Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Infinity Tactics - Presence

Today I'd like to talk to you about Presence.

No, this isn't some new-fangled special rule, but rather a concept. It's something that I've heard talked about a number of times using different ways to refer to it, but it was always a slightly nebulous thing and poorly defined. So let me try and pin down what I mean by it.

Here are some definitions of presence (thanks Google) to get us going:
  • "The state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing." 
  • "A group of people, especially soldiers or police, stationed in a particular place." 
  • "The impressive manner or appearance of a person." 

So a group of solider stationed in a particular place in an impressive manner, which sounds close to what I'm getting at. These soldiers aren't cowering around in total cover; instead they are actively making their existence felt. In Infinity we can take Presence (with a big P) to mean:

The influence of an army on the battlefield and the pressure it places on opposing forces.

Now, what can we do to get more Presence and why would we want to?

What exactly is Presence?

Have you ever been in a position where you've needed to kill a sniper, break up Suppressive Fire or throw down Smoke before you can achieve your in-game goals? That is Presence in effect.

Presence is forcing your opponent to deal with your troops before they can progress with their own plans. It's threatening them with bad trades or inefficient firefights and otherwise hampering or wasting their orders. It can also be forcing conservative play due to fear of reprisal.

Some quick examples of exerting Presence against an opponent are forcing them to:
  • Kill cheap, disposable ARO troops (such as Warcors or Bounty Hunter Snipers). 
  • Throw down Smoke to cover movement and objective grabbing. 
  • Play around templates/mines. 
  • Use Cautious Movement. 
  • Make Discover checks (particularly against Mines and Ambush Camo!).
  • Re-position significantly to bring up relevant troops or avoid powerful AROs.
  • Avoid certain areas of the battlefield. 

Presence is all about forcing difficult decisions and inconveniences on your opponent, ideally with as little risk to your own forces as possible. You want your opponent to waste as many orders as possible doing things other than completing their objectives and the best way of doing that is by putting your troops in the way.

This article could probably have just been called "Tactics: How to Get in the Way"...

Applying Presence

So how and when do you apply Presence over the course of the game? The important part about Presence is that you have to put your troops 'out there' and to some extent they have to be vulnerable.

Presence before Turn 1

If your opponent is taking the first turn then this is when establishing Presence safely can be the most difficult. How do you deploy in such a way that you won't take too many losses, but you don't just let your opponent run away with the game?

The obvious answer is just to set your troops up in partial cover in order to fire off some AROs. Ideally they should be overlooking approaches to your DZ, objectives or shorter ranged enemy forces. Of course merely firing at Burst 1 with your weaker units is a good recipe for getting your troops killed, so what can you do to improve the odds?

Total Reaction & Neurocinetics. Okay, let's start easy. Just put these troops in cover and in such a place that they won't be out-ranged (typically by Snipers), or easily picked off by Smoke/MSV2 and wait. Ideally place an Engineer/Doctor Servant Remote nearby to pick them up after they are inevitably wounded.

Snipers. Snipers outrange everything apart from other Snipers. Lock down long firelanes using one or more! Cover short approaches to your snipers with other troops.

Deployment Skills. (Inferior) Infiltration, Mechanised Deployment, Impersonation and Forward Deployment are all examples of this kind of skill. Get up in your opponent's face (metaphorically) and force them to deal with you. Ideally you should be placed in such a way that the opponent must go out of their way to attack but so that you can still cover important objectives or table areas.

Bonus points for having Direct Template Weapons and Camouflage!

Camouflage. This is the main Presence skill. Put camouflage markers everywhere you can but don't make them too easy to Discover right off the bat. Stick to cover, force your opponent to pull troops out of position if they fail a check, or to make one in the first place, and feign Mines and Snipers. If you are the gambling type then hold AROs where practical as a couple of failed Discover rolls can flush your opponent's plans down the drain.

Camouflage is honestly amazing for its cost. A camouflaged unit will almost always take multiple orders to deal with and even just a regular Rifle wielder is a respectable threat due to being able to stack to-hit MODs. You almost can't have too much camouflage!

Minelayer/Ambush Camouflage. Absolutely disgusting. Use Ambush Camouflage as part of spammy lists to fake Snipers, Mines or anything else that seems inconvenient for your opponent. Put Mines behind low cover so they can't be shot at immediately after being Discovered but will still prevent your opponent from running past that cover later.

Hacking Devices. With a good network of Hackers and Repeaters you can cut access to significant areas of the battlefield for all HI/REMs/TAGs/Hackers. Even Stealthy targets don't want to end up anywhere near a Hacker when your turn rolls around and so may linger far from your own forces!

Fireteams. Fireteams are a good way of increasing your Burst and BS values which can make them tricky to fight against. A well placed sniper or two on long firelanes or Combi Rifles on shorter ones can dissuade many attacks.

Presence After Turn 1

Once you've had a turn to prepare, things should be slightly easier. Everything above still applies but now you can also make use of:

Suppressive Fire. This is the biggie. You can coordinate four units (of the same training and in the same combat group) into Suppressive Fire for the low cost of a single regular order and this can make things very difficult for your opponent. Troops with Camo/Mimetism will be stacking -9 MODs before range while retaining Burst 3 of their own and Suppressing (Combi) Rifles on the flanks are great at dissuading AD troops.

Direct Template Weapons. Typically found on cheap warbands they may take a turn or so to get into the middle of the table, but once there they can be hard to shift. Ghazi are possibly the most terrifying option here.

Players never want to throw expensive troops against cheap DTW users as it rarely results in an equitable trade - especially when Flamethrowers are involved!

Mines. You now have the opportunity to deploy Mines to cut off movement or threaten bunched up troops. Each of them will take at least an order to remove and if you position them well then the opponent has to deal with them. Don't forget that you can drop Mines as part of a Coordinated Order.

Fake It Until You Make It

In a pinch you can also fake Presence in your list. Many pieces of equipment allow you to hide what is really in your army until you choose to reveal or deploy the relevant troops. Having an empty spot or two in your combat group can give your opponent pause for thought.
  • Can they risk over extending and potentially getting flanked? Could your missing troop land on a board edge and roll up their forces?
  • Can they risk stepping out of cover in a seemingly 'safe' place? Once you've played a couple of games with a TO Camouflaged Missile Launcher your opponents will think twice about every move.

Holoprojectors and Camouflage markers can all increase the uncertainty too.
  • Can they run their TAG/HI link past that suspicious camouflage marker in the middle of the table? Sure it's probably not a Hacker, but what if?
  • Can they largely ignore that Ghulam sitting at the back of the battlefield, or is it actually a Hafza with Heavy Rocket Launcher? Heck, what isn't a Hafza with a Rocket Launcher?
  • Is that Dakini actually Patroclus in disguise and is Achilles just Switch being sneaky?

Hidden information is great for forcing your opponents to make difficult decisions. The more such decisions there are the more mistakes they can make. Or they can play overly cautiously and waste orders. Both good for you!

Feel free to ham up the possible presence of these troops with sharp intakes of breath as your opponent makes certain moves in order to really ramp up the paranoia...

Why is Presence Good?

Having Presence gives a lot of benefits over the course of the game. It can help you to:

Protect Objectives on the first turn.
You won't always win the initiative roll and it's important that your opponent can't just abscond with all the mission's objectives if they have the first turn. This is especially true for scenarios like Supplies and Nimbus Zone where the objectives can be carried off or only completed by one player.

Having Presence (along with spending a Command Token to reduce their order pool) is a good way of limiting how much your opponent can get done on that crucial first turn.

Block off areas of the battlefield.
Presence is one of the ways in which you can prevent an opponent from moving to where he needs to be (another way is making him afraid of reprisal on your turn).

By making sections of the battlefield into 'no-go' zones you can prevent your opponent from easily completing objectives in scenarios such as Transmission Matrix, Supremacy and Antenna Field. You can also use this to stop an opponent from getting close to the more vulnerable (and valuable) troops hiding in your Deployment Zone.

Drain resources from opponent.
Troops and Markers that are applying Presence typically must be dealt with before the opponent can progress. Two or three well placed troops, combined with a Command Token, can keep a 10-order list tied up for most of a first turn.

Force Cancellation of Impetuous Orders.
Is your opponent willing to just throw troops into the grinder that is your Snipers and Total Reaction Remotes? No? Great! If you get to negate the upside of their Impetuous troops, or better yet kill or force the spending of Regular Orders on Extremely Impetuous troops then you are going to be in a good place.

Deal damage in ARO.
You probably won't do much in ARO if you aren't putting your models in positions where they can shoot. Knowing when to put them out there and when to hold back is an important skill, but suffice to say that AROs with disposable troops, beneficial range bands, stacking modifiers and high Burst are always the best ways of ensuring good AROs.

Engage quickly and efficiently.
This is more of a side-effect really. Troops that provide Presence typically have long range weapons or a deployment skill of some kind. Both of these things allow you to get straight into the fight on your own turn.

Why is Presence Bad?

Of course nothing is good all the time and there is always going to be a downside. Having Presence also typically means that:

Opponents can engage more quickly.
If you are putting your troops in positions where they can ARO or are using deployment skills to start up the board then it stands to reason that your opponent will be able to shoot at them. This can have the downside of making your army more vulnerable and giving your opponent things to do in the first turn.

This can especially go wrong if you are relying heavily on camouflage and your opponent cleans up using an MSV2/3 trooper, if your long ranged ARO elements are picked off by superior quality enemy forces or if your MSV troops go toe-to-toe with Albedo users.

Don't risk AROs when you can't afford to lose the troop in question. Assume that anything shy of a HI in cover will be killed by your opponent if left out to make AROs and plan accordingly. Later in the game, once the amount of dangerous threats and orders is lower, you can be braver with who you leave out to shoot.

Your army is more spread out.
This can leave you with a potential weakness to Impersonators and Airborne Deployment arriving in back lines, but you also gain some resilience against template weapons. When moving lots of troops up the table be careful with your facing to ensure you aren't easily flanked.

Relevant abilities generally cost extra points and aren't available to Specialists.
Those Snipers, Chain Rifle warbands, Minelayers and Total Reaction Remotes aren't likely to be claiming many Objectives any time soon and you may not want to be revealing your Camouflaged, Skirmisher Specialists to enemy fire if you can avoid it.

Having lots of these kinds of units can make list creation trickier, but the upside is that your opponent has to fight through a lot of annoying stuff before he or she can make it to your squishy Objective-grabbers.

Beating Presence

Of course your opponent will be reading this article too (hopefully) so make sure you have the right tools for the job to efficiently overcome common sources of Presence. Some examples are:
  • Camouflage/Infiltration or Smoke/MSV2+ to defeat Total Reaction Remotes.
  • Eclipse and Smoke to move through Firelanes.
  • MSV2+ and Sensors to make Discover checks.
  • Albedo/White Noise to overcome MSV2+.
  • Snipers to perform counter-sniper duties.
  • Grenades/DTWs to deal with entrenched or bunched up foes.

Generally, well rounded lists with a good mix of skills, equipment and weapons will be fine. Versatility in your troops can be key for dealing with the wide variety of threats you'll be facing.

Examples of Presence (or not)

First up is an army that has very little Presence, in this case my Steel Phalanx list from the last Interplanetary tournament.

Steel Phalanx - Myrmidon Super-Friends | 10 models

Combat Group #1
Machaon Lt (38|0.5)
Phoenix (40|2)
Eudaros (40|2)
Myrmidon Officer BS CC (35|1)
Myrmidon Hacker (31|0.5)
Myrmidon Combi (25|0)
Myrmidon Chain (16|0)
Myrmidon Chain (16|0)
Agema MULTI Sniper (30|1.5)
Agema Mk 12 (29|0.5)
300/300 points | 6/6 swc
open with Army VI

As you can see it has very little ranged ARO ability with only an Agema (MSV2 Sniper) to discourage people at a distance and it has no deployment skills. Phoenix and Eudaros could in theory be left in a position to ARO at a distance but they are likely too valuable to risk so frivolously.

The list is designed to turtle up (effectively hide away and carefully control where AROs take place) and then counter attack. It isn't very good at stopping an opponent from taking objectives early, especially on the first turn, but equally doesn't take many casualties and so tends to preserve its order count into the late game.

Overall it's designed to have a very low amount of Presence early on but to deal with sources of Presence that my opponent might have efficiently using gratuitous amounts of Smoke, MSV2 and ODD. It forces the opponent to come to it and once it has dealt with key threats the links can move up the table to make their Presence felt.

In contrast, here is an Aleph list that is an update of when I cooked up a while back called Totally Reactive that plays heavily on the ideas expressed in this article.

Aleph - Totally Reactive v2 | 16 models

Combat Group #1
Asura Lt Hacking Device Plus (72|0.5)
Naga Forward Observer (28|0)
Naga Minelayer (27|0.5)
Proxy Mk1 Engineer (10|0)
Yudbot (3|0)
Proxy Mk5 Forward Observer (10|0)
Dakini HMG (21|1)
Dakini MULTI Sniper (21|1.5)
Zayin (26|1)
Thorakitai Forward Observer (13|0)
Thorakitai Forward Observer (13|0)
Netrod (4|0)

Combat Group #1
Zayin (26|1)
Bounty Hunter Sniper Rifle (19|0.5)
Warcor Aerocam (3|0)
Netrod (4|0)
300/300 points | 6/6 swc
open with Army VI

The list presents an opponent with two Total Reaction remotes, two Snipers and a Warcor to deal with before they even start substantially hindering the list. The flanks are guarded by the incomparable Thorakitai Forward Observers. They also have three camo markers to fight through (any of which could be a Hacker) and can't leave their own MSV users out for reactive shots due to the threat of White Noise. It's designed to hinder the opponent wherever possible, forcing them to stay back whilst my specialists go to work.

Another list which is high in Presence is one that i0003 took to the Interplanetary a couple of years ago where he placed third.

Once again it is clear that it is designed to inconvenience the opponent at every opportunity!
It has two Impersonators deployed into the opponent's half of the table and has a Mechanised Deployment Halqa and TO Camouflage/Infiltrating Taureg to shore up the middle of the battlefield. Within his deployment zone are several units set up for AROs, including 3 Snipers and possible even a Sekban with Heavy Rocket Launcher. To top it off, there are two Panzerfaust Daylami with Limited Camo/Inferior Infiltration just to clog things up even more.

Fighting through all that is risky and time consuming, but actually killing these troops doesn't much affect the list's ability to complete objectives. The specialists can then advance under the cover of all these disruptive elements.

Conclusion and Further Reading

Presence is just one more thing to consider when designing your lists as it can defines how they interacts with the opponent and what the flow of their games will be like. Have a think about what elements of your army you are willing to 'put out there' and potentially sacrifice and what you can afford to lose.

Consider also whether the missions you are playing require Presence at all! Very 'fighty' missions such as Annihilation, decapitation and Firefight might benefit from having very little and just hanging back, whereas Supplies and Supremacy may need a lot more.

I recommend reading through the previous two articles in this 'series' if you haven't done so already, especially the parts about Blockers, Snipers and Pawns as well as my original strategy article - How to Win Games and Influence Outcomes.


  1. Great article thanks! Every time I read one of your post I have to scuttle away and change my army lists!!

    1. Thank you, I always enjoy trying to break down and really analyse bits of the game! There's just too much to write about though.

  2. Great write up, and not afraid of depth :-)
    What's a Ghazi?

    1. Ghazi Muttaw'iah are a cheap, Impetuous/Irregular troop armed with lots of area denial weapons - Chain Rifles, E/Marats and the devastating Jammers!

    2. Only available to Haqqislam and Hassasin Bharam.