This article is the second half of our series on the Infinity tournament at GenCon 2023. You can read the first half about the qualifying round here.
Right, so against all expectations, I had managed to place first in the 400-point ITS After Dark event at GenCon. Sure, it was a relatively small field (I think there were something like 19 players), but the competitors I played against all brought their A game. But now I faced with a decision – I’d gotten the invite into the Masters tournament, essentially the “finals” event.
I actually waffled on whether or not to accept the invite (which I didn’t get until 9am that morning). The event runs from 2pm-9pm and I had other activities planned for that day (your most valuable asset at GenCon is your time, so use it wisely!). After hemming and hawing a bit, I decided that the opportunity was just too good to pass up. I cleared my schedule and accepted the invite.
My biggest concern was my army – I hadn’t made or printed any 300-point lists. On a unit-per-unit basis the Shasvastii are pretty expensive, and as such they play very differently at 300 points than they do at the 400 points I’d played Thursday night. Worse, this was a sealed-mission tournament, so I would be unable to tailor my list(s) to any particular mission. This was an “all comers” event, which is pretty hard to plan for, especially when your toolbox is full of very good but very niche and expensive tools. My lists ended up being very similar to my 400 point lists minus the Sphinx (which clocks in at 93 points, so got me most of the way there)
What I was trying to avoid was showing up and being the “baby harp seal.” You know, that opponent who is so completely out of his depth that he gets mercilessly clubbed by the pros, giving them 9 or 10 Objective Points without putting up much of a fight? Yeah, I was worried about being that guy. Because let’s not get it twisted – I’ve been playing Infinity for quite a while now (since the beginning of N3) and I don’t think I’m a scrub-tier player, but my group is at its core a garage-gaming group. Literally, we play in a garage. It’s a sweet-as-hell garage, but a garage none the less. We’re not exactly hard-core about… anything, really. And the folks I’d be playing against were really good – they had all won an Infinity Satellite Tournament or one of the earlier qualifying rounds like the GenCon Grand Prix Tournament that had been played the day before. They practice and stuff. They get custom shirts made.
But I’ve learned a lot from getting smashed in the past, so I figured it would at least be a learning experience.
Caveat: I once again forgot to take pictures, and this time I didn’t even get a picture of one of the tables (that I played on twice). I am literally terrible at this.
Mission 1: Power Pack
This mission is a little crazy in that the deployment zones are in corners rather than entire sides. This is fantastic for Impersonator troops like my Speculo Killer (because it greatly opens up where they can deploy without having to make a WIP test), so I was excited to see it come up. But as a way to shake things up, the TO revealed that each mission would have some special twist, and in this one the twist was that the entire battlefield was considered “Dangerous Terrain,” symbolizing falling wreckage from landing shuttles being blasted to pieces by Morat AA guns.
Dangerous Terrain is a throwback to N3, the previous edition of the rules. Basically, it means that any time a model makes an action-related test (importantly NOT an Armor save) that results in a certain number or higher, that model takes a hit and has to make an Armor save. For this mission, it was 17+ that incurred a Damage-13 hit. So fully 20% of your rolls had the chance to hurt you.
Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some Dangerous Terrain, I think it’s an extremely clever game mechanic. But I was playing an army that survives via stealth alone, one which has very little Armor (or in many cases none at all). Worse, my opponent (a super-chill dude who goes by the ITS handle “Fireball”) was playing Military Orders – a PanO sectorial noted for its heavy infantry. Well, shit.
I won the roll-off and went first, with my opponent picking the side that offered better elevation. In this elevated position he put TWO Total Reaction bots with HMGs along with a Flash-pulse repeater bot. That was a lot of firepower and ARO control in one place, and was going to be the target for my opening play. He also had a core fireteam headed up with Father Gabriel DeFersen, who himself is a hacker of no small ability. His list was rounded out with a pair of Knights of Montesa (heavy infantry mounted on motorcycles), one on each flank.
Because I was forced to deploy first, I was a little bit caught out – my Gwailo was on the wrong flank to deal with the double-HMG brigade. I successfully threw down smoke with my Speculo Killer, but I had to burn precious orders getting into position to launch rockets at them. Then disaster struck – not only did I lose the FtF roll against one of the bots (who were shooting back through the smoke at a -6 modifier) but I also rolled high, forcing me to eat both bullets and falling debris. I failed both ARM rolls and fell unconscious.
Taking my next best option, I moved my Haiduk marksman up to take advantage of the same tactic. Unfortunately the marksman has a shorter ranged weapon, so the numbers were not as favorable. I once again ate debris but at least I made the ARM roll. The rest of my turn was spent moving my Nox fireteam up and hacking one of the three antennae lying across the mid-line of the table.
In my opponent’s turn, he took a long-range pot-shot at one of my troopers from one of his TR bots, which managed to knock itself unconscious due to Dangerous Terrain as well. We were dropping like flies. He then made a strong attack with his Montesa Knight on my right flank, moving up and carving his way through my Nox fireteam. I lost at least one more trooper to Dangerous Terrain here, and I’m pretty sure the Montesa took a wound from it as well. Eventually he rounded the corner around the big 2-story LOS-blocking building in the middle of the table and made a run for my Console (killing Dr Worm and my Haiduk in the process). This game is all about protecting the Consoles, so it was a threat I couldn’t ignore. Unfortunately, the free turret this mission provided to me also died due to Dangerous terrain. Argh. He then advanced his other Montesa on my left flank just a bit and moved DeFersen’s fireteam forward a little bit, prepping for Turn 2.
My second turn was spent moving my Shrouded hacker to the center antenna and hacking it. The rest was a blur – I killed his charging Montesa Knight, probably with my Seed Soldier. He may have died in the process, I can’t be sure at this point. I know that my Taigha Beast berserked into his other HI biker and took him out. But I didn’t have a lot left. I accomplished a Classified Objective somewhere along the way, but I’ll be damned if I can remember which one.
My opponent’s second turn was all about moving DeFersen and his fireteam up. They got to the mid-line and hacked the antenna on my right – now we were tied with one each, and then cautiously moved up the stairs ar the right side of the building to attack my Shrouded who was hiding out at the center antenna. Not surprisingly, with core fireteam bonuses and a big gun, they killed him super dead. Somewhere along the way my Speculo Killer got killed as well.
At the beginning of Turn 3 I had two troopers on the board totaling 40 points. That was well under the 75 needed to keep me out of retreat. I still had a Cadmus Killer Hacker waiting to Combat Jump in, but off-table troops don’t count.
The insidious thing about Retreat is that the game ends at the end of the Active Turn of the retreating player. Since I had taken the first turn, that meant that my opponent wouldn’t get his third and final turn. There was some confusion because the description of the Retreat state implies that the retreating player needs to get all of their remaining troops off the table to end the game, but the text of the Retreat condition has this sentence:
“In a Standard Game, if one of the players starts his Active Turn in a Retreat! situation,
the game will end at the end of that Turn.”
Obviously with basically all of my troops wiped out and a lane to all the objectives wide open before him, my opponent wanted to be exceedingly clear which it was. A judge was called over and made the ruling that the game would end at the end of my turn, but without the benefit of having the rulebook open and only having access to the wiki (which only has the description of the state), my opponent was pretty disappointed by that. In order to remove all doubt, I spent my few remaining orders to actually move my troops off the table (both my CSU and my Mentor Lieutenant were close to the board edge). I had enough Command Tokens to cancel the Retreat! state for both of them, and the deployment zones in Power Pack are pretty small anyway.
With the game coming to an abrupt end, we counted up the points. We each controlled one antenna and we had each accomplished one Classified Objective, so we called it a 2-2 tie. But in writing up this AAR, I notice that we each should have gotten 3 points for having our console not be controlled by an enemy trooper, so it should have been a 5-5 tie. It wouldn’t have changed the result of our game (still a draw), but Objective Points are the first tie-breaker for tournaments and leaving three of them (out of a potential total of 30) on the table is a bummer for both of us.
This mission was brutal. I lost no fewer than 4 troopers to Dangerous Terrain. My opponent (who it should be pointed out was a great sport) commiserated with me and allowed that I was having terrible luck with the dice in that regard. He was also kicking himself for making the mistake of putting me in retreat, but honestly I think losing so many dudes to flaming meteors didn’t help. When you’ve played this game for a while you sort of get a sense of how much damage you’ve inflicted, but I suspect the troopers I lost to terrain effects didn’t enter his unconscious mental calculus and he didn’t realize how far ahead he was. I think under the circumstances it was an easy mistake to make, and I think apart from that he played very strongly. Had he gotten a 3rd turn, it would likely have been a seal-clubbing.
Mission 2: Panic Room
This is a mission that funnels everyone towards the center of the table, as at the end of every turn a deadly nanite plague encroaches a further 4″ in from each board edge. The special condition added by the TO was that the interior of the panic room itself was a White Noise zone (meaning the MSV was useless there).
My opponent (whose name I didn’t catch) had one the Friday Grand Prix tournament was playing Hassassin Bahram. Since the release of Operation: Black Wind at GenCon last year, this Haqqislam sectorial has gotten some love and has some really interesting profiles. My opponent brought a very cool list, eschewing the typical Fidays and leaning in to cheap warbands and troopers with Tactical Awareness. In a 300 point game, he had a 24-order list! Granted, a bunch of those were Impetuous, but still! The center of his list was a core fireteam of a Bokhtar, a Lasiq sniper, two rocket-launcher Muyibs, and a Govad.
The table this time was the Chinatown table I had played Supplies on in the ITS After Dark tourney, but with some of the scatter terrain moved around a little bit. My opponent made me deploy first (on the same side I’d played previously) and I took the first turn. This mission is difficult for the Shasvastii (who pay a premium for a host of advanced deployment skills) because all advanced deployment skills are replaced with a PH-3 roll. Suck. Not so easy getting away from the nanite plague. I did manage to make the roll with both my Seed Soldier and my Speculo killer, but both of my Shrouded failed and had to deploy on my board edge.
My Taigha Beast was within LOF of one of my opponent’s HRL Muyibs and got rocketed right off the bat. Fortunately, there was only a decoy close enough to die with him. Off to a great start, I straight up mis-played by first turn. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I got my Gwailo killed tangling with one of the linked Muyibs. Smarting from that, I did what I should have done to begin with – moved my Nox link team up to slice the pie against his Lasiq sniper and his other HRL Muyib. Had I done that first, the first Muyib wouldn’t have been benefitting from Sixth Sense and would have been infinitely more likely to get burnt to a crisp. I did have to use a Nox paramedic to pick my Nox HMG back up, but that netted me my Classified Objective (Experimental Drug), so I took it. It cost me a Command Token to reform the link, but that also was worth it.
The rest of my orders were spent moving the rest of my troops forward so as not to be in the nanite plague area and moving my Speculo into the panic room itself.
I’m not sure whether making my opening plays in the opposite order would have changed the outcome of the game in the end, but it would have put me in a much better position to contest my opponent’s advance. As it was, he was about to wreck me.
Doctoring his Lasiq back up, he spent a Command Token to re-form his core fireteam, substituting Leila Sharif in for the missing Muyib. He then proceeded to take out the Nox HMG I had watching one of the long firelanes. With the firelanes on both sides of the panic room clear, his warband troopers (4 Ghazis) all moved forward. One of them went on a tear, moving into and through the panic room. I tried engaging him with my Speculo Killer, but was conscious of the fact that he had lots of backup nearby and lots of orders to pump into them. Each additional friendly trooper in silhouette contact with an enemy grants you an extra die in close combat, so even really good close combat troopers can get overwhelmed through sheer numbers. I needn’t have worried, she failed a dodge and dropped unconscious. The downside of this, of course, was that the Ghazi was able to get into a position to Chain Rifle most of my remaining Nox fireteam. By the end of it all, there was just one left. He then moved an Asawira into the panic room, allowing him to dominate it and score objective points.
That Asawira made a move to engage my last Nox, but discovered that Nox troopers carry Zappers, an EM template weapon that is very bad for power-armored heavy infantry. Unfortunately for me, the Asawira decided to dodge and made his roll.
The only silver lining here is that Speculo Killers have Regeneration and I made the roll, standing her back up in time for my second turn.
I started off strong, dodging with with my Speculo and getting into close combat with the Asawira. Unfortunately I rolled like crap and took a wound, dropping unconscious. I nudged my Nox out just far enough to see and Zap his Bokhtar, but I think he successfully dodged out of LOF. Even having burned a Command Token to move the remaining Nox into the main combat group I was quickly running out of orders – and I still needed to move some stuff forward to avoid the nanite plague.
Remember that bit about overwhelming CC dudes with cheap troops? Well I tried that, moving my last Nox into the panic room. I knew my opponent would dodge (thinking I would hit him with my Zapper) but I used the second half of my movement to get into base contact with him. I don’t remember whether he failed his dodge or made it and decided not to move, but either way we were locked in combat. That gave me the opportunity to move my Shrouded hacker into the room unopposed as well. Now I would be rolling 2 dice to his 1.
Of course he crit me, but I also rolled a crit, cancelling the two out. I tried one more time, and again our attacks cancelled. But I was all out of orders.
My opponent’s second turn started with his Impetuous phase, which saw a shit-ton of ghazis rush into the panic room and dodge into the ongoing close combat. What followed was a flurry of 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 melee madness. Again there was at least one pass of offsetting-crits. As the orders ticked away I was definitely on the losing end of it, but at that point I didn’t even care – what was happening in that panic room was fucking awesome!
But the end was never in doubt, and once my opponent had cleared me out he moved some of his remaining heavy hitters up and took out Dr. Worm and my Mentor Lieutenant.
I started turn 3 with two troopers on the table – a Shrouded FO and my Seed Soldier, still in his sack of goo. Even if I hadn’t been in Retreat I still would have been in Loss of Lieutenant. But this mission has the “No Quarter!” rule, meaning Retreat is not applied. Unlike in the previous game, my opponent would get his third turn. I really only had one semi-meaningful order to spend, which was my Shrouded trying to blast his Bokhtar. I either rolled for crap or he tanked it, either way it was completely ineffective.
My opponent had already accomplished his Classified Objective, and looking at how many orders he had left we both decided it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to table me. That was a 1-10 loss with 0 Victory Points remaining on the table.
This. This was the clubbing I had expected.
On the plus side we finished early enough that we had a few minutes to grab a quick bite to eat and shoot the shit before the final round.
Mission 3: Looting and Sabotaging
This time I was back on the table I’d been on in the first mission. You know, the one I forgot to take a picture of? My opponent (Vidal, aka “MrV,” a super nice guy who’d made the trip up from Atlanta to play in the tournament) won the Lieutenant roll and chose deployment order, putting me on the same side of the table I’d played previously. I chose to go first.
This time during deployment I put my Gwailo near the middle of my deployment zone such that I could attack on either flank without needing to waste so many orders. I held my Speculo Killer in reserve. MrV was playing Kosmoflot, an Ariadna sectorial with which I am not terribly familiar. But I did note with some alarm that he had brought a Polaris Bearpode. Oh shit! Given that this mission involves destroying an opponent’s “Advanced Communications Console,” and that that can only be done using melee weapons with the “Anti-Materiel” trait, bringing along a giant werebear wielding an equally giant trench hammer meant that taking that thing out was my number one priority. Although the special tournament twist for this mission was that the AC2’s security system inflicted real damage rather than Stun damage, the Bearpode was easily going to be beefy enough to tank that. I placed my Speculo in a position where she could be of some use against this monstrosity. My opponent’s reserve mini was a camo token, which he successfully infiltrated just outside my deployment zone and right where it could cover most of my Nox fireteam with a template weapon if it had one (spoiler alert: it did).
Using my Taigha’s Impetuous order, I advanced it forward and to my right, electing to Dodge for its second skill (as the resulting Dodge movement can be taken in any direction). I used its Irregular order to move+dodge over to get LOF to my opponent’s troublesome camo token.
I then activated my Nox fireteam, moving them all out of the camo token’s immediate LOF. It revealed itself as Uxia MacNeill and ARO’d with a Boarding Shotgun. I made an absurd number of dodges, and only my Nox hacker and my Taigha Beast (who unfortunately had moved just a little too far) took wounds and dropped unconscious. But never fear, there was a Paramedic in that fireteam, and since it was still a 4-man link he was Burst 2. Activating and putting a shot into both of my downed troopers, both managed to get back up! Huzzah! And this got me my Classified (once again Experimental Drug – I swear to the gods I shuffled my deck thoroughly!). Dropping another order into my Taigha Beast, it berserked into Uxia, dropping her unconscious and tanking whatever her ARO was. Just to be on the safe side, I killed her with a coup-de-grace.
As an aside, I have awful luck with Taigha Beasts. Yes, they are cheap and disposable, but even needing 16 or less to dodge they almost always get capped in the dumbest ways. I recently had an opponent take one out with a pistol shot ARO from a Kuang Shi at like 14 inch range. Ridiculous. But this time my little 7-point doggo took out Uxia, who unless dealt with quickly is 26+ points of “extremely inconvenient.” And spoiler alert: he wasn’t done!
Using the rest of the orders in my 2nd combat group, my missile bot blasted my opponent’s Varangian and Irmandinho on my right flank to smithereens.
Now it was time for the big play. In a pattern that by now should be all too familiar to you, my Speculo tossed smoke to screen my Gwailo, who proceeded to spend a couple of orders to blast the crap out of the Bearpode. The Bearpode has Total Immunity so the continuous damage aspect of the weapon was lost, but MrV was not having a good day with ARM rolls and the Bearpode dropped unconscious. This was bad in a way because it meant he dropped prone and out of LOF of the Gwailo. I debated advancing one of my Shrouded up to raid the panoply on my left, but there was an ememy camo token deployed very close to it (great minds think alike) and I would have been doing so in full view of a 5-man core fireteam that included a Volkolak with missile launcher.
Instead I spent my last order on my Speculo doing something suicidal: standing up and blasting the Bearpode’s unconscious body with a combi-rifle – as just one more wound would kill it for good. This was absolutely a sacrifice play, being done as it was in full view of that link team. And sure enough, that Speculo got annihilated. I’d love to tell you it was totally worth it, but I whiffed the roll at an opponent in a +3 range band in the open (I needed 15s or less on three dice) generating only 1 hit. Which the beefy Bearpode easily tanked. Well, shit.
My opponent’s first turn started with a lot of maneuvering by his core fireteam, using his super-jumping Volkolak missile launcher to discover and subsequently clear out my Shrouded near the panoply, then moving on to target my Gwailo. Unfortunately my unhatched Seed-Soldier was also in the blast radius and both were destroyed. He then did what I was afraid he would, and got his Rokot Paramedic to medikit the Bearpode back to consciousness. Well, shit. Worse, his camo token near the left panoply revealed itself as an SAS, who opened the panoply and took out an Explosive CCW. Yikes!
Then came an advance by a tag-team of William Wallace and the Unknown Ranger, who advanced along my right flank, taking the same line-of-advance that Fireball’s Montesa biker had in the first game. This was deja-vu all over again, as the Unknown Ranger started dismantling my fireteam with a Spitfire. He managed to take out my Nox FO, Nox Paramedic, T-Drone, and Shrouded FO. Ouch. At least he didn’t have the orders to get into Suppressive Fire. As his final act, he brought on his free Bashi Bazouk corsair on my right table edge, backing up Wallace and the Unknown Ranger. Not gonna lie, things were looking a little bleak.
My Taigha Beast charged forward and dodged with its Impetuous order, bringing the Unknown Ranger into its sight. But my next order was spent sneakily slithering Dr. Worm’s little helper over to bring my T-Drone back into play. I duffed the first roll but got it after spending a Command Token to re-roll. My very next order was spent putting a missile into the Unknown Ranger, who had the good grace to explode and die. The next missile went into the corsair holoechoes (who were close enough together to be covered under a single template) and they too died a horrible death. My Nox HMG raided the panoply on my right (snagging a MULTI-rifle), and I used the Taigha’s Irregular order to move and dodge into LOF of William Wallace. The next order was Berserk, and while the Taigha died in the process it peeled a wound off Wallace and put him into NWI. Bringing on my own Bashi Bazouk from the same right table edge, I then moved it up and finished the Scottish hero off with a Boarding Shotgun. As I wound up my turn I was feeling better about this, but there was still that troublesome Bearpode to deal with.
My opponent’s Impetuous Irmandinho on the left stuck his head out and got sniped by my Haiduk marksman for his troubles. Then came what I was dreading, the advance of the Bearpode. It super-jumped up onto the catwalk that ran all the way around the big center building. Charging around the corner to the left side, it got into LOF of my Haiduk. It threw smoke, but the Haiduk has MSV2 so this should have been easy – I missed, of course. With its next order it again advanced, this time taking a regular dodge. Though it needed a 16 or less, I managed to put a hit on it with the Haiduk, and even though its Total Immunity meant that it ignored the AP ammo it still failed its ARM save and dropped unconscious again. Whew!
A 112 doctor on a motorcycle crept out on my left, but my Haiduk once again took a long range shot that paid off. With his heavy hitters on both flanks down, MrV was left moving his core fireteam up to the center, with a few of them on the catwalk, a few on the ramp on his side of the central building, and his Mekhanik link leader down at ground level. Fortunately for me, the Bearpode had dropped in a place that would have been a little order-intensive for his Rokot paramedic to get to.
Spending my remaining 3 Command Tokens to bring what was left of my Nox fireteam into the main combat group, I needed maximum flexibility. Using an entire order Climb with Dr. Worm’s little helper, I slithered up the back side of the central building and onto the catwalk. Keeping careful to stay out of ZOC of the couple of members of the enemy fireteam just on the other side, the little drone then crept into the building from the back and out the left side door. One more order brought him into base contact with the Bearpode, who was finished off for good with a coup-de-grace. Thank the gods, I no longer had to worry about that thing making a last-minute rampage against my AC2.
Sacrificing my Bashi Bazouk I ran forward and blasted my opponent’s Mekhanik link leader with a Boarding Shotgun, breaking his core fireteam. With my last order, I ran my Nox FO out to the panoply on my right and tried to grab something out of it. I of course whiffed my WIP roll with a 17 and failed.
With not a lot of orders remaining himself, my opponent focused his efforts on getting a trooper down to that same panoply. He managed to take down the Nox HMG that was still tucked in behind it, and got a nice dodge roll to get himself close on his penultimate order. Spending his last order, his Rokot Paramedic (or maybe it was his Lieutenant? Not sure) raced over to the panoply and tried to pull a thing out of it. He ate AROs from both a Nox and my T-Drone’s missile, but if he could pass a WIP roll even in death he would have 2 panoply pulls to my 1 and would win the game (he also had accomplished his Classified Objective, but I don’t remember what it was). But just like me a moment before, he rolled a 17 and failed to open the panoply.
With that the game ended in a 4-4 tie. Brutal! MrV was a great opponent, and I felt like we were both using the tools in our toolboxes well. The game definitely felt very back-and-forth in the moment, and I love games that come down to that last roll in the last order. Very much a nail-biter and win, lose, or draw those games are the best.
I was surprised at the small size of the field for this tournament – there were only 6 players. There were supposed to be 8, but two of the guys who placed were on teams that made it into the Doubles Tournament, so they opted to do that instead (it was going on at the same time on the nearby tables and it looked like total mayhem – super awesome!). But the level of play was very good. I placed 4th, very much middle of the pack. For my very first tournament against such a high caliber of players (and going in as a surprise invite with basically no plan), I’ll take that. And while my second game was an absolute drubbing, I recognize the mistakes I made there and will (hopefully) learn from them.
I had a great time and again want to thank the TO James for putting on a really good event. I’m hoping I see some of these opponents again, they were all cool dudes.
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