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Completed Let's Play Dark Forest in MP, where players fight one another until thrash mobs kill them all.

ValeVelKal

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DarkForest1-1-1024x706.png


Dark Forest is one of the earliest computer strategy games in history, having been released in 1981 by Sirius Software. Sirius Software is a totally forgotten developer that churned dozens of games every year between 1981 and 1983, almost all of them action games - Dark Forest is there only strategy game.

For my blog, I decided to play this game in solo, and then proposed on my blog to play it in multiplayer. I found 5 daring adventuring willing to continue forth (or backward?) into 1981 gaming. It turns out that at least two of them (Dayyālu and Morpheus Kitami) and possibly more are also on the 'Dex, so I can just as well create a thread here in addition to the one on my blog.

I will explain the game as we go along, we are only at the beginning of turn 2 at the moment.
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 0 [Initial deployment; ruleset]

20230901000001.png


That's what we are fighting for, so that's what you are going to see.
The world is divided into 6 castles (1 to 6) and 25 regions (A to Y). Each player "starts" in the castle, and the objective is to find "his" treasures in 3 of the other castles. In practice, that means killing the other players, because if you don't gain any troop if you don't control a castle.

Each region / castle (except the Dark Forest in L, N and O) has a 3-digit code.

The first one is the ID of the owner :

0 = The Gruds - neutrals. More on these later.
1 = Morpheus Kitami
2 = Porkbelly
3 = Rastignak
4 = Dayyālu
5 = Argyra
6 = ValeVelkal [myself], as "Scribe"

So here is a version of the map easier to read :

20230903000003.png


The second and third digit is the number of soldiers (or gruds) from 1 to 99. Any empty region is immediately occupied by one grud.

So basically :
- Dayyalu, Rastignak and myself have basically no way to grow except by killing one another. I hope Dayyalu will continue this Let's Play if he kills me
- Porkbelly is on an island surrounded by gruds... which WILL be problematic if he does not cull their numbers quickly,
- Morpheus Kitamin chose a border-gore deployment by starting on U, blocking an obvious expansion path for Argyra.


At the end of each turn, each controlled region connected to a castle gives +1 soldier, to be allocated anywhere. For this reason, everyone deployed the 4 starting soldiers in one region each, so +4 soldiers by turn for everyone. The "Dark Forest" around Porkbelly's Dark Forest in the South works exactly the same way, but it hides its content and provides defensive bonus. The river and the mountains in white also provide defensive bonus.

As for the gruds, well, the little green fellows grow by +1 or +2 in each region they control every turn. They can also attack several times in the same turn (a player can only attack once by turn from one region to another region). Worse, they WILL attack if they have a good chance to win. They are relentless and I totally expect at least one player to lose to them.

There are two more things to know :
- There is a dragon (technically a "spectrar") roaming the land and eating humans and gruds alike. It started in Q, where it ate one grud.
- There is also a magician going from region to region, giving one soldier / grud to the owner and then proposing to help further - basically random positive or negative effect ; he can even hand over a region to the gruds. Dayyalu wisely declined his help.

Well, you know everything there is to know, and the game starts !
 
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ValeVelKal

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Turn 1

20230903000002.png


Not much happens since there is no critical mass of soldiers anywhere to attack.
- I deploy one new guy in F to block the gruds from attempting to cross and overwhelm my garrison, and the rest of my troops in E because it allows me both to defend from the gruds coming from E and from Dayyalu, if needed. I won't be transparent on my strategy in the upcoming turns, of course.
- The rest of the players have a balanced defence, though of course, no one knows what Porkbelly does in the Dark Forest.
- I am not convinced of the wisdom of Argyra's deployment. There are gruds in Y who can reach his castle, whereas V and W were safe from the gruds. I think I would have gone all-in on X to assault Y asap. Of course, the problem with owning Y is that you become all paranoid because there might be an army in Y.

The Spectar decides to go eat one of MorpheusKitami's soldiers in R, setting him back somehow, and the magician joins the gruds this turn.
 
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Modron

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Seems to me like Dayyalu is rough place unless that corner is secretly good because you don't have to spread your reinforcements around much and can just turtle for a while well your enemies spread themselves thin fighting in all directions.
 

ValeVelKal

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Seems to me like Dayyalu is rough place unless that corner is secretly good because you don't have to spread your reinforcements around much and can just turtle for a while well your enemies spread themselves thin fighting in all directions.
We are not quite sure since it is the very first time we play this game in MP, and of course strategy is documented nowhere.

My personal analysis is that it is one of the best spot (with Rastignak's) due to the way the gruds work. Gruds get +1 in each region every turn at a minimum, and attack you either if they have a good chance to win (they are more than you) or they are just too many on the tile. This means everyone next to a neutral/grud tile need to "match" the gruds, whereas Dayyalu does not.

Based on this analysis, Porkbelly starts in a difficult situation with the gruds around him being +5 in total every turn, vs +4 for him. He needs to take K asap to be able to de-garrison region L. After that, he should be golden.
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 2


20230904000001.png

  • Morpheus leveraged the relative weakness of Argyra in region W for a daring if lightweight attack that made it through. Who cares about the gruds!
  • Porkbebbly attacked the gruds in P, presumably specifically here to avoid sharing a border with another player,
  • Rastignak attempts to push the gruds back to the river in H, kills one but fails to kill the others. It gives me a golden opportunity to break the stalemate. I follow up and take the territory with no losses,
  • Argyra and Dayyalu stay put and reinforce.

Gruds and NPC turns :


20230904000002.gif


Explained for the laymen :


20230904000003.png


  • The Spectar eats one of Dayyalu's men in the North, worsening an already pressured position. I have no doubt that Dayyalu is going to launch his last hurrah on D
  • The magician reinforces the gruds in T, who use it immediately to attack Porkbelly in N with overwhelming force. Porkbelly's kingdom is cut in two and in a very precarious position
  • The gruds also try to retake H by crossing the river from M, but trolls eat one of them and I push back the rest with no losses,
 
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ValeVelKal

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Turn 3 :


Disaster ! Dayyalu has attacked my position in D and destroyed all the defenders without any losses. He could immediately reinforce !


Worse ! My probing attack on D failed (I did not insist, superior number seems to give a massive advantage) and the Spectrar ate one of my two defenders in F. Did I mention that Rastignak is massing an army in I, reinforced by the magician himself ? Porkbelly might end up in a grud soup, but I will most likely end up either hanged or beheaded by fellow lieges !


20230906000004.png


In other news :
- Argyra recovers region W, though not sure how bloody the battle was
- Morpheus either did nothing a failed an attack
- Porkbelly succeeds at a save roll by taking territory K AND not being attacked by the gruds. He is in a much stronger position now.
- The gruds predicably recovered region P, and failed an attempt to take Argyra's castle directly

I am so dead, but I am sure Dayyālu will continue the AAR :p
 
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Dayyālu

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Seems to me like Dayyalu is rough place unless that corner is secretly good because you don't have to spread your reinforcements around much and can just turtle for a while well your enemies spread themselves thin fighting in all directions.

Taking it comes from my Dominions experience : when maps aren't wraparound you gotta optimize corners and diminish pesky neutrals. Gruds are MURDEROUS in the game (well, I did fuck up my tests by believing you could initially deploy just in your castle) but their growth is explosive. Rastignak took an excellent position but it's still a bit too open, if defensible. 1 is good but you need to win against 6 or get 6 to help you to kill 3. Scribe was a good man and he refused to kill Rastignak, so I jumped on him.

The rest was RNG.

I am so dead, but I am sure Dayyālu will continue the AAR :p

Hmm, between posting here or on your forum, I dunno. Also next turn is going to be a bloodbath, apparently.

This game burns fast, but at least it ain't a Gollop-borefest. To the slaughter!
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 4 : The Great Musical Castle Chairs

This game keeps delivering.

When I take over my turn, Dayyalu is sitting on my throne, eating my cereals. Without castle, I cannot receive reinforcements. While I am about to die, the other players are nicely expanding in grud territory or, in the case of Morpheus, in Argyra's territory.


With nothing to attack, and no reinforcement on their way anyway, I fall back to E. Enjoy your new neighbours the gruds, Rastignak !


20230907000002.png



And then, and then...


Sometimes, Lady Luck says "Fuck YOU in particular", and when she says that she is talking to Argyra :


20230907000003.gif



So, in layman's terms :


20230907000004.png


- The Spectar attacked Argyra's castle and ate two of his defenders,
- Seeing seeing, the gruds assaulted his castle... and are now sitting on his throne, eating his kids !
- The gruds also attacked Morpheus and separated his territory in two,


Good job guys, you fought so much with each other in total that together you are negative two territories to the gruds, and I don't see Argyra recovering for that.
The gruds also attack Porkbelly but they are pushed back (Porkbelly : 3 deaths. Gruds : 5 deaths). Porkbelly was offered to follow up in T but refused.
 
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ValeVelKal

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I am so dead, but I am sure Dayyālu will continue the AAR :p

Hmm, between posting here or on your forum, I dunno. Also next turn is going to be a bloodbath, apparently.

This game burns fast, but at least it ain't a Gollop-borefest. To the slaughter!
I am having fun, even though I am losing. Everyone basically spawning on top of one another and the gruds ready to exploit any weakness really makes the game fun and tense !
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 5 - the end of Scribe

20230908000001.png


  • Dayyalu pushes me out of my last strong position. I have ONE man left in P...
  • Rastignak and Porkbelly carry on focusing on the gruds. Not that of course I am not sure where the attack on T came from,
  • Morpheus reconnects its separated territory... by taking over another of Argyra's territory,
  • Argyra manages to retake his castle. He leaves the territory behind him to the grud... which is a bit of a loss, because the magician was going to protect it. Instead, the gruds get protected.
We are back to a traditional configuration : one player on each side North/South/West/East. Dayyalu with 7 and soon 8 territories has an advantage IMO ; Morpheus on the other hand, still surrounded by gruds and with only 5 territories, is IMO lagging behind.


Where is the Spectar you ask ? Well... somewhere in L, O or N

20230908000002.png


Good luck maintaining your notes on whatever you hide in those forest, Porkbelly !
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 6 - The game simplifies.

Not much to report this turn, except - well - this :


20230910000001.png


I am eliminating by that frontstabber of Dayyalu.

Not much surprise else :

20230910000002.png


Horrible turns for the gruds I think. The game stabilizes around 4 players :
- Dayyalu seems the stronger with 8 regions and only two neighbours. His crucial weakness is that he plays last now, which means he can react to Spectar and grud actions and has to face players who have had one more turn of reinforcements (though the impact of the layer dilutes over time)
- I consider it a tie between Porkbelly and Rastignak. Rastignak has more territory, but Porkbelly has IMO a bit of an advantage due to the Dark Forest (no one knows how much troops he has there so hard to attack) and playing earlier
- Morpheus is IMO the weakest. 6 territories only, 3 gruds neighbours, + Argyra which is like the gruds but angry rather than hungry.
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 6 : Moving into LOL territory

At the end of turn 5, Porkbelly and Morpheus ("the Southerners") had a conversation. They had concluded that Dayyalu and Rastignak ("The Northerners") had an alliance of sorts, and that they would not be able to resist : the Northerners did not have gruds to manage, nor a vengeful Argyraspide in a fortress. The Northerners also had a solid foothold in M they were now expanding, and were most porbably about to cross in K. The situation required immediate action.

I was clear to the Southerners that destroying the army M would put Rastignak in disarray, and then if K was fiercely defended maybe Dayyalu would jump on Rastignak rather than attempt to cross ?

A plan was set in motion.

The first part of the plan was to combine forces to destroy Rastignak's forces in M. Morpheus launched a first attacked, removing 3 of the 9 defenders, and Porkbelly a second attack, killing the remaining 6 at the cost of 5 of his. The region was left to the gruds.

20230913000004.png


Then, things got weird.

The players can sometimes ask the magician for help. If she accepts, she moves into a region chosen by the player which is protected from any attack. She can also sometimes give other boons... or curses.
Porkbelly, not being confident in his capability to hold the Western bridge, called her to protect K. She came - making K unassailable for a turn - and then she did more :


20230913000006.png



Porkbelly was not mere grud. He was the KING OF THE GRUDS, and as such was offered to deploy them this turn (sadly, he could not order them to attack)

20230913000007.png




20230911000001.png


12 gruds occupied M. The plan had worked well beyond expectations. Porbelly had lost 1 province but M being isolated, its reinforcements was lost as well. With a thread from Morpheus, he had to deploy in J rather than attempt to preoccupy
his bridgehead. The Northerners had been effectively chased from the South of the rivers.
Alas for the Southerners, Dayyalu with his bleeding heart elected not to betray Rastignak. Inspect, he inspected his castles in search of treasures.

20230911000002.jpg

20230911000003.jpg

20230911000004.jpg


And then, the gruds played their turn, and Porkbelly's careful plan came crashing, as hordes of gruds pushed hard on his Eastern borders, taking two of his territories. As for the gruds in M, they crossed and took H


20230913000005.png


Without doing anything, Dayyalu's advantage had exploded this turn. His closest neighbour had lost revenue from 3 out of 7 regions, and his Southern rival 2 of 6 regions. The other winners, of course, were the gruds. On the verge of extinction turn 5, they now controlled 7 territories (+4)...
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 7 : Grud Hunting Season

A calm turn overall. It is the usual "kill gruds" part of the cycle :

20230911000009.png


And so the map :

20230913000012.png



Everyone takes one grud territory, except Argyra. To note :
- Not clear why Morpheus took this territory specifically - it makes him vulnerable from an attack by Argyra. Maybe he had an agreement with Porkbelly ?
- Rastignak attacked M from his useless garrison in P. This allowed him to avoid crossing the bridge, where trolls lurk and occasionally eat soldiers. P is then depleted of almost all of its defenders, and then captured by the gruds
- Dayyalu takes the grud mountain in H, which gives himone more territory but does not increases his frontline (number of territories that can be attacked). Mountains are also marginally better to defend.

Argyra has nothing better to do, so he checks the treasures he has :

20230911000010.png

20230911000011.png


Well, a treasure for Dayyalu in Argyra is bad news for everyone - the only way for Dayyalu to reach it is to kill everyone...
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 8 : Treasures & Bridgeheads

Surrounded by gruds, Morpheus and Porkbelly use their turn to expand on the gruds, hoping for their defence against the Northerners to hold. Morpheus in particular deploys around W in order to FINALLY take Argyra's castle, which has been a threat in the backyard for the past 3 turns or so, and which force him to garrison every single region !
This is seen as less than cool for Argyra, who tries Hail-Magician-Pass ... and it works !

20230912000007.png


Meanwhile, Rastignak tries to assault through the bridge in R. The trolls are out to visit friends, and the attack goes through !

20230914000001.png


So while he is besieging Argyra, Morpheus has an army in the worst possible location. Rastignak can indeed :
- Assault directly the castle, or
- Attack S, and isolate the castle from the rest of Morpheus's domain. No reinforcements !
- Attack V, and isolate 2 territories from Morpheus' domain !
He who tries to defend everything defends nothing, so what will Morpheus do ?

Meanwhile, Dayyalu remains still and inspect his own castle. It looks like he is wealthy :

20230914000002.png


Lots of treasure, but not his !

I expect huge events in the next 2 coming turns !
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 9 : Chaos in the East

20230915000002.png


This one is tricky to follow, so let's unroll :
- Morpheus plays first. He can't counter-attack Rastignak with what he has, so he grabs P, a grud territory almost for free. It gives him +1 reinforcement, so better than nothing.
- At the end of the turn, he can ask for the help of the magician... and she accepts, and not a little bit :

20230913000001.png


Suddenly, Morpheus is not so much in trouble and can deploy worthwhile garrisons everywhere. When Rastignak gets to play, there is only one target that's not heavily defended : U. It removes one territory from Morpheus and cuts 2 more from Morpheus' castle, so that's -3 reinforcements next turn.

At the end of the turn, the Spectar attacks Q and eats the only defender, so the territory is given to the gruds. The gruds also attack V from X, but the attackers all die, allowing Morpheus to occupy X, hence the massive territory change.

Meanwhile, as you can see, Dayyaly decided to move his army in E and to deply reinforcements in H. It looks like an agreement has been found with Porkbelly...
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 10 - The triumph of border gore

20230916000004.png


Honestly, very difficult to understand from the outside. I don't know what kind of diplomatic clusterfuck happened, but Dayyalu made the least expected (and least decisive ?) move by crossing to M to occupy a province that Rastignak had peacefully abandoned. Two men fed the trolls, the rest occupy this game's equivalent of Tyrolia. Porkbelly does nothing visible, and Morpheus finally simplifies the borders in the bottom-right corner by eliminating Argyra.

During the interturn, the Spectar eat 4 of Dayyalu's men in E, so that's -6 men this turn for Dayyalu. Don't worry for him, he recruits 10 every turn.
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 11 : The Free Republic of Grud

20230922000001.png


Morpheus securitizes his castle by sending Rastignak back to the sea river. Rastigank is surrounded by stronger force, and the only thing he can do is depriving Morpheus of territory X with his isolated force in L. He then abandons L to the gruds.

No one knows what Porkbelly does, but Dayyalu takes territory P, which is the only one that upsets no one: it was isolated and does not create any new border from the point of the view of the other player. Still, that's +1 soldier by turn.
Dayyalu then uses the magician to drop a large amount of gruds in L, and they immediately attack Porkbelly in T. Again. The Republic of Grud is reborn with 3 territories between Porkbelly and Morpheus.
 
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Dayyālu

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I write far worse updates on the "official forums", and I guarantee, the clusterfuck that is going on the later turns is a thing to behold
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 12 : The end of the Nordic bloc

In the South, nothing unexpected. Morpheus crushes the isolated Rastignak force and Porkbelly chases the gruds from T for ... probably the third time ?

20230923000002.png



It is in the North that every changes. Rastignak see a tiny window of opportunity : he has 1 more man so he may be able to take province C. Then with a lot of luck, if the magician helps, maybe he can take B and cut Dayyalu in half ? Maybe. It is not like there is anything else he can do.

Alas, the plan immediately collapses. Rastignak wins the battle but does not have enough survivors to occupy C, which is given to the gruds. Dayyalu immediately punishes by taking G.

With 3 provinces only and less soldiers in total than what Dayyalu has in G, it is over for Rastignak. The endgame is likely to be 1 (Dayyalu) against 2 (Morpheus + Porkbelly)... or is it ?
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 13 : The Gruds are back.

In the South, Morpheus and Porkbelly coordinate once again to keep the Northerners at bay. Porkbelly takes P, while Morpheus destroys Dayyalu's force in M, and leave the province to the gruds. Meanwhile, the magician spawns gruds EVERYWHERE !
20230924000003.png


When Dayyalu takes the turn, he chooses to reduce the army of gruds next to his castle. Meanwhile, the Southern gruds take the province T ONCE AGAIN, and the Spectar eats the one defender in W, giving the province - also - to the gruds.

20230924000004.png


A good turn for the gruds. The South has perfectly coordinated thus far, but they can't seem to be able to solve their grud problem, wasting their resources and actions to placate the little green pest. Meanwhile, Dayyalu may have lost two provinces, but he can focus fully in the coming turns...
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 14 and Turn 15 : Consolidation

Not much happens so I am going to merge to turns.

20230926000004.png


Porklbelly and Morpheus eat the gruds, and Dayally eats Rastignak and moves his army in H

With nothing better to do, Rastignak inspects his castle and discovers that EVERYONE including dead people covet his treasures.

20230926000005.png


That's the last "calm" turn - the game is going to be wild ride from now on.
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 16 : The crossing of the bridges.

20230927000002.png


A fairly straightforward turn. Morpheus takes the last grud territory in his area, Porkbelly crosses in F and Dayallu crosses in M. The trolls decide to let the humans pass without interfering.

What's interesting is that Porkbelly's crossing in F should not (statistically) have passed : it was 7 men against 6, and if you take into account the trolls, the crossing defensive bonus (equivalent to 2 men when rolling the die) and the fact that Porkbelly needs to win with at least 2 guys to occupy F without losing K, it was doomed to fail... and did not.

My understanding : It was a decoy attack to force Dayallu to deploy reinforcements in F, and it worked better than expected !
 

ValeVelKal

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Turn 17 : The end of sanity

An absolutely pivotal turn :

20230927000003.png


Unexpected behavior from Porkbelly. Dayallu stated he wants a post-mortem on this but let me try to guess.

- Morpheus plays first. I suppose that he had an agreement with Porkbelly to destroy Dayyalu's stack in M (44 against 32 => 100% success rate given how the game behaves, but at the cost of 30+ troops). Instead of losing his megastack, Morpheus rather opted to cross and try to get Rastignak's castle (where one of his treasurehis) AND left an army large enough in R so that Dayyalu cannot attack him... If Dayyalu can't attack Morpheus, guess who Dayyalu is going to attack
- Porbeklly plays second. he sees Morpheus' betrayal. He can push in E with 100% success chance (probably the initial plan)... but well, he just got betrayed, so he attacks in X instead...
- Dayallu plays last and of course takes K, leaving in M nothing worthy of being killed by Morpheus' megastack.
 
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