In our Faction Focus series, we take a deep dive into the factions of Infinity and look at how they play, what makes them work, and strategies for playing with them and against them. In today’s Faction Focus, we’re looking at the Varuna Immediate Reaction Division (VIRD).
The Varuna Immediate Reaction Division is an iconic faction in Infinity. Boasting the best linked sniper and strongest reactive turn of any faction in the game, against the right army on the right table VIRD can feel like the game’s most broken faction. However the army pays for this incredible power with huge limitations. The faction is brilliantly designed and can be very fun to play. And it has a very high skill floor, it has a comparatively low skill ceiling. If you’re a new player getting started with Infinity, VIRD are a great faction to look at. But as the dust starts to settle on 4th edition, the faction may just not have the same dominating presence it had in 3rd edition.
Let’s take a look.
Hailing from PanOceania’s paradise ocean planet of Varuna, the Immediate Reaction Division, also known as the Snake Eaters, is a nautical counterterrorism defense unit. Equipped to protect the most valuable business leaders, politicians and luxury tourists on the oceanic crown jewel of the Hyperpower, the VIRD are what happens when PanOceania cuts no corners with its training. PanO has a reputation for applying brute force to their problems and winning through sheer hardware, but the VIRD are the troopers they send when the political consequences of losing an engagement are worse than going a bit over-budget. Lightly armoured and mobile to assist them moving through their home world’s aquatic environment, the VIRD have to rely more on their training and discipline than other PanOceanian forces. They’re not a comfortable and lazy police force like the Neoterran Capitaline Army, either – they are engaged with an active war against rebellious elements of the planet’s native alien population who regard PanOceania’s “Pressurization Control Tanks” as mind control.
VIRD is the faction with the strongest reactive turn in Infinity. It’s the ultimate in defensive firepower, often getting far more done in its opponent’s turn than it gets done in its own active turn. While they’re masters of high-tech invisibility, camouflage and stealth all of this is ultimately in service to killing their targets. They’re not sneaking around to break into a bank vault, they’re sneaking around so that they can ensure that none of the terrorists get out of the kill zone. The consequence for basing their game around these highly skilled operators is that they tend to be fragile – an unlucky shot can take a precious Snake Eater out of the game early and leave the mission in peril. Also, much like PanOceania in general, they follow the philosophy that objectives are something to accomplish after everyone is dead, giving them a limited range of specialists. They also lack warbands, giving them a minimal presence in close combat and limited ability to punch deep behind enemy lines.
Preamble: The Dreaded 30-Point Zone
A recurring theme that will show up in my articles is that I am extremely down on models in the 20-30 point range. More often than not you’ll find profiles here with barely above-average stats, a single wound, and limited tricks and abilities. These models are not strong enough to serve as a good active piece, and they’re not disposable enough to use as a general overwatch piece. Any model at this kind of price point needs to bring a lot to the table to justify its inclusion in one of my lists.
The Core Link
I’m going to discuss this here before I get into any of the other assets of VIRD because the Core Link is why you play VIRD. All of the weaknesses and limitations and drawbacks I’m about to talk about are all offset by this, the gem in the faction’s crown: The fully linked MSV2 Kamau Sniper.
If you do not run this link, you are better off not playing VIRD at all. VIRD gives up a lot to get this. If you do not run the Kamau sniper link you’re buying a luxury motorbike and driving it up a mudslide. If you’re tempted to put an Orc trooper in this link – and you should be, an Orc with a Feurbach is a great reactive piece – then you should consider running White Company instead. White Company has the same link of Orc+Fusiliers and is a much more well rounded faction. If you’re doing VIRD you have to do the Kamau link.
But what a link it is.
My standard for the link is:
- Fusilier Paramedic
- Fusilier Combi Rifle
- Fusilier Combi Rifle
- Fusilier Combi Rifle Lieutenant
- Kamau MSV2 Sniper
Keeping it cheap with the option of firing burst two healing darts into a Kamau that got unlucky. Sometimes I’ll want to add a fusilier with a hacking device to this, especially if the rest of my list comes with a lot of repeaters.
The Kamau Sniper represents a BS16 MSV2 Mimetism -3 threat. In practical terms, it’s going to be rolling two dice on 16’s against anything in cover in any of its amazing rangebands, and on 19’s if they’re out of cover – all with double action ammunition. This is the high water mark for reactive gunfighting in the entire game and if the Kamau is rolling well then it can cut down even premium attack pieces.
A faction that has the plan of fighting straight-up with a big core link will probably blitz down the Kamau without many problems, but those are by no means the majority of factions. Lots of factions will engage with an unlinked Mimetism -6 piece, or a smoke-shooting MSV2 piece, or a light TAG, or even a brute-force total reaction bot attack. The Kamau shuts these attackers down really hard, forcing them into coinflip fights that can be crushingly disastrous for your opponents if they lose, and even worse if you can deploy at an angle that forces engagements outside of 32 inches. The link further gives them immunity to surprise shots, making them very resilient against many skirmishers that might otherwise feel comfortable assassinating an isolated overwatch piece.
Sometimes the Kamau will straight get diced off the table – but just as often it won’t. I’ve had a game of Biotechvore where my first turn was just running the Kamau link up into the centre of the table, where it proceeded to kill 270 points worth of enemy models in its reactive turn. The dream is real, my friends.
With that out of the way, let’s go through the rest of the VIRD roster.
There is one other main reason to play VIRD – the Helots. They’re AVA 3 and that’s all that stops me from taking five. These are some of my favourite pieces in the entire game and they’re the absolute lynchpin of any successful defense. A lot of people will try to sneak around your devastatingly effective Kamau link to do objectives elsewhere – and the Helots will be there waiting for them.
Helots are in a lot of ways PanOceanian warbands. Use them for that. Have them soak mines, walk forwards without fear, make those long-shot Discover rolls. I tend to use their irregular orders to move them aggressively up the table, preferencing maximizing sight lines over obtaining good cover. The threat of them poses huge delays for the opponent – they’re the nastiest camouflage defense there is because they come with template weapons and full burst in reactive. A hidden but really important part of their use is that, as camouflage tokens, they come with 360 degree vision making them amazing for holding complicated and exposed areas or denying vast swathes of territory to drop troopers.
My favourite profile among the Helots is the light rocket launcher/SMG camouflage profile. With great range bands, a really solid close range kick, and a template weapon they pose enormously painful problems. They’re often at their best supporting another overwatch piece – do you want to fight the Kamau and a Helot at the same time? – or being moved up aggressively into midfield where their rangebands are better. One of my favourite VIRD moves is to set up an ARO trap on an exposed enemy attack link. If there’s an enemy link in midfield, moving a helot up under camo so that it’s watching them all and passing turn represents a really nasty mousetrap, especially if you have other pieces watching them as well.
The LRL profile is SWC expensive if you’re taking them. I can generally afford it because they’re so cheap points wise, but do note that if you’re taking three you’ll find yourself with only 3SWC to spend after your Kamau. VIRD is a SWC hungry faction for this reason.
I said last week that every faction is defined by their pawns, and fusiliers are damn good pawns. They’re the leanest profiles in Infinity, with no fat to be trimmed – do not underestimate the power of a BS12 combi rifle.
Mostly these guys are here to fill out the link for the Kamau and generate orders. Special mention goes to two profiles, though – the paramedic and the hacker. With how paramedic shots work in N4 link teams, the fusilier paramedic is genuinely great at her job and gives your link a specialist – perfect for late game scoring plays, I’d always take one.
The hacker is an odder choice. A single WIP12 BTS0 hacker is not going to win any duels with a killer hacker, but that’s not really why she’s there. She’s there because odds are you’re going to natively have a fantastic repeater network with all the great PanOceania remotes and the fusilier hacker is one of your very few ways to make that actually mean something. Having a hacker is way more important than having a good hacker when it comes to a layered defense.
I generally wouldn’t take any big guns on fusiliers in VIRD. You’ve got better platforms for them.
The Fusilier paramedic is better at her job, cheaper, and doesn’t take up a precious force slot. Skip.
One of these will end up in almost every VIRD list I play because PanOceania remotes are so generally amazing – and PanOceania TAGs all have the incredible remote presence rule. The mimetism upgrade is nice if you’ve got three points to spare, but if it’s a choice between that and a palbot take the palbot.
Fusilier Indigo Bipandra
If you’re wondering if this is a joke unit – yes it is.
Kamau Amphibious Intervention Teams
Oh so they have profiles other than the sniper huh.
The HMG profile is worth a look if you’re otherwise light on guns. Perfectly fine by herself or as part of a haris – I can absolutely see bringing one in an Orc haris team as a point man. Otherwise they represent a 10 point premium over equivalent fusilier profiles for mimetism and +1BS – only really recommended if you expect to take at least one active gunfight with it. A full Kamau haris team is cute and cheap – and I have definitely run a surprise second Kamau sniper before – but it’s not really a strong play by itself. Finally, the Kamau Paramedic does have a lot of utility in an Orc Haris team – Orcs have great Phys and few specialist profiles, plus the Kamau can scout ahead to snipe out a key repeater or hacker.
These are always great if you’ve got an empty army slot. Deploying one next to a helot or the Kamau is the ideal. A Kamau sniper is dangerous enough if your opponent has to split their burst between it and an idiot warcor they’re in serious trouble. It can also make Discover rolls against incoming impersonation or camo markers while the Kamau holds ready.
Two points to make your Warcor a specialist. Absolutely worthwhile.
Echo-Bravo Rapid Reaction Unit
VIRD’s only drop troop – I think these are very bad. They all cost precious SWC, have no survival mechanisms, and barely average gunfighting. In any scenario other than Firefight I’d use a Croc Man as a skirmish element instead, and even in Firefight I’d only take one. Special mention does go to the Red Fury profile – it has the range bands to potentially catch exposed enemy pieces in midfield in their rear arcs – but it’s so fragile and unreliable I don’t rate it very highly.
These models are right on the line of being good. More often than not, I don’t think they get there, but I’ve played people who swear by them. In some ways they represent a unique capability for PanO in general in that they’re affordable camouflage tokens, but they have a minimal forward deployment range, pricey specialist options and compete directly with the far more fearsome croc men for their slots. But that said, they do have a couple of unique loadouts.
The standout is the Sensor profile – potentially quite a vicious midfield sweeper who can also do some decent area denial work with the jammer. It’s still very fragile, though, because to use it aggressively you’re likely sending it into a minefield and it does not stand good odds against a mine hit. It can sensor down overwatch camouflage pieces but that’s an order intensive process that you might be better off bringing a Pathfinder for. The Killer Hacker is a profile with extreme anti-synergy – it doesn’t get much use out of cybermask because it already has a marker state, and if it’s engaging an enemy hacker it’s wasting up all those valuable points you’re spending on camouflage. Moreover, any serious hacking list will be bringing 3 high quality hackers that this one little WIP13 guy will not be able to beat all at once.
Fusilier Indigo Richard Quinn
A sidegrade to a Kamau Forward Observer. I don’t particularly rate him but he could be the answer in a very weirdly specific situation.
Orcs have gained a lot of value over the course of the edition’s changes and are serious contenders in your lists now. Like fusiliers, they’re no-frills Heavy Infantry – with a fantastic BS14 they’re very dangerous and they’re decently mobile with 6/2 movement speed. However they have absolutely nothing special going for them and anything that counters heavy infantry will counter the Orcs. No, the firewall tinbot is not enough to get them through a hacking grid – though Stealth on the Varuna Division options does help a lot.
If you’re going to bring an Orc haris team then you need to bring additional support to compensate for the team’s weakness to hacking – and here is where the Kamau paramedic comes in. Stealth will help you keep the Orcs from generating hacking AROs while the Kamau can engage repeaters safely with a good BTS and not caring if it gets Targeted. An Orc Feurbach in a haris team also makes a really nasty overwatch piece and great active turn anti-TAG gun. Do be aware that everything here dies instantly in CC, though, so do your best to have them end turn overwatched by the Kamau sniper.
These are finding their way into every N4 VIRD list I write. Not because they’re amazing objectively but because they’re a unique capability VIRD straight doesn’t get otherwise, and they don’t cost precious SWC. The Montessa Knight can rapidly acquire objectives, absolutely body many threats in close combat, and drive screaming through minefields in a way that few other things in the sectorial can. She can also go on suicide decapitation strikes if she has to – two wounds, decent armour and good speed can drive her through enemy overwatch to get a clutch close combat kill off.
Their strength is also their weakness – they’re heavy infantry, and they’re very vulnerable to being hacked or hit with E/M weaponry. That said, they’re BTS 6 natively, and if you’ve got an EVO hacker to give one Fairy Dust they can brute force a single hacker if they have to.
I recommend bringing the Multi Rifle platform if you can afford it. The Boarding Shotgun is very swingy and the extra range from the multi gives you a lot more freedom when applying your Impetuous movements. In any mission that involves specialists the paramedic option is an auto-pick.
Five points over a Boarding Shotgun ORC for, essentially, NCO, Grenades and Forward Observer. It might be worth it – the grenades can solve problems that an aggressive PanO haris team normally struggles with, such as flamethrowers – but they’re very random. She’s a valid pick but don’t expect to rely on her.
Naturally your eyes will be drawn to the grnd prize of VIRD, the devastatingly powerful Cutter – but pull back a bit and consider the Squalo because it’s lowkey one of the best TAGs in the game right now. The first reason for that is its price point – 75 points is very, very cheap for a main battle TAG. You can easily take a Cutter and everything else you want out of VIRD. It also has the best rule any TAG can have – Remote Presence for repair re-rolls. It also has the surprisingly effective Multi Pistol as a sidearm letting it engage at close range (don’t underestimate this – it shoots that pistol like most models shoot a boarding shotgun), and the Zapper as a direct template weapon which is a very effective way to shut down a close range assault or surprise a bunched up enemy. All of this plus it comes with ECM hacking -3, which you can add to Fairy Dust off your EVO hacker to give enemy hackers -6 against a BTS 9 target… the Squalo is a very strong, very reliable piece.
Another reason not to underestimate it is because just due to the virtue of its silhouette it can move in shocking and unpredictable ways on the right table. As it vaults obstacles that are shorter than it, the Squalo can move like a human sized piece with super jump. With a huge gun and great ballistic skill, it can absolutely sweep the board, and represents an extremely resilient chassis for your Lieutenant.
Keep in mind the most important rule of running a TAG though: make sure it’s parked somewhere it can fail guts and fall back out of line of sight. A TAG stuck in the open making an unfavourable gunfight will lose you the game. It’s very fine to put your TAG up on overwatch, especially if all your opponent has is non-AP HMGs – the Squalo can absorb a lot of HMG shots and the threat of getting a decisive return explosive round can alter an entire turn. Just make sure you can opt to get out of dodge if you have to, or ensure you’re also covered by Helots or other overwatch pieces.
Cutters, Varuna Naval Chasseurs
Short of an Avatar, this is the platonic ideal of an apex gunfighter. Put it in suppressive fire in cover in midfield and nothing is going to kill it short of a Marut. If you just want to straight up win every face to face roll and make every armour save then pack the Cutter – and at that point the entire rest of the game becomes ‘making sure the Cutter doesn’t die’.
Because as terrifying as the Cutter is, it is very vulnerable to hacking, smoke and close combat. The Kamau Sniper can cover some of these threats but you need to position them so they support each other through it. Hacking is a different matter – in a world with FastPandas you often won’t be able to stop yourself from winding up in Repeater range. In this case the Cutter has one other trick: Instead of entering suppressive fire, it can enter a marker state. Re-camouflaging is the move to make when you want the Cutter to survive rather than inflict damage and control the board. The Cutter lacks any sort of sidearm, however – don’t fear close range gunfights because even with a -3 rangeband the Cutter will still probably win, but it might take more orders than you expect.
This is one of the best pieces in the game and it’s priced like it. If you take a Cutter then your entire list is about the Cutter.
In almost any other faction these are skipabble. In PanOceania they deserve a serious look. Firstly, they are fast moving specialists with above-average (for PanO) willpower. Secondly, they can be repaired by the engineer you’re almost certainly bringing already. Thirdly, they have Sensor which gives them the ability to clear out camouflage tokens that PanO normally has issues dealing with. They won’t fit into every list, but give them serious consideration because they bring a real toolbox of options.
VIRD has such a good ARO presence already – why add a Total Reaction HMG? Well, firstly because they’re amazing pieces regardless of what else you’re bringing – and secondly, great overwatch is something that can compound on itself. With a Marksmanship-buffed TR bot on one flank and the Kamau on the other, both standing next to Helot camouflage tokens, you can lock down huge amounts of the board. And you’re already bringing a Machinist for your other great remotes, and potentially an EVO hacker for Fairy Dust, so it’s a very natural fit.
Some sectorials can do a lot with one of these. VIRD, not so much – it’s too SWC hungry and doesn’t have the right synergies.
If you really need one more cheap regular order. They fill the same function as Helots so they’re not in high demand here, but you might really need those extra few points elsewhere.
The Bulleteer Armbots are one of PanOceania’s greatest strengths. You’ll be taking an engineer for no other reason than to keep these on their feet – for absolute discount prices you can get incredible guns on fast moving and tough platforms. The Spitfire Bulleteer often sees use in combat group two – move it twice into midfield and enter suppressive fire and now it’s a rock solid roadblock that takes serious resources to punch through. The Shotgun Bulleteer is PanOceania’s Warband – a cheap, disposable thing that you can send off on a suicide attack against an exposed position (and maybe make a clutch long-range Gizmokit roll to fix later in the game). They project your repeater network as well, which you can’t do a whole lot with in VIRD but can use to annoy and inconvenience your opponents if you can bring a fusilier hacker.
I’ve somehow never managed to put one in my lists, despite hearing people swear by them as absolute killer pieces. I can see why they are good – if you can get the shotgun version in the right position you can’t approach it without getting hacked and flamethrowered and shotgunned, and the auxbot represents a fantastic throwaway grenade type piece. I personally always find myself favouring the shotgun bulleteer but I fully concede that is just personal preference.
The EVO hacker is a fantastic addition – it brings a lot of value that helps it emphasize PanO’s strengths, cover it’s weaknesses, and serve as a backup hacker in extremis. Fairy Dust gives you just that little extra defense against hacking, and Assisted Fire makes your amazing combat remotes even more amazing. They’re also dirt cheap.
Croc Men are extremely good skirmishers and the value they present is huge. Not only are they solid gunfighters, they represent specialists in midfield which is a unique capability in VIRD. Their mines also represent a powerful way to cover one of them retreating with a box, or a way to offensively engage a crowded corner – and with the Forward Observer profile option also having a repeater, a great way to mess with an enemy that doesn’t have any sort of hacking presence at all. If you thought fighting a Kamau was bad, try fighting one while Targeted.
This one is intended for Domination and Supplies, with a variety of powerful, mobile specialists. Use the TAG to sweep the midfield, the Montessa Knight to rapidly claim objectives or decapitate exposed enemy pieces, and the croc man to press an exposed flank in turn 2-3.
Squalo LT, MultiHMG Zapper
Kamau MSV2 Sniper
Machinist with Palbot
Knight of Montessa Paramedic
Warcor 360″ visor
Croc Man Forward Observer
EVO Hacking Device Mulebot
This one is a straight-up gunfighting list, designed for something like Firefight. Note the spare fusilier body – that’s there in case the hacker is at risk of getting shut down by a killer hacker, ensuring the Kamau link doesn’t lose any power.
Kamau MSV2 Sniper
Varuna Machinist (Mimetism) with Palbot
Montessa Knight Paramedic
EVO Hacking Device Mulebot
WarCor 360″ visor
That wraps up our look at the VIRD faction, and by now you hopefully have everything you need to get started and compete with the faction. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.