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Solium Infernum is what happens when devils play the game of thrones

Becoming the king of hell is all about the fine print
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Hell, it turns out, is actually quite a civilized place. Makes sense, if you think about it: Devils love to make contracts with people, so their society should be quite focused on legalism and order. This is why playing the game of thrones in Solium Infernum is all about the fine print.

Revolving around becoming the next ruler of hell, this remake of the 2009 game of the same title is basically Civilization crossed with Diablo and pressed into a board game ruleset. That aspect is a very strong one – players only have two actions per turn, be it troop recruitment, moving an army, initiating a scheme, or doing some shopping at the artifact market. Turn order is another very important factor that needs considering: When the turn ends, everyone’s first action will be resolved one player at a time, and only after that the second action comes into play. So it’s not just crucial to make a wise decision about what action to take, you need to prioritize as well.

Solium Infernum key art of a crown above a dark stone throne.

Want to sit on this chair? Then be ready to scheme, fight, promise, and betray.

This makes Solium Infernum an incredibly methodical game – it’s no wonder that people still play hot seat matches of the original via email today. Taking command of one of the devils on offer at gamescom 2023, I dive into a complex as well as intriguing world. Like factions in other strategy games, each Archfiend available in Solium Infernum – names like Lilith or Baal – has their own strengths and weaknesses, which heavily influence how you will compete for the throne. While most of these are openly known to everybody, each leader has a secret relic up their sleeve, hidden from all other players.

To crown yourself king or queen of hell, you need to collect prestige, which is going to convince your esteemed colleagues of the conclave to vote for you – I told you, it’s all very orderly. You’ll obtain prestige by besting your rivals in any arena you can – diplomacy, scheming, war. But it all has to happen by the book, or at least using any loopholes you can find.

Take war as an example: You can’t just go around stomping on someone. Instead, you’ll have to declare a vendetta based on a clear casus belli (which you conjured up through a scheme) and with a concise goal and time frame – say another leader conquered a neutral fortress in your area. This gives you enough reason to hit back at them by declaring that you’ll destroy their army – and you can bet your prestige on being able to actually do so. The riskier the bet, the greater the potential gains and losses. If you bet that you defeat the army in just a few turns, your triumph will be all the greater. It’s a very different sort of war than what you’ll find in any other turn-based strategy game, where it’s all about wiping the enemy from the face of the planet. This is more like a gentlemanly duel.

Solium Infernum Archfiend.

Each Archfiend of hell has their own characteristics.

There is complexity in battles, too, thanks to the different stat lines of armies and the way combat is resolved through different phases.

Strengthening your forces works in a non-traditional way, too. Instead of recruiting units at your cities, you’ll acquire more demonic legions at the market, where everyone can join the auction for their services. That means that others can simply outbid you. It works the same way for generals and relics – it’s all about open competition. Hell has four different currencies, which all have their uses, so balancing your budget with the right coins (and the right coin sizes) is critical. You can even combine different coins together to make some space in your purse, but beware of thieves.

Honestly, Solium Infernum is a lot to learn – it’s complex and deep and you’ll need some patience to play it. Going through the tutorial in Cologne, each turn introduced me to new mechanics that widened the amount of tools available to me. I can see how this game would be incredible to use during a digital board game night once everyone has a basic understanding of it.

The game is enhanced by some truly breathtaking artwork and a fantastic visual style throughout, sucking you into this hellish version of Game of Thrones.

Solium Infernum strategy map.

Beautiful artwork and an appropriately dire hellscape dominate the game's visuals.

The version I played at gamescom was still very buggy, though I was informed that this had been a fresh build right from the oven that hadn’t had any testing done to it. Hopefully, the team will be able to exorcize those unwelcome devils from the game before the release of its demo version during the upcoming Steam Next Fest 2023.

Solium Infernum is a game to keep your eyes on, if you like to sink your teeth into really meaty titles that require lots of forward thinking and methodical playing. Developed and published by League of Geeks, it has no public release date yet.