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Dominions 4: Thrones of Ascension

I was so happy to be offered a pre-release copy of Dominions 4 that if I ever see that Illwinter PR guy, I'm going to kiss him. On the mouth. No tongue, but only because I'd be doing him a favor.

Dominions 4. If you’ve played Dominions 3: The Awakening, the mere mention of another entry to this utterly unique series should send shivers down your spine. If you haven’t, then… well, this article might not be for you. In that case, I recommend getting up to speed with my game diary RPS Ascension, or maybe taking a look at some articles I wrote about one of Illwinter Game Design’s other titles, the similar-yet-distinct Conquest of Elysium 3.

Returning to those of you who know exactly how remarkable this series is, today we’re going to walk through my first match, and take a look at a few of the ways Dominions 4: Thrones of Ascension is refining its own formula.

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RPS Ascension: The Index

Antopeos, also the Anatolian Peninusla


RPS Ascension, the game of Dominions 3: The Awakening as played by a handful of forumites from Rock, Paper, Shotgun, has finally come to an end. The early parts were some of the first articles I wrote here on Space-Biff!, so please forgive some of the rougher sections. I could go back and touch them up, but that sounds a lot like effort.

Unfortunately, the game didn’t end as we would have hoped—a broken PC and waning interest caused a couple players to drop out prematurely, as is sometimes the problem with Dom3. Still, it was an excellent game, and whoever won (I’m not 100% clear on that, actually. All I know is that I lost) certainly deserved it.

After the jump, the complete index.

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RPS Ascension: Ignominy

Led by a pair of Darth Vaders.

The Sauromatian army at Vlecz.

Did I mention that I, Ichiro, was once the Prophet of the cyclops-god? I suspect not—it is the supremest of punishments to play both the roles of Prophet and Last Believer. At any rate, it is right that you should know why I have been chosen to tell this last chapter of the tale of the greatest alliance of shunned creatures that Antopeos has ever known. We stood upon the fields of Vlecz, far from the Fissure of Yomi, and witnessed the brutality of man. And now I am their guest, kept alive for the sole purpose of regaling their guests and striking fear into the hearts of those who dare resist them.

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RPS Ascension: The Mystery of the Disappearing Pretenders

This will be the last picture for half a thousand words. Prepare, reader.

The Yomi conquer the lands of the Marverni tribes.

Listen well, and I well tell you a tale. It is the story of how the Ascension Wars came to end; of six great Pretenders that sought to sit upon the absent Pantokrator’s throne; and how I, Ichiro, came to be the last surviving Oni on the face of Antopeos.

Like any true story, it must be told in parts, and it is much larger than any one teller. As for the first: I can speak what I know in two nights, for I have been assured that the early years of the Yomi Kingdom have been chronicled elsewhere. And as for the second: I have but narrow insight into the whole of the tale, and my limited vision will have to suffice.

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RPS Ascension: Crossing the Diluphe (Winter, Year 2 and Spring, Year 3)

Raidon thinks little of Ichiro’s tactics for peace—snatching missives! Shaking like a child before the cyclops-god! Pandering to the whims of foreign pretenders! Raidon strains to remember that war was not prudent in the past, but a year of preparations has been unkind to Raidon’s spirits. He can hardly remember when he was Akenbei’s favorite, twelve months and a thousand years ago, when Raidon and his god had fought side-by-side to conquer the so-called “independent” tribes of Western Antopeos.

Since returning to Roca to restore order (order which was not nearly so abandoned as Ichiro had made it to sound), Raidon’s eyes have turned increasingly to the Marverni fortress that sits visible on the horizon: a fort that stands high above the marsh it protects. As part of the agreement between the Yomikind and the Marverni, both the ramparts in Roca and the swamp fort at Diluphe have stood sentinel, always watchful of the mutually-distrustful neighbors.

The Dom3 version of CTF-Face.

The ramparts of Roca and the swamp fort of Diluphe, both host to sizeable garrisons.

Raidon would see that fort torn to the ground and its stones drowned to the bottom of the muck of Diluphe. They have waited so long in preparing for war that they seem weaker than ever. Akenbei sits in the great hall and drinks fermented rice. Raidon’s friend Rai slowly dies of rot in a distant land. Ichiro can hardly remember how to lead those few men who will follow his commands. Even if his peers—and his god—have forgotten it, Raidon knows that war is coming. And what better way to begin it than by tearing down that abominable ever-visible sentinel?

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RPS Ascension: Upstarts (Autumn, Year 2)

When last we saw what the Yomi were up to, Ichiro had received a letter of potential alliance from Nirelye, the goddess (at least Ichiro thinks Nirelye is a she) of the Sauromatian swamp-dwellers. The price was an invasion of the Yomi’s current allies, the Marverni tribes, who had recently begun an invasion of the Sauromatians. Since Raidon and Hirohisa, the nation’s two best generals, were still at the capital in the north, Ichiro had decided to avert immediate war by keeping this information secret from his own patron god, Akenbei, who was spending his time partying at the fortress in Roca.

Meanwhile, Oceania broods, and covets the land. From unda da sea.

Southwest Antopeos as autumn begins: The Marverni tribes invade Fever Fens, owned by Sauromatia. Akenbei and the Yomi feast in Roca.

Unfortunately for Ichiro, he will soon regret keeping Nirelye’s missive from his master.

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RPS Ascension: Annum Belli Apparatum (Spring and Summer, Year 2)

Ichiro is feeling good about himself, for the first time he can remember since he joined the Demon Priesthood. There is peace between Wayland of the Marverni tribes and Akenbei of the Yomi, and the dominion of Akenbei is secure all along the coast thanks to Ichiro’s temples. So he’s mortified, naturally, to learn that Akenbei intends to invade the Marverni lands so soon after an agreement has been made.

The enemy outnumber us a paltry three to one; good odds for any demon.

The situation in the southern half of the western landmass of Antopeos

Ichiro sees some problems with Akenbei’s plan. First, there is no guarantee that Raidon’s army will be able to survive an attack on Bogger Wold after the army has been worn out by months of combat. Second, when the forces of the Yomi are compared to that of the Marverni, it is apparent that there are three Marverni soldiers to every Yomi currently fielded. Third — and most importantly — Ichiro has been left without any attendant army in Roca while Akenbei and Raidon have camped their forces in Temiglia. If they invade Bogger Wold, the inevitable reprisal from Marverni will likely consist of their army in Diluphe marching north to where Ichiro is stationed, burning and plundering everything in their path. Ichiro’s good mood simply won’t abide this possibility.

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RPS Ascension: White Candles (Winter, Year 1)

With peace brokered between Yomi and Marverni, Akenbei’s reign is secure for the time being, allowing him to turn his attention to resolving the war of faith with Nerae of Oceania and expanding south as quickly as his army will march. As winter begins, Nanvather the Demon Priest announces the construction of a temple in Cynaphe, the first temple dedicated to Akenbei outside of the capital. Soon after, Akenbei’s army, led by himself, Raidon the bandit, and Ichiro the prophet, conquers the meager defenders of the wasteland-province of Boggiton.

A relief, since it's been coming for five books

Winter begins

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RPS Ascension: The Autumn Accords (Autumn, Year 1)

After the long summer campaign and successful conquest of Histyra, Akenbei is so swollen with confidence that he returns with his army to Yomi for a month of feasting and reinforcement. While there, his researching sorcerers inform him that they have completed their first forays into the lost science of Alteration — the school of magic concerned with bending the physical world to the will of the caster. Akenbei immediately decides to forget that he ever bothered with the useless Twist Fate spell, and sets to practicing one of the new Alteration spells being passed around Yomi: Personal Luck. This trick grants him immense fortune in combat, making enemy ankles catch in molehills as they charge, and swords slide uselessly off his rough hide.

But while Akenbei is delighting in his new powers, he receives some bad news, both from Rai in the south and the watchposts along the borders of Yomi.

Here shown fielding a very non-Marverni army

Marverni, a nation of druids and allied tribesmen

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RPS Ascension: Relearning Warfare (Summer, Year 1)

Akenbei is an imposing god. He stands fifteen feet tall, is gifted in earth and astral magic, and is a veritable battering ram of a warrior. He has marched north to the modestly wealthy independent state of Talito with a mind to expand his power. His army — more a band of ruffians at this point, but Akenbei reminds himself he is a patient god — is enthusiastic. How much trouble can the defensive forces of such a small state be, anyway?

Correction: groupies

Akenbei and his glorious army

Unfortunately, Akenbei’s long slumber has left him drowsy in the tactics department.

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