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Solium Infernum review: Hell is best enjoyed with company

An infernal board game that’s most enjoyable with friends
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Solium Infernum is one of those games that really make you hate your friends. It makes even a non-believer like me hope that there is a hell so they can be sent there after all’s said and done, just to atone for ruining my carefully laid plans. Or, to put it another way; it’s the perfect thing for a board game night.

I’ve written about Solium Infernum a lot already, be it after gamescom 2023 or the recent multiplayer test, so I feel a little bit like a broken record comparing it to Game of Thrones and telling you about the fantastic atmosphere it creates with its art style, writing, and game mechanics, but it’s worth repeating. Set in hell, this turn-based strategy game is all about winning an election to become the next ruler to ascend to the empty throne.

Solium Infernum screenshot showing army movement.

While the perspective is reminiscent of Civilization, Solium Infernum is a different type of game.

Every player chooses one Archfiend with special abilities and can equip them with an item that remains hidden until it’s used, giving them a secret trump card to be played at a critical moment. Each of these demonic entities who strive to be hell’s next shepherd comes with their own play style, and all of them are equally viable.

Variety is one of the best parts of Solium Infernum, because winning the election requires you to collect a resource called Prestige. Prestige is awarded for many activities: Conquering and holding important landmarks, successfully threatening other Archfiends to do your bidding, generating and fulfilling quests, and so on. Overall, each Archfiend’s playstyle gives them a defined way of gaining Prestige without feeling constricting – the economy-focused Mammon, for example, can funnel his great wealth into military or diplomatic ventures, depending on which opportunities present themselves.

Solium Infernum has tons of subsystems to offer: Magic rituals, event cards, a combat system, auctions for troops, leaders, and items, diplomacy, a dueling system – it’s a lot to learn and keep track of during a game. This has the advantage of always giving you something to do, even if you just suffered a big setback. There is always some scheme to plot, some adjustment to be made, some enemy to be sabotaged. On the other hand, this immense depth doesn’t make the game very approachable. It includes a solid tutorial, but the sheer amount of systems to be used can still feel overwhelming.

Solium Infernum screenshot showing a ritual being cast.

A little dark magic here, a small ritual there.

That said, once you’ve wrapped your head around how the game works, all of these mechanics feel very satisfying to use. When you’re testing how to synergize the effects of different systems and putting together rough plans in your head, Solium Infernum really slaps. It’s a constant mix between feeling like a diabolic genius outsmarting everyone and a drunken idiot who couldn’t see the most obvious foil to their plan coming.

It’s not surprising, then, that the multiplayer mode is this game’s core. Be it with strangers or with friends, as long as everyone’s roughly on the same skill level you’ll have a blast. Playing by yourself is possible thanks to the AI filling up the rest of the player spots, but it’s definitely not a comparable experience – half the fun is in subtly manipulating your friends to do what you want them to do or laughing in their faces after they’ve realized who thwarted their last scheme.

Like in the real Game of Thrones, plans can be very long-term ventures, leading to match times only the most hardcore players will endure in a single session. That’s where Solium Infernum’s asynchronous multiplayer function comes into play. In a throwback to the days in which playing turn-based games via email was the hot stuff, the game combines its system of simultaneous turns with Steam notifications to achieve a similar effect. Players give their orders for the current turn whenever they can and once everybody is done the game resolves all actions in order. A Steam notification is sent out to everyone that the next turn is ready, beginning the cycle anew.

Solium Infernum screenshot showing artifacts.

Collecting powerful artifacts is another way to get the edge over the competition.

It’s a relaxed, non-intrusive way of playing out a match over days, weeks, and even months. You can also set a time limit people can take to give their next orders to keep the game going in case someone has to drop out. Should everyone find themselves online at the same time, you can simply play as if you were in a regular session. It sounds very old-fashioned, and if I were still in university I probably wouldn’t care about it at all, but for anyone with less time than that, this system offers a great way of enjoying a game with friends on a time constraint.

Having just two orders per turn really makes you think carefully about each move, especially as the order in which they’re resolved matters, too. Having that time without any extra pressure can be helpful in navigating the complex game, mitigating the difficulty factor a little.

Though the visual style of Solium Infernum’s characters may not be to everyone’s liking, the title is chock-full of brilliant artwork that decorates the cards of events, items, and units. Overall, the graphics and the soundtrack create a good atmosphere and background for the backstabbing. Another strong point is the character writing – every Archfiend has a strong personality and the diplomatic dialog is quite witty at times.

Solium Infernum artwork showing one of hell's legions on the march.

Chef's kiss for the card art in Solium Infernum.

Despite saying mostly positive things about it, I find Solium Infernum difficult to score, because no number will be able to properly describe everyone’s experience. Solo players will not enjoy this game a whole lot and strategy newcomers diving into multiplayer alone may have a hard time until they get the hang of it. Jump into a game with people you know, however, and Solium Infernum is a magical experience that will provide an unending stream of funny anecdotes and memories to recount later.

I’ll go ahead and give my score based on the assumption that you’ll get a couple of friends to enjoy hell with you – the way it should be.

Score: 8/10

Version tested: PC.