Infinity Basics: ITS Scenarios and Measuring Success
After learning the basics of Infinity, it's pretty easy to get excited about hopping into the ITS tournament scene. When you're starting out though, some of these scenarios can seem quite daunting, with lots of complex rules around scoring missions. Additionally, once a new player starts getting some missions under their belt it's quite likely that they'll be losing a significant portion of their games. Today, I'm going to go over two main topics, learning ITS missions, and Measuring Growth as a player. Both of these are key for a new player to become a seasoned veteran, competing in tournaments and feeling good about the game they play.
Broadly speaking, scoring in ITS scenarios can be broken down into 3 components: killing, maneuvering, and button pushing. Every scenario in the game uses one or more of these aspects to determine a winner, though they do so with varying levels of complexity. Learning to do each of these with the army you're playing is important so that you can handle any mission that you come across. I've listed these three components in order of their complexity, so for new players, I'd suggest starting with the missions focused on killing, then maneuvering, button bushing, and finishing it up with the combined missions. As these step up in complexity, you'll be learning new ways to win games, and hopefully different ways to use troops. It's not always about wiping your opponent off the board!
When you are first starting off, I would ignore using Classified Objectives, until you've at least played through this list of 8 scenarios first. Your goal right now is to learn the basics of how to play the scenarios, you can add in all the extra frills after you have a bit of experience.
The most basic task in Infinity is killing your opponents troops, you will likely make more rolls for BS Attacks than almost all other rolls combined. Killing is an easy draw, after all, murdering your opponent is highly rewarding and you get to see immediate results. Learning to kill the opponent without sacrificing your own troops in the process can be tricky, but it's crucial for advancing your skill as a player.
When you're starting out with these missions, be sure to focus as much on survival as killing, be sure to protect your units from all angles of attack, while maintaining cover during your own attacks. Using careful positioning, in Infinity you can almost always single out individual enemy models, so don't bite off more than you can chew, take your time killing individual enemies. There is also a time and a place to trade models, your cheap warbands will be able to get up the board and fire their chain rifles at enemies worth far more than them, if you go down in the process, it's no big deal, even sacrificing a Galwegian to kill a Fusilier puts you ahead on points.
- Annihilation - A very basic scenario, where killing and surviving are all that matters, does not use Retreat! so there is less to keep track of during the game.
- Decapitation - A step up from Annihilation, you must also focus on killing specific enemy models (their Lieutenant), like Annihilation, doesn't use Retreat! nor does it use Loss of Lieutenant.
One of the hardest parts of Infinity is learning to move around the battlefield. With the ARO mechanic, it can be frustrating, moving down a corridor and taking fire from the enemy, and losing models on your own turn is doubly frustrating. That's why it's important to play the hell out of these scenarios! Learning to move up the board is critical to be able to capture objectives in other scenarios, it brings to bear some of your most powerful short range weapons like spitfire, chain rifles, and shotguns.
When you start attempting this, you will get frustrated with enemy AROs, learning to deal with enemy ARO pieces is simply part of the game. Cover your advance with Smoke, or White Noise (if you have it and the enemy ARO piece has a MSV), use cautious movement to move across corridors safely, and only declare a Dodge on the active turn if absolutely necessary. Figure out was to kill enemy ARO pieces if you can, since they will be slowing you down. To stop enemies from coming up the board, use suppressive fire and mines to make coming down certain paths unpalatable.
Suggested scenarios to start with:
- Frontline - The only objective is to move up the board, so forces you to learn to cover your advance.
- Quadrant Control - Similar to Frontline, though is scored progressively, so you need to get out of your deployment zone even faster.
When people talk about the need for Specialists, this is what they're referring to. Many ITS missions require a specialists (models with doctor, paramedic, forward observer, engineer, hacker, chain of command or special operative) to secure objectives on the table. Keeping these troops alive is tricky, as they are often not geared to go head to head in a fight, but it is of upmost importance that they are able to accomplish the mission. Many scenarios offer bonuses for being a specific type of specialist, so that's something else to keep in mind when writing lists.
Using the strategies you used in Annihilation and Maneuvering missions, you will need to protect your specialists as they advance up the board. Army composition is important here, having too many specialists will cost you effective firepower to kill the enemy, while having too few will be risky if your opponent starts picking them off. I generally aim for 30-40% of my models to be Specialists if I know there are going to be critical in a mission.
- Supplies - One of the best scenarios for beginners, Supplies requires that players move up the board, open boxes containing supply markers, and hold on to them until the end of the game. Only Specialists can open the boxes, though anyone can carry one.
- Seize the Antennas - Like supplies, there are 3 objectives on the board, but this time they don't move. You need to score as many of these as possible to win at the end of the game, and nothing else really matters. You'll have to move up, secure the antenna and defend it from your opponent.
When you have to do multiple things at once, the game gets much more complicated. Killing the opponent, moving around the board, or activating objectives can be difficult on their own, but when you're doing 2-3 of these tasks at once, you need to start to prioritize your objectives. You'll need to have the firepower to kill enemies, maneuverability to get across the board, and specialists to accomplish the objectives. These missions will require a lot of problem solving, and your first couple times playing through can be a bit difficult. Stick with them though, as learning to multitask and problem solve will make you a very strong player.
- Safe Area - Almost a combination of Quadrant Control and Seize the Antennas, except it is scored only at the end of the game, based on dominating quadrants of the table, as well as controlling the consoles in the center of each Quadrant. This scenario very effectively combines Maneuvering with Button Pushing, it's kind of the perfect training scenario, and often my default choice if I'm not sure what else to play.
- Supremacy - Safe Area's non-identical twin, Supremacy is a very similar scenario, except that you will be scoring dominating quadrants progressively each turn, instead of everything at the end. This forces you to be more aggressive, getting your troops up the board more quickly, while also requiring specialists to score the consoles.
If you've made it this far, now is the time to check out these Classified Objective cards. They are usually worth 1-2 points in the different ITS missions, which can be critical for breaking a tie, or further securing a victory. Each card may require a different specialist to accomplish, so it's always worth adding a variety of specialists to your lists. If you want to dive in the deep end with these cards, try playing a round of Highly Classified, where you and your opponent will be competing to accomplish a pile of randomly generated objectives.
Learning the rules is a good start, but knowing that you're actually doing well is another thing entirely! It is easy to assume that your skill improving in Infinity means you should be winning more games. While that is somewhat true against equally experienced opponents (they'll hopefully be improving as well), if you are playing with more experienced opponents, you may not be winning many games for a while! When you lose game after game, it is understandable to be discouraged, blame the game, or assume that you'll never be good at Infinity.
In reality, the number of victories you get isn't in any way an accurate portrayal of you learning the game though, especially at the beginning. If you are wondering if you are getting any better at your game, you should be looking for two things: learning new tricks, and learning from losing.
One of the greatest things about Infinity is that there is a seemingly infinite (see what I did there) number of ways to solve any given problem. When you start the game, you'll quickly learn that smoke is a great tool to assist in advancing up the board. Shortly after you may learn that MSV2 is a great way to stop smoke from being effective. While frustrating, now you'll have to learn how to kill that MSV2 troops so that your smoke can move up the board, and so on. Each time you play, you will be presented with new challenges to overcome, and learning new ways of handling these situations is one of the best ways to gauge how well you're learning the game.
Learning from Losing
You're going to lose, at the beginning, you're going to lose a lot. Instead of moping about it, look for solutions to the problems you encountered on the table. When you're new, some units like Total Reaction bots in particular may seem like the pinnacle of cheese, unbeatable without extreme luck (I've heard this a lot), but I assure you, there is no win-button in Infinity, nothing is truly over-powered, and there is certainly nothing without counter. Enemy Total Reaction giving you trouble? Why not try a fancy coordinated order with 3-4 models firing at it, he will only be able to ARO against one of them, letting the other 3 fire with impunity. Or remember that MSV2 that shot at you through smoke above? Use that trick yourself to (relatively) safely eliminate the enemy Total Reaction bot. After each game, take a few minutes with your opponent, talk about what worked for them, and figure out different ways you could have countered it.