Friday, October 31, 2014

Infinity: Gameplay Thoughts and Impressions

I'd like to follow-up to my last article on Infinity with a bit about the gameplay itself, and why I find it so refreshing as a system. Let's be honest though, all I've played for the past 12 years is GW games, and before that it was Classic Battletech from FASA. So anything new would technically be termed "refreshing". However, I feel Infinity brings a truer sense of the word in it's gameplay and nuances.

No, I'm not going to break with tradition and start writing Battle Reports on this blog. At least not yet.

Let me also say that I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow of every little thing that could happen within a game. Not only would that turn this into a small novella, especially with every combination possible, but you'd be bored less than halfway through. This article is meant to give you a feel for what it's like playing the game, the atmosphere and the pace of it all from list building to dice rolling.

List Building

We've all heard the terms "Math-hammer" and "Theory-hammer" when it comes to building lists for 40K and Fantasy. These terms were created for a reason, and we're all guilty of it. How to maximize your list in math and theory so that you get the most out of the points you are using for each unit. While there is a fair amount of number-crunching that goes along with Infinity, there is also a mantra among the community that says, "It's not your list, it's you." The core of this premise is that you can take nearly anything you want, it's all in the way you use it. Sure, in missions you need to make sure you have specialist troops to handle objectives (more on this later), but that's really it. Learn to play the game, not the imagined uber-model. Another key part of lists and list building is that you don't actually share your list with your opponent. Once they are checked off by the TO, your list is not shown to your opponent, so there is some nuance and secrecy involved. Sure, you may have 8 models on the field, but you also have 4 camouflage tokens as well…and your opponent doesn't know what those tokens represent.

Table Setup

To begin with, while this game is played on a 4x4 table, the terrain needed for it is intense. There is more terrain on a single 4x4 table for Infinity than on three 6x4 tables for 40K. What this does is give an amazingly cinematic feel to the table, as well as a completely functional aspect for cover and broken fire lanes. The table is also set up asymmetrically, and before the players arrive at the table. This means there is one side that has a clear advantage over the other when it comes to the terrain. Now this may not be a drastically huge advantage, but it is enough of one to give pause when choosing the side of the table you want to play on. That's a clearly different aspect than other games, and makes you think tactically from the start, especially if you win the set-up roll. Now the word on the street for the upcoming 3rd Ed. of the game is that Corvus Belli will have suggested terrain amounts per mission, points level, etc., but that doesn't change the above statements as far as setup goes.

Gameplay / Turns

This is going to be a longer section as I needed to lump these two together because one heavily influences the other. In standard ITS (tournament) missions, there is a hard 3-turn limit to the games. This short window to accomplish your mission limits the amount of actions you have available to you, called orders, and will force your hand to play towards accomplishing your mission objectives as well as your secondary objectives. That doesn't mean that you play recklessly, but it does encourage you to make every decision count. For each model you have on the field, you get one order to your pool of orders. (I'm going to leave out the Lt. Order for now, because N3 changes how this Lieutenant Order works drastically) That doesn't mean that each model can only do one thing and it's done, you can spend more than one order on a single figure and often you will. You need to use orders to move, shoot, heal, repair and "use" an objective to score it for the mission at hand. Again, thinking tactically about your order usage is important.

The next, and biggest, part of your turn in gameplay is another mantra of the community, "It's always your turn." Each gameplay turn is split into two parts for each player. An "Active" turn in which you spend your orders to do various things, and a "Reactive" turn in which you are literally reacting to your opponent spending their orders. When your opponent activates a model, makes it do something, with an order that one of your models has line of sight to, you get to react to it. Typically this is done by taking a reactionary shot with whatever weapon your model has. This is why "It's always your turn". Unlike other games where once your turn is over, you can kick back and not do anything until combat ensues, in Infinity you have to pay attention to what's going on, where your models are in relation to your opponent's models, etc. It sounds complicated and burdensome, but I promise you it's not. It actually helps games fly by and keeps each player engaged in the game. I'm leaving quite a bit out when it comes to all the individual rules and nuances, but I think this gives you a solid feel for the game.

Dice Rolling

Could this go into the previous section? Maybe, but it was already getting pretty long. I'll hit two main topics here, the dice themselves, and what's called a face-to-face roll. The dice used for Infinity are 20-sided dice, and you really only need 5. Its a refreshing change from rolling buckets of 6-siders and refraining from yelling "Yahtzee!", as well as it allows a much broader and detailed stats and range for models within the game. It actually makes the game easier to balance, and keep balanced, with a 1-to-20 base system than a 1-to-6 base system. The face-to-face rolls are what happen when your model is doing "something" to an opponent's model. When you both roll, if your opponent wins the roll, it actually cancels out one or more of your successes! This keeps the game in an action/reaction style of play and continues to keep it engaging.

Mission Objectives

There are two main types of mission objectives; Primary and Secondaries. Primaries are exactly as they sound in that the mission itself dictates what you need to do to score those points. Secondaries, however, are rolled for on your choice of 4 charts, you get two total, you write them down on the game scoring sheet, and are actually kept secret from your opponent. During the course of the game, your try and accomplish these secondary objectives without your opponent knowing which ones you have until you accomplish them. And you want to accomplish them if you can, trust me. Secondaries can and have won games before.

Whew! That was a long one. If you're still with me at this point, either you already like Infinity, or I've actually piqued your interest enough to hopefully give it a shot! I'll be going into further details about the community and more in the next few weeks.

So what do you think? Interested?

- Tim



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