I’m lucky enough to be operating in Canberra, Australia which has had a Covid response effective enough to allow the resumption of tournaments. The Infinity community got the new year off to a good start with the local Timfinity event – a vaguely monthly local event usually seeing 12+ people in attendance. The Canberra meta is something of a shark tank, with a number of nationally successful players located here, so the level of play tends to be remarkably high.
Despite everything I’ve written in recent months for Goonhammer focusing on PanO and Yu Jing my faction of choice for this tournament was the new O-12 sectorial Starmada. Starmada has struck me for a while as a complicated faction to talk about because in my mind it only has one good list – but that list is one of my favourite things I’ve ever written. As a player, I love extremely aggressive, extremely lethal attacks even to the point where they cost me the scenario. It’s not optimal, but I just enjoy seeing models die and even though I can play better games by being more defensive, it’s not who I am as a person. So even though I’ve discussed a lot of well balanced 15 order lists with complex defensive setups, in my heart all I really want to do is run a link of superheavy infantry over my opponent – and that’s where Starmada comes in.
The list is:
- Hector Plasma Rifle LT2
- Psy-Cop Hacking Device
- Betatrooper Killer Hacking Device
- Bronze Red Fury
- Total Reaction HMG
- Bluecoat SMG
- Bluecoat Adhesive Launcher
- Bluecoat Adhesive Launcher
- Varangian Guard SMG
I think this is just straight-up the best superheavy attack link in the game and it’s not even close. Every other faction that tries something like this – Military Orders, Invincible Army, Ramah, etc – just falls short of this ideal in one essential way or other.
See, the main problem superheavy links face is that they’re difficult to defend – you need the link, and you need enough models to preserve the link and its order pool. This list solves these problems through the Bluecoat Haris team – an absolute beast of a defensive network, with burst 2 riotstoppers or ADHL shots in reactive and genuinely spooky good in close combat due to -6CC weapons paired with Natural Born Warrior. A total reaction bot rounds out the reactive defense, going down as the reserve drop in the event of second turn to deny movement from impetuous models and prevent easy approaches on the Bluecoat team. The link itself comes with two hacking devices and a firewall tinbot, making it enormously resistant to pitcher hacking attempts, and an unhackable engineer who can clear out any states that do somehow go through.
Parvati merits particular discussion. She makes this link like nothing else, being able to fully heal anything in moments. Mines are no problem because she or the betatrooper can walk through them and be instantly repaired if things go wrong, she can put two wounds back on Hector with a single action, she can do an immense quantity of classifieds, and she’s even burst 5 submachine guns fully linked when that’s necessary. There’s nothing like her in the game and this entire list works because of her.
Perhaps there are other things you can do with Starmada. I think they all pale in comparison to how incredibly effective this list is.
Round 1: vs JSA, Supremacy
This game is a really important Infinity lesson.
I lose the LT roll and my opponent takes first turn, and spends a command token to hold two models in reserve. I know that JSA is a very close combat focused faction so my deployment reflects that – everything conservatively placed up in an elevated position with a Bluecoat standing on the stairs and a total reaction bot placed centrally for good-but-not-great firelanes. His only real gun that I can see is a linked missile launcher so my main goal was to place the TR bot so that it couldn’t be easily attacked by that piece while otherwise maximizing sight lines. With two reserve drops and a list that looks very lightweight I’m expecting an O-Yori, so I keep my Psy-Cop hacker somewhat forward deployed on the building. Despite the turtled position I can actually decamp from this spot very quickly because the Betatrooper, the Bronze and Parvati all have climbing plus or Super Jump.
My opponent’s reserve drops are two successful infiltration rolls. Ah. Ninjas.
His turn immediately begins with an Onibawan appearing and surprise attacking my total reaction bot to death. The Bluecoats prevent it from advancing further so instead he sends in the Kuroshi Rider – who kills one Bluecoat, but gets critical hit by an Adhesive Launcher by the second one and stops dead. He also runs a Haris team consisting of Musashi and a Tanko way up my left flank but there’s nothing there to attack, and then he positions his core link team so the missile launcher is watching my link team if they emerge from their entrenched position. Turn ends.
My turn comes up and I’m down a Bluecoat and a TR bot, but I’m otherwise in a target rich environment. My first action is to finish of the Kuroshi Rider with the Varangian’s impetuous order firing its SMG, and then have the Bronze climb around the side of the building so it can kill the missile launcher safely – the ideal model to do this due to its Total Immunity. Following this, the Varangian Berserk-charges into close combat with the Onibawan and somehow these two fail to kill each other, leaving them both tied up in CC. This is fine, though, because now if I walk Hector into close combat he’ll be massively advantaged due to gang up bonuses. As I do this he reveals his other Onibawan – this one the special character Shinobu Kitsune, one of the best martial artists in the game – and successfully dodges into close combat with the Bronze. A very clever and precise play.
Sadly for my opponent I had Bluecoats.
It turns out being a legendary CC25 martial arts 5 grandmaster is nothing compared to a security guard with a taser. The Bluecoat walked into the close combat encounter and turned it into 2-dice CC20 vs 1-dice CC19, and immediately knocked that ninja on her butt. Hector then exploded the other one, exploded half the link team that was unadvisedly within template range of each other, and then exploded Musashi in a devastating example of the power of core-linked plasma.
By the time the turn ends he’s lost 60% of his army and things are looking extremely dire. This feels like a game that is well and truly under control – and it should have been. But in Infinity you can’t ease up on the gas pedal just because you’re ahead, as I got a rough reminder of.
Firstly, Hector died. It was an embarrassing low-probability death – he got shot once by an out-of-cover Ryuken SMG in a bad rangeband and lost two wounds in a single order. I should have failed his Guts roll and pulled him back into cover but I didn’t think of that, instead I stood my ground and PanO lost another gunfight I should have won, putting me into Loss of Lieutenant. I was tilted enough by that that I didn’t really register when my opponent continued throwing models suicidally into my surviving troops – I wiped them out easily but did not notice that in the process of doing so I had put my opponent into Retreat.
In my second turn I was able to secure a majority of quadrants and flip a console but thought the game was still in the bag – I’d have one more turn of full scoring which would push me up from 3 points to 7. Instead my opponent declared retreat and moved a flash remote into zone of control of my HVT, giving him two points (one console, one secure the HVT) to my 3. So instead of a Major win 7-1 I barely scraped a minor.
It was a combination of extremely intelligent play from my opponent and my own hubris in not pulling Hector back when I had the chance – having an extra 3 orders and not being in loss of lieutenant in my second turn would have allowed me to secure two additional consoles and complete by classified which’d put me at a more comfortable 6-2, 6-1 if my position had stopped his remote getting my HVT, A great game and great opponent.
Round 2: vs JSA (again), Acquisition
I lose the LT roll and my opponent takes table edge and deployment, so I take first turn. This map is… extremely favourable to my gameplan. There’s a straight, uninterrupted line through the core of the table directly into my opponent’s DZ, along with 16 inch deployment zones giving me a crucial advantage in distance. I set up for it and the game goes more or less exactly like it did in my plans.
The link just slams through my opponent’s defenses like a battering ram. A flash pulse remote? Irrelevant against the Bronze. Linked missile launcher? Again, easy prey for the Bronze and her Total Immunity. A motorbike that turned out to be a Liu Dan with a flamethrower? Hector dodges into close combat and decapitates it with a single strike. Crazykoala gets disregarded as a threat because Parvati can immediately repair it if necessary, allowing Hector to round the corner and disintegrate Yojimbo and a number of other models in template range. It’s rough for my opponent, and a perfect manifestation of what my list is designed to do.
He does what he can in his turn but it’s not great. His Karakuri are engaging the psy-cop who linked with mimetism is able to take one of them down in reactive. A few desperate plays are made but they don’t pan out and soon the majority of his stuff is dead and I’ve taken no losses. My final turn I just withdraw to stand on and activate all three objectives while claiming my classifieds, leaving him in retreat. 10-0.
I’m not sure what my opponent could have done differently. He had a very traditional, standard-issue JSA list without any obvious flaws but my list had exactly what I needed to deal with that, a table that enabled me to do what I wanted, and dice rolls that didn’t do anything strange.
Round 3: vs Combined Army, Panic Room
I win the LT roll and take table edge and deployment. My opponent’s list seems very standard Combined Army – 4 Taighas, a Charontid MSV3 HMG, some Datarazi, and Sheshkiin. I deploy in my standard turtled formation and wait to endure the storm.
He spends his first turn on a dedicated attack with Sheshkiin – killing my Varangian and two of my Bluecoats. However, in her retreat she got critical hit four times by the total reaction HMG remote over three orders and died. That felt like an extremely serious swing in my favour so when my turn started I immediately decamped my link and ran into the open, intending to secure the objective room. Then I heard the worst thing someone moving a superheavy link out of a confined area can hear:
“My Noctifier reveals itself.”
I dodge with the entire link team and – it’s a miracle! Hector and the Betatrooper both evade the missile, leaving only the poor Psy-Cop to be exploded. But here’s where I made a really bad mistake that just straight up cost me the entire game: I had Hector fight the Noctifier.
In theory this was reasonable. Hector’s a tough guy with a big gun and with link team bonuses odds of landing a killing hit were pretty good. I’d dodged in such a way that no one else would get splashed and even if I did get hit by a missile and lose two wounds Parvati could just heal him up to full. This wasn’t a totally safe play, but it was like a 95% safe play.
Instead that 5% chance came up. Hector ate a reactive crit from the noctifier and failed three out of four armour rolls and died instantly.
This was an entirely self-inflicted defeat. There was no need to take that risk. I could have activated the total reaction HMG remote and had it engage instead – it’s far more disposable than Hector and can be repaired as many times as necessary by Parvati. I could have just bypassed the Noctifier entirely! Just used my Dodge movement and a Cautious Move to move through the threatened corridor and then once I was entrenched in the objective room the noctifier wouldn’t be able to get any sight lines on me. I could have bypassed, I could have taken a 100% safe play instead of a 95% safe play, but I did not and I paid for it with the game. My opponent just swept up with the Charontid and that was that, 7-3.
Overall it was a great event and I wound up taking third place. Thanks again to Robert Cantrell for organizing and the Canberra Infinity community for being so consistently excellent!