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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Infinity The Game: Game Play Review

Greetings. Your intrepid Infinity poster is back from a 3-week hiatus wherein I discovered just how bad ear infections can get in children, the joys and pitfalls of having a new boss and the colorful delight that is an Iwata Eclipse airbrush. What fun!

This week I'm going to take you on a stroll of Infinity gameplay. I love how Infinity plays. the game has an extremely fluid system of unit activation and, as you'll hear all over the internet, it's always your turn.

Let's highlight briefly what makes Infinity gameplay unique.
  • Unit activation: Infinity utilizes a unique system of orders to activate troops. 
  • Face to Face rolls: some systems call these "opposed rolls," and they are very common in Infinity. 
  • Extensive Use of Counters: Nuff said. 
Unit Activation
Infinity follows the "you-go-I-go" system that wargamers are familiar with, however, instead of activating a unit, moving it, then activating the next until all your units have moved, Infinity used a unique system of orders.

Here's how it works.
Each model in your army provides an order to your order reserve. An order is spent during your turn to activate a unit. This unit can make two short actions or one long action by spending this order. For example, you have an order reserve of 8 orders. You burn one order to make a unit move and shoot, or move and move again, or move and go prone, or to go into suppression fire (overwatch) or to move cautiously. You can keep spending orders in the manner however you like so you could make one unit move and shoot 8 times in a turn. You can even come back to units that have acted earlier in the turn. The sequence in which you spend orders is entirely up to you.

Actions are called skills, short skills or long skills. I would have preferred they call these 'actions' as that is more accurate in English, but the creators of the game are non-native English speakers so you get stuff like this in the rulebooks sometimes.

A Pan Oceania Order Sergeant survey the field, unaware of the Yu Jing Sniper's trap. 

Whenever your miniature performs a skill within LOS of an enemy figure, that enemy figure gets a free reaction order. That is, as you move into your enemy's view, he will fire upon you, or duck behind cover or even pop a smoke grenade. At first glance, this seems like it makes doing anything in Infinity a difficult task but it is balanced out by the fact that reaction orders are typically less effective than active orders (actions done in your turn). For example, a rifle gets a burst of 3 shots in an active order, but only 1 shot in reactive.

Over time, our gaming group has learned not to rely on reactions unless you can set the odds in your favor. Our games are normally won by the player who rolls more dice in his active turn, rather than in his reactive turn.

However, this constant action-reaction system means that you really need a good amount of terrain. In the open, your troops can't do anything without getting shot at and big heavy weapons like Heavy Machine Guns and Missile Launchers would dominate the game. Luckily, we're all pretty good hobbyists and each of us have plenty of terrain to bring to the table. I will note that Infinity terrain is much different from 40k terrain in that you need LOS-blocking terrain as you can see in the pictures. Ruins made for 40k just don't translate well.

A Nomad Zero drops a mine before getting ground to a paste by the mighty Pan Oceania Cutter TAG. 

Face-to-Face Rolls
We've just learned about active and reactive orders in the game, so it's important to understand the use of face-to-face rolls as this is really what makes the system work. Other games call these opposed rolls and they are important in Infinity to determine whose shots are hit and whose are not. As mentioned above, when your models act, enemy models in line of sight react. What ensures is typically a face-to-face roll.

For example, my Pan Oceania fusilier moves to peek around cover and spots a Yu Jing zhanshi soldier. The zhanshi sees the fusilier and decides to shoot as a reaction order. Because it is a reaction, his rifle only gets 1 shot off. Simultaneously the fusiliers opens fire, but since it is his active order, he gets 3 shots with his rifle.

The Pan Oceania player picks up three d20s for his three shots, and the Yu Jing player picks up one d20 for his one shot. Both players are hoping to roll under their Ballistic skill to hit, but only the player with the highest die-score gets his shot off and hits his opponent. The fusilier rolls and 2, a 14 and 10. His BS is a 12 so the 2 and the 20 score a hit. The zhanshi gets lucky and scores an 8 on his dice. Since the dice are opposed, the zhanshi's 8 beats the fusilier's score of 2, but the 10 beats the zhanshi's 8 and the shot gets through. The zhanshi is hit once by the fusilier, while the fusilier is safe.

This Yu Jing Shang Ji is wounded and prone, as the Pan Oceania Knights advance on his position. 

This means that weapons with higher rates of fire can actually serve as armor in a way, protecting your troops from enemy return fire.

Infinity also has critical hits that occur when you score exactly on your BS. Crits automatically surpass armor and cause a wound - its as though everyone has a rending, to use 40k terms.

I really like the system of face to face rolls and crits,  but it can take some getting used to at first, since no other game uses them quite like this. Face-to-face rolls seem to balance out the reactive order system while crits ensure that even the lowliest soldier can harm the toughest battlesuit, unlike other games where some units are completely invulnerable to some weapons.

I also find face-to-face rolls more fun than standard rolls. There is a little more suspense involved as you and your opponent roll dice against each other. Crits also make the game more fun, as they're always a thing to celebrate but are pretty rare.

Extensive Use of Counters
At times, your troops will go invisible to the enemy - their models will be removed from the board and a counter will placed in their place. This counter then moves around the board, only to reveal itself in the attack or when it has been discovered. Sometimes a counter like this will not actually be a trooper, but an anti-personnel mine that is about to go off in your face. 

The use of counters in this way is pretty unique to Infinity, although they were the first to come up with it. Yet more so than any other game I've played, you keep track of what's going on by using counters.

The creators of the game have provided lots of great graphics that you can download and print. You then cut them out and glue them to round bases and they look great. Alternatively you can scratch-build your own counters.

Personally, I enjoy the use of counters. Even when I played 40k I used a lot of counters to keep track of things. What's nice about Infinity is that boxed sets come with counters that you clip from the box art. A neat little touch that reminds me of the game creator's flare for innovation.

A Yu Jing Remote deploys a repeater-counter, a device that extends the reach of their battleground hackers.

My overall impressions from the game
Infinity is now my main game. I love how the game plays, I love the models and I enjoy how the rules provide a huge variety of actions, tactics and abilities that keep the game fresh. I enjoy the fact that even large games never take longer than 1.5 hours to complete. This means that in one game night, I might play 2 or more games instead of just one. Bonus!

In the old you-go-I-go system, I often found myself disengaging during my opponent's turn, by contrast, Infinity keeps me active during his turn- you have to make decisions during your opponent's turn, lots of them so you better be focused. 

Infinity does have one drawback, which could also be seen as a plus to some players. Most of the time, you'll be playing with 10 or fewer models. The order system gets a little cumbersome when you go beyond 10 models, as you have to divide your force to create 2 or more battlegroups that cannot share orders. This means you have to keep track of which model is with what battlegroup and so on. Personally, I don't mind playing with 10 models only as it makes for easy set up and quicker games. 

Weapons take some getting used it. Each weapon has it's own range and range categories- short, medium, long and extreme. Each category has its own modifier so in the beginning you'll find yourself grabbing the rulebook a lot. In fact, Infinity has lots of die-roll modifiers which can be tricky at first, but after a good number of games, you'll know them like the back of your hand.

My only wish for the game is that it produce a set of missions. Right now, the rulebooks have no missions. Each game is essentially a shoot-'em-up but there are lots of player-written scenarios on the Infinity Forums. That said, our gaming group has been pretty satisfied with shoot-'em-ups over the past 10 months when we all started, but a few of us have really felt the need for some interesting missions. There are rumors that Corvus Belli is releasing a mission-pack but there's been no indication of this from the company itself, so this might just be player-wishlisting. 

To wrap it all up, Infinity is an awesome ruleset with a stunning variety of options for army lists, in-game actions, playstyles and tactics. Gameplay is dynamic and engaging, and the game plays fast once you get the hang of it.

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