Infinity is a great game that we here at Goonhammer don’t talk about enough (Ed: This is true, even if our name is Goonhammer. Write more about Infinity already), so the parole board has reviewed the behaviour of several of the site’s most notorious inmates and has decided to allow them out of solitary confinement under the strict condition of not immediately cracking each other’s heads open and feasting on the goo inside.
It took ten minutes before the first goo-feast began (a new record) but in that time we were able to convince the Goon-finity Team to talk a little bit about the current state of Infinity in this, the fourth edition of the game…
The Goon-finity Team
Genghis Cohen: I live in the UK and play at tournaments across most of England. I also play a lot on Tabletop Simulator, mostly competing in the Infinity Global League, a regular series of tournaments.
Ilor: I’m in the Midwest in the US. We don’t have a huge tournament scene locally, but I’ve played at GenCon and a few other local tournaments that have sprung up at nearby game stores. We don’t have a club per se, but my local gaming group plays Infinity regularly. I was playing a fair amount over TTS during lockdown, and was able to get a bunch of fellow Goons into the game, which was great.
Thanqol: I’m in Canberra. It’s a bit of a shark tank here; we have a couple of extremely good players with national reputations, and their presence has forced this small town to up its game relentlessly to keep up.
It’s a lovely environment, though. We have a tendency of treating the game like a puzzle we’re solving together.
Musterkrux: I’m in the same meta as Thanqol and am doing my darn best to lower the average player skill for our community while ensuring everyone is having fun. I’m sort of like a bizarro Tyrion Lannister, in as much as I’m tall, I drink and I don’t know things.
What’s your faction? Or, if you have multiple, which is your current favorite?
Musterkrux: I’ve been collecting/playing since the later days of first edition, so it’s easier for me to list factions I don’t have: Tohaa. Currently, I’m exploring Ariadna in N4, seeing as it’s the faction with limited access to TAGs and Hackers and must, therefore, be terrible. I’ll show them. I’ll show them all.
Genghis Cohen: I started out with Nomads (way back in N2) and for a very long time stuck completely with Nomads or Corregidor. In late N3 this let me dip my toes in StarCo as well. I also have Yu Jing, with my only competitive experience there being with Imperial Service, and more recently Military Orders, which again I’ve used competitively.
Ilor: I started just after N3 came out, playing vanilla Haqqislam. From there I branched out into some of the related sectorials like Ramah Task Force and Druze Bayram Security. With the resculpt of the Shasvastii line following the release of Code One I’ve started playing them as well. And of course I keep eyeing the Yu Jing half of all my Red Veil stuff, but I am a slow painter and just haven’t gotten around to them yet.
We haven’t done it much recently (everyone was still trying to get the hang of N4) but hilariously my local group occasionally does list swaps, meaning you show up and play your opponent’s force. It takes a little bit of the surprise out because you know what’s in the list you’re facing (because you made it!), but it’s a great way to learn what other peoples’ units can do. I’m itching to play my buddy’s Morats again, that was a hoot.
Thanqol: While I started out with PanOceania, I also lost a lot with PanOceania. It was a frustrating experience. While I love the PanO playstyle, the PanO playstyle can also be shut down in a very binary way by very common tools. In the end, I settled my centre of gravity in Yu Jing, which gave me all of the lovely premium attack pieces I craved while having enough flexibility to not instantly fall down the stairs the moment someone dropped a smoke grenade.
Genghis Cohen: Now I say it having played Military Orders and done alright, but I really think PanO’s lack of cheap warbands in general, more than just smoke in particular, keeps them out of the top tier faction-wise. Those cheap pieces are such an integral part of the game. Even abundant BS14-15 can’t make up for that!
Musterkrux: It’s really interesting to see that we all have multiple factions to some degree. Also, it looks like cross-contamination appears to be a factor in people starting new armies. Genghis moving from Nomads to Starco, Ilor cycling from Haqqislam through to RTF and Druze…Looks like Corvus Belli has gotten their hybrid-sectorials-as-a-gateway-drug business model ticking along nicely.
Now, where’s my Nomad-Shasvastii ‘Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal’ hybrid sectorial?
Genghis Cohen: I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe . . . Intruders firing through the smoke grenades of Speculo Minelayers . . . Vostoks Duo’d with Gwailos . . . all those moments will be lost now, like the opponent’s tears in rain. Time to die.
Are Killer Hackers still viable?
Ilor: Absolutely. Given the increased importance of hacking in N4 (see below under “Guided Missiles”), I think that the ability to take offensive action against your opponent’s hackers is extremely important. Sure, hitting an enemy hacker with Oblivion is great and will generally neuter them, but Trinity is usually a more permanent solution. Giving your regular hacker a buddy to watch his back can be clutch. Finally, a lot of people forget about Cybermask, but being able to enter a marker state and approach an objective unmolested can be huge in the right circumstances.
Genghis Cohen: Actual hacking programs aside, the lack of SWC cost sometimes makes them attractive for Nomads! At the end of the day, sometimes you need a specialist but don’t have the 0.5 SWC available. Many good players I know though, would say it’s better to take an infiltrating Forward Observer, and therefore be non-hackable, than take a mediocre KHD and then be vulnerable to Oblivion and other hack attacks. I’d say a KHD is still a good (not great) predator of BTS0-3 hackers. Nomads get around a lot of this by having access to excellent combi-hackers like Jazz or Mary Problems, who combine all the necessary programs at once.
Thanqol: No! At least not nearly as much as they used to be since they lost their ability to bypass firewalls. In my time in N4, I’ve never seen an opponent’s list just casually throw a single hacker out there. It’s always either no hacker or a serious commitment involving a spooky repeater grid and possibly a BTS6/9 hacker behind that. So you’ve got to push your killer hacker really deep to get past the repeater grid and engage in a combi rifle level fight, which means that to reasonably accomplish that your killer hacker is likely going to be an infiltrating model with a marker state, which means that you kind of have basically the same odds making that same attack with a combi rifle. And you’re likely paying 30 points for the package.
KHDs aren’t bad – every so often you’ll face a PanO player who took a cheap fusilier hacker to back up some Peacemaker repeaters or something – but it’s so lacklustre to engage through a firewall with one. How often do you want to hinge a gameplan around a combi rifle shot made while you are out of cover and they are in cover? I’d only really take them for the specialist functionality these days.
Ilor: Yeah, see, I disagree. While Killer Hackers don’t straight up ignore firewalls the way they used to, they effectively still ignore most firewalls because in N4 the Trinity hacking program comes with a +3 MOD specifically to counteract the -3 MOD from hacking through an enemy repeater. The only difference is that in N4 the victim still gets the benefit of the +3 BTS, but if you’re down to rolling BTS you’re already on the defensive.
Musterkrux: Are KHDs still viable? Yeah, certainly. Are they the optimal? Unsure. I’d probably go with: ‘Not as immediately useful/optimal as they used to be but still good.’ Perhaps there’s some merit to a discussion regarding mapping KHD viability on a sort of Lotka-Volterra graph (ie. Predator-Prey):
With TAGs being strongly incentivised, perhaps we’ve come to see more Hacking Devices come out as a natural counter to TAGs in N4? Arguably, this increase in ‘prey’ might see an upswing in the KHD population, as well.
It’s a curious game of Scissors-Paper-Rock (TAG-KHD-Hacker). That said it all depends on your community/meta. If a regular opponent keeps playing Rock you just gotta start throwing down some Paper.
Genghis Cohen: One issue here is that all that made a KHD a better predator of a normal hacker than, say, a camo infiltrator shooting a shotgun at it, was they could access that normal hacker from across the table. Now that KHDs are affected by Firewall mods, that’s a less attractive FtF roll. So if you want to get the target into your hacking area directly (or with your own repeater) you’re right back in competition with those generally-useful skirmishers. KHDs require hacker targets that don’t have BTS9 and/or Firewalls, and they need a way to get up the table (Cybermask helps) and/or the same repeater net or Pitcher volleys that benefit other hackers. Basically, I’d say a KHD is useful as an extra investment on top of a couple normal hackers and their repeater back-up you’re taking already; less so as a lone threat.
(or you could be Nomads, as previously stated)
Have TAGs been over-tuned in N4?
Musterkrux: Some have. Have you seen a vanilla Combine list pairing that doesn’t start with an Avatar? However, some TAGs still barely rate as even ‘tuned’ let alone ‘over-tuned’ (Anaconda, I’m looking at you). I feel like we’re heading in the right direction, though. If N4 was released with a 15 Trooper cap while TAGs remained unchanged from N3, I think there would be a lot of grumpy players. My only real complaint is how much I rate Remote Presence (or rather, re-rolls on repairing Structure points) on the TAGs that have it and how much I loathe engaging with the risk of blowing up my Manned TAGs while trying to fix them.
Genghis Cohen: Actually I don’t see too many TAGs – the chief culprits are still the Avatar/Cutter/Marut. I feel that my opponent taking a TAG gives me one definite target to take out, so I quite like facing them – but it does mean I need to include the right tools in my list. Most interesting is I have recently seen instances of ‘TAG overload’ where someone takes 2 (or even 3) TAGs and does quite well by using them very aggressively.
Ilor: Yeah, one of our guys recently ran a couple of missions using a 2x Geckos + Iguana Corregidor list that was surprisingly mean. Even possessing one of his Geckos and turning it on his Iguana I was having a hard time dealing with so much heavy armor.
I don’t field a Maghariba Guard often, but that’s almost entirely because I haven’t finished painting it. When I was playing in TTS, TAGs hit the table more frequently, and when playing Shasvastii I’ve had my Sphinx be my MVP on quite a few occasions.
Thanqol: They feel about right to me. My big disagreement with N3 was the primacy of chain rifle based defenses, and those have had to step back a bit in an environment where TAGs can punch through them. You definitely need to have a plan to fight a TAG in your list these days, but I think that advantages previously overlooked profiles like feurbaches and multi rifles.
Genghis Cohen: I think TAGs are still a potential downside in Scenarios that emphasise flexible Specialists moving to board positions, even with the ability of Pilots to push buttons. But they’re damn good for zone-control missions when you can easily move 70+ resilient points where you need it to be.
Ilor: I think it’s also worth pointing out that Tactical Awareness coming standard on TAGs has given them a nice boost, as you’re no longer sinking huge amounts of points for something that’s only going to generate a single order.
Is first turn an unbalanced advantage?
Genghis Cohen: Firm no from me. In some missions it is worth it but in others it’s a huge disadvantage. In terms of attacking the enemy force, I only fear going second against armies with certain tools. Chiefly Impersonators. Many aggressive units like Bearpodes are great for going first, but a good player can equally make them so hard to attack that their first turn (at the bottom of Round 1) can be equally devastating. I think people who complain about first turn are really complaining about how certain units can blast through a ‘null deployment’ defence.
Ilor: Yeah, I think null deployment is a huge part of the problem, and I often scratch my head when I see people doing it. This is especially true in missions where you have to move aggressively up the field – which is most of them!
That said, there are a bunch of missions where going second is a huge advantage. Any of the missions where scoring depends on domination of one or more zones, being able to move troopers into or out of zones right before scoring happens is often the difference between winning and losing.
Thanqol: I feel like I almost never want first turn any more. I’ve been doing a lot of 10-model style lists and without Limited Insertion to immunize you against order stripping it’s just so hard to get things done with the reduced order pool.
I do think that pointing the finger at null deployment is accurate because it is nowhere near as good as it used to be. The combination of the 15 troop limit and the increased presence of superheavy models means that it’s much harder to sufficiently stack template defenses. In every game I’ve played this edition I reserve drop a total reaction HMG and half of the time it picks up a warband or two that otherwise would have done horrible things to me if I left it uncontested.
Musterkrux: First turn is a disadvantage. Change my mind. For starters, Player 1 potentially loses two of the orders they need to set up their attrition/scoring/positional lead for Player 2 to chip away at in an edition where trooper counts (and by extension, total order pools) are very limited. As Ilor notes, null deployments mean that Player 1 can sometimes be stuck in a position of having no meaningful first turn outside of claiming valuable real estate. The downside to this is that every order you spend moving up the table reduces the number of orders your opponent needs to spend to get into positions to attack you.
Now, this isn’t an entirely fair evaluation of first turn (dis-)advantage. There are players who will romp you if they get the alpha strike, there are players who will exploit your mistakes if you take first turn and there are players who will do both.
Genghis Cohen: I completely agree, some of the players I’ve been terrified of letting them have the first strike at me, their defensive deployment was so good that (combined with the order stripping etc) I felt quite handicapped going first myself! Player skill has a huge hand in the first/second turn calculation. So does army match-up though. I am far less willing to go second if I am facing Impersonators (looking at you Jaan Staar, you horrible bloody artichoke). Counterintelligence, mass Tac Awareness, heavyweight Impetuous troops – all these things can make going first a good option, if you’re not in one of the Missions where going second is heavily favoured.
Guided Missiles: Jank or War Crime?
Genghis Cohen: I have always been taking a guided ML in my Nomads/Corregidor recently and it has been very successful. I don’t think it’s really very good for the game. Order expenditure partially balances the risk-free, high-reliability kills, but it can’t be a fun experience for the opponent. It’s too universal a solution – if you have the Orders and the repeater/pitcher platforms, there are too few problems that can’t be solved with Guided Missiles.
Thanqol: I don’t think it’s unbalanced. I do think it can be a feels bad situation. It’s a very non-interactive way to spend a turn. If it gets very popular I don’t think it’ll stick around – neither Symbiomates nor Jammers were overpowered, really, but they were both extremely feels-bad mechanics, and CB has rightly identified that balanced mechanics that aren’t fun should be revised.
Musterkrux: I think it’s fine as is. Sometimes you have to pick the lesser of two evils. If the tools necessary to dig out entrenched enemy pieces didn’t exist, what would the game look like? What evils are GMLs and Speculative Fire protecting us from? Think on that, my friends.
Ilor: I think under N3 that Guided was such an order-intensive and niche thing that I only ever saw it used in games a handful of times. Now it’s a viable tactic, especially for EWAR-heavy lists. And in terms of bad feels, in order to fall victim to guided missiles you still need to fail a Reset (or Dodge if you’re being forward observed) to get into the Targeted state, and then need to fail all the Dodge rolls for the missiles headed your way. That’s not exactly “non-interactive.” Obviously the N4 change where the Targeted state doesn’t automatically clear at the end of the turn makes Guided more of an issue, but I think the change is intentional as it makes it harder to completely ignore the EWAR game.
Genghis Cohen: I agree with your point that Guided needed to be a bit more relevant than in N3, and it is great that you can’t just have a non-hackable list and then completely ignore your opponent’s hacking capability. But I think you’re overegging the chances of escaping missile barrages and ignoring the fact it’s risk free for the hacking player. You need to lose a fairly even FtF against a hacker or forward observer, sure. But if your opponent commits 3-4 orders, they will get it. You then need to beat shots on 18s with your dodge on PH-3. You will realistically get hit in less than 3 orders. 6-7 Orders to nearly guarantee a missile hit is exorbitant (and that’s the balancing factor for Guided) but it can be as little as 2 Orders and that’s not unlikely. My issue with this (and the reason I’m using it so damn much) is if you have good Repeater access, you can do this to any target, across most of the table. It only ever falls off against a few targets with WIP17 to Reset, or that Dodge on 19s. I don’t think risk free plays should be common in Infinity, or at least they should rely on a clever positioning opportunity (e.g. back-shooting) rather than something you can do all game if you like. Going back to the start point, overpowered or not, it does not create an interesting experience for the other player.
Vanilla or Sectorials?
Thanqol: With Yu Jing, it really has to be vanilla. Invincible Army was a cool experiment, and they tried really hard to make it work, but they forgot to give it any defensive tools worth a damn. ISS is crucified on the altar of the Sophotect, and the sheer sexual magnetism of a Zhanshi with a sniper rifle isn’t enough to save White Banner. Yu Jing has some of the best profiles at the top and the bottom of the points range, but the mid cost stuff is by and large disappointing. Vanilla lets you skip the torment of trying to make a well rounded list and just pick 3-4 of the coolest profiles you can think of and fuel them with prisoners.
Ilor: Tough call. I enjoy playing both. Most of my time is spent playing vanilla lists, but I do like to bring sectorials occasionally to mix things up. The play-styles can be very different, and I think it’s good practice to move back and forth between them. The Haqqislam and Haqqislam-adjacent sectorials seem pretty decent to me (I’ve had a ton of fun playing the Druze, but a large part of that is probably my local meta), but that might just be because there are so many good troop types in the base faction.
Genghis Cohen: I think only the good Sectorials truly compete with vanilla. Bar a very few unique profiles (god bless Trinitarian Tertiaries) the point of picking a Sectorial is Fireteams for Order efficiency and pumped up firepower. If you can’t build great Fireteams, you’re better off in vanilla. To pick on your point Thanqol, I think Invincible Army is a competitor for vanilla – we see it placing high a lot in tournaments here. It has good firepower choices and can really overload the Order efficiency by access to Yu Jing’s best NCO and Tac Aware options. Is that worth giving up smoke access, cheap warbands and all the defensive tools of vanilla? Maybe if you get first turn!
One other point is that Sectorials shine in zone-control missions where you can maneuver big chunks of points around with Fireteams. The Biotechvore mission in a tournament practically dictates I’ll bring a Sectorial list.
Musterkrux: If someone kidnapped my family and told me to win Interplanetario or I’d never see them again I’d probably have to play a Vanilla army (Of course, I’d still lose but at least I could pretend that I tried my best). However, I think Sectorials help guide a player into playing a themed army, potentially one that tells a story and sometimes that’s really important to me.
So, I’m going to go with Sectorials, not because they’re better into any particular scenarios or playstyles but because I enjoy working with themes and narratives, as well as being That Guy with the weird/unique army in my community. Something, something Snowflakes…
What’s the best skill or ability in the game?
Ilor: As someone who plays both Haqqislam and the Shasvastii, I’m sure you’re going to be totally shocked to hear my answer: Impersonation. It’s just so goddamn good. The potential to set up in the enemy deployment zone, the double marker state, the ability to waltz past mines. It’s SO useful in so many situations. And in terms of causing your opponent to waste orders, nothing else even comes close. I think it’s even better than Parachutist: Deployment Zone because your Impersonator’s Regular Order is in your pool from the word “go.”
Thanqol: Hidden deployment, ideally on a sniper or missile launcher. There is no alternative or substitute for it. The threat of it is deeply oppressive for your opponent, and many lists really rely on a few critical pieces to get work done. Losing one of those pieces unexpectedly can lock your opponent out of a game entirely.
Musterkrux: I’m going with the combo of Parachutist (Deployment Zone or not) and Combat Drop. The ability to keep a key asset off the table until you need it is amazing (see Thanqol’s comments on Hidden Deployment above). I rate Parachutist and Combat Drop above HD on the grounds that not only do you get to decide when your model appears on the table but also where. The ability to pivot your attack runs based on the current game state, as opposed to committing to a position during deployment is an ability that can radically reshape the game. Sure, HD gives you the option to ARO a critical enemy piece but I’m worried about the games where that critical enemy piece takes the other path around the table and unwittingly avoids your HD piece altogether.
Genghis Cohen: Well I was going to say Impersonation myself (and all the answers given above are good). Aside from the deployment advantages, which are the biggest bit, any Marker state is super valuable due to the control it gives you over isolated AROs. But to be different I’ll say NCO / Tac Awareness. Not saying they are unbalanced or devastating to play against, but if playing any faction that can access them, at least on a non-terrible profile, I would default to including them. You simply can’t pass up extra Orders in Infinity.
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