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A chat with Corvus Belli about Infinity

Among my chats at GenCon, I was able to talk with the fine fellows over at Corvus Belli about Infinity. Their new Spec-Ops book is creating a lot of buzz. And honestly, Infinity has been a game I've been looking to get into. Personally, I just find the models absolutely gorgeous. So I was really looking forward to getting to see the game as well as talk with the designers about it.

The crew:
Left to right: Carlos Llauger, Richard Wagener, Gutier Losquinos

So while I talked with all 3 guys from the crew that were there, I mostly chatted with Gutier Losquinos, fluff writer and game designer for Infinity. Gutier explained that Infinity is set about 175 years in the future. Humanity has spread among the stars as technology continues to advance. Gutier wanted to emphasize that the background is set in our present-day world. The factions in Infinity are directly linked to present nations and represent what the writers feel would be a scenario that is possible. The background design is more of an RPG-style, that is to say that it's not just nameless soldiers, but everyone has a background and a story. The design is set for a more veteran gamer. It's a bit more adult in nature and is designed to connect with the gamer as they read over the story.

The gameplay itself is a true skirmish-style game where a player will have around 8-14 models on the field, almost all of them being special characters. But even the "regular grunts" are heroic. Gutier explained that the designers work very hard at making each model, even the lowliest of grunts, capable of heroic deeds. They don't want you to ever have to take a model just for filler that you know won't actually do anything on the battlefield, but instead give you options that are always going to be good in certain situations.
A friend who plays Infinity recently told me of an example of this, where a trooper with a shotgun had managed to flank around the enemy force. He was then able to shoot at some troops in cover, and though he didn't cause any damage, forced the enemy to back out of their spot, which allowed others to move in for the kill. Gutier said that was exactly what they were going for.

One thing Gutier wanted to stress about the game is that you are "always playing," even when it is not your turn. Infinity uses an alternating activations format, so you're not waiting for your opponent to move and shoot with several dozen models while you just remove casualties. Even within the alternating activations, there's a lot of reactions that you can do during your turn. Basically, whenever your opponent does an action while within line of sight of your troops, you have the option of reacting to it. The goal was to create a system that feels as "realistic" as possible. The game is meant to be as close to a simulation as it can be.

Within that, the game calls for liberal use of terrain. With the LOS-reaction system, it is imperative to utilize all the cover you can. Gutier mentioned a partnership with MicroArt Studio who makes many different terrain pieces specifically with use in Infinity in mind.

The game uses a D20. Gutier said this was so the stats of each model could be more granular. Between a 3 and 4 in a D6 system is a pretty big deal. In Infinity, going between a 10 and 11 may not be much, but it can still make the difference in hits and misses, but it is much more slight a difference. It helps so the game designers can fine-tune abilities and stats on models to a greater precision.

So Spec-Ops is the big thing with Infinity. It's their new book that brings a whole new dynamic to the game: experience. Gutier explained that for the longest time it was thought impossible to bring experience and advancement to Infinity. So much time and effort is spent balancing the game that adding in a system where those stats can be altered was just beyond what was doable with the system. However, they were finally able to make a compromise: limit the number of models that actually advanced. Gutier said that when gamers play, there's always some model that the gamer identifies with on the table. "That model is me." With the new experience system, the gamer can become that model and see how they grow and change over the course of a campaign.

Corvus Belli, Gutier said, is always trying to improve the gaming experience. They know they're not perfect and are constantly looking for ways to make things better. It's not "good enough" but always "needs better." Spec-Ops is a breaking point for veteran players. It's a new way to play the game. Gutier laughed as he said that for the playtesters, they loved the new system so much that when the Spec-Ops stuff was finalized and it was time to start working on the next set of models, they didn't want to move on. They were having so much fun with the Spec-Ops system that it was hard to get them to want to move on. So it is a product that they, themselves, love and they know that you're going to love it, too.

I want to thank Gutier Losquinos for talking with me about Infinity and the new Spec-ops system. Also Carlos Llauger for the information he gave, and also to Richard Wagener for setting up the whole thing for me.