Infinity Review After a Year
As of this month, I've been playing Infinity for one year, and almost exclusively to any other game. I figure now that I've been playing a while, have placed well in some of the bigger tournaments, and have been able to challenge myself against some of the top players in the US, I might now be able to give a well-educated review of the game. For those who don't know, I've been playing miniature wargames for 20 years, almost exclusively Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Fantasy, though occasionally dabbled in other games, all of which have fallen off, or I just didn't enjoy. To call me skeptical of non-GW products would have been an understatement.
In the Beginning...
First, lets start with how I started! A couple friends who I used to play Warhammer Fantasy with, Eliot and Michael (Barakiel on the forums), brought over some minis, including the new USA army pack, to teach Obi and I how to play. Eliot had been nagging me for months to give it a shot, while Obi and I have both admired the game from afar. Their newer sculpts were just getting better and better, and compared to our massive collections of GW miniatures, seemed sleek, realistic, and well detailed. Our first game was the same as many others experience, we each had 3 soldiers set up with a bit of terrain and got to blasting each-other off the board.
Soon after this intro game I ordered the USA army pack myself, Obi picked up the Tohaa, and the battles began. It didn't take long for our friend Peter on board, diving straight in with the Steel Phalanx. By this time, I realized that USA were going to be in for the long haul, as Corvus Belli didn't do massive faction releases the way GW did, and so I made the decision already to play a second army, the Combined. And so our garage meta grew, there was a rapid arms race, each of us finding the next thing to annihilate our friends with. Total Reaction bots led to Smoke + MSV2, which then led to order spam, AD, and Hackers.
In the span of a few months, our play styles had evolved greatly, and we decided it was time to unleash our forces on the world, and Endgame in Oakland, CA was never the same. After a year I've got about a dozen players into the game, though really, it was the amazing and balanced game mechanics that did the work for me.
Obi and I, being aesthetically minded, were initially drawn into the game by the miniatures. Incredible, digital sculpts cast in my favorite miniature material, pewter, each one is just full of detail, but not overdone. The size of your typical army, 12-14 miniatures, means that you can lavish each miniature with attention, and not get burnt out painting scores of the same model for the sake of completing your force. As much as I enjoy the look of a 40k army on the board the grueling task of painting an entire army was often the source of hobby burnout for me.
One other thing that is important is that tournaments do not typically require fully painted forces. At first this turned me off, as who wants to see a board of a bunch of bare pewter figures, but as time went on, I've come to love it, it now means I can paint whatever I want, whenever I want, instead of spending countless hours perfecting my list before I engage in the mandatory painting project. Before, I hated the idea that I had to paint everything BEFORE I could even try it in an event, so instead I painted very little, always nervous of wasted time painting something I wouldn't use at the next event. It was a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy of failure, but I don't feel that anxiety in Infinity, thanks to not having to have everything fully painted.
Back to the models... Now I have every released figure for The Combined, and most of Ariadna. Some of the older sculpts aren't as great, and the scale has definitely crept up a bit, but even the older minis, given a modern paint job, look fantastic, and the scale creep isn't really noticeable during a game anyhow.
When Obi and I first got started, I wasn't sure if I just needed a break from 40k, or if Infinity was really just a better game for me. That question in my head really faded though when after 6 months, I had only played 3 games of 40k, two of which were ploys to get a friends to try Infinity (both of whom now only really play Infinity, sorry Pete and Peter!), and really had no desire to take my Khorne Daemonkin out of the case to play a game.
Game balance is a huge issue for any game system, and many people believe that because the game they play isn't balanced, means that no game can really be balanced, or their game is too complex to balance, or that balance is intrinsically uninteresting for game play. I know this, because I was one of those people who said all of that, and now, after a year of playing Infinity, I can say that's total bullshit. Infinity has incredible balance, in part because, anything can hurt anything, and you have agency to act in your opponents turn, meaning you're always given situations where you can make tactical decisions to counteract what your opponent is doing, you are not playing rochambo with plastic army men. At the end of a game of Infinity, you don't feel like you lost because you made the mistake of liking the wrong models, you lost because your opponent out played you (though you can still blame the dice if you like!).
In my 20 years of gaming experience, I've always accepted that you need to bring the right models to the board, some units were good, some were bad, and some require specific combos to make worth a damn, to me, that was just part of the hobby. In Infinity however, there is a mantra, "It's not the list, it's you!" At first, I thought this was a bunch of bologna, clever propaganda from the community, used to put down other game systems, because really, you need to take the GOOD units to win, don't you? Well, to make it short, no. The game has no real stinkers, and nothing that is so insanely good that it breaks the game, or makes the army. To prove this to myself, I challenged the best player I know (Michael) to use only randomly generated army lists, against me, for a series of 3 games. I would know the mission in advance, know what faction he's playing, and be armed with the knowledge that his army would be totally random, and he would even purposely re-randomize lists until he got units that some forum dwellers would claim are underpowered, or bad load-outs. On top of that, he would generate the list right before playing, so he had no time to plan out how to use the units he was stuck with. In case you didn't guess, or read the battle reports (Game 1, Game 2, Game 3), I lost all 3 games, pretty badly for the most part too.
Where Am I Now?
I have to admit, I'm totally hooked now on Infinity. I think the game is damn near perfect, the company does a great job engaging with the community, and the miniatures are phenomenal. If anyone is even remotely interested in this game, I cannot recommend it enough, and if you do start it as a "secondary" game, don't be surprised when it becomes your primary.
I've recently moved to a new meta (Portland, OR), and have had a more difficult time acclimating and getting games in (people here be flakey!), but there are still some very good players. I've found a couple local game shops, including one that stocks Infinity and lets me host tournaments, with enough terrain for 8 tables, and I've even helped establish a small meta there, getting another 6 people into the hobby. Since I've just bought a house, I'll be setting up a new game room in the garage, and hopefully I'll start enticing over some of the local players with promises of free beer, and the ability to host two games at once, on sweet tables.
2016 is looking like a full year of Infinity for me, though I'll still squeeze in time for Age of Sigmar, Beyond the Gates of Antares, and hopefully some Heavy Gear Blitz. N