I’ve heard a few newer players ask questions about how to ARO recently. Thinking back on when I began playing, I remember looking for some kind of easy button for how to ARO to win games. I’ve been playing infinity for a little more than two years and discovered that how, when, and what you use for AROs is a difficult balancing act. I’m writing down my thoughts here in hopes that some new players can get a grasp of some of the things I’ve figured out over time. For the reader’s information, I’ve played a number of factions. I began with Steel Phalanx after buying the icestorm starter and getting some demos in. I’ve played Corregidor and Vanilla Nomads a fair amount. I’ve also played ISS with some consistency for six months. Pan Oceania, however, is a favorite for me. After steel phalanx I got into Acontecimento and Neoterra. I’ve played less than a dozen games with Military Orders before the redesign and I’ve played a fair amount of Varuna. I really enjoy my games with NCA, nothing beats kicking ass with a Swiss HMG. Despite that, SAA is my one true love. Badass jungle gunfighters slogging through the muck, dropping mines, and bringing some of the best tech in the sphere. ARO Automatic Reaction Orders (rules can be found here) are at the basis of Infinity. When your opponent’s model does something, if your model has Line of Fire to its action, you have a chance to respond. Actions out of Line of Fire but within Zone of Control also provoke some limited AROs. Spoiler: Purpose of an ARO and Some Statistics The purpose of an ARO The point of an ARO is to present your opponent with a problem that makes it more difficult to accomplish the mission. Your opponent has a limited number of resources (orders) and once those run out, if the mission has not been accomplished, then you have a chance to do the same thing. In an ideal situation, your AROs will stop or kill your opponent’s models. If you kill the models that your opponent would have used to accomplish the mission with your AROs, then you’ll most likely win the game. Most cases will not result in the active model being removed from the table, however. To illustrate, here are some examples using the infinity dice calculator: An active turn Alguacil against a reactive Fusilier. Neither Linked Alguacil - Combi Rifle vs. Fusilier - Combi Rifle 44.37% Alguacil inflicts 1 or more wounds on Fusilier (Unconscious) 41.56% Neither player succeeds 14.08% Fusilier inflicts 1 or more wounds on Alguacil (Unconscious) Let’s see what happens when we put either or both in a Fireteam. Linked Alguacil Alguacil - Combi Rifle vs. Fusilier - Combi Rifle 64.78% Alguacil inflicts 1 or more wounds on Fusilier (Unconscious) 27.73% Neither player succeeds 7.49% Fusilier inflicts 1 or more wounds on Alguacil (Unconscious) Linked Fusilier Alguacil - Combi Rifle vs. Fusilier - Combi Rifle 25.60% Alguacil inflicts 1 or more wounds on Fusilier (Unconscious) 39.74% Neither player succeeds 34.66% Fusilier inflicts 1 or more wounds on Alguacil (Unconscious) Both Linked Alguacil - Combi Rifle vs. Fusilier - Combi Rifle 41.93% Alguacil inflicts 1 or more wounds on Fusilier (Unconscious) 36.27% Neither player succeeds 21.79% Fusilier inflicts 1 or more wounds on Alguacil (Unconscious) You’ll notice, that with similarly armed and stated models, the odds are pretty heavily in favor of the attacker. This is mostly due to the fact that the active model typically rolls more dice. Fireteam bonuses are obviously fairly significant and turn make attack pieces more effective, although dragging along four other bodies can have its own disadvantage. For the most part, I assume that both models have cover, because players are typically trying to prevent their models from being caught outside of cover, and here’s why: Alguacil catches a Fusilier out of cover Alguacil - Combi Rifle vs. Fusilier - Combi Rifle 64.59% Alguacil inflicts 1 or more wounds on Fusilier (Unconscious) 25.99% Neither player succeeds 9.43% Fusilier inflicts 1 or more wounds on Alguacil (Unconscious) Alguacil without cover engages a Fusilier Alguacil - Combi Rifle vs. Fusilier - Combi Rifle 37.22% Alguacil inflicts 1 or more wounds on Fusilier (Unconscious) 37.72% Neither player succeeds 25.05% Fusilier inflicts 1 or more wounds on Alguacil (Unconscious) Things get interesting when we look at the effects of modifiers like mimetism or camouflage for either the attacker or defender. Zero attacking a Fusilier Zero - Combi Rifle vs. Fusilier - Combi Rifle 51.21% Zero inflicts 1 or more wounds on Fusilier (Unconscious) 39.12% Neither player succeeds 9.66% Fusilier inflicts 1 or more wounds on Zero (Unconscious) Alguacil attacking a Machinist with mimetism Alguacil - Combi Rifle vs. Machinist (Mimetism) - Combi Rifle 33.70% Alguacil inflicts 1 or more wounds on Machinist (Mimetism) (Unconscious) 47.30% Neither player succeeds 19.00% Machinist (Mimetism) inflicts 1 or more wounds on Alguacil (Unconscious) The fact that Zeros have no armor will play into the results, but should be fairly insignificant. Notice that mimetism will swing things for the user, but the change over the line troopers shooting shows only a ~5% change. Range modifiers can also play a significant role in your chances of success. If you can pin down a combi rifle with a sniper, even superior burst may not be enough. Alguacil attacking a Fusilier sniper at long range Alguacil - Combi Rifle vs. Fusilier - MULTI Sniper Rifle (Anti-Materiel Mode) 24.13% Alguacil inflicts 1 or more wounds on Fusilier (Unconscious) 38.57% Neither player succeeds 37.30% Fusilier inflicts 1 or more wounds on Alguacil (Unconscious) You’ll notice that the range modifiers (+3 for the Fusiler and -3 for the Alguacil) means that the reactive troop is actually likely to win the firefight against the active model. On the other hand, make sure that you’re not leaving out your combi rifles to deal with aggressive pieces at long range. Alguacil HMG attacking a Fusilier at long range Alguacil - HMG vs. Fusilier - Combi Rifle 72.11% Alguacil inflicts 1 or more wounds on Fusilier (Unconscious) 22.69% Neither player succeeds 5.20% Fusilier inflicts 1 or more wounds on Alguacil (Unconscious) Range modifiers are one of the most significant ways to swing the odds, especially being able to do so without spending extra points on skills like mimetism or a higher ballistics skill. When players talk about stacking mods in your favor, there are a few things they’re looking for. Negative modifiers: mimetism, camouflage, TO camouflage, ODD, full auto level 2, or suppression fire to name a few. Range bands: if the active piece is firing from 27 inches away with an hmg and the reactive piece is shooting with a combi rifle, the combi rifle has a -3 for range while the hmg has +3. Not only does the attacker have more dice, but also a six point swing in its favor before any attributes or skills are brought in. Surprise or Visibility: surprise shot from camouflage, impersonation, or holoecho. Shooting at a model through smoke or a white noise zone. Low visibility terrain zones. All of which can impart negative modifiers on the shot. Saturation: saturation zones are in some missions and created by some equipment or terrain and will reduce the burst of all attacks by 1, to a minimum of 1. This one is actually particularly effective for solo ARO pieces because they are usually already at burst 1 so it only impacts the attacker. Theoretically all of these things can be used to enhance the effectiveness of an ARO. The problem is that the player who decides what to engage and when is the active player. If your opponent is skilled and not desperate, they will not engage you when your modifiers outweigh theirs. Your opponent will try to bring tools that will counter what you have left out to ARO. Expensive, linked, ODD model? You’ll probably get hit with an msv carrying hmg or sniper. Or maybe an infiltrating or airborne flamethrower. So, what’s the takeaway from all of this? Anything you leave out to take AROs will die. Or your opponent will simply avoid your ARO piece. Presuming it is left out to shoot or attack with something that can be opposed, an ARO piece can be dealt with in a number of ways. Getting better modifiers and crushing it. Whether it’s a gunfighter or a hacker, get better modifiers, roll more dice, and destroy it. Even the best gunfighter will eventually go down to sustained hmg fire from a Swiss guard. Block it’s line of fire to the thing you want to do. Whether it’s push a button, sync a civilian, get to a zone, or kill a specialist, most factions can obfuscate is some way. Either smoke or eclipse can block most shooters. White noise will block models with msv. Token states are particularly adept at this because a model must be discovered before it can be shot and the discover roll doesn’t happen until the entire order has been resolved. It is usually possible to find a pathway with total cover every 8 inches or fewer. Cautious move can be used if cover is abundant. Coordinated orders can be good for taking out pieces that you aren’t able to outshoot. AROs can only be fired at one target. You cannot split your burst in the reactive turn and this can force your opponent to dodge or take unopposed shots. All of these are well and good, but the goal is important. The active player is trying to accomplish a goal and either eliminate threats in the way or bypass them. The reactive player is hoping to make the active player spend so many orders doing so that the mission cannot be accomplished. Spoiler: How to ARO How to ARO With this in mind, we need to think about what to use and how to use it. A good ARO piece is one that forces an opponent to spend orders to deal with it. Ideally, the opponent needs to spend multiple orders dealing with it. For example, if I place my Sierra Dronbot on top of a tall building in my deployment zone so that it can see almost the entire table, my opponent can engage it with whatever piece will be most likely to yield a positive result. Anything that can give my bot a -12 modifier so that it can’t shoot back is a fantastic option, for example. On the other hand, if I hide my Sierra in a corner where it can’t see anything, it is not a problem for my opponent. The challenge here is to be discerning of several factors: What attack pieces do I know that my opponent has to deal with my Sierra? Based on my opponent’s faction, playstyle, and the things I can see on the table, what do I suspect that my opponent has available to deal with my Sierra? Where does my opponent want to get and with what pieces? With all of this information, I can start to think about where to put my Sierra so that my opponent has to spend orders dealing with it. I want it to watch the place my opponent is trying to get a specialist. I want it to watch that point without exposing it to my opponent’s most useful counters. Most likely my Sierra with either be destroyed or smoke will be tossed to block it’s line of fire. In either case, if I can get my opponent to spend orders on a warband which he wouldn’t otherwise have spent, or to spend orders on an attack piece to move it into a new position to engage my Sierra, or spend orders on a piece that has a lower chance of beating my Sierra in a gunfight, then my ARO piece has done its job. In short, I want my opponent to have to deal with the problems I put on the table using resources on it instead of accomplishing the mission directly. If I can get my opponent to use orders to force a less than optimal exchange that eliminates their model instead of mine, well that’s icing on the cake and I’ll enjoy it when it happens but can’t really plan on it. Effective AROs In my mind, effective AROs come from five things: maximizing danger, maximizing my opponent’s order expenditure, layered defense, minimizing my points expenditure, minimizing my loss of effectiveness. Spoiler: Maximizing Danger Maximizing Danger A missile is a more dangerous ARO than a combi rifle. The template and the explosive ammo means that any model can be knocked unconscious and most can be removed from the game by one hit. Having dangerous AROs can create opportunities for your opponent to make mistakes. If your opponent won’t commit the best piece for the job because of a low probability chance of losing that piece, they will begin to look for less efficient options or riskier options with cheaper models to counter your dangerous AROs. On the other side, something like a Swiss Guard with a missile launcher used well does have a very good chance of actually removing enemy models with an ARO. If you can be prescient with the placement and patient enough to wait for the moment you can catch most or all of a link team in the blast when a model has left cover, the Swiss can potentially get a hit on an 18. You have spent 69 points and 2 SWC to accomplish this task, but it is a possibility. The Noctifier missile launcher is a similar piece, slightly less effective and just over half the cost. Even these hidden deployment models, or the threat of them, can entice your opponent to play more carefully and slow their advance to avoid getting hit by a TO impact template. This is often worth it, because you’ve forced your opponent to use orders less effectively without actually losing any models yourself. Spoiler: Maximizing Order Expediture Maximizing Order Expenditure Tying in closely with the hidden deployment options above, effective AROs force your opponent to spend more orders to accomplish a task. If your opponent needs to spend one order to kill a piece of yours, that wasn’t usually an effective ARO. If you’ve forced your opponent to spend 4 orders maneuvering into position or dealing with a mine or an auxbot before they are able to engage with your other threats, then you’ve probably created an effective ARO situation. Let’s go back to the Sierra as an example. I don’t want to leave it up on a tower where anything can engage it, I want it to pose a problem for my opponent. If the mission requires connecting a console on the center line of the table, I will try to position the Sierra so that it can see that console and the surrounding space, but cannot see my opponent’s deployment zone. I will also try to get the Sierra to view the objective laterally across the table so that I can keep more than 24 inches between the objective and the Sierra. My reasoning for this is twofold: it will make it more difficult for my opponent to engage the Sierra with combi rifles, chain rifles, or flamethrowers because it will have a long sight line to the objective. This means that my opponent has to use smoke (hopefully I’ve killed those sources by this point) or move a big attack piece up to the middle of the table to beat my Sierra in a gunfight. This isn’t the end of it though. Spoiler: Layered Defense Layered Defense The Sierra could be in the perfect position, but an infiltrator, AD troop, impersonator, fast moving warband, or something else could get up close and mess with my Sierra in other ways. So I need to cover it. Mines are a great tool for this. They can help keep other pieces from engaging your AROs in favorable situations. Maybe that hacker will isolate my Sierra, but it either has to tank the hit from a mine or spend orders removing the mine before it can hack my Sierra uncontested. A linked sniper is another great option. If the fireteam is castled in my deployment zone overwatching the Sierra, it presents another obstacle to my opponent that he’ll have to spend orders on to solve. This makes Acontecimento Regulars and Bagh Mari really powerful tools for defense. Having 1-3 minelayers in a core fireteam creates layers of defense without having to spend orders. You have good gunfighters, with sixth sense, covered by minds. A clever opponent can take it apart, but it will usually cost more orders or present a greater threat than is worth dealing with. Varuna has some very useful synergies as well, a linked Kamau sniper can see through smoke and when surrounded by Fusiliers and Helots, can be very difficult to get to. I prefer to use Helots with limited camo, because my opponent has to discover the Helot before he can kill it. This means an extra short skill, but usually an extra order to deal with. And if I get lucky and the discover roll fails, it’s even better for me. Spoiler: Minimizing Points Expenditure Minimizing Points Expenditure While the Swiss guard can be a powerful ARO piece, leaving it out to react to an opponent can often lead to its untimely demise. Usually when I leave something out to ARO, I want to get the most cost efficient models that I can. Other armies have cheap warbands which are often a wonderful option for tripping up an opponent. Auxbots, present in all PanO sectorials, are great for this. At a cost of 4 points for the standard flamethrower variety a lost Auxbot represent just over 1% of your points investment in the course of a game. Draining one or more orders from you opponent with those points is well worth it. Spoiler: Minimizing Loss of Effectiveness Minimizing Loss of Effectiveness Closely related to the topic above, my favorite AROs come from pieces that I don’t mind losing to my opponent. One way to achieve this is to put the pieces you want to leave up on ARO duty in your second combat group. That way, if your opponent clears the pieces you’ve left out, you can still have a full combat group standing when your turn begins. Irregular troops, Helots, Techbee, and Warcore are really the only options for PanO sectorials are another useful tool. Since they tend to be cheaper and produce an order that you don’t want to rely on, the loss of an irregular trooper doesn’t have a huge impact on your combat effectiveness during your active turn. This is one reason that warbands are wonderful for other armies trying to trip you up. Mines are my favorite way to slow my opponent down. It may cost me an order to put a mine down, but I find that they are one of the most useful tools for slowing my opponent down. If my opponent wants to remove it, it must be discovered first, which costs at least a short skill and carries a chance of failure. Mines will still activate if their Line of Fire is obscured, rendering smoke tosses worthless against mines. They even activate when confronted by camo tokens, removing the need for me to discover said camo token. The minelayer skill allows mines to begin on the table without draining the expenditure of an order. Spoiler: Using Fireteams Using Fireteams Of special note for sectorials are fireteams. Fireteams are wonderful options because they provide bonuses in the active and reactive turns. For AROs, they can make a threat much greater and give the reactive player more options. With any fireteam that has three or more models, each member gains +1 burst in the active and reactive turn. Being burst 2 is approximately twice as good as burst 1. If my math checks out. This increases an AROing model’s chances of surviving or winning a firefight. Any fireteam with four or more models gains access to Sixth Sense Level 2 with provides a myriad of options. Investigate here for a complete description. The things that stand out most to me are: Models with SSL2 ignore stealth. Those pesky infiltrators and anyone with martial arts can’t sneak by in the same way. SSL2 allows a model to shoot outside of Line of Fire when shot. SSL2 ignores a wide range of penalties from surprise to firing through smoke. SSL2 allows a model to delay its ARO until after a model activating within eight inches has declared its second short skill. This one is wildly important as it allows you to have the final say and make the best choice based on what the active model is doing. Any fireteam of five models gains a +3 to any BS or PH bases attack. Much like increasing burst, the bonus here makes the model more likely to succeed in that firefight in the reactive turn. Spoiler: Applications Applications Infinity is a complex game. Discovering how to set up for your reactive turn varies widely depending on the mission, your opponent, your opponent’s army, the models you still have left and any other number of factors. In my mind, it is one of the most difficult parts of the game. Here are some rules of thumb that I take with me for PanOceanian sectorials in general, and SAA, NCA, and VIRD specifically. Fugazi. I almost always being max ava of Fugazi. They are only 8 points and provide a regular order if they haven’t been shot to shit. Remote Presence means that they have two levels of unconscious and can be easily brought back to annoy your opponent unless more orders are spent shooting the unconscious bot. Flash pulse (now with the exception of total immunity) is one of the most potent AROs in the game because a failed BTS roll means that the active model will not be able to accomplish anything else in the turn except repositioning. A lucky crit is amazing, and the threat of getting that crit against a tag can make your opponent second guess actions and potentially waste orders. I usually place these bots so they can’t see much past the midline of the table so that my opponent can’t just hmg them to death with the first order. They’ll typically watch lanes into my deployment zone, cover against walk on AD, and generally be my first line of defense. Warcore. This is a great option. Cheaper than the Fugazi and lacking mimetism, but irregular so it matters even less when it dies. I frequently attach my Xenotech to my Warcore so that I can place the multiscanner without using regular orders to do so. Techbee. Same as above, except she’s also a specialist, which can come in handy. Linked line troopers. Fusiliers, Order Sergeants, and Acontecimento Regulars, can all be outfitted with relatively inexpensive SWC weapons (multi sniper, heavy rocket launcher, missile launcher) that present very threatening AROs when brought up to BS15 at burst 2. Just like the Sierra Example earlier, it is important to keep in mind your goal and not to over expose the model. The later on in the game you can commit something like these to ARO, the more effective they will be because you have (hopefully) removes more of your opponent’s options for dealing with it. Count everything you leave out to ARO as a casualty and be pleasantly surprised if anything survives. This is important for trying to keep resources around for later in the game. Protect your key pieces with other stuff. Make it difficult for your opponent to accomplish the mission, but don’t leave out models that you’ll need later to clear the way or accomplish the mission. Pan Oceania tends to excel at face to face rolls. We don’t have warbands and it's hard to find a chain rifle. We do have high ballistics skill on cheap troopers and on expensive troopers with big modifiers. Keep in mind that PanO has to contest lanes, often using face to face rolls because that is sometimes our only option. This makes placement of AROs very important for us. Neoterran Capitaline Army The Swiss Guard with missile launcher and the Hexa with multi sniper rifle are two of the best hidden deployed AROs in the game. They are also no slouches when it comes to killing in the active turn. Auxilia are a fantastic cheap option. The auxbot with flamethrower can be some serious trouble. It has the disadvantage of being bypassed by smoke, camo, and a myriad of other options, but a 4 point flamethrower attached to a specialist is always a great asset. Varuna Immediate Reaction Division Kamau with multi sniper rifle and MSV2 is a monster. One of the best gunfighters in the game. BS16 with sixth sense and msv2 ignores every penalty to BS except for saturation and full auto level 2. Add mimetism to the mix and there is almost nothing in the game that can get a reliable exchange against it in a full core team. It can still die, but it will be a major player on the table. If you can save her until your second turn, after you’ve killed your opponent’s biggest attack pieces, she can dominate the table like nothing else. Zulu Cobra with jammer can create significant problems for your opponents. Because jammer doesn’t require line of fire, you can put your opponent in awkward situations. Especially if you can reveal the jammer, out of line of fire, while something else is shooting at the active model. That way you can force it to take unopposed shots or unopposed jamming attempts. Helots are a new and interesting option for PanO. Being irregular, they are cheap and losing their order isn’t a big deal. Having limited camo keeps them cheap and can force your opponent into awkward situations. Decoy can project threats all over the table that may or may not be there, forcing your opponent to slow down and react. I tend to prefer the light rocket launcher and limited camo variety. They all have merits however. Shock Army of Acontecimento Minelayers are one of my favorite parts of SAA. Between the Regular for 14 points and half a half SWC and the Bagh Mari with multi sniper for 28 points, it is possible to litter your deployment zone with mines. Mix that with a Regular core fireteam and you can build a fortress. Add mines and minelayer from Nagas and even the Tikbalang and you can make the board a veritable minefield for your opponent trying to accomplish objectives. Bagh Mari in a core team used to be fantastic, mixed with Regulars they are just as incredible, but cheaper. The mix of sixth sense, mimetism, msv1 and bs 15 on a relatively low priced elite infantry profile makes the Bagh Mari sniper a force to be reckoned with. Just a step below the Kamau sniper in effectiveness, just be aware that it can and will go down to sustained, especially linked, hmg fire. Comments and critiques are welcome.