August last year, with the halcyon holidays coming to an end and the prospect of returning to school looming, just beginning to take my first tentative baby steps into the Human Sphere and desperate to get in some more games, I sent a plea on the UK Infinity Facebook page for players in the St. Albans area. From the ether came a response from James ‘Gribbley Gaming’ Newman, AKA ‘Merkage’, a St. Albans native, offering to play me the next time he was down from the grim landscape of Leeds. Fast forward 8 months and the opportunity for the the long awaited match-up was presented by Hemel Hempstead Games Club, who were holding an all day event on my favourite day to play Infinity, Saturday.
Feeling confident following a surprising winning streak, I began to get an inkling that I may have bitten off more than I could chew when I walked into the Marlowes Memorial Hall to see a camera set up on a tripod pointed over a fully painted custom gaming table. “Don’t mind if I take some pictures for my blog do you?” came the question from James, as I sheepishly pulled out my phone camera, ready to do the same. My misgivings deepened as James casually mentioned that he played Infinity “Five or six times a week,” and began discussing the numerous tournaments he had played in.
Suffice to say that the two games I played felt a bit like Emile Heskey challenging Lionel Messi to a street skillz competition [spoiler – I wasn’t Messi]. Despite winning the WIP roll and choosing to deploy on the side with the best firing lanes, in the first game, a 20×20 mission of ‘Save the Scientists’, James wielded his vanilla Ariadna like a surgical scalpel, excising the most malignant parts of my army with a bewlidering array of camo tokens and a precise use of range MODs and surprise shots to often leave me unable even to shoot back.
James’ deployment. Not really sure who’s who, but hopefully he writes up the game on his blog, with added pretty close-up pictures!
First to be operated on was my Haris linked Sekban HRL, extirpated by a ‘Surprise Shotting’ Cateran Sniper. Next on the table was my Shihab HMG Remote, who was anaethetised into unconsciousness by a ‘Surprise Shotting’ Spetznaz HMG. The Djanbazan was soon euthanised by the Spetznaz, who ignored the cover afforded by my ‘clever’ placing of the sniper prone on top of the highest point. With no conscious Haqqislam units able to gain LoS, the technophile Ariadnans then threw two scientists over their shoulders, roughly manhandling them into their deployment area, before fading away like shadows, re-camouflaging or finding the safety of cover.
Hmmm. My turn began with the twin Yuan Yuans parachuting onto the table out of LoS to enemy units. After some thrown smoke, one of the kamikaze mercenaries made it into touching distance of one of the rescued scientists before somewhat embarrassingly running out of orders and ending up standing out in the open in line of fire to the majority of the Ariadnan army. Turning to the main pool, the link began to move out, with the Kaplan Engineer climbing the tower to bring the Shihab Remote back up to full consciousness. Spending the remainder of my orders the Kaplan/Hafza link moved up to secure one of the scientists, the Kaplan Doctor moving up to heal the boffin before rolling a 19 and killing him. With the opportunity to secure 3 VPs lost, I handed over to James.
Following some highly professional play and the odd crit on James’ part, and some clumsy Heskey-esque play on mine, my Kaplan/Hafza link was mauled. “I don’t mean to be a dick,” said James “But do you want to start another game?” Yes; yes I do.
During the lunch run to MacDonalds, where the employee suggested a cheeseburger as a vegetarian option, I had a chance to talk to James. He was a top bloke, very funny and passionate about the game, and obviously a big player in the UK Infinity scene. The ease of his victory began to make more sense as ‘Merkage’ explained that he was currently placed 4th in the international [i.e. not Spain or Europe] rankings, and 12th in the world. In fact, an admin error in a recent tournament had cost James some points which was, apparently, adjusted by the end of the day to leave him sitting at 1st in the international rankings!
After some hastily gobbled burgers we played a quick game of ‘Seize the Antenna’, with James switching to his Pan: O, whom I felt much more confident about taking on, having an army myself. Changing things up I selected my inappropriately titled ‘stomp list’, which included Scarface and Cordelia. Things went no better in the second game, with an HMG toting Swiss Guard and a marauding Croc Man Hacker dominating proceedings, although I did actually hold two antennae to James’ one at one point! A 10-0 total victory was secured by James, with me throwing in the towel at the top of my third turn.
Despite being completely ‘merked’, this was a landmark game in my development as an Infinity player, and I want to thank James again for making the journey down the M1 to play me on his beautiful table. I learnt an incredible amount about the game, and it gave me an insight into life at the top tables, and the tips and tricks that the elite players keep in their back pockets. I can’t feel too bad about losing to the best player in the UK! I’m looking forward to playing James, and also his awesome gaming buddy Laina, in the gaming garage at some point soon, and hope to put up a greater challenge.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ll take from this experience is to make sure that my link team leader in the reactive turn is my least valuable/most hidden member, as the support bonuses are the same in ARO no matter who is leading the fireteam [probably obvious to everyone but me]. I also learnt a lot about using your ‘star players’, the heavy hitters, to get the job done, with the ‘cheerleaders’ there mainly to add orders and defend the backfield. Finally, I was treated to a masterclass of the effective use of camo markers and surprise shotting, and truly appreciate the value of re-camouflaging at the end of the turn.
Next up, more Campaign Paradiso as I return to Enfield Gamers after a two week holiday hiatus.