Friday, April 21, 2017

Deep Thought: List Writing In Infinity

The Perfect List?

There’s been a lot of discussion of list building principles around my neck of the woods recently. It’s largely driven by newer players who are trying to get their heads around this complex aspect of Infinity, but it’s far from a dead conversation, even amongst those who have been playing for years. I find myself giving the same advice repeatedly, so I thought I’d put that together into an article.

Now, you have all probably heard “It’s Not Your List, It’s You”, in relation to Infinity list building. This was, along with “it’s always your turn”, one of the mantras of the game, especially in previous editions. It was probably true once, but it’s certainly not the case in N3. It’s certainly possible to build an Infinity list that will let you down and prevent you from playing to your potential in N3, for any Faction or Sectorial.

What IS true is that there are no net-lists for Infinity, no auto-win buttons. The things which are OP are barely better than similar options while the “trash” is barely worse (forum invective aside), but there are things which are above average and things which fall on the opposite end of the points-to-effect spectrum. But more importantly than this Infinity is a game which rewards good combined arms and which is played with missions that punish mistakes in list construction.

So, how DO you build a “perfect list”?

For me the process of list building starts with the mission. Some people build lists to respond to specific factions, or to fight in specific terrain densities (heavy or sparse) but I find that those things tend to equal out over the course of a tournament and can be considered later, so I begin from a mission focus.

ITS missions reward five different things; killing the enemy and keeping your own units alive, occupying territory with the most points, making WIP tests with Specialists on objectives, and holding objectives with Specialists in base to base. These are all the core mission elements and the fifth "thing" is Classified Missions, which encourage a broad range of basic Specialists, even d-charges.

I always want to get my Classified Mission points, so I make sure that I cover at minimum all but one of the different Specialists required. This means at least one Doctor or Paramedic, Engineer, Hacker and Forward Observer ('though, depending on your Hacker, some can cover FO Classifieds it's
usually worth bringing a FO anyway because they are cheap and awesome). It's unusual for me not to bring all of the above, but sometimes I run with few to no Remotes and HI/TAGs and so skip the Engineer or skip the Doctor if I run short on points. Why “all but one”? Because you can always swap one out for Secure The HVT (except in Highly Classified… always cover ALL your bases in Highly Classified).

For missions where you want to kill the enemy and keep your own units alive you want to think about how you are going to damage the opponent and minimise damage to your own force. Unequal exchanges of the type Warbands produce are an excellent option here and so cheap Warbands become very valuable. They also offer DTW coverage of your own deployment zone which helps prevent the enemy from doing the same to you, which is also useful. You will want at least one high burst long range weapon like a HMG (or HRMC) on a unit which can maximise their F2F advantages (the ideal would be a TO Camo unit with Marksmanship lvl 2 and MSV 2 firing with Surprise Shot through smoke... but that combo's impossible so get as close as you can) to slaughter whatever the enemy leave out in LoF. Your own ARO pieces are going to need to be dirt cheap and hard to engage (plain Sniper Rifles are perfect) or impossible for the opponent to take on their terms (Hidden Deployment units which you can drop when they are on their last order or two). Consider Infiltrating, Mechanised Deployment or Airborne Deployment attack pieces, especially with Boarding Shotguns or other template deploying weapons which can hit multiple opponents with one shot, or fast attack pieces which can cross the table to get to the enemy you want to kill.

For occupying territory there is nothing more valuable than units in marker states. TO Camo, Camo, Holo 2, and Impersonation all hold territory while being hard for the enemy to engage and eliminate, especially if positioned so that a long range ARO piece can cover the approaches to them and force the enemy to engage in a firefight before they can even have a go at revealing your trooper. Otherwise durable units, HI especially, sometimes TAGs, are useful to make it as difficult as possible for the enemy to dig you out. Suppression fire on anything without a marker state can be a perfect defense, as it makes engaging your occupying units as dangerous as possible. Mobility is also a premium so that you can get into the right zones, so faster units can be good here too. Don’t overlook Baggage either, on your EVO or Minesweeper Remotes if you are playing a Human Sphere faction, but Tohaa and Combined Army get even better options. These allow you to stack extra points into zones on the cheap, helping to secure those nearest to you while your other units push forward into “enemy territory”.

For "button pushing" missions Infiltrating or otherwise forward deploying Specialists are invaluable. Specialists with marker states so that they can cross enemy lanes of fire are also perfect. Smoke is a valuable asset, so look for your options (with Grenade Launchers offering more flexibility but often less accuracy than Grenades). Casualties don't usually matter, as long as the mission is being done, so don't be as afraid of leaving out shooters which will cost the enemy orders to destroy, in these missions every order they spend shooting and not doing the mission is a little win for you. But keep your Specialists alive all the way 'through (if they have a marker state they should end every active turn in it) and keep your order pool up so that they can do what they need to win. This means having the light infantry and cheap remotes to hide and pump out orders and these are a priority in these missions. More orders = better in this style of game, so play it as hard as you can.

For objective holding missions you probably want to go top shelf. Elite HI Specialists come into their
own here, forcing the enemy into tough fights to shift them. But even better is any option with a marker state, but be careful of the mission as some don’t let you hold objectives as a marker. Make sure the objectives are actual objects you can hide behind, then make sure you have long range ARO options to provide fire support. This is another situation where you don't care if the enemy is shooting the wrong things, so make them work for every shot on a specialist. Massive order pools aren't always as necessary, but make sure yours doesn't get worn down too easily either.

Other than those mission factors I'm always trying to include at least 1-2 long range options (Snipers or Missile Launchers), 1-2 high burst options (HMG, HRMC or Spitfire) and enough Direct Template Weapons (Flamethrowers and Nanopulsars, but also Mines) to cover all approaches to my deployment zone. This allows me to prevent easy and fast enemy advances, destroy any enemy units trying to do the same to me, and kill any rapid assault units trying to deal heavy damage in the early game.

If you can cover the mission requirements, cover your classifieds and get in the weapon options you need then you are probably onto a winner. I never worry about terrain or enemy force matchups (which Camo spam, pure unit spam and ODD spam are probably my only real considerations) ‘till I can be sure of mission, classified and weapon diversity.

You’ve probably noticed by now that I’m not talking about specific “OP” or “trash” choices. There’s a good reason for that, they are all situational (well, nearly all… go look on the forums). Chat with experienced players, run the numbers yourself, read your faction tactica, you’ll get the idea. But if something is doing a specific job for you, and it does it well, don’t worry about anyone’s opinion on it. All that matters is what it’s doing for you.

And, obviously, every faction is different.


The perfect list?

There’s probably no such thing.

But hopefully this helps you to make your own lists a little bit better.

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