September ITS

Infinity

Yesterday I was able to hit up the monthly Infinity tournament at Redcap’s for the first time in a while. Our group is in a rebuilding phase following a lot of growth in 2017 and a dip in 2018, so I was happy to see a showing of 8 players that was simultaneously small but solid (below our late 2017 average, bit higher than 2018). Don handled scoring & pairing and it was a low key, fun day.

For me it was another datapoint toward my half-serious suspicion that I have a narrow band in which I play Infinity best, because… I won! That band is basically “Have played enough recently to remember core rules and dynamics, but am not playing enough to try to get tricksy.” Some of our group’s heaviest hitters weren’t in attendance, but I directly faced two of our top tier players and was happy with my play. This batrep has some quick notes on what I was thinking.

Shock Army

Shock Army of AcontecimentoComing back after a bit of a hiatus, I decided to build and field a squad from the Shock Army of Acontecimento. I’ve played RECON+ firefights with the faction but had never previously prepared enough troops for full games. I really really like a lot of the models though, so I just committed to using this event as a forcing function to get together a 300pt army. Entertainingly, literally as I was sitting down to paint a bunch of the models, Adam H sends Don & I a message “Did you see that Shock Army got discontinued?” and I was like “¡¿WUT?!” (Corvus Belli is rotating a number of the models out of production, but the faction will remain playable)

I then decided to orient my army around Bagh Maris, mostly because I love the most recent sculpts. It also didn’t hurt, though not a huge consideration either, that the Season 10 ITS rules gave the unit Forward Deployment. I’d had a box sitting on my shelf for ~18 months now, and I had picked up the HMG blister at an event two weeks ago just to support that shop (Maplewood Hobbies). So I guess on average the turnaround time from box-to-table for these models was… almost reasonable??

Looking at the recent faction updates I also decided to add Dart just because the profile grabbed me and I had a cool model for it. I’ve never played with Camo except for mostly trivial uses of TO Camo (pop out from hiding and tap an objective or surprise shot something) and she seemed like fun. Last week I’d noticed the new CSU blister at Redcap’s, had randomly picked it up just because it looked cool, and it clicked that it could be a passable Dart proxy: S2 profile, Uzi-style pistol for a Submachine Gun, funky shotgun-thing to stand in as a Viral Tactical Bow. Personally I really like the image of this Corporate Security character playing with Dart’s very mobile abilities—she’s so skilled, so tough, so cool under fire, that she’s out there sneaking around (Camo), climbing walls (Climbing+), and tanking hits (No Wound Incapacitation), all in her business suit. It’s the James Bond firefight aesthetic, which I really enjoy.

So I got to work. Wednesday evening I assembled the models, Thursday I got in a practice game to have played the units at least once, overnight Saturday I painted them, Sunday they were the core of winning three games—I actually couldn’t even put them in my cases to drive down to the shop because the final washes were still drying.

Bagh Maris and CSU-Dart freshly out of the cloning vats or whatever.

Missions

The three missions for the event were Acquisition, Supremacy, and Unmasking. I’m not a big fan of ITS missions generally (many are a bit overly complicated, the Classified Deck has issues with balance and negative play, and the writeups are unnecessarily confusing and poorly presented). These were enjoyable though. For my intended primary units they worked well in that they each require some specialists to work objectives and there’s a lot of mid-field play. Bagh Maris, for example, are suited to those because they have Paramedic and Hacker specialists, a good selection of ranged and close quarters weapons, and at least in this season have Forward Deployment.

Importantly in hindsight, the morning of the event I sat down and wrote a quick summary of the missions. My primary motivation was to share with the group and help keep things moving and people informed. But that also meant I’d closely read all of the scoring conditions and had better familiarity with the missions than I usually have.

Lists

In thinking about army lists I applied a standard top level rubric of mine:

  1. Keep it simple—one or two tricks;
  2. Need some redundancy but can’t spend on too many heavy hitters;
  3. Pick cool models.

I also constrained myself to only painted models, with the Bagh Maris and Dart being all the new models I could stretch to realistically get done before the event. Those added to the Akal Commandos, Regulars (and Fusiliers if needed), Montesa Knight, and variety of Pan-O bots that I had on hand ready-to-go.

In the end I chose two lists:

Bagh Mari Runaround list for Acquisition and Unmasking.

Akal Commando Drop for Supremacy.

As with the overall army direction, some of these selections are just about cool models. Why a Regular Sapper Sniper over a Bagh Mari Sniper? On our group’s tables Sapper on the Regular is a wash with Mimetism on the Bagh Mari, the latter can likely deploy in cover. The Regular is 6pts cheaper, but not as well equipped (weaker armor, no MSV1, mines, etc.). Ultimately I just wanted to play the Sapper. They’re both really cool models, but the former I’ve had painted for a while but never used because it doesn’t make sense on the small tables of RECON+, so she got her chance.

But, I did put some thought into these selections.

Bagh Mari Runaround

The core idea in the Bagh Mari Runaround list is a big ‘ole 5-man fireteam with a bunch of tools to roll forward onto objectives while Dart and the Naga provide mid-field surprises and the Sierra & Sapper long range reactive coverage from my backfield.

The “one or two tricks” is the 5-man team along with Dart & the Naga. I have very very rarely played a full fireteam like that, so managing it and using it effectively was going to be a challenge. Camo games are also not something I have much experience with so I was worried about using the latter two well. The Naga was a late addition that I’d also never used before but happened to have a painted one from a trade some time ago. I figured it might synergize well with Dart, and at minimum could play a lot like my beloved TO Camo Order Sergeants in my Military Orders lists: A specialist that can be deployed close to the objectives and not have to spend orders running upfield. Between the big team and the Camo, that was about all the complication I wanted.

For heavy hitting I thought a lot about including a Montesa Knight in this list. I absolutely love the starter box model and it’s been the core of my RECON+ Shock Army lists (deploying forward with a Spitfire, a Lieutenant order, and good armor can be very strong on those tables). But I couldn’t justify it here because of the investment in the Bagh Mari fireteam. That was going to be my primary driver, consume most of my orders, and need as many of those as I could get. I would also already have two HMGs on the table, plus a Sniper. So, following my second guide of not having too many heavy hitters, the Montesa Knight sat out. I was also thinking the Montesa Knight would be too far backfield to step in if the team got wiped, but on second thought with its Mechanized Deployment that’s not true so I’ll think about it again in the future.

Bagh Mari Hacker works on an antenna while his fireteam defends their position.

Akal Commando Drop

The core idea and “one or two tricks” in the Akal Commando Drop list is having a bunch of Akalis to drop into the enemy sectors for domination points, while the Haris option on the Bagh Maris lets me have two fireteams to efficiently advance onto objectives.

Notably, the Akalis are all organized into one combat group so I can put coordinated orders on them right away. The cute idea here is ideally I’d bring all four onto the board, take just a couple actions, and then use coordinated orders to move them all into safe positions and Suppressive Fire to rack up points in the domination sectors. This is really risky, effectively starting very low on orders with at best just six on the table in the primary combat group at game start. But I play a lot of AD-heavy lists and single combat groups all the time with my Military Orders, so I felt comfortable with it.

Fight!

My two lists and (very) freshly painted models in hand, I headed into the tournament.

Round 1: Acquisition

First up I faced Wayne and his Nomads, trying to hack Antennas and be in base-to-base with a Tech-Coffin on the centerline in Acquisition.

Acquisition table configuration.

Wayne brought a very small list focused around a Gecko and a fireteam with multiple HMGs. He went first and made a solid firebase with the Gecko in a central position overlooking the Tech-Coffin while the HMGs provided overwatch. I lost my Sierra TR turret and Regular Sniper very early in a string of unlucky rolls. The Bagh Mari team got into a good position covering an Antenna and the Tech-Coffin, and the HMG had a sustained fight with the opposing team. Eventually though something was able to sneak around the building they’d camped out on and take him down with a Chain Rifle. I also played my Commandos poorly, a little too aggressively and a lot too carelessly. I didn’t check line of sight well enough and one got pipped right away on landing. The other held on, took out a model, and absorbed some orders, but wasn’t well spent. Dart spent a lot of orders on a very lucky specialist on the other Antenna, but eventually was able to clear the latter and then break the HMG team.

Outcome: Major victory.

The big success here was to not stress about losing my heavy shooters early. I took a moment to settle, then focused on line of sight and Careful Moves around terrain and onto the objectives without the benefit of big covering fire. Importantly, I didn’t try to press an attack or maximize my quantity of AROs. I mostly held to my table half, kept my models alive, and did just enough to continually trim down Wayne’s orders and keep his advancing units off the objectives but not actively go forward to further engage his army or lean my guys out to get whittled down.

Sapper waits for action.

Round 2: Supremacy

Next up was Tom and his Nomads, trying to hack Consoles and dominate (have more army points in) quadrant sectors in Supremacy. I think of Tom as my benchmark player: We’ve been closely matched for a little while now, but he has much deeper experience with the game. So if I play very well I might beat him, but it’s always a real tough battle and we’ve been going back and forth 50/50 on wins, which is great.

Supremacy table configuration.

At the start of this battle I realized “Oh snap, I did not practice this at all and have not thought this through!” My list had no good model with which to sync the mission’s Xenotech (i.e., without breaking a fireteam). Ironically I had made comments about that problem for my typical Military Orders lists when Season 10 came out, but just didn’t think about this mission too much coming in. Sooo my Xenotech wound up synced to my Sniper in their Foxhole, which audibly confused Tom when I declared it. I carefully maintained a stoic visage of grand strategery…

On the one hand I made some dumb moves throughout this game. The Bagh Maris could have trivially deployed much closer to an objective and saved an order. I spent the last order in my primary combat group Turn 1 to put my Akalis into Suppressive Fire, kept one out because I didn’t want to activate it in sight of a TR bot, only to then realize my Sniper actually had a shot on that bot and took it down, so by not staging orders properly I had blown what could have been a very strong position for that Commando. Very late in the game I could have positioned Dart better to cover the approach to an objective. Lots of little but important missteps like these.

On the other hand, that I was picking up on those inefficiencies was a good sign that I was generally on my game. As planned, early on the Akalis took the battle forward and acted as speed bumps, so we were fighting over Tom’s sectors rather than mine. That created space for my fireteams to run up into my quadrants and claim the Console objectives. Dart shored up the center, and the fireteam of Regulars came forward on the side and denied Tom’s last minute attempts to claim a second objective.

Bagh Maris sweep and clear a laboratory.

The Xenotech syncing turned out… weird. It actually wasn’t terrible to be synced to the Sniper—the Sniper did its thing, then moved forward enough to get the Xenotech just short of placing the Multiscanner but inside a quadrant. The Sniper died but an Akal re-synced the Xenotech, only for the latter to fail dropping the Multiscanner and the Commando to get shot down. Upshot was for three turns I had the Xenotech in a dominated quadrant but not synced and the rules-as-written seem to clash with plausible intent as to whether or not that met one of the scoring conditions. After a good amount of discussion and searching books & Google among Don, Tom, and I—the rules debate we prompted is still going in the WGC Infinity Facebook group—we went with the former. That put the game in my favor, from a 1 point loss to a 2 point victory.

Outcome: Minor victory.

I had two big successes here. One was taking the fight up into Tom’s sectors and putting him squarely on the defensive. The other was that I had strength in depth on the center and a supporting flank. So, for example, a Taskmaster started coming forward but got held in check by a series of speed bumps—two Akalis, another Akalis Hacker, Dart, a Spitfire Regular—and eventually put down, yielding its sector.

Regulars take a breather advancing on the right flank.

Round 3: Unmasking

Last up was Don and his new OSS trying to hack Consoles while identifying and eliminating a Designated Target hidden among several decoy civilians in Unmasking. Don and I have been playing games for 15 years now, ever since he was the first one to stand up and say hi when my friend Daryl & I walked into our first PAGE meeting. So I was really happy when he started playing Infinity… and then dismayed when he started practicing a lot and got good at it! (kidding) (about getting good at it! oh, snap!)

Table configuration for Unmasking.

The terrain and limited independent units in my army composition kind of forced my deployment to be concentrated to one side, leaving the left-most civilian looking entirely unprotected. Don teased me about it, that I better not be taking a wild flyer making that the Designated Target hoping he would assume it couldn’t possibly be. I thought about it! But I also knew that I had Commandos waiting to drop in on that side if necessary. However, I went for a conservative option and chose my centrally placed civilian. I figured Don would have to hedge his bets by moving toward my heavily defended civilian, but if my defenses failed I didn’t want my Designated Target to be at the point of that thrust. Those defenses were also mostly applicable to the center one.

A bigger risk was that the Bagh Mari team all camped out behind a barricade on the flank, absolutely ripe to be surprised by some kind of Airborne troop or a Smoke warband running up to template them. But there wasn’t much cover on the available buildings, I wanted to be upfield a bit, and from that position they’d have a good angle on one of the two main approaches, so I very hesitantly went for it.

That was ultimately a critical decision. Backed up by the 5-man team (so +3 BS, +1 B) and its MSV1, the Bagh Mari HMG eventually won a gunfight with an advancing team and took a ton of energy out of Don’s forward advance. The Naga worked terrain angles to run up to the center Console and find Don’s Designated Target, then settled into a good position to defend mine. Dart came up and Spiderwomanned into her own excellent defensive position on the other Console. Going into Turn 2 Don was in Loss of Lieutenant and my forces in really strong defensive positions covering all the major arteries. I didn’t lose much and then was able to swarm forward to take out his Designated Target and move the action decidedly onto his side of the table.

Bagh Mari team overwatching a firelane, waiting for the OSS to come.

Outcome: Major victory.

A big success here was actually meta-game, the physiology of tournament play. The game with Tom was tough and I’d just barely held on mentally, let alone in the score. It was getting late in the day, hadn’t slept much, getting hungry, etc.. So at the top of this round I had to drink some water, spend a quiet moment refocusing, and explicitly think toward pushing on to win rather than relaxing and settling for second or third.

Game-wise, my big success here was deployment. We’d actually joked during it that “This is the whole game, right here, we’re just gonna set up models and then think about it, decide who would win.” That turned out true to a large extent. I had a good mental map on all the different angles across the board and all my units either in strong positions or able to get into them. Importantly, my first turn I didn’t worry about killing or even too much claiming objectives. I spent all my orders just getting troops ready to rebuff Don’s next turn and then go forward in mine, and it worked out.

Conclusion

With two major victories and a minor, I came out ahead on tournament points and objective points. Winning is obviously good, but I was happy just to play well. I hadn’t actually played Infinity between mid-April and mid-September, and it was nice to get back into the groove fairly quickly and do well against a couple tough opponents in good games with friends. Looking forward to playing more!

Dart defends a critical position at all cost.

First Infinity Tournament: Redcap’s RECON

military-orders-iconYesterday I entered my first Infinity event. My home shop, Redcap’s Corner, hosted a beginner’s tournament using the unofficial RECON missions. This was a great driver to actually start playing. I’ve had a few models for two years now but other than a tutorial by my buddy Steve this summer and another by Alex this Thursday, I’d never gotten them on the table. Only four players showed up, but it was an excellent day of gaming. I’ve totally got it now: Though almost overwhelmingly complex to get started, and I think unnecessarily convoluted in rules presentation as well as jarringly inconsistent here and there in some details and mechanics, Infinity is an incredible game with a ton of strategy and narrative.

Though just beginner games, interesting things happened throughout, so this is a battle report for the day. There are a few more photos in my Flickr gallery.

Wounded but undaunted, my Father Knight leads the charge.

Wounded but undaunted, my Father Knight leads the charge.

Army

RECON is basically half size games. Lists are 150 points, with a single combat group and fireteam permitted, along with some other restrictions. The table is cut down to 2’x3′ and the ITS mission scenarios reduced to match, with all specialists (forward observers, medics, and hackers) able to activate all objectives.

I fight for the PanOceania technological hyperpower, specifically its Military Orders sectorial army. Sadly I chose that sectorial because it looks awesome. Coming from 40k as a Space Marine commander doggedly serving the gothic emperor, I have a special appreciation for religious nut jobs running around in power armor with swords while everybody else is packing oversized rifles, orbital bombardments, and so on. Only after I had a handful of models painted did I come to know that universal consensus is that the faction is really hard to play competitively, and certainly one of the hardest to start with… Most critically, the models are so expensive in game points and you field so few that you just can’t afford to make mistakes. As the kids say: Womp womp.

In any event, I brought the following army list:

screenshot_2016-10-30_07-31-30

I lead off choosing a Father Knight just because the physical sculptures are amazing. I really wanted to field both of mine (blister + Icestorm variant), but putting 2/3 of my points into two models seemed excessively foolish. However, I do think the unit is solid. It’s weird that a strong close combat fighter doesn’t have a Martial Arts skill, but they’re tough models with 2 wounds, 5 armor, and 9 bio-technological shield.

The Fusiliers are my cheapest options for the specialists needed to claim the scenario objectives. I didn’t field a hacker mostly to conserve points and a little bit to minimize the game mechanics involved in my squad. Taking the maximum of three permitted by the sectorial also got me to 7 models (plus the AUXBOT) generating 7 regular orders, which felt viable at 150 points. Anything less I felt was very risky in terms of actually being able to do anything, even before casualties started.

The Spec Sergeant with Auxiliary Bot essentially filled out points I had remaining. The bot wields a heavy flamethrower, which pulls at my heartstrings as a Salamanders-rules 40k player. But it’s also half again faster than standard infantry, which I thought might be handy for a late move on an HVT or similar action.

The last two models were my main strategic army choices. The Crusader has Airborne Deployment L4. The Spec Sergeant Forward Observer has Infiltration and TO Camo. Both give me a way to deploy upfield, obviating spending precious orders just moving models forward. With its boarding shotgun, the Crusader can hopefully run amok in my opponent’s backfield and take out weak order generating cheerleaders, reducing their army’s ability to act. Meanwhile, the Spec Sergeant hides in perfect camouflage until the moment comes to break for an objective it can activate as an FO specialist.

Everybody watching Thursday's tutorial game lead by Alex.

Everybody watching Thursday’s tutorial game lead by Alex.

Round 1

First up was Rae and his Yu Jing in the Exfiltrate mission. With both of us super unfamiliar with the rules, this was a sloppy, slow affair. We only made it through one of the standard three rounds. One notable moment though was actually in deployment, when an Oniwaban with a lethal monofilament close combat weapon failed to infiltrate and had to run up from his backfield. Unfortunately a Ninja did pop up right next to my Father Knight and couldn’t be kept out of close combat. The humble AUXBOT saved the game though in the final actions, just barely managing to tag the charging Oniwaban with its heavy flamethrower and burn the ninja to a crisp before it could grab a civilian.

Outcome: Draw, 0-0 with no civilians rescued and no HVTs claimed. Fortunately for my standings the other table came to a 0-0 draw as well. Most importantly though, coming out of this match I felt reasonably in the groove with the basic mechanics of the game.

Analysis: The AUXBOT was MVP, deployed to guard one of the enemy civilian objectives and doing exactly that to preserve the draw. One note was that the hidden Ninja attack on my Father Knight essentially forced me to reveal my TO Camo Spec Sergeant in my reactive phase in a desperate attempt to stop its charge. Didn’t matter here, but in general that would be unfortunate, wasting the hidden sergeant’s ability to make a surprise shot, late grab for objectives, and so on.

Ninjas, attack!

Ninjas, attack!

Round 2

Next was Alex and his Haqqislam in Seize the Antennas. Fortunately I saw his list Thursday when Tim borrowed it for a tutorial. So I knew to watch out for the sniper, missile bot, and the hacker lighting up my models to call down orbital bombardments.

Also very helpful was a short discussion we all had beforehand about the different tables. Bonsky (the TO) pointed out a slight asymmetry on this map: One deployment zone had a wall closing off an alleyway which was clear on the other side. I got to choose deployment zones, so I chose the side with the extra wall. Partly that would prevent any shenanigans with models appearing near my table edge, running behind the buildings, and seizing the antenna objective in the alley. More importantly, if Alex had the extra wall, it would potentially cripple the effectiveness of my Crusader combat jumping into his backfield by limiting firelanes and hampering movement.

Missile bot.

Missile bot.

That decision had huge impact. Alex quickly seized two of the three antennas and set up a bunch of models in defensive postures around the midfield. However, the Crusader came down right in the middle of his deployment zone and went on a rampage with its boarding shotgun. First it went forward to execute a specialist on the antenna—I was worried about Haqqislam doctor tricks bringing her back if left just unconscious—and then ran back behind the buildings to take out both baggage droids and successfully draw and rebuff fire from one of the rooftop teams. Cutting those three orders from Alex’s next turn put us on much more even footing, and taking out the specialist poised to run up the center toward the next antenna didn’t hurt.

Downed baggage bot.

Downed baggage bot.

Meanwhile, my Fusilier Forward Observers advanced as a fireteam duo toward the central antenna, carefully using the buildings to stay hidden from long range shooting teams on the rooftops. Then they dashed across an alleyway, dodged the incoming fire, and climbed up the objective building. After a brief but intense firefight with the Haqqislam specialist guarding it and the various models arrayed to shoot on that position, they managed to huddle down and seize that antenna.

From there, Alex’s lieutenant made a play for my home antenna, winning the firefight with my Father Knight leaping at the threat. That put me into loss of lieutenant, but I had just enough command tokens for the final turn to convert the resulting irregular orders to regular. That gave me just enough to get it done. Suddenly my Spec Sergeant in hiding revealed himself on a nearby rooftop, slid down a ladder, and ran up to recapture the antenna. At the same time, with the central antenna secured, the Fusiliers jumped from their position and ran through incoming fire from the rooftop enemies to secure the Haqqislam HVT, counterbalancing the loss of my own HVT.

Battle!

Battle!

Outcome: Victory for the Military Orders 8-5, with two and one antennas respectively claimed, and both HVTs secured by the opposing sides.

Analysis: My plan to use the Crusader to take out vulnerable order generating units in the enemy backfield worked perfectly. There was also an interesting decision at the very end to send the Fusiliers either toward the enemy HVT or to clear off a light infantry model on my HVT. I went for the former, which worked out. My rationale was that if the Fusiliers were going to take roughly similar fire along both courses, then clearly I should go for the objective that just required moving into place. Otherwise I’d risk failing rolls and not taking out the enemy model.

The real clutch of this game though was deploying the TO Camo Spec Sergeant very defensively, and holding him hidden until the absolute end. At multiple points I was really tempted to have him pop out for some surprise shooting. But it was much more valuable to still have him perfectly positioned for a last minute critical objective grab.

Checking to see if there's any way to get those pesky Fusiliers.

Checking to see if there’s any way to get those pesky Fusiliers.

Round 3

The last round was a minefield, literally. With a central tech-coffin and its data package as linchpin of the Smash and Grab scenario’s capture-the-flag, Tom had his Nomads deploy mines and crazy koalas (basically a hopping mine) all around it.

I tried to trigger all the mines and koalas at once by dropping my Crusader into the thick of them. But it dispersed and only triggered just enough to get killed, not enough to clear the area. So then my infiltrating Spec Sergeant revealed himself right next to the tech-coffin in slim hopes to quickly grab the data package. He didn’t weather everything that came at him, but did set off most of the remaining mines.

Nomad remote oversees the battlefield.

Nomad remote oversees the battlefield.

With that a Nomad Moran charged onto the objective building but fortunately failed to operate the tech-coffin and retrieve the data package. That gave one of my Fusiliers time to climb up on the building and take down the enemy, but not enough to grab the data package. Unfortunately, a Jaguar was able to use smoke grenades to make his way unhampered to the tech-coffin, operate it (this mission did not require specialists), and run away with the package before I could respond.

With the endgame approaching, the chase was on! I burned my command tokens to make most of my remaining squad run after the Jaguar in coordinated orders. Charging across the rooftops, rebuffing mines and repeated hacking, the Father Knight was able to gun him down from the back in an alley. A Fusilier then grabbed the data package and ran for safety while everybody else set up a kill box on the only path between him and the remaining enemies. The enemy lieutenant that came leaping down was thus easily dispatched, while my defenders also claimed the enemy HVT.

Battle!

Battle!

Outcome: Victory for the Military Orders 6-2, after Tom scored the data package at the end of the second round but I scored at the end of round three when it was worth double for the endgame bonus, as well as claiming his HVT.

Analysis: Sacrificing the Crusader in attempt to trigger the mines wasn’t ridiculous, but I probably should have sent it against Tom’s backfield baggage bots just like I did with Alex. Partly I did not because I thought his units back there were more deadly than they are, partly there wasn’t enough space to ideally position the drop zone template. But mostly I wanted to keep the TO Camo Spec Sergeant hidden to pop up and grab the data package after the mines were cleared. However, in the same position, I would now probably have the Crusader go to reduce the enemy order count, while either a Fusilier ran up to trigger all the mines or the Spec Sergeant did—it being well placed to do so perfectly—and the Fusiliers came in to grab the objective.

Fusilier engaging a Nomad.

Fusilier engaging a Nomad.

Once the Fusilier was in place to grab the objective, I made a conscious decision to not grab the objective right then. My thinking was that I had no remaining orders to take it anywhere, the Fusilier would probably die exposed on the rooftop so I wouldn’t hold it to score anyway at the end of the round anyway, and it would be better to have Tom potentially fail the test to release the data package after he finally got in position. That logic again wasn’t terrible, but I’m not sure I would do it again. The Fusilier might have survived, and the Jaguar’s smoke grenades made it vastly easier than I expected to just walk up and grab the objective since I couldn’t see to respond at all.

At the very end I failed to put my kill box models into suppressive fire mode. It was a longshot anyway for anything to move through them to get at my data package Fusilier, but I just didn’t think about it due to inexperience.

The Father Knight was probably the MVP here, with his very high BTS 9 shrugging off several critical hacking attacks and enabling him to take down the escaping Jaguar, in addition to knocking down several enemies earlier in reactive shots.

Mines everywhere!

Mines everywhere!

Final Results

With two wins and a draw I came out with the best record and most points. I chose for my prize a small gift card and the Druze Hacker special model that came with pre-release orders of the N3 human Sphere book. I figure it’ll make a good HVT.

Druze Hacker pre-release model.

Druze Hacker pre-release model.

Observations

Father Knight especially but the Military Orders overall feel very 40k Space Marine-y: Expensive in points, very robust, pretty good at everything, not great at anything. Also echoing 40k Space Marines, the Military Orders units being religious and thus not retreating when your army is well depleted is probably a boon at this low point value, since you might hit that point pretty quickly.

Initially I was really worried about not having enough orders, but seven is probably reasonable for this format. With a single combat group in RECON the max is 10, and only Alex fielded that many in this event. I didn’t feel overly limited.

Ironically for Military Orders, I may have fielded the greatest number of offensively capable models. I’m not sure about Rae, but Alex and Tom both had two baggage remotes and another one or two remotes also without serious shooting capabilities. In some sense I spent those same points on Fusiliers. The tiniest bit more costly, but with reasonable attacks. Both games were really tight until the end. But both those opponents also hit a point a bit before that where I unexpectedly felt they had more or less run out of ways to come at me and the objectives even though they had a similar number of models on the table. In Tom’s case the active attackers were mostly dead, and in Alex’s most of the remaining models were long range shooters and supporting models in backfield positions. Meanwhile, I had just a few more models still actively running around midfield shooting and grabbing objectives even though the number of casualties weren’t very imbalanced. Despite being super worried about Military Orders not fielding enough models, I wound up running comparatively more of a swarm of relatively basic troopers. As another sign of that, note that I spent 0 SWC, i.e., spent no squad points on fancy equipment. Those extra bodies perhaps gave me a bit more robustness to make mistakes and more depth to have a strong end game. That gels with my experience in other miniatures games, especially at low points. There’s a lot to be said for simply having more bodies—the other army list I considered possibly better but less fun and cool looking was just a bunch of Order Sergeants and the Fusiliers. I was considering that primarily in terms of order generation, but simply having more models running around would also be a strength. In preparing a RECON list, you need to be really careful that you’re not bringing so many cool toys that it cuts into your basic ability to suffer some casualties but still fight and maneuver.

Haqqislam lieutenant just rudely pushes the paramedic aside.

Haqqislam lieutenant just rudely pushes the paramedic aside.

The only special ability among my models I didn’t use was the Paramedic, through poor placement on my part either getting her killed early or just not being in position to resuscitate anybody. I’ll have to work on that.

Everybody else though came through in at least one critical moment by leveraging their unique traits, so overall I was really happy with my army list selection. The AUXBOT preserved the draw in the first round by having a good weapon to reliably defend an objective. The Crusader and TO Camo Spec Sergeant enabled the second round win. The Father Knight earned his points in the final round by being tough enough to shrug off a bunch of physical and hacking attacks to chase down and eliminate the Jaguar carrying the data package.

However, the MVPs for the whole day were my Forward Observer Fusiliers, quietly but significantly making the central pushes without which the second and third round victories wouldn’t have happened. Both times they charged up and onto a central objective, won firefights to clear it off, claimed it, and then moved on to also secure enemy HVTs. That’s pretty good for a pair of 12 point models! They proved more resilient and potent than expected. I’m also really happy with their paint job, so I’m pretty pleased with these guys at the moment.

Fusiliers saving the day.

Fusiliers saving the day.

RECON

Although pretty solid for a fan effort, the RECON packet itself could stand some cleanup. There are some clear presentation errors, such as the Smash and Grab mission seemingly copying some text from the full ITS missions about specialists but apparently not actually requiring specialists to operate the tech-coffin. It’s unclear if that’s an oversight or intentional. There are also at least a few substantive changes needed that we made on the fly. Dispersements should be cut down to match the smaller table. We played it as 8″, but I would probably do 9″ in the future so that you would definitely disperse out of any zone of control effects you intended to apply. The second player should also only be able to use a command token to cut one of their opponent’s orders in the first turn, and maybe none at all.

More subjectively, for beginners the missions probably either need to be chosen carefully or some of them tweaked down in difficulty. The Exfiltrate mission in particular seems just too difficult to start off with. Either the scoring needs to be tweaked (e.g., shift the emphasis between grabbing civilians versus bringing them back toward the former) and/or the exclusion & saturation zone needs to be diminished.

Welcome to the Sphere!

That said, RECON was a great format for my first event. I learned quite a bit about Infinity and am eager to play it more often from here on. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, Redcap’s has a small crowd of regular players on Sunday afternoons, and people sometimes play on Thursday nights. There is a small Philadelphia Infinity Facebook group to hook up with people for those or other meetups.

Again, there are a few more photos from this event in my Flickr gallery.

See you out there!

2016 NOVA 40k Trios

nova-40k-150pxThis year Colin and I assumed direction of the 40k Team Trios Tournament at the NOVA Open wargaming convention. It turned out a huge success. Eighteen teams (54 players) participated, doubling the previous participation record. Everything went smoothly, and we had a great group of players and armies. This is a quick recap of the event.

A few more photos than those here are in my Flickr gallery. There are also many more in NOVA’s official Flickr gallery for day 1 of this year’s convention.

2016 NOVA 40k Trios underway!

2016 NOVA 40k Trios underway!

Trios

NOVA 40k Trios is a somewhat unique format. Players register in teams of three.  Over three game rounds they play a doubles games with each of their teammates, and one solo game on their own. It’s a very friendly format because you’re guaranteed two games playing alongside friends, so relative newcomers tend to enjoy it. Meanwhile, you also get one game to bring out all your toys. That’s actually a big mental challenge, especially for the final solo player of the day. It’s hard to go from playing 1000pts alongside a friend for two games in a row and then suddenly have to efficiently command 1850 points on your own.

In addition, NOVA Trios puts a big emphasis on the theme of the armies and crafting a narrative about why these three forces are fighting together. There’s a separate prize for that, and many teams prepare detailed stories, display boards, and supporting materials to present that background.

A display board themed around a Jurassic Park of Tyranids.

A display board themed around a Jurassic Park of Tyranids.

Updates

For 2016 we made a number of big updates to the tournament. You can check out the full event rulebook for details. In general we put a lot of effort into simply formalizing the event: Fully specified & objective theme scoring, comprehensive mission writeups, and so on, all available online a full nine months in advance. Beyond that, we also added or changed several components.

First we dialed the solo game points down a bit, from 2000 to 1850. Historically Trios has always run very late and delayed the start of the 40k Narrative well into the night. So we shaved off these points to better foster finishing rounds on time. I also believe that playing smaller games reduces many, though not all, of the rock/paper/scissors effects and arguable balance problems present in 40k currently (balance in 40k is a whole other topic—I personally don’t agree that it’s “imbalanced,” but do feel its balance paradigm does not line up with most players’ assumptions and expectations).

Conversely, we also allowed superheavies and gargantuan creatures. I just don’t think it’s realistic to not allow these in standard games anymore. Many factions have access to a big model and rely on them to counter other army designs like deathstars. They’re also a huge part of the product line, with multiple fantastic models available, and players want to use their favorite toys. However, there’s a strong argument that many are undercosted, and many casual players are still not prepared to fight them. Our missions therefore include several penalties. Each superheavy or gargantuan in the opposing army gives a +1 bonus to the roll to determine turn order. In addition, every 2 hull points or wounds taken off a big model awards a victory point. We’ve used these rules in tournaments throughout the past two years. I personally found them a severe disadvantage and stopped fielding my Imperial Knight, while other players felt such models were still worthwhile. So, I think they strike a reasonable compromise, allowing these still controversial models while also reining them in a bit.

NOVA campaign badges marking the shoulders of a Space Marne army.

NOVA campaign badges marking the shoulders of a Space Marne army.

We also permitted 30k armies. A bunch of questions came up about how exactly Age of Darkness armies fit in, but nothing too problematic. With no 30k events scheduled for Thursday, a fair number of Heresy players joined in and brought great looking armies.

To boost those remaining armies that don’t have access to a codex detachment or useful formations, we also added our Quick Reaction Force detachment. It’s basically a way to take an army with a bunch of elites, focus on either fast attack or heavy support, and in return choose your warlord trait and get objective secured. A number of players made use of it, but not nearly so many as to make clear that it’s overpowered.

Finally, we added an individual Warmaster scoring track separate from the team scoring. Players were given a list of achievements for their warlord to accomplish and earn points. The primary intent here was to give something for good players on weaker teams to work toward, something for weaker players getting clobbered on the actual missions to try and achieve, and to bring some narrative flair to the games.

Warlord achievements.

Warlord achievements.

Missions

For some time now we’ve been designing missions around a primary, secondary, and tertiary objective structure, respectively scoring up to 9, 6, and 5 points. The tertiaries are the standard First Blood, Linebreaker, and Slay, but with the latter two doubled in value, and with an additional Victory Through Attrition objective for damaging superheavies and gargantuan creatures. A list of secondary objectives is made available, either for each mission or events as a whole, from which players choose. The goal is that they have to play to the mission, as captured by the primary objective. But in choosing a secondary they can tailor their strategic objectives to their strengths and preferences. For example, faced with a number of primary objectives, a player with few but robust units might opt for an annihilation-oriented secondary. Meanwhile, their opponent with a number of small, mobile forces, might double down on ground control and choose a secondary for claiming terrain or additional objective markers.

The first mission had players placing four objectives, resulting in one in each deployment zone and two in neutral ground. Players then had a choice of scoring those continuously, at the end of their turns, or at the end of the game. This choice enables alpha strike, high mobility, and attrition oriented armies to all play toward their preferred style and strengths.

Booklet presenting the history of the campaign bringing one team's armies together.

Booklet presenting the history of the campaign bringing one team’s armies together.

Next up was an annihilation mission, based around eliminating quartiles of the opponent’s army. For breaking 25%, 50%, and 75% of their army by unit count, players got 2, 4, and 6 victory points. This structure attempts to address some of the imbalances in standard kill point accounting, without incurring complex point cost calculations. The challenge is that armies with many small units, including transports, are inherently at a disadvantage to armies with just a few rock hard or huge units if scoring is done just by counting units removed. My Kingbreakers pretty regularly field ~20 units, so there’s no way I’ll eliminate more units than, say, a Grey Knights army fielding 4 units. In the quartiles system though it’s more balanced: Eliminating just one of those units is worth eliminating ~5 of mine. Importantly, we’re also able to calculate that outcome without delving into tallying up army points, it’s all based around simple accounting of units.

Rounding out the tournament was my take on a Maelstrom mission. I have a separate lengthy discussion about that, but the core idea is removing much of the silly randomness and forced play in GW’s format, while preserving the required tactical flexibility and also giving more strategic control.

This arrangement of missions is not happenstance. We open the day with a relatively simple, standard mission to get people going quickly and give nearly all armies an even chance through the choice of continuous or endgame scoring. Then the annihilation and Maelstrom missions play off each other. The former somewhat favors armies built around rock units, while the latter somewhat favors armies with many highly mobile, small units. You can’t pass through the tournament doing well by having just one or the other, you need to be able to play against your army’s weaknesses.

Dewey (right), NOVA's head of ops, makes time to compete in the Trios.

Dewey (right), NOVA’s head of ops, makes time to compete in the Trios.

Outcomes

One of the big stories from this year’s NOVA is Games Workshop’s return to organized play. The company donated a tremendous amount of product to both the 40k prize bags and the SuperNOVA swag bags. In addition, it provided impressive chainsword trophies to go with the top prizes in each 40k & 30k event, custom sculpted specifically for NOVA. As the first 40k event of the convention, we had the honor to give out the very first NOVA chainsword trophies, carried by hand by Mike Brandt direct from Nottingham in order to be at the event on time, to our Renaissance Trio, the top team from battle points, sportsmanship, craftsmanship, and theme scoring.

40k Trios chainsword trophies, straight from Nottingham.

40k Trios chainsword trophies, straight from Nottingham.

Full final results are available in ODS and  XLSX format. Our winners were:

  • Artists: Team Judicious—Jonathan Fisher, Kris Rader, Jason Baldwin
  • Storytellers: Teams Bellicose and Heinous—Clemente Berrios, Trevor Alen, Michael Hayes; Stephen Duall, Sebastian Duall, Alex Duall
  • Strategists: Team Gallant—Paul Bowman, Jessica Bowman, Dave Penfold
  • Warmaster: Jhason Hardy
  • Renaissance Trios: Team Determined—Chris Bimbo, Steven Pampreen, Jhason Hardy

Congratulations to Chris, Steve, and Jhason, for an excellent effort across all fronts and taking top honors!

Our storytellers, winners of the theme prize, also deserve special mention. The Victory Gamers club from Northern Virginia had two teams enter, and together they put up a massive display board of the two armies fighting each other. They also had an impressive booklet narrating the battle and armies involved. Team Bellicose won the tiebreaker, painting scores from the NOVA Capital Pallette judges, and claimed the prize bags, but all six players deserve commendation.

Victory Gamers' display board.

Victory Gamers’ display board.

Wrap

All told this year’s NOVA 40k Trios was an excellent day of gaming. A ton of great people, lots of cool themes and armies, and many fun games. Again, a few more photos than those here are in my Flickr gallery, and there are also many more in NOVA’s official Flickr gallery for day 1 of this year’s convention.

Currently we expect to lead next year’s NOVA’s 40k Trios again, and would love to hear your thoughts. Participants should be receiving a survey email from NOVA, and we hope you’ll all make use of that to provide feedback, or contact us directly. At the moment we’re not planning major changes, just new missions and maybe some revisions to the Warmaster achievements to make that scoring even more thematic and independent from winning games. See you next year!

Colin (right) and I entering match results.

Colin (right) and I entering match results.