"Commissar Skullen sir, that Oniwaban is getting awfully close!"
"I can see that trooper, but it is his turn so you must hold your fire."
This article has been rattling around in my brain for quite a while, but today I finally sat down and let it pour out into the digital realm.
I think that most people who follow this blog are probably playing all kinds of miniature games and GW games like Warhammer 40,000 is either not their main interest or just a distant memory. This article isn't for you. Neither is it for 40k die-hards who will be pushing those Rhinos around decades from now. This article is aimed at those of you who play 40k (or insert-other-GW-game) but have been looking at other games, wondering if you dare take the leap (I imagine my target audience is a large part of the House of Paincakes network). Specifically I'm going to talk about Infinity as it has got a great influx of new players through Beasts of War's Infinity Week. I don't mean to belittle 40k or its players, you should do what you enjoy say I, but I will try to explain the main ways in which Infinity differs from 40k as well as put some misconceptions about the game to rest and hopefully you'll give Infinity a try.
I'm not going to go into nitty-gritty details so Infinity players who are reading this may think that I'm oversimplifying a few things, but I want to keep it quick, to the point and discuss concepts rather than specific rules. Those who are actually interested enough after reading this can easily pick up the quickstart rules (or the full rules for that matter!) for free and read the details for themselves.
So what are the big differences?
0. Skirmish! (pretty obvious but worth mentioning anyway)
In a nutshell open warfare is very uncommon in the world of Infinity, instead we play small skirmishes between coflicting special ops teams. The closest analogy in the GW-verse would probably a team of Necromunda Spyrers - low model count but with most models having several different special rules. When it comes to gameplay having much fewer miniatures means that they can all be a lot more detailed (rules-wise) and that adding a single model may change the way your army plays drastically depending on its abilities. If I for example decide to field that thermo-optically camouflaged, infiltrating Ninja instead of my impetuous, Spitfire toting Aragoto biker this will effect my battle plan to a large degree.
1. Order Pool!
Orders as they are called, for each of your miniatures (units) as well, the difference is that you are free to use these Orders however you want. You could use one order for each miniature (which you often end up doing during your first couple of games just because your used to it) but you could just as well use every order on a single miniature, activating it again and again.
"Wow, that sounds totally overpowered! What if I could do that with my termies" I hear you say. Well, "Ramboing" as it's often referred to is perfectly possible and is sometimes a viable tactic. But many times a single miniature advancing on his own without cover fire will simply end up dead, no matter how tough it is (more on that below). However the main impact this mechanic has on the game is that it becomes a lot more dynamic as you are able to focus your resources where they are actually needed. It also creates these little mini-narratives within each game that you rarely get from a pure IGOUGO game like 40k or Necromunda. I remember one game where my PanO opponent had me pinned down by two Order Sergeants using Suppression Fire but my camouflaged Guilang could sneak past the enemy firing lanes and pop up behind them, easily killing both - all in a single turn (but requiring several orders).
2. Actions and Reactions!
Active Turns and Reactive Turns.
When it is my Active turn it is my opponents Reactive turn and vice-versa. So I recieve my order pool and I use it to activate all or some of my miniatures, but more often than not my opponent will be able to react to my actions by way of the Automatic Reaction Order (ARO). Basically if he can see the action I'm taking with my miniature or if it's close enough to one of his miniatures he gets to make an ARO. An ARO could be a number of different things, but the most common is Shoot, Dodge (move) or Discover (to try and find a camouflaged enemy). "What?! Whenever I move my guys everyone who sees them will shoot at them? That sounds totally lame!" I hear you say. However, consider the flipside to that coin; I have my Imperial Guard fire support squad covering a street, ready to put a lot of lead downrange. Suddenly a lone Termagant scampers across the street, followed by a couple more... and then an entire brood! You're just itching to pull that trigger but since it's not your turn you have to sit there and watch as the entire brood makes it safely to the other side. That would never happen in Infinity. Your miniatures will actually be able to react to what's going on around them, although at a slightly reduced capacity (only one shot instead of an entire Burst etc) . That is it in a nutshell but remember that Infinity uses a lot more cover in general and a lot more full blocking cover in particular. But yes you will have to be very careful and use your abilities to your advantage when advancing in Infinity. Smoke grenades (and ways to see through smoke) are highly priced for their utility!
3. Way of the Gun!
rifle that the most basic grunts carry gets to make three attacks and each shot has a roughly 60% chance doing damage.
So, getting shot is a really, really bad thing. Even heavy infantry with heavier armour and multiple wounds can easily be put out of action by a regular line soldier if used without care (it happened to my Su-Jian just the other day!). Hugging cover, which makes you harder to hit and gives a bonus to armour, minimizing the amount of ARO opportunities for your opponent and actually having your miniatures cover each other (like in the real world!) is imperative for playing Infinity succesfully. My Su-Jian would probably be alive today if he'd had someone cover his back, but instead I rushed him forward (Ramboing!) which did allow him to gun down my opponent's Zero but left him open to attack from a simple Alguacile with a combirifle. Lesson learned. It's also worth mentioning that close combat plays a much smaller role than shooting in this game. While Infinity has its fair share of close combat monsters it's still risky and simply the act of getting a miniature into base to base contact requires clever tactics or a lot of luck. Generally you should be aware of the possibilites and opportunities of close combat, but not rely on it.
4. Face to Face rolls!
Face to Face rolls.
Basically, if I fire at your miniature and you use your ARO to fire back, dodge or do anything else that might affect wheather I'm succesfull or not we roll against each other and the one who rolls highest wins, cancelling his opponents roll(s). Usually the Active player will have the advantage as he gets to fire the entire Burst of his weapon while the ARO'ing opponent only gets to fire one shot (or roll once for dodge) but of course the modifiers applied and the different stats of our miniatures and weapons used play a large roll as well. This mechanic combined with the ARO mechanic puts a certain amount of risk into most actions during your Active turn and you carefully need to consider how to minimize this risk. It also rewards you for managing to flank your opponent as he won't be able to ARO if attacked from behind.
camouflage often plays a large role during the game as it means you can potentially avoid your opponents ARO's and make surprise attacks on unaware opponents.
As has been demonstrated above Infinity is a fairly lethal game so having the ability to simply remain unseen is a great advantage and you need to use it to its fullest extent. It's also somewhat of a minigame since you replace your camouflaged miniatures with a camouflage markers, forcing your opponent to guess what kind of miniatures you're really fielding. He won't actually know until one of his models has line of sight and succeeds on a Discover test. Camo was one of the features of Infinity that really drew me to the game as the idea of having hidden models really appealed to me. I could probably have squeezed this into the "God is in the Details" category below but felt that it plays a big enough part to warrant its own category.
6. It's not about what you bring, it's how you use it!
This has become somewhat of a mantra for Infinity players as more and more newbies pop up on the forums asking for list building advice. While you can certainly build lists that work better or worse than others it's very hard to make something totally unworkable. This game rewards good tactics and smart maneuvers more than what you actually choose to put on the table. That is not to say that list building isn't fun, on the contrary. I've spent many hours tinkering with my Yu Jing, considering different options and how this miniature would interact with and support that miniature. But it's never about finding that perfect cookie cutter force, but rather about considering what kind of gamplay you're looking for in your next match; an all camo army? A lot of heavy infantry? A TAG based force? Drop troops? A charging wave of suicidal, brain washed political prisoners? Anything goes!
7. Rules, Wiki and Army Construction Program, for Free!
This is not really a feature of the rules system, but it's such a great thing that I would be stupid not to list it. First off all the rules and expansions are available on the downloads page. On the main page you can also find the Infinity Army program by DevilTeam which is a great working and great looking army builder that easily lets you put together a fighting force. Corvus Belli have also gone through the trouble of putting together an Infinity Wiki which contains all rules with additional notes from the FAQ and forums. While the free PDF rulebook is really cool I actually think the combination of the Infinity Army and the Wiki is the greatest tool for quickly getting to grips with Infinity. Well, first I suggest you read through the quickstart rules to get the basics, but then head into Infinity Army and start clicking around! Whenever you click on an ability you will be taken to the Wiki where it is explained in full and as you muck around you learn more and more about the system.
8. Excellent Community!
official forums is ever helpful and always welcoming to new players. This is really important when starting a new game, and even more so when the rules are very different from what you're used to. There are a host of patient veterans (and newbie veterans like myself) there who are willing to answer all kinds of questions as well as give advice. I still think I've only seen something resembling flaming happen once over there and it was quickly sorted out.
9. God is in the Details!
hacking (completely immobilizing your opponents big expensive TAG is priceless!), grenades that you can actually throw and blow people up with and the fact that weapon ranges are generally long but modifiers greatly diversify the different guns. Oh, and CrazyKoalas!
10. Did I mention that the models are absolutely stunning?!
Just look around in the miniatures section!
That's about it I think. I'm sure there are things I've forgotten or overlooked but just let me know in the comments and I'll be able to add to this article. Hopefully it has provided some improved insight into the world of Infinity and made you a little bit more curios about the system. I suggest grabbing the quick start rules and simply try it out with a few proxy miniatures (I'm sure you have one or two lying around. Hehe!). So far the people I know who have tried it, even jaded anti-miniature games people, have enjoyed it a lot and I suspect you would too...