Like the Third Edition book that it has built upon, the new Human Sphere changes a lot. Subtly, drastically. Freshly swole with pride from some of my more astute Infinity predictions, I have a few thoughts about these literally game-changing updates, and the future of the Tohaa and Infinity metagame.
The most distinct of qualities of the Tohaa has been, arguably, mobility. For only a few more months, before the Human Sphere permeates all PDFs and programs, this should remain the case. However, given the hitherto unprecendented access fireteams in all other factions, I doubt it will remain so unique and lofty a distinction in Tohaa. PanOceania, with their plentiful Remotes and Synchronized units—replete with hot new fireteams—will be, I surmise, neck-and-neck with Tohaa in terms of mobility.
Tohaa tankiness, in the form of Symbiont Armor, while novel in presentation, was not novel in principle. ALEPH and Tohaa both attract minmaxer players because of the obvious mathematical benefits that a high Wound count allow. Yet, Tohaa was not ultimately more survivable than other factions—the lowest average Armor of any faction, combined with a cruelly fun Fire vulnerability, meant that the points we paid for Symbiont Armor did not always return a yield in victory.
Yet now, players who liked Tohaa rules but disliked Tohaa models may easily find a Tohaa-esque style in other factions, such Steel Phalanx or Onyx. But a Tohaa-esque style can now be created in less popular factions, like ISS and Acontecimento. Tohaa is still generally unique in its ability to mix-and-match fireteam troops at our leisure, but an argument that such infantry fireteam mobility is still Tohaa’s special snowflake is, I should think, strained.
This mobility trend, I must imagine, will continue. In Second Edition, wherein I was introduced to Infinity, most Heavy Infantry were 4-2 movers. Third Edition almost universally undid that. Troops like the Guarda de Assalto, previously described as “fast”, are now “normal” in this new context of Heavy Infantry. Motorcycles, once unique to only one or two factions, are delivered more broadly and in greater quantities to the various human factions. New and revised entries like the Kotail, Kerail, Xeodron, Samaritan, Devil Dog, Krakots, Seraph, Tikbalang and Shikami make mobility less of a hassle to squeeze into your list. New rules like Forward Deployment and multilevel Metachemistry and EVO Hackers, and of course “Fireteam: Haris” and Multiterrain proliferation, make closing the mid-range gauntlet of your board something of a banality.
Has any game entity become slower, or less mobile? Not to my knowledge, save the Combined Army’s Exrah replacements. To my understanding, however, the Exrah were removed due to poor sales and problematic molds, not due to a public outcry of Exrah overpowerness. Meta-agility went away, but was simply separated into Super-Jump and Climb Plus, so no change there. But a salient disagreement could be made.
There has also been, in general I would say, a slight uptick in the power of weapons. The DAM value doesn’t—or rarely does—increase. Range bands of weapons have been thoughtfully diversified, removing the truly overpowered nature of the old-school HMG. But, ammunition types have become deadlier. Shock, once most common on Antipersonnel Mines, are common on firearms, with the MULTI Rifle and HRMC and Red Fury laying fearful woes onto the previously very cavalier listbuilding of ALEPH players. Marital Arts skills have led to incredible positive modifiers on damage and critical success likelihood. K1 and Monofilament, once rare, is now rather easy to find. Viral Combi rifles, though no newer than Second Edition, are a grotesquely deadly weapon, and I was a trifle surprised to not see Viral ammunition deflate in power in the recent book.
But I suppose, at this point, I should not be surprised to see power levels in Infinity tread water, and climb higher still. I cannot think of any game, video game or otherwise, that receives new content that does not experience power creep. And Corvus Belli, by comparison, is quite tame. Third Edition did not introduce S9 Super TAGs and TO Camo Fireteams and Auto-Hitting DAM20 Turbolasers, after all. Corvus Belli’s changes are exceptionally modest, and always done in good humor. The fact that the forum swoons when a model goes from WIP13 to WIP14, or weeps when a model goes from ARM5 to ARM4, says a great deal about how tenderly they treat their game balance.
But what does all this mean? I think the Tohaa themselves are a good indicator of what Infinity might look like in 2020. The Tohaa were murking around in Corvus Belli’s idea pile since the beginning. The design notes, in summary, were that Corvus Belli knew that they wanted this gregarious goeth-in-threes pheromone faction to be represented as so in gameplay. But they also were unsure how to implement it. So, the original Human Sphere book was their test flight for “fireteam” rules, rules that allowed several like-minded soldiers to move and act together as greater than the sum of their parts, while also saddled with novel vulnerabilities. Soon, Campaign: Paradiso released the Tohaa and their idealized, finalized form of the fireteam from which these things sprang up: the Triad.
The side effect, of course, is that every faction wants fireteams, more fireteams. Salty old dog players may hate fireteams, yet fireteams are clearly here to stay. Corvus Belli, it is clear, also lends an attendant eye and ear to the balance of their game. They may not give a shit about what we want in models—but they want each faction, lovingly crafted, to be playable, and they know when a faction needs love.
Given the trend, I expect fireteams—four or five-man, Fireteam: Core fireteams—to be available to the Line Infantry of all parent factions in the future. If I had more money, I would put money on that guess.
A mass introduction of fireteams will have a trickle down effect on seemingly unrelated game elements, however. So: now everybody has 2+ fireteams. Good for them. That also means that there will be something like twice as many models for Blast weapons and Direct Template weapons to target. So: now Ghazi Mutts, Galwegians, Hungries, Swiss Missiles, Raidens, and other units will have a contextual increase in value. There are simply more (and easier) targets for such units. What happens then?
Point costs of such weapons and relevant skills adjust. Rockets now cost +0.5 SWC. The cost of a Nanopulser jumps from 1 point to 2. Or perhaps, more trendily—Fireteams become cheaper. If Fireteams become cheaper, the “problem” has not been fixed, but escalated. Now every game averages an order or two more, players have to spend on average $15 more per 300-point force, and salty old dogs who hate fireteams get saltier and older.
And entirely new ideas may naturally come into question: if a Fireteam allow 5 order-generating models to move together and generate their orders, what does this say about a 10-point schmuck in the backfield? What’s in an “order”? So we may then see new exception rules offering bonus points and SWC, or bonus Command Tokens, or entirely novel skills and allowances, to forces with inferior quantities of fireteams. We might see 10-man lists get +1 Regular Order for free. We might see entirely new combat restrictions like Flamethrower Fuel and Hacker Batteries. We might see an entirely new resource: a Specialist Token, granted based on the amount of fireteams you don’t have, inserting new life into elite soloist lists, granting such things as Ballistic Skill rerolls and automatic WIP successes and automatic Close Combat escape. We might see scenarios which attack troopers with template hazards to isolate or damage big clumps of troops.
2020 Infinity has 300-point games with 6+ command tokens and 3+ specialist tokens 12-order 10-man elitist groups, and 3- command token 0 specialist token 18-order fireteam groups, and ITS scenarios that are unplayable, by their rulesets, to a 2010 Infinity audience.
These kinds of divinations aren’t even a little crazy. Put in your Second Edition eyeballs. Open the Second Edition Infinity book, and compare it to the Human Sphere Infinity book: Symbiomates, EVO programs, SWC-free Killer Hackers, Xeodron Fireteams. These entities which are now the rules would have been widely described as “stupid”, “unrealistic”, “imbalanced”, or simply “not what Infinity is about” to the players of years past.
It would be foolish to think that Infinity is now somehow done, that we have somehow arrived, that Human Sphere has finished the Infinity product. Infinity, so eponymously named, will evolve, and evolve, and continue to evolve, until Corvus Belli one day goes out of business.
So, who won the most in Human Sphere, forumites asked. Tohaa, I should say. Tohaa, by far! Everything that we had which was already good, will be better, and cheaper. The human factions may gain Duo Fireteams and Haris Fireteams and EVO, but Tohaa already had Triads. Symbiont vulnerability became moot-to-nonexistent, profile stats improved, and point prices dropped.
So I feel obliged to exercise intellectual integrity, here. Normally, I have been the first to rebut folks who came into the Tohaa forum to tell us that we are spoiled. But goodness, did Tohaa ever get spoiled. I must imagine that fans of the other factions are deeply happy with updates to those factions, as, at the time of writing this article, I have heard few complaints from the usual accusers. Bless their hearts, they would be right this time!
Was Tohaa already good?
Yes. Tohaa—proportional to the number of Tohaa players—has been a top performer in ITS and in Operation Flamestrike. Complaints of Tohaa’s overpowerdness are easy to find.
Did Tohaa become better?
Looking at Tohaa in a vacuum: certainly! The clearest example is the Sakiel: Sakiels were 20/26 points for the mainstay profiles, now they are 18/24. Swarm grenades were replaced with Nimbus Plus Grenades, which are arguably better—future article on that. Sakiels lost Impetuous for Frenzy, which should have come with a price hike. Sakiels lost any relevant Symbiont Armor Fire vulnerability, which should have come with a price hike. Sakiels also, contextually, have increased in value due to the updated Pheroware and Fireteam rules.
Furthermore, the HMG Ectros: was 2 | 52 originally, now 2 | 45. Gained Courage and Kinematika and extra CC, lost Poison, and isn’t as Fire-vulnerable.
Further still, the Rocket Chaksa: was 1.5 | 29, now 1 | 15. Gained +2 CC. Impact Template weapons are better than before. Forward Observing is easier than before. Guided Ammunition is now avoidable, yes—but 14 points worth of avoidable?
Yes yes, you say, but that’s Tohaa in a vacuum! Did Tohaa actually become better?
Looking at Tohaa in relation to other vanilla factions—it may be too early to say, but I’ll say it, confidently—yes. What would be the go-to rebuttal? EVO Hackers. Fine, good. Let’s say EVO Hackers level this playing field. We’re still, you see, at a Tohaa advantage. EVO Hackers are not free. EVO Hackers are a new amount of points our opponents must field to receive this new advantage. Meanwhile, our extant units retained their original advantages, lost some disadvantages, and dropped in price. We win the war of points value, and necessarily therefore outshine them.
I have previously written a comprehensive article on how to beat Tohaa. Frankly, I don’t know that I can keep any of it.
Symbiont fire vulnerability is all but gone. Anti-armor vulnerability is gone. Anti-materiel problem is gone. Low Ballistic Skill problem is gone. Long skill nerf to fireteams is gone. Sixth Sense absence is gone. Missiles. Advanced Command. More Chain of Command. More SWC. More Triad troops. Phacking got better. Triads got better. Even great profiles like Sakiels and Kotails got better!
What did we lose? Swarm grenades. Rockets on Neema. A Flammenspeer on the Gorgos. And the unique position of being a generic faction with open access to fireteams. Yet we are still the only faction who can take fireteams without spending a drop of SWC, of any eligible fireteam troops, of any combination, of any quantity desired, in the generic faction.
I love the Tohaa and its community, but looking at what’s changed, all I see is an already rich faction becoming richer. If Tohaa was not overpowered already, Tohaa is overpowered now.
Surely this next season will be Tohaa’s Golden Age. A lot of product is going to sell. But Tohaa players should already be bracing for the nerfs—or redistributions of power—that we will see in Acheron Falls.
I am no masochist. I do not wish to see the pendulum swing in a new direction, to be overshadowed by Hassassin Bahram and Imperial Service and Acontecimento in the future. But game balance, like social movements, tend to swing too hard and to err into new and inverse problems.
Ultimately none of us know what Corvus Belli will giddily cook up. There will be changes to swoon over, and changes to weep over. One thing is quite clear, to me, however: However wrong our guesses about future editions are, those who predict stasis turn out to be the most eminently wrong in the end.
How devilishly cathartic it was for me to see the Sukeul, given the years of naysaying I heard and read from nannies who hate how the Tohaa had changed Infinity. Yet also how bittersweet it was to see, as Infinity is changing fast and hard. Enjoy your faction, whichever faction you play, for Corvus Belli giveth, and Corvus Belli taketh away.
And of course—and most importantly—have fun with this new Infinity, for goodness sake. A hobby should not stress you out. If these changes prove to annoy you, you should probably sell your Infinity models, and move on. Life’s too short to get angry about things like miniature wargames.
Coming very soon—should be this week—is a new article category for new players. I know I get some newbies here, and I don’t have much helpful for you beyond wordy product reviews. That’s going to change.
Hope you enjoy your stay in the meantime, and thanks for reading