Monday, 20 April 2015

Infinity - Primary Unit Roles

List building in Infinity is hard. The mantra of "it's not your list, it's you" has gone up in smoke and, given the new 2015 scenarios, it's unlikely to make a comeback. For ITS (Infinity Tournament System) events especially, list building is an important part of playing the game.

A solid list won't win the game by itself, but it helps to have a solid foundation to build on.

The good internal balance of Infinity and lack of combo-based gameplay means that it's hard to just make an army by discounting 'underpowered' units, spamming the best thing or building around obvious/deliberate combinations of profiles. There aren't really any archetypal lists for most factions and the idea of net-listing hasn't made its way into the game yet.

On the forums we've seen a lot of new players who are confused about what makes a cohesive force and tend to make (understandable) mistakes when shaping their armies. So I'm planning for this to be the first of a three part series, aimed at newer players, about list building for competitive games of Infinity.

The inspiration for these articles came from these posts on CritsKillPeople - so go have a read about Unit Roles & Misunderstood Roles.

You can find part two of the guide here.

Please enjoy some pics of new releases from Corvus Belli. Nazarova Twins: Don't the old mono-bikes seem so quaint now?

I'd like to start by defining the primary roles that units can be categorised as. Understanding these roles is important when choosing army composition, and the five described below are those that I'll typically try and fit into every list I build regardless of faction and mission.

We can use this idea of roles as a framework for creating functional, balanced lists even with a faction we are unfamiliar with. Of course in some cases creating a well balanced army is not the goal - but it helps to know the rules before you break them!

These aren't hard and fast rules and many units can fit into multiple roles or may not appear to fit any - but this is good place to start. All examples are assuming a 300 point army built for ITS missions.


Example Units: Auxilia, Kuang Shi, Volunteer, Naffatun, Alguacil, Ikadron, Thorakitai, Makaul

What are they?
Some people would refer to these troops as 'cheerleaders' but I believe there is no such thing (AI Beacons aside).

Due to the nature of the game every trooper that has skills or equipment can be useful under the right circumstances and every model that isn't actively being used is, at least temporarily, a 'cheerleader'. I prefer the term Guard as it better describes the way these models act on the battlefield.

Guards are often the cheapest Regular units in the army at around 12 points or less. In most armies they are armed with a rifle of some kind, although access to Shotguns, Chain Rifles and Flamethrowers is not uncommon.

Note that if a model is Irregular then it is probably not a Guard.

What do they do?
Their job is to protect your deployment zone and nearby objectives against Close Assaults while providing orders for the rest of your army.

Often they are placed to cover firelanes which are less than 16" long as they tend to be armed with short ranged (and cheap!) weapons, so are easy to pick off at a distance. They are often deployed at the edges of the table to defend against Airborne Deployment troops arriving on the flanks, or overlooking other routes that you would expect opposing troops to advance through. Don't be afraid to have them facing backwards for the purpose of harassing Impersonators/AD troops appearing in your deployment zone.

Guards benefit greatly from being put in Suppressive Fire en masse in the first turn using a Coordinated Order as they can often maintain that state for the duration of the game.

How many should I have?
This is a hard one to answer as it can vary so much from faction to faction. I would say around two to four Guards is typical, but this can be more if they are used to fill up Fireteams, are also Specialists or are being used to bulk out multiple combat groups.

What happens if I don't have any?
The worst case scenario is that you have built an army that simply doesn't have enough orders. You are probably going to have a hard time as you won't get enough done each turn and will be overrun by a more mobile opponent.

Alternatively it may be because your army consists almost entirely of mid-priced models. This can work just fine but be prepared to have fairly expensive models sitting in your deployment zone not doing anything. One of the strengths of Guards is that they do their jobs cheaply and simply by standing in place and holding a gun.

Close Assault

Example Units: Guarda de Assalto, Aragoto Senkenbutai, Wulver, Ragik, Prowler, Malignos, Asura, Gao-Tarsos

Assault troops are divided into two categories based on whether they are intended to be used up close (within 24") or from a distance (over 16"). In N2 these categories were less distinct as HMGs were the perfect weapon for all situations, however the changes to range bands has necessitated a differentiation between the roles.

What are they?
Close Assault troops are armed with a Spitfire, Ojotnik, a specialised Rifle (AP, Viral, T2 etc.) or other short ranged (<=24") gun. They also have some additional defensive capability such as multiple wounds, NWI or camouflage/optical disruption which allows them to push the odds in their favour. They typically move 4-4 or faster as they will often have to double move in order to reach a good firing position.

If they don't have both a decent gun (better than just a rifle/shotgun) and a defensive skill then they probably aren't a Primary Close Assault but a Secondary one instead - check out part two for more info.

Infiltrators or Advanced Deployment troops are also are considered beneficial traits for a Close Assault as they get helped out by starting a lot closer to the enemy!

Expect to pay 30 points or more for a good Assault of any type.

What do they do?
Inevitably the time will come when you need to clear an enemy off an objective, out of a building or from their own deployment zone. For that you want Close Assaults who can reliably kill enemy troops up close. They will also be needed to efficiently deal with troops that are 'under the guns' of your Ranged Assaults.

Close Assaults often make good use of Suppressive Fire as an additional defensive measure at the end of a turn in which they would be vulnerable to counter-attack.

How many should I have?
You'll want to have two or three so that you can influence a good portion of the table with them. Due to their 'in your face' nature Close Assaults tend to get killed off with fair regularity and you want to be able to absorb these losses. Don't forget that you can supplement this with cheaper Secondary Assaults.

What happens if I don't have any?
You'll have a lot of trouble clearing out heavily armoured targets in the mid-field. You may also find it difficult to take and hold table areas or to brute force your way past units in Suppressive Fire.

Without any Close Assaults you also are unlikely to be able to attack your opponent's order pool by hunting their Guards and Specialists.

Tankhunters: For when you want to ruin someone's day from the far side of the battlefield

Ranged Assault

Example Units: Cutter, Yan Huo, TankHunter, Djanbazan, Intruder, Maakrep, Phoenix, Gao-Rael 

What are they?
Ranged Assaults are almost exclusively armed with Heavy Machine Guns due to their high burst. Heavy Rocket Launchers, Missile Launchers, Snipers and Feuerbachs are less popular due to their lower burst value, but become more valid if the Ranged Assault is linked.

These troops are typically good shots, might have MultiSpectral Visors and may be slower moving then their Close Assault equivalents. Defensive skills are nice to have, but not necessary as Ranged Assaults are better at picking their fights.

TAGs are the archetypal Ranged Assault unit and many HI and MI fall into this category also.

What do they do?
These troops tend to stalk around on your half of the table, pick fights at favourable ranges then retreat back into total cover. Sometimes they are placed at the ends of long firelanes where they can also be a legitimate ARO threat - although this more the realm of dedicated Snipers.

They are generally required to counter other Ranged Assaults and to clear a path so your Close Assaults and Specialists can advance. Due to their range they can sometimes be used to punish opponents who have placed models outside of total cover in the first turn of the game.

How many should I have?
Two is probably the ideal number. Ranged Assaults tend to be expensive in terms of SWC so taking more can start to hamper the rest of your army. They are generally further from the action than Close Assaults and so are somewhat less prone to being killed off anyway.

Armies built around lots of Blockers/Ranged Assaults - particularly some Ariadna builds - can use more and be very effective.

What happens if I don't have any?
You are likely to find yourself pinned down in your own deployment zone and may find it difficult to break out. You may end up wasting a lot of orders on moving cautiously out of the way of opposing Ranged Assaults or on protracted firefights at bad ranges.


Example Units: Sierra Dronbot, Raiden Seibutai, Chasseur, Fiday, Sin Eater, Q-Drone, Naga, Kotail, Warcor

What are they?
Blockers are generally defensive units and are designed to make your opponent's life difficult. Camouflage is the archetypal Blocker skill as it efficiently drains your opponent of orders, affects their decision making and can be used to bluff threats.

What do they do?
Blockers are often used to 'block' sections of the table off, effectively restricting movement in those areas. In some cases they can be used to make crossing those areas too dangerous or expensive to bother with at all.

The effect of Blockers increases almost exponentially as you have more of them. A single Total Reaction Remote can be countered by a Sniper, and a single infiltrated Camouflage trooper can be singled out due to its advanced position. However once you have multiples you can force your opponent to make a lot of difficult decisions about deployment and movement.

Note that the Fiday is on here, despite being an Impersonator and seeming more like a Close Assault. This is because it fits the criteria of taking multiple orders to deal with, causing great difficulty to an opponent and forcing changes of plans. However, he certainly can be used as a slightly under-gunned Close Assault if you like.

How many should I have?
Anywhere from zero to four (or more). Some armies, such as Ariadna and Shasvastii can have all their models Camouflaged - in which case almost everyone is a Blocker!

Blockers with Total Reaction or Neurocinetics, (or a Warcor) are often a good purchase as the 11th model in a list as they can go into a combat group of their own and remain effective. This can be a good way of adding to a list without fully committing to two combat groups.

What happens if I don't have any?
You'll be pretty much fully conceding board control to your opponent, especially if playing second. You will find it difficult to protect objectives early in the game and will be open to being rushed by Close Assaults.

Some armies - such as Steel Phalanx - don't have access to many Blockers and have to make up for it in other ways, such as using overwhelmingly superior Close Assaults to recapture objectives that can't be contested on turn 1.


What are they?
Specialists are troops that have the particular skills required to complete a mission. These skills may vary but are generally considered to be: Chain of Command, Doctor, Engineer, Forward Observer, Hacker, Paramedic and Specialist.

In many cases these models can (and should) also match one of the other roles. For instance a Scout Forward Observer would be a Blocker and a Janissary Doctor would be a Close Assault.

What do they do?
Simply put, they are used to complete objectives in the missions.

Specialists are normally quite affordable but often carry just basic weaponry. Do try and take specialists that you can make good use of outside of the mission itself and don't be afraid to support them properly. Examples include taking sources of Reapers for Hackers, Servant Remotes for Doctors/Engineers and Smart Missiles for Forward Observers.

The cheapest specialists are often only a point or two more than the basic troop profiles for that unit, so often the opportunity cost of upgrading is very low unless you are extremely tight on points.

How many should I have?
Four to five is typical, but the exact quantity will depend on their resilience and speed. You want to have enough to be able to sustain a couple of casualties and still be able to get a specialist where needed quickly. If you have three or fewer specialists then you may need to revise the list.

Try and avoid taking standard rifle armed line troops (such as Keisotsu or Morat Vanguards) when you could upgrade them to a Forward Observer for one extra point or a Paramedic for two.

You'll probably want at least three different specialists in order to have the greatest chance of being able to complete the randomly assigned Classified Objectives.

What happens if I don't have any?
You'll probably fail the mission and be sad. :(

Alguaciles SWC Pack: Wearing down my will to not collect Nomads...

Putting It All Together

So a typical army might have four Guards, two Close Assault, two Ranged Assault and two Blockers - four or five of which are also Specialists. Here is a sample Nomad list as an illustration of these principles.

 Nomads | 10 models

 Iguana (71|2)
 Intruder HMG (42|1.5)

These two serve as our Ranged Assaults. They are protected by their Armour and Structure or their Camouflage, carry standard-issue-big-guns and give us a mix of mobility and anti-camo.

 Mobile Brigada MULTI (39|0)

We have one dedicated Close Assault. The Mobile Brigada is pretty tough and carries the versatile MULTI Rifle. He can be pretty hard to dislodge when in suppressive fire too.

 Tomcat Engineer+zond (26|0)
 Spektr Observer (32|0)

We've also got two 'secondary' Close Assaults (check out part two in the series for more info) to make up for the fact that they are each a bit under-gunned. Each of our Assaults bring something different to the table - Resilience, Airborne Deployment or TO Camouflage - which means that we have a decent amount of flexibility.

As these models tend to be in the thick of the fighting and are likely to be near objectives already we've set them up as Specialists. We've also purchased a Zondcat so that the Tomcat can be used to repair the Iguana if it gets damaged. This could be nasty surprise!

 Zero Hacker (24|0.5)
 Zero Minelayer (19|0.5)

Two Zeroes act as our Blockers. Three camouflage markers will tend to dissuade opponents from being too aggressive and the Hacker can disable hard targets that try to rush you.

 Interventor Lieutenant (25|0.5)

We have one outright dedicated specialist. Unfortunately there weren't enough points for a Fast Panda but the Interventor has good synergy with the Repeaters in the list. She's also capable of making good use of the Lieutenants Order and is still fully functional when hidden away somewhere safe.

 Alguacil Observer (12|0)
 Alguacil Combi (10|0)

Lastly we have only two Guards, of which one is a specialist and the other acts as a fake Lieutenant.
300/300 points | 5/6 swc
Open with ARMY 5 : direct link

The army is well rounded and can attack competently at most ranges. It does lack a model that is effective past 32" but having four with deployment skills does reduce this problem somewhat.

There is a decent amount of redundancy in the units without having too much waste and there are adequate specialists to complete most missions. The Close Assaults are slightly lacking in punch and we have limited Guards, but this is made up for by having a couple of Flamethrowers to protect our key units.

It may not be perfectly tuned, but it should perform reasonably well in most scenarios.

I hope this had been an interesting read so far - please do give me feedback if this has been helpful or if something doesn't seem right (especially from seasoned Nomad players). The next article in the series will be about the various secondary roles that units can fill.


  1. Nicely written and really useful as a newbie. Cheers.

    1. Thank you for the comment, I'm glad you've found it helpful. :)

  2. I'm getting back into Infinity after a while away and this is really helpful, Peter. I actually stopped gaming before the Paradiso campaign so with N3 now there is so much to learn.

    Great job!

  3. Thank you for taking the time to write this up. I followed the link from part 3 to start here.