Infinity: List Building for ITS Missions
So lately I've had an opportunity to dive into the ITS missions. For those who don't know, the ITS missions are a set of missions designed by Corvus Belli, for tournament play. Using them gives tournaments a selection of about 20 missions to pick from, all of which have been played, tested, and iterated upon. When you go to a tournament, you typically know the missions in advance, and are usually allowed to make 2 army lists, picking which one you want to use for whichever scenario. What I'll be talking about today though is mostly about all the different kinds of tools you'll want in your toolbox for these scenarios. Since I have only really delved deeply into The Combined Army, I'll be writing from that perspective, though really this is applicable for any army.
First off, the most important thing you need for nearly every ITS mission are specialists. Specialists are models with any of the following rules: Doctors, Engineers, Hackers, Forward Observers, Paramedics, Chain of Command, or Specialist. Taking assessment of what specialists you have in your army is important to understand your most basic tools. Because all missions have at least 1, and often 2, Classified Objectives, there is always the chance that you'll need a Hacker, Engineer, Forward Observer or Doctor to accomplish your Classified Objectives. Additionally, some missions, such as Beaconland, require a large number of Specialists, basically as many as you can get, so if you are building an army around 40+ point specialists, you'll be short on specialists, as well as on orders.
Before I work on my ITS lists, I actually like to take an inventory of all specialists I have available, and if there are any notable deployment methods or maneuverability that they bring, such as Airborn Deployment or Infiltrate.
- Anathematic hacker: 88/0.5
- Charontid hacker: 73/0.5
- Caliban hacker: 30/0.5
- Caliban engineer: 26/0
- Caliban infiltrator engineer (inferior infiltration): 28/0
- Maakrep Tracker hacker: 34/0.5
- Rodok paramedic (super jump): 21/0
- Rodok hacker (super jump): 25/0.5
- Corax Hasht: 34/1.5
- Skiavoro hacker: 60/0.5
- Fraacta hacker (Airborn Deployment: Combat Jump): 35/0.5
- Kurgat: 17-28 / 0-1.5
- Morat hacker: 22/0.5
- Morat forward observer: 15/0
- Morat paramedic: 16/0
- Noctifer hacker: 32/0.5
- Obsidon Medchanoid doctor + engineer: 23
- Seed Soldier forward observer: 15/0
- Seed Soldier paramedic: 16/0
- Treitak Anyat (climbing plus): 25/0
- Umbra Legates hacker (forward deployment): 43/0.5
- Malignos hacker (infiltration): 41/0.5
- Malignos forward observer (infiltration): 36/0
- Shrouded hacker (infiltration): 30/0.5
- Shrouded forward observer (infiltration): 25/0
- Zerat hacker (infiltration): 25/0.5
- M-drone (forward observer): 17/0
- Unidron Batroid forward observer: 15/0
Phew, that's a long list! When the mission requires getting specialists across the board or in the enemy deployment zone, it's really important to pick the right specialists for the job. As you can see, the only Airborn Deployment specialist in the army is the Fraacta hacker, who comes in at a fairly hefty cost of 35/0.5, so including more than one is kind of a challenge, will quickly consume points, and be pretty redundant overloading on hackers. That said, I always include one, because it's the only choice for getting a specialist directly into the enemy deployment zone! The Obsidon Medchanoid is a hugely popular choice in the Combined Army, because for 23 points you cover both the need for a Doctor and an Engineer. Other notable specialists for me are the M-Drone, for being a 6-4 moving specialist, making him the fastest one in the army, and the Shrouded forward observer, as it is the cheapest infiltrating, camo specialist in the army, who also brings mines to the party. After making sure you can get your specialists across the board where you need them, sometimes you may want a couple cheap ones to pad the numbers, the cheapest for the Combined Army are the Morat forward observer, Seed Soldier forward observer, and Unidron Batroid forward observer, each coming in at 15 points... not hugely inexpensive by many other armies standards, but for The Combined, it's what we get!
In addition to specialists, you almost always want at least one Baggage model in the army, which for Combined is the Ikadron, who is only 9 points and also a repeater, so a pretty good model just to have around. Baggage does different things in different scenarios, from counting as extra points for claiming zones, to giving bonuses to activating beacons, which for how cheap the model is, can be a huge boon.
When you're playing these missions, it's easy to forget that there's an enemy army on the board! Not only do you need to accomplish your missions, but you also need to keep your opponent from scoring theirs, and there's no better way to do that, than by blasting the enemy off the board. If you're playing simple annihilation missions, it is always tempting to hit the max limit allowed in SWC, though in ITS missions, you'll probably not quite reach the cap, as you're using your points for specialists. In my lists, I try to never leave home without a Sniper Rifle of some sort, and an HMG, if I can also fit in a Spitfire, then I'm in good shape, though I may swap one of those weapons for the Speculo Killer, who is an amazing assassin. If you're overloaded on basic grunts and specialists, forgetting to bring enough guns to stop the enemy is really going to cause some problems.
As a compliment to the support weapons, Multispectral Visors (MSV) are massively useful. It is a very good strategy to advance to objectives under the cover of smoke so that you're protected from enemy firepower. If you have no MSV in your list, then you're leaving yourself wide open to this strategy, but if you have a MSV on something like a Spitfire or Sniper Rifle, you can secure an objective, giving your opponent more to deal with if they want to claim it. Additionally, don't forget that ODD and Camo exists, MSV nullifies much if not all of their extra defenses, and if they're building a list that capitalizes on those rules, you'll be very sad without your handy visor.
In The Combined you get MSV from a few different sources. The Charontid can bust out a brutal MSV3, while packing a HMG or Plasma Rifle at BS 14, absolutely disgusting when it comes to laying waste to enemies hiding with camo at a solid distance. The downside is that they're pretty awfully expensive, as they are essentially a mini-TAG, and if you take this option, you can't have the Sepsitor or Hacker. Yaogats are the second source of MSV, linkable in the Morat sectorial, and can bring a variety of weapons: combi rifle, panzerfaust, boarding shotgun, MULTI sniper rifle, or spitfire. Obviously if you're taking the MSV to cover some territory, you'll want to pack something a little nastier than a combi rifle or boarding shotgun, and a MSV with sniper rifle or spitfire is never a bad option. If you're pressed for points, trying to figure out a good lieutenant that has more roles than just being alive, the Yaogat lieutenant with panzerfaust is a great choice, plus dishing out panzerfaust shots with a visor is just disgusting. Maakrep Trackers are pretty comparable to the Yaogat, both with MSV2 and access to a MULTI Sniper Rifle, but can even heal itself should she be taken down with her AutoMedKit, I think the choice between the two is largely personal, and I happen to like my Yaogat sniper conversion. The last MSV I can find in the army comes on Ko Dali. She is a total brute, dropping in with her AD:Combat Jump, pair of assault pistols, d-charges, and able to absorb wounds through Protheion. She's not a great tool for countering smoke, as the Assault Pistols aren't great ARO pieces, but she can be totally disruptive to an enemy plan having a mad chick dishing out B5 attacks seeing through camo in their backfield.
Just like I mentioned above, Smoke is an amazing tool to safely approach objectives on the board, it's not perfect, since MSV can see right through it, but if your opponent has under invested on visors, you can really give them a hard time with just a couple smoke grenades in your army. It's not something I always bring, though any time I don't bring it, I wish I had. For The Combined Army, smoke comes from a three sources, Daturazi, Treitak Anyat, or an Oznat (with longer range from her Smoke Grenade Launcher), all of which are Morats, so can only be used in vanilla or Morat sectoral lists. The Daturazi are Extremely Impetuous, so are a bit of a liability. Treitak Anyat is a pretty awesome model to consider, her cost is modest at 25 points, but has Climbing Plus, a K1 Combi Rifle, is a Specialist and packs those handy Smoke Grenades, as a bit of a mini-Rambo, she's pretty awesome and I might try to squeeze her in. Lastly there is the Oznat, who is the mid-priced of the 3 at 20 points, but brings a Smoke Light Grenade Launcher, which means you can use it at a greater range of 8-16" for the +3 range, still grants special dodge, and can even be used with Speculative Fire. They're all useful models, and really it just comes down to the point cost that you have to spare.
Some missions (like Beacon Race) involve getting an objective from one location to another, or just handing off beacons to a faster model to get a better position might be a good decision. Many armies have access to bikes that move 8-6 and are great for just blasting across the board, the fastest thing we can get in The Combined Army however is R-Drone, who moves 6-6, and has Mimetism to hopefully keep him alive longer. The fastest specialist in the army is the M-Drone, which moves 6-4, so it's almost always worth considering. I don't think you need to worry a whole ton about having fast units, and you can make up for speed with tools like Infiltration, but if you're playing Beacon Race, you definitely want to find some of the fastest options you can get.
As if all that wasn't enough to keep in mind, lastly you need to make sure you have enough orders to get the job done, so bring on the cheerleaders! 10-order lists seem fairly typical for friendly games, though when you start thinking about competitive games with multiple objectives, you'll quickly find that 10 orders doesn't cut it. The thing about Orders is that they're your most finite resource during the game, and each turn you will have less than the turn before. If you're spending a lot of orders moving models up the board, activating beacons, opening boxes, blasting doors, transferring beacons to other models, running them back to your base, etc., you're not going to have enough orders to also keep the enemy from accomplishing it themselves. Even with The Combined Army, where everything worth a damn seems to be 20+ points, I try to get more than 12 orders, it unfortunately means I'm not getting both a Charontid and Anathematic in the same list, and sometimes neither model, unfortunately. For combined the cheapest orders come from the Ikadron Batroid, so you'll always want 1-2 in an army, as well as the Imetron, which just drops in and provides an order for 4 points, just be careful that it doesn't end up off the board.
All Together Now
As I mentioned before, I'm getting ready for an ITS tournament in December, the 3 missions are Beaconland (mmm... bacon), Frontline, and Supplies. Supplies requires very few specialists, and Frontline has no exceptional need for them either, so I've decided that I'll be making one list specifically for Beaconland, and another list for Frontline/Supplies. I've revised them since I last posted, after learning a few things from gaining more experience (not hard to do when you're new). As usual, I don't think these are perfect lists, but it's what's currently on my plate:
Combined Army ──────────────────────────────────────────────────
Group 1 10 / 0 / 0 YAOGAT Lieutenant Combi Rifle, Panzerfaust / Pistol, CCW. (1 | 28) YAOGAT Spitfire / Pistol, CCW. (1.5 | 32) SPECULO KILLER Boarding Shotgun, Smoke Grenades / Pistol, Monofilament CCW, Knife. (1 | 34) SHROUDED (Forward Observer) Combi Rifle, Antipersonnel Mines / Pistol, Knife. (25) SHROUDED (Forward Observer) Combi Rifle, Antipersonnel Mines / Pistol, Knife. (25) UNIDRON (Forward Observer) Plasma Carbine / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (15) UNIDRON (Forward Observer) Plasma Carbine / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (15) UNIDRON (Forward Observer) Plasma Carbine / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (15) M-DRONE Combi Rifle, Sniffer / Electric Pulse. (17) MED-TECH OBSIDON MEDCHANOID Combi Rifle, D-Charges / Pistol, Knife. (23)
Group 2 0 IKADRON (Baggage, Repeater) 2 Light Flamethrowers, Flash Pulse / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (9) Q-DRONE HMG / Electric Pulse. (1 | 26) FRAACTA (EI Assault Hacking Device) Combi Rifle, Nanopulser / Pistol, Knife. (0.5 | 35)
5 SWC | 299 Points Open with Army 5
Obviously, I've gone for as many specialists as I can squeeze in, packing in 6 Forward Observers, my Dr/Engineer, and a Combat Jumping Hacker. I get two chances to infiltrate my Shrouded into the null zone in front of my enemy deployment zone, so hopefully I get at least one of them. I pretty much need to conserve my Command Tokens for Combined Orders though, running as many models forward as quickly as possible to saturate the mid-field objectives. Beyond controlling the center, it is going to be challenging getting more specialists into my enemy deployment zone, but that seems to just be the case running Combined in this scenario (with it's massive 16" wide exclusion zone). The Yaogat Lieutenant provides a nasty ARO piece, on top of being the boss, so he's doing a bit more than just hiding, it would be possible to downgrade him to a more passive Lieutenant, like a Morat, but it would be hard to use those points to squeeze in another Infiltrating specialist without having to drop something else. The list may be a bit overloaded on killing power, with the HMG bot, Spitfire, Panzerfaust, all on top of a Speculo Killer (who could be swapped for a Yaogat/Maakrep sniper), but I feel uncomfortable not having many guns! If I were to modify this list any, the next changes to try would be to do the Speculo/sniper swap, downgrade the Lieutenant (leaving me with the Spitfire and Sniper for MSV2), and spending those 15 points to get another cheap Forward Observer (Morat or Seed Soldier), or to upgrade an existing specialist.
Combined Army ──────────────────────────────────────────────────
Group 1 10 / 0 / 2 CHARONTID Lieutenant (Multispectral Visor L3) HMG, Nanopulser / Heavy Pistol, Knife. (2 | 79) Q-DRONE HMG / Electric Pulse. (1 | 26) MAAKREP TRACKER MULTI Sniper Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (1.5 | 33) SHROUDED (Minelayer) Combi Rifle, Antipersonnel Mines / Pistol, Knife. (0.5 | 25) KO DALI Combi Rifle, Nanopulser, D-Charges / 2 Assault Pistols, Knife. (37) DĀTURAZI Chain Rifle, Grenades, Smoke Grenades / Pistol, AP CCW. (14) DĀTURAZI Chain Rifle, Grenades, Smoke Grenades / Pistol, AP CCW. (14) UNIDRON (Forward Observer) Plasma Carbine / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (15) MORAT Hacker (EI Hacking Device) Combi Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0.5 | 22) MED-TECH OBSIDON MEDCHANOID Combi Rifle, D-Charges / Pistol, Knife. (23) SLAVE DRONE Electric Pulse. (3)
Group 2 0 IKADRON (Baggage, Repeater) 2 Light Flamethrowers, Flash Pulse / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (9)
5.5 SWC | 300 Points Open with Army 5
Much more straight forward, this list is for kicking butt and taking names. I've managed to get 2 HMG's, a MULTI Sniper Rifle, a minelayer (for protecting supplies), a bit of smoke, and the notorious Ko Dali for wrecking the backfield, all while keeping 3 specialists in the list for hopefully getting to and opening up a couple crates. Ko Dali is the biggest gambit here, running a steep 37 points, but if she can get in behind the enemy, she'll shred with her assault pistols dishing out 5 shots per order. I have also considered going with a much more Shasvastii list as well, which may not be as good in Supplies, but will be incredibly irritating in Frontline, since my opponent would have to fully kill each of the Shasvastii to prevent them from scoring points for the zone.
There you have it! I'm still very new to this game, so I expect that my thoughts may not be 100% accurate, but writing them out sure helps me understand the game better, and hopefully it helps you too! I'm still changing my lists around almost every game, trying to get a better understanding of the nuances. Just changing form regular annihilation style games to set missions has already had a profound affect on how I play the game, they really do add a ton and make the game far more enjoyable, the amount of tactical decision making is hugely complex. For example, if you want to grab an objective in the middle of the board, but your opponent has it covered with a MSV Sniper, you've got to get creative, maybe sending a repeater or hacker up to use White Noise to prevent the sniper from seeing, or having an airdropping unit come in from behind to wipe him out... though maybe they have it covered with a Total Reaction HMG also? Not only are you worried about getting the objectives, but to be successful you need to have a strategy for securing the area around them. All this adds up to a very fun game full of hard decisions to make, where one misstep can lead to a face full of shotgun.