Infinity Fundamentals, Part III: Playing in a Competitive Way

Welcome to part 3 of our four-part series on the fundamentals of Infinity. If you missed the previous parts, you can find them here:

In this article we’ll cover some of the basics of how to think about your decisions and manage your turns in Infinity – basically tips on how to play the game well. Infinity is a very complex game with multiple interactions possible within Orders and Automatic Reaction Orders (AROs). Understanding some general rules about how to make decisions is key if you want to play with the aim of beating serious opposition, as opposed to just rolling dice and seeing what happens (which is also fine, but not really the point of this series of articles). 


Principles of Decisions in Infinity

If I had to pin down the main differences between a casual and an experienced competitive player, they would be focus and calculation. A strong player will always remain focused on the ultimate Objective but aware of the wider Order pools, Round/Turn number and board position which affect the situation. On a micro level, competitive players understand the potential opponent reactions, the rough chances of success, and the consequences of success or failure before they commit to a play. No player is perfect, Infinity is a dice game we play for fun, mistakes and miscalculations will often be made. But to be competitive you need to take a disciplined approach to the incredibly numerous decisions you will be confronted with in an average game. Let’s look at some of the ways this can be done. 

Remember the Mission

One of the most difficult things during a game of Infinity is to always keep the overall Objective(s) uppermost in your mind. Never spend Orders trying to achieve something that isn’t contributing to it. It’s very common to get fixated on taking out a particular target, which might leave you out of position or short on Orders to actually do what will win you the game. Don’t just think of your models as things you want to keep alive or the enemy models as things you need to destroy (although that is largely true). Consider when it is in the game and where they are on the table in relation to the Objectives. Is that enemy model a threat in its Active turn? Is it an obstacle to reaching an Objective? Can it be used to further your opponent’s plan to gain Objectives (e.g. if it is a Specialist)? Is taking its Order from the enemy’s remaining Turns worth the Orders you’d spend, and risk you’d take, to try removing it? If the answer to all those is no, you don’t want to have to spend Orders attacking it! Think about the Objectives constantly – one good system is to check yourself at the start of every Active Turn, as explained below.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Ask Questions About Open Information & Do the Math First

One great thing about the Infinity rules is their clear distinction between Open and Secret Information about models. If a model isn’t disguised as a marker (e.g. Camouflage) or off the table like Hidden Deployment or Combat Jump, you are entitled to know most things about it. Ask your opponent about their models’ capabilities before committing to a FtF roll, if you are not 100% sure already. You don’t want to plan a safe long ranged attack against a shotgun-carrying model, only to find out it has a panzerfaust as well! Similarly, if you know (or can guess) what an opponent is likely to declare as an ARO, typically ‘shoot back’, then you absolutely should figure out what the numbers for the FtF roll will be before you commit. Nothing worse than spending the Orders before realising you forgot they had Sixth Sense/Mimetism/Multispectral Visor etc, making your proposed plan a serious risk. 

In addition to doing the math on opposing Shoot or Dodge actions before you spend an Order or declare an ARO, review the Open Information and check your opponent doesn’t have some other, less conventional skill or ARO available. It’s easy to over-focus on the shooting you expect to receive, only for your opponent to declare they’re using a Jammer, or Pheroware Tactics, or placing a Deployable weapon, thus creating an interaction you didn’t expect and which disrupts your plan. Try and consider all the opponent’s plausible ARO options before you commit to anything, if you can do so without bogging down play. 

Be aware when facing some Factions or Sectorials that they have access to Holomask troops which can masquerade as other profiles. This can lead to ‘gotcha’ AROs, but there’s not much to be gained directly by feigning weakness or strength in ARO. Holomask can be used to disguise the threat a model provides in the Active Turn. It can provide unexpected Hacking AROs or lead the attacker into a low-success-chance melee attack. But in most cases, a soundly executed attack on an enemy model will do alright regardless of what it truly is (no Holomask troops have Mimetism(-6) or Total Reaction, because it would be unspeakably good). The main use of this deception is therefore to disrupt the opponent’s planning, messing up what they would have actually spent Orders on if they had known the truth. Just be careful of things which are too good to be true – a potential Lt not too well hidden off by itself, for example, or a site for Parachutists to enter the table, watched only by an unarmed model. These may be tricks an opponent with access to Holomask can pull off. 


‘Slicing the Pie’ and Controlling Face-to-Face Rolls

The Active player always wants to target enemy models one at a time. This makes the FtF roll as advantageous as possible, because you can concentrate all your Burst on one target, maximising the chance of taking it out and minimising risk. It isn’t usually worth engaging multiple AROs at once unless you have a very powerful model, the perfect modifiers, and/or very weak opposition. It may be necessary in some cases, if you want to achieve the Objective before the end of Round 3, but then you’re gambling on winning each FtF roll simultaneously, which is of course less likely. This means that the Active player usually wants to provoke AROs one-by-one, while the Reactive player wants to trap his opponent into facing multiple AROs at once. 

Something which isn’t entirely clear in Infinity rules is to what extent Line of Fire is Open Information. Many players start out using the ARO system as a sort of ‘gotcha’ where the Active player has to be very cautious about declaring any movement, because they can easily be the target of multiple AROs. No take-backs! This approach is very rare in competitive events. It’s usual to play ‘with intent’ where you can ask your opponent “what can see here?” before moving, and they respond openly, barring actual ‘gotcha’ plays like Hidden Deployment, which are designed to surprise the opponent. This way of doing things allows the Active player to perfectly ‘slice the pie’ when approaching corners, using geometry to carefully draw LoF and engage potential AROs one by one, instead of moving out too far in one Order and facing several at once. This can take new players aback the first time they encounter it, as it does give the Active player a lot of control. However, it is a necessary convention for high-level play. Without it, the game descends into ten minutes of eyeballing angles before committing to a move which might be dangerous. 

So what? Don’t rely on trapping your opponent into engaging multiple simultaneous AROs on their Active Turn, unless you can do so with Hidden Deployment. You will normally find that when you have multiple ARO pieces covering one fire lane, they can be engaged individually by careful movement – even without Smoke, White Noise or other LoF-manipulating techniques. When positioning models as ARO pieces, evaluate their chance of survival as if they had to fight alone. The effect of multiple AROs covering an area isn’t to overwhelm and kill the attacking model. It’s to force it to spend multiple Orders engaging and removing each Reactive model individually. 


Credit; Rockfish

The Dangers of Over-Reaching

We’ve discussed in a previous article how Infinity deployment layouts and the Orders system contribute to a natural ‘reach’ that most models operate at. By pushing models forward to the attack, you’re not only risking the enemy AROs, you will likely end up with the attacking model in a more vulnerable position – it will simply end up closer to the enemy, allowing them more Orders to attack it, as they won’t have to spend many getting into position first. You are also removing that model from the network of defence you created at deployment, possibly opening avenues for your opponent to attack into more vulnerable targets. So don’t just think about what targets you can engage, think about the model you are risking and where it will end up. The ultimate play is where you do damage (or achieve the objective) and still end up secure, by virtue of a strong ARO covering your model, its own Reactive ability, or by being far away enough and out of Line of Fire (LoF) from surviving enemies. 

In many cases this won’t be possible, when sending a model on an aggressive attack run you are likely to lose it to an enemy counter-attack in their next Turn. That’s fine as long as you planned for it and the juice was worth the squeeze. But a common error by players who understand the basics, and their units’ strengths, but not the wider game, is to simply ram their key piece into an all out attack. If they don’t remove all the major threats, which is very difficult to do in Round 1, they frequently get taken out easily in the next Reactive turn. It’s necessary to sacrifice things over the course of a game. But don’t feed your opponent juicy targets. At the launch of an attack run, think about where you want the model to end up – will it be vulnerable there? Will it be a good obstacle to the opponent in your Reactive Turn? Then re-assess that goal as you come to your last few Orders. Sometimes it’s better to go all out in the hope of taking that last key target, if it’s the lynchpin of your opponent’s whole force or plan. Often you’d better pull back.

Mech-engineer and Yáozăo. Credit: Rockfish
Mech-engineer and Yáozăo. Credit: Rockfish


Count your Orders and Plan Your Turn Accordingly

At the start of your turn, during the Tactical Phase, you count up your Orders (and decide whether to move models between Combat Groups etc). This is the best time to run through some basic checks in your head:

  • What do I need to achieve this Turn? This is all about the mission objectives. As discussed in a previous article on strategy in Infinity, you should have a definite idea of where you need to be each Turn in relation to achieving the Objectives. The first Turn can just be about smashing the opposing force; subsequent Turns had better see you moving on the Objectives. It’s common to see players in tournaments consulting the mission packs at the start of their Turn 3, checking how exactly they can score the most Objective Points. A really good player has that information at the forefront of his mind every Turn. 
  • What plays are available to me? This is dictated by the models you have left, their board position, and the enemy models threatening you. Don’t simply jump to the powerful model you normally use, or the model your opponent has just failed to take out. Actually run your eye over all the troopers you have available, and consider if any of them are best placed to spend Orders or use some unique capability. I can hardly count the times I’ve developed a play to attack an enemy with Multispectral Visor, and then realised afterwards I could have used a Hacking Device Plus to put down White Noise. 
  • Which of these plays can I actually achieve with the Orders available to me? As discussed above, there’s nothing worse than maneuvering to set up an attack, and then falling short of removing the target (or reaching the objective) for lack of Orders. Literally count up how many Orders it would take to move into position and take Face to Face (FtF) rolls for whatever you’re planning. You need a couple Orders spare, otherwise your plan is a long shot. If you can only just get there and engage in one FtF roll before running out of Orders, then a single poor roll will wreck your plan – it’s not something to hang the game on if there’s any other option. 
  • What risks do each of these plays expose me to? Remember that few plans in Infinity are risk-free. You can always lose your attack piece to a lucky ARO or your opponent may reveal a ‘gotcha’ moment of secret information which traps you in a bad situation. Don’t just think about what you could achieve, think about how favourable the FtF rolls would be and how badly it will hurt if you get unlucky. Will you be able to try something else, or are you risking the whole game? Examples of an unacceptable risk would be using your Lt for an all-in attack in Turn 1 (assuming you don’t have Chain of Command) or committing your last Specialist to a risky FtF roll in Round 3 before it’s had a chance to activate the Objective. 
  • Finally, is my opponent likely to enter Retreat if I remove certain targets, or is he already in Retreat? This is a counterintuitive element of the mission rules in Infinity ITS. Many missions, where the objective is not explicitly killing the enemy, specify that if a player starts their Active Turn in Retreat, the game will end at the end of that Turn. This can upset the result of games. If you’ve smashed the enemy force and not achieved any of the Objectives, you may find the game ending on a 0-0 Draw. Even worse, your opponent essentially gets a (severely restricted) Turn where he can try to sneak out a couple Objective Points with what’s left to him, knowing the game will end immediately afterwards. Many a good player has been in a dominant position at the top of Round 2, only for their opponent to declare themselves in Retreat, flip one Objective and end the game. Leaving our trigger-happy hero on a 0-1 Loss, when they thought it was all going swimmingly. If this condition exists in the mission you’re playing, do a rough total of the opponent’s remaining points (and your own) at the start of the Turn. The condition works both ways; just always be aware if the game is at risk of ending early, and which player that would favour.

Running through the above ideas, or whatever approximation of them works for you, is a great tool. Even as an experienced player, I often make mistakes that could have been avoided if I slowed down and thought it through at the start of the Turn.

Haqqislam Fiday with Boarding Shotgun Credit: Alfredo Ramirez
Haqqislam Fiday with Boarding Shotgun Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Re-Assessing the Situation and Avoiding ‘Tilt’

Once you’ve got a plan in your head for the Active Turn, you have to start putting into practice, and at some point it will go wrong. Hopefully not in every game, but a lot of the time you will be unlucky and at least some of your manoeuvres will fail. This will result in a waste of your Orders and/or the loss of a model. The important thing is to stay focussed on your overall aim for the Turn and the Objective of the game. When something goes wrong, you should check with yourself whether it puts your plan out of reach, and if so, should you concentrate on some remaining bits of your plan that are still achievable? Or should the plan for the Turn change completely? As an example, it is Round 1 of a game of Supplies – I have chosen to use my Core Fireteam leader, a Mobile Brigada HMG, in a head-on attack against one of my opponent’s ARO pieces, a sniper, also in a Core Fireteam. Unluckily I lose the FtF roll to a critical hit, and fail two ARM rolls, putting my model Unconscious. I quickly decide that, using the Doctor model I have in the same Fireteam, I can spend one Order to attempt to heal the Brigada, re-rolling with Command Tokens if necessary, reform the Fireteam with another Command Token, and try the FtF again. Despite this heavy cost, it is a better option than leaving my opponent with the tools to dominate the long-range firefight in their Active Turn. I do note that spending extra Orders is reducing my ability to go after other targets or the Objectives in this Turn, so I will adjust my plan to rush the opposing Deployment Zone with McMurrough – instead I will try to pick off or pin down the opponent’s midfield-deployed Camouflage token, which I suspect is a Specialist poised to seize the Objectives. If my Brigada loses the FtF again and dies, I will be in a much tougher position. I would then have to re-assess and think how I could move forward, around the Objectives, in Total Cover, without exposing myself to long-range AROs or getting so far within the opponent’s reach that he could easily counter-attack.

‘Tilt’ is a common phrase for that feeling when something goes wrong, the game is evidently going against you, and you proceed to make bad decisions and worsen the situation. Infinity is often easier to play when you’re winning. You have more Orders to spend, you have big guns you can point at problems to make them go away (this is usually the most direct and quickest solution to problems in Infinity). When you’re on the back foot is when you can show real quality as a player. Don’t think it’s all over – no game is until the points are counted. Usually, when something goes catastrophically wrong, it’s the result of an enemy model which has done something unexpected, either due to a stroke of luck, because it’s in a great board position, because it was just revealed from Secret Information, or you simply didn’t know what it could do. The most common manifestation of tilting is immediately throwing another attack into that frustrating enemy model, regardless of how good the odds are. Don’t do it. Stop and think. What has happened, how has the situation changed, what options are still available to you? Slow it down, remind yourself of the overall Objective and go through the models you still have, analysing what they can do. It’s easy to get over-focussed on one section of the board, especially if something critical has just gone down there. If the opponent is now unassailable in a certain spot, don’t just send models into a losing situation hoping for luck. Step back, look at the wider board, think what other targets you can go after, or what Objective points you can claim without facing the enemy in their newly dominant position.

Next Time: Initiative Rolls and Deployment

It’s easy to miscalculate in Infinity or get caught up in a string of bad decisions. In so many games I have realised afterwards what I should have done. Thinking in a disciplined way when your Turn starts, when something new and unexpected happens, at the end of every Order, makes a huge difference. We all play in the real world and no opponent wants to wait 20 minutes between each of your Orders. But really, the more thought you put into every decision, the more of a difference you will see. Remember – the Mission comes first! Is what you are doing bringing you towards the Mission Objective? Do you have enough Orders left to lock in the points? What will your position look like at the end of the Turn? After all this theoretical waffling on, in the next article we will move onto some meat and potatoes tactics: how to Deploy your force at the start of the game. 

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