Ilor’s Road to GenCon Part 5: Bad Seeds

The continuing saga of preparations for the 400-point “ITS After Dark” Tournament at GenCon. It’s coming down to the wire!

Slimy Bags of Goo

For the last couple of weeks I’ve talked about my forces, the missions being played in the upcoming tournament, and some of the special capabilities that the Shasvastii bring to the table. But today I’d like to take a little bit of time to talk about what makes this particular force interesting to me and why I chose them over all of the other super-cool factions available in the game.

I started playing Infinity in 2015, about a year after the N3 version of the game dropped. This was not long prior to the re-release of the Human Sphere N3 expansion, which updated all of the goodies for sectorial armies and fireteams. At that time, I looked at the various factions and felt like Haqqislam appealed to me most, but I was also intrigued by some of the different aliens present in the game. At that time the Combined Army had only two sectorials, the Morat and the Shasvastii. One of my long-time gaming buddies (who was my opponent in the practice game written about in the last installment of this series) was a former Ork player back in our 40K days and immediately latched onto the Morat – angry red space apes with all the subtlety of a brick to the face certainly matched his play style! – but in reading through the fluff I thought that the back-story behind the Shasvastii was fascinating.

What I found most interesting about them was that their faction focus – clandestine operations, camouflage, and stealth – had underpinnings in the game’s fictional future history: Having suffered a nearly extinction-level event at some point in the not-so-distant past, the Shasvastii were resolved as a race to carefully safeguard their remaining numbers. They eschewed direct confrontation because that shit gets people killed, yo. Better instead to use all of your technological acumen to end the fight before your opponent even knows it’s begun!

But in addition, there’s an extra level of racial paranoia that is delicious. See, it’s not enough to be sneaky, as bad stuff can still happen. So how about in addition to being sneaky, every Shasvastii who goes out into the world carries a “spawn embryo” with them? This way, fallen Shasvastii will seed the stars with future generations to continue their species’ survival. It’s kind of like Ork spores in 40K – once a planet has Orks, it will always have Orks, as they’ll keep popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. That’s awesome and cool, and I love that there was a reason given for why the Shasvastii are they way they are, why they fight the way they fight. Further, this fluff was carried onto the battlefield in a meaningful way through a special skill (simply called “Shasvastii”) that let troops in the Unconscious state continue to count their points towards zone dominance in missions where that was important. It’s a minor buff – like most of Infinity’s special capabilities it lets a particular troop type break one of the basic rules of the game – but a really characterful one.

Infinity Shasvastii Embryo Token
The token that downed Shasvastii place in lieu of an Unconscious marker. No good can come of this. It even looks like a chestburster! (credit: Corvus Belli)

The final facet of their fluff that I thought was really cool was the concept of “seed soldiers,” which is to say troopers who are the result of seed embryos maturing, or of egg capsules being littered on the battlefield before (or during!) the fight. This smacked of something straight out of Alien and I loved the mental picture of a greebly alien popping fully-formed out of a disgusting sac of goo and blasting you with the nanite-assembled combi-rifle that was gestating in there with it.

Unfortunately, at that time the Shasvastii were not in a good place. Back in the N2 version of the game, seeds couldn’t use orders in the first turn and automatically “hatched” at the beginning of the Shasvastii player’s second turn, which really put the Shasvastii at a disadvantage. Seed soldiers were relatively cheap, and because there was no order cap in N3 you could take a decent number of them, but it very much felt like an incomplete solution. Worse, updated rules for seed soldiers didn’t make it into the N3 version of Human Sphere. As a result the sectorial just kind of languished in an only-semi-playable state. And most damning, most of their sculpts were pretty old. All of this taken together convinced me to give them a pass, instead focusing on Haqqislam.

Look at this derpy motherfucker! Are those face-tentacles or is he projectile vomiting? This is what the old Shasvastii Cadmus Hacker looked like. While I loved the fluff, I was definitely not a fan of the older models’ aesthetics.

Fast forward to the release of the N4 version of the rules. This coincided with the release of Infinity CodeOne (a simplified version of the game geared towards new players) and Defiance (a sci-fi dungeon crawler board game), both of which featured the Shasvastii as the games’ non-human nemeses. This meant that not only were the Shasvastii getting new rules to address existing shortfalls in the sectorial, they would also be getting an entirely revamped and expanded range of miniatures. As soon as this development was announced, I knew that like the people of Alderaan my wallet was going to cry out only to be suddenly silenced.

A New Breed of Seed

One of the key elements to the updated Shasvastii rules was rebuilding the seed rules from the ground up. Instead of automatically hatching in the second turn, seeds could now hatch in one of two ways – they could either declare a skill with the Movement tag as the first Short Skill (or Entire Order if they elected to do something crazy like a Jump or Cautious Move), or they could successfully execute a Dodge ARO. Now, instead of sitting there like unhatched dopes waiting to get blasted or lit on fire, seeds could react to the environment around them.

Even better, one of their reactions was an actual offensive capability, as the new seed embryo profiles got Chest Mines. Originally appearing on the Morat Krakot Renegades in the latter days of N3, chest mines are exactly what you might imagine. The version on the USAriadna BlackJack heavy infantry even retain the “Front Toward Enemy” marking of the modern claymore anti-personnel mine. Put simply, it’s a disposable Damage 13 template weapon using the small teardrop template. In the context of a Shasvastii seed, this is almost assuredly the egg sac spewing some sort of toxic or acidic slime at you. As a concept I find that both disgusting and hilarious.

In addition, regular Seed Soldiers got both Forward Deployment (+8″) and Single-Use Camouflage, which make them much more useful. Given the sheer number of camouflage tokens with which the Shasvastii can litter the mid-field, your opponent likely has no idea what is a camouflaged trooper, what is a mine, or (in the case of seeds) both! Discovery will reveal you as a seed token, but even here your opponent won’t know what sort of profile that seed is hiding. And the presence of specialist profiles (in the form of Paramedic and Forward Observer) and profiles toting a Panzerfaust can provide both an objective grabber or a great mid-field speed bump. They’re not as cost-effective as the Daylami of Haqqislam, but they offer many of the same capabilities in your list.

As if regular seeds weren’t bad enough, the Cadmus Seed Soldiers are the aforementioned “dropped from the sky” seeds. Given that entering the table mid-game is always an Entire Order skill, most troopers with airborne deployment skills have some kind of gimmick to keep them alive during their drop – Symbiont Armor for the Fraacta, Holoprojector for the Bashi Bazouk, a simultaneous template attack for the Liu Xing – and the Cadmus are no exception. For these troops, the schtick is a decoy, which means that when you are making your Combat Drop you are placing two seed tokens rather than one. That means even if you are forced to land in a place where one of your opponent’s models is going to have line-of-fire to you, they still have a 50% chance of picking the wrong target.

Unfortunately, there’s still an issue with the Seed state: Seeds have the Surprise Attack (-3) skill, which is pretty rad. In order to perform a Surprise Attack you need to start your order in a marker state; awesome, seeds are a marker state by definition! By the rules as written, however, if a seed executes a movement skill as the first half of its order, the stats, weapons and skill of the “developed shape” are used for the entirety of the order. OK, cool, you can pop out of your egg sac and immediately blast someone with a panzerfaust, dope! But the developed shape notably lacks the Surprise Attack skill. That means in order to benefit from this skill, you need to be making your attack in seed form, which means attacking by surprise with…chest mines? I don’t know if this is an oversight or intentional, but either way it reduces the utility of Seed Soldiers significantly.

That’s not going to stop me from fielding them, however. My only question is how effective the Cadmus is going to be without an EVO hacker to help him make a controlled jump. At PH 12 he has a 60% chance of landing where I want him, which means that of the 3 missions I’ll be playing in the tournament I can statistically expect him to succeed in 2 of them. Of course, having written that and committed it to the internet, he will fail all three attempts on the actual day.

Shasvastii Cadmus and Seed Soldier 1
The newer Cadmus Hacker (left) and Seed Soldier (right), front view (credit: Ilor)

Shasvastii Cadmus and Seed Soldier 2
Shasvastii Cadmus Hacker (left) and Seed Soldier (right), rear view. (credit: Ilor)

“Mama Said Nox You Out!”

The other thing I’ve been working on is finishing up the last couple of Nox soldiers I need to round out my Fireteam: Core. If you’re not bringing an HMG to get that sweet, sweet Burst 5, Damage 15 attack with excellent range bands, do you even Infinity bro? HMG-armed troopers are ubiquitous in fireteams for a good reason – they’re really good! And in a 5-man team of all the same kind of trooper, you’re also getting that delicious +3 to your attacks.

Additionally, I wanted a Nox Hacker because putting a hacker in a fireteam of at least 4 troopers gives them Sixth Sense, which means that you get AROs against enemy hackers with Stealth. As mentioned previously the Shasvastii don’t have great repeater coverage, but for missions like Frostbyte that funnel everyone to the middle of the table that is less of an issue – the enemy is coming to you whether you like it or not!

Shasvastii Nox Hacker and HMG 1
Shasvastii Nox Trooper Hacker (left) and HMG (right), front view. (credit: Ilor)

When I painted my first trio of Nox figures that came in the starter set, I noticed they have these big armor plates on their right arms that were just crying out for some kind of embellishment, so I put “rank stripes” on them. I duplicated that here. Painting thin lines of dark blue over top an essentially finished white armor panel was almost as nerve-wracking as trying to do detail work on the drones.

Shasvastii Nox Hacker and HMG 2
Shasvastii Nox Trooper Hacker (left) and HMG (right), rear view. (credit: Ilor)

I See You!

Depending on your table meta, you may end up with long fire lanes that make advancing up the table difficult. In those instances, having smoke in your arsenal is key. To counter smoke, having a Multi-Spectral Visor (MSV) is a must. I have already talked about the capabilities the Gwailo brings to the table in that regard, but it never hurts to have some redundancy in your list. To that end, I included a Haiduk, a Shasvastii unit that comes standard with MSV 2.

For those unfamiliar with the game, when creating lists in Infinity you have two points costs to balance: Army Points and Special Weapons Cost (SWC). Generally speaking, you have 1 SWC for every 50 Army Points in your list. Each unit has a cost in both points and SWC. For most basic troopers, the SWC cost is 0. But any kind of special or heavy weapon (grenade or missile launchers, spitfires, HMGs, etc) and any full-fledged hacker is going to have an SWC cost. This is a great balance facet of the game, and prevents you from packing your entire list with nothing but machineguns and daring your opponent to come at you. It does a great job of reducing weapons-skew lists.

It also means my Haiduk is likely to be fielded with an AP Marksman Rifle rather than a Multi-Sniper Rifle. Them’s the breaks. Either way, the model is cool as hell, coming with some extra terrain for his base. The base is also 40mm in diameter rather than the standard 25mm that most basic troops have, because the Haiduk has access to the “Sapper” special rule that lets him enter the “Foxhole” state. In this state the trooper becomes Silhouette 3 (hence the 40mm base) and gains Mimetism -3, 360-degree Partial Cover, and Courage. This is great, as it lets you plunk him down without having to worry if there’s a place with decent cover – he makes his own!

I had a lot of fun painting this mini, and I love the way he turned out.

Shasvastii Haiduk Marksman 1
Yeah, he has a big ‘ol rifle on his back, but sometimes you’ve just gotta pistol-whip a joker. (credit: Ilor)

Shasvastii Haiduk Marksman 2
Playing historical miniatures games has given me a love of weathering, so doing the rust and dust and stained, broken rock and concrete was fun. (credit: Ilor)

The Gang’s All Here!

It took a bunch of late-night painting sessions, but I finally finished everything that was on my initial list. Here it is, over 400 points’ worth of Shasvastii!

Ilor's GenCon Shasvastii
400+ Points! Whew! It came down to the wire! (credit: Ilor)

I have a few extra troops because I haven’t fully settled on a list yet. Having a couple of extra Nox Troopers, some helpers for Dr. Worm, and both a Q-Drone and a T-Drone gives me some flexibility in what I bring to the table.

Late Additions!

Because I finished with just a little bit of extra time, I decided to knock out a couple of Taigha Creatures. These things are basically a self-propelled missile full of claws and teeth, and are absolutely brutal in close combat. With both Dodge +3 (on top of PH 13) and Dodge +2″ they’re hard to hit. Add to that a 6-6 MOV combined with Berserk and a Close Combat skill of 21, it means that if you’re willing to sacrifice one, it WILL get a hit on anything unfortunate enough to end up in line-of-sight and less than 12″ away. And at 5 or 6 points, why wouldn’t you be willing to sacrifice one to eat someone’s face? They’re so mean. They do have the downside of being Irregular (meaning they don’t contribute any Regular orders to your pool), but with their extra Impetuous Order you don’t usually need to funnel much to them to cause trouble. If you can handle losing a Regular Order to fuel one of your other troopers, Taighas are totally worth it.

I decided to paint two of them, again to give me some extra flexibility in my lists.

Infinity Taigha Creatures 1
Taigha Creatures, ready to tear off someone’s face! (credit: Ilor)

Infinity Taigha Creatures 2
“Who’s a good bo…OH GOD, MY LEG!” (credit: Ilor)

With an aesthetic that’s something of a cross between a pit bull and a bone saw, these little guys were fun to paint. I decided to go with a different skin tone from both the Shasvastii and Dr. Worm (the only other things in my army that have skin!), and thought that a nice pale green was suitably nightmarish. This is a shade base coat of 1:1 Vallejo German Feldgrau and Vallejo Pastel Green. The mid-tone was 2:1 Pastel Green to Feldgrau and the final highlights are pure Pastel Green. My light sucks and it washes out the contrast a little bit, but in person the musculature is much more defined.

I initially highlighted the horns/bumps/claws all the way up to a nice ivory/horn kind of color, but decided that it sort of bled into the pale green and didn’t give me much contrast. As such, I brought it back down to a nice blended brown, which I think pops more.

Wish Me Luck!

This is going to be my last installment of this series, but I’ll be sure to write a follow-up “after action” article about how this force does at the tournament. I’m sure that as a filthy casual I’ll be someone’s baby seal, but Infinity is just so much fun to play that even when things aren’t going your way the game is still a ton of fun. So wish me luck and check back in a couple of weeks to see how it went!