The first chapter of Realm of Cinders wrapped up on June 3rd, and the second chapter began on June 10th. As you may know, all game results are uploaded to our servers, which lets us comb through the data and analyze which factions won the most games, and also, more importantly, HOW they won those games. Sometimes it’s not just victory that counts, but the moral choices along the way to victory or defeat, that have the longest-lasting effect on the world of Eretsu.
Over the four weeks of Chapter 1, the Mercenary Kings held a commanding lead from start to finish. In the third week, the other factions started to figure out how to deal with the unique victory conditions of the scenario and things began to even out. However, it was too little, too late, and the Mercenaries finished VERY strong in the final week.
- Week 1 %
- Week 2 %
- Week 3 %
- Week 4 %
- Total Win %
Over the course of the availability of Chapter 1, representatives of each faction offered strategic advice. You can read those tactical treatises here::
- Strategy for the Gudanna Dominion, by Daskindt
- Strategy for the Durani Empire, by Mardin of Chatzuk
- Strategy for the Mercenary Kings, by Kahga the Loon
Here’s a reminder of the layout of the map for the Chapter 1 scenario. Each of the victory point regions on the map represents one of the Zikia villages the factions were fighting over..
THE GUDANNA DOMINION
Dominion players had the best chance for an early victory in this scenario, able to claim 4 VP from each village where they were able to stash supplies. Victorious Dominion players won on round 4.5, on average — the quickest average win. Unfortunately for their leaders, this was not enough: the Gudanna won only 23% of matches in the three-player scenario.
Why was the Dominion unable to capitalize on its early-game advantage? Gudanna scouts came into this weald expecting some cooperation from the locals, as the Dominion leadership had arranged with the leader of the Samula Tribe. Yet thanks to the influence of Ajin of Zura Tribe and the Mercenaries she swayed to her side, this didn’t go as well as planned. When the Mercenary players entered a village where the Dominion had already hidden supplies, the Mercenaries destroyed those supplies 40% of the time! This cost the Dominion a precious 2 VP, often enough to undercut a Gudanna victory.
On top of this, in cases where the Mercenary Kings arrived at a Zikia village before the Gudanna, the Mercenaries had the opportunity to fortify the village with traps set against either the Empire forces, or against both the Empire and the Dominion. The Mercenaries set traps against the Dominion a whopping 60% of the time. It seems Ajin and her sympathizers persuaded many villagers to betray the Samula’s agreement with the Dominion, setting the stage for Gudanna defeat in the weald. (read Web of Thorns for more on this key Zikia character.)
While the Empire was certainly a presence on the battlefield, they rarely got an opportunity to destroy Dominion supplies: on average, only 0.44 villages were burned in games where the Dominion lost. So of the two factions opposing the Dominion, it wasn’t the larger Empire force that was a thorn in the Dominion’s side — it was the Mercenary Kings.
One intriguing side-note for the Dominion players was the activities of their spymasters, searching for rumors of a mysterious child spotted at the recent Zikia council of elders. A critical 65% of Gudanna players discovered rumors of the child — something that could prove significant later in the Realm of Cinders.
THE MERCENARY KINGS
he Mercenary Kings clearly carried the day in the three-player matchup. Unique to this scenario was how they earned their VP: they gained 2 VP when initially fortifying a Zikia village, but also automatically gained 1 VP per Turn for each fortified village, regardless of whether they still controlled the village uncontested. On average, the winning Mercenary players won by Turn 5.2, with 3.09 fortified villages.
The only way for the Mercenaries to lose once this VP engine started was for a Durani player to control a fortified village uncontested on the beginning of his or her Turn, and then punish or burn that village. This change in the dynamic of VP math clearly caught many players off guard. Few initially appreciated how difficult this momentum would be to stop in the mid-game.
Those opponents who grasped this path to victory early on prevented the Mercenaries from fortifying villages in the first place. Losing Mercenary players only fortified 1.75 villages, obstructed both by the Dominion and the Empire. Looking at the map, the Mercenaries nearly always managed to fortify Village C (90% of the time for winners, 79% of the time for losers), but Village A and Village D were the critical conflict points. Winning Mercenary players fortified Village A 67% of their games, but losing Mercenaries only managed to fortify it 38% of the time, blocked by the Gudanna. On the other side of the map, winning Mercenariess grabbed Village D in 67% of their games, but losing Mercenaries only got it 46% of the time.
In the end, it’s important to realize that while the Mercenary Kings won the most games, and in a decisive fashion, this does not represent a crushing military victory. The goal of the Mercenaries was not to destroy all enemy Golems. They won by rallying and uniting the Zikia villages, standing up to the Durani invasion and throwing out the Gudanna infiltrators whose presence drew the Empire in the first place.
THE DURANI EMPIRE
The Durani brought a sizable force of Golems into the Wildwood to root out the Gudanna spies there and punish Zikia villages found to be collaborating with their enemies. However, in the end, they only won 25% of the three-player games.
In this scenario, while the Durani brought a 1,000-AVP army to their opponents’ 500-APV forces, this advantage was blunted by the fact their larger pool of Actions Points per Turn (8) was still less than the combined AP of their opponents (12 AP between the two of them), even if the opposing factions rarely cooperated so closely to take full advantage of that. While on paper it may have looked like a two-against-one battle, the victory conditions were such that it still amounted to a free-for-all.
The Empire was also hampered by the forced Turn order. Always going third meant a Durani army that didn’t move aggressively forward to block its opponents from claiming villages would then find those opponents fortifying and hiding supplies on the second Round, and then moving their Golems to block the Empire from claiming any villages on the second Durani Turn. Recognizing this dynamic would have been key to playing the map and preventing either opponent from getting too far ahead in the early game, but required a more mobile playstyle than the Empire typically demonstrates with their slower Durani Golems.
Winning Empire armies ended up grinding down the enemy: with a win on average by Turn 5.8, the Durani had the longest Turn count of all factions. Empire forces didn’t claim their first village until Turn 3.4. The earliest village burned because of hidden Dominion supplies wasn’t until Turn 4.7 (Village F) or Turn 4.9 (Village G), and the earliest the Empire typically punished a village for Mercenary traps was on Turn 4.0 (Village D) and Turn 4.3 (Village C). These late-game heroics were clearly the tipping point for winning Empire armies, because not only did the Empire gain 3 VP for these successes, but the Mercenaries and the Gudanna each lost 2 VP if the village had supplies in it, and the Mercs lost 2 VP from lost Fortified villages.
More interesting in these data are the choices made by Durani commanders when presented with a subdued village. When controlling a neutral village (one neither the Mercenaries nor Dominion had claimed first), Empire players chose to simply pacify the village 87% of the time, instead of burning the village unprovoked. When claiming a village with Mercenary traps, Empire players punished the perpetrators 65% of the time, rather than burning the entire village. Dominion collaborators always got the torch — the scenario didn’t present Durani players with a choice as these were their orders. However, they were given the opportunity of razing the village to strike fear into the Zikia far and wide. The players were split: 50% of the time they only burned the collaborating village, and 50% of the time they razed it completely.
Because the players of the Empire armies reported to the Durani General Kopa Vahni, these decisions represent the actions of his commanders on the battlefield. Yes, villages were burned; yes, Zikia were punished for setting traps; yet for the most part, Kopa Vahni’s forces exercised some measure of restraint. The other generals in the field, however, did NOT hold back. The bloodthirsty Lady Amba and Lord Mihik, sent to the Wildwood by Raga Dasra when Kopa Vahni requested reinforcements, were responsible for the majority of the burned Zikia villages (read more about these characters in The Necessity of Ruthlessness and Visions of Fire). Yet it was Kopa Vahni’s Onyx Daggers who draw the most fear and hatred from the Zikia tribes, as their presence in the Wildwood preceded the larger engagement of the Durani, and they thus inherit the reputation of all later actions of the Empire.
CHAPTER 1 — THE TWO PLAYER MAP
Because of the more complex army requirements of the three-player map, we also offered a two-player version of Chapter 1. While a much simplified rendition of the more elaborate storytelling of the three-player version, we also tracked wins and losses here.
- Total Win %
- vs Dominion
- vs Empire
- vs Mercs
While the Dominion carried the data in winning the most quantity of games, this is driven by their larger presence on the battlefield: 48% of all games played were between the Dominion and the Empire, while 29% were between the Dominion and the Mercenary Kings, and only 22% of games didn’t include the Gudanna at all.
This reflects the real-world fact of games between players who own just the base game set, a conclusion supported by the number of base game Golems seen in the two-player game results. Given the demands for higher mobility in this scenario, it’s not surprising the Gudanna would prove advantageous in a game limited to only base game figures.
On a first-time playthrough, the map is slightly biased toward factions that are strong against the NPC faction, which had a random presence in the neutral villages. On the first play of the scenario, being able to capture the opposing player’s claimed villages didn’t make up for being blocked by the neutral villages. On later games, a savvy player could recognize how the game mechanics work, and adapt his or her first-Turn decision-making to account for this. However, this left brand-new Durani players using the base game Golems at a disadvantage against equally new opponents fielding the Gudanna.
All that said, the Mercenary Kings did just fine on both side of the battlefield. They won 53% of their games, no matter the opponent, and regardless of whether they were strong or weak against the NPC faction in the neutral villages.
STORY IMPLICATIONS OF THE 2 PLAYER MAP
The Gudanna Dominion
For the Dominion, when the Mercenary Kings weren’t on the battlefield, the Dominion’s arrangement with the local Zikia villages gave them the edge they needed to defeat the smaller scouting parties of the Empire.
This represents all the smaller villages, beholden to the Samula tribe, where the Dominion’s agreement with the Matriarch allowed them to hold sway, plant their supply caches, and then ambush and harass the Empire infiltrating the Wildwood.
The Mercenary Kings
The Mercenary successes against both the Empire and the Dominion represent the influence of Ajin of the Zura Tribe (read Web of Thorns for more on this key Zikia character.). Ajin traveled the Wildwood, rallying the wealds to reject the Samula agreement with the Gudanna and stand against both the Empire and the Dominion.
That the Mercenaries had success against both factions is a powerful statement. Sadly, Ajin and the Mercenary Kings who stood for her cause were just too few and far between.
The Durani Empire
The message here for the Empire is a mixed one: yes, they won slightly more of the total battles than the Mercenaries (28% to 27%), yet measured against either faction individually, they lost more than they won.
As in the three-player map, where the Durani outnumbered the other two factions, even a victory by the Mercenary Kings is a short-lived moral victory in many cases. The Durani’s superior force would eventually prevail, if at a cost. So here in the two-player map as well, even faced with rebellious Zikia villages and Gudanna insurgents hidden among the local population, the Durani doggedly persisted. It’s a grinding, grueling, destructive way to wage war, yet the Empire pushes forward, burning as it goes.
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Visit golemarcana.com/events to find events in your area where you can play currently running Chapter 2 and the upcoming Chapter 3!
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