PBEM Forever: Dominions
PBEM Forever is a series about the best play-by-email games that aren’t merely digital board games. And, in the final ouroboros-like turn of the screw, today’s subject happens to be about the very same game that started this site.
Dominions was the first thing I ever wrote about here on Space-Biff! No, I don’t mean Dominion, Donald X. Vaccarino’s inaugural deck-builder that spawned one billion imitators. I’m talking about Dominions, the series whose imitators were limited to its own four sequels. Of all the many PBEM games I’ve played over the years, this is the one I’ve invested the most time into. And it’s probably the one I still understand the least.
That’s a compliment, by the way.
One More Reason to Love Dominions 4
I love Dominions 4. It’s the sprawl of the thing. The thousand thousand units, spells, magic items, deities. The expansive mythology. The steady build from small armies supported by a little bit of magic to massive armies that exist only to protect wizards who cast world-ending doomspells. The fact that I’m running a 13-player, 15-AI game that will likely last over a year and generate stories I’ll remember for the rest of my life — and yes, I’ll also report the whole thing here once the game is done and nobody can use the writeups to suss out my team’s strategies.
Today though, I found one more thing to love about Dom4. You can find it after the jump — though be warned, what follows contains about 85 pixels (no, I didn’t count) of Not Safe For Work thanks to some mythological nudity.
Dominions 4: Thrones of Ascension
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.
Conquest of Elysium 3 is…
I’ve been playing and talking a lot about Conquest of Elysium 3 from Illwinter Game Design, the two-man band responsible for Dominions 3. My review? It’s great: simple to learn, plenty of depth, and lots of options for customization so you can play the game you’re in the mood for.
However, it hasn’t been widely reviewed, and lots of folks seem confused about what it is—one review so completely that I couldn’t help but poke some fun at it. I understand this response—its visual style requires some acclimatizing, and it looks like it could be one of those impenetrable stats-based games that you once bought as a kid because you heard you could do anything but then it turned out you couldn’t even figure out how to build a cavalry regiment.
Have no fear! CoE3 is not one of those games. But rather than define what it isn’t, I’ve made a handy list of four things that sum up what Conquest of Elysium 3 is all about. If that doesn’t interest you, you can make like an IGN reader and skip to the end for the final score.
Can’t Get Enough Human Sacrifices
I’ve recently been playing a lot of Conquest of Elysium 3, the new game from Illwinter Game Design, who you might recognize as the creators of Dominions 3. My review is here, and last time I played as a halfling Burgmeister. Today I’m playing as the Demonologist, a mage willing to conspire with devils in order to gain atrocious power.
It isn’t easy being a Demonologist, even if you have learned the dark arts of sacrificing your fellow man to appease the dark gods. No matter how powerful you become, there will always be a demon lord unwilling to join forces once you’ve summoned him into Elysium. And when that happens, not only does the ungrateful spawn refuse to join you, but you’ve got to fight it, further weakening your hellish army.
Oh well. Next time you’ll have to sate the demon’s lusts with a few extra human sacrifices.
Can’t Get Enough Hoburg Weed
I’ve recently been playing a lot of Conquest of Elysium 3, the new game from Illwinter Game Design, who you might recognize as the creators of Dominions 3. Today I’m playing as the Burgmeister, a leader among halfmen.
It isn’t easy being a halfman, even if you have managed to join up with the Hoburgs. You have to put up with the worst sort of ridicule, and those short legs aren’t taking you anywhere fast. At best you have 4 hitpoints—and chances are you’ve got fewer. Even most human archers have 7, and beefcakes can work up to more than double that.
Yessir, life as a Hoburg sure would stink if it weren’t for fine Hoburg Weed.
How to Pose as an Indie Reviewer
It’s hard to jumpstart a career as a AAA reviewer these days. The market is competitive, and the whole reason you play eighteen hours of games a day means that “competitive” sounds about as appealing as licking a plantar wart.
Have no fear! By following these 20 easy steps, you too can soon be reviewing indie games with the best of them. As we go along, we’ll take a look at an actual review of an indie game as an example of how to pose as an indie reviewer (Conquest of Elysium 3 review, found here).