Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Infinity the Game, 28mm skirmish sci-fi

After playing Corvus Belli's Infinity for several months now, collecting and painting up two armies, playing in two tournaments and racking up more than 20 games of the system, I thought I would summarize my thoughts on the game.

Models: First, the models are overall fantastic.  The variety of figures and sculpts is fantastic and the quality is superb.  My only complaint is the number of pieces for the models is pretty high compared to, say historical, and often the small fins and antennae are too much.  They  are hard to attach and they break off very easily.  I have left a number of them off the models just to avoid the aggravation.  They paint up very nicely.  I recommend checking out the very attractive Infinity website for numerous examples of beautifully painted Infinity models.
Bottom Line: Amazing, if finicky, models. 9/10

My first Yu Jing army

Rules: Infinity has fairly innovative rules.  I won't describe them in detail here as they are downloadable and free on the Infinity website ( , but I will give a quick overview.  Both players have an Active and a Reactive phase each turn.  Unusually, each model contributes an order to the order pool (with some exceptions) and any model can use those orders during the Active phase.  This means you can give a single model all of your orders in your turn, if you wish.  Such a move is called "ramboing" and is risky but can be very successful. When the Active player runs out of orders, it is the other player's Active phase and they get to spend their orders.  The Automatic Reaction Order system allows the Reactive player's models to react to enemy fire or movement each and every time it happens, for free.  Attacks are resolved with face-to-face rolls, where the dice results of the models are compared and the winner inflicts damage.  There are a lot of special abilities which can be complex, but they are fairly standardized over the many armies so they can be learned fairly easily.  By the way, the artwork in all the books is stunning.  Bottom Line: Interesting and innovative rules, if also a bit finicky.  8/10

My Japanese Sectorials prepared for action

Game Play:  First, the game plays quickly.  Most scenarios have 3 or 4 turns and full games can take as little as an hour. This is not as short as it sounds because in each player's phase of each turn both sides can take actions thanks to the ARO mechanic.  The game is quite deadly with most models dying after taking one wound, which is significant when the typical "army" size is 10-14 models.  Armies tend to consist of line troops known as "cheerleaders", heavy or specialist troops, and robot-like combat suits called TAGs (Tactical Assault Gears). These last are remarkably balanced in terms of power and vulnerability.  The disparity in combat power between the Active abilities of most models and their reactive abilities means that a model acting in ARO is typically outmatched.  As an example, in a battle of two identical "cheerleaders", the Active one will get three dice with their Combi-rifle against the reactive one, rolling only one die.  

Usually a player will also maneuver their active model to an advantageous position to ensure a better chance to hit on each die, as well.  This means that whoever can take the most advantage of individual "mismatches" in the game will likely do well.  A typical maneuver would be to put a model with a HMG in a position to tackle several "cheerleaders" one at a time form an advantageous position.  Such a move could see the HMG model eliminate half the enemy army without much of a challenge.  As such, Infinity does feel like a game that is more about the "stars" of each list rather than the list as a whole.  An attempt to fix this issue was made by Corvus Belli when they introduced Link Teams, which make "cheerleaders" a more potent single unit, especially on defense.  Because of the Orders system and the power advantage of the Active models, games can quite often become blow-outs where one side turns a flank or gets just the right angle and mows down most of the opposition.  When this happens it is not particularly fun for either player.   Bottom Line: Very solid game play with a few noticeable quirks.  7/10

My two TAGS exchange a nod from across the table after wiping the board of all enemy models, in a not-uncommon Infinity blowout.

Scenarios:  Infinity did not have an official scenario system for some time.  Many players use Yet Another Mission System (YAMS) to play.  YAMS has players choosing a number of randomly-drawn cards for their missions (say 4 from a hand of 6) and scoring victory points based on those missions.  The upsides to YAMS are its re-playabiity, the secret objectives, and the variety of goals.  In addition, YAMS does a great job of allowing players to win based on objectives even if their army is almost wiped out in the process.  This is quite valuable, as wipe-outs are not uncommon.  The downside to YAMS is that the two sides don't feel like they are interacting because the missions have nothing to do with one another for the most part.  Also, one side's missions can feel disjointed and un-thematic as a result.  Official Infinity scenarios came out in the third book, Campaign Paradiso.  This book includes a number of scenarios of various types.  They tend to be a bit complicated, in my opinion, but are interesting.  Paradiso also includes campaign rules which provide your army and a single character model (known as a Spec Op) development paths from mission to mission.  Finally, Infinity now has Infinity Tournament System Season 4 scenarios, which feels a bit like a compromise between Paradiso-type missions and YAMS.  These are not bad, but some seem quite unbalanced which is terrible for tournament play scenarios.  In addition, there appears to be a powerful first-turn advantage in all systems, likely a result of the cheerleader/power piece dichotomy.  Bottom line: A good variety of scenarios available, but none really hit the spot, and some are truly flawed.  6/10


The Bottom, Bottom Line:  All told, I enjoy Infinity very much.  But I liken the game to a fine candy bar, say a UK-made Cadbury Whole Milk. It's very tasty, but the experience is over quickly and I never feel really satisfied like I've had a good meal.  I think that if the disparity in model power was narrowed somewhat then the "cheerleader" issue, the first turn advantage, and the blow-out potential would all likely be addressed.  But as that would require a complete overhaul of the game stats, I doubt such a change is forthcoming.  

So overall, I give Infinity an 8/10 rounding up my scores for its impressive style and innovation. It's not the perfect sci-fi skirmish game, but it is a damn good one.  


dionysus said...

Where in VA are you located? I'm in Richmond and would not mind expanding my gaming circle.

Certs said...

We're actually up in the DC Beltway at Victory Comics, Falls Church. So that's a little bit of trek up for you (though if you're ever up this way on a Thursday night, we'd be happy to have you in for a visit).

I haven't heard anything from them recently, but about a year ago someone told me that FTW Games, Midlothian down there had a decent-sized Infinity community. Though I'm fairly sure that's the go-to LGS in that area anyways so you're likely more familiar with them than I am.