Friday 29 April 2016

Play the Game - A Case for Intent

This topic has long been a bone of contention in the Infinity community and has had people split down the middle with a lot of passion on both sides. It's a heated issue that I've been loath to get involved with until now.

I've been made aware of an article which aggressively refutes the suggestion that intent is a legal (in rules terms) way of playing the game and there was a significant conversation in the UK Infinity communities about it too.

These two things combined have spurred me to throw my hat into the ring and write about the topic as well. My strong belief is that 'intent' is in fact the correct way to play the game and that it is fully supported by the rules.

In this article I'll be trying to clarify my definition of 'intent', my understanding of the rules and will be making some suggestions on how intent-based game-play can work without falling into common pitfalls.

Woo, more USAriadna ready for battle! I intend (ha!) to get a lot of games in with these guys!

What is Intent?

First it is important to explain what we do and don't mean when talking about intent.

Intent is a way of short-cutting the process of checking Lines of Fire (LoF) for an order by collaborating with your opponent to achieve a desired outcome. The aim of the method is solely to speed up perfectly legitimate game processes.

The opposite of playing with intent is simply declaring orders without consulting your opponent first. While this is a valid way of playing it is unnecessarily reckless, although some players may enjoy the added excitement! People who claim that this is the proper way to play are welcome to do so, but this assertion is not enforced by the rules.

Intent is not fudging LoF, taking back activations/declarations or pre-measuring. None of these things are 'intent', they are just sloppy play at best and cheating at worst.

Rules for Intent

Intent is supported by the rules with the below quote from the main rulebook:

p61 - "Checking all possible Lines of Fire for all figures and Markers on the table can be cumbersome. It is perfectly acceptable for a player to ask their opponent whether existing Lines of Fire could disrupt the declaration of a given Order before declaring it. Players are expected to share this Open Information in a truthful and sportsmanlike manner. Honesty and fair play are conducive to a better gaming atmosphere, and all players benefit from that."

Players can request confirmation of any Lines of Fire between any models, markers and potential movement paths at any time and their opponents are obliged to answer honestly. This can be done before or during an Order. Note that this is not restricted to individual models or markers so it is reasonable to ask something such as "if I move here then who can see me?"

It could be suggested that the above quote only allows players to ask for LoF confirmation for a specific model or marker at a time, rather than every model in the opponents army. However, as they could simply ask for this info from every model in turn I think it is safe to assume that having a short-cut in place is beneficial for everyone concerned. The quote also specifically mentions "... all figures and Markers on the table..." which supports this assumption.

Some players may also think that this unfairly eliminates 'surprise' AROs from known models and markers, but given that their presence and Lines of Fire are Open Information anyway there isn't really an argument for this. Counting on your opponent forgetting about one of your models isn't, and shouldn't be touted as, a valuable game-play mechanic.

Note that "existing Lines of Fire" would not include any trooper in Hidden Deployment as that is considered to be Private Information. You would also not need to disclose Line of Fire with a Camouflaged MSV2 user who would otherwise be obstructed by Smoke for the same reason.

Intent, as is occasionally proposed, does not let you create infinitely narrow lines of fire (slicing the pie) because eventually you'll actually have to place your model and take what comes. If you cannot physically place your model in a way that satisfies your intention then you must accept that it is the case. To quote Bostria "If you see that there is no Line of Sight ... then, it's true".

It also does not let you take back moves, change facing, or change skills/AROs after they have been declared and/or measured.

How to Play Intent

One problem is that many players do their LoF checking during the Activation or Declaration stages of order expenditure during which there is no backtracking permitted. Even worse they sometimes move the model, get surprised by an ARO and then panic! This is where players can come perilously close to breaking the rules via take-backs.

The easiest way to avoid these problem scenarios is to do the following before activating a model:
  1. Describe the intended route and destination of the model as well as any Lines of Fire you wish to have/avoid and cover you wish to claim.
  2. Check with your opponent to see if they agree that your intentions are valid, that they meet your expectations in practice and that there are no Lines of Fire that you have failed to notice.
  3. (Optional) Readjust your description/destination if necessary then go back to Step 2.

It is this refinement process that allows troopers to peek round corners and effectively pick off individual reactive models. This is colloquially known as 'pie-ing' or 'slicing-the-pie'.

This may sound like an onerous process, but in reality it mostly comes down to something like this:
  1. Active Player: "If I move here, only this guy can see me, right?"
  2. Reactive Player: "Yeah, that's fine." or ""Actually, this marker can too".
  3. (Optional) Active Player: "Okay, how about if I move like this instead?"

You shouldn't physically move your troopers at this stage as they have not yet been activated, so feel free to make liberal use of silhouettes in order to check the route and to mark the intended destination point instead. Remember that you have no obligation to activate a trooper just because you checked Lines of Fire with it.

If you wish to speed up this process then you can work with your opponent to suggest optimal or possible routes and destinations for each-others movements instead of going back-and-forth through Steps 2 and 3.

Of course these suggestions are only really for playing with those you don't know. With a regular opponent you may wish to short-cut this further by actively helping/suggesting Lines of Fire, but that is purely up to your own group. This isn't a condemnation of 'take-backs' either - in a casual game it can be worthwhile taking back an obviously foolish move for the sake of a better game and experience.

I hope this article has at least cleared up some of the confusion and misinformation regarding the 'intent' way of playing and that it can help players make proper use of the game rules. These are of course all just the ramblings of one person, so feel free to leave comments if you disagree with my reasoning or suggestions.

Happy gaming. :)


  1. I like your models, great alternate take on things.

    1. Thanks Mike, I appreciate the comment. :)

  2. My gaming group discussed this last week after we all read the lonelyartichoke article. We came to a pretty much the same conclusion as you, refining our definition of intent along the same lines.

    1. I'm definitely glad that it seems to be a more commonly accepted view these days. I just couldn't help myself but reply to that article!

  3. I've never played infinity but that's the way we've always played small arms combat. The model is just a place marker for what's really happening and the easiest way to avoid dispute is to declare what the placing of a model is supposed to signify.

  4. I have only just started to play Infinity, and this is what i was taught, always declaire your intent.

    I think the rules support this quite clearly, and it also supports the spirit of the game.

  5. I'm pretty new to the game, so I don't have a dog in this fight. I think the disagreement centres around what happens if the defender disagrees with your intent. At that point the only thing that would matter is models on the tile, right?
    Another interesting idea is what about the intent of the defender? If they intend to have the defenders work together, then which intent would be correct? It seems to me that it's another case of disagreement, so you need to move the miniatures.
    If both players agree on the outcome, then playing by intent is fine. It seems quicker, and helps to keep things moving. The problems seem to arise when there is disagreement. I think that is the side that play it as it lies folks have trouble with.

    I have played my handful of games so far with playing the results. I just find it more realistic, and avoiding disagreements. In real life you wouldn't have the back and forth with an opponent, (can you see me now? Good. Can you see me now? ...) I just don't see the place for that kind of gaming for me at this time. Maybe at a different level that would change, but I was introduced to minis a long time ago by the principle that the table is the truth, and we have to measure, look and interpret it. That said, I can see how intent is popular.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts Brandon and welcome to Infinity. :)

      Don't forget that 'Intent' (at least as I'm defining it) is actually just the process of short-cutting the Line of Fire checking process and that this should be done before any models are moved. It is not about ignoring/fudging the actual placement of models at the end of their movement, during deployment etc.

      As I wrote, once models have been placed then what is done is done and you have to accept the results. This is why Intent doesn't apply to Defenders really as they tend not to move around much (except Dodge/Engage) and don't have to worry about taking AROs. There should never be any 'Intent vs Intent' issues.

      If two players really can't come to an agreement regarding LoF then I'd recommend rolling off for it or asking for a neutral third-party to check the proposed movement path.

      I think that the system I described actually suits Infinity quite well. This is a setting where you have all-pervasive surveillance and you already know the location of all enemy troops - unless they are specifically camouflaged - so carefully plotting your movement to avoid fire doesn't seem like much of a stretch to me. One could argue that knowing the position of enemy troops that you don't have actually have sight of isn't possible in real life either, but I think kriegspiel-style games of Infinity might get a bit complicated! :)