Submission #7616: ShesChardcore's Genesis Gemfire in 01:29.50

(Link to video)
Console Sega Genesis Emulator Bizhawk 2.8
Game Version unknown Frame Count 5363
ROM Filename Gemfire (USA).md Frame Rate 59.922751013550524
Branch Rerecord Count 21077
PowerOn Authors ShesChardcore
Submitted by ShesChardcore on 7/24/2022 2:16:54 PM

Submission Comments
This submission is for the Genesis version of Gemfire, a multi-platform "conquer/unite the land" strategy game made by Koei, more famous for their Romance of the Three Kingdoms strategy series. While these games are notorious for being plodding and potentially complicated, this version goes FAST and we unite the land before the wine gets cold.

Game objectives

  • Emulator used: Bizhawk 2.8
  • Aims for fastest time
  • Heavy luck manipulation
  • Uses final/hardest scenario
  • Lots of little icons changing

Comments

Gemfire is a pretty neat game. sYn_stream offered it up as a suggestion and though I'd never played the game before, I knew what it was, and the run looked fun so I decided to TAS it.
There are many considerations/rules to go into with the strategy for this game and I'll outline them all below.

Outline

There is only one way to win: control every territory (not just wipe out the enemies.) To do this, you can take provinces through 3 methods. Battle, defection, or surrender. But first, the families.
Families: There are numerous families in the game. In this scenario we play as Blanche (yellow and black) and the other big threat is Lyle (the blue and white icons in the west. The others are: Divas (17 and 18), Lankshire (19/20/22/28), Tudoria (25/26/27) and Tate (14/23/24) and they have various rules regarding how to deal with them that we'll get into later.
Battle: The battles play out in a "time vacuum" so to speak. You can send troops and food for up to 10 days, but those days don't pass in the overall world. The battles are very slow, and you might notice we don't actually see a battlefield for the entire run. This is done in two different methods.
Free Fighting: If you send a force at an enemy that has 5x as many troops as them, there's a good chance, though not quite guaranteed, that they will yield the land without a fight. This is obviously good in general, but it also cuts out any potential fight animations and skips the battlefield entirely. We do this once in the run, for Terian (province 14) This does not work on the king, Eselred (Province 22) unless you destroy ALL of his troops and get him to waste his special unit, the dragon. There's a much better way to deal with him that we'll get into later.
Entrusting: You can entrust a province to act autonomously which will include simulating battles. It's not as fast as a free fight, so we only do this once, on the aforementioned Eselred. You can entrust and attack on the same turn which lets you at least control what the province does for that turn (i.e. you make it attack, but after that it's CPU-controlled) and we skip the battlefield.
Defecting: Defection is simple. You basically try to convert a province's controller to your side. If you succeed, you not only gain the person, but the province as well. If you fail, nothiing really happens. Either way you lose your turn. The success of defection varies wildly by the lord, with both the charm statistic and other hidden factors playing into things. In the TAS world we can essentially force it to work on those for whom it will actually work, by delaying the request in 4 frame windows, as well as adding in inputs during those delays to change the RNG further. All delays or seemingly random inputs in this TAS are to manipulate various amounts of RNG, from the success of the defection to ensuring other enemy provinces don't do something bad on their turns.
Defecting restrictions: This isn't Nam, this is bowling. There are rules. Family leaders (Ander, Erin, Eselred, Loryn, Terian, Eadrick) cannot be defected, nor can anyone with a blood lineage to their family (notably Keyla, and the entirety of the Tate family but there are others.) There are also special circumstances where a family cannot be affected by defect. Each lord has a chance to roll +2 to all stats in the beginning of the game. If Erin (our leader) doesn't roll +2 then we're locked out of defecting Lyle entirely and possibly Tudoria as well if Eadrick rolls +2. If we roll +2 we can defect from Tudoria, and if we get +2 but Ander (Lyle's leader) doesn't, then we can defect from Lyle right off the bat. This is called a Lyle seed, and we have one in this run.
Surrender: We can get some families to give themselves away using a cheap trick. If you hold 11 or more provinces and an enemy family has 2 or 1, they can be surrendered which gives you control of all their provinces and lords. One exception is Divas, since they spawn with only 2, you need either 12 provinces to get them, or defect Raith (18) and surrender the remaining province when you're at 11. The other big restriction is that Lankshire will never surrender no matter what. Eselred must be isolated and dealt with in battle.
Plunder: You've been Plunderstruck. Eselred's bane. Plunder lets you steal gold and food from a neighboring enemy province to the tune of 20% of what they have. This is useful for various reasons, including the fact that it always works. You can basically starve out an enemy by plundering a bunch of times then attacking with a small force and bringing a lot of food. This is how Eselred goes down. 5 plunders gets him to a point where he doesn't have enough food to use his big army and you can entrust/fight to take him out. Theoretically this could be used on other enemies as well but free fighting is just more effective for them.
Sabotage: Enemies can't stand it when they know you planned it, so I'mma set it straight this watergate. Sabotage can be done from anywhere on the map, but it has a chance to fail, based on the political stat of the lord doing it. If you succeed, one of 3 outcomes happens. 2 of them are pointless, but the good one is that the province you hit will lose 20% of their troops, which is a huge amount. It means we need to bring fewer troops to free fight which involves less logistics. I actually routed this out of the most recent improvement but I'm too lazy to delete the paragraph.
Turn order: Every province gets one turn per month. Once the turn order is rolled, it can't be changed for that month. You normally can't see this, but we can with RAM Watch: 1005 is the current "day" of the month and 1006 through 1023 are the provinces in order of their turn. This is important. If you defect/surrender/free fight a province that hasn't had their turn yet, you get to take their turn when it comes up in the order. This allows us to chain defections, troop movements, whatever we need. As far as I can tell there's no way to force a specific order of turns, it's just seed based and I ran through a lot of seeds before settling on the one I used.

Overall Strategy

With all that having been said, the strategy is as follows:
Lyle: Force Ander to fight province 14. If you use a small force in 15, he will attack 15 with a similarly smaller force and you can basically come back over the top of him with a big army, but there's a MUCH better option. If you dump around 200 troops into 15, he will fight Terian in 14. He seems to always lose this fight, and in very rare cases he will get banished opening up Lyle for defection and cutting out the hardest part of the path. This comes with a bonus of weakening 14 as well so we can free fight with a much smaller force. Tate Banishing Ander is worth basically 1.5 fights and is very fast.
Lankshire: Defect 19/20/28, surround 22, 5 plunders, entrust fight as mentioned earlier. You do NOT want to take out Lankshire last as you will have to sit through a bunch of vassals that you have to allow or reject to join you. Finishing any other family last does not trigger this.
Tate: Free fight 14 after Ander banishes himself off them, surrender to get two more provinces with access to hit 22
Divas: Defect 18, surrender 17 later.
Tudoria: Defect 26, surrender later.

Notable delays

There are a few spots where I had to burn more than 4-8 frames for better RNG outcomes. Even with the delays this was the fastest route I found. It's entirely possibly a more optimal seed is out there somewhere, but I did run through a lot and sometimes a delay earlier led to better RNG later.
Start game screen - 55 frames to set overall RNG seed/year 1 turn order giving us a fast and favorable Ander banish
Ander Banish - 16 frames to force the banish result. This outcome is incredibly rare so 16 frames is amazing.
Setting month 2 seed - 20 frames to ensure faster outcomes, plus it led to a first try Shabard which is always nice.
Enjoy the various colors changing and sounds!

Last Edited by ShesChardcore 11 days ago
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