Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Infinity: Operation Icestorm unboxing and review

Moving into third edition, Infinity continues to maintain its characteristic anime-inspired art direction.

I have been collecting and assembling Infinity models for well on two years now and I have not played a single game of Infinity. Despite my best intentions, I still have never dredged up enough motivation to read and learn the rules for the game (despite them being free online…).  I think this is finally going to change, now that they have released a starter boxed game, Operation Icestorm, containing all that one needs to play.  Fortunately, it comes with a set of starter rules, designed to introduce the rules to new and veteran players alike, since it is the first exposure anyone will get for the new third edition ruleset.  I preordered a copy of the box when it was first unveiled at Gencon, and am happy to report that it has finally arrived!

The box is surprisingly compact, and extremely well organized and packaged.

Upon receiving the game in the mail, the first thing that struck me was the size of the game itself. Compared to other boxed games, the dimensions of the box are really small (~9.5’’x13’’x2.5’’), not much larger than a box for a Space Marine Rhino or Dark Eldar raider. Despite the small size of the box, it is filled with all of the components one might expect from a starter game: models, dice, terrain, rule book, etc..

This is the first time that Corvus Belli has released a boxed starter set for the game of Infinity.  Since its goal was to introduce people to the hobby, they made special effort to ensure that what comes in the box is an accurate representation of what you will be getting yourself into if you start to play Infinity. Towards this end, the packaging and the models contained within the game are exactly like what you will get if you purchase any other Infinity product. That means that all of the models contained in the game are cast in white metal, a far cry different from the general trend model companies have taken recently of slowly replacing all of their metal models with plastic counterparts. I am actually pretty happy about the decision to stick with metal. With a skirmish game that only uses a handful of models I like the feel of metal when moving them around the battlefield! And having been a hobbyist for over well over a decade, I am very familiar with working with metal miniatures (and in some ways still prefer metal…).

This Akalis Sikh Commando is one of my favorite models in the set. His shouldered rifle and wide stance suggest he has just dropped behind enemy lines! 

The casting on Infinity models is often quite good with only tiny mold lines. They do however have some pretty sizable tabs that need to be removed before assembly. 
Interestingly, some of the female models have combi-rifles that are markedly smaller than their male counterparts. An artifact of 3D printing?

I particularly like the berets all of the PanOceania fusiliers wear. They look look like British paratroopers!
From what I understand, snipers are really important and dangerous in Infinity. I have high hopes for this Grenz Security Team sniper!

The game comes with a total of 14 different models, 7 from the PanOceania faction and 7 from the Nomads (roughly 160 points per army). Additionally, if you preordered the game you also received a limited edition model of a Corporate Security officer (complete with submachine gun disguised as a briefcase). All of the models in the game were 3D sculpted by two very talented sculptors, Fausto Gutierrez and Javier García Ureña. Fausto Gutierrez sculpted all of the PanOceania models, while Javier García Ureña was responsible for all of the Nomad models (and the Corporate Security officer). Gutierrez’s work with the PanOceania models is fantastic, perfectly depicting a fiercely disciplined and well-trained military fireteam. I particularly love the Akalis Sikh Commando with his  legs spread wide and braced, his torso immobile stabilizing his rifle in a compact grip, unaffected from the stomach lurching forces of a high altitude jump. The Nomad models sculpted by Javier Ureña are equally impressive, wonderfully capturing a charismatic band of veteran soldiers each with their own unique and distinguishing features (kind of at odds with the prim and proper look of the PanOceania troopers). My favorite of the Nomads is the Grenz Security Team sniper. He is thoughtfully shouldering his rifle and peering through its scope. He also has two pistols on his waist (almost like a desperado from the Wild West!) and rows of pouches on his abdomen storing extra magazines for the sidearms!

I am basing all of my Operation Icestorm models on bases from Dragon Forge. While it is time consuming, I think the extra effort goes a long way!

Each of the models I have assembled have gone together pretty easily, however they require some greenstuff work to look their best.

Interestingly, in an extension of being very open with how their products are sold, each faction comes in a cardboard box just like if you had purchased one of their other kits, and those boxes are then cleverly used to create terrain for playing the game. The game comes with thin cardboard sleeves that go over top of the model boxes (and any you may have lying around from previous Infinity purchases), making them look like futuristic buildings.  It is a neat way to have themed terrain in an instant using items that you already own. Additionally, it is does not require painting, allowing you to spend more time working on the models themselves or actually playing the game! It is important to note that you can still assemble all of the buildings without inserting one of the model boxes (they are just to add extra rigidity to the buildings). In addition to the 4 buildings you receive, you also receive 6 smaller cardboard cargo shipment containers (3 different designs with logos from different companies in the Infinity universe). All of the buildings can be assembled in a few minutes without the need for glue. This is nice because it allows you to disassemble them easily for storage.

The terrain included in the game is extremely easy to assemble and tear down again for storage.

You can insert the model boxes included in the starter, or ones from other Infinity models you may own, into the cardboard buildings to increase their rigidity.

Some of the shipping containers that come with the game, complete with insignia from the Infinity universe. 

The game also provides you with a thin cardboard sheet of all of the different counters you will need to play the game. These include all of the different counters for declaring orders along with marking wounds and unconscious troops. They also include a template for soldiers that are able to combat jump (for paratroopers and such) and a short 8 inch ruler. Finally, they have a silhouette template to aid in determining line of fire during combat. The counters look great and were designed very nicely. They look just like the ones that Corvus Belli includes on the flaps of their model boxes for you to cut out and use. Unfortunately, all of the counters are made of incredibly thin cardboard so it will not take long for them to be destroyed if they are not taken care of. If you are worried about them, Micro Art Studio sells some acrylic counters for Infinity. I have not purchased any of the acrylic ones, but I imagine they are pretty nice.

While the tokens and templates are colorful and functional, they are made of extremely thin cardboard.

Each Infinity box has the relevant tokens for the soldiers on the box tabs that can be cut out and used in games.

Infinity, unlike the typical dice-based games miniature games, uses twenty-sided dice (d20s!). As such, the game comes with a total of six d20s, three red ones for the Nomad and three blue ones for the PanOceania forces. The dice have nice round edges and all of the numbers are highlighted in white, making them easy to read. Additionally, they have either a Nomad or PanOceania logo in the place of the 1 side of the die, a nice little detail (I wonder if they will make similar dice for the other factions in the game?). I am actually pretty excited that they use d20s because they have a much larger range of success and failure, something that just can’t be done with the standard d6. In some regards, it is similar to what I liked so much about the card-based system Malifaux (which uses a standard deck of playing cards rather than dice, so 14 possibilities!).

The dice are one of the nicest elements in Operation Icestorm, well etched with the numbers highlighted in white.

The boxed game also comes with a rulebook as you would expect for any introductory boxed game. Instead of giving you a complete ruleset, they provide you with an introductory rulebook designed to ease new players into the game. It contains 5 missions that slowly introduce new rules, as they include more and more models, until finally you are using all the models that come in the box set. The rules are clearly laid out and written with nicely illustrated diagrams. While it would have been nice if they had included a full copy of the new 3rd edition rules, it is not too much of a loss knowing that they will be made available free online in the future.

The starter rulebook and the terrain and templates directly out of the box.

The rulebook is clearly laid out, with very informative diagrams guiding you through the game's main concepts.

Finally, the game comes with a 24’’x32’’ gaming mat that is detailed to look like the inside of a research/shipping facility. The mat is made out of a glossy paper and comes folded in the box. While I understand why they made the mat paper, I am a little saddened by it. Even right out of the box you can see all of the stress marks at the creases. You will probably need to flatten and laminate it if you want it to last you more than a handful of uses. That being said if you get into Infinity in a serious way you will need to expand to a larger board anyway. From my understanding for typical games of 150-300 points, you play on a surfaces that are 4x4 feet. If you are really gung-ho to use a mat to play Infinity, Micro Art Studio makes a 4x4 feet rubber gaming mat for Infinity that is apparently very nice.

Operation: Icestorm retails for $120, which is a significant investment, more than Games Workshop’s Dark Vengeance ($110) or Mantic’s Deadzone ($100). Is this price justified when considering the competition? Ultimately, I think it is worth the high price tag, but what aspects you value as a hobbyist will determine the box’s value. Corvus Belli took the stance that the models were the most important element in the box, and poured most of their resources into them. They are arguably some of the nicest Infinity sculpts, and equal the best of any miniature game on the market today. They are also high quality metal, exactly like all of their other miniatures, not push-fit or low quality restic. The other elements of the box are not nearly as premium as the models, with flimsy tokens and templates, and a starter rulebook. These things are geared towards getting people to play the game immediately, without needing to wade through page after page of rules or print out tokens. In a similar vein, the terrain is made of thin cardboard. While some might decry this choice, favoring the plastic terrain that comes with Deadzone, I quite like the terrain that comes with Operation Icestorm. It makes clever use of items that you already own, and goes together in seconds. There is no need for painting, trimming, or gluing, instead you can put all that time into playing the game. So at the end of the day, I am extremely satisfied with Operation Icestorm. It succeeds in all of the places that I value most. First and foremost, the models are fantastic; no corners were cut, and they accurately reflect what the rest of the hobby is like. Secondly, it makes a point of getting you playing the game quickly and easily, allowing you to truly start experiencing their unique brand of science fiction. These are all wins in my book, and I cannot wait to delve even deeper into Corvus Belli’s vision of the future.

- Adam Wier

1 comment:

  1. Another great review I've enjoyed reading. It's been a while since the last time I've seen a whole boxed set that includes white metal models, and these look astoundingly detailed. Looking forward to your work on them!