Ilor’s Road to GenCon Part 1: I Guess We’re Doing This

As a long-time RPG player, GenCon is one of the high points of my year. Every August I look forward to getting together with friends – both new and old – and gaming my brains out for four days straight (not to mention the inevitable meet-ups on Wednesday night). GenCon is a great opportunity to try out new games and see what the hottest hot is in RPGs, board games, card games, and tabletop miniatures. And don’t forget all the fantastic food trucks!

It’s also a great time to play Infinity. Every year there’s a big qualifying tournament at GenCon, with the winner of the final invitational round getting a paid ticket to Interplanetario, which is Corvus Belli’s big ITS-season-ending tournament in Spain. The tables are always glorious and covered with really nice, beautifully-painted terrain. People come from all over to play in it, and it’s one of the top Infinity events in the US.

It’s also totally out of my league. Don’t get me wrong: I really like Infinity, but I’m not going to pretend that I’m really good at Infinity. The top tier competitive scene is a rarefied air to which I do not have the time or dedication to devote myself to breathing. But fortunately for scrubs like me, there’s another Infinity tournament that also happens at GenCon. It has gone by various names over the years – “Firefight,” “Friday Night Mayhem,” etc. – and this year it’s called “ITS After Dark.” In pretty much all of its incarnations it’s a low-key tournament that is played on the main tables after all the hard-core players finish the main tournament. And when I say “low-key” I’m not kidding – in 2018 we had a “delay of game” because my opponent in the second round dropped his beer bottle onto the concrete floor (sending beer and broken glass everywhere) and everyone in the tourney pitched in to help clean it up. The previous two beers he had consumed may have impeded his dexterity somewhat, but who cares, he was a super chill dude and we were having fun. So we get to play on awesome tables without the pressure of an ultra-competitive qualifying tournament. Fantastic!

2018 GenCon Infinity Tournament Tables
Sample tables from the Infinity tournament in 2018. The jungle research station table in the foreground was certified bad-ass! (credit: Ilor)

I was really looking forward to the return of this event, as the entire convention was canceled in 2020 and there were no ITS tournaments at all at GenCon in 2021, all due to COVID. But this year it’s back, and it was the first event on my wish-list when event ticket submission happened a couple of weeks ago.

After an agonizing wait – it takes some time to process the event-packed and ranked wish-lists of 80,000 nerds all clicking the “Submit” button the instant it goes live – I received confirmation that I’d gotten a spot. Huzzah! \o/

More cool Infinity tables
A lot of these boards have very nice verticality to them. I played on the table in the foreground in 2018 and it was a ton of fun. I got absolutely housed, but it was still fun. (credit: Ilor)

But Wait…

As I’m basking in the after-glow of getting into some interesting events, I start thinking about what kind of forces I can put together for this tournament, and I think to myself that I’d really like to get my Shasvastii to the table. Despite buying the Operation: Wildfire box when it came out in 2019, I only have a handful of them painted so far (I am a notoriously slow painter), but hey, they’re individually fairly expensive so it shouldn’t take too much to put together a 300-point list. It might not be the most competitive list I can put together, but whatever, this is a pretty casual event so who cares if I’m not bringing an optimal set-up?

Still in my reverie, I get an automated notice from the event organizers via e-mail informing me that this will be a 400-point tournament. Oh, shit. Then I go to the link provided to see the event details (which in Infinity-speak means the mission list) only to discover that this is a qualifying event for the Saturday Invitational. Oh, double-shit! But at this point I have the ticket and even though I’ve only had it for all of 20 minutes I already feel committed.

Fuck it, let’s do this!

Shasvastii Mentor
Shasvastii Mentor with boarding shotgun (credit: Ilor)

The Missions

List building for any Infinity event starts first and foremost with the missions, which for this event are Countermeasures, Capture & Protect, and Frostbyte. This is both good and bad: Countermeasures and Frostbyte are both a ton of fun in my opinion, but both make use of “exclusion zones.” This sucks, as half of my army has Infiltration or Forward Deployment, neither of which can be used in an exclusion zone. I can put together a ruthless mid-field presence for Capture & Protect, but the other two missions take away one of my biggest strengths (or force me to make some fairly swingy PH rolls to infitrate into the narrow gap between the exclusion zone and opponent’s deployment zone, rolls which I have an uncanny ability to fail).

Countermeasures in particular is an interesting mission – it uses a rotating trio of Classified Objective cards drawn from a single, shared deck. Both players are trying to accomplish these objectives simultaneously, and completing one not only wins the player the card (and the scenario points) but prevents the other player from accomplishing the same objective. The Classifieds are constantly getting replenished, but you can’t wait around thinking something will still be available in a later turn, because chances are it won’t. But this means I’ll need to run the gamut of specialists to be able to attempt whatever objectives come up.

The other thing that these two missions have in common in ITS Season 13 is the “Blizzard” special rule, for which each player places two 5″ circular templates on the table, representing both a Saturation Zone (which reduces the Burst value of any shooting attack passing through it by 1) and difficult terrain (which slows down troopers moving through the area unless they have the appropriate Terrain(Mountain) skill). Given the typical table density – and thus limited avenues of approach – this means that things are going to get a little tricky, as it’s going to be fairly easy to make the board exceedingly difficult to maneuver through.

Shasvastii Nox troopers
Nox Troopers, the basic line infantry of the Shasvastii Expeditionary Force. I do love me some greebly aliens! (credit: Ilor)

The Plan

Hahahaha. Plan. Right. After a few moments of hysteria, I start thinking about the ramifications of my situation.

There has been no indication that the event is lifting the 15-order limit typical of most Infinity tournaments. That means I’m likely to be facing a lot of expensive troops, and generally that means heavy infantry and TAGs. This in turn means I’m going to seriously need to think about putting together a good hacking presence, if for no other reason than to give my opponent pause. I’ll also need to bring some TAGs and/or HI of my own, just to eat up points if nothing else. Spending 300 points is barely breaking a sweat for most Combined Army lists (and the Shasvastii are no exception), but squeezing a full 400 points into 15 orders can actually be a little tricky. That bumps my Sphinx and Gwailo up to the top of my paint queue, I guess!

Similarly, while I don’t have any troopers in my army who have the Terrain(Mountain) skill (which also covers arctic zones), I do have a ton of dudes that have Terrain(Total), so I’ll need to think carefully about whom to put where to make the zones as painless as I can.

And when it comes to Classified Objectives, the Combined Army has a fantastic multi-role doctor/engineer that can accomplish a ton of different objectives. Officially called the Med-Tech Obsidon Mechanoid, it is pretty much universally referred to in the Infinity community as “Dr. Worm.” I think you can see why:

So. Many. EYES!
The Corvus Belli Studio scheme for the Med-Tech Obsidon Mechanoid, AKA “Dr. Worm” (credit: Corvus Belli)

The First Step on a Long Road

I’ve had my good Doctor half-painted for a long time, and this was exactly the impetus I needed to finish him off (along with his little helpers, often referred to as “Nurse Worms”). I chose to pretty radically depart from the studio color scheme for my Shasvastii, going with white-and-blue as opposed to black-and-red. I love the way it turned out, but I should have my head examined because nothing is as hypertension-inducing as trying to avoid screwing up around large areas of white paint. Dr. Worm was no exception, and has the added complication of having a bajillion little body-segments that all need to be picked out separately.

My basic Shasvastii recipe is to lay down a base-coat of Vallejo Model-Air White-Gray with an airbrush. Once this was complete, I hit each of the little circular joints between the segments with a little bit of Tamiya Black Panel Liner, which darkened these sections and settled into the texture of the circle nicely. The gaps between each segment (as well as the main body panels) were lined with Vallejo Model Color Pale Gray, and the trailing edges of each segment were highlighted with a thin edge-highlight of pure VMC White.

For the skin, I wanted something other than the sort of greyish, elephant-pink skin that my actual Shasvastii have, to mark Dr. Worm out as something entirely “other” (as befits his overall creepiness). To get this effect, I started with a base coat of VMC Pastel Green and sponged on a darker, olive green (probably VMC Russian Uniform, but I honestly don’t remember). After this I washed the skin area unevenly with both Biel-Tan Green and Agrax Earthshade, which gave a nice, mottled effect. I was going for “decaying, diseased pickle” and I think I nailed it. The eyes (Oh, gods, WHY does it have so many EYES!!?!) were done as purple lenses starting with VMC XXX and lightening up from there.

The small areas of skin-suit were done the same way I did them for the rest of my Shasvastii – a base coat of VMC Andrea Blue, highlighted with a 2:1 mix of VMC Sky Blue and VMC White, then shaded with a custom-made wash made from some bargain-basement craft paint that has one of the most stunning navy blues I’ve ever seen. Metallic bits were done NMM style working up through the VMC gray line. Finally, the dark blue accent panels were based with VMC Dark Prussian Blue, layered with VMC Prussian Blue, and edge highlighted with a mix of VMC Prussian Blue and VMC White. Desert basing and a quick hit with Testors Dull-Cote and they’re ready for the table.

Dr. Worm and wormlings
The finished product, based and ready for play. Super useful and guaranteed to be able to keep at least one eye on everything that’s happening on the battlefield. (credit: Ilor)

Dr. Worm is an incredibly useful model who can fit in a huge variety of lists. Being both a doctor and engineer, he brings a ton of survivability to any Combined Army list and contributes significantly to your ability to accomplish a bunch of different Classified Objectives. Sadly, for all the effort that went into him he is only 22 points. His little helpers are 3 points each. If I’m going to put 400 points of painted Shasvastii on the table by the first weekend of August, I’m going to need to get cracking!

Next Time:

I guess I need to finish off my Sphinx…?

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

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