Some times, everything lines up just right. Timfinity 2021 Part 2 was a tournament where I went 3-0, lost a single model across three games (and it was a remote, my actual team was fine), and didn’t make a single mistake. That is an unbelievably good feeling – exhausting, but the exhaustion that comes with doing something right. I’ve got a lot to say about these games, though, so get comfortable. Just as a PSA reminder, this was a tournament held in Australia where the virus is under control and local restrictions have been eased.
I ran the same list at the event as I did last month. For reference it is:
- Hector with Plasma Rifle
- Betatrooper Killer Hacking Device
- Bronze Red Fury
- Psi-Cop Hacker
- Bluecoat ADHL
- Bluecoat ADHL
- Bluecoat SMG
- Varangian Guard
Total Reaction HMG
Painted up my Starmada boxed set for this event to cut down on the proxies I was using. Really proud of how they came out.
Game One: VS Caledonian Highlander Army, Acquisition
I won the LT roll and opted to go first purely because in Acquisition there are 16′ deployment zones – and my defense hinges off Riotstoppers which a dog warrior will laugh right off. My opponent had roughly the following assets:
- A highlander Grey with a HMG up on Overwatch, leading a link of volunteers
- William Wallace running solo
- A regular Caledonian – not McMurrough
- A Haris team of Cadan Firststrike and some other quality infantry
- Three Cateran T2 snipers and a Scots Guard Missile Launcher under camo tokens
- A SAS
Unfortunately for my opponent things got off to a pretty rough start. My reserve drop was the Total Reaction HMG Remote and I managed to find an angle where it had a clear line of sight on his entire Haris team. I start my turn by activating the remote and declaring discover at one of the distant camo tokens, which chose not to react. His ARO was to reveal two of the Caledonian snipers to shoot at the TR remote and dodge with the Haris team who wouldn’t be able to engage at that distance.
Now, I lost that gunfight decisively – I missed all four shots and got blown apart by T2 ammunition. However the one thing that didn’t miss was the discover roll, which revealed his Scots Guard ML. And overall that was an immense win for me! I didn’t inflict so much as a single point of damage and I lost my piece to return fire but now my opponent’s defense was absolutely shattered. He was absolutely relying on the threat of those camo tokens to provide ranged superiority and restrict my movement crossing the table and now there were a bunch of BS12 snipers sitting on rooftops just waiting to die. And die they did. The remainder of my turn involved moving the core link up into midfield and then engaging and killing every one of his overwatch pieces – all three Caterans, including successfully discovering the third, the missile launcher, and the Grey went down, utterly depriving my opponent of any sort of ranged firepower.
He recovered as best he could. He jumped the Dog Warrior into close combat with Hector – but I’d seen that coming and had positioned the Betatrooper so that it could nanopulsar the guy on the way in. Luckily for my opponent he won the CC battle against Hector – which was just a straight coinflip at CC23 vs CC24 – but tragically, disastrously for him he had bought a standard dog warrior instead of McMurrough. This meant he was only armed with an AP CCW, so he plinked only a single wound off Hector who killed it in the counterswing. Following that he ran the Haris team up to claim an objective and called turn.
Looking at where his army was I was pretty certain that if I played my turn right I was going to put him into retreat – and so I planned my entire turn around that. As my link cut across the table to demolish his Haris team it detached the Betatrooper and the Bronze to stand on the central objective (both of them because I was worried about that Grey getting healed by a paramedic and taking a shot), and then sent Hector through to clean up the right hand objective. And there’s just simply not much that beats a linked plasma rifle in close proximity. I had learned from my mistakes in the last tournament and played this entire one out correctly.
I think my opponent’s biggest mistake was revealing both Cateran snipers to shoot the TR bot. It was a panic move and I sympathize because that thing had a bead on some extremely important targets but having those camo tokens as threats was his entire defensive strategy and he lost 3/4 of it in the first order of the game. I am also intensely down on my opponent’s decision to have the linked HMG standing up on overwatch. He explained it by indicating the linked paramedic and the fact that it could throw down linked smoke if engaged in a bad rangeband, but this was his only serious active turn gun and without it there just wasn’t anything on the table that could credibly threaten my HI link. It was a rough game for my opponent, but this is the rare game I attribute a lot of the loss to listbuilding issues. One HMG just isn’t enough, especially if it’s on a 1W platform. The local meta has grown pretty lax on bringing big guns and I’ve had multiple games now where I’ve gotten lucky and killed their key heavy weapons platform early and suddenly they’re almost entirely locked out of the game.
Game Two: VS Steel Phalanx, Supplies
So firstly, absolutely no disrespect to my opponent here. He was up front that he was new to Infinity and was approaching it as a beer-and-pretzels game. He was very clear that all the problems he had with Hector were his own to deal with and that they didn’t reflect on me. His army was wonderfully painted. I have played people who have spent the whole game complaining before and of that category of people he was by far the nicest. But those complaints were the overwhelming takeaway I had from this game so I’m going to talk about them here.
(The game itself: he Impetuoused Pentathesia into a total reaction bot and died instantly, placed Achilles in suppressive fire where he could be engaged in midfield and I spent my entire turn shooting him down, and then he had no assets left on the table that could accomplish anything)
The crux of his complaints was Hector – a profile who, as he would have it, had everything Achilles had but better. Already a pretty spicy take to be mad at one of your own faction’s key pieces – my opponent had played many, many editions ago before Hector was introduced to the game and seemed to view his inclusion as some sort of power creep that he rejected out of hand. As this discussion was going on Hector and Achilles were exchanging fire, with Hector 4 dice on 10’s vs Achilles’ 3 dice on 9’s in as close to a coinflip fight as it really gets.
And more than any digression comparing two 70-point three-wound models with powerful midrange guns and immense close combat ability, discussing the comparison of linkable BS13 vs BS15 and mimetism, I think it’s this kind of mindset that loses games. There’s a saying in sports, ‘when we win it’s because our boys are heroes, and when we lose it was the wind’. Of course a tonne of stuff goes into games – what you bring, how much time you have to devote to theorycrafting, your own sense of taste and aesthetics, if you have standards about how models are painted, your playstyle and what you enjoy. When we game our thoughts are restricted; we’re hemmed in by who we are. I won’t play unpainted, I won’t play tricky defense-and-zoning-oriented lists, I won’t play as Nomads because I don’t like their fiction (I think they should represent PanOceania’s weird subcultures and internal terrorist groups rather than a bizarre set of sovereign nations, and I think their place as sovereign nations detracts from the setting by concentrating all the transhuman weirdness in three spaceships rather than distributing it evenly). Some people are stuck playing Dark Angels out of grim stubbornness through edition after edition of terrible rules because that’s who they are, and honestly that’s what wargaming is about. People can’t help but express themselves through their play.
But think about that for a moment. When you play you’re expressing yourself. You’re inadvertently or not communicating who you are as a person in a hundred subtle ways. Your opponent is for sure picking up on that – when you get frustrated, when you get cautious, how you react to victory and defeat. But they’re not the only person who should be paying attention – you should be paying attention too. Each moment of play in isolation and each tournament day as a whole is a treasure trove of information for you to figure out who you are. Because while our thoughts are always restricted that doesn’t mean they can’t grow. I started out in 2016 playing Military Orders and running knights across the table lead by Joan and now in 2021 I’m playing Starmada and running Betatroopers across the table lead by Hector. All of this momentum was driven by one of my first games where I blundered through a minefield, got hacked and isolated, staggered up to a window broken and bleeding and then blew away the entire enemy team with a shotgun – a moment that just stuck with me over five years of Infinity.
It didn’t matter that I lost that game – a Gaki ran away with a supplies crate in its mouth in the end. It didn’t matter that I lost a lot of games after that – mousetrapped by land mines, caught by pitchers, flamethrowered by drop troopers, mauled over and over and over by symbiobeasts. I was chasing that moment when my opponent is out of clever tricks and dodges and all that was left was to thump them with my big ogre club. I was operating under that restriction but I was prepared to adapt as much as I had to in order to be my best self under my restrictions. It turned out that faction loyalty was not one of my restrictions so I took advantage of that and flitted around various sectorials – Military Orders, Invincible Army, Vanilla Yu Jing, VIRD, I even ran a TAK heavy infantry link in the twilight of N3.
And importantly it turned out that some of the things I thought of as restrictions were actually problems. Sometimes I was wrong, was being stupid, or had bad habits. And those aren’t honourable things to bear as a matter of pride and complain about to others, those are things were making me lose games for no reason other than I hadn’t put in the effort to change them. Blaming bad luck was a problem, so I stopped letting myself do it and forced myself to start complimenting my opponents for skillful play instead. Getting tilted when I was losing was a problem, so I focused on inflicting damage even to my last breath – and started pulling out miracle wins with fusiliers charging out into the open firing like idiots. I wasn’t expecting to win those fights; I just wanted to see if I could inflict one more casualty before the game ended.
So game two came and went and despite my opponent saying he wasn’t taking it seriously I could sense that he was frustrated. And yeah man, I get it, I really do. You got basically tabled after putting one wound on my team total. Yeah it sucks that Achilles doesn’t seem as good as everyone says he is, and it sucks that he lost to Hector in a gunfight. But you know what also sucks? I told you about my first game of Infinity earlier, but the game after that I played against Achilles. I was running a double TAG list with a Jotum and a Seraph because big cool robots seemed awesome. Before I even got to take a turn Achilles walked into close combat with the Jotum and absolutely dumpstered it, and then a Proxy Mark 2 de-cloaked and possessed my Seraph and shot up my entire backfield. I started my first turn in retreat. And I was like, fuck, is this what Infinity is about!? Do I want to take the time to get good at this stupid alpha strike “gotcha” game!?!
A couple of months later, I de-cloaked an Order Sergeant Sniper and shot Achilles in the back as he was trying to retreat, killing him instantly. And that moment sucked for my opponent, it totally ruined his day. But for me it was vindication. I’d solved the problems in my play and my reward was getting to see my personal nemesis die so bad he left the meta entirely.
So observe your play. Figure out what your restrictions are. Then figure out what your problems are. If you’ve got a restriction that prevents you from correcting your play then you know, shut up about it. If you don’t have time to practice, if you don’t have the budget to chase the meta, if you can’t bring yourself to play unpainted, or even if you are genuinely unlucky, whatever it is that is a fixed point that you can’t change. It’s worthless to discuss it or even to acknowledge it as a factor. You can’t fix your restrictions but you can fix your problems, and a player without any problems is a terrifying thing no matter how many restrictions they impose upon themselves.
It’s not the fucking wind, people, even when it is the wind. Proceed as though it isn’t the wind because if it is the wind you can’t control that.
Game Three: VS Vanilla Haqqislam, Capture and Protect
I wound up in the final round with a rematch against the guy who beat me last time around. I lost the LT roll and was given first turn and deployed based on the assumption that I was going to be facing the same Charontid+Noctifier list I fought last time around. In particular, I deployed my Varangian aggressively – ready to run out into the open to bait out a noctifier shot, or else toss a smoke grenade to allow me to advance to an ideal rangeband.
I got a surprise when he started putting down models – he was doing Haqq instead! And it was a very unusual Haqq style too. His assets as I saw them:
- Armand LeMeut
- Knauf, Outlaw Sniper
- 3x Dalyami camo/panzerfausts
- A libertos minelayer
- A Fiday
- An Asiwara doctor
- A Kum Biker
- A Muttiwah Jammer
- A Hassassin Nadhir
- A Farzan
I think that overall this kind of list was designed for Canberra’s meta in particular – leveraging cheap warbands and trading pieces with MSV snipers to assassinate a key figure in a one-gun list and then shut down enemy movement. It was a very clever design, and highly informed by what the meta was shaping towards at the tail end of N3. If I was running one of my old vanilla Yu Jing lists this would have been an absolute pain to deal with. But against my Starmada action team it fell extremely flat.
My first turn was just digging myself out of my deployment zone – a task that went very well despite moving all of four inches. I killed both snipers, Knauf with long range plasma fire from Hector and LeMeut with the total reaction bot – it took a wound from one of the panzerfaust Dalyami in the process but I super jumped Parvati up to fix it. And I’ve got to say, far more than any other feature Parvati has it’s her super jump skill which absolutely changes games. That skill lets me place my total reaction remote in extremely weird places to maximize firing lines and still be pretty confident that she can flip up to it to slap a patch on. I manage to clear out the biker as well but overall I haven’t really made any table progress.
His turn sees him launch a couple of very familiar attacks. First, the suicide run with the Libertos. I’ve been losing games to Libertos all through N3 and now here it is again, rounding the corner with its shotgun and putting three link team members under the template. But these weren’t hapless fusiliers it was shooting at – these were serious business heavy infantry with fantastic phys and armour. The attack didn’t do anything and Hector, with her +2 dodge movement range, managed to dodge directly into close combat, preventing him from trying again. The entire principle of the attack felt obsolete – this is designed to disrupt fragile sniper links or prey on vulnerable cheerleaders. It didn’t do anything here and it didn’t feel like it was going to. My opponent at this point doubled down – he sent a Fiday up to engage Parvati, the Bronze and the total reaction remote. This was, in my opinion, a massive mistake and potentially cost him the entire game – even if it had worked, and it didn’t. Again the fact that I had a bunch of people in heavy armour and multiple wounds who didn’t mind tanking a hit or two just made this kind of light infantry probe ineffective. If he’d tried to close in to CC the Bronze would have been OK in that fight, and Parvati has two points of structure and can heal herself and any of the others who took a hit. But beyond the fact that my opponent bet his most valuable piece on a low probability attack with a template weapon he didn’t score. He could have just walked that Fiday right up to the beacon, picked it up, and get an instant two points without me being able to stop him. He could have then used smoke to cover the Fiday’s retreat back towards his table edge. Not only would that have been instant points but it would have changed the entire structure of my turn. As it was I shot the Fiday down in reactive and then had a clean run to go grab his beacon.
Well – almost clean. Just as I was rounding the final corner to grab it the son of a gun does it again – the Hassasin Nadhir emerges from hidden deployment to put a pie plate flammenspear down over my entire link team. I’d discounted the possibility when I’d realized that he wasn’t playing Combined and I straight didn’t realize that Haqq had a HD template weapon – the Nadhir is a new unit. I got really lucky and he missed his shot but now my link was stuck in the open facing a template weapon and it really was a flashback to last month’s game. And just like last month’s game I almost activated Hector to try to shoot my way out of this problem.
I realized my mistake in time. I could probably win that gunfight but I didn’t need to. I still had a full order pool and that extremely aggressively placed Varangian, now with no MSV snipers restricting her movement. She ran up close, speculative threw a smoke grenade directly on top of the Nadhir, and then Hector climbed the stairs to annihilate the Nadhir in close combat. I still had enough orders left to have the Betatrooper fetch the box, get jammed by the Mutt, get repaired by Parvati, and make its way back into a fortified position my opponent didn’t have the gun to dig me out of.
Instead my opponent did the thing he should have done on the first turn and went and grabbed my beacon with a Farzan. But that was pretty much it for him – I rolled back to my own deployment zone, box in hand, blew up the Farzan, and ended the game.
Overall this was a great game – I respect what my opponent’s list was trying to do, but in my opinion it’s fighting yesterday’s war. Big guns grew to be unpopular in a world of chain rifles and smoke grenades, but I think the trend of only putting one long range gun in your list is degenerate and deserves to be punished. The Bronze is in my Starmada link because even within that fireteam one powerful gun is not enough to build my game plan around, and the TR HMG earns its place in my list again and again just by being a big gun that I can put on the opposite side of the table to the rest of my firepower.
When a game reaches a certain point of complexity, simplicity can again become a virtue. Never underestimate the power of an ogre gamer who just comes at you with big numbers and tells you to make a lot of armour saves. You know what the counter to my list is? A Kamau sniper up in a rooftop 33 inches away. Best case Hector fights that at four dice on 7’s vs 2 dice on 16’s, and can’t bypass it with smoke. But people got too good at playing around Kamau – everyone knew the combination of white noise, libertos and cautious moves that gets you around a high powered sniper. You had to learn! There were two VIRD players in the local meta, including myself, so it was just something you just had to plan for. As a result that kind of big gun overwatch left the meta, and with no dangerous snipers to worry about people became comfortable with dropping their guns back until you get the extreme of this list here, which I think had a single AP rifle to its name.
And in that environment, a big tough gal with the plasma rifle is king. The sheer damage of the plasma rifle means that defenses that rely on your opponent being a 9 point warband firing at you with a light shotgun don’t cut it. I have no doubt the meta will adjust again and people will up their game the same as they did previously to deal with my Kamau bullshit – and I’m looking forwards to it.
After the game my opponent said ‘you know now this is a grudge match?’ Hell yeah, my dude, I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
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