I’ve had some interesting games in the past month, and I’ve gotten to meet some awesome people in the Infinity community, including the venerable Magno, and the owner of Top Down Terrain, who lives about the same distance from Mox Boarding House as I do.
I swapped lists with our local Ariadna player, and I got to experience the Merovingian Rapid Response Force against my own Tohaa for the first time since N3 dropped. If you like battle reports and Asperger-level introspection about Infinity the Game, then this post is for you, baby.
The main event for the day was a game with Chris Matthews, the entrepreneur behind Top Down Terrain. I’ve met a few awesome people in this industry, and he has been one of my favorite people to play against. Not to patronize, of course, but I brought his company’s terrain to the game (then unpainted) along with a list to try out then recently-released Kosuils as proxies.
This game was about a month ago, and I believe it was our first experience for Biotechvore for both of us. Biotechvore tends to get a bad rap, as a mission. Was it all miserable?
These artichokes were sure to find out. I had both Engineer loadouts of the Kosuils (proxied by two Kotails), plus two Makauls, a Viral Sakiel, a Gao-Rael Sniper, a Kamael Paramedic, a Baggage and HMG Auxiliar, a Rasail Lieutenant with Spitfire, and a partially painted Chain of Command Kaeltar. My Gorgos Peripheral, per usual, was my HVT.
Sorry in advance for fuzzed pictures!
As an establishing shot, Yu Jing (that is, ISS) and Tohaa would deploy in these areas.
Sun Tzu handily won the WIP-off for deployment, and, being refused the option to withhold a reserve, all my artichokes deployed like so:
I placed two triads where they could advance directly to the safe zone in a couple orders apiece—but like a goon, I didn’t realize there was a corridor open to what would become a Celestial Guard’s sniping perch.
I brought 7 linkable models, and left a Makaul solo. I don’t usually do let my Makauls run free, but a lot of players like using the Impetuous order and I wanted to mix it up from my everlasting Specialist + Makaul + Gun triads.
A Ninja lurked at the highest tip of the board. The holoechoes of a Lu Duan overlapped firelanes with an HMG Hsien. There was no reaching Sun Tzu, who took cover behind the generator structure. The Celestial Guard team owned the lower rooftop, with a Rui Shi to guard against my Clipsos.
I took the risk to infiltrate with both my Clipsos—I had to rolls at PH6, so I expected one of them to succeed. The Boarding Shotgun Clipsos—the one I really wanted—failed, but the Combi Clipsos succeeded, and so she stalked up behind the thin 2-storey building.
Chris flipped a command token to clip 2 orders off my main group. I was glad that he did not choose my smaller group, as my goal was to evacuate everyone from the kill zone in the first turn.
Here I realized how dumb my placement, as my Impetuous Makaul ran straight toward a B2 BS17 Multi Sniper, but I cross my fingers for a smoke roll. The Makaul flubbed the roll, took a Double-Action hit, and went right down.
The prone Kaeltar moved forward in a coordinated order with the Chaksas.
I didn’t think the Kaeltar would come in view of the Celestial Guard sniper, but sure enough, as he stood up, there was a definite opening, so he took the hit and kept moving. Gratefully, I had cover at the moment of the strike, and the Kaeltar passed both armor saves.
I noticed that the gap to the left of the picture provided no LoF to the Celestial Sniper perch, which was good news for my Gao-Rael triad.
The picture was too fuzzy to use here, but Coreen the Combi Clipsos revealed to fire upon the Lu Duan and its echoes. Of the three, only one was in cover, and correctly guessing that it was the true one, Coreen destroyed the Lu Duan. I was (quite luckily) just a hair out of view of the Hsien, and took no other AROs.
Another coordinated order eased Groffy the HMG Chaksa into cover, and Humpfy the Baggage Chaksa into cover by the Mettle Shell crates. The Kaeltar, off-screen, also advanced into total cover.
My Gao-Rael Sniper triad advanced, and here I realize an opportunity cost on my part, as the Gao-Rael could have been put to good use dislodging the Celestial Sniper.
The Kaeltar skulked up into the dark cover of this other thin 2-story building, while the Rasail Boarding Team advanced straight up and destroyed the Rui Shi. Both bots were down.
Being the end of my turn, I plopped her into Suppressive Fire to overwatch the fireteam’s coming advance, revealing her as my Lieutenant, and tanked some more sniper rounds.
For the Biotechvore murder rolls, the Sakiel was wounded, but otherwise everyone survived except the Kamael Paramedic. This, unfortunately, would secure the death of the Makaul and any future Tohaa casualties.
The HMG Hsien stalked behind a block of total cover before revealing in the pinch to split his burst between the Chaksa, the Kosuil, and Coreen the Clipsos. The Kosuil elected to fire back, while the Chaksa and Coreen dodged.
The effect was no wounds delivered on anyone. The Chaksa shrewdly ducked down into total cover, with the Hsien well out of range of his flamethrower, and Coreen shirked away as far as she could. The Kosuil was struck, and cowered to the ground.
Being down two orders, Chris flipped a coordinated order to escape his floater Celestial Guard, along with Sun Tzu and the Ninja from the Biotechvore kill zone. No AROs on my part, so he double-timed to gain ground.
The Hsien continued his advance, and continued the split burst. He wounded the Kosuil, who cowered behind his crate. But the Makaul succeeded his throw with the ever-useful Zero V Smoke, and Coreen dropped prone and out of the Hsien’s Line of Fire.
Sadly, however, the Gao-Rael was killed outright, leaving both of my triads broken.
The Ninja stayed put, for fear of walking into the Chaksa flamethrower. This, I think, was a poor move in my favor, as the Ninja easily could have walked past the field of fire of the prone Chaksa to polish off my now Gao-Raelless group, with the Ninja’s positive range bands to enjoy and TO Camo penalties for me to suffer.
I’m the crittiest player in my meta, but I just wasn’t having luck that day. After a few grueling exchanges, the Celestial Guard team killed the Rasail Lieutenant, without losses. I regretted losing her—but it was her job to soak orders. The Kaeltar, meanwhile, would be remain safe in the darkness.
The Kosuil launched a Panzerfaust, and the now-impetuous Sakiel did his best to evade, but the Celestial Sniper picked off these remaining members of the second triad.
But here Chris made a similar error misjudging our terrain, and failed to notice the wide gap through which Groffy the Chaksa could see. The result here was that Groffy killed the Celestial Sniper with unopposed shots, and the fireteam halted—still inside of the Biotechvore zone—under threat of HMG.
I’d suffered some weighty losses, but even I didn’t realize how dire ISS’s position was becoming.
A final set of orders resulted with one Celestial Guard escaping through the HMG’s blind spot, and stopped right behind the pillar of the raised building.
The Hsien advanced yet again, desperately trying to escape the brutal kill zone. However, to my great fortune, Coreen was able to engage the Hsien, survive the subsequent Close Combat, and set up my Makaul for next turn.
The Biotechvore plague killed two more Celestial Guards and the Ninja. Turn 1 was over, and there were few survivors left on the board.
The Impetuous order got the Makaul in on the Hsien—but even against the Makaul’s advantage, the Hsien struck the Makaul! Luckily, the Makaul passed one my few successful armor saves for the game, however, and he continued his scrimmage.
Two more Regular orders later, the Hsien was a gooey puddle. He held up quite well, considering the i-Kohl L1 Burst 2 CC19 DAM14 Viral CCW cocktail.
There still being 3 orders in the second combat group, the Baggage Chaksa advanced to the hole in the thin building, and found Sun Tzu in range of his Heavy Flamethrower. Sun Tzu was wounded and survived, but couldn’t escape the Chaksa’s Line of Fire.
I finalized my placement like so, with my last Command Token to perform a coordinated order. My Boarding Shotgun Clipsos, meanwhile, couldn’t quite escape the Biotechvore zone, and perished to the plague.
Only at this point did I realize just how bad a position ISS was left in—only two Celestial Guards and a wounded Sun Tzu remained, and Chris’s final turn was a grievous slaughter.
The unlinked Celestial Guards fell to overwhelming AROs, and Humpfy the Baggage Chaksa delivered the final roast of Sun Tzu.
Humpfy was promptly declared a war hero by the Tohaa Trinomial.
Biotechvore is absolutely a mission for elite troops. Tohaa, like most factions, can benefit from swarm of light infantry—but it pays you to have high-quality models, who can escape, or survive, the plague.
In Biotechvore, you only need to think carefully about Turn 1. Take your time, don’t worry about the clock. Turns 2 and 3 don’t matter.
We had time in the evening to share some drinks and chase a few questions to him about Chris’s experience in the wargame industry, and how being a designer has affected him as a player.
DAWSON Top Down Terrain just kicked off as a company this year. How did you break into the industry?
CHRIS I’ve worked in the wargaming industry for the past several years—I know this industry and its players, I know how miniatures are casted and created, and I know how to maintain its machines. Last year, I decided I wanted to pursue my career independently, so I ordered my own laser cutter machine, and opened up shop—and here we are. I’m lucky as shit.
DAWSON What’s your design process like? Where does the idea start that turns into “Mettle Shell” or the “Shadow Defiant” display tray?
CHRIS I have 3 criteria—Game Value, Real Life, then Board Immersion. When I’m working on a piece of terrain, the first thing I think of is how it can work with the games I play. With Mettle Shell, we cut all the holes to be 3mm wide, so Infinity players can legally draw Line of Fire through them. We also made sure the ladders protruded from the side of the container, rather than doing the easier thing and etching in a ladder pattern, so that it was unmistakable that troopers can get on top of the container if they want to.
The second criterion our pieces have to meet is that they represent something in reality. With your Mettle Shell here, the original idea was just a shipping container. I thought, what goes into a shipping container? Boxes. So we filled it with boxes. That practical real-life idea turned into this product.
The third criterion is board immersion. These are just fine details to make the game table interesting to look at.
DAWSON Like the logos on the little Mettle Shell boxes?
CHRIS Yes, but not just that. Yoji Shinkawa, one of my favorite artists, has a rule for himself to never a rivet or panel, unless he can justify a real-world reason. I apply that same principle to Top Down Terrain productions—that’s why you’ll never see random hexagons or little lines all over the place.
With our display trays, we know that players will buy miniatures, and players also may buy terrain—so we made a piece of terrain that also functions as a vignette to show off your handiwork of your miniature army.
DAWSON Has being a designer changed you as a player?
CHRIS No, not really. I’ve been playing wargames since high school. I am not interested in the mathematical aspects of wargames—basic algebra and calc is easy. As soon as I hear about an underdog faction being regarded as subpar, my instinct is to make it work. That’s why I’m bringing Yu Jing’s ISS to games and tournaments, and why I’m hoping to get games in lots of games with Hassassin Bahram before they get “fixed” with the coming books. Creating MDF terrain doesn’t change how I view these things, although it does make me watchful for interesting boards.
DAWSON What’s your secret to success?
CHRIS My wife, Nastasya. She’s awesome. She runs the artwork and the marketing for Top Down Terrain. I can just ask her whether my ideas are crap, and she tells me yes or no.
DAWSON “Shatter Vigil”. “Mettle Shell”. What’s with the names?
CHRIS Ha ha—you’ll never know! In all seriousness, I like punny names, names that make you double-take—and names that come up uniquely in search results.
We went on to spin about the unique awesomeness of Infinity, and the speculative future of the wargaming industry. You can follow Top Down Terrain on their official blog.
MRRF vs TOHAA
Our Ariadna player, Will, and myself the primarily Tohaa player, arranged to swap lists and play a round of Annihilation. This writeup is not a proper battle report, as the store closed before Will and I could finish, but I’d like to share my thoughts from the Ariadnan perspective.
It’s been over a year since I played Ariadna. Will, along with a few others, was one of the original blokes who got me to try Infinity, generously lending me his Ariadna to play through Campaign: Paradiso.
I really hated Ariadna back then, feeling that they were a terrible faction with no good tools, as I ran up against Viral Snipers, TAGs, TO Camouflage, Holoprojectors, and drones of every kind. How wrong I was.
The MRRF list I had was built around two very large combat groups, including both the Uragan and Katyusha Traktor Mul, a team of Métros, and maximum Chasseurs. Back when I played Ariadna, I made minor use of camouflage as I did not like the risk involved with old camouflage rules—also, I was always facing a fistful of MSV from my opponents. However like the shoddy old lists I made, it still holds true that Ariadna runs out of points before they run out of SWC. I have rarely had to face Chasseurs as a Tohaa player, and I’m glad for it.
But even with deadly camo tokens littered across the middle of the board, Will was able to make a lethal first strike with the Gao-Tarsos. This, to me, is one of the best reasons to bring an alpha striker trooper or TAG. Not to kill every cheerleader, but to strike where your main force cannot, due to their various weakness.
Like the HMG Auxiliar, the Gao-Tarsos was a crutch for me in my early Tohaa games, and I’ve largely stopped taking them this year. But on the receiving end of them, I’m struck how horrible they can be if you’ve not deployed for such enemies.
The terrain you’ll see here is from Shark Mounted Lasers, about which I’ll be sharing my thoughts this week.
In tight corridors with overlapping templates, the Tohaa force faced severe problems. This Chasseur infestation is the worst. Moving + dodging would not be reliable, and certainly would do little to defeat the infiltrators. An alternative tactic was needed.
So, Will walked his HMG Gao-Tarsos onto the edge of the board, gunned down a 112, gunned down a Métro, gunned down the Katyusha, and finally himself gunned down by the Uragan, all the while steeling out of flamethrower range of a Chasseur atop his building.
Later that game, a Combi Gao-Tarsos tried to drop behind my Métro fireteam, and dispersed upon a rooftop. The Gao-Tarsos killed every one of these poor buggers, who couldn’t turn and fire in time.
It’s easy, as an avid wargamer, to pore for hours over various units and numbers and abilities. And especially for units valued beyond 20 points, it’s tremendously easy to sharpshoot about effectiveness versus cost. But your risk always starts in your list. All warfare is based on deception. If I was facing ALEPH, mines everywhere. If I was facing PanOceania, Uragan everywhere. If Tohaa, flamethrowers everywhere. But generally I can’t know who I will confront, and likewise my opponent can’t know what I will drop upon him.
It’s therefore so valuable to have a varied force. And Hidden Deployment and Airborne Deployment is expressly valuable because you don’t have to show your hand to your opponent.
And you never know how fickly the dice will play! My Chasseur here flamed the Rasail Boarding Team four times, without defeating either of them, and ended up locked in CC with the Rasail’s Peripheral.
Mox employees came by to let us know they were closing, so we packed up here. What began looking like a cruel victory for MRRF was turning into a clusterfuck for both of us, where only bold moves and wild luck would turn the tide.