The second Guest Post on the blog comes from long-time reader, Chris Rhode. Chris is a frequent commenter on many of my battle reports and even suggested that I should get some guest posts on the blog. When I started organising guest posts for the blog, Chris jumped at the chance to contribute. His first (of hopefully many) guest post details his thoughts on Infinity from a long-time 40k player.
Infinite Patience- or the long winded road of how I got into playing Infinity and why you should, too.
A Guest Post by Chris Rhode.
Most people that play in a gaming club probably know that guy. You know, that one person always trying to get you to play "his" wargame. That keeps telling you how it is the best and most balanced game ever, and that he'd love to play one or five introductory missions with you to show you how it works.
At least in my club we have him. Don’t get me wrong - he's a great person and he isn't really pestering us to be honest, and if he ever ends up reading this I hope he'll forgive me for painting such a picture, but I'm not exaggerating by that much.
So anyway - let's call him Joe - Joe has been successful in getting everyone in my group to play at least one game of ‘Infinity’ - his baby, so to speak - the only game he plays now that Warhammer Fantasy is dead. And, much to his displeasure, nobody has liked it. Most of the time you hear something like "yeah well, the sculpts are really good, but the gameplay...".
This is the story of my introduction to Infinity, and like in all good stories, the main character, which would be me, has to go through some low points along the way before hopefully emerging victorious in the end.
I had joined my current gaming club in October '14, happy to re-ignite my love for 40K and Dark Eldar after an ex-girlfriend had put a rude stop to my hobby some years back by pouring superglue all over my army. But that’s a story for another time.
And after shaking off the rust I was doing OK, winning some, losing some, and by then I had also met Joe who kept on raving about some skirmish game called 'Infinity'. Telling me how marvelously balanced it was, as opposed to, say, Warhammer 40K. Most of the time he only got to watch during our monthly gaming days, because everyone else had already tried Infinity (and not liked it), and his other game, Warhammer Fantasy, was just about to get flushed down the drain.
So after some regular nudging by Joe, I guess at some point I had looked at the website of Corvus Belli, the Spanish manufacturer of Infinity, and some of the sculpts really did look pretty cool. I had played a little bit of Necromunda way back, so I wasn't completely opposed to skirmish games. And then one day, curiosity and compassion won out and I agreed to playing the first three training missions of Operation: Icestorm, the Infinity Starter. All the while looking somewhat enviously over to our 40K tables, admittedly.
The setting in-game is mankind some hundreds of years into the future. Thanks to having learned to travel through worm holes, we have settled on a handful of planets and then finally made contact with another species, which turned out to be hostile unfortunately. The different factions are the hyperpowers PanOceania, Yu Jing and Haqqislam, some sort of technologically very advanced mediator/police faction controlled by an AI called ALEPH, a technologically backward force made up of the first colonists sent out from Earth in Ariadna, as well as a faction residing on 3 massive - I wanna say "eldar-like craftworlds" - called Nomads. Then there is also the newest faction, the Tohaa, which are fairly civil aliens that want to work with mankind against the last faction, the hostile alien force which is made up of various conquered species and thus called "Combined Army".
Apologies if not all of that is a 100% correct, this is mostly from picking up small pieces fluff here and there. Either way, all those factions are basically at peace with each other or at most, in a "cold war" state of affairs. Apart from the Combined Army, of course. So all the battles that you'll be fighting are kind of covert operations and small scale skirmishes, with any officially knowledge being denied. At least that's how I imagine it =)
So Joe set up the table with lots of funny cardboard containers on a rectangular paper battle mat and explained some of the most basic rules:
All the units have a profile much like 40K, so that was a relief. The major difference is that it's all based on D20s and not D6, but you still have your Ballistic Skill or Close Combat (Weapon Skill) rating.
Another thing to watch out for was that the turns are not exclusive, so if it's my turn and I move a unit into line of sight of a hostile, then my opponent’s unit gets to react, say, shoot at my unit or try to dodge. That in itself already opens up a ton of possibilities and makes for more engaging opponent turns. I've found that in 40K for instance, especially with larger point values, opponent turns can at times be a little boring, so being able to do something in out of your turn sequence is definitely a nice change of pace.
The third big difference between Infinity and 40K is that every unit in your strike team contributes an order to your ‘order pool’, which then can be used by any model in your team. So you could in theory spend all your orders on just one model and move and shoot multiple times in one turn. This might sound a little game-breaking at first, but in reality it just gives you a lot of options how to handle different situations and obstacles.
Then my first introductory mission of Infinity was set up, we rolled off who would start and got going. I think each of us only had about 4 models on the table, so it didn't take to long for me to lose. As promised, we played another round, the next mission in the book, and then another. By the beginning of the third round I had learned that you can put units in "Suppression Fire" mode during your active turn, which means that they shoot stronger than they normally would in my reactive turn.
The drawback to this is that putting a unit in suppression costs an order which means the unit then can't do anything else if you want to put all of you units in suppression. So what I did was have the unit furthest back stand still and do nothing, and then alternate moving my other pieces forward and putting THEM in suppression. And that's also how I won my first (training) mission of Infinity. Sounds like fun? Nope, not really. Let me tell you, I was super bored after those 3 introductory missions and had little appetite for more.
I could finish right here and tell you to never play Infinity because it's awful, but that would be a very silly article wouldn't it? It also wouldn't do the game justice because it's in fact an excellent game (apart from the intro missions), and if you bear with me I'll tell you why.
After that first experience, I concentrated my hobby time on 40K, started various armies in addition to my Dark Eldar and sold those again just as quickly. Occasionally I went back to the Corvus Belli Online Store to have a look at the sculpts and the different factions, but nothing more.
Then, some 9 months after those first matches I thought that maybe I hadn't given the game a fair chance after all. By then I had watched a batrep or two on youtube as well, and even though I understood very little of it, it seemed that there was more to the game than just putting everything in "Suppressive Fire". So I went back to the website, took my time to look at all the different factions, read the little fluff entries next to the units, and came to the conclusion that my friend Joe had already picked the prettiest faction with Haqqislam.
And since I REALLY dislike playing the same army as someone else at my club I thought to myself - if I can't have the prettiest faction, I'm gonna take the ugliest! A short time later I found a Shasvastii Starter Set on eBay for cheap, the Shasvastii being a sub-faction of the Combined Army, and boy were they ugly. I also picked up a few additions from an online store that had them on sale (probably because nobody bought them), and with that my strike team was set.
From the battle reports I had learned that there are actually quite a few diverse missions in Infinity, and it's in fact quite rarely straight shoot-outs. And then our next gaming night came and Joe and I played another round of Infinity, this being at the end of 2015 by now.
Unsurprisingly, I lost again, but things started to make a little more sense now. Over the next months I started to understand better how the game works; when, for instance, you have to roll above a certain value (armor saves) and when below (skill tests), and how ‘face-to-face’ rolls work.
See, if you shoot at another model, and that model can see your guy, too, he'll probably shoot right back. So then you need to figure out who scores the hit, which is basically a roll off on the Ballistic Skill value of your troopers modified by things like distance and cover. If one hits his target and the other doesn't, the loser has to make an armor save, rolling higher than the damage value of the weapon, modified by his armour and cover. If both hit, however, the one with the higher dice roll trumps the other and scores the hit.
If you fail an armour roll, your model falls unconscious. If you get hit again and fail another armour roll, your unit dies. Pretty straight forward. Models that are unconscious can be picked up again by a unit with a doctor skill. There's also cool things like remotes that can be fixed by an engineer, and if you’re feeling comfortable with the basic rules you can introduce hackers to your games that can disable or boost remotes, or even possess mechanized units.
Something else I personally find incredibly cool about Infinity is the fact that you have something called "Open Information" and well, I guess it's called "Secret Information". Open information is your basic army list with your units, equipment (weapons, mines, grenades...) and skills like Doctor or Engineer.
Secret Information are things like your objectives (you usually secretly draw two for each game and pick one of them and discard the other), but also, and this is the cool part - things like units that'll arrive from reserves. Oh yeah, you can have paratroopers or elite drop troops that you can bring on whenever you want (no reserve roll necessary) from either of the neutral table sides.
And the other kind of units that aren't included in the "Open Information" are troops with camouflage skills. You have basic camouflage troops where the models are deployed as just a marker, and then you have - hold on to your seats - THERMO-OPTICAL camouflage where instead of deploying a model or a marker, you have to secretly write down the location of the unit (or snap a quick picture with your smartphone pointing at the exact spot on the table). And then you reveal it whenever you like! Wow! Isn't that super cool? You can have units like ninjas popping up out of nowhere with a tactical bow and shoot the model in the back that just walked past your hideout. Or there's even hidden missile launchers - as a nasty surprise to anyone who tries to cross a seemingly empty firing lane. Models with TO (thermooptical) camouflage do cost a premium though, so it all balances out. It's a cool unique twist though and "realistically" makes a lot of sense – you’re not going to know exactly what you're facing during such an operation, especially not reinforcements or hidden specialists.
As you can begin to see, Infinity is an extremely deep and tactically challenging game. There are no death-stars or unbeatable units, and even expensive elite infantry can get put down by a lucky shot from a lowly grunt. The game rewards smart thinking or even thinking outside the box much more than list building, although a good list can help and certain combos do exist. What I like about Infinity is that I can play pretty much whatever units I like and still have a great shot at winning.
But there are no shortcuts. If I want to punish our local 40K cheesemonger, I'll do some quick reading about current tournament lists, then throw together an AssaultCentStar and a Libby Conclave with Fulmination and go to town. If I want to beat my friend Joe at Infinity, there's no way around losing a lot and learning through experience.
Both ways can be fun. But at least for me, Infinity is harder, with the flip side of being more rewarding. I have so far played about 15 games, 2 out of which I drew and 1 that I won. If you make mistakes they can be punished harshly. But when you finally win a game, it's the best feeling in the world. Because you know that it was YOU that won the game, not the matchup or the list, or seizing the initiative (which doesn’t exist in Infinity).
Before finishing up, I want to add that the community, even though very small by 40K standards, is simply amazing and a big reason that I have kept going even after some bad losses. The people at infinitytheforums.com are extremely helpful and compassionate, and my recent whine-thread about me losing so much has been met with nothing but an outpour of support and helpful suggestions.
In closing, I hope that I could give you a good glimpse of a game from a small but passionate company that keeps picking up steam and drawing attention, and I encourage you to have a look at the Infinity website (https://www.infinitythegame.com/) to see what all the fuss is about.
They've only just now released a brand new 2-player starter in "Red Veil" with some beautiful sculpts and 2 cool factions, and I have already called dibs on the Yu Jing part of the box (Joe had of course already pre-ordered it).
And last but not least, a big thanks to Michael for letting me write for his fantastic blog and for making the effort of bringing us enjoyable content each and every week!
All pictures property of Corvus Belli and/or Customeeple.
Thanks to Chris for taking the time and effort to putting together this interesting look at Infinity, it sounds like a great game. Anyone else out there play Infinity and can recommend it too?
I am currently looking for additional guest posts for the blog. If you are interested in writing a guest post for St Andrews Wargaming, please get in touch and let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org). It can be on any gaming topic you fancy or could even just be pictures showing off your latest army. I can't promise you fame or future, but I can promise you a decent sized and enthusiastic audience to enjoy your thoughts.