It’s been a while since I had a proper stab at a tabletop wargame, and the last time was a quick skirmish with a starter set of Infinity, Operation Ice Storm which set myself and a friend up with a small force each of factions PanOceania and Nomad, seven models a side and a miniature city-scape in which to square off and experiment with the rules.
Oh we realised quickly enough that Infinity could be fun, but damn it took us ages to get there, and despite the many similarities in basic rule structure to other wargames of its kind the minutia staggered gameplay to the point where playing was exhausting. “Next time” became the rallying cry, because next time we’d get to grips with it faster, we’d understand more, and we’d bring in other rules that must surely make the game better, more evenly balanced. “Next time” naturally never happened, because life does that.
Fast forward a few months and I find myself staring again at Infinity figures and terrain on the tournament boards at UKGE. I’d given some thought to buying the miniatures before, some of the designs being perfect for my vision of a Borderlands tabletop RP, that and some assorted MDF buildings from the likes of Atenocitis Workshop and TT Combat for the look of the thing, but I found myself considering how big Infinity must have become since those first days I encountered starter boxes some number of years ago that I dare not consider.
So we come to last week, when I discover that one of the local game shops will be having a sampler evening. “Finally” I say to myself, aloud, while people look on in slight shock and disbelief, “a chance to finally figure out this game that suckered me in with pretty props and nice minis. What are you looking at?” and then the people who have stopped to listen move along quickly because now I’m yelling.
Big Orbit brought in some experts in the field from Atenocitis themselves – who create some of the official materials for Corvus Belli – to introduce allcomers to Infinity the easy way: with people who know what they’re doing without having to look at the rulebook every thirty seconds, and know how to strip the game back far enough that it’s more readily understood, without losing the core of what makes the game fun. And yes, now I have to agree entirely, Infinity is fun.
We picked our factions on looks alone, with each squad being functionally identical with only a few numbers making the difference, the game stripped back to its most basic. One heavy hitting unit and three squad members to a side and we were ready to go. Each unit provides a certain number of actions, but those actions can be distributed however you choose, focused entirely on a single or distributed between them. Every action can be met with an answer, so no sitting around waiting to be shot to pieces before your turn can finally begin, every time you’re under fire you have the chance to take a shot back.
I thought, after losing my heavy hitter in very short order, that I was screwed, but as it turns out that format of shoot/shoot back was very much to my favour. Systematically stripping my opponent of his squad members also left him with very few options when his turn came around, leaving him with a single hard-hitting unit that could do nothing under the hail of returning fire. While I was without my big gun, by the end it was superior numbers that got me the win, and some uncharacteristically good dice rolling.
I left Big Orbit early because that wasn’t the last fight I was going to get into that night (that would be a quibble over what an “open border” treaty means, Tim) but I will definitely (no seriously, Tim, leave my roads alone) be picking up Infinity again once myself and my friend get the time to pick up our old set. I may have to invest in a few more of the miniatures just for the sake of it, they’re hard work, but so very rewarding if you’re willing to put in the backbone and handcramp from holding small metal pieces together while superglue dries.