Infinity: Operation Icestorm – A Review

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If I had to give an excuse, if ever one were needed, as to why I hadn’t looked at one of the major game systems until now I would have to say…because I just didn’t care.

Now before I get flamed back to the Stone Age bear with me and hear me out:

Infinity is a super groovy scifi game that has lots of super groovy troopers, super groovy guns, super groovy robots and all in super groovy artwork that depicts said super groovy guns being toted by said super groovy trooper types. The models are, equally, painted in a super groovy style in super groovy bright colours and as super groovy as they do in said super groovy artwork.

But despite the sheer super levels of grooviness Infinity suffered from one big issue: accessibility.

Infinity is prohibitively expensive. Granted you don’t need many models to play a game but just because you’ve only been screwed with your pants on the once doesn’t make it any more enjoyable.

I also found the premise to be weak, a little vague and the apparent super grooviness, despite all the shooting, a bit hard to believe. I know I’m used to the grim dark of the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium but countless games have proven a balance can be struck.

More over Corvus Belli’s determination to make the factions in Infinity seem unique compared to other games requires you to study what the fuck everything is for before you can figure out what it does and what to buy. O.R.Cs? Really? But the worst thing is adding all that together means that a novice gamer wouldn’t know where to start without the specialist help of a game store employee or the local games club oracle. Which isn’t really good enough.

I appreciate I’m probably in the minority with most, if not all, of these views. But, if I had to give an excuse, that would be it.

Does this make the review a foregone conclusion? Of course not. All that super grooviness does count for a lot.

So what’s in the Infinity: Operation Icestorm box? Fourteen of the prettiest models you ever did see, some groovy counters, a paper gaming mat, some fold out card buildings and the introductory rules.

All joking aside, I love the Infinity design aesthetic. Everything is sexy and shiny and fits nicely with my vision of the future. And reminds me of Halo which is never a bad thing. The downside is that everything is too clean. It doesn’t feel like a war, skirmish or even mild bout of fisticuffs is raging through the streets. Unless they’re the most considerate band of professional killers there ever was.

Of course this doesn’t stop you from building your own vision of a shattered (reasonably) near future utopia, it just would be nice if the oh so beautiful card buildings and fold out mat weren’t quite so neat and tidy.

The models – PanOceania and Nomads – are awesome. As I said, I like the Infinity style a great deal and when I’ve ummed, erred and stared at my bank balance before quietly slinking away; it was always PanOceania that I looked at collecting. The Nomads are cool too, I’m just excited to finally have some models that I’ve coveted for the last 4 years.

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Sculpts and casting quality – these models are metal don’t forget – are excellent but considering retail they’d be about £30 a set one would expect that. But what makes the models so good is that real thought went into them to strike the balance between super groovy scifi armour and super groovy scifi guns but to maintain proportions. I’ve been collecting oversized post humans for so long I’d almost forgotten what scale weapons looked like.

Unfortunately the only part of the models that does suffer any loss of detail are the weapons but that’s the price you pay for working with metal and keeping things in proportion. But it’s such a minor niggle compared to the overall quality and super grooviness of the model you just won’t care all that much. Although wargaming does seem to be the only market in the world where ‘that’ll do’ is good enough. But more on that another time…

The rulebook, such as it is, puzzles me somewhat. And I’ve read a butt tonne of rule books over the years. The background is just 5 paragraphs long which for someone new to the Infinity universe is a little light. And by light, I mean I’ve read longer poems. I appreciate it’s an introductory rulebook but it doesn’t do much to sell the universe gamers are venturing into.

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The rules for Infinity, however are fantastically straight forward. Not amazingly written or laid out but it’s the first time in ages I felt like I’d understood just about everything on my first read through. There are a few niggles but it’s more to do with the aforementioned issue with trying to be different for difference sake. The explanation of Face to Face rolls was so poorly written that it made no sense until the first instance of a face to face roll cropped up further into the book. Quite why the writers couldn’t use the word ‘simultaneous’ is beyond me. Because that’s what they meant. Simultaneous…

It’s an ambitious book however as Corvus Belli approached it almost like the tutorial mode of an RTS game. Each scenario introduces you to different game elements, building your knowledge up gradually so by the time you get to the final scenario you’re fully versed in the core rules of the game.

It works reasonably well but the rules aren’t particularly difficult to master so reading through is a bit of a faff. The other thing is to follow the format of the book, scenario by scenario, would mean you’d be unlikely to run through all the rules in a single gaming session. That’s a bit of a two-edged sword. On the one hand you’re encouraged to digest the rules, on the other you’ll just get pissed off having to reset the game each time.

But that aside, the rules are good and allowing models to react as the action unfolds is a nice touch And adds an extra layer of strategy as you have to weigh up what your opponent will react to as well as what they’ll do in their own turn.

The way models are activated is pretty cool too. Instead of every model being activated they, instead, generate an order counter which can be used on them or pooled with others to allow other models or single model to perform multiple actions. This allows for very quick turns and incredibly fast paced, cinematic action. The variety of actions available, much like the Batman Miniatures Game, makes Infinity a pretty exciting game to play.

It also adds a further layer to the way you build your force. Opting for cheaper units means more orders but you’re putting weaker troops in the field which could mean you’re burning orders on failed attacks. Additionally certain, crappier, units make irregular actions which basically means you can only spend the actions they generate on them. So whilst you may get more actions you’re forced to allocate a proportion of them. It’s actually a very shrewd way of keeping the game balanced that I’ve never seen before so hats off to Corvus Belli for that one.

The irregular actions also elegantly represents the reluctance or inability of certain soldiers to fight without making them disproportionately shit compared to everything else in the army which is something a lot of other games are guilty of. But most importantly it adds character without getting bogged down in special rules.

The rulebook is awash with gorgeous artwork throughout. It’s the kind of standard seen in the Transformers comics produced by Dreamwave in the early noughties. What bugs the shit out of me though is the rulebook actually mentions its influences which rather ruins any sense of originality that the models and artwork had. I’m the first person to point out influences and I know I have mine, but to actively broadcast those influences seems somewhat counter productive to me.

But the biggest sin of the Infinity introductory rulebook, by a mile, is it’s not an introductory rulebook. It’s a pamphlet. Half the book is the same set of rules but in Spanish, which I don’t mind but it actually makes the rules provided, whichever language you’re reading it in, embarrassingly short for a box set that retails at £75.00. And judging by the thickness of the full Infinity rules a lot of stuff was left out.

To put it in context let’s compare Operation Icestorm to the 40k starter set…

40k is £65 retail compared to £75, has 3.5 times more models, plastic templates instead of card, a full colour how to play guide and a full set of rules. For £10 less. It’s a rare day when Games Workshop comes off as good value.

However, I’m not sure if Infinity isn’t just worth it. It’s a great game with beautiful models and a slick mechanic. The model stat names are a little fussy and I can well imagine it takes a fair bit of referring back to but dozens of other games a just as guilty of that sin.

The price point is hard to swallow but at least the models are sufficient you can get a lot out of them before you start to add to the collection. Although the ranges are so pretty that won’t take long. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the rules. If you want to play the game properly you’ll be shelling out £50 for a copy of the rulebook before you know it.

The truth is boutique games need starter sets like fat kids need salad…it’s vital to their survival. However the Infinity: Operation Icestorm doesn’t really do a great job because it’s a false economy. Buying two boxes of blokes and the full rules with set you back roughly £110 retail. The starter set and the full rules, which you’ll need almost as soon as you’ve worked through the Icestorm scenarios, will set you back roughly £125 retail. £15 more for some cardboard and fewer rules.

So despite a starter set, accessibility is still an issue. It’s still prohibitively expensive. There’s still nothing to clearly explain how the various units work or how they fit into the wider army. There’s still nothing to get your teeth into from a background perspective. Or anything to encourage the hobby either for that matter.

All things considered: between the high price and low content compared to other starter sets out there, would I still recommend it Infinity: Operation Icestorm? Yes, with a but. Yes, but only to people who are new to the hobby but know which end of a tape measure to hold. Gamers who have maybe tried Infinity once or twice and want to get in a few games at home before they fully commit. I appreciate that’s very specific but I don’t see it benefitting anyone else.

If you’re a novice or experienced gamer you’re far better buying the products separately. Granted, you miss out on the card templates but for roughly £30 you can get super groovy plastic ones which will last far longer than the flimsy card ones.

Infinity: Operation Icestorm is available from Firestorm Games priced £65.00.

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10 thoughts on “Infinity: Operation Icestorm – A Review

  1. Good review. Don’t forget that you can download the full Infinity rulebook for free from their website – the fluff part isn’t included but having the full rules available for free does lower the entry cost to the game considerably (although most players fork out for the rulebook anyways for the background material and extra artwork, and because it’s always nice to have a physical copy of something :))

      1. It might not (I’d have to check) but most people’s research will take them to the site anyway, where they’ll see it available for download for free.

      2. Without wanting to turn this into a back and forth, I would say that your sentence stating the requirement of an extra £50 outlay being required to play Infinity to the full is slightly misleading, as the rules are available for free was all I was trying to say – that particular line could put off a prospective player when it needn’t actually be the case.

  2. A fair and balanced review. I was going to add the same thing Lee did, but he got there first.

    I’d also take issue a bit with who the box is good for. I generally wouldn’t recommend the game for complete Wargaming newbies, but I’m a veteran of more than 30 years and I bought and loved the boxed set (despite collecting neither of the included factions). And it’s clearly not just me, as I’ve heard similar enthusiasm and positivity from another half dozen veterans in local clubs.

    1. I didn’t say vets wouldn’t enjoy it but get more from the full rules. But it’s also important to be objective. You can’t assume that a new player would visit the website. I didn’t, and a review has to be based purely on the product.

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