower the dominion of the provinces that they occupy.

With nothing between us in the North and provincial capitals tending to be the same distance apart from each other, we can conclude that another faction is almost certainly going to be at the far eastern edge of the circle (as it turned out, we were right - it was Ermor, the Ashen Empire of the undead. I don’t know if the game put the two together intentionally or if it was just happy happenstance). Since we also know that both Pythium and the first faction that we discovered (which is Patala, as we would learn from their attack on our province) expanded in that direction, those three factions are most likely embroiled in a three way war over the farms and forests in the central-eastern section of the map. A war torn middle east, if you would. We’ll send our scout directly south from his current location, where he’ll be able to cross the thin central ocean on the island-bridge, just to keep an eye on this war and see how it develops.

The Patalan Incursion Begins

The nation to our south, as it turns out, is Patala. Based on Hindu mythology, it is comprised primarily of four types of primates: Markati, Vanara, Atavi, and Bandar. Each of the four races supplies their own types of units and commanders, and they are united by the sacred naga - a race of amphibious snake people from the underworld. The Bandar are the largest and most intelligent of the four races, and appear as fully bipedal gorillas. They wear the heaviest armor, have trained war elephants, and supply their faction’s most powerful mages, the Gurus.

The army that attacks us is primarily the Naga themselves. Though these are capital-exclusive units, since the attack comes from their capital directly, there is no difficulty in logistics in gathering this force. They are supported primarily by Bandar, with a small number of war elephants, a large group of stone throwing light infantry, and a backline contingent of gurus. Since our expansion force had taken the lightly defended neutral province between their capital and our fort-to-be early, it was defended only by the local province defense.

Province defence is something which can be purchased in any province under our control. It costs gold equal to the level of province defense that you want it raised to (so raising it from 0-10 costs a total of 55 gold and 10-20 costs 155). Each level of provincial defense adds defenders whose quality increases as the provincial defense rises. Every 10 levels also reduces unrest (a fact that we had already taken advantage of in our home regions - we increased the defense of some of our home provinces so that we had armed soldiers on hand to ‘accommodate’ the complaints of those whose families had utile blood).

During the battle, the elephants charged our position and quickly overran our infantry, taking mere scratches from the spears and arrows of our small defensive force. Fortunately for us, several of the elephants were spooked by the fighting which they had borne the brunt of, and fled the combat. In fleeing, they stomped over a row of Patala forces, killing several Naga and Bandar light infantry. These were ironically their only casualties in the battle.

With our fort only one turn away from being completed, I brought together almost all of our central expansion force (or CEF for short) to defend that province. Given that we had been bringing down a steady stream of additional crossbowmen from the capital, we had a very solid army once everyone was brought together. While the totality of Patala’s armies most likely exceeded ours significantly given our focus on research, the invasion was made up of what we can guess to be their secondary army, whereas the CEF was by far the larger of our two armies and, in addition to Prophet Maximize Efficiency himself, was led by a large number of experienced Black Priests who had already proven the potency of their Iron Darts against the heavy infantry and crossbowmen of the independent forces. The bulk of their army chose to avoid a head on confrontation, and took the less valuable hilly province to their west, and our castle was completed.

Fire, Steel, Magic, Death

The blood hunting in our capital in order to acquire the blood needed to promote Baron Sergio Flores to vampiric immortality caused a spike in the population’s unrest. Unrest reduction occurs naturally from our province defense and the bonus provided by our scales, but increased reduction requires that we have a commander patrol the province. The amount that is reduced scales based on the movement speed of the commander, how many troops he commands, and how fast those troops are, as well as any patrol-specific benefits that the units may have. The fastest commander that we can recruit is our Black Knight Commander - the heavily armored cavalry leader that we’re too resource starved to traditionally rely on. We will put him in command of our Sergio’s groupies, since the thralls aren’t going to be very useful in combat, and have him permanently patrol the streets for signs of unhappiness, poetry, and other antiutilitarian sentiments.

Meanwhile, we don’t have enough blood for a second vampire quite yet, but the critical Construction research which we focused on for our blood detectors has opened up quite a few options for our forges. While not quite as potent at smithing as the Master Smiths which they had killed, because Black Priests all have either advanced Earth magic or an additional magic path, they are adept at making a number of magic items. Between our god and the priests not actively engaged in conquest, we are able to put together quite the arsenal.

While our vampire has some amazing abilities and high combat stats, he is equipped as a spellcaster rather than a fighter, and as a result has no damage mitigation whatsoever and relies on his magical life drain attack, which doesn’t take any advantage of his unholy justly deserved strength. With items, we can fix this. In spite of the lore explicitly stating that Ulm lost the ability to forge black steel, one of our priests can, in fact, forge black steel armor. Another is capable of forging a powerful sword that deals fire damage in an area around it while granting resistance to its wielder (very helpful, given vampires’ natural vulnerability to fire). A third forges a girdle of strength, making him both hit harder and recover from fatigue in combat. Our Illuminati supply a shield that will grant him luck and an amulet that will grant him resistance to magic. Utilitarianism itself crowns him with a Helm of Horror, which in addition to providing physical protection makes all units in close range with him lose morale every turn. Bedecked in the armory and arsenal of our magic-rich nation, Sergio heads south to join the CEF and fight the Patala incursion.

Praise Value's Final Glory

On the western front, we have come across the spread of a rival god’s dominion in the independent provinces. Part of his dominion effect is a heavy ‘misfortune’ scale and a slight ‘death’ scale. Our forces, who are used to the vibrant lands of Utilitarianism’s administration, suffer heavily. The leader of the Western Task Force (the WTF, for short), Praise Value has contracted an incurable disease. He will no longer heal and will lose 10% of his health until he dies. While we originally intended to wait on additional reinforcements from the capital, Praise Value’s impending demise demands action, and so he leads his rangers and infantry into battle while uncertain of its outcome, and the handful of additional priests along with a Second Order mage will simply assume control of the WTF when they catch up with the remnants of his army.

The first fight goes as expected, with minor infantry losses, but at the second province we encounter a cavalry charge which decimates our infantry. Heavy Cavalry use a lance in combat, giving them a large bonus to their first attack. While our rangers are able to finish the cavalry, we are left with only a single pikeman living. With mortality looming, Praise Value sets some of his rangers ahead to stand just behind the pikeneer so that the enemy assault will be paused before they close on the remainder of our crossbows. The tactic works, and we secure a third province, but the rangers do not form nearly as resilient a wall as the heavy infantry did, and the forward line is wiped out. With one last province remaining on the northern side of the river and Praise Value’s life dwindling fast, we take the risk and engage.

The enemy in this province is a tribe of barbarians. These units favor two handed weapons and minimal armor, so they deal a great deal of damage. In addition, they have a ‘berserker’ trait which causes them to go berserk and charge forward after taking some damage. While berserk, they hit even harder and are immune to morale effects. However, they have a number of weaknesses. Their morale is naturally low, so any barbarians that do not go berserk are likely to break and route in combat. Additionally, since they have little armor they will die very quickly. Since our rangers will likely die in one hit once the barbarians close, we eschewed the suicide squad of archers. Instead, we would have Praise Value take up the front line himself.

Praise Value had been blessed with a point in Astral Magic. While not particularly exciting offensively, Astral Magic has some interesting tricks. One of these is a spell that gives the caster Luck, making any attack that would kill them have a 75% chance to miss. With one hit away from death, this essentially makes Praise Value capable of evading most of the attacks he’ll receive. Another spell, called Twist Fate, simply makes the next attack that would hit them miss. This means that it would take on average 8 hits that make it past the attack vs defense check for Praise Value to die. This should let our crossbows get off a number of attacks, and if they get lucky, they’ll be able to take out the leaders or deal enough damage to make the non-berserk barbarians route. I script Praise Value to cast Lucky, then Twist Fate four times. While the effects don't stack, recasting the spell would 'refresh' the twist fate if it got triggered. When he dies, our archers would route, and they could then be led back into the province by the independent commander that I was recruiting in the one we had just finished conquering.

That was the plan, at least. One man proved too thin of a barrier to hold the line by himself, and most of the barbarians simply ran past him. As it turned out, the independents had two Barbarian Chiefs. One of them fell to some lucky shots from our crossbows. The other was injured and enraged. With the barbarians streaming past him and his script concluded, Praise Value began to engage the barbarians closest to him in melee combat while the rangers continued to fire on the barbarians that ran past him. The barbarians soon closed on our archers, and while their ranks had been somewhat thinned, we didn’t have enough rangers to resist them. As the crash of the barbarians hit their line and instantly killed several crossbowmen (as we expected it to) the morale of our rangers gave out, and they fled, leaving Praise Value alone to stand against the horde. Then Praise Value fought his first and final duel. With his aura of luck holding strong, the disease-ridden, nearly dead priest proceeded to kill two barbarians and the enraged chief with his hammer. With their commanders both slain, the remaining barbarians were routed and Praise Value was left the sole soldier left on the field. He claimed the province for Utilitarianism and died of his illness in the land that he alone had conquered. Requiescat in pace.

Marignon - the Source of the Infection

Our scout which had been sent across the river in the winter soon found the reason that several of these independent provinces had an aura of death and disarray - the kingdom of Marignon. Styled loosely on 15th and 16th century spain, Marignon is a feudal theocracy led by powerful fire priests. When Ermor fell, the priesthood turned to blood magic to defend their nation from the undead threat. The devil lords and the fire priests now work together, and demons walk freely among the populace - imp jesters are fashionable and flagellants are well respected. They rely primarily on human infantry, supported by versatile mages and powerful priests. While their infantry and crossbowmen are slightly worse than ours across the board, they have slightly better resistance to magic and their mages are more immediately useful in combat. Fortunately, we are currently far enough ahead on our magical research that we should be stronger than them on all counts.

In spite of being another nation that makes use of blood magic, their scales are profoundly awful - their land is as misfortunate as it could possibly be, their realms ooze death instead of life, and there is even some slight magical drain, making their research less effective. The only possible explanation is that their pretender has some powerful magic, but given their encroaching dominion, leaving them as a living neighbor is unacceptable. As soon as the Patalan incursion is repelled, we will send the bulk of our forces west on the heels of the army already en route. A great crusade is called to avenge Praise Value and rid the source of this misfortune and illness from the land. Marignon may seek blood, but I will drown them in it.
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#13
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Also I just discovered this - [Image: PFBGoxR.png]
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#14
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Praise Value is a true Utilitarian hero, and I would suggest a day of remembrance for him if not for all the valuable time and effort that that would waste. Praise Value would want us to honor his memory by working even harder every day and by converting the rest of those filthy independents to the cause of Utilitarianism. Truly, he was a credit to the concept of value everywhere.
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#15
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Patala is Repelled

With the construction of our fortress complete, the center of the peninsula is secure. To conquer the province, Patala would need to first defeat the provincial defense (incurring some minor attrition), then lay siege to the fortress. Our units garrisoned within can choose to try to break the siege at any time if there is a commander within, which they can either do right away if we feel that we can win with the forces that we have, or wait until additional reinforcements have arrived. If we feel that we need a larger advantage, we can wait until the enemy breaks down the gate. This takes several turns - the exact amount of time varies based on the number of attacking forces vs the number of defending forces. Certain units have bonuses for this as well. Once the gates are breached, we can then fight behind our towers, which fire arrows at the enemy. In other words, it is safe to leave the fortress with only a few units as a token garrison since they will not be able to capture it right away. During the siege, we will not be able to recruit additional units from the fortress, so it is certainly not ideal, but the province is far better secured than it was before the construction was completed.

With the core province secure and the massive CEF assembled - with additional reinforcements able to be built locally - we engage the Patalan army. It is here that Sergio first proves his worth. While he is a potent spellcaster (and this facet alone would have been enough to make him worth his blood), his partial invulnerability to physical damage combined with his now very heavy armor, makes him nearly untouchable by all of their non armor piercing weaponry. The only units that they have that ignore armor are their trampling elephants and chariots. We can expect these to charge forward ahead of their army, so Sergio should be able to fly right over them to kill their Gurus. Though the mages would ordinarily be their army's biggest threat, we can be confident that Sergio will be able to kill them before they can kill him. There are two reasons to think we will succeed - first, it is still quite early in the game and Patala is unlikely to have access to the more dangerous magic already. The second is that Sergio is equipped with an amulet that increases his already naturally high magic resistance.

While the bulk of our army adopts the tried and true formation of the shield wall backed by large double-lines of archers and black priests, Sergio is positioned in between the infantry and the archers at first. We then script him to summon undead for two turns, then attack the furthest enemy (which we are expecting to be the Gurus). The undead summoning spell is a fairly minor spell, given that we have put only a few research points into enchantment so far, but it will provide a few extra bodies for our front line and more importantly keep Sergio out of harm's way while the bulk of their forces charge forward.

The main battle goes more or less as expected - the elephants and chariots charge forward, get absolutely swamped by arrows, and only manage to run over a few of our infantry before breaking, damaging their own units as they flee. The armored naga soldiers, who have the ‘sacred’ special ability, are blessed by the priests that they had brought with them, giving them a boost to their morale and additional bonuses based on their pretender’s magic. As it turns out, their pretender had advanced water and earth magic, giving them a large defensive boost and allowing them to recover some of their fatigue. These soldiers survive the hail of crossbow bolts - mundane and magic alike - far better than the initial chargers, and a sustained engagement breaks out between our infantry and theirs while our ranged units continue raining down steel over them. With our soldiers only being hit by the melee units at the front of their formation and with the bulk of our damage coming from our crossbows and spells that were all able to fire at once, we quickly gained the advantage.

It took me a little while to notice this, but one of the major reasons that so few of our infantry were dying was that their ranged units, the Bandar light infantry, were not firing on our infantry at all. Unlike the Naga which had to march all the way across the field to engage, they had only a little ways to go before they were in range of our infantry. They only ever managed to loose one volley of stones before turning around, and once I noticed this I immediately discovered why - when Sergio had leaped onto their mages, they had turned around to fight him instead.

I had expected Sergio to be able to kill or at least occupy their mages, and in this he did not disappoint. With his sword Firebrand capable of dealing damage in an area of effect where he attacked, he killed the first guru and the handful of bandar guards at the same time. He then not so much as ran but simply appeared by the second guru, whose guards had started to run towards him, and assassinated the second mage as well. Due to his orders to hit the rearmost units, he then turned on the cavalry that were trying to flee and killed them as well. The rearmost units were then the bandar honor guard - promptly slain. With their final guru seemingly set on firing vine arrows which could not even hit, much less damage, the highly mobile baron, and with their brahmas’ holy magic far too weak to have a chance of banishing Sergio through his heightened magic resistance, they had no effect on the remainder of the battle while Sergio engaged their sizable contingent of light infantry, which had been pursuing him this whole time. He proceeded to kill everyone. The bandar soldiers were incapable of damaging him enough to get past his regeneration, and while the naga fought the rest of our army, the apes were slaughtered by Sergio himself. Many of them fled from the combination of the demoralizing combat and the fearsome aura exuded from his magic helmet, but Sergio’s orders made him prioritize the fleeing enemies, and he hunted them down until the whole of the army broke and the fleeing mob of naga and bandar was too numerous for him to manage to eliminate before they escaped.

Not only had we shattered their army, but Sergio’s performance had caused them to suffer staggering casualties. The province of the Red Peaks was reclaimed, and the first army that Patala sent against us was almost entirely wiped out.

Logistics and Organization

Throughout our provinces, Second Order blood mages with dousing rods were being recruited and set to work as well as our finances allowed, but the bulk of our blood slaves continued to be recruited from the capital, where Utilitarianism’s incredibly efficient blood magic detection made it capable of finding blood slaves every turn that it searched, barring the chance of failure caused by unrest (a chance which was being helpfully reduced thanks to the tireless patrolling of the good knight Maintain Worth)

The final province that Praise Value captured controlled a choke point where the edge of the river met the great tree at the northwestern edge of the map. The reassembled WTF begins to construct our third fortress while the Black Priests at the helm focus on removing Marignon’s vile dominion. Given that the drain effect from their dominion limits our research and severely impacts our income, we need to build temples and have our priests preach the glory of our god to the people. Fortunately for us, the Black Priests have a special ability called ‘Inquisitor,’ which means that their Holy level counts as double when working to lower an enemy’s dominion from our provinces rather than raise our own. The icon shows a pair of pliers with red on the end, so we can assume this to mean that our friendly priests have inquisitive minds and are quick to use science to discover the flaws in the dogma of our rivals.

While the WTF convokes its conscripts, continues its construction, and conducts its congregations, the CEF has achieved its historic victory over Patala and splits into three forces. The weakest force is intended to continue the expansion for which the force had been named. This group, led by our prophet Maximize Utility, a handful of black priests, and a Second Order bloodmage, intends to capture the marsh to our east and cross the bridge to investigate the strength of the independents there. They will move slowly, taking their time to search for any magic sites while Maximize Utility spreads our dominion, and take any provinces that we can expect to be easily captured by the relatively small group.

The second group, led by Baron Sergio Flores, will recapture the province to our south which Patala had used as a beach head and, once sufficient forces had been assembled from our castle, make the crossing to Patala’s island and besiege their capital. We will send some scouts to the island now, but should expect this force to mostly be defensive, since an assault on their capital without a solid chance of victory would be very costly, whereas defending allows us to keep our small group of infantry in reserve and use the units produced by our Province Defense as chaff while our spellcasters (whose power is ever growing as our research continues to accelerate) and rangers (of which the CEF had over a hundred) deal the damage. While waiting for sufficient power to invade the island, this group will search the peninsula for magic sites as well.

The third group was dispatched west, toting a little more than half of the CEF’s rangers and almost all of its infantry. There was only one province of independents between us and Marignol’s lands to the west, and we already had provinces bordering each other which were divided by the river running throughout the northern half of the map. While this provides an effective barrier for now that prevents us from needing to fortify the lands that Praise Value had conquered, come winter the rivers would be frozen and armies will be able to cross, meaning that our war would be fought with wide open borders rather than through narrow choke points which are easier to micromanage and help provide a clear understanding of whether or not our armies are stronger than theirs or if reinforcements are needed. With the clock of the seasons ticking, the Marignol Blood Crusade began.
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#16
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
(11-21-2014, 07:07 AM)Coldblooded Wrote: »Praise Value is a true Utilitarian hero, and I would suggest a day of remembrance for him if not for all the valuable time and effort that that would waste. Praise Value would want us to honor his memory by working even harder every day and by converting the rest of those filthy independents to the cause of Utilitarianism. Truly, he was a credit to the concept of value everywhere.

It's like you knew him ;_;
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#17
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
While desiring more screenshots may not be a particularly efficient request I'd at least love to see a snapshot of the map so far if you find the time (great stuff so far).
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#18
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
East by Southeast

When we completed sufficient research in Construction to produce our dousing rods, we will put a little bit of our research in each school of magic, but focus primarily on Blood Magic itself. Lower levels in each school require fewer research points to acquire, and given that we have so many researchers we will be able to acquire a broad pool of spells. However Blood Magic will take fully half of our research in order for it to advance the most quickly. This will give us the ability to start summoning demons, as well as let our blood magic practitioners cast additional spells in combat.

Blood magic opens up a few very useful utility spells for a communion based line of mages, but we aren’t quite ready to rely on communion casters. While our research into Evocation gave us some minor offense spells that allow our Illuminati researchers to defend themselves from unforeseen incursions, until we invest heavily into Thaumaturgy our Second Order mages will not have access to spells that would take advantage of their increased power and divided casting fatigue. For now this means that those that we promote to vampires will be our primary blood mages as well. If given an item to enhance their blood magic and another to enhance their death magic (both readily available from Utilitarianism), they can promote additional vampires themselves, allowing Utilitarianism to focus on research and item creation.

This recursive vampire promotion is of course not without its costs - it will require massive amounts of blood, which we will not be able to acquire from our capital alone. Fortunately, each laboratory that we built increased the rate of our blood slave acquisition (since blood hunting is more valuable when spread among different provinces) in addition to the delta of our research graph (because each lab will continue to produce Illuminati which each add to our research, barring some being used for scouting). However, with expansion stalled to our south and west and with the need for additional troops to reinforce our two front war, we have already hit the limit that our income can support. Given that we still have independent provinces to our east, it is time to open yet another front of expansion.

Though we will leave our second promoted vampire (Meritocrus Meritocrat the Vampire Count) in charge of giving out duly earned immortality, our third will be sent east to claim additional provinces in the pursuit of additional gold. Sergey Stepanov is equipped in a manner similar to Sergio Flores. The army that deterred our initial foray to the east may have been large and we can expect it to feature necromancers behind the skeletal horde, but the undead cannot fight without their commanders. By employing a tactic similar to the one which had proven so effective against Patala, Sergey was able to destroy their necromancers and therefore route their force before the conventional army which he is bringing with him suffered any significant casualties.

With the once well warded province secured, Sergey advanced eastward rapidly, following the northern curve of the map until we reached a province called the Mountains of Madness. With only two entrances, both of which are narrow passes, passage into or out of the province is available only seasonally - which was not a fact that we were aware of at the time. As soon as we took the province, the pass closed, trapping our army, with the exception of Sergey, who is capable of flight. Though he may be able to capture a lightly defended province by himself, we invested quite a bit into his equipment and don’t want to risk him if we don’t have to. Given that he is capable of stealth as well, we will use him to scout the independent provinces and attack only if there are few defenders. We will recruit an independent commander in the mountains and entrust Sergey’s retinue to him until they are able to catch up. For now, however, progress will be slowed on the northeastern front.

The Marignol Blood Crusade

When the Maginol Blood Crusade moved to capture the independent province between us, the forces of Marignon did as well. The way that fights work when multiple factions are fighting in the same place is that the system randomizes the order and then adjudicates the fights one at a time, with each subsequent force always fighting the winners, who then become the ‘defending’ side. In this case, our army fought the independents first, which fortunately did not cost us a single unit. With more holy darts and crossbow bolts being fired each round than the independents had soldiers, they managed to do little more than wound a few of our infantry.

Dominions tracks wounds for each soldier by marking them with ‘afflictions.’ Afflictions vary from the comparatively minor, such as ‘battle fright’ (a common affliction for routed soldiers) which merely lowers their morale, to serious debilitations such as missing an arm (which would prevent a crossbowman from firing altogether, since their weapon requires two hands) to being lame (which is, in fact, very lame for any unit that you want to get somewhere other than where he begins the battle). While we could go about setting up some sort of veteran’s retirement home for our injured troops, some of them can continue to fight in spite of their injuries and those that cannot can still compete in the crusade’s olympic javelin catching event, found at the front line of every engagement. We are sure that they will understand the importance of their contributions.

Following our capture of the province, we fought Marignon’s forces directly for the first time. We had very similar setups, with lines of infantry supported by crossbowmen. Our melee met in the middle and clashed while our crossbows fired into the opposing mobs. Their mages enhanced their troops’ morale and then shot jets of fire, while ours provided the same benefit and then fired swarms of magic darts.

In spite of the similarities between our compositions, we quickly gained the advantage. First of all, we simply had more black priests than they had inquisitorial ones. This gave us a solid advantage in firepower, which was fortunate since our troops do not resist magic very well. Secondly, while their units were more resistant to magic, ours proved superior in the physical contest. The people of Ulm are larger and stronger than those of Marignon, and similar in skill (save for Marignon’s elite palace guards, of which they had only a few). This meant that had our equipment been similar, they would already have something of an advantage. This advantage was exacerbated by the superiority of our equipment for the situation. Marignon’s troops wielded primarily two handed weapons, which are excellent at cutting down mages or lightly armored troops, while ours used shields and morningstars, making them better at resisting enemy attacks and crushing through enemy armor. Finally, the weapons of our rangers are armor piercing, whereas those of their crossbowmen were not, allowing our troops to absorb their damage more readily while our bolts punctured through their platemail with ease. While we did lose a significant number of infantry compared to our battles against the independent provinces, their army was crushed.

We took another province which was barely defended on the following turn, pushing another province to the west and towards their capital. Meanwhile, the remnants of the WTF led by the independent commander captured the practically abandoned Great Tree province from Marignon with similarly minimal resistance. Our scouts reconnoitered a Marignon contingent heading north from their fortress one province to the south, prompting us to cede this province without a fight in order to defend the province in which our fortress was being built and to combine the small strike team with the forces brought by the priests, who had been busy conducting their inquiries. Marignon pressed the attack in spite of the now bolstered forces and the fact that our side benefited from province defense. With local units bolstering our front line, our combined forces outnumbered Marignon’s, making the battle a very neat and nearly lossless affair for our side.

Scouting and Skullduggery

While this was occurring, our scouts had been penetrating deep into their territory, where we were able to make a few discoveries. Marignon had built a fort over a somewhat poor province just south of the great tree, as our army had seen when it took over that province. It was not a terrible location for providing support to that choke point, but the true reason for the fort to be constructed there would not be discovered until one of our scouts entered the province. The land there housed a demonic gate, which any blood mage could use without sacrifice to bind shadow demons to their cause. Shadow demons are stronger than most human units, but not exceptionally powerful like some of the demons conjured by advanced blood magic, but they are capable of stealth and flying over multiple provinces, making them capable of hitting poorly defended areas behind the front lines, which can be very annoying to fight against. So far, they have not been included in any of Marignon’s conventional armies, which is far more worrying than if we knew where they were.

We were able to get yet more information from their nation’s capital. Illuminati have a special trait called ‘Spy’ which lets them read the ‘score graphs’ of an enemy faction if they are capable of hiding inside of its capital. These graphs give a lot of information - how many provinces they have, how many units they have, how much research they have, and so on. The axes are unlabelled, making getting exact numbers difficult for all but the ‘forts’ graph, but they’re very helpful for figuring out roughly how powerful your rivals are when much of that power is measured in things you might not yet know about, like research and provinces that you haven’t seen yet. Leaving a spy in place to keep access to this information is a risky affair, as there is a chance of them being discovered and killed every turn, but we can at the very least take the risk for a turn to discover how Marignon has expanded.

Our spy produced a very interesting result in their army graph - Marignon suffered a sharp dip on one of the early turns of expansion. This means that they must have lost one of their expansion forces to either independents or an early clash with a rival to their south. This must have stunted their expansion, a fact which is also visible on their provinces graph which grew much more slowly than ours (and ours shouldn’t have been too exciting either, given the emphasis we placed on laboratories and research). We can conclude that Marignon is not only a sick and twisted place, but one that is inefficiently managed as well. We will be doing its people a great favor when we slay their god, a Teotl of Death, and convert them to Utilitarianism.

The Hoburg Holdfast

Maximize Utility, meanwhile, had taken his smaller portion of troops eastward. After taking the poorly defended and little populated swamp (its income is 20 gold per turn, the cost of one infantry unit), we discovered that the province beyond was held by the Hoburg. Hoburg are an independent race in Dominions, which means that they can only be recruited in natively Hoburg provinces or (rarely) hired as mercenaries. They are basically the game’s representation of Hobbits. Here is an example of the description of one of their units -
Quote:These hoburgs warriors have received proper training with the pike. However, they are still small and weak, which is a problem for all hoburg combatants.
And here is one of their commander -
Quote:The Burgmeister is a prominent farmer elected to lead a Hoburg council. Burgmeisters are not particularly good at things military, but they eat a lot and inspire their friends with their merry laughter.
In other words, they do not appear to be very fearsome. The province was defended by roughly as many troops as Maximize Utility commanded, but I figured that given their incredibly low strength and health, that it would be an easy fight. It was a slaughter.

Their front line was a mix of the pikemen mentioned previously and Burgmeister Guards. While the hoburg don’t hit very hard, they hit very quickly and dodge very well. The guards in particular have incredibly high attack and defense scores, meaning that they won virtually every exchange across the line. While our rangers were excellent at damaging heavily armored targets, the armor piercing bolts aren’t particularly useful when they can’t hit their targets. The fought savagely, cutting up the infantry which had in the same turn proven their superiority to that of Marignon, and their crossbows proved to be almost as deadly as ours and far more likely to hit. Even the assistance of holy magic to improve our front line’s morale didn’t help them defeat the far quicker Hoburg, and soon our shield wall was breached. The little monstrosities surged through the broken line and tore apart our prophet in a flurry of tiny blades, scattering the surviving rangers. Our prophet was dead and expansion across the bridge was brought to a halt. We would need a large force of spellcasters to murder this midget menace help the misguided Hoburg maximize their efficacy.
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#19
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
(11-22-2014, 05:57 PM)Mirdini Wrote: »While desiring more screenshots may not be a particularly efficient request I'd at least love to see a snapshot of the map so far if you find the time (great stuff so far).

The way that Dominions does saves means that I'd need to reconstruct the map positions of the previous turns, which would require learning the map editor. It's something that I may end up wanting to do anyways, but I can't promise any maps for this one aside from the ending.
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#20
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Ah, that many turns have passed already. Welp. Looking forward to the ending map then!
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#21
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Yeah, next time I do a Let's Play I'll just take snapshots during the game and then do the writing afterwards. The first section, where I was actually writing it as I played through it, was so slow that I just started playing, and then forgot to take screenshots altogether once things got underway. I still plan on finishing this one, though, just to have it finished before starting another project.
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#22
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
I recently started researching Marignon, which gave me something to write about. While it veers off from just the gameplay, it was fun to compile my thoughts this way.

Demons from Hell! and Other Trivialities

As the Marignon Blood Crusade reached our enemy’s heartland, the small contingents produced from our foe’s two fortresses had been stiffened with the shadow demons that we had thus far managed to avoid encountering. Encountering them revealed a few interesting things about our army composition.

First of all, the fact that we rely on a slow, heavy front line with a preponderance of ranged damage meant that our battles actually tended to last for a fairly long time. This meant that once a unit was poisoned, they would almost certainly die as the damage over time wore down their health even if they did not take damage from any other source. Fortunately, since our army was quite large to begin with compared to the armies that Marignon could muster with a single turn of production, losses otherwise were quite low, and since our Black Priests were huddled in the middle of our formation of rangers, we didn’t lose any commanders when the fiends dove onto our back line - losses were limited to one or two rangers per fiend that Marignon fielded, and the odd infantry unit lost to the rest of their army. Independent infantry, which were not quite as physically large or well armored as the men of Ulm, were placed at the front of our formation to mitigate the loss of troops which would require a fortress to produce.

Secondly, black priests are very good at killing demons. On the rare occasions when Marignon featured demons summoned by blood magic to supplement their freely recruited fiends, the area of effect Banishment spell which the priests could cast simply murdered them. The fact that our priests were capable of doing damage to regular opponents meant that we had far more of them than a normal army composition would contain, which made them naturally excellent against demons.

Meanwhile, with the pressure relieved from our western fortress, the Western Task Force was free to advance as well, giving us two armies which rolled over Marignon’s territory. Within a few turns, the WTF laid siege to Marignon’s northern fortress, while the Blood Crusade focused on capturing their less defended provinces.

A Strategic Aside - Marignon

I’m going to take a little while to interrupt the let’s play to go over a few things regarding the way that the AI played Marignon and how the faction and the pretender that the AI chose should instead be played.

Marignon is on the surface actually very similar to Ulm in its general playstyle early (Crossbows + Heavy Infantry with magic support), but is significantly worse at it before it gets research for the reasons which we saw in our first engagement. Marignon’s advantage in the mid game is that it has access to air and fire magic, both of which have buffs that boost their crossbows. Marignon is one of the only factions with very natural access to both Wind Guide (a spell that greatly increases the precision of all friendly units) and Flame Arrows (which does exactly what it says on the tin). This means that two casters, if given the items and gems required to cast these spells, can nearly double the effective firepower of their units. However, if their units are instead used as simple evokers, they don’t provide nearly as much direct damage as Black Priests, who have a pair of special evocation spells just to ensure that they can provide some serious firepower. While their fire and earth mages can shoot stuff, they are fairly expensive for the damage that they put out, since they’re intended to provide magical diversity (great for finding magic sites and providing synergistic enchantments) rather than focus on one path (which is preferred for the direct damage spells). The AI won’t use these buffs because they require enhancing the commanders with items or direct boosts beforehand and giving them magic gems in order to allow them to cast the spells. This means that their ranged units were significantly weaker than ours, when they should instead hit much harder by the midgame.

Marignon’s blood magic transition also looks very different from Ulm’s. Ulm has access to its vampire counts right away (if it can hunt up the sacrifices for them, at least), whereas Marignon’s valuable unique blood spell doesn’t come until late in the game, when Blood 7 is researched. If they get to this point, they can summon Fallen Angels, which are incredibly powerful spellcasting commanders. While there are spells of this level accessible to all nations, the other spells are limited by having a set number of unique commanders, of which there can only be one on the map at a time, and also tend to have even higher casting requirements. Fallen Angels can be summoned as many times as they can be afforded, making them a mainstay of Marignon’s lategame. Marignon never got to use them, however, so while our Vampire Counts ensured that our borders were secure and our income rose unabated, Marignon’s blood magic was limited to the weak early game spells which we had even greater access to thanks to our significantly better research and bloodhunting economy.

Furthermore, Marignon has access to an incredible ability called ‘Sailing’ on many of their commanders. This allows a commander to effectively pretend that coastal provinces border each other, as long as the total distance over sea squares is less than the commander’s movement speed. This makes Marignon’s armies incredibly mobile, both because water provinces tend to take up much more space on the map than land provinces (meaning they border more & further provinces, on average) and because units that can normally move only one space, like heavy infantry, can travel great distances when ferried about by the sailing commanders. This makes it possible for Marignon to avoid unwanted confrontations and quickly bring huge armies together to stamp out split up expeditionary forces if their empire is built up along a coastal region. With our war occurring inland, Marignon was fighting on our terms - a front at which units were forced to move at one space per turn anyways, where Ulm’s slow armies can engage at the leisurely pace at which they’re forced to move.

Finally, Marignon’s pretender didn’t fit their faction at all. Marignon has a few options for pretenders that work well with their faction’s natural strengths or help make up for its weaknesses. One method is to focus on having the pretender start out with a moderate level in each of Marignon’s elemental paths (earth, fire, air, and water), research construction early, and then have the pretender forge boosting items. This is the most economical way of boosting the potence of their spellcasters, and a strategy that Marignon can afford to employ thanks to their ability to find magic sites in each of these elements. This strategy makes the most of the natural advantages which I just described, and tends to be at its strongest at the start of the midgame when they can fill the sky with flaming, guided crossbow bolts before their opponents have the appropriate spells to counter them. Additionally, because Marignon naturally has a wide spread of elemental magic available to them, they are able to switch their focus in order to adapt to whatever counter their opponent can field. If countered by air magic, they can focus on their own air mages to throw lightning and thunder spells which are empowered by the same storms summoned to dampen the power of their crossbows. If countered by death magic which armors their troops against piercing damage, Marignon’s powerful priests and fire mages become incredibly effective. If countered by hefty protection spells that simply raise the armor of units to the point that the crossbow bolts become ineffective, the enemy army will need to cluster their forces together to receive buffs, making literally any of Marignon’s offensive area of effect spells deadly.

Another option is to have a pretender similar to Utilitarianism that focuses heavily on blood magic to forge the items that boost their blood mages to get their blood seeking economy going (which is very similar to what we did to start spamming our Vampire Counts). This strategy tends to utilize a strong Blood bless as well, which makes their early game look very different. Instead of the armor + crossbow formations, they spam the cheap, sacred Flagellant units backed up by priests, which with the Blood blessing have a chance of damaging the opponents whenever they receive damage. This turns a unit that is normally practically worthless due to its lack of protection into a unit that can trade with the more expensive units of their opponents. While the flagellant strategy is ineffective in the mid to late game, by that point they’re reliant on demons and (admittedly smaller) regular armies instead. With a pretender capable of casting the strongest blood spells with little support, their late game is defined by demon lords and fallen angels which are both individually very strong and have the spellcasting capabilities that this strategy otherwise would lack.

Yet another option would be to help make up for Marignon’s weak early game by instead relying on an awake dragon pretender to do their expansion for them. Remember how their armies are across the board weaker than that of Ulm? It’s incredibly noticeable when fighting province defense as well. Marignon ordinarily suffers higher infantry losses in each successful attack and is significantly more prone to being overrun if the player underestimates the strength of the independents. By having a pretender capable of doing this expansion for them, they can make up for this early weakness and get a jumpstart on provinces to search for gems or blood and gold to produce more mages. This strategy therefore works for either the blood oriented play or the elemental magic style of play. More money means more mages. Moreover, more mages means more magical medallions, magnifying Marignon’s magnificent magical malleability, meaning marshalling more mages makes multiplicative melioration. The fact that their expansion is incredibly fast also has the advantage of allowing them to get early access to a coastal empire to work with their sailing ability.

The AI instead opted for a Teotl of Death. This pretender is unique in that it has the Assassination ability. This means that when the Teotl is hidden in a province, it can ‘assassinate’ a commander, which prompts a duel between the commander (and, occasionally, bodyguards) and the assassin. With the Teotl being a pretender, it has naturally incredible strength and health, and with death magic it can summon skeletons to make the fight even more unfair. To put it into less mechanical terms, the Teotl will sneak into your bedroom, animate the skeletons in your closet, and then have them murder you in your sleep. It’s a scary fucker.

It also is best used for a pretty niche strategy, however. If it finds its way into your home province and you don’t have your own pretender yet, it will kill all of your commanders as you build them, all while spreading its dominion in your home. It is even strong enough to kill certain pretenders that prefer to stay at home, like the Great Sage. When combined with a faction that has a strong early game to match your own expansion forces, this strategy enables a ‘dom-kill’ (or death due to dominion loss) faster than would otherwise be possible. In other words, the Teotl is such a good assassin, he can assassinate belief. Marignon, sadly, has a very weak expansion force, which provide much less support than the assassin-god would need to assassinate an enemy faith.
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#23
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Island Crossing

While initially we could be content to simply hold the central crossing against Patala’s expansion, the fact that our western front was going so well meant that we finally had the spare resources to assault Patala. After capturing the Hoburg holdout with an overwhelming force of rangers and priests, the CEF was reformed at the crossing to Patala’s island home. It was a solid army representing several months of fortress production, a smattering of demonic units conjured with our blood magic (in large part just to see what they did), and two additional sanguine meritocrats to supplement Sergio Flores.

The plan for this assault was a little bit more layered than the simple ‘march forward’ assault on Marignon as we now have more tools at our disposal. The Vampire Barons are more or less immune to the massed archers which form the bulk of Patala’s province defense, so unless they had mages or stronger troops in place, we can use them to raid deep into Patala’s territory and capture poorly defended provinces. With their innate stealth, it is very easy for our vampires to simply sneak out of the province once captured if an enemy army moved next to it, allowing them to disrupt Patala’s income and then fade away into the shadows.

Vampires tend to work even better when used defensively on account of their innate immortality. The ‘immortality’ ability means that if they die while in our ‘dominion’ (the area in which people accept Best Practices in their home lives), they reappear at our capital when destroyed. Unfortunately, because we spent the majority of our gold on labs and mages rather than temples and use our priests as combat units rather than preachers, our dominion is actually doing quite poorly. Only the areas closest to our capital and along the western border where we needed to repel the spread of Marignon’s blight shine brightly with our faith. This means that any vampire lost against Patala will be lost in a land where the caste system is valued over team synergy, and will lack the spiritual energy to be reborn at home.

Regardless, as long as we choose our targets carefully, vampires equipped with a few cheap items should have no problem with handling the province defense and escaping, while our conventional army and Sergio Flores attack more hardened targets. We dispatch our two newly promoted immortals, Steve Wilson and Miguel Zenon, to wreak sax and violence in the farmland to the southeast of Patala’s island. They can do so because bridges apparently count as land crossings, allowing them to bypass the traditional vampiric inability to cross rivers. The large and heavily ranger stacked CEF cross the river to lay siege to Patala itself. Our spies have determined that Patala has two large armies remaining in the middle east, but one is locked in place fighting against the undead legions of Ermor and it will take several months for the other to return to their capital - longer if they try to chase down the vampires and retake the provinces which they are raiding.

When the CEF begins its siege against Patala, it became apparent that the other two provinces on the island held very few troops. The mountains that made up the northern region of the island were inaccessible on account of the passes being closed, but that would prove no barrier to our flying vampire count. It appeared to hold only a few mages - a single Bandar guru and a handful of witches, most likely independent units recruited from the province itself. While a strike team of half of our heavy infantry and a third of our rangers took the eastern plains, Sergio Flores flew up through the blocked pass to capture the mountain himself, taking along a few conjured devils for support.

Sergio Flores, the Vampire Baron, Scourge of the Bandar, Conqueror of the Red Peaks, flew into battle with his supporting contingent. He landed in the midst of the witches and their devotees, and slew three guards with one swing of his magic sword, Firebrand. Then one of the witches raised her hands, there was a small flash of light, and with a quiet pop Baron Sergio was destroyed. With their commander so unceremoniously slain, our demonic forces were routed. It looks like we’ll need to rely on our more conventional army to take this province.

Northeastern Neighbor

Having managed to free themselves from the Mountains of Madness, Sergey Stepanov’s line soldiers catch up to him and we begin to make progress in our northeastern expansion as well. We soon come across the northwestern borders of Pythium’s domain, whose far western border reaches the Hoburg holdfast. They have only a small expansion party in the area, as most of their units were tied up in the fighting in the middle east. Unfortunately for us, one of the provinces which Sergey attacks is the target of this Pythium group as well. While our army is easily victorious, thanks to the small number of enemy soldiers, the fact that we fought means that we will now be at war with Pythium as well.

Now that we will have to fight Pythium, it’s worth going over what their armies will look like. As mentioned earlier, Pythium is intended to represent a Byzantine-like empire that has a mix of sacred serpent troops that can be recruited from their capital, varying weights of legionnaires which can be recruited from their forts (including their capital), and heretics which can be recruited only outside of their forts. These heretics include both mages that provide paths of magic otherwise unavailable to Pythium and some fire resistant infantry that follow the cult of the sun. With lands blessed with high production, this particular iteration of Pythium focuses heavily on a mix of traditional and heretical legionnaires, supported by cataphracts from the capital and very small numbers of hydra hatchlings. The use of heretic fire mages to lead their forces (evinced by what our spies in the middle east saw of their main army and the commanders of their expansion force) seemed to be responsible for limiting the spread of Pythium’s dominion, which made them quite good neighbors prior to our unfortunate clash.

The same style of traditional army that we deployed on the other two fronts would actually be decent against Pythium’s army, but a focus on heavy infantry would be even better. Pythium’s legions all use tower shields which make them very resistant to arrow fire. While our rangers would still provide some helpful damage, especially in the high numbers that we tend to use, they will do significantly less damage than we are used to. However, while their shields are quite good at repelling missiles, their javelins and spears do fairly little damage and our hard hitting heavy infantry would absolutely destroy them while shrugging off any blows they received in return. This is exactly the sort of army which our scales are designed not to produce, unfortunately. The fact that the bulk of their forces are even further from us than Patala’s means that it will be some time before fighting begins in earnest, but with our army occupied on an island, our assault will be limited to the group that Sergey brought with him, and locally recruited units, until we are ready to divert forces from the CEF.

With our magic research having advanced steadily, we will instead start to deploy local Illuminati recruits to supplement the group fighting Pythium, given the unavailability of the armies that we traditionally rely on and the fact that the Illuminati can get to the eastern front from their research centers with relative safety thanks to their stealth. We are still leaving the majority of our mages in our home provinces as lab rats valued research providers, but we can spare a dozen or so of these astral mages and will be able to recruit an additional caster or two every turn from labs hastily erected near the front line (at the cost of temporarily reduced mage production to free up the necessary gold). While individually weak, these mages can be very powerful when fighting in large groups thanks to the power of communions and astral thaumaturgy.

Another Strategic Aside
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#24
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
It looks like not too many people are particularly interested in this (since it’s, y’know, not been very interesting), but since I do still want to finish it, the remainder of the game is going to be radically summarized.

Hello. My Name is Astral Magic and Welcome to the Late Game
Astral magic in Dominions is a versatile field of magic that gives access to strategic scrying and assassination spells and a myriad of options in combat. When combined with blood magic, both become even more potent.

On the strategic level, one of the most powerful Astral Spells is a spell called ‘Mind Hunt.’ When cast on a province, the astral mage scans it for an enemy commander and casts an offensive spell on them. Since one of the astral combat spells is ‘Soul Slay,’ a spell which instantly kills the target if it pierces their magic resistance, Mind Hunt almost always kills a random enemy commander when the spellcaster has sufficiently advanced magic and is bedecked with items to pierce magic resistance (which also, incidentally, tend to require Astral paths to construct). The one weakness is that if an enemy astral mage is in the province, the spellcaster may become ‘Feebleminded,’ rendering them incapable of casting any spells or leading troops.

In tactical combat, there are two extremely effective methods of using large numbers of weak astral mages. One of these involves increasing the power of our astral mages by equipping a member of our army with a magic item designed for this purpose, and then having all of the mages cast Stellar Cascade. This spell increases the fatigue of all enemy units, which does not sound particularly exciting at first glance. However, five casts of this spell will completely immobilize an enemy, and each casting of the spell can hit up to five separate targets. This means that a sufficient number of casters can stop the entire enemy army dead in its tracks, allowing our soldiers to simply mop up the stunned and sleeping army without suffering any damage in return. This is almost impossible to beat with an army that relies on infantry.

The second method, instead of having a large number of spellcasters firing accessibly low level spells, utilizes Communions to empower a few mages to cast incredibly powerful spells instead. The way that communions work is that mages are scripted to be either a Communion Slave or a Communion Master. The levels of all magic paths available mage that has cast Communion Master are raised by n, where there are 2^n mages that cast, Communion Slave, rounded down. So two slaves raises the level by one, four slaves raises the level by two, and so on. When you can field sixteen slaves, even the weakest astral mages become incredibly powerful, as it raises their spellcasting to levels higher than even the best mages can access innately. Additionally, the fatigue cost of the spells that these mages cast (which can now be quite high, given that they are casting the most powerful spells in the game) is divided by the number of slaves in the Communion. Normally this limits the ratio of masters to slaves to prevent your slaves from being drained dry and killed, since each master is inflicting fatigue on all of the mages empowering them. This is where the Blood Magic comes in to play. Blood Magic has a spell that enables to caster to restore all of their fatigue. This effect is applied to the slaves as well. This means that we can have our suped up mages burning through fatigue like there’s no limit to their reserves, and then reinvigorate all of our underlings with a single sacrifice. Both the communion itself and the human sacrifice to sustain it are about as perfect of a manifestation of our philosophy as we could ask for.

The spell that we will be relying on having our Communion Masters cast is similarly a good moral fit. I had already mentioned that astral mages can instantly kill any low magic resistance target with Soul Slay, but with access to more powerful spells in the field of Thaumaturgy we don’t have to kill anyone thanks to a spell called ‘Enslave.’ It does exactly what it says on the tin. Now, while taking over the minds of enemies to fight their friends already sounds amazing, it gets even better when you look at the way that melee mechanics work. Essentially, if a unit borders another unit, it must stop moving and fight. This means that enslaving enemies not only forces them to kill their friends (and take damage while doing so), it also slows breaks up enemy formations, meaning that if we even bother with a front line, it and our supporting damage will be able to massacre their army piecemeal as disjoined bits and pieces of it stagger to the front. It also means that at the end of every battle, we find a few pleasant surprises comprised of enemy troops that managed to find their way to joining the Good Guys. At the far end of the Thaumaturgy research, we have Master Enslave.
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Requiring a huge communion and a large number of astral gems to cast, it casts Enslave on the entire enemy army. It’s difficult and expensive to ever deploy in a fight, and by the time we cast it the game was already just about over, but oh my goodness is it funny.

Blood Magic Also Kicks Ass in the Late Game

The highest levels of Blood Magic open up the ability to summon demonic commanders of various flavors. Archdevils are powerful fire mages that also command armies better than any of our commanders. Heliophagi are blood mages that can cast just about any blood spell you want them to. The Demon Lords are so powerful, many of them draw away worship in whatever province they happen to be in towards their personal cult. Many of these units can just wade into an enemy army and, unless it has the right types of units to counteract their stupidly high damage attacks and plethora of spells, force hundreds of units to flee before them. Also, most of them can fly - which is nice for getting them out of our capital before they sow panic in our citizens that don’t understand that bringing out godlike manifestations of pure evil is well in line with the pursuit of the greater good.
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The Three Front War

With our army knocking at the gates to their citadel, Patala recalled its armies from the near east to relieve their besieged capital.While their army on the field was sizeable, Patala had only one other fortress, and its production was required to attempt to fend off the approaching undead horde of Lemuria (the Ermor ghosts). Even this didn’t seem to be working out too well for them, and our scouts saw a massive horde of ethereal undead just outside of the castle, so we can assume that they will be facing a siege there shortly. The ‘final battle’ against Patala featured a large and heavily reinforced army bearing the majority of our mundane troops and black priests against a severely worn down force that had far weaker magic and no reinforcement. While we suffered some losses, it proved that Patala’s demise was inevitable and we soon took over their capital and marched some of our forces across the river to the Middle East. The majority of our forces moved East, where they assisted in the conquest of Pythium. This proved to be an expensive adjustment, as the undead of Lemuria were able to seize control over the area which had once been contested between them, Pythium, and Patala, including several provinces which we had captured.

The West had already been all but wrapped up by this point. The one noteworthy discovery was that Agara had advanced all the way from their cave stronghold in the far south to probe the borders of the river, which their amphibious forces were uniquely well suited to conquering. We were able to stymie their advances thanks to the use of long-ranged astral and blood magic - namely conjuring horrors (powerful extra-planar creatures that the caster has no control over) and using the Mind Hunt spell to assassinate their commanders. The one battle that we lost was the first attempt on Marignon’s capital, where their pretender managed to spew out a stream of skeletons that slowed down our infantry long enough for them to be worn down. Meanwhile, the bolts fired from Marignon’s crossbows and from the towers of the capital itself scored some lucky blows and killed several of our mages, severely reducing our firepower in return. The subsequent assault, which featured a host of conjured devils, was easily successful as the flying demons were able to close immediately on Marignon’s back line and slaughter their spellcasters before they could inflict much damage.

The war with Pythium, conversely, was decided primarily by our mages. Prior to deploying the stellar cascade spam script, I had no idea that it would be so incredibly effective. A force of fifteen mages supported by twenty troops could crush an army that doubled its size, and since the enemies were fatigued before they were routed, every battle was a massacre that inflicted exorbitant losses on Pythium’s legions. We were only ever able to field two such groups, however, as the magic item required to enable the weaker mages to cast the slightly more advanced spell required using up the turns of the powerful astral mage that we had been using to single handedly stave off Agartha’s advance. That was when we discovered the potence of Enslave in combat. While the small number of units in the East meant that we could not effectively siege Pythium’s castles until after we finished off Patala, Pythium literally never won a battle against anything other than province defense, and in several engagements our army actually grew when the battle ended.

Closing the Game

Since the victory condition for this map required capturing the Thrones of Ascension and we owned a bit over half of the map given our three fronts of success, we were able to secure the final victory by using strike teams of an army supporting either a priest empowered by artifacts to have enough Holy magic to take a site or a demon lord granted prophet status for the sole purpose of claiming the throne. The last large battle of the game occurred when a host made up almost entirely of flying demons and their lords engaged Agartha’s capital defenses to capture a throne located in the caverns just beyond. After a tight victory, we discovered that the throne in question was underwater, which necessitated sending one of the demons back to friendly territory to pick up the items that would enable them to breathe underwater, and then return to the force besieging Agartha to enable them to abandon their siege and secure the objective. At this point, we had neglected to really take care of silly things like attacks from the undead legion on non-throne provinces, so our borders were frayed a bit just before victory was finally achieved.

AAR

So this game was essentially handed to us on a platter due to the ease of our early game. With a heavy investment on the long-term infrastructure required for research, our army should have been easily overmatched by any enemies that we met in the first few turns, and we should also have had difficulties taking as many provinces as we did. Since our neighbors happened to expand away from us, we not only avoided the potentially catastrophic early engagements, but we were also able to cherry-pick the targets that we attacked, giving us a level of expansion usually only available to aggressive nations. This, in turn, meant that our ability to build up researching centers quickly went out of control, and we had the advantage of more advanced magic for the entirety of the game, an advantage that grew parabolically as the game went on.
SpoilerShow
So there we have it. The world was really ours all along, it simply took our enemies some time to understand it.

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#25
RE: Let's Play Dominions: An Experiment in Utilitarianism
Final goal for the new false lord of this realm: dig up that fuckhuge dragon fossil and repurpose it as your throne
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