As long as I have an audience here, and Corvus Belli checks my blog, I’d like to write a series of “sunset” articles as clean out my collection. Like all community ideas, little can reach the design team. But, that BS13 Mimetism Triad Symbiont did, so: to your design team, who may be stuck in a rut of writing Aristeia and Special Fireteams and BS-3 mods, here is my parting gift.
I’ll begin with the least interesting rules, for Tohaa players: Hacking.
BEST HACKING IS NO HACKING
This is the harshest indictment on the Hacking rules. Tohaa and Ariadna (and often Haqqislam and Morats) do best by not bringing anything hackable at all. Against many lists you face, there will be no targets for most of your Hacking programs, aside from the occasional sniffer bot or corpse to Spotlight.
Some Hacking programs are so effective such that it is often wise to not even bring a hacker/hackable troop in many lists. A player will be inclined to bring a Killer Hacker to complete Classified Objective and kill that Fusilier Hacker with his Bulleteer, but beyond that, many lists avoid hacking/hackable items altogether, and no wonder: The threat of having your TAG Possessed, or your Heavy Infantry Isolated, or your Assault Hacker Dead, is enough to inspire you to leave those at home.
What a Hacker can use against most lists is Spotlight and Assisted Fire. But few players Spotlight anything but a corpse. It’s bad odds, and it doesn’t work in ARO. Even if you do successfully Spotlight, you do not have exciting odds of getting a kill with your Smart Missile rolls, which have been nerfed from EXP to DA ammo.
Assisted Fire is worth it, but the rules have a massive waste of real estate, just for the sake of Marksmanship L2 on your drones.
Redrum is the most useful “killer” program. Trinity has its uses, though not so reliable as Redrum. We are happy to have Lightning or Maestro, if we can get them. After that, many players mix up, or forget altogether, the details of Skullbuster, Brain Blast, etc., frequently misremembering which has Breaker and where (or whether) a -3 applies to Carbonite, Basilisk, Gotcha, and more.
Do we need all that? Many players live a busy life. Games are a relief from our jobs, bills, deadlines, and for some, a relief from family and girlfriends. A player shouldn’t have to know to use a third-party website to sort the hacking programs, or sift through web pages to find the program that’s useful, especially when most SWORD/CLAW codes have one optimum program. In gun terms, hacking gives you a Spitfire, a Combi Rifle, and a Heavy Pistol. Most players will just use the Spitfire.
Because Hacking is so specifically used, many programs should be slimmed to a “one size fits most” approach, keeping what players like to use, cutting what players don’t use. There is only 1 Blackout program, and 1 Spotlight program: There needn’t be more than 2 or 3 “kill you” programs.
No player deems the Defensive Hacking Devices to be worth the same as the Engineer skill. Yet Defensive Hacking Device costs 4 points, and makes you vulnerable to a Killer Hacker.
Is it worth even a point? Moreover, in the day of cheap Killer Hacking devices, is the standard Hacking Device still worth 8 points? Is the Assault Hacking Device still worth 6 points? Killer Hacking Devices wiped out the traditional Hackers + Assault Hacker setup overnight.
Killer Hacking Devices have all the classic traits of a high-cost SWC weapon in Infinity: high Burst, high Damage, unique effects. Killer Hacking Devices are to the “Hackable” game, what a Multispectral Visor L2 HMG is to the “BS Attack” game. Bizarrely, however, Killer Hacking devices cost no SWC, and are cheaper than any other hacking device.
It is not even true that Killer Hacking Devices only target other hackers, because each Killer Hacking Device provides the user with the ability to enter the Impersonation state. A single Killer Hacker can thwart the traditional “Joan and Friends” Military Orders list―and even if it cannot, the fear of having Bit & Kiss Maestro your boy De Fersen, or any old camouflaged WIP13 prick do the same with Redrum, makes the sad Knights sadder.
Like SMGs, Killer Hacking Devices are one of those tools that are so extremely cost-effective, that every faction feels they need more of it, in order to be competitive.
REPEATERS ARE TOO GOOD
Repeaters are not too good, you may say. Well, I will tell you why they are too good, and why you know it, too.
The basic hook of Infinity is, if I have Line of Fire on you, you have Line of Fire on me. That revolutionary assumption of Infinity puts it a lightyear ahead of other wargames, in player involvement. Now, it sounds really good for me, but as any experienced player knows, the reciprocal Line of Fire ultimately means that you will just pick your targets one at a time. Many players even like to “slice the pie” with agreed-upon imaginary lanes of Line of Fire to expedite finding the target to pick off. You seldom get to “stack” multiple AROs on a single target.
Repeaters violate this expectation in Infinity by allowing all Hackers to use the Repeater in ARO. Even though the Active Turn typically provides great Burst to Hacking Programs, your Hackers are far more paralyzing in ARO, since three or four Burst 1 Oblivion programs are necessarily more effective than a single Burst 2 Carbonite program.
The Combined Army EVO Hackers might be the most popular, but then, the Combined Army is a peer only by ALEPH for cost-effective Remotes. There are a handful of popular lists with EVO Hackers, but a very common complaint about the EVO, is that it is defenseless. The EVO Device itself justifies a high cost for its scaling power, but an expensive model should be able to fight.
In the next edition, you could make the following Hacking retrofit, to make your rules as fundamental to this game as Smoke and Fireteam Bonuses are.
1. Open up Oblivion to all models in the game.
This would allow vulnerable Assault Hackers and expensive standard Hackers to be a worthwhile investment, no matter the opponent. The stock will also increase in skills like Veteran and Morat, merely on account the expanded threat of Isolation.
2. Open up Spotlight for use in ARO, extend the Targeted state to persist until Reset.
This skill would also pair nicely with the underused Forward Observe short skill of the popular Forward Observer skill, the majority of whom are glorified Flash Pulse Specialists.
3. Restrict Repeater usage to 1 Hacker per Repeater.
As it is, the usefulness of Hacking will always have to be restricted due to Repeaters. Limiting repeaters to one Hacker per “firelane” would not only justify their low cost, but inch the back-and-forth of Hackers, with the interest of the back-and-forth of gunplay.
Simple signature equipment such as a “Repeater Plus,” would allow Nomads, and other appropriate factions, to maintain a wide Hacking network—should the basic new Repeater prove too restricting to such factions.
4. Make the Defensive Hacker the “shield” to the Killer Hacker’s “sword”.
The best solution to the Killer Hacker dominance, I think, is not to nerf the Killer Hacker Device, nor increase its cost. Rather, the Defensive Hacking Device needs only to see its Zero Pain program gain a Targetless trait, allowing a Defensive Hacker to swat strikes away with a “special dodge” WIP roll.
And, your Defensive Hacking Device cost the same as the Killer Hacker Device. No SWC, and not more than 3 points. At that stage, Defensive Hacking Devices could be proliferated among desiring troops, such as Sekban, Odalisques, Aquilas, Bao, Morat Vanguards, and more.
5. Arm the EVOs.
EVO Hacking Devices add plenty of list power, but the EVO Drones need to be able to defend themselves. As far as I can tell, they are already priced for Combi Rifles (compare to Combined Army E-Drone), so give them a Combi Rifle and a “SWORD” program.