If you’re one of the Cool and Rad people that plays Infinity the Game then you’re lucky enough to have more Christmasses a year than other wargamers. Lucky you, ‘tis the season: Infinity Tournament System Season 15, to be exact: You can download the ITS15 pack here. Goonhammer’s crack team of Big-Heads (or is that Big Team of Crack Heads?) is here to break it all down for those of you who took one look at the ITS 15 rules and declared: TLDR.
Boom! One page of straight fire, friends. Someone* pressed the ‘Countdown to Annihilation’ button on Concilia Prima which encouraged the EI to eat a Snickers Bar and calm down before offering the Human Sphere a deal: If you don’t blow up the planet, we’ll stop…actively invading.
Which was a fine deal for everyone: The EI gets to keep searching for a T’zechi Digester and the humans living on that planet get to keep…living…on…that planet.
It’s been a common complaint that the sales pitch for Infinity has been ‘deniable covert operations between small teams’ while the narrative has been ‘existential threat to humanity posed by aggressive alien invaders’ for the longest time. CB has finally given us a return to detente, allowing the narrative to synch up with the gameplay experience, which is good game design.
I also applaud CB for having the courage to both punt Tohaa out of the ‘active catalogue’ and make playing Spiral Corps a crime against humanity. Take that, you damn VeggieTale-wannabe Edge Lords (Veglords?).
(*Spiral Corps. I knew it was them. Even when it was the Bearpodes I knew it was them)
These remain essentially the same. The Tournament scoring system is still the same (4 for a win, 2 for a tie, 0 for a loss, with the option for an Offensive or Defensive bonus depending on the final score).
Here CB has given us some guidelines: 9 large scenery elements, 4-5 medium ones and a ‘good’ number of smaller elements (read: scatter terrain).
Terrain preferences vary from community to community, so there’s limited value in critiquing this guidance but it does look like a good starting point for someone who has no other reference points for how to set up terrain for games of Infinity.
Ilor: While CB talks about making sure that your terrain setup is asymmetric (in order to give meaning to the choice of deployment zones), they mainly focus this on cover or elevation (i.e. sniper perches). But another really good thing to think about when setting up your tables is access to the objectives. Whenever I’m setting up a table that has consoles or tech-coffins or antennae of various flavors, I try to set it up such that the approach to the objectives is easier from one side than the other. Bonus points if the side that has the easier approach has the crappier cover overall. The game is more fun when both players have tough decisions to make.
Civilians, Civevac and Casevac (Oh, my)
Official guidance on how to interact with HVTs, Designated Targets as well as Unconscious (or Immobilised or even Stunned) models. Nothing super exciting here, we’ve done it all before but I always appreciate CB putting these rules in the very same booklet that people are going to be referencing while ITS scenarios at events.
Characters also count as Veteran Troops. Long-standing rule, no surprises here.
Players may make a Tactical use of a Command Token once per Game Round to add a Regular order to one of their Combat Groups.
Once per game a trooper with Airborne Deployment can attempt to deploy into an Exclusion Zone. Models with Combat Jump get to deploy in contact with any edge of the Exclusion Zone without rolling dice.
Genghis Cohen: Of course the biggest change, and the one I’m least sure about, is O-12’s Prestige. I did see one (experienced) player asking nervously online if it was a bonus for O-12 and Starmada only, which would be hilarious. The immediate reaction is that this is a very, very good use of Command Tokens. It’s clearly straight up better than converting an Irregular Order to Regular, so don’t expect to see that much this season. It’s going to be better than co-ordinating Orders unless you really do have several important models in equally good places to do the same thing, which isn’t common in Infinity. I think a lot of players will aim to use one token on Strategic use, and three on this. That is punishing for Sectorial players who will often spend at least one Command Token over a game to reform Fireteams. It will also give a further incentive to form Combat Groups properly, and keep them functional through the game. This use is better than transferring a model into a bigger group just to use its Order for one Turn, but it doesn’t wholly supplant that use, since you might want to transfer an active model into a bigger group to fuel itself with Orders. But that situation will mean you’re essentially giving up a free Regular Order as opportunity cost. Perhaps we will see more Strategos Lts taken this season, although most of them are already great in their factions.
Ilor: Gods know there have been enough times where I lamented not having just one…more…order! But it’s yet another thing to forget, and I’m going to have to consciously remind myself that it’s an option. It’s going to take me a couple of games to be using this one to its fullest effect. I play vanilla Haqqislam and end up doing a lot of Coordinated Orders, so this is going to make my decisions more difficult.
Genghis Cohen: Border Skirmishes is a nice boost to Parachutist, and even more to Combat Jump, units, which is good as they often lagged behind Infiltration options, and obviously still won’t be able to deploy directly next to central Objectives the way those could, if they ignored Exclusion Zones.
Ilor: I’m just bummed that my beloved Impersonators don’t get to benefit from this. But it is perhaps true that those troops are good enough as it is.
Genghis Cohen: One little niggle, to me, is the repeat of Long Service. Not that I disagree with its effects. It just makes me pessimistic about meaningful rethinks of the upcoming Classified Deck. The only import of Long Service is to make some Classifieds, which refer to ‘Veteran or Elite Troops’ complete-able by characters as well. So why not just update the cards to read ‘Veteran or Elite Troops or Characters’? Hopefully this is just something kept in until that deck is released, it’s annoying if rules are lazily not updated and have to cross-reference everywhere to fully make sense. Don’t even get me started on whether we need separate notations for veteran and elite guys, or why it has the same name as the Veteran skill, or why we have separate Headquarters troops, a category which includes both support Lts like Knight Commanders, and all round elites like Kriza Boracs and Hsien Warriors …. [angry grumbling fades into distance]
Musterkrux: Genghis Cohen has the right of it, O-12’s Prestige is going be really popular as a first order optimal play (orders are good, more orders are more gooder) but the consequences of running dry when you might need to exorcise a Possessed TAG, reform a Fireteam or juggle Combat Groups is going to be a curious application of the FAFO principle.
Border Skirmishes is a mixed bag for me. Arguably, there’s not a huge amount of difference between deploying in contact with an exclusion zone and deploying 1mm away from an Exclusion Zone for Parachutists but putting a Combat Jump trooper down and not having to roll to stick the landing is going to be cute. It’s worth noting that Peripherals count as a ‘special kind of Trooper’, so whether they count as a separate instance of deployment when dropping your ‘once per game’ Trooper or not is a matter I would err on the side of caution with until clarified. Sorry, Tomcats and O-12 Deltas.
Most of the extras should be familiar to existing players, with Reinforcements already having been announced, released and discussed at length by the community. Mercenary Contractors allows you to re-use those CSUs, Bashi Bazouks and Motorised Bounty Hunters you lovingly painted up last season (you painted them, right? Lovingly?). CB also introduces both Direct Action and Resilience Operations as different formats of ITS.
Genghis Cohen: I am super interested to find out more about Resilience Operations, seems like a deck-draw mission system like the one which is so popular for GW games. Also rather tickled to see that although the controversial ‘extra models’ of previous seasons return as an extra, they now can’t bring Combat Groups up over 10 models, and the profiles we are all used to seeing have been replaced with boarding shotguns for all.
Ilor: I too am eagerly looking forward to Resilience Operations. I am a huge fan of asymmetric objectives, and that’s not something that has really been a thing in Infinity ITS. Some Infinity oldsters might remember “YAMS” (Yet Another Mission System), which was a fan-created version of this back in N2-N3, and I hope that this is a new and cool version of that.
Musterkrux: This is all fine. I have mixed feelings on Reinforcements. It’s cool, I love the concept, I love the execution (on the table) and I love the fact that CB has changed things up. However, by making it an All-or-Nothing Tournament Extra you’re putting players in a position where they are compelled to buy (or proxy) models from a very limited range (and I’d be worried that CB runs out of stock for these boxes almost immediately after release) in order to participate in events running Reinforcements. That said, Proxy is King and no event I run during ITS15 that has Reinforcements enabled will have heavily enforced proxy restrictions. I appreciate the difficulties of trying to balance Reinforcements against Not-Reinforcements lists, so let’s not take this as a damning critique of CB’s choice here.
Resilience Ops looks absolutely rad and will probably be my default casual game format anytime I’m not prepping for an event.
ITS 15 Scenarios and New Rules
We’ve got three new scenarios to cover and a few new rules (and variants on existing ones) to keep us entertained.
Novel Scenario Rules and Features
Quantum Anomaly Zones (QAZ)
Remember all those other zones that we hated? Well, these ones are the same but they also hurt: Damage 10, BTS save. Note that these are now 1 per player though, so not as many clogging up the table.
Ilor: Holy fuck, Guard (which allows CC Attack to be declared anywhere within ZOC) and Burst 3 CC Attack in ARO?!? Shoot these things from far away. Any scenario that has these and is played against a canny opponent is going to be an exercise in “how do I get out of my own Deployment Zone?”
Snow Ops, Master Breacher, UberHacker. There’s always another ‘Pick a model, make it important’ rule in ITS. Hazmat Ops are the current flavour. They get Terrain (Zero:G), D-charges and sometimes an Irregular order but are, apparently, not immune to the damage inflicted by QA-Zones, which is what I would have predicted as a benefit to being a Hazmat Operative. Ahh well.
EVO Hacker Bonus
Got an EVO Hacker that isn’t dinged up or Isolated? Have a Regular Order (Limit: One per customer).
Defensive Turret F-13
It’s a turret. It reacts totally. BS 10, combi-rifle. Nothing new here, carry-over from last season.
Have another Command Token, kid. On the house.
Genghis Cohen: Every damn year I think they will finally get rid of those damn zones. I’ve never met a single competitive player who thinks they’re good, or even interesting. Every year they bring them back. Now they’ve even made them more forbidding!? This is a perverse decision. I thought for sure that even if Terrain skills didn’t ignore the BTS damage, perhaps the Hazmat Ops trooper would . . . no. What an absolute pain. Perhaps we will see some increased use of BTS9 units, which would be funny when one tries to operate with confidence and then rolls a fatal 1. I guess at least they’re only 1 per player now. I have played a lot of games where placement of 4 templates was either limited to only one possible solution, or straight up impossible.
I’m fine with the rest, QAZ creatures are really just a turret twist. Interesting to see how good they could be if placed in a spot with total cover, but which controls key areas for movement, but that won’t be common. Interestingly, both turrets and creatures could be seen as boosts to the Reactive Turn and to the player more on the defensive, albeit minor ones. The EVO bonus, especially in conjunction with O-12’s Prestige, is the opposite. As someone who grew to welcome the 15-trooper limit introduced with N4, I am very cautious of bringing the game back to 20+ Order lists. It’s quite possible to get a Combat group now where a single, powerful model can spend 15 Orders in the right situation from a combination of Lt+1 Order, NCO/Strategos, Tactical Awareness, O-12 and EVO bonuses. Rather good for alpha striking, although I will withhold judgment until people have got some practice games in.
Musterkrux: I feel you, man. Though, I’m going to adopt a slightly different position on QA-Zones (something about writing them that way makes me think of Q-Anon…bugger). Sure, in previous iterations of ITS I was absolutely guilty of either tossing zones to the side by mutual agreement or deploying them in utterly non-interactive spaces because they felt too annoying to factor into the game-state. However, I think by adding a damage component to them CB has actually cleverly given them just enough gravitas/validity that players will actually take them seriously now. Saying that, I’m also going to cry foul because this is clearly a blatant attack on Ariadna and CB should be ashamed of themselves for bullying BTS 0: The Faction. Punch up, you cowards.
QAZ-Critters are interesting, I could see someone getting absolutely stumped by a critter tucked into a corner that can’t be approached without getting pinged by at least one no-LOF Guard ARO. That said: skill issue. People are going to have to bring Critter-Killers (Beast…Hunters?) to deal with these and if your list doesn’t have a solution for them and you deployed your vulnerable pieces in a way that snookers them that’s on you, chief. That said, they can only ARO with Guard-CC against models in ZoC, no Dodging, so all it takes is one lucky spec fire grenade or a perfectly positioned DTW (even the small template is longer than 8”) and your problems are solved.
Genghis Cohen: Seems really fun to me! Very hard to conceptualize, I suppose having the last moves is quite important so it does reward going second, and in the current state of competitive play, I think missions which have a real reward for going second are better for producing tight contests.
Musterkrux: CB went with the plausible deniability play here but I know the scenario’s real name is Beer-Pong and nobody can stop me saying that at every opportunity (I might also accept Air Hockey, though). Requiring a full order to move the Puck and only allowing a Specialist to move it once a round is going to either result in one of the following things: Low-movement games for players who can’t break the stalemate or didn’t bring enough specialists; insane Rube Goldberg machines, where the puck bounces directly into silhouette contact with successive specialists; or the game becomes Annihilation with Extra Steps. All of which I welcome. Great scenario, 11/10.
Genghis Cohen: I think this is a big improvement over the old Rescue. It’s less likely to be very low-scoring, since there are evacuable civilians in each player’s own table half (it also bypasses the confusion about whose civilians are whose and whether you’re meant to rescue yours or theirs, which I’ve seen many a new player get hung up on). The ability to evacuate HVTs also introduces a nice increase in the role of players in deploying and protecting an important Objective, and increasing the importance of actually doing the single Classified Objective before that evacuation, instead of just defaulting to Secure the HVT. I’m excited to try it.
Ilor: Yeah, this one is much less onerous and order intensive than the old Rescue was. As a general rule I hate missions with Exclusion Zones, but that’s just my predilection for playing armies chock full of infiltrators.
Musterkrux: Wow. That’s a lot of WIP rolls. WIP +3 to activate CivEvac and then another WIP roll to launch them off into space (in my head-canon it’s a Wile E Coyote style spring-board) makes for multiple failure points while trying to score points.
Ilor: I’m suddenly glad I play a faction with across-the-board WIP 14. Also: Suck it, PanO!
Musterkrux: The scenario scoring looks to be interesting. Depending on the new Classified Deck (whether we see any 2 OP objectives) the only way to get a Offensive Bonus on your Tournament Points is going to include either extracting an enemy HVT or at least one of the two Civilians that are sitting on your opponent’s side of the table (on the plus side, at least you can use their Extraction Console while you’re on that side of the table). In a mildly amusing note, I suspect the furthest away from either console you can place a HVT is going to be on the halfway line at the edge of the table. Makes them harder to defend but then your opponent is going to have a longer run back to a console to extract them. It’ll be an interesting consideration and wholly table-dependent. I’d be tempted to rate this scenario as a good one to slot into the start of an event as a means of separating the field into their respective skill categories early as getting a high score in this scenario isn’t easy.
Muster Krux: I love the feel for this mission but in my test games I got the impression that it can feel very one-sided if one player evacuates a Specialist worth a decent number of points off the table. All of the significant scoring sits in the Launching Tower, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s worth watching out for. With the Border Skirmishers rule in effect this season, Air-Dropping a model to within 8″ of either ID Scanner (in contact with the edge of the exclusion zone) seems like a cute trick. Just don’t forget to bring your Multipass.
Genghis Cohen: Another very interesting mix-up of traditional ITS mechanics. No flipping of Objectives here, instead you can WIP roll either flanking Objective marker with a Specialist to gain an ‘ID token’, which can be swapped between troopers exactly like a supply box, and by spending a short skill at the central Objective, inside an Objective Room, any model with a token can extract from the table. That is simple enough to do with a couple specialists, but the balancing mechanic is that it’s a contest against how many Specialists and army points the opponent can extract, there’s another 2OP if you can kill more Specialists than the opponent, and you also get 1OP for dominating the objective room at the end of the game. In practice, I think a lot of these games will be decided by one or two specialists extracting; getting a lot of points out, especially non-specialists who have to spend Orders handing off the tokens, since they can’t obtain them themselves, will often be prohibitive. I guess having the right Specialist models will be key – an Anathematic will be 76 points you can reliably use to extract itself in most situations. Duo or Haris teams with expensive fighting models and integral Specialists would also be very useful.
Ilor: This mission looks fun and I’m interested to give it a whirl. But with its heavy reliance on specialists, sadistic TOs are going to pair this mission with Firefight in their tournament lineup, I can already see it now.
Musterkrux: [Cackles in Sadistic TO.]
Implications for the Competitive Scene
Genghis Cohen: I think O-12’s Prestige is the biggest single change, since it affects all games and will marginally increase the ability to go ham with a single model. Glad to see no universal extra model, and of course Tachimoto bonuses have gone, so it won’t be too extreme a change. I am very keen to go and play the three new missions, which I am sure will feature heavily in many upcoming tournaments.
Musterkrux: I, too, am keen to play Beer Pong, Last Launch and Evacuation as 60% of the mission line up for any 5-game event over the next 6 months. No really, I’m not being facetious, those scenarios look cool as heck. While Tachimoto was a great rule that needed to have a limited shelf life, I was kind of hoping that we’d see a new ‘Mix It Up’ rule to incentivise a different category of model to keep list building novel during this season. Sure, O-12 Prestige and even the EVO-Hacker bonus will change how we build lists but there’s just something nice about exploring a Seasonal Glow-Up. Maybe Explode on G:Servants? Forward Observer on War Cors instead of Flash Pulse? Ideas? I’ve got a million of ‘em, CB. Call me, Hellois. Please call me, I’m ever so lonely.
I don’t see any immediate winners or losers when it comes to this scenario pack. I’m sure Ariadnan players will kick up a stink about the QA-Zones but, honestly, most factions have a lot of low BTS models and the templates are placed before deployment, so it’s not like you’re getting gotcha’ed after you’ve committed your Bearpodes to their attack runs.
Between ITS 15, Resilience Operations and Reinforcements I think there’s more than enough here to keep us entertained until ITS 16 and, really, isn’t that the point? Bravo CB.
Ilor: The new missions look like fun, but honestly the thing I’m looking forward to the most is the Resilient Operations deck. It is my hope that that’s really going to offer a ton of new and interesting ways to play Infinity beyond the staid ITS mode of play. YAMS and 20×20 (another scenario generation system) were good and I’d love it if CB incorporated that kind of thing into the base game. It might convince my group to do another Infinity campaign, because the last one we did was dope as hell.