With the recent surge of interest in Infinity in my local area and in the #warmongers movement on Twitter lately, I figured I’d discuss some of the many ways that people can play Infinity.
Back in August last year, my regular opponent, friend and painter-extraordinaire Darren gave his thoughts about some of the different ways there are to play Infinity. Since it’s been about 6 months since he wrote that article, we’ve had a bit more experience, and I thought I’d expand a little on his thoughts.
First of all, let me just state that there is certainly no right or wrong way to go about playing Infinity, and different groups of players will have different viewpoints on this matter, but this is how myself, Darren and our other regular opponent Adam have all come to really enjoy playing the game and not get bored of it.
“Get to the point Lee, what are the options?” I hear you ask. Well, the way I see it, there are a few. Initially, when people start to learn Infinity, they tend to opt (probably sensibly) for a straight “kill ’em all” approach. This is all well and good, but can skew things a bit as players get more experienced. Not only do many options not come into play (why would you bother taking things like Forward Observers or Minesweeper bots when you could take another grunt with an HMG instead?), but also it can often devolve into a stalemate as one player gets into a good position, sticks everyone on Suppressive Fire and then sits back with a “come at me, bro” face on.
It quickly becomes apparent that Infinity is designed more for mission-style play. The game, as I understand it, began life as an RPG system akin to D&D (which explains the D20s), and so it’s clear the initial vision was for players to be completing objectives and carrying out missions rather than a straight up fight. This is why there are many opportunities to be sneaky (Camo, Hidden Deployment, Aerial Deployment, Impersonators etc) and many ‘narrative-driven’ abilities (Warcors, Hacking, Sepsitors, Engineers etc) which at first can seem a little alien to gamers more used to plain ol’ gun and sword fights (or the “Drive me closer, I want to hit them with my sword” mentality as I like to call it).
YAMS (Yet Another Mission System)
I’ve discussed YAMS many times in previous articles, and with good reason – it’s by far my favourite way to play Infinity. This is truly where the “It’s not your list, it’s you” mantra really shines – it doesn’t matter what you pick, you’ve got a good chance of actually achieving your mission objectives as long as you’re clever with the models you’ve chosen, and you’ll be hard-pressed to pick a list where you’ll get screwed out of being able to win by the mission objectives. Because the objectives are randomly generated (although you have a degree of choice with the ‘draw 6 cards, discard 2’ setup), neither you nor your opponent will know what you’ve got to do before the game, so there’s little you can do in the way of list-tailoring, and the mind-games you can play with your opponent during the game can lead to some really fun situations: “Is my opponent going for the civilian to try and capture him, kill him, or is it a ploy? Is that guy running toward my deployment zone to plant a beacon or is he trying to map it? Is he even going for an objective at all?”
YAMS plays for 4 turns, which gives plenty of room to make a mistake and not have it cost you the game, which means it’s a little more friendly for newer players. It’s also great for pickup games, as neither opponent has had to prepare a list in advance, unlike the ITS and Paradiso missions, which I’ll come to a little later in this post. Time and again we like to play YAMS, because it makes the game interesting – every single game we’ve had is different, and you really get a sense of a story playing out on the tabletop as you play, so this is my number 1 recommendation for playing Infinity on a casual scene.
ITS (Infinity Tournament System)
The ITS missions have been provided by Corvus Belli for use in their ranked Tournament System. It’s a credit to Corvus Belli that they’ve gone this far to support more competitive styles of play, which is something which can’t be said for more widely known games companies. While I do enjoy the odd tournament, I have to say that it’s not my preferred method of play. The Infinity tournament scene in the UK appears to consist of a real bunch of friendly people though, and it’s nice to meet up with other members of the community and have a blast meeting, chatting and playing against them.
The ITS missions are more similar in style to missions from other game systems – the objectives are clearly marked out, and both players are aiming to do the same thing. The big difference with ITS is that you need Specialists to achieve the missions (which might range from searching a supply crate and stealing the contents and holding it until the end of the game, to synchronising multiple consoles scattered around the table, to securing more Antennas than your opponent to name but a few), so there’s a degree of good old-fashioned list building involved in it, which some people love. Thankfully Infinity hasn’t devolved into the spam-fest of other more widely-known systems, and long may that continue to be the case for this game!
There are also straight up firefights and board-control style missions, but their appearance doesn’t have a detrimental affect to the game. The reason for this is that at all ITS events, players are encouraged to bring up to 2 army lists – usually players set these up as 1 list for objective style missions, and another for straight up firefights. These lists might look totally different from each other, or they may simply consist of a slight change in points-values as models become specialists in one list but standard versions in the other. ITS missions also have randomly assigned classified objectives which again require specialists to achieve (succeed at marking a target with a Forward Observer, successfully heal one of your own troops etc).
Also, ITS games have a 3-turn limit, and a very strict policy on ‘Retreat’ – if you put your opponent into retreat, the game ends at the end of their next active turn, regardless of how many turns each of you have played. This helps to stop players from simply going for the first-turn alpha-strike, as if you do that, you’ll likely only get a 0-0 draw or a 1-0 win as you’re unlikely to have achieved any of your mission objectives, so while you may have denied your opponent from scoring any points, you’ll likely only have scored 1 or 2 out of a possible 10 points for that round. The missions encourage you to go for the objectives over the outright annihilation of your opponent (unless you’re playing one of the more ‘killy’ missions like Frontline, Quadrant Control or Annihilation).
It’s because of the requirements to have Specialist Troops in your list that I try to dissuade newer players from playing ITS missions. These kinds of missions should (in my opinion) only really be played while practicing for, or attending an ITS event, as they require a slightly different mind-set and army list to more casual games. If you turn up expecting a casual game and end up playing an ITS mission, it’s likely you’ll be stuck playing for a draw as you’re unlikely to be packing enough (or indeed any) specialists in your list to have a fighting chance.
2012 saw the release of Infinity’s first campaign book – Campaign Paradiso. The missions in this book are certainly very narrative driven, sometimes having different objectives for each force! As a whole, the missions within the book tell of the conflict on the planet Paradiso and the gradual escalation of said conflict, with rules for gaining experience throughout the campaign.
Darren and I have been gradually making our way through the book, although again, it requires a different approach to the game (and a large collection of models we’ve since found out). You’ll need a decent sized collection as your army lists change from mission to mission, and the choice of things you’ll need to bring to complete the missions (be they specialist troops, certain other units with abilities which aid your completion, or even a larger force to take on your opponent’s smaller one). It’s because of the combination of requirements that I can’t recommend Paradiso to newer players – heck, even with my decent selection of PanOceania models, I do feel I need to expand it a little more as our campaign progresses – a good excuse to get more figures, for sure, but not really new-player friendly.
The final option I’d like to discuss is the ‘narrative’ scenario. Going back to Infinity’s RPG roots, these kind of games benefit from having a GM (Games Master) to help run the scenario and take control of any NPCs (non-player characters for those of you not familiar with the term).
The ideas for these kinds of games came come from many places – certain favourite scenes in a book/film/videogame are where I draw my inspiration from. Imagine trying to send in a crack-team of specialists to infiltrate an enemy base and steal something of value, all the while trying to pass themselves off as friendly troops (The Impersonator skill is perfect for this), or perhaps escorting a high-value target through enemy territory, all the while trying to fend off forces intent on capturing this politician/scientist/whatever (Civvie, G:Sync and Stun ammo, anyone?), and many other scenarios. Again, not necessarily new-player friendly, although with a decent GM a new player could be teamed up with more experienced players to help him (or her) learn the ropes. In our little group, we’re also working on some rules for a TAG arena battle, which I know has been around a while to some INfinity veterans, but the rules came across as overly clunky to us, so we’ve ‘videogamed’ (yes, it’s a word, honest guv…) it up a bit to make it faster and funner (again, definitely a word…).
Okay okay, “more fun”, but I was going for comedy value over grammar.
So, in short, I’d strongly advise newer players to check out YAMS by the Wargaming Trader, as I feel it’s the most fun way to play Infinity, both for new players and veterans alike. Leave the ITS missions for those times you’re practicing/honing your list for an ITS event, and when your collection begins to really grow, look at Campaign Paradiso and more narrative scenarios to shake things up a bit.