Lords of Hell is a card-game of intrigue, back-stabbing and coalitions with boardgame type aspects. It is played on a ordinary table (althought a round table is the most ideal or at least most atmosphiric one) with special playing cards and with four to six players, with five players being the optimal number. The game needs some table space, because lots of cards are tabled at the same time.
The game is played in turns, in which the Devils gather their armies, fight each other and leave to Earth to collect new Souls. As the Devils do their devilish work their fame and support among inhabitants of Hell increase and finally a new Overlord is elected, even if the Devils have objected all previous candidates.
Well, to make short story even shorter, Lucifer has quit. And now a new Overlord is needed to rule Hell. Hell is, after all, quite hierarchical and organized place, and someone is needed to distribute important posts like Chief Torturer, General of Hell's hordes or bookkeeper of Hell.
Thus, all major Devils of Hell must now find the new overlord among them. To achieve this, they fight each other, make Oaths of future power distribution and generally plot against each other. And this is what this game is all about.
Before you can play Lords of Hell you need its special playing cards. So, you must download, print and assembly them. See prints page for details. Pre-rendered rulebook and summary sheets are also available from that page
In addition to cards and counters provided, you will also need some counters for Souls and victory points plus some six-sided dice.
Obviously you need to read the rules, too. I apologize that rules are so long (the entire rulebook, printed, is currently 40 pages long!), but I have tried to explain everything very well and give lots of examples, plus of course there is background information and card listings.
There is some tactical tips to be said, but it is best to find them out by yourself. And do not take all my words as law, I haven't played this game for my entire life.
As a foreword, note that co-operation is key element of this game, especially if you are not the winning one. If some other Devil builds a large unstoppable army, other Devils must join forces or that Devil is going to win. In many games the game has been dominated by one Devil when other evils have not co-operated.
The basic strategy in Lords of Hell is to be as aggressive as possible. As cards are drawn according to how many cards you currently have, losses in combat are quickly recovered, but support points are never lost. But remember, that only one army can get a support point from each combat.
But regardless of all, the history shows that the real way to victory is via deals. Lots of deals and agreements. Just do not make too much of them. Some Devils are played more defensively and need more cunning than the others.
Promises: Oaths made by the Devils must be kept. So that if you get someone to promise not to attack you this turn, he or she simply can't. Likewise this applies to you. It is best way to make and get promises before you have revealed everything, as some promises might have not been made when they see everything you have got. And be careful when making promises of not attacking - it can easily lead to situation in which someone is invincible and then wins. Watch out for those proclaimiations.
Imprisonment: Devils are immortal and imprisonment is only a small hindernance (you cannot trade). Games have been won from the prison. And as Devil taking hit is only dropped from combat, you can always take the very last hit to your army with Devil, providing there is army left to wake him (or her) up.
Home realm: choosing right home realm has heavy impact on game. High Palace of Hell is the place where new Overlord stays, so it might be interesting at the start of the game, but maybe not later. Frozen Ocean is very good especially if Metal Beasts are scarce. And do not overlook special power of Mountain of Ever-Rotting Corpses.
Oath cards: Oath cards are an interesting aspect. They might be worth points at the end of the game, but on the other hand, pun unintended, they fill up your hand. But if you trade them away, they can be used against you later in...
Trading: by doing lots of trades with other Devils is the idea of this game and usually makes your position stronger. Draw too few hordes? Maybe some other Devil can trade them all away for one Oath card. Have no fiends and need Souls? Offer other hordes and some extra cards from fiends, and even a non-agression pact. Too weak to win by yourself a combat? Make a pact with other Devil and attack together. And remember to use your special powers and especially to sell them.
Rituals: as you can now cast a ritual and then attack, it makes rituals like Bury very effective softeners. Just destroy your opposition and then attack. You may even make two-way promises of not attacking on first combat round and then have time to finish your rituals and then attack.
Special cards: always remember to check out when the special card is used and what it exactly does before revealing it. With Time of Virtue, play it in combat phase if you want to surprise people.
By tradition, Hell is rules by the Overlord who has final word on each important things like naming aname Main Torturer, General of the Army, Gatekeeper or Bookkeeper of Hell.
For centuries, Lucifer has been the uncontested overlord. Now and then some other major Devils have arisen against him but always they have failed. Plotting is done but Lucifer has also been master manipulator, pitting each major Devil against each other.
But now Lucifer has quit, gone, disappeared. Hell is in confusion, at least sort of. No one can name Devils to important positions, no one handles negotiations with Heaven. Inhabitants of the Hell murmur.
It is time to find a new Overlord.
By the ancient laws of Hell, the new overlord is found in the following procedure:
The inhabitants of Hell come in many forms. The most common creatures are Fiends, the classical usually red-skinned devils who are the ones usually seen by the man. These obedient and cunning creatures are used both for massed attacks in Hell and to recruit new souls from the Earth. Some of them even have great magical powers, and they form covenants and can together cast as mighty rituals as Devils can. These fiends are also known as Diabolic Fiends, and they have all the powers of the ordinary fiends in addition to their spell-casting powers.
The second most common creatures, or life-form, are the Tormented Souls of Hell. They are not very powerful in small groups, but when larger masses of them gather, their combined wailing and agony makes them even stronger. But not all special Souls wail in agony, but the more powerful ones gain the form of mighty warriors, becoming Warriors of Darkness.
From the dark caves and nightmares come Critters, small but nasty creatures with sharp claws and strange powers. There exist three main types of critters, Shadow, Dark and Night Critters, and if they are ever together, they gather essence of vanguished and dead ones to any perished creatures.
Hell also has many nighmarish creations, from the blackest pits and deepest caves. Juggernauts roam on endless plains, crushing small creatures under their heavy wheels. Metal beasts claw and bite their way through heaviest basalt and metal walls.
There exists also Fallen Angels, once loyal forces of Heaven now cast down to Hell. These proud and powerful creatures, althought not many in numbers, have much influence over normal creatures of Hell and like major Devils they can organize armies to move and attack across Hell.
As last but not the least, Leviathan, the creature of Apocalypse wanders around the endless planes of Hell. This creature has enormous strength and power, but it shadows any army which it is in, attacks all other armies and never fights in home realm.
What happens when you sell your Soul to Devil? Well, it gets added to that Devil's army in Hell, and it is then used in power struggle.
A soul in this game is a abstraction of group of Souls, which the Devil has bought from the Earth. To gather these Souls, the Devil can either trade them from other Devils, or enter Earth to recruit new fresh ones. It is surprising how easily mortals sell their immortal Soul, just to get temporarily wealth.
These recruited Souls then wander the plains of Hell, and are mainly used as cannon fodder in battles and as power source for ancient mighty artifacts of power.
In Hell there exist countless number of Devils which are more powerful than normal fiends or critters, but who pale in comprasion to major Devils. However, these weaker minor Devils, powerful creatures and ancient beings still have string influence to whatever is happening in Hell.
Major Devils can trade with these Other Powers of Hell. They change promises of future power and position to new forces and powers from their own domains.
There exist countless different places in Hell. In some of these palces there is mighty basalt fortresses and iron towers, or there is some important function for the realm, like acting as front gate of Hell for new lost souls.
On of these major realms is the High Palace of Hell, which is the symbol of rulership and home of the Overlord. Any Devil able to control it for a while is surely classified as very probable new Overlord.
Other major realms include places like Seat of Judgement or Dis. In addition to these major Realms there exist countless unspecified places of steep mountain, rivers of lava, endless plains and other similar places of Hell. These unspecified places confer no special powers or defenses to those who keep their base therein.
There is 6 major Devils in Lords of Hell. In addition to these major devils, there exist so-called other Powers of Hell, which resemble various minor devils and fiends. These lesser devils, however, have their own supporters and forces, and thus major devils can do some trading with them, as explained in major rules.
All major Devils are immortal - that is, they can never be killed. You can only imprison them but never destroy. And if the Devil is imprisoned, his (or her) vast followers know what to do and can build a new kingdom and even send an army to release their master.
The word of Devil is its law, so if a Devil promises something it simply must keep it. However, this only applies to some time (in game time, maximum of two turns), after Devil is freed from its word and can do whatever it wants. A Devil that cannot keep its word is ruined, and it loses its complete kingdom and followers.
Of these 6 Devils, each has its own special powers and strategies. They cannot be easily lined up, but some are more suited for direct approach of combat while others need to do more trading and deals with other Devils.
Asmodeus is the most powerful Devil of them all and thus many inhabitants would love to see him as the new overlord. With brute strength and diabolic intelligence he rules his domain with ruthless grip.
Special powers: Asmodeus has power 6 in combat. In addition, all inhabitants of Hell confront army of Asmodeus in awe, and need at least 5 to-hit (like army of Asmodeus had 1 defense point which cannot be reduced with metal beasts) unless led by a Devil.
Playing tips: With your higher power and special power against those who have their Devil somewhere else (on Earth or imprisoned), you should exploit this as often as possible. In addition, your basic powers allow you to fight more powerfully than any other Devil.
Baalzebub is the lord of flies and deception, the master of intrigue and empty promises. From his (its?) fly and insect filled caves and towers he plans the conquer of the Hell.
Special powers: as target of forced trade, Baalzebub itself decides what to give, not the Devil initiating the forced trade. Moreover, if Baalzebub uses New Alliance or Forced Agreement, can instead of his own Oath card give any 2 resource cards from hand or any Oath. In addition, home Realm of Baalzebub is infected with huge clouds of flies and thus it has always at least 1 defense point, regardless of any metal beasts.
Playing tips: You deceipt power is very powerful, but there is
only 5 such cards in the deck. However, you can deal them from other
Devils, in exchange for Oath card (a real one) or spoils of the unfair
Your other power makes it hard to attack you. It also makes Dis very powerful at your hands, as it normally does not have any defense points to balance its special power.
Belial is a cruel and ruthless lord of the pain and agony. He brings suffering and pain to the world, and tortures weak and strong alike. His and his minions skill at torturing are so great that they can even cause much pain even to other major Devils.
Special powers: Belial has power 3 in combat and has the power of torture: During draw phase the controller of Belial can draw 3 random cards from each of Belial's prisoners, includign any tabled ones - thus, the target should take all hordes on table and shuffle them with hand cards before this is done. If any of these cards is an Oath card, Belial may either keep one of them and immediately release the prisoner, or return all drawn Oath cards. Any drawn resource cards are always kept. If Belial has multiple prisoners, handle each one by one. Belial itself does not need to be present to torture, his minions can do that, too. Likewise, own Souls can be tortured and turned into Tormented ones during draw phase - just discard a Soul to get a Tormented Ones from discard pile, and do this as many times as Belial have Souls and there is Tormented ones in discard pile.
Playing tips: as your power is in torture, you must get prisoners. In addition to aggressive playing you can make deals with other Devil's, giving them the spoils of war, but you getting any prisoners, in exchange for your assistance in combat. Or you can promise to give spoils of the torture, or to give prisoner to them (for VP) and then getting prisoner during the gathering phase. Your higher power also makes your army stronger than average one, and power to change Souls into Tormented Ones can really make your army strong.
Glasya, the sorceress of Hell is not only known from her vast magical powers but also her beauty. From high and sleek towers she performs her powerful and horrible rituals that make even the strongest creatures of Hell to retreat in awe.
Special powers: Glasya can start any number of rituals per turn, instead of only one. In addition, whenever trading is allowed Glasya can discard a ritual from hand or table to draw a card - however, if the ritual is discarded from table and there is no caster left, no card is given, and just targeted ritual cannot be discarded as response. But even if you have no casters and Glasya is imprisoned, you can still discard rituals from hand to gain cards.
Playing tips: As you can cast any number of rituals, you really do not need those Diabolic Fiends so much, but they are valuable to other players so they could trade them for some price, like normal Fiend and any ritual. And as you can cast any number of rituals, why not just cast them all? You can always discard unwanted ones and get a card replacement. And if you cast lots of powerful rituals on the first combat round you can turn odds to your favor and then attack other Devils. Just note that casting a lots of dangerous rituals make you a potential target of aggression, just to get those rituals discarded, but you can also make good deals out of them, like promise not to target them against certain Devil, in exchange for non-agression pact. Remember to discard rituals voluntary for extra cards if it is obvious you are going to lose them, like loss in combat is unavoidable. And if you are desperate in combat, you can discard rituals to hopefully get reinforcements as any drawn hordes are immediately tabled.
Mammon, huge and fat Devil is deity and lord of the greedy people. His hunger and greed is only superseded by his temper and lust for vengeance if any ever crosses him.
Special powers: Draw an extra card each turn during draw phase, after you have drawn normally. In addition, Mammon as a lord of vengeance does its last strike against enemy in combat, and a bit like Juggernauts does extra hits if gets hit - however, so powerful is the rage of Mammon that he does that extra hit to each hostile army.
Playing tips: The extra card each turn is better if you have a vast realm, as otherwise you would only get one card. And your revenge makes it sure that other Devils might not want to attack you when they do not have a big attacking horde or Souls. Remember that you can voluntarily take a hit to Mammon while you still have other forces left, and you can use this to destroy enemies. Just be sure that your remaining forces win the battle and re-claim Mammon.
Mephistopheles, the master corrupter and lord of insanity is exceptionally skilled in gaining new Souls under his control.
Special power: In Soul gathering, Mephistopheles does not have a reroll, but instead rolls twice and selects either result. In addition, at any time when trading is allowed, discard a resource card from hand to gain a Soul. Note that this can be used even when Mephistopheles is imprisoned - he has thought his subjects well.
Playing tips: As Souls are not counted in total cards in draw
phase, they are very useful ones as they make you draw more. So, only
keep the best cards in gathering, and change all other into Souls.
You can even make deals with other Devils, then giving you cards in
exchange for less number of Souls - win-win for both. Also remember
that if you are desperate in combat, just discard resource cards to
get immediate reinforcements.
In addition, Souls generate killer combinations with certain artifacts and realms. With Soul Stones, you have powerful army that does not count toward card drawing. With Staff of Undead, you take whatever hordes you want from the discard pile. On Lake of Boiling Blood you can just sit with horde of Souls.