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Infinity Musings – Guest Post!

Bad Dad Gaming’s first ever guest post! Local player and friend John has written up this great summary of tips and tricks for new Infinity players (of which I am one) and when I saw it I asked him if I could share it. Here we go:

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One of the guys I know who is relatively new to Infinity has been
recently frustrated with his lack of success, and asked me to give him
some general advice. He is certainly not new to miniatures wargaming,
nor is he inept at other wargames like WarmaHordes (he’s definitely
beaten up on me and other non-trivial opponents in that arena).
Infinity, however, is a very different game. I love it because it’s
fast, fatal, and relatively realistic (IMO). The things I love about
infinity can also make it a challenge to learn, especially when
frustration sets in. I have attempted to write down some of what I’ve
learned playing Infinity since it came to the US (~5 years ago, though
I did take a break in the middle when I had no one to play with).

Setting up

Good terrain is important to the game, as I’m sure everyone who’s
played it has found out. Keeping the number of firelanes low,
providing lots of cover, etc. makes for a much more interesting and
less “My camo multi-sniper on the roof kills your whole army.”
Scenarios other than “Pound the other guy until he’s dead” also make
it a much more interesting challenge (especially after you’ve played a
few games and gotten a hang of the rules, or have been frustrated
repeatedly by one tactic), and I will be promoting them at the next
Infinity day, whenever that ends up happening (and by promoting I mean
bringing multiple copies of the rules for them, perhaps demoing one
between experienced players, and playing with them in my own games).

Cover is your friend

-3 to hit/+3 ARM is the best bonus you can get without paying lots of
points. Try not to get shot when you’re out of cover, and weigh the
benefits of shooting when not in cover very carefully (when you’re in
the active turn, you should be shooting from cover the vast majority
of the time).

He who owns the firelanes owns the game

Controlling the existing firelanes is crucial to controlling the board
and the game. When you control the firelanes, you can advance and take
the battle to your opponent. When your opponent controls them, you’re
stuck until you can wrest that control from him. Even on very terrain-
dense battlefields, there are likely to be one or two long firelanes
that will likely be important to the game. In order to control a
firelane, you need good ARO weapons and you need to find and then use
the best defensive position along those lanes. To prevent your
opponent from locking you down by controlling the firelanes, you need
to have models with the speed and equipment to flank whatever they
have covering the lane (camo, especially combat camo, is great for
this, as are cheap CC specialists with smoke).

Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight

Literally: Cheap chainrifle/smoke grenade CC specialists and
impersonators should try to slice people with their swords, but
otherwise CC is VERY situational. Remember that in CC you only get one
shot, and that most of your defensive measures (camo, cover, etc.)
don’t work. Just think before you go charging in with anyone with a
weapon with more than burst one.

Or figuratively: Don’t shoot a camo multi-sniper from 18” with your
combi-rifle! Rather, close to <12” and suddenly your odds go up
astronomically. Much of Infinity, in my experience, is about getting
the better shot. Stack your bonuses and your opponent’s penalties. Do
the math in your head before playing it out on the table. Try to roll
as many dice as you can, because that can make up for a lower hit
percentage. Don’t underestimate the power of a lowly rifle or combi-
rifle on your active turn.

Don’t be afraid to hide, especially if your opponent has the first
turn

Nothing is worse than losing important models because you wanted to
get an ARO with them and instead got them destroyed before you even
had a turn.  If you’re going second, deploy second, so that you can
pick the places where your AROs will be valuable and where your models
should just hide and wait for their active turn. On a related note,
don’t ARO with a camo marker unless you have a good/great chance to
get the kill. Combat camo is so valuable, and it only works in the
active turn. Make your opponent spend orders to discover you. I
learned this lesson the hard way, and it had to get beaten into my
head repeatedly before I really learned it.

The order reserve is very important

I’m sure you know this already, but it bears repeating. You can only
do as much as the orders in your pool allow you to do. 10 cheap models
vs. 5 expensive ones have the advantage because of their flexibility
and activatability (not a word, I know). This is obviously a high
level of abstraction, but I’ve seen it play out on the table.

And so is your list

Don’t take this to mean that Model Y is worthless or that you must
bring Model Y. But each list you create will play differently,
potentially very differently. Some people like to play a certain way,
and have trouble adjusting their playstyle to the tools they have at
hand. Try thinking about what you like to do when you play Infinity
and build a list that is focused on doing that. Alternatively, draft a
list that contains tools to cover most of the bases and takes
advantage of your faction’s strengths and then learn how that list
works well. Some basic categories of model that I usually try to
include when creating a list (remember that I only play Pan-O and
Ariadna, including the sectorials, and that all of these categories
can be covered by something completely different if perhaps not quite
as well):
A long-ranged support weapon (HMG or sniper usually, though spitfires
can fill this role sometimes)
An infiltrator (helps to control the board)
Camo of some sort (often 1 model fills this category and one of
previous ones)
Multiple models that could be the Lt (unless you have a Chain of
Command guy, or your Lt is so ridiculously expensive/hard to kill that
if he dies you’ve already lost, like the Avatar)
Something with MSV or that can otherwise handle camo (like cheap
flamethrowers and chain rifles)
6+ orders in 150, 8+ in 200, otherwise I try to get to 10 (this really
depends on the faction, though I don’t think I would ever go below 5
at 150 or 7 in 200)

I hope this helps some of you new players think about their game plans
and tactics. The Infinity forums are also a great resource, and the
community there is very helpful.

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Thanks John for the contribution! If you have any questions leave a comment here and we’ll make sure to respond! If you liked this, wait until we start doing our Risk Legacy Campaign reports!

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Journeyman League – Update on First Night

We had our first night of the Journeyman League at Games and Stuff last night and it went very well. I was a little preoccupied with building the new gaming tables that GNS has been working on  in the last week but was still able to get 3 quick games in (since we’re still with basic battlegroups games go VERY fast).

Another player, John, has been summarizing his games here at his blog Tabletop Crusader and, as a relatively new player is exactly the person these leagues are designed to support and promote. Which doesn’t mean that I didn’t kill him dead in our game last night.

These games are the first time I’ve ever played Kromac, I picked my list and faction specifically to motivate a long-standing painting project, not because I’m convinced my choices are particularly competitive.

First Game – Vs. Mercs

I’ve played Steve a couple times recently, and his larger Magnus list once. This game was just Magnus, a Rover, Talon and Renegade. The Stalker really out-ranges the Rover, but this was the first time I’d played him so I put the Gorax too far out, and made a poor piece trade for the Stalker (who is good, but not great without the Gorax’s animus). I lost because I had to commit Kromac to combat and got smacked since all my beasts were dead.

Second Game – Vs. Circle

Brad is an experienced player who’s been out of it under Mk 2, or at least not playing in the store much. He brought Baldur and two contructs (including the shooty magic one), again I piece traded the Gorax to get him to commit his force and the Stalker was able to get into Baldur and kill him. This game had actually ended a turn earlier because Brad forgot where the Killbox edge was, but we played it out anyway, because after all, that’s what we’re there for.

Third Game – Vs. Legion

John, as described above, is definitely getting into WM, I’ve seen him at the store a lot recently, mostly with his Menoth. This was according to him the first time he played Hordes at all, and he had picked up the Legion battlebox, not an easy one to start with. pLylyth has a particular play style, and frankly 4 Shedders don’t work super well with her, but it’s a interesting box. I moved up in to a forest and John over-furied on his first turn, two shredders went rapid, one charged about 4 inches in front of the Gorax and the other wrecked the fourth Shredder. He over-committed his Carnivean to spray the Gorax and moved Lylyth up behind to shoot at the Gorax, not doing any damage. Gorax was able to charge past the up front Shredder and hit the Carnivean with Primal up for about 10-12 points of damage and 4 fury. Stalker was able to charge and one-shot the shredder and use sprint to bounce off it into his army, tying up the Carnivean, Lylyth and a shredder in melee. John had to back Lylyth away from the Stalker and shot at Kromac. Unfortunately for John on his turn, if you can shoot Kromac at range 12 he can hit you at range 13, which he did, and a furyless Lylyth was the poorer for it.

Lessons Learned

I miss screening units that let you control the pace of the engagement. Errants, Swordsman, etc are integral to my playstyle. Battlegroup on Battlegroup feels more like whoever mismeasures threat range first loses. There’s no good way to set-up piece trades and it feels a lot more like dancing around terrain or each other. I guess that means I’ll actually learn something in this league about the game. Which is great, because for a long time I’ve been stuck in a list-building rut. Of course, since I’m only going for Kromac’s Tier in this league as a part of the painting project I’ll be pretty limited with what I can take. But it should be interesting.

Looking forward to more games this weekend and finally getting some real paint on these models, I’ll post pics as I go, since I’m going to try a new airbrush technique.

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Risk Legacy Thoughts – Response

I tried to post this at Geekdad, but my firewall hates Disqus:

Very interesting take on this. I’ve been discussing this game with the folks at my local game store and they raised an interesting point. Essentially the claim is that the ‘game’ is the 15-game sequence/campaign. You can keep your copy after that obviously, but that the point of the exercise isn’t so much that you END-UP with a customized board, but rather the ‘quasi-roleplay’ aspect of playing through the campaign with your friends to customize the board. Almost like a mini-D&D campaign, it only really works if you play with the same group each time.

Treat it more like a singular experience of playing through an RPG adventure and less like an updated version of Risk and it might sit better.
Caveat: I say this not having actually played it myself at all, but only having discussed with folks at http://www.gamesandstuffonline.com/ who are embroiled in more than one campaign simultaneously.

 

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Journeyman League – Circle of Orboros, Kromac

So our local store has started a Journeyman League run by the other area Pressganger. We’re tracking our exploits here. I’ll be posting occasionally to keep this blog up to date as well.

I’ve been interested by the Tharn models in the Circle army for a long time, not because I play Circle (I don’t) but I just think they’re really great models with a lot of personality and as a painter, a really interesting challenge to make them interesting while staying in the ‘mostly brown’ color scheme. I started a single model as a display piece last year but never finished it beyond table-top quality and never mounted it on a display base.

Instead I used Pressganger points and ordered up a whole Kromac Tier 4 army list (save for the Ghettorix model that hasn’t been release yet). I’ll build it out slowly as part of this Journeyman League. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve never actually beaten Kromac over like 4 games in the last year, so he’s a personal challenge for me. Here are the pics of my just getting started, you can see the initial scenic bases that I built out for the army, I’ll be building all the bases custom going forward in the same style.

The idea is to have the contrast between the brown of the models with white ruins and green/flower vegetation. There are a lot of good source pictures and inspirational pictures I’ve found online, I’ve included some of them.

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Display Boards – Group Shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the very basic display/tournament boards that I make and use for my armies. I’ve themed each one for a particular army I have (still need to make a Legion/snow one). The largest one is actually for Flames of War, since those armies are so much larger. Electric Storm Strider and Laddermore for scale. Each board is approximately 12×13 and large enough for a 50 point army if you are a little tight, and plenty big for a 35 point army.

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Wargaming and Kids

Found this really interesting article today on Wargaming Tradecraft, one of the many gaming blogs that I follow. Eventually I’ll put up a blog roll, but until then, I’ll just link to stuff like this occasionally.

With Jack only being 8 months old I’m not really dealing with these issues yet, but I think/hope there will be a time when he wonders about, “Daddy’s toys” and wants to learn to play or hobby or something more than just trying to put Space Marines in his mouth. He’s allowed to eat the Space Marines, nobody likes them, but Warmachine figures are still under lock and key.

I have friends with kids that are 3 years old-ish, and they’re just getting into board games. What’s most interesting to me is that some parents haven’t gotten beyond Chutes and Ladders and Candyland to find the broader universe of games, while others, mostly from my Warmachine gaming group, have already taught their kids all kids of more ‘advanced’ games, and let them watch  when we play stuff that even confuses me, like Agricola!

A great site for those more game-y games for kids has been Father Geek, particularly the reviews, where you can get a real sense of what his kids have enjoyed. I only hope Jack lets me turn him into a little geekling too. This is about as far as we’ve gotten:

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Morrowan Commission – Caster and Knights

Here is the second wave of the Morrowan Army commission I’ve been working on for my friend Ryan. I was particularly pleased with the way the skin tone and faces came out on this group. I used as a reference (and actually followed pretty closely) the skin technique that is in the Cygnar Army Book and in the recent No Quarter with the Constance Blase painting masterclass. There are like 8 steps to the skin in those tutorials, and I actually followed them, so clearly those studio painters know what they’re talking about. Normally I take a much faster approach and just wash a flesh tone with GW washes (usually Gryphonne Sepia).

Also, you’ll see the photos change half way though, that’s because I’m still experimenting with camera settings for my photo booth, I think I need to split the difference between the too bright and too dark photos in this series.

Let me know what you think.

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Menoth Rebasing Project

This is what this project feels like.

So I have about 250 points of Menoth all fully painted and based and good to go. Why would I want to go through the exercise and brain damage of rebasing them? Other than penance for some hobby related sin.

The reason reason though is that I accumulated these models over the last several years, and my painting and basing skills have evolved, stuff I did originally is showing it’s age, and while the overall paint scheme has stayed the same (though the techniques have improved), the basing scheme has changed dramatically over the same 3 year period.

I started this army with just sand and glue bases, and 90% of it is still that way. Literally just white glue, sand and beige paint. The problem with this was that some times I’d base after priming, sometimes I’d base before, sometimes I’d use one kind of sand, other times it’d be something completely different. While everything looks similar the bases don’t all look like they’re occupying the same terrain. There’s no narrative tie across the army, other than that every figure is in a vaguely ‘deserty’ place.

Since finishing the Vessel of Judgment I’ve decided that the ‘bark-liquitex-foliage’ base technique that I’ve been developing will work great for my Menoth and really make the models pop. I’ve started already with some solos and casters. I’ll probably move through the army while I’m between projects or looking for a little diversion project while working on larger commissions. Here you can see the two Knight Errant Seneschel Solos I’ve finished. Tomorrow I’ll post pictures of casters and jacks using this technique.

 

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Photo Gallery: Vessel of Judgment

Here is a photo gallery for my construction and painting of the Vessel of Judgment Battle Engine. This is a great model, much more impressive in person than in the design I think, and a generally pleasant painting project, though there are a lot of details. You can see how I started down the path with one base, generally trying to make it very imposing and with a large rock promontory. I ended up with a more reserved basing that stayed ‘within the lines’ of the base. This was more for practical reasons since the first base wouldn’t have fit in my army bag and can’t be transported easily. While all the Battle Engines present some problems for transport if you at least stay within the boundary of the base you can use a CD spindle (the 100-count ones) to transport them, since the 100mm diameter base is the same size as a CD.

Unpacking initial box, starting assembly.

The model comes in a number of parts, but assembly is very straight-forward and Privateer should be commended for how clean the cast was. This is a very complex model with a huge amount of surface texture and detail, and the cast I got was pretty much perfect, with only a few significant pieces of flash and venting and one area of miscast which was pretty easily fixed.

Color and foliage samples for new Menoth basing.

Because I don’t have enough other projects I’m slowly undertaking to rebase all my Menoth models (about 200 models) to be consistent with the scheme shown on these bases. Fortunately I decided to do this BEFORE working on the Vessel, so the base for it I only had to do once (so I thought).

Testing positioning for initial base design.

With the HUGE bases that the Battle Engines come on I think you need to have something going on, there needs to be both visual interest and some variation across the base. This is maybe less of an issue for the Vessel and Khador Gun Carriage since they take up a significant portion of the base, but for the Storm Strider and the Wraith Engine there are a lot of modelling opportunities to be exploited.

Design of first base, materials clear. Size apparent.

After the test above I decided that the Vessel needed a really impressive base, and that the whole model would look better if the penitent dragging the engine around was farther forward. To accomplish this I built the base above with a large rock jutting out and a slope on the side to add visual interest. To build this base I used pink foam (actually light green in this example), pine bark mulch for rocks and my new favorite cheat, Liquitex Black Lava Medium to create the sand texture.

Paint in process on first base. Bloodstone and Ironhull Grey

The colors for this basing scheme are pretty simple – Bloodstone base on the ground, Ironhull Grey on the rocks, then two highlights, Menoth White Base and Menoth White Highlight to pick up the details and texture of the ground and the dusty edges of the rocks. I actually use a color called “Iraqi Sand” from the Vallejo line in place of the Menoth White Base if I can find it, but either will work.

Color match for first base.

The colors should match, and they do.

Test on first base attempt.

Here you can see the scale of the base I built. I liked this, but as noted above, decided after finishing the base to consider the practical implications of transport and storage. This prompted me to work on different base, seen below.

New base before painting, can see the bark and the Liquitex clearly

This is base version 2.0, which is much smaller and stays inside the overall huge base. This was important for transport.

Final Position of VoJ on new Base

Positioning test on the new base, I liked the rock in the front and since it’s the same size as the underlying base I know the penitent will fit.

Materials used for base

I’ll post a final picture tomorrow, but you can see here the materials I used, the sample/design test base and the Vessel in its nearly completed state on the new base.

Look for the final pics tomorrow and you’ll see how a plan comes together!

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Editorial: The Problem Solver

 

The Problem-Solver

 

I was having a discussion with a friend of mine who is not, by nature, a ‘gamer’ recently and he made an interesting comment: “Why do you need to have more games than just the ‘classics’ like Chess?”

This is actually a reasonable question. After all, Chess has been around in one form or another since about 600AD, a lot longer than Settlers of Catan. Chess exemplifies the maxim of, “simple to learn, a lifetime to master”; Chess has a long history of organized and competitive play around the world; Chess has an organized system for players to rate and match themselves against any other player; Chess is strategic and tactically complex in a way few other games approach; and most of all Chess is fun!

But even listing all those elements, why do you never see gamers playing Chess? why does everybody own a Chess set and so few people play it regularly in their hobby game time?

I believe the reason is tied into being a ‘gamer’ and what that means.

First though I want to revisit that conversation with my friend, because I think it highlights the key difference between ‘gamers’ as a type and other people and helped me to clarify why gaming is such an important hobby to me.

I believe the fundamental difference is that ‘gamers’ view game-playing as a skill or an activity unto itself, while non-gamers see game playing only as a skill of playing that particular game, like Chess. Gamers might play Chess to enjoy the interplay of strategy and tactics, of planning, of the social pleasure of victory or defeat, but a non-gamer might only see playing Chess as a way to practice and improve your ability to play Chess.

My friend actually espoused this viewpoint in our conversation, “there are so many things to know about Chess that I don’t see how I’d have time for other games, if I got into it.” I think that this is the attitude of an athlete, not of a gamer.

An athlete usually picks a sport or a skill and practices it, and trains their body and their mind to the performance of that skill, and, at a very high level tends to not practice other skills in other sports choosing to focus on achieving excellence in one area rather than in every sport. Similarly for high level Chess players, there are reams of books written about strategy, and lists of moves to memorize for efficient play and an endless lifetime of the pursuit of excellence in that skill, but to what extent does being excellent at Chess help you win at Carcassonne?

A gamer, in contrast, is practicing a different set of skills, not the skills of soccer, or of Chess, but the skill of ‘game-playing’ which is, I believe, as valid and valuable as the ability to kick a ball, or know the opening to Kasparov vs. Deep Blue.

What is the skill of ‘game-playing’? What are you learning when you pick up a new game, and more importantly why is it valuable, fun and for some gamers, so compelling a hobby?

A short list: the ability to socialize in a confrontational environment; the ability to prioritize actions in response to novel situations; the ability to develop strategies in a new environment; the ability to adjust those strategies as the environment changes; the ability to process new instructions; the ability to be a gracious loser and a humble winner.

In short, you’re practicing and learning valuable skills for LIFE, not for games, when you pick up a copy of Dominion and I strongly believe that in doing so you’re putting yourself ahead of non-gamers. Take a look at that list again. Every one of those skills is valuable in a work or professional environments, some of them are critical to successfully navigating the modern world. They’re valuable in relationships, negotiations, novel problem solving. I’m pretty sure I’ve used the decision-making skills I learned playing Magic when I was fixing my sink, not because I knew how to play Magic, but because I knew how take a situation and say, “okay, I’ll try this…that didn’t work, now I’ll try this other thing…hmm, that was better, what if I change it a little and try this last thing.”

There are studies indicating that game players do in fact see benefits of the kind described above. The work of James Paul Gee and Jan Mcgonigal are good places to start for further reading. Additionally, there is anecdotal evidence that employers are using game playing as a litmus test for certain kinds of skills in the workplace, and more to the point, as evidence of a particular worldview.

The only way I know to develop this viewpoint, and to grow those skills is to play games. Certainly it’s the most fun way! But not to play the same game exclusively, because then you’re not learning to play games, but to play a game, and that’s less useful than developing the wider toolbox of skills described above.

The gamer is ultimately a highly trained, engaged, curious problem solver, whether the problem is defeating your friend in Warhammer, scoring points in Lost Cities or yes, even checkmating your opponent in Chess. You’re developing your ‘gaming-brain’ or your ‘decision-making muscles’ every time you pick up a game, and more importantly every time you pick up a new game. You learn these skills, which are inextricably about coping with novelty and change, best when you face new situations, new rules and new games.

The skills of gaming, and subsequently the hobby of gaming for many, are the skills of breadth, of taking a large number of experiences and a wide body of knowledge and applying it to new situations, rather than taking one domain, or one situation and studying it completely. Both are valuable, and both can be fun, but as I think more about raising my new son I know I’ll be leaving a copy of Settlers in his room, and hoping someday he can beat me at Chess.

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