Infinity: Which Faction is For You?
One of the most frequent questions asked by new or potential Infinity players, is how to decide which army to play. This is a very understandable question to ask, many wargames are plagued by bad units, or entire bad factions, which should be avoided for anything but the most casual of gaming. I'm happy to report that after 3+ years of playing Infinity, I have yet to figure out which army is the bad one, or even which units lack any redeeming qualities. As a new player to this game, you can feel comfortable, that the toys you like are the toys you can use in the table, and you won't be shooting yourself in the foot for doing so.
Without using the metric of "buy this, ignore this" to rely on, how is one supposed to determine which armies are worth a players time, affection, and most importantly, money? For me, it comes down to two basic things: aesthetics, and play-style. Since I cannot determine for you which army looks the coolest, I'll focus on play-style.
The information I'll present here more accurately represents the broad concept of how an army plays, rather than all the specific ins-and-outs to how any one player may choose to make any particular list. It's entirely possible to make a camouflage-heavy PanOceania army, or an elite Ariadna army, but those will end up being more specialized lists, rather than the norm.
Heavy armored infantry and TAGs, wide selection of competent gunfighters, force-on-force style gameplay.
PanOceania, one of the two major Hyperpowers in the Human Sphere, may seem like the "generic" Infinity army, but they actually have a lot of interesting and unique units. Their main specialty is dominance of firepower, which manifests itself in a higher-than-average BS on nearly all of their troops. Their specialists (the troops used to win many scenarios) are serviceable, if a bit one-dimensional. Where other faction's specialists are more well-rounded, PanO specialists generally focus on being competent gunfighters that complement the faction's excellent gunfighting capability. PanOceania has a large variety of Heavy Infantry (HI) and TAGs (the big robots), which are there to pulverize the opponent in a variety of ways. Aesthetically, many of their HI are based on mediaeval knights, which can be polarizing.
If you like the look of space knights and big robots, or want to win games through sheer force, then PanOceania might be worth considering.
Strengths: Highly effective shooting, variety of HI and TAGs.
Weaknesses: Below average specialists, not a lot of tricks.
Well rounded faction with access to excellent heavy infantry and melee fighters, scales and adapts well to fit your play-style.
The other Hyperpower, and main rival to PanOceania, Yu Jing bring a diverse, and well rounded approach. The entire faction is full of troops effective at range, or in combat, and often times both. Yu Jing has the luxury of being able to take specialized and devastatingly effective troops, supported by cheap and expendable chaff if needed. The primary strength of Yu Jing lies in it's Heavy Infantry, which can be either highly specialized for a task, like the Yan Huo or dreaded Hac Tao, or be versatile tool kits, able to engage enemies at range, and cut them down up close, such as the Crane Agent. They have powerful camouflage troops (some of which are even HI), one of the best airborne deploy troops in the game, and one of the best combat remotes as well.
There is no aspect of the game which Yu Jing is found wanting, their troops are well equipped and diverse, so if you want a lot of flexability on the table, you may want to consider Yu Jing.
Strengths: Versatile troops, can adapt to any situation.
Weaknesses: Does not dominate any one area of the game, best troops are high in cost.
Cheap, effective, low-tech units. An adaptable force that excels at threat saturation and camouflage.
At first glance, it would be easy to underestimate the lowest tech faction in the game. They don't have any TAGs, are basically devoid of hackers, and until recently, didn't even have anything resembling a stompy robot. The strengths of Ariadna however lie in the training of it's troops, and it's access to the rare mineral, Tesium. First and foremost, Ariadna is the king of the camouflage game, with the largest variety to chose from, it's even possible for their entire army to be hidden. Their other troops tend to be inexpensive, numerous, and often well armored, while the faction has easy access to AP (armor piercing) or T2 weaponry, meaning when they do hit, they pack a wallop. Ariadna are the only faction able to bring Antipodes to the battle, large alien beasts resembling werewolves, that are both very resilient, and can tear enemies to shreds in combat. Don't let the lack of sweet powered armor and large fighting robots fool you, the Ariadna army more than makes up for their lack of technology with tenacity, grit, and numbers.
If hiding in the trees, waiting for the perfect ambush sounds up your alley, then look no further than Ariadna.
Strengths: Strong board coverage, camouflage, and hard hitting weapons.
Weaknesses: Low tech, very vulnerable to higher tech weapons and equipment.
Asymmetrical warfare specialists. Plentiful inexpensive guerrilla warfare units, supporting a handful of capable gunfighters.
The masters of trade and controllers of silk, the special material that makes cubes, and thus resurrection possible. Haqqislam forces are made up of a mixture of light skirmishers, irregular fighters, and well trained veterans. Their forces are often lightly armed and armored, but can bring a lot of tricks to the table. Haqqislam makes use of Holoprojectors, which allow their troops to look like something else entirely (by literally using a different miniature), or even appear to be 3 fighters at once. Furthermore, they have respectable access to camouflage, and one of two armies able to field an Impersonator, models which the enemy troops believe to be an ally. To keep your expensive troops alive, they make extensive use of cheaper irregular troops (which don't add their orders to the pool), none of which are remarkable in themselves, but they do present an obstacle that your opponent cannot safely ignore. Their specialist troops are among the best in the game, with above average hackers, and their ability to use doctors is undisputedly beyond any other army. Many of the tools you use in Haqqislam are not there to kill the opponent, but instead there to weaken and demoralize them to the point of submission.
You should consider Haqqislam if you want to misdirect your opponent, fight with asymmetric combined arms, and generally harass your opponent at every opportunity.
Strength: Above average specialists, strong board control, and plenty of tricks.
Weakness: Many irregular troops, must make it a point to include stronger gunfighters.
Lateral thinking, jack of all trades faction with strong hacking and characterful units.
Outcasts, miscreants, and internet trolls, Nomads are the embodiment of cyberpunk in the Human Sphere. The Nomad nation can bring a wide variety of troops to the table, many of which carries a veritable Swiss army knife of gadgets and gizmos to make life for your opponent agonizing. Nomads have a fair amount of effective camouflage troops, backed up by a selection of warbands, and most importantly, hackers. Like a bad 90's movie, Nomad hackers will be causing problems for anything technological that gets near. Nomads are very effective at shutting down more highly-advanced foes, backing up their hackers with a selection of E/M weaponry, repeaters, and other obnoxious tools. In a fight they have few, but extremely effective, ranged units, which will do much of the heavy lifting, as the rest of your force harasses the opponent and accomplishes objectives.
Strengths: Excellent hacking, board control, and toolbox units.
Weaknesses: Often relies on a smaller number of effective gunfighters, predictable lieutenants.
Super-high-tech aliens, elite forces with an emphasis on offensive power.
Intergalactic conquerers, subjugating entire civilizations, under the guidance of the Evolved Intelligence, the Combined Army brings a diverse force to bear of various alien races or biological constructs. One of the most elite armies in the game (read: fewest models), the Combined Army is one of the most hard hitting forces available. They have unique access to plasma weaponry, some of the best hackers, and a variety of deadly remotes, TAGs, and heavy infantry to pick from. The Avatar in particular has the distinction of being the most powerful unit in the game, an absolute terror on the table, though you will not have a lot to back it up with. Two of the most prominent species in the Combined, aside from the EI's own constructs, are Morats and the Shasvastii. Morats are a blunt force instrument of resolute warriors, while the Shasvastii are masters of stealth and subterfuge. Combining the strengths of the different races on the table allows the Combined to use their specialized fighters effectively, while under the watchful eye of their masters.
Check out the Combined Army if you want to terrorize your opponents, using overwhelming firepower, hacking, and exotic technology to crush those in your path.
Strength: Excellent troops, weaponry and equipment.
Weakness: Low model count, problematic when troops start dying.
Super-high-tech Artificial Intelligence, elite forces with an emphasis on defensive tech.
The Human Sphere's answer to the Combined, Aleph is a force of androids, post humans, and remotes. Their capabilities are far beyond their mortal creators, while their motivations remain ambiguous. Good hackers? No problem. Deadly ranged fighters? Plenty to pick from. Close combat murder machines? Toss in a demigod like Achilles, Ajax, or a variety of others. Where the Combined may specialize in offense, Aleph counters with astonishing defense, between a large number of troops sporting NWI (a skill that lets them continue to fight, instead of going unconscious), and the amazing Optical Disruptor Device (ODD), which makes them very challenging to shoot at from range. Their specialists are enviable by nearly every other faction, as well as their hackers. All these perks however have their price, Aleph is an elite force, which doesn't often put tons of fighters on the table. Everything they do bring to the battle is going to be deadly, efficient, and especially effective at it's given role.
Aleph is great for players who want to bring a high tech force with some of the greatest hackers and fighters in the sphere.
Strength: Strong specialists, solid damage output, resilience.
Weakness: Low model count, problematic when troops start dying.
Durable, complex unit choices which pivot away from typical design choices in the other factions.
Aloof and mysterious, the Tohaa are an incredibly unique army. Their main strength lies in it's Triads, special fire teams, able to be comprised of a variety of troops, allowing for extreme flexibility. Despite appearing lightly protected, their symbiont armor makes them shockingly robust. Tohaa have many unique rules, which allow them to perform some unique tricks. One example is their pheromone warfare, an ability which works much like hacking, though targets anything biological, rather than typical hacking vulnerable targets. Their base attributes are fairly average, but their Triads give a hefty bonus to ranged combat, and maneuverability. The combination of improved firepower, maneuverability, and survivability, gained from their rules and equipment, can make Tohaa fun to use, and dreadful to face.
Tohaa is great for someone that really wants to keep their opponents on their toes, with a small, but highly adaptable force. As one of the least played factions, their scarcity, along with unique capabilities can really throw some opponents off.
Strength: Very order efficient, survivable and adaptable.
Weakness: Highest learning curve, less capable gunfighters.
The NA2 armies are a bit unique. Instead of comprising of a generic faction with sectorial forces, the Non-Aligned Armies is a collection of smaller armies, while they do have some units in common, they are totally distinct forces.
Druze Bayram Security. One of the smallest factions in the game, the strength of DBS lies in it's Druze Shock Teams. One of the most diverse fireteams in the game, the Druze have a huge toolkit of weapons, making them effective at nearly any range. Their forces are supplemented with a variety of other mercenary troops, and probably have the most effective use of repeaters in the game. By deploying repeaters around the table, you end up creating a web that heavier enemy troops have to risk getting through, or suffer the consequences.
Druze Bayram Security doesn't have a huge variety of units to pick from, and are often considered a veteran faction, as you will have to learn to get the most out of everything in the army.
Japanese Secessionist Army. Newly separated from their Yu Jing parent faction, JSA has recently received a face lift, and will continue to get more new models. On the table they are probably the most adept army in close combat, with many troops specialized for the role. JSA's Ninjas, Oniwaban, plus a few named characters are great at setting up deadly traps, or cutting down TAGs in a single blow. JSA are a fantastic army for players who really want to get up close and personal with their opponent, or who really just like space samurai, and what's not to like about that?
Ikari Company. An army of merciless mercenaries, happy to blow up a school bus if it means a steady paycheck, The Ikari Company is the epitome of scum and villainy in the sphere. Their army is one of raw offensive power, wielding brutal combinations of ranged firepower and heavy infantry, though their specialist troops are generally lacking. They win fights by breaking the back of their opponent, before actually accomplishing the task at hand. Ikari are great for collectors, since they pull troops from a huge variety of armies in the game, though they can be challenging, and may require a bit more practice to succeed in ITS missions.
StarCo. Free Company of the Star. The StarCo unit roster draws heavily from Nomads, which is unsurprising as they are the "deniable operations" mercenary faction loosely tied to Nomads. While they lose out on the truly elite Nomad unit choices, they have access to to a wide range of toolbox units. StarCo. has a tool for every situation, and the means to get it to where it needs to go, be it by smoke, airborne deployment, or infiltration. The real struggle is to fit all of the excellent choices into a wieldable army! If you wanted to play a GI Joe sectorial, look no further. An excellent second army for Nomad players or for Haqqislam players looking to get into Nomads. Similar to Ikari Company, StarCO is great for collectors thanks to pulling models from a variety of ranges.
Taking the Plunge
No faction in the game has it all, so if you're really focused on gameplay more than aesthetics, it's worth really understanding what you're getting into. Every faction lacks in some way, even Yu Jing, which is the most well rounded, doesn't have units that are the best in the game at what they do. Ultimately, you're going to have to decide what you're giving up to play any given faction. That's not all bad though, it's this tension that keeps the game unique and interesting, every faction has different tools to solve problems on the battlefield. While Nomads may use hacking to stop enemy Heavy Infantry, Ariadna may seek to outmaneuver them, or set up ambushes of short ranged shotgun fire.
Really, you can't go wrong, no matter what you pick. Infinity is a great game like that, I've known people to spend years, only playing a single sectorial (a small, themed part of a larger faction), and never run out of fun and interesting units to play with. Personally, I've got a few armies, Combined and Ariadna, because I like the idea of having both the highest, and lowest tech factions, plus Ikari and Druze, because I think space mercenaries are cool. What I've learned playing the last few years is that as long as you like the broad concept of an army, you'll never get bored with it, and there are always new tricks to discover.