Battleshed Diaries

Sunday 18 October 2015

Journey to The Human Sphere

Another week, another new system!  This time I've been off down a worm hole 175 years in the future, travelling to another galaxy to compete with other human and alien factions for technology, resources and an excuse to deploy exotic weaponry from a huge futuristic arsenal. This is Infinity!

So, what's it all about? Infinity is a D20, small squad, 28mm SF skirmish system from Corvus Belli, first published way back in 2005. Since then it has developed a substantial fan base and is currently on it's third edition (N3), with a number of expansions including a campaign and tournament system and supported by a comprehensive fan Wiki. There is even a Kickstarter for an official role-playing version.

Good so far, so what else? How about this - the complete set of rules (all 258 pages of them!), basic quick start rules, charts, lists, marker templates and just about everything you need to play are FREE TO DOWNLOAD from the official site. You only need some D20 dice, a tape measure and a handful of miniatures.

Want more? How about an exquisite free army builder (Army v5) on the Infinity site which produces your squad roster complete with all the relevant stats for the soldiers, kit and weaponry. Brilliant!

Example of a squad roster from the free Infinity Army builder
I must admit, somehow Infinity had managed to hide from my gaming radar, so when I was enthusiastically invited to try a game by local club members, I was very pleasantly surprised that I'd missed this game. Indeed, there is quite a growing following down at Livingston Battleground.

Even I had noticed some of the members performing what could only be described as a kind of 'gaming yoga' as they crouch precariously over a futuristic cityscape table, squinting down model streets and from elevated terrain positions to establish Lion Of Sight. This game is physical!

What are the mechanics? It's noticeable when you first start to play that Infinity is very quick, and very brutal. It has a relatively simple gaming mechanic, which will be familiar to skirmish gamers. Roll under your ballistic skill to score a hit, roll above your armour to make a save, after various modifiers of course!

I love that I have to roll low to get a hit. It's a system made just for me! I'm notorious for rolling low. I can almost roll Snake Eyes at will. I get very excited when a roll anything over a 4. I've finally found a system that's favourable to my squad actually hitting something. As long as they aren't hit back!

Crucially though, the game centres around Line of Sight and Automatic Reaction Orders (ARO), whereby all opposing miniatures react simultaneously after enemy activation - if they have LoS on any enemy miniature. If you can see it, you can shoot at it! It gets very messy, fast!

Trust me, you cannot afford to allow yourself to be distracted whist your opponent is issuing orders to an active soldier - if you miss an opportunity to declare an ARO, tough! For this skirmish system, miniature facing is important, with a 180 degree front LoS arc, so it's possible to steal a rear attack on an unsuspecting enemy.

Its D20 based, where you have a number of Orders available equal to the amount of miniatures in your squad. Lose a miniature, lose an Order. Your Order pool dwindles as you take casualties. What's more, you can allocate as many orders as you like to each squad members, so you could have your future Rambo-cyborg sent on a deadly rampage, if that's your thing!

Each solder in your squad comes with his or her personal set of attributes covering all the usual suspects - movement, ballistic skill, close combat, physique, willpower, armour, wounds etc plus special skills, specialist roles and squad availability. All handled by the Army Builder, if you don't want to do the classic pen and paper roster. 

The main rules come with extensive lists of weaponry, skills, kit and Orders providing a massive amount of diversity for squad design. Although this task is made all the easier by the fact that you choose a fully kitted and pre-defined soldier complete with its associated points cost to slot into your squad, rather than having to design each soldier individually. 

You have Tactical Armoured Gear (TAG), semi-autonomous remotes (REM), Hackers, Line troops, Garrison troops, vehicles, alien factions with devilishly exotic weapons, drop-ship deployments bio-weapons, AI armies - the list goes on!

Typical games are 300 points, with around a dozen or so miniatures. I started with a simple 100 point squad whilst I got to grips with the game, and found some games were taking less than 30 minutes to play!  The game, like many with a Reaction system, can swing back and forth, and with Infinity it's crucial that opponents get their initial deployments right.

What about the factions, terrain and miniatures? The collective name for the group of star systems inhabited by humans is The Human Sphere. There are eleven of these systems: Earth, Neoterra, Acontecimento, Varuna, Yu Jing, Bourak, Concilium, Svalarheima, Paradiso, Human Edge, and Dawn.

Within these, you have a huge variety of factions to choose from, each bringing different skills and weaponry to the fight. It's a complex back-story and frankly I was totally absorbed just experimenting with the possibilities on the Army builder. Which explains why there is an RPG on the way.

Of course, there is a comprehensive range of miniatures supporting Infinity as well as card based terrain. Indeed, terrain is key to this game as having an environment where there is plenty of cover is essential to a game with LoS at its core. 

Whist I'm still very new to the game, I've been using some generic SF miniatures I acquired at a show some years ago, which are now acting as my Pan Oceania Fusiliers.

So what's next? I've played about a dozen games now since my first test game only a couple of days ago. All with 100 point list so far, and using the Basic rules. Now I have a good idea of the system I'm at the stage of designing my first 'proper' squads, with increasing points costs.

I've rarely indulged in many SF squad based skirmish games (although a massive Science Fiction fan), mostly due to availability of players locally. If I'm not likely to get a regular game, then I'm reluctant to invest in a rule set.

I had hoped Urban War would have filled the gap, but it never quite took off at my local club. Warmachine I did play regularly, however that was a system that never quite clicked with me. Which probably explains my woeful amount of wins.

Infinity, though, has definitely taken me by surprise. And no doubt I'll be posting a few Battle Reports in the months ahead. In the meantime, I highly recommend at visit to the official Infinity web site.

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