Friday, April 28, 2017

Guest Writer: METT-TC – Applications to Decision in Infinity

An article by TriggerPuller9000

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Introduction


From a judgment and decision-making standpoint, Infinity is an exceptionally complex game due to both the number of parameters impacting every decision, and the lethality of the game system – a single FtF roll has the potential to drastically swing the course of the game. Even in a single order, a very large number of parameters must be taken into consideration. These include parameters that are easily quantifiable, such as modifiers to each participant in a Face to Face roll, as well as parameters that are far more difficult to quantify, such as the impact of a given result on the state of the table and, by extension, the mission. Lots of newer players have communicated to me a similar experience, “I am beginning my turn, but I don’t know what to do!” The purpose of this article is to discuss a decision-making technique typically employed at the platoon or company level by military commanders during the planning phase of an operation, and how you can apply this technique to make better decisions in Infinity. 




METT-TC, a Decision-Making Tool


Commanders plan operations (usually at the platoon level) using a mnemonic called METT-TC, which stands for Mission, Enemy, Terrain & Weather, Troops & Support Available, Time Available, and Civilian Considerations. In this way, METT-TC comprises the operations-level factors that the commander has to take into account when planning a mission. If a particular factor has the potential to impact an operation negatively, the commander must account for it. METT-TC promotes systematically evaluating operational factors in order to formulate a way forward. In addition, it allows the commander to systematically determine where uncertainty lies in the operation – how good is our information on enemy forces? Is this operation part of a larger operation that requires highly flexible planning? Can we expect friendly forces to arrive to their designated points at the correct times? 

To help myself plan in Infinity games, I’ve adapted the METT-TC acronym to better fit the nuances of the game. In this context, the acronym stands for Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Turns & Orders, and Classifieds. Generally, I try to take these factors into account at a few key stages during the game – during army selection (Mission), before the game starts but after pairing up with an opponent and choosing a table (Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Classifieds), and at the beginning of every active turn (all of the above).

This article discusses how these factors impact your goals during deployment and the first turn of a game. 


Mission

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In terms of deployment and the early game, your goals are first indicated by mission. There are three types of missions in Infinity: Stand-In-The-Box, Push-The-Button, and Kill-The-Enemy. All of the ITS missions are some variation or combination of all of these. Your high level goals during the first turn are always going to be primarily impacted by Mission. For example, if the mission is to Stand-In-The-Box or Push-The-Button, I will try to balance removing enemy models (especially problem pieces) with obtaining and maintaining board control. To this end, I try to set up my lists to include orderless board control (infiltrators with mines or flamethrowers, repeater networks, perimeter weapons, and mid-long range ARO pieces; they’re orderless because I don’t have to maneuver them into position per se). If the goal is to kill the enemy, then that makes our job a lot easier in terms of Mission!


Enemy


Decisions related to your enemy are going to be largely related to your Troops Available. In the early game, there are a few different types of troops you need to consider. The first is specialists and support troops – these may take priority if they’re needed for the mission, or if they provide your enemy with added resilience (like an Engineer supporting a TAG, or a high WIP doctor – a Traumadoc probably isn’t worth a bullet since he’s probably going to do you a favor anyway!). The second is Roadblocks – this would include both infiltrators and long-range ARO threats. The third is Attackers – these are the guys your opponent will likely use to kill off your Troops. The final troop type is Cheerleaders – order providers.

You have a limited number of orders, and some of those are going to be dedicated to dealing with the Enemy, so where do you direct your fire? Removing a particular enemy Roadblock model becomes a priority (to me anyway) if you only have a small number of units that can safely remove it, and it’s threatening an area that you absolutely NEED to go. Examples include TR bots and link teams in overwatch positions (removed using Smoke+MSV2, Surprise Shot from camo, or short-range attack from an infiltrator), perimeter weapons (removed using cheap servant bot, warband, or holoecho), and layered defenses of camo markers (use sensor bots and DTWs). Once you’ve dealt with all of the really problematic pieces, you can prioritize between Specialists, Cheerleaders, and Attackers. How you prioritize these will depend on the other factors, but some things will garner special attention (like a Smart Missile System that can wreck your day if you don’t deal with it).


Terrain



If you have good visibility and the right tools to win long-range FTF rolls (everything is relative, of course, and there’s always a bigger fish), then it might be worth putting your resources into shutting down long sight lines. If the table is dense and/or you are outgunned at long range, then your orders are better spent on setting up midfield Roadblocks. Terrain is going to determine how you use the troops you have available. For example, a lot of cheap warbands (e.g., Monks and Ghazis) have smoke and good close-range ability, so the temptation is to run them up the board and wreck face. But, if a board is very open and you’re outgunned at range, it might be worth keeping that warband trooper alive as a support piece to throw smoke and move the ball up the field. Sometimes, Terrain will determine how you can achieve an objective – for example, in Rescue (everyone’s favorite mission), the whole middle of the table is difficult terrain, so models with Multiterrain will be your star players.


Troops


While we already covered Troops to some extent in regards to how they match up against particular Enemies, it’s worth mentioning that some Missions and Classifieds require preserving certain troop types. For example, the temptation may be strong to try to use your infiltrated Assault Hacker to possess an enemy TAG, but it might be prudent to hold off if he’s your only Hacker and he’s required for a Classified, or gets a bonus to push a button. Likewise, Stand-In-The-Box and Kill-The-Enemy missions sometimes require preserving things like Baggage bots. And, while nobody likes losing a Lieutenant, the consequences are more severe in Decapitation.


Turns / Orders



In military contexts, distance = time. The difference between a Large Open Danger Area and a Small Open Danger Area is, perhaps counterintuitively, not the size. Rather, the designation (and battle drill required to deal with it) is determined by how long it would take to cross it. In Infinity, you have a similar issue. Medium Infantry are pretty slow, and Bikes are very fast. Therefore, both the speed of your own units and the number of orders available are going to determine how you proceed. The number of orders determines how far a single trooper can move in a given turn. The number of turns remaining dictates how far a trooper can move over the rest of the game, minus attrition in your own order pool. So both the number of orders remaining, and the number of turns remaining, will allow you to gauge how much “time” you have to complete your mission, compressed by distance.


Classifieds



The impact of Classifieds ranges from pretty negligible (1 point) to huge, even in missions outside of Highly Classified. Despite being a Direct Action mission, 40% of the points up for grabs in Decapitation are Classifieds, so they bear some special consideration. Of the Classifieds in the game, only two don’t require any dice to be rolled (Sabotage and Secure HVT). A subset of Classifieds allow you to interact with models who can’t interact back (Extreme Prejudice, and all of the HVT-centered missions). Some of the Classifieds are relatively low risk (Data Scan and Telemetry can be achieved through walls by hackers). Finally, the classifieds that involve fixing your own stuff (Experimental Drug and Test Run) require one of your own models to be shot before you can achieve them. In the context of operations planning, this factor will determine whether Classifieds will be a priority, and to some extent dictate the flow of your models on the map. For example, if you have two HVT-centered Classifieds, then clearing a safe route to the HVT is key.


Putting it all Together (and why Camo is so disruptive in Infinity)


This isn’t intended to be a formula for success, but rather a tool for systematically decomposing priorities and potential sources of uncertainty in order to formulate a robust plan. You will be able to remove layers of uncertainty at various points in the game. The Mission will be available to you when you sign up for the tournament or agree on the mission. The Terrain will be available to you when you select the table. The Troops Available will be clear when you’re selecting your list, so on and so forth. The main wildcards are Classifieds and Enemy, and a good strategy will be robust to a wide range of variance in either of these areas.

OK, so you signed up for a tournament, wrote two lists, paired with an opponent, selected a table, and chose your classifieds. Now what? The last factor, Enemy, contains the most uncertainty. Does he have any AD Troops? Hidden Deployed troops? What exactly is that camo marker!? It’s pretty well understood that a skilled player who knows his opponent’s faction can look at a courtesy list and figure out how many “missing points” are on the table, to try to reduce this uncertainty. If the opponent is Yu Jing and there are 68 points and 2 SWC missing from his list, odds are there’s a Hac Tao HMG out there waiting for you. Enter: Camo. Camo is highly disruptive to decision-making because it not only forces you to infer what’s on the table, it forces you to infer what’s not on the table, especially if you take the first turn. Camo makes pricing the “holes” in a list particularly challenging. Lots of camo makes determining list composition even more challenging, because it’s possible to hide entire models off the table. When you see two camo tokens midfield, you have no idea if it’s Uxia + a Chasseur / Scot’s Guard / SAS, or if it’s a 12-point Hardcase covering a Van Zant-sized hole in the list.



Hopefully you found the METT-TC mnemonic helpful in your own games of Infinity!

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