Tohaa 202: Swarm vs Elite

Combos, Tactics, and Strategies

Democrat or Republican?  Labour or Tory?  Marvel or DC?  That’s right, in Infinity, Duverger’s law is alive and well.  If you have ever hurt yourself with a trip to the international forum, you have probably seen a thread or two or ten thousand on list constructions.  Most of these boil down to Swarm or Elite.   Of course, there’s a happy middle ground, but screw the centrists, right?  In this article, I discuss these two list archetypes in the unique context of Tohaa.

A prevailing bit of wisdom in Infinity is that more orders = more better.  While it may be reasonable to say this is often true, it clearly is not always true.  Follow tournament champions, and you might see that for every swarmy hordey Bloodgod, there is a tight elite Tamrielo.  The essential difference is that playing a swarm list lets you make mistakes, flub rolls, and gives you many orders while sucking many orders from your opponent to kill you.  Playing an elite list directly makes every order spent more powerful, and lets you control your opponent’s priorities.
sep.gifDue to the introduction of the Limited Insertion rules, it is quite possible you may be forced to play elite.  But let’s dive into the swarm first.


 SWARM

20161101_020448

A swarm of Tohaa zergrushes your opponent with Makaul after Makaul, Sakiel after Sakiel, Chaksa after Chaksa, until there are red tokens all over the table as the staggering but standing Tohaa forces suffocate the straggling enemies.
sep.gifI would say that a “swarm” army is any army above 15 orders.  A swarm commonly includes 3 or more triads, usually filled with cheaper Kamaels and Makauls, a grip of Kaauri or Auxiliars, and one to three strong units like a Gao-Tarsos, Rasail, or Clipsos.  While light on hard-hitters, swarm lists can provide some truly brutal ARO conditions for your opponent, due to the sheer volume of bodies and Triad burst you can dick down on the table.

logo_801.png Example Swarm List
──────────────────────────────────────────────────
GROUP 1sep.gifsep.giforden_regular.png10  orden_impetuosa.png2
logo_1.pngKAMAEL (Forward Observer) Combi Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 13)
logo_1.pngKAMAEL (Forward Observer) Combi Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 13)
logo_1.pngKAMAEL (Forward Observer) Combi Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 13)
logo_1.pngKAMAEL Sniper Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0.5 | 16)
logo_1.pngKAMAEL Sniper Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0.5 | 16)
logo_20.pngKAELTAR (Chain of Command) Light Shotgun, Flash Pulse + 2 SymbioMates / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (0.5 | 21)
logo_1.pngKAMAEL Combi Rifle + Light Grenade Launcher / Pistol, Knife. (1 | 16)
logo_1.pngKAMAEL Paramedic (Medikit) Combi Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 14)
logo_8.pngMAKAUL Heavy Flamethrower, Eclipse Grenades / Pistol, Viral CCW. (0 | 13)
logo_25.pngKAAURI Sentinel Submachine Gun, 2 Nanopulsers, Nullifier / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (0 | 12)

GROUP 2sep.gifsep.giforden_regular.png9  orden_irregular.png1  orden_impetuosa.png1
logo_2.pngSAKIEL Lieutenant Viral Combi Rifle, Nimbus Plus Grenades / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 24)
logo_2.pngSAKIEL Spitfire / Pistol, Knife. (1.5 | 23)
logo_8.pngMAKAUL Heavy Flamethrower, Eclipse Grenades / Pistol, Viral CCW. (0 | 13)
logo_2.pngSAKIEL Paramedic (Medikit) Combi Rifle, Nimbus Plus Grenades / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 20)
logo_2.pngSAKIEL Combi Rifle, Light Rocket Launcher / Pistol, Knife. (1 | 23)
logo_8.pngMAKAUL Heavy Flamethrower, Eclipse Grenades / Pistol, Viral CCW. (0 | 13)
logo_10.pngCHAKSA AUXILIAR (Baggage, Sensor) Heavy Flamethrower / Pistol, CCW. (0 | 10)
logo_10.pngCHAKSA AUXILIAR (Baggage, Sensor) Heavy Flamethrower / Pistol, CCW. (0 | 10)
logo_25.pngKAAURI Sentinel Submachine Gun, 2 Nanopulsers, Nullifier / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (0 | 12)
logo_13.pngDIPLOMATIC DELEGATE (iKohl L1, Specialist Operative) Nanopulser, Flash Pulse / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 5)

5 SWC | 300 Points

Open in Infinity Army

The above is a swarm army I have run against Caledonia on the Frontile mission.  Group #1 could pump orders into firing speculative grenades, or repositioning for the next reactive turn.  Group #2 was the action triad, pummeling Dog-Warriors and Wulvers with overwhelming burst.  The two Snipers and Forward Observer triads were put on aggressive overwatch, and whatever the snipers did not kill, the three Forward Observers did not fail to blind.
sep.gifThe swarm played very well.  With only four unconscious troops in the end (two Makauls, a Sakiel, and a Kaauri), I won 10-0.  Although I did build the swarm to play for the lulz, the list definitely reflected some upsides to playing a swarm.

UPSIDES

MASSIVE POOL
This is the obvious but probably most important point.  “Orders” are really our only currency for anything during a turn.  Just like a big budget for a crappy script, a big order supply for bottom-tier units can pump your results far higher.
sep.gifSakiels and Makauls are strong, but a good swarm will usually squeeze in one or two stronger units, like the Kotail, Igao, or Rasail.  A Kotail with 10 orders, with a backup group of 6-10 more orders, is an absolutely horrific affair for the opponent to endure.  Massive order pools are at the core of why ISS, Ariadna, and Haqq lists can be so overwhelming.  When you don’t have quality, but you have a big budget, you can kind of get away with anything.
sep.gifEven without a Kotail, Igao, or Rasail, you can get quite a bit of work done on your turns.  Plentiful smoke and plentiful specialists are good for I.T.S missions.  I find swarms are specifically best for I.T.S. missions that need a lot of WIP rolls to win, like Antenna Field, Cold Sleep, or Highly Classified.

FORGIVING
A bad move or a bad roll in an elite army can cost you the game.  But that does not tend to be true in swarms.  I.T.S. is notorious for having games won or lost due to a single WIP roll, after the sweating tournament attendees spent all his command tokens to make that WIP roll succeed.
sep.gifIn a swarm list, you are just not as susceptible to faux pas like this.  The massive pool as described above means that should you make a misstep and eat an enemy rocket, or fail all your WIP rolls in Group #1, Group #2 has your back, and it’s like almost like getting a second turn.

BRAWLERS
Due to the natural point restrictions of trying to fit in as many bodies as possible, swarm lists tend to include several Makauls.  This gives you great insurance against Close Combat specialists, Camo and ODD units, and Big Bad Evil Guys.
sep.gifI discuss the strengths of the Makaul at length in the product review, but suffice to say, the Makaul may be a lynchpin of the Tohaa army, and having several Makauls in your list means that they can do their good work over and over again.

EXPENDABLE
An elite list like my “Ectros Death Star” has one Makaul, and I need that Makaul to be the Makaul.  Usually he does.  But sometimes he dies.  If he dies, there’s nothing to replace him.  In a swarm, you have a lot of bodies, meaning a lot of redundancy, and if you lose a Kamael Forward Observer—or a whole triad of Kamael Forward Observers—you will have several backups.
sep.gifAn expendable swarm in Tohaa may often be quite superior to the expendable swarms in other factions.  This is because it is such a low overhead for us to make a Triad fireteam, analogous to the 3-man “Haris” fireteams of other factions.  3-man fireteams are good.  However, other factions are limited to just 1 Haris fireteam, so they can only do it once.  We, however, can take a “Haris” and then have two, three, four, five more “Haris” triads behind.  Take this triad, for example:

logo_1.pngKAMAEL (Forward Observer) Combi Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 13)
logo_1.pngKAMAEL (Forward Observer) Combi Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 13)
logo_8.pngMAKAUL Heavy Flamethrower, Eclipse Grenades / Pistol, Viral CCW. (0 | 13)

In another faction, without a Fireteam, each of those units is going to be acting alone.  That means Burst 1 by default, unless you can burn orders to drop a trop into Suppressive Fire (if the troop is able to do so).  This puts the default defensive value of the average unit at the average—which, in the usual d20 roll, results in only about a 10% chance of hurting the enemy.  Not good.  +1 Burst bumps up those odds closer to 25%.  Adding a couple more triad troops nearby will even or exceed the odds.  Unlike Suppressive fire, the cost of extra defensive value of +1 Burst in troops in a triad is simply for them to be in a triad.
sep.gifIn the above example, the +1 Burst applies to the Combi Rifle, Pistol, Heavy Flamethrower, Eclipse Grenades, and the Flash Pulse that the Forward Observer skill provides.  Because those weapons collectively cover 0″ to 24″, this little triad, for 39 points, can be hurled forward toward an objective, or toward a bit of cover, and challenge the enemy at a broad range of the table.  And if they die—it was only 39 points.  39 points which provided you 3 orders each turn, could grab objectives, and could cover allies with smoke.  That 39 points is about the cost of a single Ectros.

So what’s bad about this deal?


DOWNSIDES

WEAK
The Makaul is quite strong, but sometimes he just won’t cut it.  In a swarm, everything else tends to be only as (or less) reliable than the Makaul.  If you face off against a unit like a Hac Tao, Achilles, Father-Knight, Shikami, Chasseur, Moran Massai, or Ghazi Mutta’wiah, chances are a Makaul is not going to solve the problem.  And let’s face it, the Kamael is basically crap.
sep.gifIf a Tiger Soldier drops in a swarm’s backfield, it can happily spend the turn deleting half your swarm.  Lacking strong units to intercept other strong units, if the enemy breaches the wall, he will pour his own horde in.  With so many 1-wound models on the board, common shock weapons like MULTI Rifles and Red Furies will slowly chip off troop after troop.
sep.gifAttrition is therefore a huge problem in swarm lists.  If you lose a wound, you’ve also lost an order.  So, you need to get most of your action done in turns 1 and 2, because by the time turn 3 rolls around―you should presume―it will be hell hard to swing the game if all you have left is a couple Chaksas, Kamaels, and an impetuous Makaul.

BAD HABITS
The point above about swarms being forgiving is as much a detraction as it is a benefit.  I noticed from myself and other players over the years that continually playing swarms can accidentally introduce bad habits.  Swarm players, I see, tend to play for the current turn.  Elite players tend to play for the final round.  Playing smaller groups teaches you to play smart, quick.

TIME
And swarms simply take more time to play.  The first bad experience I had in Infinity was playing against a 18-20 order Qapu Khalqi list.  What was supposed to be a quick evening game of Campaign: Paradiso, ended up taking 1 hour per turn of the Qapu Khalqi player.  By midnight, I was annoyed.
sep.gifAnd of course, I ended up doing it myself, months later, after I bought a giant pile of Tohaa.  Wasting time isn’t an inevitability when playing a swarm, but swarms tend to require more time.

COOL TOYS STAY HOME
This is really a note on the pleasure of playing the game of Infinity.  I find I enjoy Tohaa in Limited Insertion so well because it forces you to bring expensive (and therefore cool) units.
sep.gifBringing a list with 16 or more orders naturally means that you won’t be running double Rasails, or triple Ectros, or big dumb Gorgos, or that awesome Taqeul+Chaksa trick you were planning on, and many of the neatest models you own will simply stay in the cabinet, night after night, waiting for a Limited Insertion tournament to force you to enjoy them.


ELITE

20161101_014218

An elite list carefully plans its losses and decisively undercuts the enemy’s advantages.  Elite lists require your full attention, attention to your own strengths and weakness, and attention to your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses.  But elites can deliver far better direct results than the cans of spam a swarm list spill out.
sep.gifElite lists, by the nature of filling in a single combat group, or 1 primary group and 1 tiny one, have higher-quality units, which necessarily means that although you have fewer orders, your orders are inherently spent on powerful and reliable troops.

logo_801.png Example Elite List
──────────────────────────────────────────────────

orden_regular.png10  orden_impetuosa.png1
logo_6.pngGORGOS Squad Chaksa Peripheral A (2 | 86)
sep.giflogo_6.pngGORGOS AP Spitfire, Flammenspeer, Pulzar +1 Chaksa Peripheral A / Viral CCW. (2 | 86)
sep.giflogo_6_2.pngCHAKSA PERIPHERAL A Light Shotgun, Stun Grenades / Pistol, Knife. (7)
logo_17.pngRASAIL Lieutenant Viral Combi Rifle + 1 Chaksa Peripheral / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 39)
sep.giflogo_17.pngCHAKSA PERIPHERAL Heavy Flamethrower / Pistol, Knife. (- | 4)
logo_17.pngRASAIL Combi Rifle, Antipersonnel Mines + 1 Chaksa Peripheral / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 34)
sep.giflogo_17.pngCHAKSA PERIPHERAL Heavy Flamethrower / Pistol, Knife. (- | 4)
logo_21.pngKOSUIL Engineer K1 Combi Rifle, D-Charges, Nullifier / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 29)
logo_2.pngSAKIEL Combi Rifle, Light Rocket Launcher / Pistol, Knife. (1 | 23)
logo_8.pngMAKAUL Heavy Flamethrower, Eclipse Grenades / Pistol, Viral CCW. (0 | 13)
logo_3.pngGAO-RAEL Sniper Rifle / Pistol, CCW. (1 | 31)
logo_20.pngKAELTAR (Chain of Command) Light Shotgun, Flash Pulse + 2 SymbioMates / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (0.5 | 21)
logo_1.pngKAMAEL Paramedic (Medikit) Combi Rifle / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 14)
logo_10.pngCHAKSA AUXILIAR (Baggage, Sensor) Heavy Flamethrower / Pistol, CCW. (0 | 10)

4.5 SWC | 300 Points

Open in Infinity Army

I played this list against the Japanese Sectorial Army in a Limited Insertion mission of Firefight.  Due to the models on the board on turn 1, I knew that my opponent had at least one Oniwaban nearby.  So I sent the Viral Rasail on a suicide run to kill the obvious Domaru Lieutenant, which she did.  On the first turn, therefore, my opponent was in Loss of Lieutenant on her first turn, and impetuous Haramakis ran to their deaths.  It was a quick mop-up after that.

UPSIDES

LOSS RESISTANCE
Having 4 to 8 high-quality Symbiont troopers on board naturally means that the unlucky crit from your enemy, or the bad ARM rolls from you, won’t drain your order supply like they do in swarms.  A crit on a Makaul triad will immediately put the other two troops at risk, but a crit on a Kosuil or Ectros is laughably less impactful.
sep.gifTriads and our generally high mobility make it very easy to cycle wounded Symbionts back into total cover, and cycle fresh power troops into the forefront.  This is an important habit in elite lists and ensures that you will rarely straight-up lose a trooper.  Oddly enough, the big downside of elite lists (10-12 orders) tends to turn into a big upside by turn 3 (still about 10 orders).  In swarms, it’s a slippery slide down to fucking 0.
sep.gif

ENGAGEMENT DICTATOR
This is a really simple point, but a good point to make.  Playing expensive units naturally creates situations where your troops are the ones which dictate the terms of the engagement, rather than reacting to the engagement.
sep.gifTake the Gao-Tarsos, as an example.  It is a 2-Wound BS12 troop which can, for 1 order, start its turn right on the enemy backfield.  BS12 and 2 Wounds is 1 more BS and 1 more Wound than the average backfield troop.  Due to placement via Airborne Deployment, the Gao-Tarsos may also catch enemies with their backs turned.  Naturally therefore, the odds are in his favor.
sep.gifOr take the Rasail team.  The Rasail team is a staggering pile of hit points, and the “pincer” that the G: Sync skill provides means that your enemy will suffer hits, should he fire back.  You could say, rather than dodging, the expensive units are the one being dodged.

PSEUDO-HEAVY
This is a bit of a pro and a con, but it’s 90% a pro.  Elite heavy lists in other factions are inherently vulnerable to hacking, E/M weaponry, and other nasties.  In Tohaa, with few exceptions, we can walk multiwound troops through the usual anti-multiwound threats; and where we are hackable, we have above-average BTS.  We are, however, the lowest rated faction in the category of Armor, so it is strongly recommended to pack Symbiomates on troops like Sukeuls and Nikouls.
sep.gifRather than pirating his thoughts here, I recommend reading Daboarder’s primer on massed Heavy Infantry, as the majority of the content is relevant to how we play elite lists.  However note that you can basically ignore anything discussing the downsides of hackability or the benefits of high Armor.


DOWNSIDES

ELITE LIGHT
Lacking the amazing superunits like Maruts and Swiss Guards, Tohaa may by nature be ineligible to play the classic elite list standardized in other factions.  This is simply the opportunity cost of playing the faction:  we have many many above-average options, but really no excellent options.
sep.gifThat is to say, Tohaa seems to “punch down” far better than we “punch up”.  We are good at roflstomping those below our weight class.  But we’ll simply never be able to plop down a Cutter, Sphinx, or Marut, and so you must be prepared to creatively apply your tools, since you yourself won’t have a Cutter, Sphinx, or Marut with which to counter them.

LOW ORDERS
Yes, it is a downside.  It is *the* downside.  If you are going first, losing 2 of your 10 orders to an enemy command token, is a loss of 20% of your orders, or about 10% of your orders over the course of the game.  If you are playing a mission that requires many successful WIP rolls, or if you have obstacles your list is not prepared to easily defeat or skirt, the order deficit alone can lose you the game.  Like tanks without gas.

DISTRACTIONS
Smart players will buzz distractions around you.  For example, against a triad, a single Highlander with a Chain Rifle, or a Guilang who has pooped out a Mine, might make you freeze in place; or worse, blow your turn going after them.  You need to know bait when you see it.  Major distractions like a TAG in Suppressive Fire can be neutralized by covering them with smoke, and proceeding with your turn.
sep.gifAs a rule of thumb―especially in elite lists―if the order won’t get you the objectives, don’t spend it.  Anyway, in the case of a Chain Rifle Highlander, or a Guilang’s Mine, an Ectros or any Symbiont with a Symbiomate could facetank either without a wince.

SWC
Bizarrely, I find SWC is a problem in my elite lists, not because I don’t have enough, but because I try to spend it.  One of the reasons our faction does not get MULTI weapons and HRMCs is because we were given so many Viral guns.
sep.gifDon’t skimp out on Viral on your quest to spend 6 SWC.  A Spitfire is good for winning engagements, but you don’t need more than one in your elite list.  Once anything with No Wound Incapacitation or Dogged or a good Doctor in tow crops up, you will immediately miss not having Viral ammunition.

Tohaa

But yes, this has been all very contradictory. Does a happy medium exist?


HAPPY MEDIUM

20161101_020601

Yes!  Very much so.  A happy medium is about 13-15 orders, and this is usually where Tohaa plays best.  Because you have such an interdependent and competitively durable faction, you can afford to bring several “cool” units, and also bringing a quartet of stooges to fill in the blanks or matador the enemy, while your star players hog the orders in the main group.

logo_801.png Happy Medium
──────────────────────────────────────────────────
GROUP 1sep.gifsep.giforden_regular.png10  orden_impetuosa.png1
logo_26.pngTAQEUL Lieutenant (Advanced Command) Spitfire, SymbioBugs / Pistol, Knife. (1.5 | 40)
logo_21.pngKOSUIL Engineer Boarding Shotgun, D-Charges, Panzerfaust / Pistol, Knife. (0.5 | 24)
logo_2.pngSAKIEL Paramedic (Medikit) Combi Rifle, Nimbus Plus Grenades / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 20)
logo_20.pngKAELTAR (Chain of Command) Light Shotgun, Flash Pulse + 2 SymbioMates / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (0.5 | 21)
logo_21.pngKOSUIL Engineer K1 Combi Rifle, D-Charges, Nullifier / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 29)
logo_2.pngSAKIEL Combi Rifle, Light Rocket Launcher / Pistol, Knife. (1 | 23)
logo_8.pngMAKAUL Heavy Flamethrower, Eclipse Grenades / Pistol, Viral CCW. (0 | 13)
logo_10.pngCHAKSA AUXILIAR (Baggage, Sensor) Heavy Flamethrower / Pistol, CCW. (0 | 10)
logo_10.pngCHAKSA AUXILIAR (Baggage, Sensor) Heavy Flamethrower / Pistol, CCW. (0 | 10)
logo_18.pngIGAO Combi Rifle, Nanopulser, Stun Grenades / Pistol, DA CC Weapon. (0 | 27)

GROUP 2sep.gifsep.giforden_regular.png4
logo_7.pngCLIPSOS (Forward Observer) Combi Rifle, Antipersonnel Mines / Pistol, Knife. (0 | 25)
logo_10.pngCHAKSA AUXILIAR Smart Heavy Rocket Launcher / Pistol, CCW. (1 | 15)
logo_25.pngKAAURI Sentinel Submachine Gun, 2 Nanopulsers, Nullifier / Pistol, Electric Pulse. (0 | 12)
logo_15.pngNIKOUL Minelayer Viral Sniper Rifle, Antipersonnel Mines / Pistol, Knife. (1.5 | 30)

6 SWC | 299 Points

Open in Infinity Army

That list was very specifically designed for the Nimbus Zone scenario.  The Taqeul, Igao, Nikoul, Kaauri, and Chaksas (including the Rocket Chaksa) were naturally good at defending through the Nimbus.  (Pictured above, the Spitifre Kotail and Symbiobombs acted as the Spitfire Taqeul and Symbiobugs.)  Once the Nimbus cleared, I was able to punch my two Triads through the remaining Yu Jing forces, secure 2 out of the 4 consoles, and destroyed 1 other, for a sweeping win.


Recently, elite is my favorite way to play Tohaa.  But on the whole, I think a “happy medium” is generally the most effective way to play Tohaa, and it seems most Tohaa players play lists of 13-16 orders.  This allows you to dip your toes into the best of both worlds, with a handful of power players like elite lists would allow, but the wiggle room of orders that swarms allow.
sep.gifThe important thing is that you are aware of the strengths and vulnerabilities of your list when you write it.  You need to think about how you will able to face a TAG, or a link of Heavy Infantry, or a pile of Camouflage, or an ODD supertrooper, or an evil Impersonator, or a table crammed with Chain Rifles, should your opponent field such things.
sep.gifIf your list doesn’t have a good answer to those things, rewrite it.  Whether you are playing with the brawn of an elite list, or the flood of a swarm list, or a nice happy medium, you just need to be aware of your own head, of why you have chosen a Kaauri Sniper over a Surda Kerail, of why you have chosen a Gao-Rael Sniper over a Sukeul Forward Observer.  Every troop your bring is a choice against another, and often, there are good reasons to bring all of them.
sep.gifBut if you have your bases covered and you bring what you like, don’t fret that you are not playing a “correct” way.  If you are comfortable playing your list’s upsides and downsides, it doesn’t matter whether you have 10 orders or 20.  You can make it work and it’s just up to you.

That is, unless Limited Insertion forces you to play the awesome way. 😀

NEXT:
tohaa203
INTENTIONAL LOSSES

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