Sunday, 4 September 2011

Into the wormhole...

Even for a wargaming magpie such as myself, Infinity made an impression on me very, very fast.  I'd like to share what lead me to venture into the wormhole, never once considering how I was to get out again...

Earlier in the year Garth and I started looking into skirmish gaming; we'd realised that mass-battle wargaming was going to be a long-term investment, and decided to look for something with a significantly lower buy-in cost and figure number requirement so that we could get games on the table relatively quickly.  We'd played a lot of Mordheim "back in the day" so we started looking into picking it up again.  I soon "digressed" into looking at Necromunda, given a commonly-held opinion that it possessed a superior campaign system to Mordheim.  However, it didn't take us long to realise that there was little support for these games from GW other than an incomplete line of overpriced miniatures.  Given that none of the original rule-boxes were still in print and the original terrain was only available at huge prices on e-bay, we decided that there was no particular advantage to taking up GW games over any other systems, especially seeing as though they are essentially dead games from GW's perspective.

In the course of my search for a skirmish alternative I ventured onto various forums until I came to the Dakkadakka "Malifaux, Infinity and other skirmish games" (or some such) forum; it didn't take me long to find a link to the Infinity site.  I was thoroughly blown away; the Infinity website is incredibly professional, well designed and themed.  However, the website was a minor attraction compared to the impression left on me by the miniatures.  They were (are) beautiful, and very simply among the best miniature sculpts I have ever seen - and here a whole range of them.

I spent a week or two looking at the miniatures and reading reviews of the rules on the internet.  I sifted through the community forums and glanced through the free online rules.  Blown away by the miniature, I bought the Haqqislam Djanbazan sniper.  Not long after I bought the rules and really the rest is history.  It wasn't a flawless experience, but the rulebook did really cement my initial impression of the game and of Corvus Belli as a games company.

With my impulse purchases over the last six months I've read a lot of rules.  I have difficulty sitting down and reading rules books, I'm not entirely sure what the issue is!  It could be something to do with what I do for a living.  I read rules and other such dry material every day during my working week.  I also read and write a lot; my days are filled with letters, legislation, survey plans and planning documents.  It is perhaps because of this that I really struggle to read rules books; particularly if they're poorly laid out (sequentially and on each page), dry, overly complex with too many qualifications, or poorly illustrated.  Now, while the Infinity rules probably aren't perfect, for me they managed to largely avoid the above pitfalls, even with the obvious translation issues (which personally I think gives the language a unique style and isn't necessarily a flaw).

Unlike all of the other rules I've read recently, I really got the Infinity rules as I read through them.  Once the fundamental concepts of the opposed roles and ARO were established (both elegantly simplistic mechanisms in themselves and very well illustrated in the book) I could instantly see how other concepts fitted within that framework.  While I certainly haven't memorised the rules and I'm no where near having a full appreciation for their tactical nuances, I do feel as though I've got a grasp on how the game works after reading a little bit of the book every night.  This is much more than I can say for the other rules I've read, though to be fair they are of varying degrees of complexity given that they represent engagements between forces above the skirmish level.  I think that I can now conceptualise how most forseeable actions will work out within the rules mechanisms in a "cinematic" way; because of this the rules appear to me to be quite organic and logical, and I find this pretty valuable in a set of rules.

Not only has Corvus Belli produced a fine set of rules, but their approach to their product as a whole is well thought out and thorough (keeping in mind that I'm speaking five or so years after the rules' release, though they must have done something right to have survived this long).  Their production values across the board are top notch.  The website is well designed, the forums equally good looking and functional, and the rulebooks well bound in glossy hard back with good quality paper.  From what I've seen so far (on my one miniature in hand) the casting quality is high, though my sample was hardly comprehensive!

The key to it all, though, is the quality of the miniatures; they really sell themselves and the system.  I'm certain that Corvus Belli know this and have modelled their business appropriately.  They offer the basic rules for free, with the "extra" fluff to be obtained through purchase of the hard copies.  And once you've fallen in love with the miniatures you will want to have the fluff so as to place that beauty in context, trust me!  The added bonus is that because Corvus Belli have provided the basic rules and lists for free, they can provide a high quality, functional and free army building tool online.

Army Infinity v3.0 by Devil Team - and my Djanbazan sniper!

All of this goes to show that a company does not have to compromise its commercial viability in order to give the customer what they want, and it seems to me that a healthy business anticipates what the customer wants and evolves their business model accordingly.  The concessions made by Corvus Belli in making the rules available free really are an investment in the medium term I think - I've certainly bought the book and the miniatures!  Well done CB.

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