A Primer or Table Structure and Setting Up the Game: Heya all, it’s me again, and I’ve decided to translate across the last of my Primers from the old forums. I had put less emphasis on this as I was not sure that the community was interested in a discussion on this, but there are a number of recent threads which have essentially regarded this topic, as such I have decided it is time to update this primer and move it across. As such I would like to discuss and elaborate o an aspect of the game that I think has far more influence on a units use than many other factors within the rules. Namely how your table is set up. So, Infinity is very much a terrain driven game and that is one of its greatest strengths a weaknesses, a weakness in the sense of the cost and space required for the game and the games balance revolving around an appropriate terrain setup that allows all units, profiles and options a space to shine. And strength in that it drives the game to cinematic moments of epicness that no other table top game in my experience matches. What I am trying to do here is to provide you with the main points that I personally in helping to run my community look for when I set up tables, so that you too may be aware of the factors in table design that can influence the gameplay of Infinity. If you choose to follow the opposite of these principles because it leads to the gameplay experience that you are after then more power to you, have fun and enjoy yourself. All I can really say is that by following these basic principles, and by ignoring them on occasion, my local community has found a scheme that works for us, one where we feel that no tactics, tricks or lists dominate excessively over others. Types of Table Structure: It is important I feel in infinity for tables to make sense in their narrative as well as being mechanically playable for all participants. The degree of which you lie towards depends on you as the players but this article will focus on the basic principles of both. What do I mean by these terms, well in my opinion the two concepts on table design can be described below. Narrative structure tables: Tables that tell a story Gameplay: tables that emphasize the use of the games mechanics during play. Note that just because I have referred to the table set up in these terms does not mean that 1 is inherently balanced versus the other or that one is better than the other. It’s merely highlighting that one set up aims to emphasize the story being told while the other aims to allow a tight gameplay experience where all units and weapon options have the potential to be useful during the course of the game if the army as a whole is used properly. It should also be pointed out that narrative tables can be used to adjust the balance of a game for asymmetrical scenarios by limiting the practical impact of certain tactics that would otherwise be too powerful. PART 1: Point 1, the Foundations: Here we are setting up the main structure of the table, this step consists of the placement of the main 1st floor of the table, the terrain that is most going to influence the flow of the game and as such is the most important. When I set up a table I roughly aim to ensure that each quarter of the table has approximately the same foot print area occupied by large line of site blocking terrain, but that the distribution of the terrain is different in each area. Taking the suggested layout above as an example we can see that each quarter of the table is roughly occupied by 5 “units” worth of terrain, however in the lower right corner of the table this consists of a single large 4x4 building and a small 1x1 building, whereas the bottom left has 2 4x2 buildings and a 1x1. Same amount of table coverage, but the different distribution adds needed asymmetry to the table. Be warry of creating bottle necks at this point and try to have at least 3 paths of egress from table edge to table edge. You should also think about how far apart you want your buildings, its ok to have some paths tight enough to limit the movement of troops through them, but if you have to many or too large areas of high density you are limiting what players can bring to bear effectively over the whole game far too much. A good rule of thumb is to have most gaps between buildings roughly 4ish across at their absolute shortest (longer obviously works better at this stage as we will fill the gaps in the following steps); this works into the mechanics of both smoke and cautions movement well with the slight variances around 4 leading to actual potential risk assessment being required by players wanting to use such tactics while leaving them possible. Point 2, the Fire Lanes: In infinity it is important that all weapons have the opportunity to shine, and that your local meta is distorted by the terrain and table set up as little as possible. One of the most common mistakes on tables in my opinion is the establishment of a clearly dominating fire lane, where the game played on such a table devolves into a fight over who controls said fire lane, sucking both players into a frustrating war of attrition. In my experience I aim to prevent this by ensuring that no fire lanes cross the entirety of the table length in either the horizontal or vertical lines. A good rule of thumb that I follow is to keep the long lanes at approximately 2/3rds of the table in length, though allowing the occasional lane to travel the entire table until it hits a building resting on the opposite edge of the table is also appropriate. The caveat to this is that you should not be afraid of diagonal fire lanes across the entire length of the table. These fire lanes both allow the longest range weapons in the game to come into their strengths by range mod’ing other weapons; they also allow such pieces to be attacked by moving up the shorter fire lanes that run horizontally and vertically up the table. Finally when set out properly and once scatter is added such fire lanes are still have the potential to be moved across or through without engaging the long range weapons through the use of appropriate skills and orders. This is important is it prevents the game bottlenecking and rewards problem solving and lateral thinking by the players while maintaining direct engagement as a viable solution. Point 3, Board Edges: One of the most common mistakes converts from other games systems make is to leave the board edges of their tables clear from any contact with terrain, not only does this limit the effective playing area of models actually deployed on the table by leaving large clear fire lanes down the flanks, it also unfairly hammers troops that rely on AD or units such as infiltrating snipers that must either deploy on the table edge or rely on hugging the table edge to be effective. As such it is important that 2 or 3 of the table edges have solid pieces of terrain at some point along their length to add tactical options to the game. This includes the deployment zones where such terrain prevents AD or infiltration Rambo’s from swinging entire games just by getting long lines or Fire into an opponent’s entire DZ. PART 2: Step 1, Asymmetry: So we have our 1st story and now it’s time to add to our table so that it has more than single story height variation. One of the best things about infinity is the way that the game plays on its terrain, really getting a feel for all the tactical options found in engagements happening from differing heights. Not just the obvious sniper nests but also the benefits of climbing to gain LOF and other. Second story is generally where your table should start to add some Asymmetry to make the choice of deployment more significant to the overall game. In the example above I have gone with 5 pieces that are either 2 stories or higher, 2 of them in 1 deployment zone but relatively advanced and 1 in the other deployment zone but with a limited though powerful fire lane. Given the relative heights of the first story buildings we can reasonably assume that 2nd story buildings start to lose LOF as soon as they are blocked by the first story. But in reality it’s important to get down to a models eye view and ensure both sides have access to shadow zones behind buildings that lets them move and hide from such sniper nests. Much like fire lanes we want to allow people the tactical option to move round these obstacles at the expense of orders rather than getting stuck in firefights they cannot win. Step 2, the Midfield: It is also important to ensure that there is 2nd story or higher buildings in the midfield to play over. These positions are important, in particular for offering infiltrators that do not require LOF to be effective a tough location from which to fit as well as giving unusual weapon options such as infiltrators armed with long range weaponry a place in the mid field where their range advantage is still important. Finally it adds another layer of protection from that type of game where 1 player dominates the roof tops and prevents the other player being able to effectively move in its entirety. In terms of volume of second story or more layers to your table I have the feeling that you want to be roughly a quarter of the volume of your 1st level floor space being also second story or more, moving into higher density as you desire. It is important to note that due to the mechanics of cover offered by elevation, as you add more second stories to your table you will need to add more scatter terrain to the rooves of buildings on the first story to allow troops on those rooves fighting options against troops dominating the top stories. PART 3: Step 1, Hold the Line: So now we have the 1st and 2nd layers of our tables sorted. Let’s add some scatter. The first scatter to add is the defensive scatter. Pieces that are placed in locations that lets your troops sit behind them and defend aggressively in the reactive turn, this terrain should be limited but focused on choke points or in the deployment zones of players. Here is where you are deliberately trying to establish conflict, getting players to fight each other for control of the board rather than move around each other as you are with the other concepts expressed above. Step 2, Wall sliding: The next scatter to add is the scatter that breaks up and adds another layer to those long fire lanes, breaking some of them down entirely when viewed from the ground level and limiting the engagement range of others or weapons appropriate for use in them. This terrain aims to benefit the active player over the reactive and should be placed in contact with larger LOF blocking terrain, letting troops move up to base contact with the terrain before sliding along in cover to engage the opponent. It’s good to pair this up opposite the stronger and more noticeable defensive positions on the table. Note: you should also mix this type of terrain up in placement and use its positioning to create interesting engagement angles for the troops of both players. STEP3, TAG Scatter: Now we ensure that there is scatter large enough for S5, 6, 7 or 8 models to gain cover but still see over and dominate the movement across the table from. This type of terrain is important as it allows such models (which are rarely scoring) the locations from which they can actually achieve their main battlefield role, IE dominance of the table. Don’t overdo it with these pieces (4 to 6 should be plenty) but don’t be over shy with them either as a closer table gives the opponent options in these instances as well. STEP 4, Rooftop Scatter: Pretty simple, you want to follow the principles above, but start placing scatter on the rooves of the 1st story (then 2nd story) buildings. Of particular note is that by having scatter drawn back from the edge of the building you can allow snipers to engage each other from cover without having to be prone and higher. This is important as they can then fight their own fight if without being forced to have to also engage models on the lower ground, this lets players use defensive snipers to just counter the fight for the high ground rather than leading to an arms race where both players have to take the nastiest snipers as they have to engage all targets all the time. PART 6: Step 1, House Rules: It’s important for players to be able to critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their own terrain sets and adjust the rules accordingly if they feel 1 type of weapon or a particular playstyle begins to dominate their local meta. These house rules are very important for the balance of the game and usually can be established with a simple group vote. For example, my local club has a MAS table that also has a number of skywalks with railings, which while being solid and dependable can also have a significant amount obscure LOF through large windows and railings, as such we tend to house rule that you can only draw LOW through such windows if you or your target is in base contact with the window itself. We as a club feel with is important to limit the gotcha! that can occur otherwise and also for allowing freedom of movement over the table. EDIT: Also dont be afraid to review these Houserules. A year ago when I first wrote this article that is how my Gaming group was playing on the MAS table and most of our tables, recently however we have adopted an into not through approach to buildings and its not significantly changed much more about the game given that we have been able to add a lot more terrain to our available collections. Step 2, Terrain Zones: One of the most effective ways to add Asymmetry to your game table while still ensuring that your table interacts well with and allows in depth use of the games mechanics is through the use of the terrain rules to create zones on the table which can shift the power and flow of the game. In our local club we have been achieving this through an increased use in jungle/forrest terrain as low vis, sat zones which are difficult terrain. We are finding that the changes in mechanics offered by including areas like this on the table can add both story and interesting play to the game. One thing to be aware of though is that low vis, sat zones, nimbus and eclipse zones are a limited substitute for LOF blocking terrain and should be used to enhance the way a table plays rather than as a stand in for less terrain. PART 5, The Examples: Here I have included a series of pictures of the various tables I have played on, these are in general my favorites in terms of the way the tables interact with the mechanics of the game itself. Example 1: "Its important to note that there are buildings at the corners in both DZs meaning that edge is for the most part only the area between the deployment zones, furthermore you cna note that there are plenty of points along that table edge from which it can be defended, at the same time the table edge is blocked mostly from the middle of the table. This creates a compromise for both players in that resources must be dedicated to defending that flank or risk your opponent capitalizing on what you thought would be an unlikely spot for AD to show up. At the same time the table does allow AD or troops to move down that flank if they desire but leaves it a less attractive choice. Its mostly about compromise and mixing it up, the aim isnt to always 100% of the time have a piece of LOF blocking terrain butting the board edge as that creates predictability in the game with you always know where the AD is likely to show up. Its also worth noting that the other side of the board has LOF blockages at about the midpoint on the table making it the more attractive option for AD to deploy at. But that attractiveness results in it probably being the kind of location that people are going to focus more defensive power on. Its that kind of thought and mental gameplay that a table should encourage through this kind of asymmetry." -These comments were from discussion regarding the viability of AD on this table. NOTE: Further examples will be forthcoming over hte next few days as I go over and collect photos of various tables. PART 6, Diagonals: So at the request of 2 players I know I have decided to include this section on how Diagonals can influence a table design. So as seen in the photo above the table in question has been set up such that the buildings follow the basic principles set out in the article above. However the placement of the buildings on an angle relative to the table edges creates more variation in the Deployment zones and edges of the table. This can help prevent the creation of clear edges or deployment zones by giving the layout a rougher effective playing edge. At the same time the prominence of those corners in the middle of the table forces the fight to revolve around holding the corners and can lead to interesting lines of fire and avenues of movement that players would not have gotten in a more conventional table set up. Another major effect of diagonal tables is the increase in the “horizontal depth” of the game, whereby it becomes far more important in terms of gameplay and tactics to properly support and protect your troops from flanking maneuvers, making the gameplay as a whole feel more fluid with a full 360 degrees of engagement on the horizontal plane. Your troops must be able to both move forwards and also have their backs protected from troops moving around them and attacking them from behind on such tables more than they would normally have to on a perpendicular table. Finally the altered perception of players on such tables can lead to situations where the player that is able to focus on the game table is better able to use the terrain to their advantage than a player that is very used to playing in a particular fashion, this sort of shaking up of the meta can be a good way for players to practice and improve their skills in a subtle way.