Infinity: Thinking Outside the Box
The way I approach thinking about Infinity is a less like a standard miniatures game, but instead I think of it as a sophisticated puzzle game. Most other miniature games, a troop is measured in 3-4 main areas, typically how well it moves, shoots, fights, and survives. Each player then takes turn using all of those steps through movement phases, shooting phases, and combat phases. While these fundamentals are similar in Infinity, the wide range of capabilities of even the most mundane rifle-wielding grunt, really differentiates Infinity from the rest.
Most gamers have more time to write lists, than to actually play games, which results in people spending a lot of time honing and fine-tuning their lists, looking for every possible advantage. During this practice however, it is incredibly easy to get into the pattern of "this unit is bad, this unit is good," because you're looking to optimize based on your assumptions of what a unit will do during a game. When I start writing lists, I generally go for my favorite units first, especially in sectorials where I tend to go for my favorite core link (like 4 grunt snipers and a lieutenant LGL, or 3 Keisotsu, a Brawler AHD, and Tanko Missile Launcher). This technique is quite helpful for writing a list, with some predictable results, as it uses the units we're most familiar with. The downside however, is that it can result in us dismissing really effective units that we don't have experience with.
I'm firmly of the belief that there is no such thing as a bad unit in Infinity (except the Wardriver), but what does happen a lot is improper application, or not using a troop to it's fullest extent. In Infinity there are plenty of pieces of equipment, or skills, which will get used all the time, such as mimetism, high BS, dogged, smoke grenades, etc. But there are other pieces of equipment, which are far more situational, which means to use them, you need to either fall into, or create the situation where they're effective, things like cybermines, killer hacking devices, multispectral visors, and so on.
The most fun I've had during games of Infinity is during the last turn of the game, when I'm narrowly behind and I need to use every resource available to secure a win. That's when players start getting creative, pulling all the stops, and really figure out all the different things a troop can do. So why don't we do this all the time?
Comfort is the problem. We get comfortable using the same units, in the same roles, not really exploring new solutions until it's the last minute and you're forced to. It is my belief that by breaking out of our comfort zones, and taking units that we leave on the bench, we can improve our skill as players. If there are profiles, or even pieces of equipment that you often disregard, give them some game time, not just to say you did, but actively put effort into making that unit shine.
Cybermines are a good example of a maligned piece of equipment, that I personally think is pretty great. Despite being new, I have the (mis)fortune of having multiple Tunguska wielding opponents, ready and happy to put them on the table. Something which they've made a good job of pointing out is that they allow their KHD profile troops to carry a disposable hack that works against troops which KHDs normally cannot affect. Furthermore, they are not avoided by a Dodge, so if you drop one and then go to shoot an HI that is in the area of effect, they either need to Reset against the mine, or dodge/shoot back against the model firing at them. Either way, they're going to get hit by something.
Another example is the lone Karakuri, which is a unit I totally ignored until recently, and something that seems often ignored by just about everyone. Lately, I've included a MK12 Karakuri as a lone fighter in my Ikari and have been pleasantly surprised. She is a deadly gunfighter, competent specialist, tough as hell to kill, and brings a direct template weapon. She isn't cheap, but when you get used to leveraging all of her equipment and skills, the Karakuri becomes well worth the cost.
This weekend I've got a tournament coming up, and I'm going to use Ikari. I've still probably only played less than 10 games with them, but I noticed I quickly got into the habit of starting every list with a Keisotsu + Brawler + Tanko link, and a handful of Yuan Yuan. For this tournament, I won't be using any of my familiar staples, and in one of my lists, I won't even take a Fireteam: Core. The scenarios we'll be playing are Highly Classified, Power Pack, and Capture and Protect. Highly Classified requires a lot of specialists, something with Ikari struggles with, while Power Pack heavily benefits the Yuan Yuan that I won't be taking.
Obviously the list labeled "Highly Classified" is the list I intend on using in that scenario, while my second list is the one I'll probably use in the other two.
With the highly classified list, I gave up taking a Fireteam Core, they tend to be static, and require a lot of work to maneuver, which can be challenging when you're trying to move into range of an enemy HVT. Instead, I focused on a lot of individual pieces which can more easily move into position, while maintaining a firebase with the Tanko Haris and the Rui Shi. The Karakuri will be my specialist of choice for Forward Observing, but can also effectively clear any ground she needs during the advance. Instead of using Yuan Yuan for smoke, I've got a pair of Desperados, and a Cube Jäger gives me the flexibility of deploying a Paramedic on whichever side is easier to get to the enemy HVT with. I am stuck with only one unit with D-charges, and it's my engineer, which is less than optimal, but I'll have to manage. Normally the Ninja KHD is the go-to profile, so I wanted to try out the AHD to mix things up. The AHD profile costs a ton more points, but allows my Ninja to use Spotlight, and become a bigger threat in the active turn with that combi rifle.
List two might seem a little closer to home, since I've played Druze quite a bit before, though the Ikari iteration of the fireteam is significantly less flexible. Instead of having a Clipper and Brawler bringing the link down in price, I've got a Tanko missile launcher, which adds to it. I decided that since this link was going to be my main power house, that I should spring for a few extra points, upgrading the regular Druze to carry panzerfaust, making every member of the link incredibly deadly. Next I needed a piece to be a tough DataTracker, normally I'd go for a Daiyōkai, but instead I wanted to put the Al Fasid HRL in the list, since I just love that model. The rest is fairly similar to the Highly Classified list, bringing a doctor and engineer, trio of Keisotsu for lieutenant hiding, and a pair of Desperados for smoke and general annoyance.
These lists feel like they should have all the tools I need to accomplish the missions, but lack many, if not all, of the key units I've got used to bringing in the past, plus bringing a couple profiles that I've never taken before.
Try it Yourself
At the end of the day, Infinity is a game, and games are most fun when they're both challenging and rewarding. Obviously, if you're perfectly content running the same 10-model list, day in and day out, then this advice isn't for you. However, if you think a faction you play has becoming boring or stale, or just isn't good (*cough* PanO players *cough*), then maybe you should spend a bit of effort trying out the tools that you've previously written off.
There are lots of good/interesting units in this game, but not everything is easy to use. Here are a few things that I really like, or think are worth considering, but rarely see:
- Morat Vanguard. Back up Anyat with an HMG to cover longer ranges, and a few specialists, to create an inexpensive, but versatile core link.
- Knights of Montessa. It blows my mind how few vanilla PanO lists seem to use knights of any variety, but the Knight of Montessa is something I'd use nearly every time, specifically the light grenade launcher or light rocket launcher profiles.
- NeoTerra Bolts. The internet loves to hate them, but I just see linked E/M grenades and drop bears, with a 65% chance of ignoring mines, making them great mid-field defenders. Yes a Haris would be awesome, but I think a core can still work fine (even without 5 members).
- Caledonia Moramers. The T2 X-visor version, in suppressive fire, is a massive road block that can't be stopped with hacking, in cover your enemy will have to contend with -6 to hit and ARM8, with Dogged.
- Kanren. The Kanren often gets overlooked in favor of the Ninja Killer Hacker. While the Ninja KHD is incredibly optimized for a single task, the Kanren KHD, carries a combi rifle and is able to surprise shot, so can still put the hurt on non-hackers.
What units do you like using that you don't see others using that often? What do you like to do to play outside the box and expand your thinking?