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“So what’s the deal here?” I asked as I stepped up towards the stage with Aurivy and Bihena. “A two versus two? Or is this a free-for-all?” It was clear that they wanted to all play this game together, but I had never played Keeper Sim with more than just one other person.

“Little of both.” Terra spoke up beside me. “This is just like what you saw at the monthly meeting, but with a few extras. Since it isn’t as restricted as what a Keeper can personally manage on their own, we could theoretically have as many players as we want. For now, though, nobody else was interested, so we wanted to do a four person match.”

“Oh, oh, I wanna be on Dale’s team!” Aurivy excitedly called out from her spot next to Bihena, her eyes wide with expectation.

“Now, now.” Bihena chuckled, shaking her head. “You really want to fight both the Goddess of Battle, and the Goddess of Fate at the same time?” I had to admit, she was right… one of them alone was bad enough, but they were both highly skilled in management. Bihena herself displayed exceptional prowess at this game during the last meeting. Facing both of them together would just end poorly.

It took Aurivy a moment to realize this as well, at which point she began to sulk. “Oh, fine… I’ll be with big sis then.”

“I’ll pretend that I’m not just a consolation prize.” Terra said with a slightly teasing tone, before she turned to address the three of us. “While the match is ongoing, I won’t have a connection with the system itself, so I won’t be able to see all of your moves. Just to let you know this isn’t completely rigged.” As she said that, she gave a playful wink, moving over to stand next to Aurivy.

At the same time, Bihena slowly walked around the stage to stand next to me, and we all approached the player stands. “So, which mode are we going for?” She asked curiously, almost expectantly.

And of course, she began to sulk when Terra grinned. “Battle mode, obviously. Your specialty.”

After Terra said that, her and Aurivy seemed to simply vanish, and all that was left in front of us was the stage. It didn’t take long at all to realize that this should be a similar effect as what the Grand Stage offered for privacy, though it seemed that this was Bihena’s first time experiencing such a thing.

Soon, the race windows appeared in front of Bihena and myself, causing me to glance over towards her. Unlike the Keeper Sim window, where you were able to choose from a wide variety of preset races, you could actually create your own races for this. “I’m going humans.” Bihena said casually as she inserted the information to create a normal human.

“Then I’ll go… Actually…” A small smile came to my face as I realized a possible strategy with this. I began to input the information for a rather unique race from our world, one of the most underappreciated. And one that I knew Aurivy would get a laugh out of once she realized.

Confirm specifications for Dungeon Core player race?

Bihena looked over at me, her eyes widening slightly, before a small smile crept up onto her face. “Well, this will not be dull, at least.”

Similar to the version of the game that we were used to, we began play near an area of rich resources. Specifically, a mineable crystal node that gave us an income of points that we could spend on units or upgrades. My first unit, the first dungeon core, was placed next to those crystals.

In my view, I could see a slowly growing circle around the core, which held everything that I was able to see in my portion of the map. I sent the command for the core to begin harvesting crystals, and the growth stopped. Instead, I began to receive notifications that crystals were being harvested.

While I was saving up to spawn a second dungeon, Bihena had already created her first scout, sending it out to explore the map. Neither of us knew how large the world would be in this version, nor did we even know how far apart we were from each other. All that could be seen was that our territories did not connect yet.

A couple of minutes later, I had enough points to spawn my second dungeon. When I chose to do so, I was asked to determine the spawn location, and found that I could place it in any territory explored by either myself or Bihena. As such, I chose to place it where her scouts were currently exploring.

For this dungeon, I sent an immediate command for it to burrow underground, that way it would not be discovered easily if it turned out that they were actually close to the enemy camp. Then, I allowed it to steadily grow its territory while the first core continued to harvest resources.

“Not a very point efficient race, is it?” Bihena asked, noticing that I had only two cores in place by the time that she had twenty humans spawned.

“Wasn’t expecting it to be. Hoping that it makes a good late-game race, though.” It was then that we discovered a key difference between this version and what we knew… when a lone goblin wandered into the human camp. At first, Bihena panicked, thinking that it was Terra or Aurivy’s troops. She slaughtered it with impunity, and immediately began erecting defenses around her base.

However, not long later, a wolf wandered into my territory. And, after falling prey to the dungeon’s ability to control monsters, we confirmed that there were simply monsters that spawned randomly throughout these maps. Which was good for me, as it involved a key aspect of my race, but also bad at the same time. After all, this meant that we never knew what was a monster, and what was an enemy unless I had a dungeon nearby.

For my third dungeon, I placed it directly inside Bihena’s base. She glared at me briefly, until she saw that I wasn’t using this as an excuse to steal her resources, instead simply letting the dungeon grow larger and larger by the second. The Keeper Sim has time move so much faster than normal that a dungeon’s growth was visible to the naked eye, quickly moving past the area that she had scouted herself.

Only after that did I begin to upgrade my race’s ‘technology’. To be honest, I had no clue what doing so would even accomplish for my race. And given that dungeon cores can’t exert any strength of their own, I immediately began to develop in the direction of magic.

Once I did, I discovered that I was able to lay magic traps in the area covered by my dungeon domains. And after a few more monsters wandered into my base, I had a better source of points while they were put to use mining for me.

It had to have taken nearly two hours before Bihena’s scouts found anything. A halfling riding a pony, carrying with it a spear nearly as large as her body. Once that happened, a silhouette appeared across the stage from us, showing Aurivy standing there in neutral posture. The scout that had discovered the halfling was one of the first sent out, and had yet to return to the base to upgrade its equipment or skills. As such, it was quickly killed by the halfling.

Before that happened, though, I placed a dungeon core not far away, hidden within a bush, and immediately commanded it to conceal itself. As long as I could keep that location marked, we would be able to see any units coming through the area that tried to approach her base.

After my next upgrade, the ability for my dungeons to reshape the terrain became improved, and I was able to hide both my own and Bihena’s bases within large, artificial mountains. This gave us another layer of defense, while I started to assign my dungeons to the creation of mazes and traps.

By now, the points were coming in rather steadily, so it wasn’t a difficult matter at all to place dungeons where needed. It was more about finding the proper resources to take advantage of having a dungeon nearby. For instance, unique ores or more minable gems.

The game continued like this for some time, until mine and Bihena’s territories became connected after she found my original base. Now we had a better idea about the size of the world, which was much larger than what the Gilded Branch created for their games. “I’ll handle defense. Think you can focus on offense?” I asked as I glanced over towards Bihena, who gave a sharp nod in response. Dungeons were great defenders… but when it came to attacking? There was almost nothing that they could do then.

I continued upgrading the magic of my dungeons, while I watched Bihena advance her units into a more militant troop. Thanks to the dungeons I had scattered around, we spotted some invisible halflings trying to sneak through to scout our area. Simply closing up the mountain entrance was enough for them to be unable to tell even when they walked straight up to our base.

Only when Bihena was confident in her ability to attack did she lash out. The mountain opened, and heavy tanks rolled out from it, crushing the hiding halflings in their paths. Moments later, a huge portion of the map was revealed to us, showing both Terra and Aurivy’s bases. It took a second for me to realize that this was because the halflings had died within my territory, so the dungeon took control of their souls.

What was more worrying, though, was Terra’s base. I had half expected her to make a civilization of beastkin like we had back on Earth. I had not expected to see a single, giant dragon sleeping atop a mountain. From the state of the area, it hadn’t even touched its gems yet. Rather, there was a halfling mining camp at the base of the mountain, taking the resources for themselves.

Terra never even tried spawning a second unit? I couldn’t help but gulp at that. If Terra felt that just one single unit was enough, then the dragon she created should be truly terrifying. That, or she deemed that another unit would be too expensive to spawn. Either way… now that we had a clear view of their base, there was an easy way for us to take advantage of it.

I had Bihena call back her troops, while I placed a dungeon at the heart of Terra’s mountain, deeply hidden away in a tunnel that had next to no foot traffic. Once there, I waited, until I had amassed enough points to research magic portals.

With a boom and a crash, the mountain beneath the dragon erupted, sending the furious creature into the air. It wasn’t dead, but it was definitely angry. And rather than investigating the cause of the disturbance, it began to fly, directly towards Bihena’s mountain base.

Unfortunately, there was nobody left in the mountain when it swooped down, a beam of light causing the land itself to evaporate. It did a few passing sweeps before rushing back, as our assault had only just begun. After using a bomb to blow up one mountain, I created a portal into Aurivy’s bases, where Bihena’s troops rushed in, slaughtering them en masse.

By the time the dragon had returned, only a few scattered halfling troops remained. And every so often, a portal would appear next to one, fully armored soldiers stepping through and killing them. The only threat left was the dragon itself, which… we never actually killed.

Aurivy and Terra have surrendered.

“That was cheating!” Aurivy shouted out as the stage began to dim, and we could see the two people across from us again. The halfling goddess was clearly upset by the way she lost, having never directly seen my chosen race. “How else could you have found us like that?!”

“Dungeons.” I said with a small smile, to which she looked like she was about to shout something back, before her eyes opened wide.

“Dungeons?” She questioned, her voice more quiet now.

“Dungeons.” I confirmed once again with a brief nod.

“Rematch!” She immediately called out, causing Terra to laugh next to her. The felyn woman looked at us, as if seeking approval. Once Bihena and I both nodded, the second round began.

We continued like this for several more rounds. Now that we both knew how to use the dungeons, the matches became a lot longer, and a lot more difficult. Aurivy and I always picked that race, while Bihena always chose humans, and Terra simply seemed to change her choice every round.

No longer could it be considered a clear landslide, instead each match being incredibly close. Ultimately, we decided to stop because we had spent an entire day repeatedly doing one round after another.

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