Thursday, 24 December 2015

Infinite possibilities; Part 1

Hello everyone, and welcome to my first article on Infinity, the Sci-Fi Skirmish game by Corvus Belli.

I plan on writing a series of articles on Infinity to track my progress as I assemble an army, learn to play, pick up/ drop models and steadily progress from a casual player into something more well rounded.

To start off with though, I'll do a quick summary on what Infinity is, the Infinity Universe, the great aspects of the game, and how I started playing Infinity, a selection of the models I own, finishing up with what I plan to do in the future.

So let's dive in!

What is Infinity?


Infinity is a 28mm skirmish game set in a fantasy future approximately 200 years ahead of our own. The game recreates the high-stakes black operations fought between the different powers as they look to steal or destroy resources and technology, or secure territories, that would see one faction assume dominance. Games are typically played using 10-20 models per side, and uses a fast, deep and dynamic D20 system. The model design and art style of Infinity is very anime-themed, leading to a clean and sharp futuristic style to the world.



The Infinity Universe

The Infinity universe is set in a world very different to our own. Euro-American capitalism failed, plunging the world into economic turmoil. A number of new powers have arisen to fill the vacuum, and mankind has taken to the stars to begin colonising a number of star systems and establishing what is collectively known as the Human Sphere.
There are 5 main human powers within the Human Sphere; PanOceania, Yu Jing, Haqqislam, Ariadna and Nomads. In addition to these five human factions there are also the ALEPH, the Tohaa and the Combined Army.

PanOceania are the largest and most prosperous of humanities nations. The hyperpower was born from the union of Australia, New Zealand, India, the Phillipines, Chilie and Brazil. Culturally, PanOceania contains elements of all the nations and this comes through in their military organisation, and by extension their model design. PanOceania is also the home of the Catholic Church, which plays a far more dominant role in military organisation than it does today. Many of the Knightly Orders have been bought to life within PanOceania, leading to some fantastic knightly models!
Taken from http://infinitythegame.com/article.php?id=125, a terrific example of a knight-themed Infinity Army.

PanOceania also boast the most advanced Tactical Armoured Gear (TAG) technology, the technology used to make the amazing battlefield walkers seen in the Infinity universe. This allows them access to some amazing walkers, like the Seraph pictured above (a TAG that's also a Knight... YES!).

Their biggest rivals withing the Human Sphere are Yu Jing (pronounced Yu Cheng). Yu Jing represents the Pan-East Asian faction within Infinity; a hyperpower built from China, North and South Korea, Japan, Tailand, Mongolia, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Taiwan. Yu Jing politically and culturally strive to achieve a perfect balance between tradition and advancement. In order to unify their nation and solidify their cultural heritage the Yu Jing reinstated the Old Emperor, giving him universal control over the judiciary and the courts, whilst the politicians remain in control of the internal, foreign and economic policies. Yu Jing aesthetics favour that of historical China - their ornate armor stylised to look more draconic/ leonin. Within Yu Jing the Japanese are the most resistant to joining the Empire, and still retain much of their cultural heritage and aesthetics. Which, of course, means space Samurai...
Space Samurai... nuff said really!

The Yu Jing pride themselves on their Heavy Armour manufacture and technology, and so boast the highest number of heavy infantry within the game. Expensive units in terms of points, but hardy and well trained; an elite army if ever there was one!

Haqqislam is the third of the larger powers within the Human Sphere. Haqqislam, or New Islam, was developed by a single man with a single vision; an Islamic nation where western prosperity and wealth could be achieved without compromising his religious tenants. Haqqislamic society focuses on two main tenants; Science and Philosophy. The universal access to knowledge is a central pillar within Haqqislamic society, and it ensures their people continue to grow and develop. As a result, Haqqislam boast the strongest medical research facilities within the Human Sphere, and their skills and schools are highly sought after. Their military, whilst not as technologically advanced as the rest of the human sphere, is the largest of all the nations, focusing on large numbers of highly trained light infantry. As a result, players of Haqqislam typically have access to more models on the table than many other factions, should they chose to build the army this way. Haqqislam also gain access to the best field medics in the game, so their models will keep getting up unless you put them down hard.
Taken from http://infinitythegame.com/article.php?id=96. At a recent tournament a Haqqislam army won with a phenomenal 20 models in the force... I've struggled to build a functioning Yu Jing army with more than 12... strength in numbers! 

The fourth big player with the Human Sphere are the Nomads. The Nomads are the people that have openly rejected 'normal' civilisation, choosing instead to pursue another more esoteric or unsavoury lifestyle. The Nomads are split across three massive ships that sail the stars selling their skills and resources to whoever can pay; Tunguska, Corregidor and Bakunin. Tunguska specialises in info-war and cyber-security. It boasts the best AI programmers, and hackers, within the Human Sphere. It's members are often employed to encrypt information and transport it across the Human Sphere, normally for illicit purposes. Corregidor specialises in manpower. Having spent their entire lives within the vacuum of space, it's citizens are adept are working within zero-G environments, and are often contracted out by other nations to help in zero-G construction. In order to protect its citizens, Corregidor sends a highly trained security detail with any worker force. These soldiers are some of the paid mercenaries within the Human Sphere, are are often contracted to perform jobs by non-Nomad groups. Bakunin, the ship, is made up of dozens upon dozens of different hab-pods, each one home to a different group of fanatics. There is one rule on Bakunin - keep it to you pod. As long as the citizens keep whatever esoteric beliefs or practices they follow to themselves the ship will continue to allow it. Within Bakunin you can find any number of disgraced scientists willing to push the boundries of medical science, or religious fanatics willing to fight and die for their cause.
The diversity of the Nomad nation leads to a massively diverse play style and model range, making them one of the most appealing armies to collect.
 
Taken from the Corvus Belli webstore: The Nomad starter set contains a mix of models from the three factions, illustrating the diversity in the models.

Ariadna are the fifth and final human faction within the Human Sphere. The Ariadna was the first space ship to leave earth to discover distant planets - the combined effort of a America and Europe during the final days of their power. Interstellar travel in Infinity is achieved via stable wormholes, and the Ariadna was the first of it's kind to traverse one of these wormholes. Whilst the mission was a success, the wormhole collapsed behind the Ariadna (without their knowledge), leaving the crew stranded on their new homeworld. The descendants of the Ariadna have recently been rediscovered, and they have been tentatively welcomed back into the Human Sphere. Technologically primitive compared to the other nations, the Ariadna are the most "modern" looking army (by our standards) and have access to lots of cheap, well trained infantry, as well as some awesome looking 'werewolves'! Ariadna can be divided into four camps; French, Kosak, Scottish and America, and their model range represents this, allowing for some amazing models. The recently released USAriadna set is a perfect starting army for those that want to play, giving you a decent sized army in one purchase.
Taken form the Corvus Belli Webstore. The USAriadna set comes with a little bit of everything Infinity has to offer - Dog Soldiers, Bikers, Light and Heavy Infantry... what more do you need!

The Ariadna home world, Hope, is the scene for many conflicts within the Infinity Universe, allowing the human nations to fight against one another on a 'neutral' territory away from the jurisdiction of the courts and intergalactic community.

The main antagonist of the Infinity universe are the Combined Army (CA), controlled by an insidious AI known as the Evolved Intelligence (EI). The combined army are a plague, spreading across the stars looking to bring more and more races under the control of their AI masters, and humanity are next! There are two main races within the Combined Army range; the Morats and the Shasvastii. The Morats are hulking brutes that thrive of warfare, and form the spearhead of Combined Army Assaults. The Shasvastii are a chameleonic race able to rapidly change their size and shape, making for the perfect infiltration units. The Combined Army also make use of a number of other races equally as dangerous as these two to persecute their wars against humanity. The combined army model range are vastly different to the human models, being distinctly alien and exceptionally technologically advanced.

Taken form the Corvus Belli Webstore. The Combined Army starter set looks visually distinct form all the human factions, and contained two alien races and a number of cyborg drones made from less war-like species... 

The EI have established a small beachhead within the Human Sphere on the planet of Paradiso, and most of the fighting against the EI happens across that world. Humanity has two distinct, non-human allies to help in the fight against the EI - the Aleph and the Tohaa.

PanOceania, Yu Jing and Haqqislam society is intrinsically linked together by an AI system known as ALEPH; it regulates and controls the massive amount of data shared between the three powers, including the media, the internet, stock exchange and banking records, police reports, cultural exports (like books, songs, films, etc), as well as the vast amount of information needed for interstellar movement and trade between the nations. In order to safeguard it's assets, ALEPH has created a small security force for itself, made primarily of remote drones controlled by the AI itself. In the light of the EI invasion of the Human Sphere, ALEPH has taken a more active role within the defense of Humanity. Using advanced Haqqislam medical technologies, ALEPH has created a number of artificial human bodies and installed heroic personalities within them to help persecute the war. Known as the Steel Phallanx, these soldiers look human, despite their artificial origins, and take the fight directly to the EI across Paradiso. ALEPH models have a very distinct aesthetic compared to the rest of the Human Sphere armies; sleek, stylish and very sci-fi.

Taken from the Corvus Belli webstore. The 'hero's of humanity, the Steel Phalanx take the fight to the EI on Paradiso. These models are hard as nails, and utterly unforgiving in a firefight.

Last, but by no means least, are the Tohaa. The Tohaa are an advanced, space-faring civilisation that came to humanity to offer assistance in fighting against the EI. The Tohaa have been at war with the EI for many years after half their race fell to the nefarious AI. The Tohaa are masters of Biotechnology, and use all manner of biological and viral weapons to persecute their wars. As such, they look very different to all the other races within the Human Sphere, partly thanks to the vibrant colour palette they tend to be painted in.

Visually distinct to the rest of the Infinity, the Tohaa are one of the newest factions to infinity and so have a number of interesting rules to make them fun and challenging to play. 

Why play Infinity?

Infinity is the best tabletop game I have ever played. Now, a good friend of mine once quoted a younger version of me saying the exact same thing about Warhammer 40,000, so I'm going to elaborate on that a bit!

Infinity has a great universe - A lot of games out there use gothic sci-fi, steam-punk, diesel-punk, modern, fantasy, etc settings as their 'universe' of choice, many of which represent dystopian pasts/ futures/ presents/ alternate worlds, etc. The Human Sphere is a very bright, vibrant and successful future - mankind stands at the height of it's technology and power. It is also, relatively, peaceful, with most citizens living in comfort and working fulfilling lives to enhance the successes of their society. That being said, it is not a boring universe. Violence is everywhere, it's just isolated to hotspots within the Human Sphere. Hope and Paradiso are two of the major hot-spots between the factions of Infinity, but black operations happen at any number of facilities within the universe that happen off the official record, and it's these conflicts that you recreate throughout the game.  

Infinity has great rules - As a predominantly sci-fi game, Infinity is mostly about shooting (and I have read other blogs which compare it to playing a multiplayer first-person shooter) but the way you go about it is radically different to many other games. Infinity is based around a D20 system, and every dice roll you make needs to fall below a certain number (between 1-20) in order to succeed. The exact number you need to roll is usually modified by special rules, equipment, range and cover, making certain shots harder/ easier depending on the scenario. What sets Infinity apart from other games is that the non-active player (the player who does not have the active turn) is able to react to every action their opponent makes. You want to shoot me? Fine - but I'll be shooting back simultaneously. Where two dice rolls interact with each other (i.e. you shoot me, I shoot back) the dice roll become a dice-off. The game tactics revolve around ensuring that, even on reactive dice rolls, you maximize you positive modifiers whilst forcing you opponent to roll dice with negative modifiers. Add into that a diverse array of actions and equipment that would put most RPG's to shame and you end up with an incredibly diverse and tactical game.
Oh, and best of all? They're free online!

Infinity has a great support network - I see Infinity as a kind of 'Magic: The Gathering' for tabletop gaming. Corvus Belli have a thorough tournament pack, known as the ITS (or Infinity Tournament System) that allows you to very easily run tournaments from anywhere. If you follow the rules you can even enter the tournament results into their ITS database to keep track of your Infinity world rankings. To ensure that the Infinity scene is constantly up to date, Corvus Belli also make use of a free online army builder app that is kept pretty up to date with model equipment and points costs, which has recently been hyperlinked to allow you to instantly interrogate their Wikipedia page for rules queries.... Amazing!

Infinity has great models - The Infinity models are amazing. Maybe I'm biased because they're very anime-inspired, but I think they're some of the best models around. They're not perfect... especially some of the older designs, but the updated versions of the newer models speak for themselves! The Image below shows that - the old Guija (a TAG for the Yu Jing) with it's modern equivalent... a stunning transformation.
Now that's what I call a makeover!!

One of the more interesting elements of the ITS system is that, where possible, an official Corvus Belli miniature must be used to represent the model in question. Since the models are all white metal, it means you're kind of restricted in using the Corvus Belli model only, and it makes conversions relatively challenging. That being said, if you like the models (like me) it's only a problem when you're trying to field a unit that doesn't yet have a model option.

Infinity has a low model count - this one probably cuts both ways - if you like having BIG armies then Infinity probably isn't your thing. For ITS level games, 10 models is a recommended minimum, with 12-16 more normal from what I've seen. Obviously it depends on your army, but low model counts make the game cheaper to start, cheaper to collect, and much less time consuming to paint up (for those of us that sometimes find it difficult to find time to hobby in). That being said, it's not like the armies are small...

Infinity has a huge range of models - despite my previous point, Infinity does have an insane range of models at it's disposal, which means you can have a huge collection and only draw on small elements of it for your games. When you build your army you can chose, for most factions, to either field a Vanilla list and have access to everything, or play a sectorial list and get certain benefits at the expense of limited unit choice. This means that there's a can be some redundancy in rules between models within a faction (i.e. two medics with very similar rules/ points costs) as they're open to different types of sectorial within the same faction. This also opens up the game from only 8 factions to about 15 including sectorials, which will play differently to their vanilla counterparts. 

It's not about your list - this is probably the main reason I love Infinity. Every blog I've read, forum post I've seen and person I've spoken to has said that it's not the list you write, but HOW you play it. Infinity is a game that revolves around objectives, and if you build a list that isn't suited to the mission objectives you will probably lose (and this is even accounted for within the ITS system by allowing players two army lists, within the same army, at tournaments). Learning the game, the rules, the strengths and weaknesses of your units and then putting that into practice on the board is the most important part, not taking broken unit X or Y. There are, of course, optimised lists designed by the best players around, but there doesn't seem to be 1 army list per faction that you must play. Find a style that suits you a roll with it!

How did I start playing?

As I've said in a previous blog post, 2014 and 2015 were kind of absent years for me in terms of gaming. I was doing a lot of writing, either for Prodos or Wordforge, and had fallen into a kind of post-40k Limbo. My local gaming community were playing a lot of MTG, and I ended up buying a lot of different games.
I can't remember what it was that turned me on to Infinity, but I remember being stuck by the beauty, and brilliant price, of the Operation: Icestorm set.

Operation: Icestorm - two armies, rules, templates, tokens, a battle mat and scenery all for £70... just just my money!

I ordered the set direct from Corvus Belli, and set about reading the rules online. A little later on I ended up picking up the full rules and fluff from Wayland Games at Salute 2014, along with some more Nomads to enhance my collection (despite not having a regular gaming partner at this point!).
At the time, just painting them was enough - and I was particularly enamored with the Iguana (a nomad TAG).
I dabbled a little in the game, but it never saw a big uptake in my old club.

After moving to Cambridge, things changed. An old friend of mine from University was living in Cambridge, and Infinity was his main game. He introduced me to one or two players from one of the local clubs, which made me think about getting into it. Then I went to my new local club and started talking to a few guys that had just looked into the game.
One of the guys had just bought the USAriadna starter, and was waiting on delivery. The other two each had just bought Nomads and PanOceania, and were looking at learning the game. My old uni friend played Haqqislam, and me (being me) wanted to play something no-one else played... so began my time as a member of the Jade Empire! I've been playing the game now for 6 months and still love it as much as day one!

Medge's Yu Jing - a small slice of the Jade Empire

My Yu Jing army currently stands at a few hundred points. I started off with the Yu Jing Sectorial Starter set for the Imperial Service, any my army has kind of expanded from there, as you can see below.
My small slice of the Jade Empire!

What's coming next?
Over the coming months I'll write up a few posts talking about why I've bought each model, and how I see it performing for my army, as well as review what I've found it can do. I'll also do the same for my PanOceania and Nomads that I got from the Icestorm set. I'll also talk a little about how I've painted them, and any basing and modelling choices I've made.

But that's it for me for now. So until next time, happy hobby!

Medge