I’ve mentioned in a recent post I’d be broadening my horizons by experimenting with other gaming systems out there. There’s one gaming system in particular I’ve been itching to try for a while but hadn’t had the means to properly try so far: Infinity!
Produced by Corvus Belli, a Spanish company which I first noticed years ago when I came across their “WarCrow” line of miniatures for RPGs, the Infinity game has been around for a while but it was only in the last couple of years that it has really gathered my attention. A couple of friends in Rio De Janeiro started talking about this game praising not only the quality of the miniatures designed for it but also how much more tactically accurate Infinity was when compared to other wargames.
They talked so much about it, and their comments had been nothing short of “Awesome!” that I felt compelled to check what all that buzz was about so I forked out some cash and purchased a copy of the game’s rulebook. Mind you the rules are available as a free download from the Infinity website, but as a diehard sci-fi fan and a roleplayer at heart I had to check how good the game’s background was as it is always a huge part of a game for me.
I must admit being surprised by how good the gaming system and the background are. The book in itself is a veritable eye candy, as it sports over 200 colored pages and is lavishly illustrated with artwork and photographs of the game’s models. Some friends I’ve discussed the game with have pointed out that the illustrations, and the miniatures in a smaller degree, have a strong manga influence. I didn’t notice it at first, as I’m not a great manga fan, but the games does have a certain manga feel to it but, it is not that big a deal unless you abhor anything closely resembling Japanese comic books.
Set 175 years into our own future the universe of Infinity is, opposed to the grim darkness of the distant future where there is only war, a bright beacon of hope. Humanity has finally freed itself from earth and has colonized the stars; we’ve given birth to Artificial Intelligence and it’s possible to live forever (at least for a select few). To the average citizen humanity is at the apex of our civilization.
But not all is as it seems. Far from the public’s eye the powers that rule the human worlds wage a secret war for dominance and a combined alien force, led by the EI (short for Evolved Intelligence), encroaches the human domains.
I’m trying my best here to summarize 125 pages of background in an interesting way, but you’ll definitely need a copy of the rulebook if you want to soak in all the nuances of the game’s setting. The background section also offers detailed descriptions of each of the human powers, and how they came to exist, and the Combined Army (the aliens) and their respective fighting forces.
Personally I couldn’t have asked for much more as an interesting background. “But what about the rules?” You may be asking yourself. Well, I haven’t had a proper game yet but judging from what I’ve read thus far the game is indeed one of the most tactical games out there.
The first thing to bear in mind is that Infinity is a skirmish game, so forget huge battalions and units involved in spectacular battles. Each game portrays small engagements, covert operations and low intensity conflicts between a few soldiers. This may be a turndown for some but rest assured it doesn’t diminish the game’s brilliance at all.
The game uses some familiar mechanics for those of us already into wargaming like alternate player turns, and building your army with a number of points to pay for the models you choose for it.
What sets Infinity apart are a couple new and interesting gaming mechanics: Orders and Automatic Reaction Orders (or ARO).
During the game players will alternate taking turns in which they get to activate the miniatures of his army using Orders. Each player gets an Order for which miniature he has in his army, thus if you have seven miniatures in your army you’ll get seven Orders in your “Order Pool” to spend on your turn, If your enemy has only four miniatures he only gets four Orders in his “Order Pool” to spend on his turn.
The first thing that got my attention in that Order system is that because of it you can’t make your army using few expensive units (points wise) because that way you won’t generate enough Orders with which to fight in battle. Another interesting thing is that you’re not obliged to activate every single model in your army in your turn. In fact you can use all the Orders available to you to act various times with a single model, but no, that doesn’t mean you get to shoot your entire enemy’s army into oblivion in a single turn if you get the chance.
Remember the second mechanic I mentioned? That’s the beauty of the game and the reason Infinity is being marketed with a slogan which may seem strange for the average wargamer: “It’s always your turn”.
Normally you’d have to wait for your opponent to complete his turn in order to act on the game but that’s not the case with Infinity. In this game, thanks to the ARO mechanic, it’s indeed always your turn. Whenever the active player on a turn (the acting player in any given turn)uses an Order to perform an action with one of his miniatures, his opponent, gets to execute an action (An Automatic Reaction Order – ARO) with each of his miniature that have line of sight to the miniature activated. This action happens at the very same time as the action announced by the active player and not only has the potential to disrupt the active player’s action but also to kill his active model.
“Wow!” Yep, it’s “Wow” indeed. I sounded like that as well, in fact I may have giggled a bit. Evilly. Basically both players will get to roll a dice and if the reactive player (The player who’s using an ARO) wins that roll-off he disrupts the attempted action depending on what his ARO action was.
Sounds complicated? Well I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept the first time I read it as well. Imagine your typical wargame. On your turn you could run in front of your enemy’s models and they wouldn’t do anything ‘cause they’d only get to act on his turn right? That doesn’t happen in Infinity. If you choose to run in front of an enemy model the model gets to react (using an ARO) and could possibly kill your model on your turn preventing you from completing your action.
Let me offer another example: Suppose you will have one of your models throw a grenade through a window to dislodge a hidden enemy (yep, you can do that in this game as well). You announce your action as standing up and throwing a grenade. Your opponent, who has line of sight to your activated model with a sniper declares his ARO will be to shoot your grenadier. Both players will now roll a dice (it’s a 20 sided dice game) and whomever wins (by rolling under the applicable ability value but also higher than the opponent) wins the roll off. If the active player won the sniper shot would miss and he’d complete his action throwing the grenade and then resolving it’s consequences. However, if the sniper had won the roll off, he would not only have interrupted the action, but could possibly kill the active player’s grenadier.
It seems unfair? Well, first remember you’ll also get to act on your enemy’s turn. Now try and picture the tactical implications of that simple mechanic in a game. In order to move for instance, you’ll have to use subterfuge to move around the gaming table without being subject to the enemy’s fire. Solutions like camouflage, crouching while moving, moving on your belly, moving under the cover of smoke grenades all spring to mind right? What if I tell you Infinity offers the opportunity to do all that and much more?
If I was already hooked by the background, the gaming rules were what I needed to take the plunge and I can say that I’m definitely getting into Infinity. I’d like to invite you to keep coming back for more and join me as I explore the possibilities presented by this game, it’s rules, models, and go about collecting and gaming a couple armies of an entirely new gaming system so check back for more on the game soon.
*Update: This review has been featured on Tabletop Gaming News where a fellow gamer left a comment mentioning it was odd to review a game without thaving played it. I realized then I had mentioned having a game on the portuguese version of this text but not on this one so I’m trying to remedy that here. I did play a game (and got to watch a second one) but I would be hardly pressed to call that a proper game. Back in july I visited a wargaming club located in another state (Clube Gaúcho de Wargames in Rio Grande do Sul/Brazil) and there I got to play against a friend what I like to call a “Demo” game (to save some face). I played Infinity as if I was playing 40K and had my Combined Army shot to pieces by his well positioned troops. All in all it was a nice game which served its purpose of introducing the game’s rules. The aim here now will be to chronicle my efforts in starting in a new game (and all its associated steps) and if you feel like sharing the journey do tag along. I believe it’s going to be a great ride!