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Infinity: Operation Icestorm» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Neo-Tokyo is about to EXPLODE rss

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David Alexander
United States
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Infinity is basically the anime action movie of miniature games. Except, no it's not. Okay, it's like the X-Com of miniature games. No...not that either. Somewhere in between maybe? Yeah...I'm not going to be able to sum this game up with a TAG-line (BWAHAHAHAhaha...cough...sorry).

I'm fairly new the game, but I noticed there were no reviews here, and I've been obsessed with it lately, so I figured I'd write one. Honestly Shut Up and Sit Down did a better job than I could, so maybe just go look at that. At the end I'll put a shorter, Icestorm-specific review.

Infinity is a squad based miniatures combat game with relatively small teams (typically somewhere around 8 to 16 models). This is not armies smashing into each other for hours like Warhammer, it's more two teams of specialists attempting specific goals. Also unlike most tabletop mini-games, models are very mortal, even the big ones. There's no dragon (or whatever) whose toughness is so high half your opponent's army can't even scratch him. Instead you have a relatively realistic approach to damage, where if you get shot by a gun, (which almost all units have) there is a good chance you will be dead.

Infinity has a somewhat unique mechanic that is not realistic in the real world sense (though it's true to action movies) and that is "orders." In most mini games, on your turn you do something with every model in your army once. In infinity you have a number of "orders" usually equal the the number of models you are fielding, and you can spend those orders on any models. So instead of doing something with everybody, you might end up having one guy run all over the place, throwing grenades and bullets left and right, and hacking robots so that they also shoot each other, while everybody else just hangs back. Of course, this begs the question, "Why wouldn't you just spend all your orders on whoever does the most damage?" The answer is that your opponent can act on your turn. Every time you use an order on a model, any of your opponent's models who can see it get to react (called an ARO). ARO's typically involve getting off a shot or dodging out of the way of the grenade they just threw. ARO's usually aren't as effective as normal orders (for example, a normal order can burst fire, but an ARO only gets a single shot), but it basically means if you send one rambo in the middle of all your opponent's troops, he's going to get mowed down. So you have to think tactically, and try to catch your opponents form strategic angles where you can hit them but they don't have many units than can hit you back.

- Flavor: I'm not really talking about the backstory, which is interesting enough but the narrative writing probably isn't going to win any awards. By flavor I mean more "to what extent can you make the style army you want." Just...oh all of the extents. Want a team of post-islamic humanist space pirates? Check. Want a bunch of future ninjas and Akira motercycle riders? Check. What an army who has been experimenting with their own DNA and have a bunch of cat-people and violence-nuns? Check. Want to have a bunch of mech knights? Check. Want an army of guerrilla fighters and...(sigh) werewolves...yeah they did that too. I haven't even gotten to the aliens or AI factions. Each faction in the game has more flavor than the entirety of many other entire miniatures games. And, though it certainly borrows from a mecha anime aesthetic, I just want to say how glad I am that there aren't any "space elves/orcs/etc." LOTR is...fine...but ding dang its time to cover some new ground.

- Strategy: This game has probably the best tactical depth of any list/deckbuilding game I have ever played. It just nails listbuilding. There is something so satisfying about building decks or army lists in games, coming up with some new creative way to dismantle your opponent. However, in most list/deck building games, this becomes the most important part of the game. Most decks/lists you come up with in Netrunner, MtG, Warhammer, etc are just not going to be viable with a remotely competitive opponent because they probably looked on the internet and found out what the best list/deck is. Having a well-made deck/list is often more important than playing it well in these games. So the excitement at trying new things fades, because you will mostly just get trounced for your effort. Infinity does not have this problem, which is amazing. Pretty much anything you can come up with, there will be a way to play it that will make it viable. Infinity has all the thrills of list-building, and almost none of the downsides.

- Strategy/Flavor: Didn't we already cover this? Seriously it's so good, I need to say more about it. Aside from theme flavor, and strategic range, there is also a sort of strategy flavor. This is basically an extension of the previous point. In many list/deck games, there are certain strategies that are just not going to work under any circumstances. Sometimes the meta just doesn't allow for goblin decks or whatever. Again, in infinity its just so much more about what you do in the game, that however you want to approach taking your opponent apart, there is a way. Want to build a list were you have a homing missile launcher in the back that pounds targets your invisible spies have marked? Go for it. Want a list where you set up a hacking network and take control of your opponents mechs, and then use their own mech against them? Yup. Want a list where you straight up glue your enemies to walls, and then walk away as you toss a timed mine over your shoulder? Infinity has you covered. Want swarms of mutants advancing under cover of smoke and then ripping everyone apart with guns that fire chains? Totally. Everything I just listed are viable strategies with just ONE of the factions (and it's not nearly every strategy open to them). Other factions open up many more possibilities.

Minis - The minis are very high quality, though they require more than average assembly (it isn't uncommon to have to glue on a number of arms, legs, and/or antennae, and it's all unpainted). This is about as good as it gets in terms of game miniature quality (there are several options that are as good, but I haven't seen any that are markedly better). That said, they are all metal, which has some benefits, but also tends to be more work intensive (mold lines, etc), especially if you are OCD about molding blemishes.

Order/ARO mechanic - This is polarizing for some, but I love this mechanic. Instead of spending half your time fiddling with models which aren't really doing anything, you get to focus entirely on where the action is. ARO means you don't have to sit there and gather dust while your opponent takes their turn, you are constantly checking for line of fire and trying to either shoot down his advancing units, or dive out of the way of the grenade they just launched behind your cover. It leads to spectacular moments where, on the last turn one unit burns through order to take out three guys and secure the objective.

Mortality - One of my favorite parts of the game is how perishable all of your units are. The ARO makes it feel like you are actually in a battle with bullets whizzing by all the time. When you poke your head out to shoot, the enemy is shooting back at you. Also there aren't any OP units, pretty much everything in the game can be taken down by almost anything else in the game (obviously aside from support units not meant to shoot stuff)if you use smart tactics.

Time - As a squad combat game (as opposed to an army game like Warhammer (which has waaaay more troops on the table)), Infinity games don't take the entire day. They are pretty quick actually, especially depending on how many points you are playing for. Also, low point matches are much more viable than with many other games in this genre, because of the tactical depth. Depending on squad size, games can range from 30 min (!) to 2 hrs.

The rulebook is free - Lets be honest, if you are interested in Infinity, chances are you already have some minis. So sub them in and try it out, get the rulebook online, it's free. This is kind of a odd thing though, because infinity is a great gateway game into tabletop gaming, annnnnd...hey here come the cons.

The rulebook - Holy smokes this thing is pretty bad. Considering how well thought out every other aspect of Infinity is, the rulebook is almost impressively terrible. Fortunately you might not need it! Kind of. It's complicated. So yes, the rulebook is an over 250 page beast that is not easy reading as rule books go. But Infinity is aware of this, and provides two starter sets that make learning the rules much easier. Each set comes with introductory rulebooks set up as a campaign. They are MUCH easier to read, and more engaging because they let you learn a bit, apply it, learn a bit, apply it, etc, over 5 scenarios. So, if you have a starter set, the full rule book is more of a reference manual for all the skills and weapons. But...this means if you want easy to understand rules you have to buy an ~$80 starter set, which will include at least one army that you might not want. Welcome to tabletop gaming unfortunately. BUT. It's free.

Meh (things that are both pro/con):
Complexity - While Infinity manages it's complexity very well, don't expect to play this at a dinner party (which, as soon as I said it, became a goal of mine (which will never, ever happen)). The upside is that you have control over the complexity. The basic rules are manageable, the majority of the rule book is devoted to skill and weapon descriptions. So you only really need to know how the skills of the models you are fighting with work, not the hundreds (yeah, hundreds) of other skills in the book. Oh and all the skills your opponent brought. It...can be a bit fiddly at times. It really did take us playing through the 5 intro campaign scenarios to start feeling comfortable with it.

Price - Tabletop gaming is expensive. It's the way it is. You can pretty easily find models to sub in for units you don't use as often though (for casual play).

IceStorm Review:
I just wanted to give a quick overview of the starter set, since that's probably the easiest place to get started (but you absolutely don't need to start there). I assume most of this would apply to Red Veil, the other starter set. Not a pro/con, just overview:
The models are great. The board and buildings are...ok. They are fine to start with, but they feel pretty cheap compared to the models. I mean, the buildings are just folded paper/cardboard (thick paper), and the "board" is just a folded sheet. My main gripe is the markers. They are fine quality-wise, but you don't get much. What is especially frustrating to me is that it doesn't come with the two commonly used "teardrop" weapon templates. It's like if you went to a build-your-own taco buffet and they didn't have cheese or salsa. You can still do stuff, but important ingredients are missing.

This is not a comprehensive rulebook, just a starter. I can take or leave the flavor narrative (mostly leave, it's forgettable at best). Aside from a few areas that will have you scratching your head for a few minutes (what is the point of points if whoever completes the mission always has more?), its a pretty straightforward intro to the game.

At the end of the day, I:IS gives you 14 well made minis for ~$80. In this market that's a pretty good deal.

Hope this helps anybody interested. If there is something specific you want to see in the review let me know I'll go back and edit it in.
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"This is a really weird game, and you’ll find that most people will not want to play this."

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