Novacore (2022) is over and the results are in: I am jealous I wasn’t there because boy did that event look like a great time. Do note, I did not attend so my views of this are entirely from the outside looking in. I saw lots of great pictures of awesome tables and overall it looked like a fantastically ran event with amazing turnout. For reference here is the list of missions played.
Comms center (ITS X)
So lets start out this discussion with some of the awesome results we saw from this tournament.
This is truly remarkable army diversity for any game to see in a tournament setting. Out of the 42 total armies 32 of them saw play. That feels unheard of in other game systems
To simplify the numbers a little bit, we see that every major faction except Tohaa had representation (and Spiral Corps is basically Tohaa right?)
This is remarkable for any game and something that should absolutely be praised. With this many armies, to have such a high percentage of them represented is fantastic.
Big Picture Game Balance
The TP spread here is quite small, with Combined army being top dog with around an average of 17 TPs, while Haq and Pano prop up the bottom end with 10. That means that the worst performing factions in this tournament still, on average, had 2 major wins worth of points. The top performing army, Combined Army, has just over 3 major wins worth of points on average. This is out of a total possible 5 major wins (which would be an impressive result from any individual.) From best to worst faction that is a pretty tiny difference in the grand scheme of things. The big picture here says that Infinity is insanely well balanced, and I am not here to argue anything different. These results are very impressive.
The Top 5 Problem
Alright than, so I have made the claim that Infinity is insanely well balanced, and the armies were very well represented, what’s the problem here?
Well I spoiled it in the header, the problem is in the top 5. The top 5 armies consisted of, Combined Army, Combined Army, Shasvastii, Morats, and Nomads. Combined army as a faction represented about 20% of the total armies used in the tournament, but 80% of the top 5.
Now lets make it clear, those players could probably have placed in the top 5 playing many other armies because Infinity is a game that is much more about skill than it is about flavor of the week armies. But this concentration of one faction should at least send up some warning flags.
So why are the top players playing Combined Army? Maybe their army lists have the answers.
Well, my first reaction is that all 10 of those lists are absolutely terrifying, and the Nomad player is absolutely insane and I would like to meet them. Oddly, we see 6 different TAGS used in the top lists which is also very interesting to see. Clearly its not just the best tags representing their category here and that is fantastic to see. I have said it before, but a “generic arm 8 tag with big gun” can still be absolutely brutal when used correctly.
But, lets get back to Combined Army. So there’s a few things to unpack here. The first is that there is actually really strong diversity in these lists, none of them really look like a copy paste of each other with the exception of the Avatar lists. Often players will take two lists that are very similar but a few things swapped out. Think of this like having a sideboard for your deck in Magic. All your practice going into an event is applicable for both of your lists. Most of your answers, tactics, and tools are all the same and this is something I should consider for myself, as I often bring two lists to events but only end up using one out of comfort.
The usual offenders show up here, Imetrons being 4 points of veteran regular order goodness, and Ikadrons being aggressive baggage bots for under 10 points both are relatively faction defining for combined army. R-drones being the ever useful flash pulse bots should also not surprise anybody. But Taighas. Taighas were taken in every list they were legal in, so the Morat player actually skews these numbers significantly. 12.5% of all combined army unit selections in the top 5 were Taighas. These 5 or 6 point Zerglings are clearly something of huge value to Combined Army, one that somehow feels out of place. Additionally, we see significant use of Pretas and Gakis even in Vanilla combined. This means that Gribbly little irregular monsters comprised 19.2% of all the combined army models selected by top players.
This feels… somehow out of place. This is a faction whose partially defined by how expensive their stuff is that they get the insanely good Imetrons to help make up for it like Aleph. These little guys seem to really allow Combined army to crank up their model count in a way that is very attractive to top players.
There is clearly a combination of things going on that have helped make Combined Army so successful. First, they have a large variety of very powerful and useful models. We can see this in the unit selection being pretty diverse and the lists across players being distinct. But we also see a number of auto-include models that are all so cheap that they always can be included in a list without sacrificing much of anything. If anything, filling our 2-4 slots with 20 points of meat missiles means the remaining 11 slots of their army is of much higher quality. Saving 14-28 points to upgrade a model from an around 20 point meh model to a 48 point murder machine is significant, especially when you are probably already happy to take those Taighas anyways. The opportunity cost of Taighas (and many sub 10 point warbands) just isn’t high enough for them not to show up in force.
Interestingly, the Nomad player fielded none of these style units in their army lists. Uberfall are a menace and Morlocks are honestly pretty similar to Taighas in most ways. The Nomad player must have had other needs for the points and space for other things to make their strategies work. The value equation lead the Nomad player to favor other units in their army instead of inexpensive warbands, and I don’t have much data to comment further on their decisions.
A piece of advice I give to everybody who joins my team at work is, never complain about a problem without at least attempting to give solutions, so I’ll give it a go.
Availability would be the first thing I would target here. Vanilla combined has AVA 4 on Taighas, and AVA total on Pretas and Gakis. This feels like overkill. I would much rather give that identity to Shas and Morats where those gribbly beasts come from. I would drop it down to 1 each because then you still get 3 total cheapo warbands to play with if you so desire.
Nerfs to those units are another option, and they come in two flavors. The first flavor is more work but I’ll put on my infinity boomer hat and make the following claim: Models that were extremely impetuous either should have kept it or should go up in points. For those not around in N3, extremely impetuous models HAD to use their impetuous order unless you spent a regular order in their group to restrain them. This let models like Pretas and Gakis be extremely cheap, but have either a higher risk to their use (and deployment) or a cost to preserve them. The flexibility of modern impetuous rules have been massively beneficial to delicate warbands like these. I like this change because you can take this very same list tomorrow and nobodies armies are invalidated, just changed.
Alternatively, they may need a points increase. In general, I am on record as not being a fan of must sub-10 point warbands. I feel like they almost always outclass basic line troops, especially in vanilla where they cannot fireteam. The points increase should probably be a point or two on especially Taighas who seem to appear disproportionately often in every list they are legal in.
There is a third option, remove some of their special rules or lower their stats. There are a few areas I would look at if I were to nerf Taighas.
The first is their dodge stats. Dodging on 16s is extremely good, as good as something like a Devil Dog. Additionally they get 4 inches of movement on their dodge which slows them down to the second movement value of most warbands in the game. Outside their dodge, there are things you could change but unless you went way too far with it, they probably would still be extremely good.
Something to look at here is that clearly Taighas are much preferred to Gakis, with Gakis being cheaper and having the cheeky explode skill. The two areas they differ significantly is their dodge stats and the chain colt. There isn’t too much room for change here as the points difference is tiny and something like removing the chain colt from the Taigha is a massive nerf to the model that may push it out of use completely.
Infinity is insanely well balanced and designed. Don’t let this nit-picking bullshit article written by a very average player make you think anything other than that. Combined Army was over-represented at one event, and within their army Teighas and cheap warbands in general were disproportionately represented. If more events of this size see similar results I believe very small changes should be made to Combined army to reduce their presence at the top 5 placements. The first change I would look at would be their inexpensive warbands, as this would potentially effect every combined army list taken in this top 5 in a negative way. Teighas aren’t what make Combined Army so scary but its a good place to look when you want to dial them back a bit.