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I understand the subjunctive now; it's easy and I'll tell you about it. The problem is that we have been taught to think of it almost literally backwards
For the last couple of weeks I've been studying the uses of the subjunctive intensively for a couple of weeks, wading through inane comments like "it's just something only natives know for sure; to everyone else it is invisible magic" (a very unfortunately common and reductive opinion I've seen around), scouring forums to study how people use it, reading guides and books and the whole thing. Not much seemed to be working; the whole thing still seemed arbitrary, impossible to predict, and totally random. But last night I had a breakthrough, and damn near everything fell into place. I read a few things; I read a great write up on how in spirit English uses the "idea" of the subjunctive mood in various auxiliary verbs from "I think..." to "could", etc, and how it often parallels things in Spanish. I then read through a whole chain of spanishdict questions and answers on the topic, and someone made a comment talking to a new learner who used the indicative in the context of questioning whether or not she had popped a ball when she should have used the subjunctive. His comment was "if you're uncertain that the ball was popped...then why is your next sentence TELLING ME that the ball was popped?" I frowned. "Why would that say that?" I asked myself. "It wasn't as if she was literally telling him that the ball was popped from her perspective, instead she was just...she was...just..." Finally it all hit me; the subjunctive mood makes NO SENSE... on its own. The fatal flaw -- one that comes down to a critical misunderstanding between how english's and Spanish's primary moods operate -- isn't that I didn't understand the subjunctive per se It was that I had no real idea what the hell the indicative mood really was, nor how well-learned Spanish people interpret it to their ears. How could I? Nobody had explained it well to me. EVERYONE only talks about the subjunctive but never the indicative. Because it's obvious, right? It's the same in English as it is in Spanish, right? Let's barely even touch on it when discussing the subjunctive, how could they be related? It's like English, the subjunctive is just a weird thing dangling from under it. No it's not. Guys, the indicative mood is far stronger than english's. It isn't about an implication of rules, it isn't about an implication of concrete reality. It is ABOUT reality, truths, and our perceptions of that truth, directly. There is no implication, it's the outright direct meaning. ANY time we use the indicative, we communicate that what we are saying is a FACT to our perception, and everyone else will hear us like that's what we're saying even if the sentence would imply otherwise; it doesn't act subordinate to the sentence context, so if you use it in the wrong context they crash into each other. This is the key. The subjunctive isn't about being emotional, it isn't about possibilities, it isn't about hypotheticals per se. It is about NOT being the indicative, and literally the only real "rule" to the subjunctive is "do I want to give my sentences a strong meaning of truth, factual declaration, and concrete reality here? Or would that focus hurt my sentence?" The subjunctive is a mood of avoidance. It's used to AVOID the implications of the indicative. It can only properly be understood by contrast to spanish's usage of the indicative mood, and once you properly grasp that it's the easiest thing in the world to see. I was up till 5 am checking all the examples I could find, reading Spanish forums online and all their usages. I couldn't find one that didn't make sense to me anymore, not a single damn one. All those weird irregularities? Sensible. The reasons for why it seems to spread over so many theoretical topics? Sensible. I had done it, I'd cracked the meaning behind things. And regardless of what some people on forums had claimed, it's absolutely not magic or something you can only get by speaking for 10+ years. What it is is simply misexplained by means of being talked about in a vacuum. And with it came a LOT of sudden, cascading realizations about Spanish and how it truly differs from English. I will explain all of this below to help my fellow English-to-spanish people. First off: "Nice catch", you probably think, "but it's so abstract. How does realizing the implications of the indicative mood help me?" Allow me to demonstrate. First off, it must be said that the indicative is way simpler than the subjunctive in terms of its scope. In fact the entire reason why the subjunctive seems to cover so many things in theory is just that it is nothing more and nothing less than a reflection of everything the indicative is not, so covers more topics on paper (even if it's used far less frequently in reality) Like I said, literally all of it makes sense when you just flip things around and denote subjunctive as "that thing that gets called when the STRONG indicative mood would ruin things with its overwhelming presence." We can interrogate sentences in Spanish, piece by piece, and I'll show you exactly how it lines up. Let's take the classical example. "Estoy feliz que estés aqui!" Let's NOT ask ourselves why the subjunctive is here...instead, let's ask ourselves why the indicative ISN'T here. Indicative comes off as -- again, not merely implies like equivalent statements in English but outright states a purpose of -- declaring facts, discussing concrete reality of the here and now, our declarative plans, etc. Can you see why this would be "wrong"? It is in fact not wrong, at all -- it's just incongruous in context. If you said "estas aqui" with the mood that declares facts...well, at best you just announced to them that they are here, carrying the meaning of you wanting to let them know this fact. Rather bizarre under most circumstances, seeing as how they damn well know that they are already here and don't need us to declare this for them! So, normally we won't do it unless in context we really do want to declare this to them for some reason. "Es posible que él es aqui"Let's apply the same process! "Why wouldn't the indicative be good here?" Well let's look at the first half. "Es posible que..." alright so what we say next is possible! And next we say "es aquí". As in, we used the declarative, factual, concrete reality mood. In other words if we used "es" here, we would be outright saying that we firmly believe -- that it is a fact to us -- that this man is here Well if we firmly believed that already, then why the hell did we lead with "it's possible?" This is just an incongruous statement! Therefore, we don't use it like this (unless we really do want to make such an incongruous statement). Talking about an object that doesn't or may exist? Well when you refer to it with the indicative, you DIRECTLY STATE that to you that object might as well be reality. Poetic, but also rather delusional. Therefore, we don't use the indicative. Making conditional plans, like "we will go to the mall once grandma arrives?" If you use the indicative on the latter half, you directly state that her arriving is your reality...even if she hasn't arrived yet. See what I said above about being delusional. And so on and so on. Whenever you are confused about why a subjunctive is used, the proper question is not "why is it here". The proper question is "why is the indicative not here?" It's a subtle difference -- but an important one. What we have to understand is that Spanish is not a neutral-statement language. It is binary. You ARE asserting reality. Or you are not; those are the only options, and to speak in the indicative is to presume to be asserting your interpretation of facts for others to hear. It is not a subtle effect or theory, this is how the spanish-trained brain will unconsciously view your sentences and why it will tell them that 'something' is off about what you said. You indicated to them that you wish to discuss something factual that is in fact not, and their / our-future-brains aren't really sure how to interpret that. In fact, if you aren't already thinking of the indicative in this manner or interpreting sentences with that subtext, it's time to start; that's how the spanish speaking mind will interpret its usage, and if we want to learn this language well we need to interpret it as that as well. Those are the examples off the top of my head. I will now explain why, in terms of the structure of english and spanish, this idea is so hard to get across to native english speakers. This entire effect is a direct contrast to English, which is why it's alien to use until properly explain, and why to native Spanish speakers our confusion is foreign. To both of you -- english-to-spanish students and people who speak spanish first, i will note the following lingual truth that most people don't realize by virtue of not thinking about it: english is a flexible, and often neutral language. Let me repeat that; english is NEUTRAL by default. We DON'T communicate this kind of meaning with our basic sentences, ever. English is like a buffet rather than a binary. Its base forms are almost always implicationless by design specifically so that we can choose to insert auxiliary words to enchant it with such meanings as English speakers please. This is likely also why most of its true subjunctive mood has faded into niche forms; English genuinely has no real need of it with so many ways of putting a sentence together. Spanish, by and large, has 2, and you will not escape from them nor their implications. (Well and imperative, but I'm not talking about it because both of our languages share that one nearly identically in concept). A statement is a statement, indicative is your reality and your attempts to declare facts for others to hear and discuss, and subjunctive is the only way to indicate that what you speak of isn't that. That's it. That's all there is to it. Also, I'll tell all spanish-first readers who happen to read this the same thing i told my Spanish friends irl: you have no idea how confusing the subjunctive is when you are coming from a place where the "primary" prose can imply anything due to a) that being what we think of thanks to English b) most people not going out of their way to firmly correct this misconception. It would be damn near useless and indeed extremely random to perceive in usage if not for its reflections on the indicative, which is different from what we think at first. THIS is why your English speaking friends who are trying to learn Spanish struggle so hard with the concept, while you just know it. (And on the flip, why none of my Spanish-first friends realized the neutrality underlining English until i directly pointed it out to them. A lot of us aren't aware of the underlying mechanics; this is fine going from Spanish to English since English is flexible as hell, but not so much the other way around, unfortunately for us.) Now, after all of this, can I make a request to the general community: can we PLEASE not presume that the subjunctive is magic and that the indicative is so obvious? That kind of common notion is at least in part why a lot of English-to-spanish students wrestle with the concept. For some reason we're often taught (I sure was) that the indicative in Spanish is synonymous with English and to not think more on it in comparison to its bizarre cousin, when in reality the differences between English normal prose and Spanish's indicative are both easy enough to explain and also EXACTLY why the subjunctive exists. Trying to explain how and where to use the subjunctive is like trying to put a car together with a wrench and a few bolts; good luck figuring it out easily with so much essential context missing. Maybe my teachers just didn't think about it? Do people in general not just realize this crucial difference between English's loose neutral structure and Spanish's much stricter and meaning-laden structure? Who knows. And no, realizing this doesn't mean we don't have to practice. I'll forget use cases, not be able to realize when I needed to switch moods until hindsight, etc. I recommend "demystifying the subjunctive" for a book, it helped me out immensely. But at least now we understand it. Learning, as Spanishdude on YouTube says, is just an act of giving context to things we already know, and now we can do that without being lost. It IS a simple and easy to grasp concept at its heart, it's just not usually explained well and requires explaining what precisely is the difference between how english approaches delivering information and how Spanish does. Former is neutral, latter always communicates a meaning. The indicative in particular always imparts a sense of speaking of concrete reality no matter what sentence it happened to be in, and the subjunctive is nothing more than its replacement for when the indicative's strong statements on reality simply don't work with the matters being discussed. Of the two, the indicative is both more strict and also more narrow, and thus the clause of 'use indicative until its determinate attitude of only being used to address factual reality shits the sentence up' reigns best for the quickest and easiest way to conceptually grasp the subjunctive. It is all about the indicative; always has been. Anyway that's all I got. I'm finally going to bed, work will suck tomorrow but oh well, I'm too happy to care. After that I'll...maybe finally learn some decent vocabulary. I'm a heavily grammar based learner, so this was actually one of the first stops on my way through my new language, so I've still got a lot of learning to do. Still, now that i get this, I am much more confident of the rest of the way onward. ---------- Couple of more fun tidbits, if anyone is still reading. I also realized the English conditional is WAY wider than Spanish's, and that this is in part because in English it has come close to replacing separated subjunctive grammar in a lot of cases. If you ever notice how often we through "can" and "could" around, it is in part because of this. I also realized that in a theoretical sense, the "true" purpose of future tense in Spanish is to discuss plans for the future, not to indicate that it will happen. Technically a small detail and probably obvious to most, but for some reason I needed this realization to realize why the subjunctive isn't triggered by its speculation; merely declaring plans is a concrete thing, after all. For some reason in English I get the subtle sense of trying to will over the future when I use it. Might be a slight language difference in intent, or maybe I'm just presumptuous about the future in English. Finally, just a piece of trivia I liked; I realized "to think" and "creer / pensar" aren't really good translations for each other in implication. You ever wondered why it doesn't trigger the subjunctive in a positive usage? This helps to reinforce one last bit; for such things when it comes to certainty vs uncertainty, it's likely just a concept being used slightly differently in Spanish. While they mean literally the same thing, their connotations are nearly inverted. Spanish uses it to affirm that you believe something to be true (hence why it's also translated as to believe), while English uses it to instead imply subjectivity and impart doubt to a clause. It would absolutely be a subjunctive trigger in Spanish if it were transplanted directly since our usage of it in spirit is completely synonymous with Spanish's own usual triggers, but well it isn't. My Spanish speaking colleagues thought that one was interesting in particular for some reason, maybe they didn't really know how i had meant it this whole time?
[PI] It's more than likely that Covid-19 will still be around at Christmas time - how are we going to explain to kids that Santa is still allowed to go into millions of houses?
I originally posted this in response to this AskReddit post. I recognize that it is nowhere near Christmas, but everyone needs a dose of alternate history once in a while. I apologize for the dry nature of this post. It was definitely written as an exercise in recording my stream of consciousness. At the very most, this can be considered a brief world-building experiment. TL:DR; For ethical reasons, your personal Santa does not live long enough to contract or transmit COVID '19. To properly understand Santa's COVID resistance, children will have to be let in on the secret history of the Kringle Consortium, and the ancient conspiracy behind our modern Christmas traditions. This may be shocking to many children, so it is up to parents to choose when and how to expose their children to the truth. I consider it the same as explaining to a child where chicken nuggets come from; They may initially be disturbed by the truth, but knowing will eventually help them grow into well-rounded adults. With that in mind, I present a chronological history and brief analysis of the Christmas Conspiracy, in 9 parts.
Part 1: Ancient History (300AD - 550AD)
Santa Claus was initially a mortal man - Nicholas of Myra (270 AD – 343 AD). He was a Catholic bishop in what is now Turkey, who saw the state of the poor, and would occasionally help by leaving anonymous gifts of toys, food, and money outside their homes in the night. When Nicholas died, a dedicated cabal of Christians memorialized him by secretly leaving anonymous presents for the poor in his name, on the date of his death, December 6th. Unfortunately, Christianity underwent an exponential growth phase, under the Holy Roman Empire, and soon there were tens of thousands of Christians needed to run this operation and to maintain the myth of an immortal St Nicholas. From about 500AD, they had realized that many cities had no idea who Nicholas of Myra was or what he looked like, and belief in him was waning, in favor of various local fairies and goblins. The Cabal of St Nicholas, as they were known by then, had taken to arranging sightings of "St Nicholas", dressed in his iconic vestments, to combat this doubt, but they were facing an issue. At some point, people would compare descriptions of the Faux Nicholas' features. They needed reliable continuity. Thus began the first major undertaking of this group.
Part 2: Wax Santa and the Travelling Corpse (550AD - 1100AD)
Like many holy men of the time, Nicholas of Myra's body had been painstakingly preserved and maintained, rather than being left to decay. This gave the cabal a couple of options. First, they made molds of Nicholas's face, and constructed very detailed wax masks that could be worn when delivering gifts. These, when combined with a small costume change to obscure most of the head (this is the origin of Santa's hooded and fringed coat), allowed the gift-bringers to seem identical to the occasional child or drunkard who caught a glimpse of their activities. However, this alone wasn't enough. The wax masks were rigid, and wouldn't pass close inspection. Santa needed to be able to occasionally make carefully managed appearances where he would speak or be seen to nod and wink or similar actions. In or around 750AD, the cabal hired the services of Boutros Al-Hadrami, a Moorish master puppeteer, to help them resolve this issue. Al-Hadrami rigged wires and armatures to Nicholas' actual preserved corpse, to allow it to be manipulated as a sort of puppet. By all accounts Al-Hadrami was the only Turkish man available with both the skill and strength needed to operate this macabre marionette, so he travelled from town to town for decades, operating the "Hero Nicholas" puppet. Eventually, the presence of this seemingly silent, massive black man had to be incorporated into the myth; and so began the stories of Black Peter or Krampus, depending on the region.
Part 3: The Crusades and the Age of Automation (1100AD - 1600AD)
Around 1100AD, the Knights Templar came into power within the Church, and folded many other secret orders under their direct authority. This included the Cabal of St Nicholas. The Knights Templar were a smaller organization at the time, and were focused in part on simplifying and reducing the number of convolutions and complexities that each order added to the Faith. To that end, they were responsible for moving the date of Nicholas' appearances to December 24th, to coincide with other Christmas operations of the time, as well as reducing monetary expenditures, by giving only childrens toys, rather than money or food. The Knights Templar were exceedingly well-funded by the riches they attained during the Crusades, but they were also extremely cautious with their money. By all accounts, they were the ones who began to run the conspiracy like a business, rather than a religious observance. They introduced dolls in the form of Saint Nicholas for the poor, as well as running an underground network where well-off families could pay a premium to have their child visited by St Nicholas. These rich families would even be able to select the toy that Nicholas would bring their child (thus introducing the idea of a Christmas list). The Nicholas puppet had been rarely used since the death of Al-Hadrami, as few could even come close to managing to operate the puppet, with any sense of realism.. The knights had resorted to purchasing slaves specifically for their strength, then training them to operate the puppet, but this route was producing less and less convincing performances. Eventually, the Knights would hire Leonardo da Vinci himself to design a new form of puppet, operated entirely by springs and gears. This new "automaton" would play one of several pre-recorded actions from a pegged programming disk. However, it's size and weight made standing performances impossible. To hide the mechanical components, and to conceal the actor providing Nicholas' voice, a large sledge was added to the myth, upon which Nicholas would be seated. To prevent close examination, this sledge was hoisted onto rooftops, and a story was concocted about flying from home to home, to deliver presents via the chimney. However, by the end of the 15th century, it became clear that the Knights had a new problem. Christianity was spreading rapidly outside of Europe, into Africa, Asia, and even the new American continent. There was no way that they could maintain the myth across that large an area, with their current scale, and there was no way to transport the Nicholas Automaton to the new world, without significant risk of loss, damage, or exposure. The myth needed revising, yet again.
Part 4: The Lapland Illusion (1600AD - 1900AD)
By the mid 1600s, the invention of the steam engine and the burgeoning field of optics had drawn the attention of the Knights. They needed a way to manifest "Father Christmas" (as St Nicholas was becoming known) around the world, without the logistics of world travel, so they turned to optics. Building off the research of Galileo and his peers, Jesuit Priest, Christoph Scheiner, worked with the knights to develop a series of collimating lenses and optical repeaters that could be secreted within strategic church bell-towers, which would take an image, projected at a high brightness from a few sources, and relay it from church to eventually project a moving image onto cloud cover in many locations, potentially thousands of miles away. However, to implement this new technology, they needed to produce a massive amount of light and motion at the origin point, without drawing attention. These hubs were built in low population areas around the world. We only know the precise locations of a few of these hubs, but they include Lapland, Tunguska, Alaska (at that time Eastern Russia), and Greenland. It is unknown how many of these projections were actually produced, or what the effective area was for each northern operations center, but this time period was when the flying sleigh and reindeer entered the mythos. The funding for this massive undertaking came from possibly the strangest place yet. In 1670, the knights began marketing "Candy Canes" as a Christmas confection that looked like St Nicholas' shepherd's crook (aka his bishop's staff). Soon this candy (little more than common sugar and peppermint extract) was a staple of the holiday season. On a darker note, the commercialization of the Nicholas Conspiracy was almost complete by this point, and the manufacturing and door-to-door labor was almost entirely done by young orphans, who were paid in basic room and board. Most of these orphans didn't live to see adulthood. These "elves" were just another victim of corporate greed. As central banks became common, the Knights Templar, now known as the Freemasons, began to divest their holdings into a group of large corporations, to launder the funds and divide and hide their large expenditures. This group of companies was called the Christkindl Consortium, or Christ-child consortium. Among the notable members were: The Federal Reserve, The Royal Bank of England, Lord and Taylor, Macy's, Hallmark, and Coca Cola.
Part 5: The Pre-Modern Era (1900AD - 1950AD)
Advancements in photography and aeronautics began to pose an existential threat to the myth of Father Christmas. An airplane could theoretically interrupt a beam path or photograph an apparition from the wrong angle. Furthermore, the isolated regions that they operated from were becoming more and more accessible to travellers. And so, the Kris Kringle Consortium, as it had become known to its American members, began a shadow arms race against the world. Initially, things were going well, advancements in miniaturization and global power distribution seemed to indicate that they were less than a decade away from being able to produce and control full 3d apparitions of Santa from completely local base stations. Something the size of a police call box could have served an entire village. But on Jun 30th 1908, disaster struck. A test of a power transmission tower in New York overloaded several prototype image transmitters in the Tunguska research facility, causing a massive explosion that demolished the entire facility. There were no survivors. It was decided that the future of St Nicholas lay on a completely different path, and research was halted on the global poweimage transmission technology. Much of the developed hardware was eventually simplified and commercialized by another Kringle member, RCA. And thus, the age of television was born. Meanwhile, the consortium shifted all funding into high-energy physics and biology, hoping to discover a fundamental paradigm shift. This was expensive, but by now, making money from Christmas was second nature to the group. They tasked Coca Cola, of all organizations, to develop a new worldwide branding for St Nicholas, complete with product tie-ins in every vertical. In the 1930s, this campaign launched, and the world finally met Santa Claus. Unfortunately, the two world wars didn't completely bypass the Kringle Consortium. Hitler, being a consumate business man, became aware that some of his nations businesses had significant world-wide holiday reach, and he demanded that these member companies divulge the secrets of the Consortium to Nazi high command. In 1942, Nazi Germany siezed control of the northern hub in Lapland, and used it to distribute propaganda gifts throughout mainland Europe for almost 2 years, only being successfully driven out in November of 1944. In the process, the Germans destroyed the hub, and killed all employees. It was, in fact, a direct response to this occupation that led to a certain group of Kringle-affiliated particle physicists being brought together in the Nevada desert to find a way to definitively win the war for the Allies.
Part 6: Multiverse Traversal (1950 AD - Present)
In 1952, Irwin Schrodinger had the breakthrough that made modern Christmas possible. He was a Kringle-sponsored physicist, working on understanding quantum phenomena. Irwin had previously hypothesized that until the state of the universe is observed, it is in a state of quantum superposition, where all possible outcomes exist simultaneously. These possible outcomes represent the infinite probable variants of our universe. Observing the system collapses all the other possibilities, except the one which is selected, effectively ending these infinite and unique universes. With the assistance of Richard Feynman, Schodinger made a further discovery in 1955. He discovered how to isolate specific objects from the quantum superposition, and cause them to persist in our universe, even after the collapse of their source universe. Using this discovery, real versions of Saint Nicholas could be selected from universes where they lived in contemporary times, and where they were about to present a gift to any given child in the world. This discovery had almost limitless potential for the consortium's mission, but came with serious ethical considerations. The machine made no separation between objects and people. Anything could be pulled from the waves of the Quantum Foam, just by providing accurate targeting parameters. The few members of the Catholic Magisterium tasked with oversight of the project were adamant that it could not be used on a human. They believed that either the resulting human would have a soul, in which case they would have to admit that every choice we make destroys an infinite number of human lives, or it would be a soulless homunculus, imitating humanity in open defiance of God. Either was seen as an abomination. The project was firmly restricted to whiteboards and notebook math for another 5 years, until a compromise was reached. The design was modified to allow for two types of extraction: permanent and temporary. A permanent extraction manifested physical objects from other universes, but would not allow for the extraction of anything living. Meanwhile, a temporary extraction would last only until the quantum waveform was collapsed, by observation. At that time, a temporary extraction would return to their own universe, and cease to exist. However, none of the scientists or business men could be trusted to operate the machine continuously. Instead, a board of executives would meet once a year, and would summon a single temporary overseer. One whose trustworthiness, ethical purity, and commitment to the cause could never be questioned, as it was confirmed by Mother Church herself.
Part 7: Nicholas Springs Eternal (Present)
On December 26th of each year, the executive board of the Kringle Consortium meets in one of two locations, The HAARP center in Alaska or the Pine Gap base in Australia, and ask their quantum machine a single, binary question: "Does the human race deserve joy." This question is used as the basis of a quantum superposition which is sustained for an entire year, and which is used to manifest that year's Santa Prime (sometimes humorously called Old Nick, or The King in Red). This incarnation of Saint Nicolas (or simulacrum thereof) is immediately given full control of the machine and of all associated resources, to prepare for the next Christmas. Over the course of the year, question after question is queued into the machine's massive registers, with all the associated intelligence needed to answer it. "Is [James Voorst, Sally Embry, Xiu Chen, etc] NAUGHTY or NICE?". Old Nick's job is to ensure that no answer is predetermined, and no name is missed. On December 24, as the first time zone reaches midnight, the machine's primary function is triggered, and Santa Prime takes his seat as observer. Hundreds of thousands of superpositions are created every second, and the machine selects the best universe match it can find within an time for walking the tree. From that universe, the relevant gift is permanently manifested, and the relevant santa is temporarily manifested to deliver it. Once delivered, and properly out of sight, the result of the machine is observed by Santa Prime, destroying any evidence of that local Santa's existence, except for the gift, and perhaps as a final mercy to the deceased, a consumed final meal of milk and cookies. When at last his nightly harvest is done, the King in Red, would-be savior of the poor and executioner to millions of his own kin, lays down for his own winter's nap, never to wake.
Part 8: How Does This all Relate to COVID '19?
Children can be assured that the universe pruning algorithm has been designed to reject any universe in which an ongoing pandemic threatens the health of the child. Santa will be perfectly healthy when he delivers your gift, and then will be ethically disposed of in the collapse of the quantum waveform.
Part 9: Frequently Asked Questions
Why doesn't every child get presents? Why isn't every present perfect? Why do children sometimes see their parents place their gifts? The universe selection algorithm is a variant of a MIN/MAX pruning of an infinite binary tree of universes. 1.5+ billion of these selections need to occur every night. So naturally, there is a timeout that will select the best universe evaluated, even if it doesn't meet the minimum threshold for a perfect santa experience. The project targets year over year improvements in this field, rather than perfection. What about bad santas? Could one be selected by accident? Unfortunately, a small number of casualties must be considered acceptable by the project. That's why suicide and abduction rates all increase slightly around Christmas. This has been identified as an opportunity for potential improvement of the project in future years. What about Santa Prime? Could we ever select a bad one? Thankfully the longevity of Santa Prime's manifestation allows the machine to perform a much more exhaustive search of the multiverse. So long as there is a reasonable chance that the Prime question could be answered "yes", we should never receive a negative Prime Manifestation. So, you tell me, "Does the world deserve Joy?"
Been hammering away at the timeline of the ExoSquad universe. We now have a decently comprehensive timeline spanning from the year 1999 up through 2109. Exosquad Timeline July 24, 1969 - Apollo 11 conducts the first Moon landing on Luna July 8, 1999 - the existence of a 10th planet beyond the orbit of Pluto is postulated. Despite numerous efforts to confirm the existence of such a planet over the next 100 years, no such planet is identified. March 10, 2005 - The Sun’s binary sister star, NEMESIS, is discovered. Its elliptical orbit takes it closest to earth every 60 million years. During its last pass, it wiped out the dinosaurs. August 2, 2009 - First permanent industrial and mining colonies are established on the Moon. Astronauts begin detailed exploration of the other planets. December 30, 2010 - The year marks several advances in artificial intelligence and biology. The earliest methods of communication between computers and the human brain are developed. September 27, 2011 - Deep space probes in Neptune orbit detect the first proven transmissions of intelligent life outside of our solar system. Tracking studies indicate that the signals are from a source moving towards earth space. October 10, 2012 – The first ‘industrial scale’ orbital platform is placed into orbit around earth. Used for a combination of scientific experimentation, energy collection, and interplanetary communication, the platform is designated as “Tinia”. May 4, 2015 - Large space platforms placed in orbit around Venus and Mars. These platforms are intended to be early precursors to proposed terraforming processes as well as scientific platforms. June 22, 2019 - Exceptionally rich mineral deposits discovered on Mars - including minerals never before seen. October 10, 2019 - The Marcus-Vainmoore Enterprises mining branch attempts to short change the Martian mining efforts by launching mining operations in the Asteroid belt. July 17, 2020 - Exotechnology (Exo-tech) developed. The technology is put to work in large scale industrial projects. December 10, 2010 - Exo-tech is utilized for Martian excavation. Dec 2, 2023 - Full-scale terraforming of Venus begins, making extensive use of Exo-tech. Feb. 14, 2017 - Semi-permanent settlements begin appearing on Venus. Problems are encountered with Martian Terraforming, due to the thin atmosphere and low gravity - early colonists die while support resources, intended to allow colonies to be self-sufficient, have significant difficulty in being maintained in the lower gravity of the planet. The Manned orbital stations, that were previously placed in orbit over Venus and Mars are expanded to support more robust operations with additional resources being put into the Martian platforms in the hopes of augmenting the colonization and terra-forming process. Additional platforms are put into orbit around Mercury. January 8, 2028 - The Outer Planet Mining Corporation (OPM) is formed for the purpose of harvesting the valuable minerals from the moons of Saturn, and Jupiter. As a “humanitarian effort” the Earth Congress authorizes the usage of convicts as a labor pool in exchange for reduced sentences. March 15, 2032 - Genetic engineering breakthrough allows manipulation of life forms. “Designer” animals and plant life appear. Serious attempts to begin to develop ‘augmented’ human beings that can endure the rigors of life on Mars and off-world. April 2, 2032 - The first (OPM) mission is launched to Saturn’s moon Tethys. It is designated as “Charon”. September 10, 2032 - Charon makes planetfall on Tethys. Over the next year, the mining complex “Charon” is established and built up to support a population of nearly 3,000 convict laborers. April 5, 2034 - OPM Establishes the mining complex “Cocytus” on Tethys. May 14, 2036 - OPM mining complex “Elysium” is established on Dione. June 24, 2036 - Larger deposits are discovered on Tethys. Expansions for the Charon mining complex are set in motion that will be carried out over the next 5 years intended to expand its mining capacity. Its support capacity would ultimately be increased to 5,500 convicts making it the largest of the Saturn Mining complexes. June 20, 2038 - OPM Mining complex “Phlegethon” is established on Enceladus. June 2, 2040 - Scientists succeed in creating a new strain of evolutionarily advanced humans known as “Neosapians”. June 19, 2040 - OPM Mining complex “Lethe” is established on Titan. December 25, 2042 - OPM Mining complex “Erebus” is established on Tethys. December 9, 2044 - OPM establishes the last of 7 mining complexes in the Saturn planetary system. This last complex is established on the moon of Dione and is designated “Agensader”. Between the 7 mining complexes, a total population of over 23,000 people is present for mining. May 5, 2045 - Earth and Venus form the “Home World Senate”. Humans from these two planets become known as ‘TERRANS’. “Zeus Reborn”, a 2-year project to repurpose the Tinia Platform is drafted and put into operation. Its purpose is to re-configure the platform to house the Home World Senate central complex. In the interim, the Senate is housed in Sidney. June 1, 2047 – “Zeus Reborn” is completed. The Home World Senate officially moves from Sidney Australia to the Tinia Platform. Jan 4, 2048 - Cloned Neosapiens begin mining and terraforming operations on Mars. October 4, 2048 – Jeremiah Winfield is born. November 10, 2048 - With Neosapians mining on Mars, the cost of the various materials drops significantly to the point that OPM is facing bankruptcy. In an effort to maintain itself, OPM cancels all further supply runs and operations of the Saturn mining network. A cover story about “Saturn Madness” is fabricated and spread, convincing the public at large that the convicts have all gone mad, thus no effort to rescue them is made or suggested. January 1, 2049 - The convicts realize that they have been abandoned. In retaliation, they form the Pirate Clans of Saturn. January 6, 2055 - the first raids by the Pirate Clans are conducted just outside the Martian orbit. Several Marcus-Vainmoore ships are attacked and their cargo stolen. The crews are left alive but are disfigured. The raids grow in frequency over the next several years. January 15, 2055 – OPM is re-organized into Outer Planetary Freight, primarily a shipping company. Abandoning much of their mining background and ambitions. January 30, 2060 – Exo-tech is tested for use in military applications. January 1, 2061 – The Home Worlds Senate passes the Extra-Terrestrial Armed Services decree, formally establishing a unified military force that supersedes the authority of individual armies and is under the direct authority of the Home Worlds Senate. This military is colloquially known as ‘ETAS’. The Extra-Terrestrial Operations Network (ETON) is established and integrated into the Home Worlds senates communications hub. This advent gives ETAS access to all the satellite data available to the Home Worlds Senate itself and allows the Senate to more directly control ETAS. May 1, 2061 – The Exo-Tech development for military applications shows progress. The first star fighters to be fitted with the cyber-link data processing system giving the pilots greater depth of input to the fighter itself. The XAF-221 Badger becomes the first ‘exo-fighter’. October 10, 2061 – The Great Neosapians Birthing Complex is completed on Mars. Accelerated growth and intra-cranial organo-educated implants produce 25,000 Neosapien adults each Martian month, totaling 300,000 per year. December 10, 2061 – Neosapian brood Sci-Alpha-Tau 21699 is completed. This brood includes Phaeton and Marsala. January 19, 2062 – Marsala is appointed as the Production Coordinator for the 3rd Sector of Martian Mining operations, the single largest on Mars. August 25 2065 - Population of Neosapiens increase rapidly. Mars is predominantly populated by these advanced humans. December 2, 2065 - Unrest begins on Mars in the wake of Home World Senate’s decision that ‘artificial’ life forms don’t have the rights of other “natural” humans. Neosapiens demand home rule. January 10, 2068 – Jeremiah Winfield enlists with ETAS. October 10, 2070 – Inspired by Marsala, the great Neosapian rebellion begins. Systematic sabotage slows Martian mining as Marsala calls for negotiations with the Home Worlds congress. The majority of these transmissions go unanswered only serving to further fuel the rebellion. Marcus-Vainmoore Communications is harshly criticized for it’s maintaining of the communications network leading some to believe that the ‘lack of communications’ from the Neosapians is deliberate. October 18, 2070 - Marcus-Vainmoore mining attempts to capitalize on the crisis by upping their mining efforts in the asteroid belt. They establish permanent supply stations and support centers on several of the largest asteroids including Ceras, Vesta, Eros, Bennu, and Juno. Utilizing their political influences, they successfully lobby to have the ETAS’ patrol routes set to include the Asteroid field in order to protect their assets. It is widely suggested that this is done with the ulterior motive of allowing the Neosapian rebellion to continue. February 11, 2071 – Matthew Marcus is born. April 12, 2071 – The Neosapians rebellion intensifies, bringing all mining on mars to a halt. Even with the increased mining from the Asteroid belt, the Home Worlds economy begins to collapse. June 10, 2071 – The Exo-Tech development program brings the concepts of cyber-links and exo-skeletons together, allowing the designers to create vehicles with the fire power of a tank, but the control options and benefits that had made the XAF-221 Badger so popular. These are the direct precursors to the “Exo-Frames”. Jeremiah Winfield becomes the leader of one of the first ‘E-frame Squads’ designated “Blue Alpha”. August 1, 2071 – the ETAS puts in a substantial order for the new “Exo-Frames” as works to modernize its forces. The “E-frame” becomes so synonymous with the ETAS, that the organization comes to be known as the “Exo-Fleet”. As the Exo-Fleet develops, more and more state-based militaries are either absorbed into it, or simply dissolved as they are viewed as being redundant and unneeded. November 1, 2071 – Exo-Fleet is called on to quell the Martian Rebellion. November 6, 2071 – The Exo-Fleet moves into controlling orbit of Mars and begins conducting lightning raids against Neosapain held locations. The newly formed “E-frame Squads” prove devastatingly effective. November 13, 2071 – Marsala is captured by Blue Alpha and the rebellion is broken. Calls for Marsala to be tried for leading the rebellion are made. Legal counsel offers a motion that because Marsala is not a “Natural Born” he is not entitled to a trial for his actions, but likewise cannot be held accountable for them any more than a dog that is beaten by its owner can be held accountable when it attacks someone. The Companies that had financed and controlled the mining operations on Mars are put on trial for the Rebellion. December 1, 2071 – with the recent success of the E-frame tactics, previous plans for the Exo-fleet are scrapped. Ship orders are canceled in favor of some form of not yet designed ‘Exo carrier’ and more emphasis is placed on the utilization of E-frames. January 10, 2074 – The trials of the Martian mining companies are completed. There are numerous fines and jail sentences passed down as it is determined that the business practices and operations of the Martian Mining companies lead directly to the rebellion and the effects on the Home Worlds’ economy that caused. The Neosapians are granted custodial control of Mars. March 5, 2074 – Several groups begin campaigning for Neosapians to be allowed to join the Exo-Fleet. These demands are presently ignored. Sept 2, 2076 - Neosapiens allowed to sit on the Home World Senate primarily as observers only. For matters of official status, their delegate is given a ‘non-voting’ seat. February 28, 2086 - Despite Neosapian protest, approval is given to build another massive Excavation project in the southern hemisphere of Mars. March 12, 2089 - Homeworld Senate rejects Neosapien bid for complete autonomy. March 14, 2089 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the “Exo-Carrier Construction program”, a combination development, test-bed, and construction program intended to modernize the Exo-Fleet, cut down on costs by developing purpose built ships, and to replace the currently 60 year old ship designs presently utilized by the Exo-Fleet. April 4, 2092 - The Neosapien leader Phaeton becomes spokesman for the Neosapien population of mars in their disputes with the Terrans. April 12, 2092 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the Yumoto class Exo-cruiser. Ships to come out of this class include the Bismarck, and Sakura. May 20, 2093 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the Kuznetsov-class Exo-carrier. Ships to come out of this class include the Borealis. October 10, 2094 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the Helgoland-class Exo-carrier. Ships to come out of this class include the Coronado. June 1, 2099 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the Resolve-class Exo-carrier. Ships to come out of this class include the Dominion, and Sovereign. May 15, 2100 – The HWS Bismarck is launched October 30, 2100 – the HWS Sakura is launched. December 1, 2100 – The Home Worlds Senate Approves the Resolute variant of the Resolve class of Exo-carriers and orders one to become the new flagship of the Exo-fleet. May 15, 2016 – The HWS Dominion is launched. It is temporarily named the Exo-fleet flagship. May 15, 2107 – The HWS Borealis is launched. October 30, 2107 – the HWS Coronado is launched. May 10, 2108 – The Home Worlds Senate passes the ETAS Militarization prioritization decree cutting back on weapons and military-type hardware that can be possessed by non-military operations. The Neosapiens are very specifically mentioned as not being permitted to possess any form of military hardware. October 19, 2108 - Neosapiens protest the ETAS Militarization prioritization decree as it is being applied to include industrial-scale transport systems under the idea of “military hardware”. This forces the Neosapians to rely on the transport options provided by the likes of Marcus-Vainmoore, Outer Planetary Freight, and the Martian Mining Conglomerate. November 18, 2109 – In an effort to appease the Neosapian and lessen tensions, the Home Worlds Senate passes the ETAS Combined Arms decree, permitting a limited number of Neosapians to enlist with the Exo-Fleet. Marsala immediately enlists and it is permitted, both for political reasons and for the belief that if he’s kept isolated from the Neosapiens at large, it’s less likely that the could start a second rebellion.
I’ve never much cared for religion. I mean, it’s interesting and all, the old parables and philosophic insights from people two millenniums removed from the present. I particularly enjoy the books of the Apocrypha, and the Bible’s magnum opus of Revelation if for nothing else than interesting stories. Even some of the tenants like an emphasis on strong family bonds and moral stature I can resonate with, but in terms of a giant omnipresent entity that created everything yet loves us unconditionally watching our every move from unseen planes, yeah, I don’t know about that. I still don’t ascribe to a singular religious doctrine, but knowing what I know now… well, let’s just say the title of atheist would be a little disingenuous. Staking my flag in that camp would contradict all my principals of the scientific method and firsthand observation. Try as I may, I cannot in good faith deny or refute what I myself witnessed. Calling whatever we discovered ‘god’ may prove a bit remedial or inaccurate, but there is no denying it, we found something. Science has at times become this sort of monolithic and infallible institution. One that suffers from the ostracization of fringe concepts that fail to breach the egotistic blockade. It is all too often wielded as a trump card to negate all that doesn’t assimilate to the prevailing narrative. Too often outlandish claims are torn asunder because no metrics exist to properly digest them. For all the good it has brought, science is still not and will never be an absolute. Nothing is. Absence of proof, is not proof of absence. And what happened out there, in that lab deep below the frozen streets of Stockholm now stands as a testament in my life, to all the ventures humanity has yet to embark upon. It serves as an anchor, and if ever I find myself drifting away into the blissful seas of cognitive dissonance, it is there to remind me how small and naïve I truly am. I graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s in physics, and an incredible opportunity landed in my lap. One of my professors had put in a good word for me, and I was contacted by a lab out of Stockholm and offered an internship. They were apparently impressed with my thesis which delved into the topic of string theory and mathematic application to universal process. I of course accepted the offer without a moment’s hesitation. From there I uprooted my Californian lifestyle to move halfway around the world to the frigid north of Sweden. I was not prepared for the cold. Most of my summers were spent in a bikini, frolicking on the sandy beaches of Santa Monica and lounging in the sun. Sweden might as well have been another planet. Temperatures would plummet to a bone-chilling negative 30 in the winter. Luckily for me though, I had a marvelous host family who helped me acclimate myself and integrate into Valhalla. I was brought on to the team and slowly began the arduous process of melding into the group. They were all incredibly kind and welcoming, but still the feeling of being woefully outclassed by my colleagues was thick as tar pitch. The project consisted of over fifty men and women, all of them among the best the world had to offer. They hailed from Germany, Japan, Poland, Hong Kong, South Korea and many other sovereign states. It was a melting pot of some of the greatest minds the world had to offer. Seeing them in their element, and marveling at the way their minds hurdled asinine topics to delve straight to the cortex of reality was altogether incredible, and more than a little intimidating. The expressed goal of the coalition was to study the behaviors of particles and the subatomic realm to further decode the complex world of theoretic energy matrices. By extension the group also allotted resources to develop tools for observing and decoding quantum entanglement hypothesis’ and the aforementioned string theory. These principles were still in their infancy at the time, and none of us could have ever imagined the enormous magnitude of the things that were to come. The lab had its very own particle accelerator, which I myself pretty much obsessed over from Day 1. Most of the concrete data however, was relayed from the lab in Geneva, home of the large hadron collider. I even got to see the magnificent machine in person on a few occasions. One thing that has always staggered me, is the amount of incredible achievements capable when pursuit of knowledge guides the way. However, the complete polar opposite is also true, as curiosity without empathy all too often yields crimes against humanity. As you may already know, the large hadron collider was the first machine capable of synthesizing the particle known as the Higgs-Boson. The machine is a particle accelerator built in a 27-kilometer loop. It uses a state of perpetual vacuum and temperature colder than that of outer space to accelerate particles to 99 percent the speed of light. The particles collide with one another, creating spectacular outbursts of radiation and results theorized to be similar to that of the big bang on a much smaller scale. It is also through this process that the infamous Higgs-Boson can be synthesized. Some call it the ‘God Particle’, but many physicists are not fond of the omnipotent moniker. It is in a way suitable though, as it is ubiquitous and can spontaneously manifest or dematerialize through processes which are not yet entirely understood. It is a sort of bridge between matter and antimatter. The entity that binds the ethereal with the corporeal. It is the place between light and dark, hard to define, as once light ends shadow begins and vice versa. The exact moment of intersection is difficult to pinpoint, but there is a definitive moment, and that moment is the Higgs-Boson. It was once thought that matter could only exist in one place at a time, however the particle slit test of our progenitors proved otherwise. A particle accelerator was used to eject protons between one of two microscopic slits. They naturally assumed the protons would pass through either slit A or slit B, and when directly observed their premise was corroborated. However, when an imprint background was installed to bypass direct observation, they noticed a peculiar detail. The particles produced what is known as a wave, or interference pattern on the imprint like ripples in a pond. This meant that the particles were interfering with themselves while simultaneously passing through both and neither of the slits. It was at first thought to be a false-negative and outright impossibility, but thousands of repeated experiments all reached the same conclusion. There was denying it anymore. Matter can exist in more than one place at a time, and reality is altered simply by perceiving it. The world of particle physics is a strange one, and one which we have only just begun to glimpse the majesty of. At times it may even require us to suspend our own limited human understanding of things, to contemplate things beyond our minds comprehension. It was this idea which was the tabernacle of all the group was trying to achieve. To unravel the mysteries of the subatomic universe, and better understand reality itself. The group was funded exorbitantly, and state of the art equipment was provided from lavish donors from all around the world. My contemporaries and I began to study the processes again from square one. This consisted primarily of monitoring the nature of protons and testing the same process over and over ad nauseum. Progress was slow, and many failures and errors were soon under our belts, but you can’t build a house without chopping down a few trees. It took years to decode part of the formula, but eventually we learned that the behavior of these particles could be predicted under certain pretenses. They could also; to a certain extent, be directed. Programmed to inhabit separate locations at the same time, giving them the perceived ability to exist in two places at once. In reality though, it was more akin to a transfer of locale via microscopic slits in the Higgs-Boson. We realized it was not a matter of travelling to, but instead travelling through. Through the fabric of space itself. With electrical stimuli and coordinate based geo-synchronization, one could manipulate these particles to transfer locations faster than the blink of an eye. The machine used was primitive compared to later iterations, but it’s true potential was not lost on us for a moment. Time went on, and the technique was further refined, most readily in the distance particles were able to be transposed. It started as only a few nanometers, but eventually we could transfer particles several feet. It was through this process, that blueprints for an entirely new type of machine were first devised. It was to be a machine unlike any before it. Instead of electrical stimuli sent through circuits and wires, it was transferred directly from one location to another. Wireless energy transposed through space. This greatly improved computing capabilities and allowed the machine to act much quicker than anything ever seen before. Initial ideals for the machine were skeptical at best, but as time went on the real significance of it’s potential became apparent. When combined with a suitable processor and digital interface, it soon began decoding encryption and translating mathematic cipher in a fraction of the time of anything seen before it. It didn’t stop there though. With a binary convertor, it wasn’t long before human physiology itself was deciphered and converted into convenient little anagrams and simplistic formulas. This soon gave the machine the ability to replicate human tissue and organs from fetal stem cells. When given raw biomass it could manufacture a duplicate heart or a lung. One which was genetically indistinguishable from that of the donor’s DNA. On one occasion, the machine even managed to regrow the arm of an amputee war veteran. Most of us thought it couldn’t possibly work, that the nerve endings on the man’s arms would be unable to be resuscitated after so long. But after seventeen hours in surgery, when I saw the vet move his new fingers for the first time after transplant and cell resuscitation, I knew we had discovered something special. Disease and deformities were also unlocked, able to be observed on a molecular level and eradicated before gestation. A virus or bacterial strain could be genetically reprogrammed to attack and destroy itself rather than the host. HPV, AIDS, the black death, the common cold, strep throat, gonorrhea, none of them stood a snowball’s chance in hell against the unrivaled power of the machine. It could even reprogram human DNA to desired proportions, eliminating extra chromosomes and restoring neural pathways to reverse entropic cognitive illness like Dementia and Parkinson’s. Even pre-birth conditions like cerebral palsy and microcephaly were in the process of being all but eradicated. It wasn’t just organic material either. The machine could take a block of carbon and alter its isotopes to create carbon-14 and elicit radioactivity. This proved interesting for further power possibilities as the machine demonstrated potential of creating it’s own fuel source, but there was another more pertinent discovery. By rearranging the number of protons in the atomic nucleus, the given element’s atomic weight was altered, thereby turning it into another element altogether. The machine held the power to change the very building blocks of the universe itself. It could turn copper into gold, bromine into iodine. I think it was then that we first realized the scope of what it was that we had created. The applications for the machine seemed endless. It could write books, clone living organisms and alter the very elements beneath our feet. It was the philosopher’s stone, the holy grail and the all-seeing eye in one convenient little package. The Deus ex Machina. The world’s very first quantum computer was born. One important distinction I would like to make, despite prevailing rumors, the quantum computer was not in fact an AI. It had computing power which trumped almost everything else on earth a thousand times over, and the ability to perform almost any task given to it provided the necessary accommodations were implemented. For this reason, it was not allowed to make decisions for itself. Many of my colleagues were justifiably nervous at the prospect of an artificial intelligence somehow gaining sentience and going rampant with the power of quantum manipulation. We really had no idea where our experimentation would lead us, and so the decision was made early on, to prevent it from thinking on its own and going all Skynet on us. The computer was a beast of burden, happily doing any task given to it, but it was us that held the reins. That was when the bureaucratic troubles first began. A lot of donors for the project, and even a few of my fellow team members had their own ideas on how to best utilize the machine. Every nation involved wanted it for themselves and had their own vision on how best to implement it’s capabilities. Several members of the coalition ended up leaving the project or being outright dismissed, promising to return with a battalion of lawyers at their back. One man was even caught attempting to smuggle data from the lab, and detained to await prosecution. The reigning project overseer was also relieved of duty. In his place; Dr. Henryk Lundgren assumed the role of director of operations. Dr. Lundgren is a dear friend, and a brilliant mind. That’s what makes his fate lie so heavily on my heart. It’s a tragedy what befell him, but I won’t act as though he wasn’t responsible for stoking the flames. Lundgren managed to settle the group down and unite a divided faction of scientists who all held their own agendas. He made the executive decision to keep the computer in the hands of the international team and continue to study it for optimum replication and continued data analysis. All those who didn’t abide were dismissed or removed physically as the need arose. Lundgren had toiled for years on development of the machines virtual capabilities, and decided it best to invest more heavily into it. It took months of development, but soon a fully-functional Sims-esque program was up and running. It was incredible. The simulation was modeled to be an exact carbon copy of our own world and held all the coordinating pieces within it. All the people, animals and nations. Augmented control apparatuses were then developed to allow us the ability to view the computer’s creation firsthand. The simulation it created was so visceral, that none could even perceive that they were in a simulation at all. Test subjects were exposed to their own loved ones within the program and could not distinguish them from their real-life counterparts. I even took it for a spin a few times. I was hooked up to the monitor via a neural cortex interface, and had my mind rendered into the simulation. I awoke to the sights of sunlight peeking through my blinds, and the sounds of cars outside. Around me on the walls were posters of Harry Potter, JoJo and the X-files among countless others. I recognized immediately where I was. It was my childhood home, an apartment complex in Sacramento. My parents were both there and acted in accordance to how they would behave in real life. My dad even made new corny jokes in a fashion that suited his personality. It wasn’t a memory though, it was an entirely new scenario, concocted by my mind and the quantum simulation. My parents are both deceased in the real world and getting to spend time with them again was… indescribable. Even if they were just simulations, the experience was profoundly cathartic for me. I ended up leaving the simulation in tears, overwhelmed by the experience and the ability to speak with my parents once again. The event was so enlightening for me, it even made dealing with their absence a little easier. After all, I could now speak to them any time I wanted. I found myself never wanting to leave the matrix. Dr. Lundgren subsequently questioned me about my experience, and I was all too happy to relay the things I had seen. He listened intently, with simple occasional nods and one-word responses. His grey face wore a smile, and cheeks dimpled in delight, but his eyes were far from the present, and worried. We held a meeting with all staff members sometime after. Lundgren stood and paced in front of the group, silent and lost in thought. When he did finally speak, he held our undivided attention. He walked through all that our little group had managed to accomplish, and all the things we had learned on our journey. All the miracles unraveled and translated into digital coding, and all the advancements made. It was not a triumphant voice however, it was somber, as if none of it truly mattered. He then first proposed his theory. Here we were, with an entire simulated universe at the tips of our fingers. A digital reality created and maintained by a machine we had built. A simulation which was so authentic, that none could tell it apart from reality itself. And if we had the power to create that, how did we know that our own universe was not the result of the same process? How did we know our reality was not in fact just a simulation? An unnerving silence befell the rest of the group as Lundgren concluded his epiphany. All in attendance seemed to silently contemplate the idea, with a noticeably nervous aura now lingering. There wasn’t much said after that, but there didn’t need to be. We had an entirely new goal. Upon returning for work the following day, I immediately noticed that several of our colleagues had abandoned the project without so much as a ‘goodbye’. Only 7 of us remained, among which was the prestigious Henryk Lundgren. He was changed though, his upbeat optimism and inquisitive attitude reverted to an impatient gibbering wreck of a man. He became hostile to prolonged questioning, and I could see the idea gnaw on his mind as he walked the tightrope between madness and genius. At times he appeared on the verge of catatonic psychosis. He would ramble and talk to himself, and pretty much stopped leaving the laboratory altogether. We set our sights on a new task; to dismantle and test the hypothesis of Lundgren. To develop an ability to break through the boundaries of our suspected simulation and pier beyond our own reality to glimpse whatever may lie on the other side. Nothing else seemed to matter anymore by that point. Life may be accidental, consciousness too, hell even complex organisms like human beings the result of genetic evolution and a bit of luck. However, simulation is not accidental. It requires an immense amount of dedication, programming and logistics, not to mention, power and maintenance. The ability to synthesize digital worlds is not something learned or accomplished by accident. It takes time, resources and brainpower to even attempt it, and even then, it’s no guarantee. The one concept that was off the table immediately, was that the theorized simulation was the result of natural phenomenon or random cosmic alignment. If Lundgren’s hypothesis was correct, and our universe was indeed an illusion, then someone or something had to be pulling the strings behind the veil. Powerful as the quantum computer was, even it did not have the ability to glimpse directly into higher dimensions. As stated before, it took commands only from us, and could only perform tasks which we could coherently articulate to it. We realized rather early that directly viewing outside the boundaries of the universe was likely not possible. The only option was to send a message. Through remedial experimentation and dozens of ponderous sleepless nights, we finally had a breakthrough. Our reality is based on laws. Laws of motion, laws of attraction, laws of physics. These laws cannot be broken accidently, but with quantum technology, they can be manipulated. Many believe that intelligent extra-terrestrials were first alerted to humanity when the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ours was essentially the same idea. Demonstrating that we had the capability to toil with the quantum world in hopes of eliciting a response from a higher being. If we could ‘break’ or ‘bend’ one of these laws of reality, then perhaps the supposed orchestrator would be compelled to respond. One of the earlier discoveries we had made was that of the concept of reverse time. Time is a measurement of something that occurs, and without anything to observe, time is meaningless. The concept only makes sense when in the presence of matter. The two concepts of space and time are coterminous, like light and dark or hot and cold, one does not exist without the other. Where there is space there is time, and where there is time there must be space. The opposite of matter is not nothing, but anti-matter. A true nothingness or void of anything substantial does not exist. It cannot exist based upon the nature of existence itself. Anti-matter is the invisible material which operates unseen and fills all the gaps which matter does not. All of it held together by the Higgs-Boson. If an opposite of matter exists, then an opposite of time must as well. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and all reactions must remain proportional to force exerted. By utilizing the quantum computer, we had the ability to send protons back in time, sort of. We could make them exist where they once had not before they existed there, by using dark energy matrices and particle superpositioning to make them exist in two places at once. The discovery had actually been made some time earlier, but never officially tested. It was restricted and marked as unbroachable, as many of our patrons were rightfully concerned by the prospect of unintentionally altering the past. Doing so could create a butterfly effect and wreak havoc upon the present. We were told vehemently that the reverse-time experimentation was forbidden, but now we had a legitimate reason to take interest. It took some convincing on our end, but eventually we were successful when we promised to unveil the greatest discovery yet. The parameters were set within the computer and the lab was prepped for the operation. A single seed of dianthus caryophyllus was placed in a transparent reinforced container in the center of the room. The specimen was placed on damp resin paper, and several little green tendrils had sprouted from its shell. The idea, was to reverse the symbiotic metabolism of the test subject and cause it to rapidly revert to a zygote state. The seed would be directed to perform it’s life cycle backwards, thereby contradicting the natural forward flow of life and time. The parameters were finished, and Lundgren stood by the machine. He glanced to each of us individually a sullen demeanor and nervous twinkle in his eye. He looked to me last, and I nodded. Lundgren took a deep breath, adjusted his glasses and flipped the switch. Immediately the tendrils within the seed began to retract. They disappeared within the shell soon after, and the seed shrunk until the point in which it was no longer visible. The computer alerted us that the task had been completed, and silence descended upon the crew. We stayed that way for several seconds until a commotion from the computer drew our attention. An array of flickering lights and sirens began to wail like banshees, indicating an error of some sort. Suddenly, the seed reappeared and began to grow at an impossible rate. A mass of wriggling green tendrils erupted from the shell and pressed firmly against the case within seconds. It swelled within and the chamber violently ruptured a moment later sending shards of glass catapulting throughout the room. I managed to duck away just in time, but others in the group were not so lucky. One man; Reginald Diabek was struck with a shard in the neck. The piece cut a gash across his throat, causing a thick crimson to spill forth from his gullet. He collapsed to the ground, as others began to rush to his aid. Before we could reach him, the engorged serpentine appendages of the seed ensnared him, slithering around his neck and abdomen. Diabek gurgled and terror filled his eyes as the green pythonic roots began to constrict him. I watched, at a loss for words as Diabek’s wound sealed. His grey hair turned to a dark brown. The wrinkles on his forehead and bags below his eyes dissolved into his skin in a matter of seconds. The blackheads and liver-spots on his cheeks soon followed suit. All of us watched, stupefied as the process continued onward and Diabek appeared to age backwards. Diabek had to have been nearly sixty years old, but in a matter of moments he appeared as though he was a young man in his early thirties. He then went young adult, then juvenile, then teenager. Diabek screamed in terror as his voice cracked from a gruff, raspy tone to a high-pitched pre-pubescent shriek. His body shrunk in his clothes and his extremities retracted within his coat. By the time we had reached him, he was gone. We didn’t have time to gawk, as our stupor was interrupted by the computer blaring a warning siren, and a flickering plethora of lights designated an external problem of some sort. The display was a failsafe designed to protect the computer from malicious outside sources. Most of us thought the firewalls of the quantum computer were enough to prevent any attempted breach, but apparently, we were wrong. One of my colleagues scrambled to the kill switch. He was poised to throw it, when he was halted by a sudden shout from Lundgren. Lundgren stood, eyes wide as dinner plates and mouth agape as he stared at the main monitor of the computer. The warning display had ceased, and only a single screen remained active. Upon it was displayed a single loading bar, with approximately twenty percent of it being filled in. This indicated only one thing, something was being downloaded. We immediately surmised that it must be a virus or other malware of some sort. A prospect once though impossible based on the security measures of the computer, and yet the download persevered. All attempts made to restrict the download and halt it’s progress proved futile. We exchanged nervous glances with one another, torn on whether to pull the plug and save our creation from hostile insurgence or allow it to continue to whatever ends. The call was eventually made by the investors outside the room, who had since been notified of the development. They demanded power be cut, and the machine be saved. The computer represented a colossal investment, and the costs to repair or replace it if any damage were to ensue was not something taken lightly. Begrudgingly, Lundgren followed orders and commanded shutdown protocol. It was done straight away, but the machine did not power down. It continued, impossibly, and without a direct power source sustaining it. Panic began to erupt from the lab, and power to the entire facility was ordered to be cut from the mainframe. It was done within seconds, and the room fell into darkness. The only light that remained was that of the main monitor as the download reached the halfway mark. The computer groaned and whirred under enormous duress as hundreds of fans shot to life to attempt to cool the leviathan machine. We stood back, unable to make heads or tails of the development. There was simply no possible way the machine should've remained active, and yet it was. It continued to fill up the progress bar, powered by the fuel of some unknown outside source. With no other viable solutions at hand barring physical destruction of the computer itself, we could do nothing but await the culmination. The download finished several minutes later, and the room fell into pitch black. We deliberated for a moment, before deciding our only recourse was to power up the computer once again. The mysterious file weighed in at an impressive 100,000 terabytes, enough to fill hundreds of normal hard drives, but just another drop in the ocean for the quantum computer. Once full mobility was achieved, a single never before seen prompt filled the screen. "Unknown file type. Do you wish to execute the file?" All attempts made to bypass the prompt failed. We quickly used a separate program on another screen to trace the file’s origin, but to no avail. Now, there is no hiding from a quantum computer behind a proxy or VPN. It uses algorithm-based process combined with ping response speed to determine probable origin up to an accuracy of 99.999%. We’re talking response time measured in millionths of a second, but for a quantum computer, it’s as simple as the ABC’s. Sure, it gets it wrong once in every million attempts, but the point is: it always has a guess. This time however, we received a new message. “Unable to determine file origin.” Lundgren took a step back and pondered the situation and wiped the beads of glistening sweat from his brow. With nothing else at our disposal, he realized there was only one option left. And so, he gave one last command. “Open it.” The computer began to render the file, the process taking several minutes to complete. It was entirely in binary code, and eventually translated to a single message. Upon completion, two words in white font sat silently amidst a black background. I never thought two simple words could have such lasting effects on my psyche. Those two words that have made me question everything I thought I ever knew. The computer fizzled out moments later and shut down. All of us just kind of left after that. I returned home, overwhelmed by the events and left with a mystic sense of terror instilled deep in my stomach. The following morning, I was called by one of the investors. He informed me, that someone had broken into the lab late the previous night and sabotaged the operation. The lab was lit ablaze and soon reduced to a smoldering pile of ash, and the quantum computer was damaged beyond repair. Whoever had done it, possessed a security card and seemed to know the exact process required to dismantle the automatic sprinkler system. Police held a single suspect in custody. A man who appeared as a neurotic mess in the center of a maniacal nervous breakdown. He was tried and convicted some time later and declared clinically insane. He was ordained to a mental health facility in northern Sweden, and it is there that he remains to this day. That man’s name? Henryk Lundgren. I’ve never been able to properly assess just what it was that happened that day. The event has left me shaken and confused in more ways than I could possibly list. I don’t suppose I’ll ever be whole again, I just can’t be. I know the truth, the reason for our meager existence. We had reached out far beyond, and something had answered our call. Whether or not it was truly what we would call ‘god’, I cannot possibly say. But I will say, after what I saw happen to Diabek, and what became of Lundgren, I can’t think of a better word for it. I think god is something we never could’ve imagined. It holds us all within the palm of it’s hand, and with a simple flick of the wrist, we would cease to be. There is no love, there is no salvation, there is only that which lies beyond the margins of reality. That which we have no possible hope in understanding, let alone combating. One thing is also certain; it is watching us, and it does not want us meddling in that which we have no business seeing. We are set amidst an ocean of infinite black seas, and it was not meant for us to travel far. That final message could not have been clearer, and anytime I find myself drifting, I remember those two simple words relayed by the quantum computer in it’s last moments of life. “TURN BACK.”
Almost 100 new tips on top of dozens of smaller and bigger fixes. Includes current version of 1.1.0 beta patch. New and significantly altered tips are indicated by a “(+)” symbol in front of them. Ctrl-F and search for “(+)“ to cycle through them..
Everyone's favorite bridger, youtube.com/c/Bridger the author of famous pre-release video guides is, along with to lesser extent myself, organizing a Multiplayer event for Streamers and Youtubers playing Hearts of Iron 4! It is a very interesting 7 players, 3 faction format in which less experienced people will be paired with seasoned veterans. Fairly low intensity with 3 hours weekly (specifics tbd based on preferences of the players) should allow almost every streameyoutuber to participate. Are you a StreameYoutuber? Check details here and sign-up here. Are you a fan of a StreameYoutuber you want to see play with us? Go ahead and forward this post or BRIDGER'S VIDEO to them and perter them about it! EDIT2: Guide now also available on Steam: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=700983094 And we are over 300 tips as well! TL;DR, wonna watch to learn. My Youtube HoI4 playthroughs: Hearts of Iron 4 - Italy (Italian Introduction) - Basically an expanded tutorial. I won't be a full series, but I'll revisit Italy on Veteran Difficulty withing several weeks. Remade with better audio!
Almost all focus unlocks take 70 days. Use that to plan a "build" for a few years forward.
At the beginning try to get ones that give you extra research slots as well as free civilian and military factories.
Civilian factories are more important early on, unless you plan on going to war very early (like Japan).
Civilian and Military Factory focuses are extremely important for minor nations. Can't stress it enough.
Unlocks that allow you to peacefully annex a country are even better - usually provide much more factories of both types.
Democracies such as UK or USA have some focuses gated behind the World Tension requirements.
Fascist focus for nations using generic focus tree grants up to 7% of recruitable population. That's huge.
One-time research bonuses from focus tree won't be consumed by already active research.
Dotted line means that you need either of the prerequisite unlocks.
Green arrows with a red exclamation mark between them mean that those unlocks are mutually exclusive.
If in doubt read the damn tool-tips. They are actually quite good.
You can click on a focus to find more information along with some flavor text.
(+) Focus costs you 1 Political Power per day.
(+) Up to 10 political power will be applied to a new focus unlock equal to the number of days you had no focus active. If you had no active focus for more than 10 days, that number will be 10. You need to have that amount of PP to spare.
(+) You can’t switch or turn off the focus once it’s chosen.
(+) If your decryption is high enough you can see the focuses other nations are working on.
(+) If it is significantly higher than their encryption you can see their full focus trees with all unlocks.
(+) You can always see what mutually exclusive choice they made.
Different nations start with different techs unlocked.
Try to not research things ahead of time.
Especially more than 6 months ahead of time.
Some focuses will remove the ahead of time penalty for certain research.
50% research bonus may make ahead of time research worth it, especially for important equipment models such as planes, ships or tanks.
(+) You switch the research before it’s finished. You progress will be preserved.
You can stock up on up to 30 days of research before it goes to waste.
(+) If you switch the research those up to 30 banked days will “move” to a new research.
(+) Research bonus will be used if you are restarting previously paused research.
(+) Research bonus once used will still affect paused research. 2nd research bonus won’t be applied if that research is resumed.
Always try to keep your electronic and industrial bonuses up to date.
Concentrated Industry is almost always better.
Don't ignore Encryption and Decryption. Side with decryption advantage gains combat bonus in all land battles.
Doctrines, especially land ones, grant very powerful bonuses and aren't limited by years. It's good to keep researching them whenever we can.
Mobile Warfare doctrine is best suited for fairly open terrain and countries with powerful industrial base since it focuses on both motorized infantry and tanks.
Superior Firepower is best suited for more difficult terrain, countries will not-limitless manpower pool and not too powerful industry. It focuses on infantry warfare with heavy artillery support.
Grand Battleplan doctrine is most general one with bonuses useful for all types of forces as well as powerful increase in planning bonuses. Safe, but not very focused choice for most nations. Additional points if you want to utilize AI control of your armies a lot.
Mass Assault land doctrine can provide massive manpower bonuses on top of great for the wide range of units, but mostly infantry. It is a good choice both for nations who have deep manpower pool but weak industry, but also for minor nations who would otherwise struggle with low manpower.
You can only follow one of the doctrines. Attempting to research a different one will remove all the progress from the one you followed before.
All of the Land Doctrine side paths are mutually exclusive. You can change them later but will lose all the techs from other branch.
Not all paths in Naval and Air doctrines are mutually exclusive. Look for dark grey squares with arrows.
For Air and Naval doctrines see their respective sections.
Naval Invasion technologies can be found on the very bottom of the Naval tree, below battleships, carriers and submarines.
That small icon in the top right corner of an aircraft research allows you to research a carrier version of it.
Carrier versions of the planes are more expensive to build and are weaker.
Similar icon with the red rocket on the Motorized unlock in the Infantry tab allows you to research Motorized Rocket Artillery.
You don't need to have standard Rocket Artillery unlocked to research and use a motorized version.
Each unlocked tack chassis allows you to research a Self-propelled (SP) anti-tank, artillery or anti-air vehicle based on that chassis.
They are usually more expensive to build, but more powerful that the towed versions.
Production cost is, on top of required resources, a good indicator how expensive certain equipment is.
Researching a new type of basic land unit (tanks, motorized infantry, marines, paratroopers, mountaineers) will give you a division template utilizing that unit.
If you research tanks before mechanized infantry your tank division template will have standard leg infantry.
When choosing what and when to research keep in mind that it takes months before new equipment or kind of unit reaches front lines in amounts that can make a difference, while passive bonuses are applied instantly.
(+) Synthetic Oil research simply limits the amount of Refineries per state.
Laws and government:
On normal difficulty you will gather 1 political power per day (2, but 1 is always paid for your focus).
Most of the changes to your laws and government cost 150 PP.
Communists and Fascists can switch to War Economy at any time. You should do that using your 1st 150 Political Power.
(+) Democracies and Non-Alligned nations need to be at war with enemy of fairly equal power first.
(+) Democracies and unaligned can only change Economy law to Early mobilization if World Tension is above 5%. Usually it’s better to wait for Partial Mobilization.
(+) Democracies and unaligned can only change Economy law to Partial Mobilization if World Tension is above 15%. Change is asap, unless you know you’ll be at war within few months.
(+) Total Mobilization cuts you recruitable population by 3%. If your Conscription Laws and/or other factors provide less than 3% or you are already using the difference you will end up with no manpower. Be careful.
Increasing conscription laws will add people to your manpower in an instant. No need to increase those laws before it's absolutely necessary.
Trade laws allow you to sacrifice % of your resources for industrial and research bonuses.
You will NOT have access to those resources even if no one will buy them.
Theorists allow you to research doctrines faster and provide minor experience income. Some of them may be quite expensive.
IF you have access to advisors that increase the speed of your civilian and military factory production they are a very good early choices.
So is advisor that increases your Political Power gain by 15%, but keep in mind that he needs 500 days to even pay for himself.
Design company bonus is applied then research FINISHES. It isn't important if you had a designed factory chosen when research started.
If you have enough PP it may be a good idea to keep switching them around for major researches.
(+) Atm (including version 1.1.0) Military Staff hires that increase planes’ Attack, Defence and Agility either have no ingame effect or it isn’t shown in tooltips. It’s impossible to tell. Avoid.
(+) You can open diplomacy screen by r-clicking on a selected nation’s territory with in basic map mode (F1) with no units selected or by picking it from diplomacy screen (E).
(+) Once there you can switch the tab from “Diplomacy” to “Details” to see more information about the selected nation.
(+) If there are two numbers present they are the borders of the estimation based on your encryption level.
(+) World Tension is a mechanic that almost exclusively helps Democracies and Non-Aligned.
(+) Wargoal justification time is lowered by World Tension by 1% per every 2% of WT.
(+) Democracies can’t justify a wargoal against country that has not increased world tension.
(+) Democracies need 100% World Tension to be able to justify a wargoal. (50% for Non-Aligned)
(+) Claims only make justification slightly faster.
(+) Justifying for a single state is preferable.
(+) Democracies need 80% World Tension to create, join a faction or invite to one. (40% for Non-Aligned)
(+) Democracies need 70% World Tension to be able to send volunteers (40% for Non-Aligned)
(+) The amount of volunteers you can send depends on the number of divisions you control.
(+) Volunteers can’t be manually recalled. They will, however, return within 2 weeks if the war ends or you end up in a war.
(+) Democracies need 50% World Tension to be able to send Land Lease (40% for Non-Aligned)
(+) Democracies need 25% World Tension to be able to Guarantee Independence. (40% for Non-Aligned)
vGuaranteeing independence costs political power (more for every active guarantee) and lowers World Tension by 1,7% when used.
(+) If guaranteed nation is attacked and they both end up in the same war guaranteed nation can join the defender’s faction regardless of WT.
(+) AI will always do that.
(+) You can spend political power to boost your party (political option) popularity in the country.
(+) When it is high enough you can wait for a government change (can be peaceful or bloody) or stage a coup by spending 200 political power over 400 days and sending weapons.
(+) The power of the coup is determined by the party support when you start staging it. For whatever reason.
(+) You can send Expeditionary Forces to your allies in the war. It simply transfers control of certain units.
(+) Expeditionary Forces can be returned or recalled at moment’s notice.
(+) To learn about non-aggression pacts hover over the option and wait for a tooltip to appear.
(+) All of the WT requirements can be circumvented by focus tree unlocks. Specifics differ from nation to nation.
(+) Nation will surrender if it controls less % of its Victory Points (from core provinces) than its National Integrity. Hover over the surrender bar in the war manu to see more.
(+) On top of all the Victory Points assigned to specific provinces all the standard provinces are worth a fraction of a VP.
(+) If a nation is a part of a faction it will surrender only its core provinces. It will keep the colonies and there will be resistance on its lands.
(+) Nation that surrenders without being in a faction doesn’t produce resistance on its lands and all of its territory is annexed by a victor.
(+) Faction surrenders when all its Major Members surrender. Hover over surrender bar in the war screen for details.
(+) Faction members that have not been invaded cannot be annexed or otherwise affected by the peace deal. They will end up out of faction, at peace and with a peace treaty with the victor.
You have no control over the amount of your resources set aside by your trade laws. You won't have access to them no matter if anyone actually buys them.
You can buy 8 units of any resource per civilian factory used for trade.
Trade can be cancelled instantly. You factories will be back constructing your buildings.
Countries you are at war with won't trade with you.
Some countries can embargo you via their focus tree.
Countries will sell their resources to those who have highest trade influence over them.
(+) Hover over Export number to see who is buying from that nation and what is their trade influence.
(+) Hover over Influence number to see what makes up your trade influence with the nation.
Try not to buy less than 8 resources/factory. Especially early on.
If other countries actually buy resources that you export you will "get" the civilian factories they spend. Hover over "Exported: x" sections in the top part of that screen to see if anyone is buying.
You only get the civilian factory output if a nation actually buys anything from you. Rest of the "exported" goods are being wasted.
(+) You need enough convoys to be able to carry the resources home.
(+) Those convoys can be attacked. Green lines indicate the routes of your import convoys.
(+) Oddly enough supply convoys use the same colour. Hover over them for details.
(+) You need 1 point of suppression for every victory point in the state. (before occupation law modifiers).
(+) You can change occupation laws after clicking a button on the bottom of your country screen (shortcut: Q).
(+) To control the state you need to control the provinces with most of the VPs.
(+) You won’t get resources from the state that isn’t under your control.
Your civilian factories are used to construct all the buildings. That includes your military and civilian factories.
Up to 15 civilian factories can be used to produce one building.
They are assigned automatically from the top to the bottom of your list.
Hover over the progress bar to see details.
% of your civilian factories will be used to produce consumer goods. Those are basically lost to you.
That number is a % of all your factories (civilian + military ones) based on your economy law rounded up. For example if you have 50 civilian and 52 military factories and your economy law is War Economy 16 of your civilian factories will be used to produce civilian goods (15% out of 102 rounded up). With 50 civilian ones and 52 military ones you're left with 34 civilian factories to do your construction. Now let's assume that you have 20 civilian factories and 82 military ones instead. You still need to use 15% of all those factories for civilian production, so 16 factories, but since you only have 20 that leaves you with just 4 factories to do all of your constructions.
Military factories are two times cheaper than civilian ones and they get additional construction time bonuses from economy laws.
(+) Dockyard construction speed isn’t affected by worse economy laws the same way military and civilian factories are.
Synthetic Factories aren't worth building as long as you can buy oil and rubber since they are more expensive than civilian factories that can be used to buy more of those resources.
Resources produced by Synthetic Factories are affected by both your trade laws and being in occupied provinces. For example if you have a Free Trade policy your Synthetic Factory will only give you 1 Oil and 0 Rubber.
Airbases are really quick to build. Infrastructure and ports, not so much.
Amount of radar and synthetic factories you can build per state is limited by your radar and synthetic industry research. Radar is worth researching if you need it. Synthetics almost never are.
Converting factories to the other type is almost never worth it.
Military factories use Production Efficiency system.
Naval Dockyards don't.
When you switch the production to a different commodity (light tanks to medium tanks, infantry equipment to motorized etc.) your efficiency on that line is reset to 10%.
When you switch to a different level of the same equipment (Infantry Weapons I to Infantry Weapons II, Light tank model 1934 to Light tank model 1936 etc.) you efficiency is cut in half.
You can use experience to create new variants of armoured, airborne or naval equipment.
When you switch to a different exp. variant of the same equipment you only lose 10% of the efficiency.
Production Efficiency increases over time.
If you are missing some of the resources needed for production the equipment will still be produced, but slower. Hover over the yellow progress bar to see details.
Production Efficiency increase is also slower.
Support Equipment, Motorized and Convoys never get old. If in doubt produce some of those.
it may not be a bad idea to start producing an older model of an important new equipment that you are researching to get a some headstart on Prod. Eff.
You can't use exp to modify equipment from Infantry&Artillery tab.
You can still modify Self-Propelled artillery, anti-air and anti-tank pieces.
Division is made of regiments (columns) that are made of battalions.
You can rename, duplicate and change equipment options of a division for free.
You can also mark those divisions Reserve, Regular or Elite - it affects the order they get their equipment. You can change it at any time for free as well.
There is no way of creating a "blank" division template. All new templates must be created by first duplicating and then changing. Give it a few tries to find a cheapest option for your liking.
(+) You can, however, recreate basic division of your nation for free by clicking the “Division designer” button up top.
Anschluss of Austria gives you their division designs.
Adding or removing a battalion costs 5 army exp.
Adding a first new type of unit to a division (mobile or tank battalion to an infantry division or an infantry battalion to a tank division) costs 25 army exp. Next ones will cost 5 exp.
Adding or removing a support brigade costs 10 army exp.
Division has a combat width that is a sum of combat widths of all its lane battalions. All anti air and towed anti tank have width of 1, all artillery have width of 3, rest has a width of 2.
Division speed is a speed of the slowest battalion.
Support battalions have no width or speed. That makes support artillery a very good addition to your fast divisions.
Rocket artillery is a bit more offensively oriented than a standard one but their specific performance will depend on your techs.
Anti-air doesn't seem to be worth it at all.
Organization of the division is an average of the organization of all its parts.
Artillery, tanks and support battalions have very low organization making use of enough infantry battalions necessary.
9999/10000 of the battles are lost because one side ran out of organization.
Higher the hardness the better (unless enemy is actively spamming anti-tank guns or something).
If armor of a division is higher than piercing of the division it is fighting it will not only receive 50% less damage but it will also deal 50% more.
Recon and Engineer supports are worth it for almost every combat division.
Logistic company is also great, especially if you are fighting in a difficult, infrastructure-less terrain.
Field Hospitals are excellent choice if you are afraid of running out of manpower.
(+) Combat Width in every province is equal to 80 + 40 per every additional angle of attack.
For that reason you should aim for divisions of with combat width of 20, or even 10.
I find divisions with strength around 10 a step too far. The organization hit from support battalions and an equipment cost of them is too high, unless you counteract it with very specific doctrines.
There are very few advantages to having really big combat divisions.
If they are to be used in Army Group under command of Field Marshal with "Offensive Doctrine" ability (-10% combat width) then you can go for 22 and 11.
Optimal division designs depend on your chosen doctrines, enemies you're facing and the terrain you're fighting in.
You won't need anti-tank fighting China in 1937, but should probably get some against Germany in 1940.
Tanks won't achieve much in Iran or western China, but will shine in European Soviet union. Against comparable enemy that is.
Good basic infantry division is made of 7 infantry battalions and 2 artillery battalions. (or 8 infantry if going for 22).
Good enough Marine/Mountaineer divisions are the same as Infantry ones, but with those types of infantry instead.
(+) Very light infantry divisions (5/6 battalions with support artillery, recon and engineers) have their uses too, especially in difficult terrain and against a less powerful opponent.
(+) It may be a good idea to build some cheaper infantry divisions to have them hold easier parts of the frontline.
Tanks need infantry in their divisions to counteract their very low organization.
Decent early game tank division consists of 4 tank battalions and 2 motorized infantry.
Later on you can add another mot. infantry battalion and 2 self-propelled or motorized artillery units to get to the width of 20.
Once you unlock mechanized infantry you can replace your motorized units with it where they won't negatively affect the division's speed.
Motorized infantry division is a good, cheaper fast alternative to panzer divisions with less severe terrain penalties.
Later you can try replacing some of your regular infantry with mechanized units.
The more production-intensive, technologically advanced and equipped your army is the lower will be your losses. Mechanized divisions with a lot of heavy artillery or heavy panzer divisions will take a fraction of casualties standard infantry division would take on the offensive.
Try to adjust your strategy to the capabilities of both your industry and manpower pool.
Early on it should simply consist of desired amount of Mot. Infantry battalions, but later you may want to add a few self-propelled or motorized artillery battalions to mirror Infantry Division setups.
Speed is often a better firepower than firepower itself.
Cavalry has twice the suppression of infantry. It is the best kind of unit for your policing needs.
(+) Most cost effective military police unit is one consisting of a dingle cavalry battalion. Use them to garrison your conquered territory that still generates resistance.
(+) Few bigger (4cav to 6cav) units to manually put into more difficult states are also a good idea.
Do not ignore the resistance, it will wreck your infrastructure and factories, disrupt your supply flow and so on.
Police divisions aren't supposed to fight. Don't wait for them to be fully trained, just deploy them as soon as they are 20% done.
Freshly recruited divisions will have an experienced level of "Trained", unless it was deployed earlier.
Divisions that don't have enough experience to reach "trained" are considered "Green" and suffer -25% penalty in combat.
You can exercise your divisions further till they reach next experience level of "regular" granting them +25% combat bonus.
Performing exercise costs equipment (equal to 6% attrition) and lowers your organization to 15% of max value.
It also provides you army experience.
It is better to go to war with "trained" but equipped army than with "Regular" that is lacking supply. Do not exercise more than your military production allows.
Adding new units to the divisions (for example by adding new battalions to existing division designs) will lower the training level of your divisions.
It is better for your troops to have 1 less artillery battalion than to go to war as "Green".
You can duplicate your division designs to be able to produce slightly upgraded versions of ones you have without dipping those already in the field and fighting into "Green" territory. You upgrade those later.
If you have ports or coastlines that are prone to being naval invaded you may want to create dedicated garrison units.
Dedicated "garrison units" (not to confuse with garrisoning order) don't have to be limited to 20 width, since they are meant to fight alone. Stick some more infantry and artillery in them and an engineer support and you have a cheap, powerful unit. Unlike the police units you want them to be fully trained.
I prefer sticking such dedicated "garrison units" into ports by using s series of small “fallback lines". That makes sure that all of those places are well defended. AI would attempt to do that if you were to use a garrison order, but they sometimes fail. You would also need kore such divisions, since they also garrison major inland cities.
Breakthrough is a defense stat used when your divisions are attacking. Defense is a defensive stat used when they are defending.
Infantry tends to have much higher defense than breakthrough. Tanks have it the other way around.
Hover over combat stats of your and enemy's divisions. They will provide an amazing amount of useful information. Really. Keep doing that. Especially if you're losing.
Organization is binary. If you have some you fight at your max effectiveness. If you don't then you don't fight.
Divisions strength actually affects your combat stats - it is a representation of the % of available manpower and equipment.
Both defensive stats (Defense or Breakthrough, see above) only need to be equal to enemy attack stat after all modifiers are applied. All the enemy attacks in the battle up to the level of the defensive stat have 10% chance of inflicting damage. Once all of the defence is used up the rest of the attacks have 40% chance to harm.
For example if attacking infantry unit has 40 Breakthrough and the defenders have 60 soft attack then 10% of the 40 attack will do damage, but 20 that is left unchallenged will harm 40% of the time.
You units suffer attrition while moving, being out of supply or exercising. It is affected by terrain and weather condition.
Look out for mud. Mud is the most brutal of all terrain/weather modifiers. Do not attack into mud.
Russia has a lot of mud, especially in spring and autumn.
You can order your forces to assist in combat in a neighbouring province instead of attacking by Ctrl+r-clicking the battle indicator on the map. They won't advance into that province after the battle is won.
Make sure supplies are reaching your troops (press F4 to see the map). Lack of them will devastate your troops' performance.
(+) For supply to freely move from one supply area to another you need to control border provinces between those two regions.
(+) If your supplies are delivered by sea all of the ports in the supply area where they arrive are are counted towards throughput.
(+) Infrastructure level matters even in provinces made of a single island with a port.
(+) Game will chose the route for your supplies. You cannot manually adjust it.
(+) Atm supply-carrying convoys seem to be completely invulnerable and aren’t affected by any aerial or naval threats.
Units that are out of supplies for too long will start passively losing organization and will suffer from -33% combat penalty.
Encirclement penalty of -30% is brutal, especially coupled with supply issues.
Having Air Superiority in the Air region (F3) will decrease defences of enemy forces by up to 50% (!). It also lowers their movement speed by the same amount (!!!).
To achieve full Air Superiority you not only have to have more plains than the enemy, you also need to have enough planes in the region to cover it completely. Hover over that bar under the picture in Air Region screen (F3).
All the planes operation in the region count towards the air superiority.
Bombers providing air support not only deal damage to enemies in who are fighting battles, but also provide combat bonuses to our troops. They aren't however as big as Air Superiority ones.
Ships anchored in the adjacent sea zone will provide Naval Bombardment penalties of -25% to enemies in shore provinces.
Rivers are no joke. Attacking through a river into mountains or urban areas into entrenched enemy positions is one of the best way of disposing of excessive manpower.
Using division designer learn how your troops are doing in various terrain. For example you shouldn't attempt to perform naval invasions or attack into urban areas with tanks.
To gain planning bonus your divisions need to stand still at the frontline, while being assigned to attack order.
Planning bonus will slowly fade away while you aren't doing so. Be it if you are fighting, advancing or even standing in the same spot after the plan was deleted.
If you want to fully manually control your troops you should simply delete all the frontlines when you are starting the offensive. Planning bonus won't simply disappear (see above).
You can assign manual orders to units under Ai control. They will override AI ones, but unit will go back doing its thing the second your que-ed up orders are finished. That may mean your panzer divisions 1 provinces deep into enemy territory strategically redeploying to the far end of their frontline 30 provinces away.
If you want to keep one of your armies focused at the certain part of the front for example while advancing you can keep shortening their frontline, while holding Alt.
If you will have a line of frontlines one ending where other starts they will stay clipped like that. It doesn't prevent lines from expanding due to newly acquired territory.
Ctrl+r-click on a frontline or an order selects all the units assigned to it.
Ctrl+clicking on a frontline or an order assigns all selected units to it.
Assigning a unit to an order automatically assigns it to the proper frontline as well. Not the other way around if you have more than one order attached to the frontline.
Division can only be assigned to a single ordefrontline.
Ctrl+H unassigns selected units from any orders/frontlines.
"S" is a shortcut for unselecting half of currently selected units. Useful along with those Crtl+key commands for assigning different amounts of divisions to various orders.
By pressing the right facing arrow button on top of your army icon you can activate all the orders for that army.
You can also Shift-click on that button and then on a specific order arrow on the map to activate only that order.
Red square button to the left simply stops all the orders in motion for that army. Tooltip is incorrect.
Red exclamation mark means that the unit is not assigned to any orders or frontlines.
Yellow exclamation mark means that the unit can't for some reason reach the position required of it by an order it is assigned to.
Units will often bug out and stay in ports with the yellow exclamation mark. You need to manually select them and r-click on a port you want them to move on their way to their objective. They'll figure it out from there.
You can move units overseas by either assigning them to an order there or by moving them to the port and then manually r-clicking the port you want them to sail to. See the bug described above.
Units assigned to an order overseas will go to the nearest port and sail to the port that is nearest their desired position. They will not take the length of sea travel into account. For example Italian unit in Belgium ordered to move to Egypt with Gibraltar blocked will instead of going to the Marseille and catching a boat there embark in Belgium and sail all the way around Africa. Watch out for it.
Garrision order will do an ok-ish job of dealing with resistance, but won't help at all against enemy attack.
Use fallback line orders to establish defensive positions on your borders, shores etc.
You can use a fallback line behind your lines as a rally point for the troops that you're recruiting. Simply draw it and after clicking on that circle left from the location selection bar click on that fallback line. Your troops will go there after spawning. Useful if you are using AI to fight your battles since adding units straight to your fighting forces will confuse the battleplane AI and make your offensives stall.
Full shield indicator means maxed out entrenchment bonus.
Battleplan AI is, in general, way too conservative when on the offensive.
(+) In version 1.1.0 you can switch between Careful, Standard and Aggressive stances for your armies.
(+) As of today (26.06) in 1.1.0 divisions in armies with any active battleplans will never strategically redeploy on their own.
(+) They will only use standard movement.
(+) Units may decide to march to the opposite adge of a frontline – a feat that can take weeks in some cases.
(+) Once a unit starts such movement it will not change is or stop it till it arrives at its destination. No matter if it still makes any sense. It is less problematic if divisions are strategically redeploying since it doesn’t take weeks.
(+) You can opt into a beta patch (1.1.0 atm) by r-clicking on Hearts of Iron 4 in your Steam library, going to Preferences -> Betas and then selecting a proper beta from the drop down menu.
Italy is the best nation to learn the game with in my opinion. If you are totally new to it simply play tutorial, or, if you feel so inclined, check out my instructional Italian playthrough or other Youtube videos of that kind.
bones' word wall - "it's called word wall for a reason" edition
greetings, i'm bones, the aggro/midrange player of TESL and i have a few things i wanna talk about. They directly correspond to, like, practically every complaint i hear recently, especially in relation to gameplay. It's worth noting that some of these can't be blamed on our current developers, Sparkypants, because they come from darker times of neglected client, so don't go shopping for pitchforks for the amount of stuff that'll be covered in this post, but with that said, let's go through this stuff, one by one. I want to divide this post into 3 sections:
Client design (where i'll also put UI related nitpicks because there's a few of them)
Core mechanics design
i'll make the subsection names pretty bold so if you're interested in only one specific part feel free to scroll down to the section of your choice starting with
1. CLIENT DESIGN
I can't say anything objective about aesthetics - to each their own. Personally, the game looks much better now than it did in the old client. Loading times have been overall much shorter and that applies both to transitions between menus and switching pages in collection. Clickables on the board, while completely unnecesary, are a nice addition to the overall "feel" the game gives. The way cards look now in comparison to the old client are, again, a subjective matter, but I've grown to like them quite much, especially things like Premium Legendary Guards, they look stunning on the board. Long story short, the game LOOKS damn fine, at the very least for me. That includes the animations that cards have. However, the speed of these animations, not all of them - mostly ones that occur multiple times per turn, depending on the deck, like Fifth Legion TraineBruma Armorer buffs on creatures played in quick succession, Bruma ProfiteeNecromancer's Amulet in similar instances, Galyn/Ungolim/Therana shuffling cards to the deck, Relentless Raider dagger (in Wispraider), cost reduction animation (for abomination scout and leafwater OTKs), Piercing Twilight banish (control decks), even something as recent as multiple instances of Training Grounds - is abysmally slow, they make the whole game feel like it's covered in some gluey substance or, in case of the new playmat, that the action takes place underwater. I know that devs are aware of it, because it's been pointed at several (dozen) times already and in Patch 2.7 they have taken a step towards fixing it - namely buffs/heals happening for cards that summon multiple creatures occur at the same time. Baby step in what to us feels like an easy solution (just replicate what was happening on direwolf's client), however i can't discredit a step being taken. Some of the decks are practically unplayable on the ranked ladder because of the animation speed, like the old terror called Nix-ox Telvanni. Figured I'd put it here mostly to keep everything I hold against the game altogether contained in one spot. Then there comes the issue of when a card becomes interactible (for a lack of better word). By which I don't mean how good the card is, but rather the timing in between what occurs in the game. Here are two examples that I know of to illustrate the issue better:
affects my stupid deck but bear with me - if you have an Orc on board and at least one Fifth Legion Trainer, play Wood Orc. Only when he gets Charge he's able to be selected.
in Leafwater OTK, you cannot play the Leafwater until it ends showing you the discounts from either Thieves Guild Fence or Gates of Madness.
In first case the problem is minimal, but there is a tiny chance to screw you over. In second case, it's actually pretty big, because that and animation speed makes this OTK (and many others) much slower. Amongst other things that devs know is the issue of not being able to check your discard with a selection box present (like the one Mudcrab Merchant, Merchant's Camel, Indoril Mastermind, etc. give) which is pretty important for control decks, especially considering deck tracker is still absent. But while we're at clicking discard pile icons... How about being able to click the Deck icon to see what's in your deck? An option to view your deck is already there in Laaneth, so I can't imagine there's too much coding that needs to be done to actually implement being able to view your deck's contents. Halfway through Heroes of Skyrim, for some reason we got buttons to remove and copy a deck in the collection menu... while simuntaneously the same options were taken away from the specific deck's menu. It's a very tiny thing, but I reckon it'd be nifty to have deck code, copying and removing deck button somewhere on the deck screen as well. By no means a high priority thing, but i thought i'd mention it nevertheless. There have been personal issues with TESL i've been facing on both Steam and Mobile clients. On steam the game slows down a LOT just before the game starts, while server registers i'm in a game. This causes me to, often, miss mulligans. It's more likely to be on my end, but no clue what causes it. On mobile, when building a deck, clicking on an attribute once only highlights said attribute for some reason. Again, nitpicks, but I want everything gathered in one spot. This is something that I'd call more of a wishful thinking than an actual complaint - Something as simple as being able to highlight (just to keep tabs on it) a card in opponent's hand, without revealing it obviously. This would be helpful with things like remembering Galyn target, a card that Thieves Guild Shadowfoot stole or just keeping a tabs on Tome from Daggerfall Mage or Dagger from Crown Quartermaster. With this inclusion, an option to sort cards in your hand would become available. Necessary? Nah. Priority? Fuck no. Would it be welcome? Maybe? Idk, that's more like a personal suggestion. I feel like there should be more options for friendly matches. Since there's no reward for winning or losing them (at least not in any internal way), these would be very welcome for customization - Picking lane effects, who gets the ring when challenging, some sort of toggle for an option that allows you to draw specific cards to make testing interactions or bugs far easier, something that lets a player (or both players) see both hands to make coaching/explaining much less of a hassle in a stress-free environment - just to name a few things that come to mind. Last, but not least, very undertalked issue. Logs. They are very uninformative. I don't think I've ever seen worse logs, sorry guys. Being limited to only 8 last events, which includes minor things like a buff happening is seriously terrible. Not only does it keep information away from each player, it comes with incredibly small amount of information. For example, when your opponent plays an item, you don't get the information whether it's from their deck or was it an item obtained via Gardener's Harvest. Another example is the card Shadowfoot stole - because it's not a copy generated by anything, logs leave no indication about the card's origin. But that's not all the issues this uninformative log causes - bug reports are much harder to actually verify! We're not ideal, we sometimes misremember things. Or sometimes things can't be logically explained. Take this for example - I somehow kept the ward on a creature after attacking with it. I have no bloody idea how did that happened and logs only tell you as much as you can see - Ordinator was placed down and opponent passed the turn, then I equipped Battlemace on Wardcrafter, swung into the Ordinator and was left with a 6/1 with Ward. Keep in mind, I don't even wanna mention things like Decktracker and such. They'll be there when they'll be there. However, there's something that rubs me the wrong way about... Tournament Mode. You know, thisthing. It's been 9 months since we've seen these two teasers, but ever since that it's been radio silence about Tournament Mode. I can understand priorities like honing the client and stabilizing expansion releases, but to tease something that community has anticipated for a good while and not have anything to show to us other than "we're working on it" is really a big let down that is worth pointing out. On a similar note, we really could use Gauntlets and Chaos Arena. Not only because they add tons of variety to the gameplay, but... um, i'll mention why a bit later. I know I pointed fingers at plenty of issues, but this is still tons better than what direwolf offered, because we see improvements to the client done at a much faster rate, so kudos to the team and here's to hoping that whatever problems we have with the game right now are going to get solved relatively fast. So far I can't say the quality of the client has disappointed me. In contrary to...
2. CORE MECHANICS DESIGN
TESL's main stand-out mechanics are rather easy to spot. Let's go over them one by one:
One a field line, the other's covered in shadows. At the point of me writing this, there are only three (soon to be four HOPEFULLY) means for someone to actually play around with more lane conditions than the default two. These being Solo Arena, Story Mode and recently added Syl, Duchess of Dementia and Thadon, Duke of Mania. With how fresh in our collection these two cards are, I'm fairly certain Sparkypants will start slowly introducing more intricate lane conditions or maybe possibly using some of the existing ones. Here you can find all the conditions available in game, in case you're curious. With two lanes come options to move between them. This, I'd say, is one thing that TESL nails. Moving is a strong mechanic and cards that enable the move are similarly potent. If a moving card isn't utilized, it's most likely due to the card itself, not because of it having means to move - Riverhold Escort, for example, isn't played because you want your guards, for the most part, to protect the lane they're in. Cliff Strider's problem is its text that prevents it from ever going face, etc. If there was one problem someone could point out with moving mechanic, it'd probably be a very small pool of cards (a total of 1!) that lets you move opponent's cards. That, however, is probably even stronger in a vacuum and should be made extremely carefully. So yeah, overall, kudos to design team, past and current (Mad Dash is very, very good as a 1-of surprise card). Strictly attacking between lanes seems to be kept to minimum, which is fine - the lanes are there for a reason, elevating in-between lane combat to a much higher power level is a cool idea. However, there's also... idk how do I put it better, attacking creatures not strictly? This exists in two forms. Since this part is about mechanics, i'm going to focus on only one of these here - Battle. Battle allows the creature with it to trade blows with any single one of the enemy creatures on the board. Until very recently, Battle was... actually kept in a rather nice state - cards with it saw either very limited play in some decks (Ashlander Zealot in Doomcrag, Fighters Guild Steward in Rage Warrior shortly before Isle of Madness) or were solid arena picks (Cliff Hunter, Skyborn Dragon). Some were incredibly unique, like Dragon Aspect, where you battle with your face! Had we kept it that way, no one would probably notice an issue with this mechanic - it allows a creature that has just been placed on the board to instantly attack. This includes the health it gains from its Drain, any Slay effects, Breakthrough damage, and so forth. Until Isle Battle was strong, but its strength was kept on cards that required plenty of work put in to dish out results or weren't strong in a vacuum. Then Squish the Wimpy happened. That card is what happens when you don't realize how powerful giving any card Charge and Bushwhack effect is. And, let's be honest, it's not exactly it - you can't battle your opponent's face - but even that has workarounds nowadays, like Flesh Atronach OTK. Between Flesh Atronach OTK (cards needed in it aren't necessarily always useful, but Squish is never really bad and Flesh Atronach can be brought back from Discard Pile with Odirniran Necromancer if need be) and the amount of ways you can use Squish in Rage/Ramp Warrior (from just removing creatures, to ramping while removing creatures, to healing and stealing creatures, just healing, dishing out insane damage with breakthrough, etc.) this card elevated Battle onto godlike status. However, if you take a gander at how good Battle was prior to Isle and how good it is now, it's easy to figure out that the culprit is one very strong and flexible card that gives interaction to a class with no interaction prior to this. Because of how much power this action carries, I don't think keeping its text the way it is and just fiddling with cost is going to make it any less powerful - even Duel Atop the World, which costs 5 magicka more and its only difference is +3/+3 to the target of the action, has seen some fringe play, mostly in decks that also ran Morag Tong Nightblade. There's one more big thing that happens between lanes that, at least I, didn't put too much attention in when looking at mechanics. Summon effects. We don't have too many cards whose summon effects affecting opponent's cards are limited to the lane they're played in (Skaven, Tiny Dragon, Cradlecrush Giant, Knight of Order, Giant Snake, Sanctuary Pet, Belligerent Giant, Mantikora... total comes to maybe 20 cards at best) and... I'd say that's not really a good thing. I think more creatures should have its summon effects limited to the lane they're played in, both positively and negatively, however, quite frankly, I have no idea how to approach that kind of balance change for all of the cards in the game, so I'm going to refrain from in depth means of changing this. My only idea was changing Camonna Tong Heavy's Plot effect to affect the whole board, given how little play he sees. But yeah, Summon effects have gotten sort of problematic, with their instant value that's only stoppable by "silver bullet" cards. More on these later.
Prophecies and Runes
If utilizing two lanes in card design would get a B- from me, then utilizing Runes would get an E-. Sure, there are some interesting cards that even to this day some of the best players can't quite agree on (Wilds Incarnate being the best one), for the most part anything that isn't a Prophecy and does something with Runes themselves was very mediocre. Morokei in Singleton decks is a great card, but... it's also a Singleton card. That's not gonna bring you tons of playability. He's gonna be an auto-include in Singleton decks, but Singleton decks aren't going to top the tierlist because of built in increased variance and an unsufficient reward for gimping your deck (only three singleton cards). Mechanical Heart is the other card that brings back a rune, but it's also relatively easy to deal with, a huge tempo loss on play and unique legendary, meaning only a singular card in 50 or 75 of them in your deck. The fact that Runes have been this unexplored for the longest time is a sin, especially because coming up with things to do with them is actually very simple and straightforward.
Replacing runes with other effects upon reaching health threshold.
Using up a rune to pay for an additional effect (ala' Exalt)
Forcing a rune break of your own.
Cards that punish opponent for breaking runes for a turn
Changing conditions for rune breaks (amount of creatures removed, amount of extra cards drawn, etc)
Cards that let you select a card from your deck to be a guaranteed draw when the rune is broken (possibly more late-game).
The list really does go on. Even on this list alone you could probably make a split for offensive and defensive options. The reason I gave Rune-related mechanics E- and not F is completely on the cards that reward you for breaking a rune - These I find for the most part very well done. Simply put, high risk, high reward cards that present a fair deckbuilding challenge to the ones willing to take it. Playing with these cards is also handled really well - they are prime targets for removal with their low health or other vulnerabilities, so it's quite easy to punish playing, for example Haafingar Marauder or Relentless Raider at a wrong moment. This sentiment doesn't quite extend to Beast Form. By themselves, most of these cards are alright, similarly to how "rune break" cards perform. However, with Companion Harbringer and Skyforge, there was a clear attempt at introducing something ala' a Werewolf deck or a Beast Form deck. Without alternative means of destroying opponent's runes, there's not much reason to go full werewolf, sadly, and without Beast Form these cards are nothing more than understatted creatures with no weight on them. Similarly to other very fringe and not played mechanics, only the most swingy of representants see play, like Circle Initiate (for very average statline at its cost and Prophecy tag), Aela's Huntmate (draw) and Whiterun Protector (just a solid body in a midrange deck post-Beast Form). Still, probably more blame lies on underutilizing means of breaking runes rather than Companions themselves. So let's talk Prophecies... However, not in the way people would probably think about them. Instead of trying to describe in my own words how do they feel, I'll try and draw links between them and mechanics in two other, seemingly completely different games - Team Fortress 2 and Wargroove, starting with the former Between Prophecies and Critical Hits, there's plenty of similarities. So in TF2 Critical Hits are Random. Matter of fact, they are very similar in its randomness to Prophecies in TESL in that you can technically influence the percentage (in TF2 by dishing out damage, in TESL by... adding more Prophecy cards to your deck), but regardless of percentage, you can go several seconds with nothing but crits or you can never see a critical hit in the round. Random critical hits remove a lot of decision making from the player, as this little tidbit styled after Pokemon battle explains really well, lasts about 3 minutes tops. Now, TESL doesn't have it quite as terrible, because the "critical hit" that happens does actually end up teaching you the essentials of when to play your cards, the ordering of your actions and whatnot, however what holds true in both cases is that it feels just as bad to die to a random critical hit as it is to losing to a random Prophecy that stops your lethal. I think these Prophecies in particular are the biggest offenders - things that create insane swings capable of changing not only the way you play out the remainder of your turn, but flip the entire game upside down essentially. Your Cloudrest Illusionists, Mystic Dragons (at least early game), Lightning Bolts, Piercing Javelins, Shrieking Harpies, Golden Initiates (to an extent) and many others all affect the game state significantly the moment they are played. Again, you can (and you should) play with a possibility of these cards popping in on your turn in the back of your head, and admittedly aren't executed in the worst way because you are capable of playing around them, however losing to one of the big prophecies from first rune or dying to a prophecy lightning bolt don't feel fun, matter of fact they're pretty frustrating to lose to. Then there's Wargroove, one of the recent games, turn based strategy (if you liked Advance Wars I highly recommend you pick Wargroove up!). The reason I'm mentioning this game is its way of handling critical hits. Instead of bigger and smaller random percentages, which no doubt would end up being frustrating to deal with, the game has conditional critical hits. For example, your cheapest infantry unit only does critical hit when the army's general is standing on a tile next to that unit. This adds a lot of depth to the gameplay and feels very rewarding to pull off successfully. As for TESL, I don't know how could you introduce something that gives you similar feeling - whether introducing conditions that one must meet in order to be able to play the card for free or just making it so that when the conditions are met that one card is guaranteed to appear during the breaking of your next rune. Maybe there's a way to somehow utilize leftover magicka from your last turn during opponent's turn. I want to just present how other games handled something that's widely considered frustrating. The details of execution I'd rather leave to card designers. I'll explain my last pet peeve with rune-related mechanics in next sub-chapter. Conveniently, we're done with what TESL does differently to other card games, so let's move on to:
First of all, I have nothing against your Treasure Hunts, Exalts, Betrays, Assembles and the like, however I can't help but feel that all of the "new mechanics" are only here to make expansions sound better. Whenever a big release was coming to TESL, be it a story or a new set, one of the main advertising points were new mechanics. They were one of the first things we heard about the set as well, for example in case of Houses of Morrowind, for which the very first announcement covered Rally, Plot, Exalt, Betray and "5 power or more" condition. Then there was nothing new that came for these mechanics. The reason this makes me miffed a bit is twofold:
We could've gotten mechanics that no other game but TESL can pull, especially anything involving Runes.
If the mechanics I mentioned in the first point are too complicated to just introduce, then at least take proper care of the things you do introduce.
Things like Factotums, Beast Form, Shouts, Exalt all are probably around a card or two away from being very much viable. I don't see much reason to keep them hanging. Treasure Hunts and Rally desperately crave for more, at least from Constructed point of view. Ironically, I think the most recent monthly card, Training Grounds, together with Ring of Lordship, are... perhaps not viable, but definitely a step in the right direction, especially compared to Singleton. These two present specific deckbuilding challenges that grant you plenty of cool perks and flashy plays should you overcome them. Not only that, playing against decks built with these two cards doesn't feel unfair, because you can see the synergy coming if you're observant enough. I'm not sure, however, what to think about Supports and Support Removal. This interaction feels very binary and, similarly to prophecies, not really fun for either side of the interaction. You're going to feel just as bad when your opponent has a few supports on their side of the board that you can't deal with as you'd feel when your freshly played support you didn't quite reap benefits from gets instantly removed by Dushnikh Yal Archer, Shadowfen Priest or Edict of Azura. I'm not sure how can this be designed in a better, more fair for both sides, way - perhaps make it so that supports have health, but can be targetted with creatures to deal 1 damage to them if guards aren't on the way, while reducing the support's cost all around, dunno really. Other mechanics that we had since the dawn of TESL time, namely Pilfer, Slay and Last Gasp, have been for the most part kept safely tame. Last Gasp has maybe two problematic cards at best (Haunting Spirit and Balmora Spymaster, for different reasons), but at the same time I can't help but feel that the whole Last Gasp bundle is being really overlooked by all of us. Pilfer is kept at VERY safe levels, probably because of how dedicated Tier 1 Pilfer deck would negatively affect newer players - they'd feel cheated by the Master of Thieves combo, which to them would have no counterplay what so ever, especially if another card that gives any creature pilfer gets printed for Monk. Finally, Slay in a vacuum is also more or less fine, but in tandem with Squish the Wimpy and battle tricks like Sword of the Inferno, Archer's Gambit and Crusader's Crossbow starts raising a few issues, the last three specifically with creatures that have both a Slay effect and Lethal. I also think that Slay and Drain shouldn't affect your own creatures if you end up killing them with Unstoppable Rage or any of the pings mentioned above. The possibility to turn one lane with one big creature in it into almost 30 health or an OTK in one turn is rather disgusting, especially the latter, since you can just place Child of Hircine in shadow lane against an empty board and use your next turn to add a Brotherhood Sanctuary and a bunch of Firebrands, Rage and attack a total of 7 times. There's also this elephant in the room... you know, Tricolors. What initially was perceived as a fun little gimmick (after all, why give up consistency for increased variance?) turned out to be the most viable way of building your decks. The results speak for themselves. Turns out that increased variance isn't really an issue for the tricolor player, because of several things:
Deck that they play can't really be shut down by anything - your class lacks support removal? Third color has you covered. Short on pings? Good thing extra 25 cards can fix that. What in 50 card decks could be called "identity", a set of strengths and weaknesses, is gone with transition to 75 cards. Every tricolor deck has access to everything, in smaller or bigger amounts.
The only conditions one needs to meet to play a tricolor deck are the deck size and having at least one tricolor card in its deck - That's... not really a setback. Sure, you increase the variance, but that variance often gets lost with how the deck gets built. Tempo Scout has proportionally less reach in its deck than Tempo Telvanni, for instance. As for the second condition... name a single deck in which tricolor card is a detriment to that deck.
With increased variance comes increased unpredictability. As someone facing a tricolor deck, I can't reliably play around its weaknesses, because they can have a multitude of different things. The only safe 2 magicka cards that one can play against Tribunal are Siege Catapult, Mournhold Traitor, Snow Wolf and Steam Constructor. Everything else dies to Negation, Execute or Firebolt.
Because of Tricolors, previously balanced cards start becoming a problem - the nerf of Goblin Skulk could be mostly attributed to Hlaalu and Telvanni with their Firebrands and Fireblooms respectively. If we were to favor classes over houses, Hlaalu Oathman and Cruel Firebloom would become more likely nerf targets than the Skulk itself. Similar things could be said about Tullius' Conscription.
Even with increased variance, tricolor decks can contain a bigger amount of more powerful cards. Telvanni is probably the biggest offender, with Negation, Black Hand Messenger, Emeric, Queen Barenziah, Thorn Histmage, Scout's Report, Telvanni Catspaw and Sun-in-Shadows all being a part of their control lineup. 18/75 is more than class' highest ratio of 1/5th.
Practically every possible group of people, Timmys, Johnnys, Spikes and everyone in between, have at least a few people admitting that the introduction of tricolor decks changed the game for worse for various reasons. The stats we have are definitely in favor of their strength. But at the same time there's a group of people who consider tricolor fun and different enough, which is perfectly fair. There isn't a lot i can think of in terms of solutions - rotating tricolors out first would need to happen, because honestly the design itself requires plenty of tweaking to make the games with it fun and that's not really something i know how to achieve. All of different solutions i've heard haven't really been elegant. But yeah, following rotating out the tricolor I'd either make an expanded queue for ranked/casual or run some tricolor gauntlets, should they make a comeback. don't think there's tons of things to say about specific cards that I feel like should be adjusted or cards whose design philosophy ought to be changed, but i still feel like giving 'em a section of their own.
3. CARD DESIGN
Starting off with something that was already talked to death by other people, most notably mr Ian Bits in his video here, namely heavy RNG cards. Now, it's understandable why are they made - giving fun to Timmys and some Johnnys, but i don't think power level of some of them is in the right spot. Biggest offenders of course being Suran Pawnbroker, Mudcrab Merchant and Manic Jack/Mutation (although i feel like Barilzar's Tinkering and Desperate Conjuring are also worth looking at). Still, this issue is explained in the video I linked far better than I would be ever able to explain it. There is, however, other type of rng cards that i feel like wasn't mentioned and is arguably a problem of similar size - Ring cards. By that I mean cards that are extraordinarily good on curve, but only with ring. When played without ring on curve, these cards have a lot more answers than with ring. Pre-nerf Goblin Skulk was very much a ring card, but even currently we have Cornerclub Gambler, Fifth Legion Trainer, Mournhold Traitor, Withered Hand Cultist to an extend belongs there too, East Empire Crafter has potential to land in this spot soon, although on a much smaller scale. Granted, when playing against control decks a lot of these become non-issues, as they have sufficient amount of early game removal to be able to deal with them swiftly, but for aggro mirrors these may as well be winrate swings. For all the things bad about Mudcrab Merchant there's one positive - Crabo has let us play more than one 1 drop that still holds its value during mid-game. I'd say this is worth looking at closer, because if there's something to fix the issue of Ring of Magicka in Aggro mirrors, it's decently powered 1 magicka creatures. Currently 1 drops fall into one of these categories:
Insane on turn 1, quickly lose value - Sarethi Scion, Palace Prowler, Ungolim, Deathless Draugr
Offer an unsufficient value across the entire game - Aldmeri Patriot, Blood Sorceress, Descendant of Alkosh, Blackreach Rebuilder, Covenant Marauder and many others
why are they still here? just to suffer? - Enraged Mudcrab, Niben Bay Cutthroat, Prophet of Bones (sorry my prophet), Voracious Spriggan
actually viable, as they are alright on turn 1 and their value is still solid mid-game - other than Mudcrab Merchant and Crown Quartermaster there's Deepwood Trapper, Gearwork Spider, Shadowmere, Marked Man, Karthspire Scout and, arguably, Scroll Seeker.
Even in the last category, only some decks really want these cards over others at a different point of the curve. Giving people a tad more incentive to go for Scroll Seeker or Karthspire Scout could potentially improve the means of fighting in Aggro mirrors or maybe bring back Midrange out of the sorry state it's been in. Endurance in its current state from aggressive point of view is an ideal color - comes with a lot of overstatted creatures, perfectly pairing up with other colors, either with enabling plenty of trades or supplementing big bodies with smaller, but Warded bodies (Willpower and Intelligence) or with buffing these creatures even further and abusing movement (Strength and Agility). At this point of time we're like 99% sure that Catapult will receive a nerf, if anything then because of community issues with the big body, now made much harder to punish with Skinned Hound, but to ignore Haunting Spirit, Young Mammoth, Dragontail Savior, Corrupted Shade and Bleakcoast Troll would be similarly unwise. The problem is, I suppose, in the fact that it's really hard to balance something out regarding these 5 cards without wrecking Endurance. I have faith that our card designers will be able to overcome the difficulties currently caused by this attribute. On the other side of the board we have cyclers and recyclers. Granted, it's safe to say that in a vacuum cards like Merchant's Camel or Indoril Mastermind are, for the most part, fine as is. Enter houses and Odirniran Necromancer, however, and we end up with cards that absolutely neglect the negatives of tricolors (reducing the increased variance) and, because of constant milling, allow these decks to find an answer to opponent's gameplan much more reliably while simuntaneously progressing forward with the board state. Don't get me wrong, it's not a problem that's only restricted to control - cards like pre-nerf Ash Berserker and Cornerclub Gambler should land here just as well. The amount of milling we have is one of the likely reasons the meta is in its extremes - it's either extreme aggro, extreme control or extreme swings/cycle. The solution sort of comes naturally - slow down! Less mill makes for a smarter game to play for both players. The second part of "Indirect card combat" that we call pings, also belongs here. However, by that I don't necessarily mean actions that just deal damage, like Firebolt, Rapid Shot, etc. These are necessary, fair and harmless. The only problematic cards are Archer's Gambit, Sword of the Inferno, Crusader's Crossbow and Unstoppable Rage. The first two, even at their low cost of 2 magicka, are almost always used on lethal creatures to act as a hard removal with benefits - in case of Archer's Gambit it's the ability to trade the lethal creature into an enemy creature on the same lane and potentially reap benefits from Astrid's effect, for Sword it's proccing Slay twice (on enemy creature and on itself), especially on lethal creatures, on top of just being able to remove two creatures with one so long as the wielder has 3 or more health. Crossbow feels the least problematic of all of these, mostly due to its cost, but also due to lane limitations - in Shadow Lane you can't quite always deal with two creatures at the same time, due to cover. It also doesn't give Guard to the wielder, so it doesn't force 2 for 1s with benefits. Unstoppable Rage is a whole different story. It's perfectly fine as a lane clear, but becomes unfun to play against when paired with a Drain creature or a creature with Slay effect, mostly due to these two things proccing off your own creatures too. This results in even 50+ health swings on top of the lane clear. Of course, there's a difference between feeling bad and being badly designed - I don't think the card itself is problematic, you can play smart to deal with Rage for the most part, but I can't deny its demotivating effect. Finally, there's silver bullet cards. You know, ones that are useless for all but one matchups - Grummite Magus, Memory Wraith, Piercing Twilight and Cast into Time (sort of, they're helpful everywhere to an extent), Garnag, Bedeviling Scamp and Withered Hand Cultist. These ones are probably the things I hate the most about card design. We're playing a Card Game. You can eliminate the problems by tweaking cards or card interactions in order to help players make punishing certain plays easier. Printing a card that answers the problem for you is an insult to card player's intelligence. It's the equivalent of giving a worse of two chess players an extra handicap piece that can move on any tile of the chessboard - why improve your play, when you can just play an easier game? If your goal is to welcome more casual players easily with these cards, then consider making something along the lines of an advanced tutorial. These could be a series of puzzles for free that any player can partake that would teach them the most important essentials of playing smart and playing to win. Not only that, these would play well into a marketing strategy - you can then direct someone done with advanced tutorial to the store, where he can find more puzzle bundles. It's really worth putting more effort into the game than just creating an easy answer for a card - it makes for a more compelling card game, a more satisfying esperience when you do overcome this one strategy you had troubles with in the past. Don't take this joy away from new players by giving them the middle finger card. Please. And if you're truly set on introducing hate cards to the game, at least split them into several smaller cards that affect different aspects of an archetype. Cultist, for example, should probably receive a big nerf in tandem with introducing cards that affect Summon effects, ability to be shackled, damaged by lethal creatures, affected by actions, etc. The very last thing I wanted to mention, more as a closing note, is the speed of making changes. Hearthstone recently went on to create drastic changes to the card game, mostly in the amount of nerfs/buffs but also in changing the base set. I mentioned a lot of things in this word wall of mine and I believe introducing even half of them from section 2 and 3 would greatly increase the quality of gameplay TESL definitely deserves. But in order to get there, serious changes need to be made, for we've kinda dwelled a bit too far into some of these problems. For an example of a game that undergoes gigantic changes with every patch to keep the experience fresh and enjoyable, look no further than Dota 2. The game has balance patches which are about as long as half of this article of mine, affecting various little tidbits of gameplay. While TESL by no means has as many gameplay intricacies, it still has cost, attack, health, card text, starting hand, interactions, etc. This game has tons of potential for really compelling games across all kinds of players and between all kinds of players, but a serious amount of effort and dedication needs to be put in in order for us to get there. Passion is what got us some of the all-time great games in the past, like Chrono Trigger, for example. But I direct this not only to design team and developers at Sparkypants, but to each of you reading this. First of all, thanks for making it to the end. I hope I didn't cause ya to fall asleep. I also hope that what you read helped you understand that not all of the enjoyable things are really good for the game and that, vice versa, there are still tons more enjoyable things to TESL that we haven't gotten yet. I don't expect for you to agree with all that I have written here - we're all humans (hopefully) and we're going to have our different points of view and different preferences. I encourage you to discuss things in the comments, for fruitful conversations help immensely in more means than one. If you come up with an idea to fix things better - post it! Sparkypants devs have been reading our feedback much more often than Direwolf devs and we should seize the opportunity to hopefully change the game for the better. In the end, if you've made it to the end, I'm rather certain that you do love this game. If a piece that takes almost the entirety of symbols on reddit is any indication, so do I. Regardless of how cheesy it sounds, this love for the game and this passion is what will make the game a better experience, and, eventually, us - better players. Whether you're a fun-loving person who cherishes all of the huge flashy plays above everything else (Timmy), a guy/gal whose primary interests lie in deconstructing the game's interactions and trying to discover more of the interesting combinations, treating the game like a box of Legos (Johnny) or you want to be the very best at everything the game offers and for your game sense and game knowledge to thrive (Spike), in the end we're all a part of this big family. thanks and goodbye
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