Is infinity Actually Complicated?

We have all heard it before, from people who have heard of but never played Infinity.

“Infinity looks cool but it sure is complicated”

But why do people think this? I get the impression most of them have never had a demo game or watched a good how to play intro video.

So lets break down what makes a game complicated, and see if Infinity is a complicated game.

“There’s too many rules”

This is one I hear a lot and it perplexes me. Infinity is actually has very few rules comparatively. The basic rules section and other modules are relatively small and is broken into pretty digestible sections.

Warhammer 40ks rules, shown above from Wahapedia, is actually pretty lengthy. When you consider that infinity lacks things like transports, flyers detachment types, stratagems and so on it really reduces the amount of rules required.

Things get even more ridiculous when looking at weapons. Infinity has the best tabletop weapons system I have experienced

For the uninitiated, all armies in infinity have access to pretty much every weapon in the game, with a few exceptions of course. What this means is that there are very few variants of the standard guns, and when they exist they are typically an Ammo type modification to the weapon, or a burst change. For example, everybody has a Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) in their army, some of them will have specific models with AP HMGs, which are of course, heavy machine guns that fire AP ammo. This is instantly recognizable to everybody that has played more than 1 game of infinity. 40K instead has army specific weapons, so person who plays Eldar, or Tau or Tyranids have never used a Bolter, and unless they have read the rules or faced it enough, will have no idea at all what its stats are. On top of that, there are many variants of a bolter, and special rules from chapters, relics, Strategems, or something else that modify the humble bolter.

In infinity you just need to know the ammo types shown above and you know every type of weapon rules in all of infinity. This includes the weird ones like sepsitor which only a handful of armies have symbiobombs,

I can’t even present a good comparison for 40k here, so just the fact that there’s a page of weapon definitions for space marines that define what kind of weapon each gun is is telling. There are a lot of them, and these are either unique to space marines or the imperium. Orks, Tau, Eldar, and so on each will have their own section of weapons, their category, and stats that you cant hope to memorize without a lot of playtime or study.

Lets talk about “Special Rules”

Infinity gives each model a wide range of actions they can take to best fit whatever situation you are currently in. Additionally they do have access to lost of equipment and special rules that modify things. Those things may be their prowess in close combat, how easy they are to shoot, how good they are at dodging.

40K has these kinds of things as well, but where the similarities end is that 40k has Army specific special rules The number of special rules for this one 40K army is pretty much the same as the number of special rules for all of Infinity.

All the extras of 40k are daunting.

Space marines alone have something like 34 stratagems… If you look at all the armies in 40k there are hundreds of these things. That is pretty impossible to memorize, especially with how they interact with other faction special rules, stratagems, and so on.

Above is a basic Imperial Fist intercessor Squad. I am out of touch with 40k these days but this is in my estimation a very simple troop choice. Look at the heap of rules and all of the weapons just in this very basic squad

Above is actually a pretty complicated ORC trooper. Varuna Division ORCs have a few extra rules, and the feuerbach has different shooting modes, but overall, not nearly as many special rules going on here. Obviously there are examples where 40k models might have less special rules than infinity models, but I chose to compare the most basic HI in Infinity to the most basic infantry unit in the most popular and access able Warhammer army.

Alright alright alright its not about the rules, but this game still is complicated

Infinity is a hard game to be good at for sure, and those players feelings are absolutely valid, but lets break down what makes infinity hard, and complicated in a good way.

List Building

List building in infinity is definitely a barrier to new players. While making a legal list is pretty easy thanks to the excellent army builder app, making a cohesive list can be very challenging to new players who probably can’t remember what a Kamau looks like vs an Nokken.
Here is the biggest barrier, lack of netlists. Now I am not suggesting that I want netlisting to be a thing, quite the contrary, BUT new players often have no idea how to make a list, and other game systems allow you to copy and paste a top list and that will immediately get you pretty far.

Because Infinity does not rely on list building combos and synergies as much as other games, it is more about individual decision son individual models, which is very difficult. Another problem is often I find new players ask if X is a good list, and my response is usually “What Missions?”

The biggest barrier with list building is that, while list building can lose you games it will never win you a game. That comes down to deployment, and decisions made throughout the game.

Player Agency

Ultimately, Infinity is complicated because both players have a wide variety of choices at any given time. Active turn player gets to dictate the engagement and use their movement in a 3 Dimensional space, and figuring out an efficient use of orders can be daunting to even experienced players given any particular game state. Additionally, the reactive turn player also has 2 or more reasonable choices whenever an ARO is generated.

This huge number of meaningful choices made each game is difficult for a new player to wrap their head around, especially when compared to a game like 40K which is more about following an algorithm of activations to best use your synergies.

This is the best kind of complication to a game. Where the hard part is making good choices, not remembering 100s of specific special rules across a dozen factions.

So Now what?

The key to breaking down the barriers for new players is exposing them to the game. Demo games are vital here. They need to demonstrate how easy the rules mechanics of the game are, while also showing that there are lots of choices and interesting interactions in the game.

I think the main thing to remember is that people coming from other games do have a fundamental language and gameplay style barrier to get past. So many games emulate Warhammers fundamental rules. Infinity is hard to play well, and early games with a new player need to be curated such that their more experienced opponent is teaching the new player the fundamentals while trying to keep the game as close as possible.

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