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Down Boy

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I’m going to start the post about Infinity tables I keep  telling myself I would. Now I’ve been holding off because this subject seems to cause a shit storm every time and I’m in fear of the backlash to be honest. So before I start I’ll get a few things clear.

  1. Yes I do have a few opinions on the subject.
  2. No I don’t think my way is the only way
  3. Things aren’t that simple

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First I’ll go over some accepted basic principles. To begin with you should really be setting up an asymmetric table. This has even been suggested in an official capacity.

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This is to alleviate some of the problems the game was getting in its early stages where first turn stompings were a thing. There are more things at work here which have really helped but this is still a recommendation for table set up. This is where one deployment zone has an advantage over the other and should make it so taking first or second turn is not a clear cut option.

Now as you can see by looking at the diagram this is all great if you are only using boxes and to be fair if you are new then you probably are, I did. The Icestorm and USAriadna scenery is great for this. But we all know that is not how a lovely table looks like and it as another issue in itself. Corner cover. Most tables have a problem creating low cover like barricades as opposed to corner cover like building corners. This can also be an issue as it can not take a lot of angle before a model is completely exposed at a corner whereas in practice low cover is usually more sustainable. There are an array of crates and such that can be bought for quite cheap that can help in this matter.

There are also a few other rules of thumb the community seems to agree upon. One such rule is not being able to draw lof entirely across the table. While I agree with this as a whole rule 3 above comes into play and it’s not that simple.

Locate the DZ

The asymmetrical  set up of deployment zones is not the only consideration. It’s actually quite difficult to give one side a clear advantage without making it game breaking. Here considerations need to be made of a few things. Firstly actually deploying. How many models that should be in cover or total cover in a DZ is something that is rarely talked about but it is one way to separate the two zones. I don’t really have an answer for this as there are many things to consider within this topic itself. Do you count an army as 10 troopers for a start? So I wont give you any hard numbers. But certainly in my opinion the better side should be able to keep an average size army in total cover from the opposing DZ. Whether the less covered side should have to deploy not in total cover is a question, one I wont answer. But remember you also need to consider how troopers will lave their DZ. You need to have some way for each side to engage the enemy.

Another consideration is how much should be visible from the DZ. This is a subject that could be discussed at length and I feel is one of the contentious issues in Infinity. It is possible to have fire lanes without making an ARO hell hole. Here you can make the ‘better’ side have sniper nests but if you restrict their field of fire then it can stop them being all dominating.

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Here you can see an elevated position where to the right is cut off by more stacked containers and straight ahead broken up by sign-age. You can also just about make out to the left where more stacked containers restrict vision there. Here is where rules 1 and 2 from above come in. I do think that long fire lanes are not a problem in themselves but whole open areas are. I had to jig a few things around on this table as originally this position could see far too much of the table and would have been very dominating. This leads on to.

Don’t be dense

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Now I’ve been in a few heated debates about scenery in my time and really some of that comes from over reaction. Usually they start when I say a table is too dense. It’s happened when others have said the same so I know it’s not only me that thinks this way and it usually involves someone complaining about snipers and HMGs. Now not being dense doesn’t mean a flat table. If you’re calling for a dense table when you’re army relies on short range that’s just not cricket. I feel with the changes to range bands that CB want those range bands to be utilised. Now that doesn’t have to be everywhere, just somewhere.

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As long as that range is only a corridor then it should be fine.

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Now before we get excited, yes I do advocate not having a fire lane that crosses the entire length of the table. But what this picture shows is that range is possible to achieve while not being dominating, there are plenty of way to flank a sniper in this position. This picture was taken from this board.

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Which illustrates another factor when considering tables, especially when in picture format. I played on this table and there was only two or three orders of long range fire the whole game and I bet most of you were crying its too open as soon as you saw it. Making open areas and actually utilising long range fire are not necessarily the same thing, but the more you close off the table the more compounding the effect is to remove the viability of any range weapons.

Now for me the problem of density is not having long range fire lanes but allowing single positions to seem great swathes of the board, thus locking it down with few, or a single, model. I think that allowing long fire lanes but only in tight corridors then you utilise the range bands but give options. Do you engage, cautious move or maybe flank? So the problem doesn’t have to be the range itself.

We’ve just got to get out

I’ve touched on it already but the table is a whole and so thinking about how to set up the rest of the table once troopers eave their DZ is also worthwhile. There is always a balance between setting up a table that looks good and feels right but also plays well.

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This is a table I worked on for a while and although it is not its final incarnation it is pretty close. It got a lot of praise at the tournament where I set it up and I’m pretty happy with it. It does have a massive issue though. The centre piece of the train crates a natural barrier to cross and also killing fields down each side of it. The kill zones are dealt with slightly now with vehicles to break them up so they still look natural but play a bit better. The issue of the barrier is not something I have yet to solve though but this does illustrate the issue of playability verses aesthetic.

I have my own little theory here and that is to extend the asymmetrical DZ into two L shapes so that as you leave the DZ one side is more dense and one side is more open allowing you to choose which method suits your style better. But this really is just my own little idea. In the picture below the left side is quite well covered while the right more open. Remember that pictures don’t give you a true perspective as I will admit that the right side looks open but in the game it was far from a killing field and troopers managed to advance through it some way.

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The left side would be ideal to advance through with Impetuous chain rifle troops and that is exactly what happened, along with a Su-Jian.

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Above you can see the angle from the blue building in top corner from the first picture and can see it’s only really to its extreme left that has a commanding field of fire. Again the use of signs has blocked what would have been a dominating position by cutting off the view but still allowing for longer range fire.

Where are the trees?

All this is very nice, at least in my opinion, but it can be difficult to put into practice. I alluded to it earlier and I certainly feel that making a board that looks good and plays well is a challenge. I quite often find myself breaking my own technical rules to gain a better ‘feel’ for a board set up as I like my boards to at least attempt to look like a real place. There are other things that come into play. Remember when I talked about how much of an army should be able to get cover in a DZ? What happens if that army is 20 orders strong? What happens if the mission is area capture and the ‘best’ sides sniper tower is now totally useless as you need to move to score points? There are other things as well like if you use a lot of the same height building and nothing on top of them then the second level effectively becomes a flat surface and the ARO nightmare becomes real. Also objective spread can affect a mission. In Lifeblood the crates tend to favour one side and that is obvious from the dispersal points. If you make that side the less favourable side then you effectively neutralise the board advantage.

All in all I really feel that board set up can have a massive impact on a game but unfortunately it is a difficult conundrum to get right. While in no means extensive these are some points to have in mind when setting up a table and a few of my own thughts and ideas as well and I hope that this helps or at least gives you something to think about.

Again as usual please feel free to leave a comment.

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