Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why you should be playing Infinity!

 Today we have another guest writer, MadBobby.  He has given us a very in depth look at another game, one that maybe we should all be looking into.  I had heard of Infinity before, and after reading this review  I'm seriously considering giving it a second look.  Hope you all enjoy.

For the uninitiated “Infinity is a game with 28mm high metal miniatures that simulates combat and special operations in a science fiction environment with Manga aesthetics. Infinity miniatures are characterized by the high quality and detail of their modeling, the dynamism of their postures and their futuristic aesthetic.” You can get that from the front page of their website.  As a relative novice to Infinity but a veteran tabletop war-gamer I wanted to give you my impressions of what it was like starting Infinity, and why you should consider getting involved with a more grown up and nuanced game about people, aliens, and robots of all shapes and sizes fighting the dynamic fast paced conflicts of the future.

About 6 months ago I found myself without a hobby, coming off of a few rough years that saw me selling all of my GW products I had a look at what it would take to get my beloved Azure Tiger chapter of Space Marines rebuilt and back on  a table under the auspices of the new Grey Knights army list, when I fired up my old copy of Armybuilder and filled up my cart with everything I would need to crush the enemies of the Imperium I looked at the total, realized I could buy so many things that I could have a lot more fun with for a lot less money and went back to the drawing board on how to attack my problem.

I took a step back and had a good hard think about the other games I’d demoed at conventions over the years and went down the list of the ones I’d enjoyed, while most of them were produced by now-defunct companies or had been phased out by their publishers from the corner of my brain I remembered playing a fantastic game with gorgeous models back in 2005, the rulebook hadn’t been translated into English yet, but the bilingual gentleman running demos from a printed pdf who’s name I can’t remember to save my life did manage to get the name of the project into my head, Infinity.

Looking at the website 8 years later I was nothing but impressed by the detail on the models, the dynamism of the poses, and the fact that the rules were free. My next concern was if anyone near me happened to be playing this excellent game. My concerns were unfounded when I got into the forums and checked the player database, a thing every publisher really should have on their forum, and not only found that most major cities in the US had healthy Infinity communities, but that the official ITS (Infinity Tournament System) had tournaments registered in most of them on a pretty regular basis, I was hooked. When I decided this game was definitely for me I made the best discovery of all in picking the hobby back up, I had to spend less than 100 dollars on gorgeous models for a competitive list. (Have I mentioned that the models are absolutely incredible?)

The factions were all appealing in their own right, from the high technology of Pan Oceana, to the dirty tricks available to the space faring Nomads, from the relatively archaic 21st century technology of Ariadna to the well rounded Asian inspired Yu-Jing, every faction has gorgeous models and a variety of competitive tactics available to them. After a great deal of hand wringing and mental agony I settled on playing the Qapu Khalqi, biologically enhanced space-caravan escorts and the personal bodyguards of the Sultunate in the service of Haqqislam, I will go into further detail on factions and intra-faction sectorial lists in another article, because it simply won’t fit in here and there are too many exciting things to discuss about them. The models  were an absolute joy to paint, crisp detail throughout, and hardly any mould lines or flash to clean off, Corvus Belli have a fantastic foundry. Some people aren’t too keen on the “cheesecake” overtly sexualized female models, but having a soft spot for pinup girls personally, I love them, and firmly believe that I sit in the majority on the subject, but I suppose the aesthetic isn’t for everyone.

Composing a list is deceptively simple, at first just pick the models you like and you probably won’t go too far wrong. One of the memes that gets thrown around on the Infinity forum is “It’s not your list, it’s you” while clever list selection and synergies can help you win games, games are not won or lost before any dice are thrown as we see in so many other games systems. Victory or defeat really does rest squarely on how you use the troops you take, and learning to use them and figuring out what weapons work best on which troops at what range is half the fun of the game. For instance, new players never understand the value of the lowly boarding shotgun until one gets used against them correctly, which brings us to Infinity’s brutal and steep learning curve.

It’s not all puppies and candy learning Infinity. Your troops are generally very fragile, if you are used to counting on a 3+ save to keep your boys alive while they rode in transports across a mostly empty battlefield, Infinity will be a rude awakening for you, but I imagine if you had a predilection for spiky space elves, you might just feel right at home. The second issue is terrain, you need a lot of terrain or your games are going to be short and rather boring.  To give you an idea, however much terrain you usually use for a game of 40K on a 4x8 table is probably enough to adequately populate a quarter of a 4x4 Infinity table. The saving grace to the terrain problem is you only need to fill a 4x4 table, but you do really need to fill it. If you already have a sizable terrain collection from other wargames, this probably isn’t hard, however if you’re starting from scratch it can be a fairly daunting prospect.

But back to the really awesome good things, if you read the rules you’ll quickly discover that you’re able to take a significant amount of control of your troops during your opponents turn via the ARO (Automatic Reaction Order) mechanics.  To grossly oversimplify the rules, they say that if one of your oponents guys moves into line of sight of one of your own guys, your guy is allowed to take a shot at him. Let that sink in for a second, the first quibble you ever had about turn based gaming mechanics is addressed in Infinity. This is not to say the best thing to do is hide, as in most games fortune will favor the bold, but in Infinity it also punishes the careless, mercilessly. Once you get the hang of not being sniper bait and positioning your own troops in positions to exploit the limited lanes of attack through your (hopefully) dense terrain the game really comes into its own and becomes very engaging incredibly quickly.

As I mentioned before, the game is incredibly cheap to pick up and start playing. The majority of the pewter figures are infantry retailing for $9-$15 each individually or in boxed sets, naturally the figures bought in boxes will be slightly easier on the wallet, and the giant robots called TAGs are typically $40-$50, there are one or two giant chunks of metal that go for $65. The rules are available for free in PDF format directly from Corvus Belli, in addition they maintain a wiki with quick reference and FAQs for every rule, every weapon, and every piece of equipment in the game, they do publish books, which are well worth picking up for the background and art, however Corvus Belli is a Spanish publisher and some of their English translations are awkward. A lot of what I assume was literary nuance grew cumbersome in translation, so reading them can be an exercise in patience. 

One last place I am not able to give them a shining recommendation is with their MDF terrain produced through Micro Art Studios. The buildings are OK, a far cry from exceptional. While functional the MDF they use isn’t particularly dense and the rigors of being moved from the game table to the storage bin and back a few times a week has done a real number on the ones my group owns, I’d be a little agitated if I’d been the one who paid for them. The catwalk system is where this is a serious problem, lots of fiddly bits of subpar MDF holding metal models 6 inches off the table just doesn’t end well. Their resin and acrylic terrain offerings on the other hand are great.

The last thing I wanted to talk about is the ITS scene, it’s awesome. For a nominal fee depending on the size of your group Corvus Belli will sell you a tournament kit, including a laser monogrammed crystal trophy for the winner, in addition to the trophy a tournament organizer will a prize pack that usually consists of a few miniatures, art cards, posters, iron on patches and buttons with faction or unit iconography, nobody who plays leaves without something. But that’s not even the best part; your tournament organizer is expected send the results of your tournament back to Corvus Belli, who will tabulate the results in their global ranking system which you can look up on their website’s ITS interface. It’s just cool.

If these aren’t good enough reasons for every gaming club to start a love affair with Infinity, I’m afraid you’re beyond help.  

MadBobby- the NYC O-12

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