Into the Infinity of Thoughts – Part Two

Continuing our look at Infinity and it’s newly released Operation: Icestorm starter set, OC takes his first steps into Corvus Belli’s universe and writes about his thoughts on the boxed set and his first experiences of playing the game.

The Operation: Icestorm set.

14 Til’ Infinity

As you may know, few things stop me spending money on boxes and blister packs of plastic and metal toys, but in the past a few things had put me off getting into Infinity. While the near impenetrable complexity of it’s vernacular (Sectorials, Tohaa, Reverend Moiras) was a stumbling block initially, the main issue I had was the aesthetics and design of the models. A few cultural milestones like Akira and Ghost in the Shell aside, anime has never been something I’ve overly immersed myself in, and I find many of the aesthetics commonly associated with it quite distasteful, and on the whole, seeing those aspects carried over into model design very unappetizing. Observe:


Now, hopefully if you are reading this blog, I don’t need to explain why the concept of “sexy wargaming minatures” is totally abhorrent, and if you genuinely aren’t sure, perhaps Corehammer isn’t the website for you. So as Infinity approaches it’s third edition (which Operation Icestorm is the first part of), have Corvus Belli rectified this? Err, not entirely, sadly. As “gamergate” is currently showing, there are some fundamental issues in nerd culture involving the objectification of women that I sadly feel won’t be going away any time soon.

The release of Operation Icestorm has at least dealt with my first issue, in that it provides an easy jump in point, with everything you need to play a game of Infinity. Well, kind of. While the box does contain, the models, scenery, tokens, templates and D20 dice you require, the rule book only contains a set of starter scenarios that gradually introduce a basic set of rules that allow you to play starter Infinity. This was one of the things that initially disappointed me in the box. While the full rules are available for free on the website, flicking unfamiliar pages of text on an iPad in the middle of a game isn’t going to be particularly conducive to it’s flow. Even the evil empire of Games Workshop include the full rules (minus army lists) in their starter boxes like Sanctus Reach and Dark Vengeance.

The box itself also had a few other disappointments, in that the quality of the included materials was disappointingly poor. The gaming mat is a poster, the card used for the buildings is barely cereal box quality in thickness and the templates and counters are printed on even thinner card that will unlikely suffer more duress than a single play through the starter campaign (indeed, when packing the buildings away for transport before my first game, I managed to drop one of them and in the act of catching it ripped the tab that holds the roof up clean off). When you look around at the boxes produced by the competition (hard plastic templates from GW, a mousemat material playmat and hard plastic buildings from Mantic in Deadzone, thick card counters in Fantasy Flight games and Space Hulk), you can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. The bright almost neon aesthetics of the buildings are eye-catching and a far cry from the dour grey futures we normally battle in, and you get this feeling it could have been so much more.

While the 64 page rulebook is nicely layed out, again, there is a pang of disenchantment when you realise that half of it is the exact same rules and passages, but in Spanish. It does at least give you an introduction to the factions in Infinity, and include a nicely structure narrative led campaign that as I mentioned earlier, gradually introduces new aspects of the starter ruleset mission by mission. This is a great approach, and one I’ve enjoyed since the 2nd Edition of 40K, but even once you’ve played it, you still wouldn’t be able to play a full game of Infinity, or be familiar with whole sections of the rules (such as hacking), which I can’t help but feel could be improved upon.

The models themselves, sexiness aside, were actually very impressive. As far as i’m aware the recent trend for Infinity sculpts has been a move away from oversized guns into more realistic and seriously proportioned models, which can only be a good thing. They are characterful sculpts and feel quite unique compared to the more generic approaches of a lot of other companies. Again though, only including 15 troops in a £75 boxset (or 14 once the limited initial run is gone) is something that GW would get crucified for. I get that you need less for a game, but does that really make it ok? The models are well cast and assemble surprisingly easy (fiddly helmet antennae, and a knife blade I mistook for flash aside) for their spindly nature, thanks to a clever use of triangle sockets, which takes away the frustrating guesswork of whether components will line up.

Bit of flash or original knife this Spektr came with? I’m pretending not to care.

So in summation, while there really are a lot of things I like about this boxed set, it didn’t blow me away either, there were just too many areas that I felt below the levels I have come to expect. Wayland Games said that the pre-order sales for O:I were some of the largest they have ever seen outside of a GW product, and the launch was delayed by a few weeks to enable to Corvus Belli to manufacture more. I get the feeling that as a small company they had to play it safe with their costings, whereas if they’d been able to invest more initially, they could have ended up with something up there with the best.

Calculating Infinity

So that aside, is it actually any good? Me and my fellow Corehammer colleague Mark Boardman gave it a run through at Firestorm Games to see what it was like.

OC, as fragile and spindly as an Infinity model, sets up the first game.

I’ve seen references to X-Com in how it plays by allocating order points to individual troops that enable them to move and or fire, but I think video games like Gears of War have to be referenced to as cover is absolutely paramount. During our first game I thought it might be a good idea to achieve fire superiority by getting two of my Nomad troops up onto the roof of a shipping container to counter the one of Boardman’s. Alas, as my dudes weren’t in cover (which bestows both a negative affect on your enemy’s to hit roll, and positive effect on your own armour save), they were quickly removed from play.

The vantage point turned out to be a disadvantage.

We found the speed of the game pretty fast, the basic one wound troops died pretty quickly, and I think that impacted on our decisions for the next game, where as you can see a more cautious approach led to my troops covering eachother from supporting positions while hugging the cover.

The work of a tactical genius.

Even as highly seasoned gamers, we found some of the rules and their descriptions confusing, and our first game took about three or four times as long as it should as we struggled with the wording. This reached a zenith in the face-to-face shooting rules, where shooting at a model that can see you allows you to shoot back, and various combinations of dice being higher/lower can cause them to cancel other dice. Once we finally had settled on an interpretation (that cancelled dices set off a chain reaction meaning that they can’t cancel other dices themselves), we recieved a message from Duggan informing us it was actually the other way around.

The other aspect of the rules that I found most challenging was that the dice rolls varied almost randomly between rolling over or rolling under various stats, which when you were applying a series of modifiers routinely meant we had to start again and follow everything through a bit slower. I imagine this improves with familiarity though.By the time we played our second game, things were running a lot smoother, and as mentioned, we had a better grasp of the tactics. The terrain contained in the box was well suited to balancing a characterful environment while presenting a functional gaming environment with fire alleys and high areas you could dominate from. The cover also led to you having to keep in mind where obscured models were, as Boardie found out after he killed one of my Alguaciles from behind, only to find himself being shot in the back in my following turn.

The smug PanO fusilier about to get his comeuppance.

Once we had the basic mechanics of the game down, we had a real blast playing it. It doesn’t play as smoothly or as intuitively as our current favourite X-Wing, but it does present a different tactical challenge to other skirmish games, that forces you to think, perhaps in a similar way to X-Wing, more realistically about what could happen in the future. Your models are very fragile (both in and out of the game), so one mistake could lead to half your team being taken down in a turn, so not allowing someone to appear behind you after outflanking your team is vital.

Calculated Infinity

So after my initial disappointments, i’ve got to say I really enjoyed playing the game, and have pre-ordered the N3 rulebook for it’s release at the end of the year so that I can get further into it’s world. I’m still not keen on a lot of the model designs and aesthetics (and confused about which ones can go in which factions), but if I’m being honest, anything that stops me buying more models is a positive. Would I recommend the game to others? Yes, but with the hesitance, as it’s a big investment for what you actually get compared to other systems’ starters. Well, and that some of the models are “sexy”.

This entry was posted in Gaming, Infinity, Model Review, Reviews by OC. Bookmark the permalink.

About OC

As well as being a veteran edgeman, part of Atonement Records and bass player in bands such as Ironclad, Ark of the Covenant and Natural Order, OC has an unfortunate penchant for collecting plastic models that come in shiny boxes, such as Warhammer models and Lego, and an even more unfortunate tendency for procrastination, meaning much of their contents never see the light of day.

5 thoughts on “Into the Infinity of Thoughts – Part Two

  1. I like that the Core are starting to get behind this game and getting the word out about Infinity. Mr Beech turned me on to this a couple years back and I love the play style, figure ranges and universe.

    Figuring out factions is really simple with a visit to their site – The miniatures are arranged by faction and they have a free army builder that lets you further refine them. e.g. the Combined Army are made up of a bunch of different races so can be fielded as such or you can specialize in just the Shasvastill or Morat races within it.

    The game is highly stylised and draws influence from Anime and Manga styles. Anyone who grew up watching Voltron, Appleseed, Ghost In The Shell, Gundam Wing, etc will feel drawn to the sleek mechs and near future look. Both you and Dug’s mention the sexiness of the sculpts and yes some of the styling could be branded as overly sexy but so could every anatomically perfect cadian, spacemarine, vindicare assassin, wardancer etc etc and are just as sexual if you like that sort of thing. (Damnnnnn look at those six packs!)

    Within the range are pieces like the bust you highlighted, which is actually drawing on a mix of WWII pin up and Manga as its styling for a collectors piece, but most of the ranges female models are just versions of the males, for example.
    Guys & girls in the same anatomical armour.

    Having female variants should actually be a empowerment and positive factor, again how many female space marines or Cadians are there and why are the half naked daemonettes only perceptible as female? Slaanesh is an androgynous god after all.

    I imagine a lot of the group read comics too and Idk if anyone else saw this piece on the alternative Spiderwoman cover but it’s something we should all be aware of after all you don’t have to buy a model if you get a boner while painting 😉 So let’s try not to daemonise the female models too much.

    Arguably some of the delivery is off but you get the point.

    All the sexiness aside I’d definitely agree that some of the rules explanations could use with better translation but like any game there’s a great forum for clarifications. I also get your point about having a full rulebook in the starter set but since they provide the rules for free on their site it’s pretty easy to take it to printers and have them print and bind a copy for a fraction of the cost of a GW rulebook. Throw in the fact you can download the army lists & a miasma of other content for free and they have a fantastic army builder on their site it trumps GW for access getting started and playing the game.

    The other thing I love about this game is that it’s skirmish level. You only need a handful of models and are never going to get that… oh shit do i really need to paint 30 more? Which means you can treat each as a character model take your time and have a force that looks great and didn’t destroy your life and hobby resolve to paint it.

    Looking forward to seeing some more Infinity on here and seeing some guys getting some painted models up too!

    • Hi Ross,

      Thanks for your reply dude. I have tried the army builder and found both it and the third party Mayanet app to be extremely useful. There are so many combinations and subtroops though, and they don’t have simple descriptive names like “Elven Spearmen” that means you can instantly identify what they are. It can be a slippery slope in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, where the more invented nouns you use, the more impenetrable your text becomes (a route GW is definitely heading down).

      I must say i’ve never noticed a “sexiness” in either a Vindicare or Calidus assassin, and in the case of GW’s sculpts, while they might actually be wearing tight (or, in the case of Wardancers, limited) clothing, this isn’t accentuated by low cut tops, short skirts and “provocative” poses like the included CSU, or Reverend Healer. To me it’s a good example of “sexy” vs. “strong” with how barely clothed women are depicted in relation to barely clothed men. Same as that Spiderman cover, yeah you can see pictures of Spiderman striking a similar pose, but it’s the tone and presentation, it’s the area where your attention is being purposefully drawn towards. I do appreciate art is very subjective area, and it’s far from ideal to prejudge an artist’s intentions and that not all Infinity models do that (the new Yu Jing Tokusetsu that were shown yesterday were a good example of the female version being depicted equally). It’s a shame, because the fact that Infinity includes female and male troops performing the same role is great, and something that GW doesn’t do as well, despite their background (i.e. mixed Imperial Guard regiments are mentioned in multiple sources) saying otherwise.

      I’ve undercoated my fusiliers for now and will hopefully start to paint them this weekend when I get some time. The details are clearly defined, so hopefully even an idiot like me can’t totally ruin them.

      • My experience with the names has been similar but it comes naturally after a while, after some immersion. A lot of games have similar quirks, we’ve just been dealing with it so long we’re used to it: Grot…snotling…squig…and that’s just orks.
        I’m still only sure about 50/50 on stuff outside the lists I usually play against, and it’s not unreasonable to ask for clarifications:
        “My Lasiq deploys here on the roof.”
        “The fuck is a Lah-seek?”
        “Okay thanks.”

  2. For sure I can see where there’s confusion in the lists.

    They do have titles though and the wiki on their page has a reasonable breakdown.
    When I first read the books I definitely thought they need better translating. There are grey areas for sure. The army builder is excellent though and it links each units special rules to their specific wiki page so you can see what each does.

    In short though they have given units a “Type” based on weaponry, a “Classification” based on function and then a unit is either regular (has military training) or irregular (doesn’t).

    You need a lieutenant and can only have one so since he’s the lynch pin make him the toughest guy you can. If you pick an irregular lieutenant they can’t give orders to regular troops. So avoid that.

    Other than that your limited by the AVA (availability) of a troop choice and the SWC (support weapons cost).

    In most circumstances you will only be playing with a maximum of 10 models, the amount in one group, but could have more if you’re playing with multiple groups. Since 1 group is the norm you have to find a balance between cheap line troops and cool heavily armoured stuff.

    The limit on the cool armour and weapons is the SWC. You get to spend 1 SWC for every 50 points. In the standard 300 point game you get 6 SWC.

    My first force was just built up of cool models though. I picked 300 pts of Combined Army ran it through the army builder to check it was legal and painted them up. It wasn’t until Matt and I played a few games that I understood how they all worked and how morally wrong (in game terms) some of the figures are. Let’s just say a huge hulking cloaked Anathematic really ruins your opponents day.

    For me this game is about the universe, that manga look and the scaling of the models. I think you mentioned you can see the progression in size something you don’t get with GW, a Spacemarine is 8 feet tall so why’s he the same size as the Cadian? So for me the aesthetics of the figures will always win over the rules. But the game mechanics are awesome once you get a grasp on them.

    Currently I’m re-working my force into something more characterful and since I have a mix of troops I’m able to make a Morat force, a Shasvasii and a more diverse standard Combined Army one with only the addition of a couple more cool models.

    Hopefully that will help someone of the guys trying to dive into this game and my best advice pick an army that looks freaking cool and since the rules are free don’t feel you have to buy the starter pack.

  3. I’ll be expanding my Icestorm Nomads up to 300 pts I think, partly because I’m nearly finished on the last 2 on my painting desk but partly because I’m really into their aesthetic with the round masks and the Iguana is pure badassery.

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