Friday, 21 December 2012

Campaign Paradiso: Infinity Campaign Book Review

The postie bought me some long awaited Ariadna reinforcements, as well as the Campaign Paradiso rulebook which finally introduces scenarios and a narrative campaign to the previously deathmatch-centric Infinity sci fi skirmish rules.

The folks at Corvus Belli know how to make a quality product

It's so Shiny
The glossy 200+ page hardback rulebook, as always, has superb production values, great artwork and inspiring pictures of miniatures by the impossibly talented Angel Giraldez.  This book is a pleasure to flick through for the art alone. My main complaint: the quality of the paintjobs on display make me frustrated my miniatures will never look even remotely as good. As usual, it is packed with interesting fluff, which, as usual, tends to obscure the rules themselves a bit.  I can't say the rulebooks are laid out in a particularly user-friendly manner, but all key rules and weapons stats (everything you need to play Infinity to the latest version) are available for free on their website.  In fact this is the first time Corvus Belli have not uploaded the complete rules content on the net (like they did for the first two books) - to play the Paradiso scenarios (and get the copious fluff), you will need to buy the book.

Support troops such as engineers are needed for some scenarios

Campaign Fluff & Scenarios
There are 20 pages of history giving information about the alien attacks on Paradiso. I skimmed this - I will come back and enjoy it later.  

The scenarios were sandwiched after the fluff, but awkwardly separated from the actual campaign rules at the very back of the book.  The 14 scenarios provided, if linked in order, actually tell the official "storyline" and you could play them as a narrative.  The "official" force lists are at 300 points, using a 48x48" table.  I wouldn't launch a new player straight into these - 150 point straight deathmatch games would be a better starting place. Infinity's mechanisms themselves are not that complicated but it DOES have a steep learning curve, and a 300-point game including more "specialist" models with unique abilities exacerbates this.

The scenarios necessitate having hackers, engineers and doctors and include data recovery, triangulation, building/objective seizure, ambush, infiltration, exfiltration, hijacking, evacuation, and rescue missions.  All scenarios are well written and detailed but rather too specific - in many cases with a rather precise table layout and even including where elevators are located. 

TL:DR A great variety of well-written scenarios, but some scenarios are quite "rigid" in layout. 

Except for the Corax, I found all the Spec Ops troops rather boring sculpts. Ironic, as they are the only upgradable "hero" unit.

Faction Fluff
Like all Infinity rulebooks, each unit has a paragraph or so describing their history and role. There are also historical "facts" which help flesh out the feel of each faction. They contain news snippets, random anecdotes, comics and art as well.  They are kinda quirky and not at all like GW codexes. I enjoy them, but to be honest I think this should be placed at the back of the book, with the unit stats, instead of in the middle where it separates the campaign rules from the scenarios (which means a lot of flipping back and forth through the rules.)  This is a hefty chunk of the rules - 110 pages in fact.

I won't be able to resist buying them, but the Tohaa "not-Eldar" do seem like lazy design

The big news is the introduction of a new race, the Tohaa, who seem designed around 3-man fire teams (I suspect they are trying to get away from the current all-or-nothing 5-man fire teams - due to the way bonuses stack people usually field a 5-man squad or none at all). They have symbiotic armour and viral weaponry; and are a manipulative mentor race (*cough* Eldar *cough*) who "uplift" other races ...  ....some say to make them their servants...

TL:DR  Quirky and cool content, but best relegated to the back of the book with the actual unit profiles. The Tohaa "space elves" don't exactly break new ground.

The Spec Ops troops were surprisingly bland. The poses are very static and uninspiring compared to the usual fluid action poses
Campaign System
This is the bit I was most interested in.  The scenario victory conditions provides XP (experience points) but the only up-gradable solider is the "Spec Ops" class - a line trooper who can gain up to 3 special skills, 3 weapons and 3 pieces of equipment, based on its faction profile.  He can also gain stat increases - extra strength, wounds, shooting accuracy etc. 

Most of the time, XP will be spent on force-wide special abilities - the ability to have an extra "army points" when building a force - bonuses to initiative, increased availability of specialist troops, the ability to know an opponent's army list, higher retreat thresholds, etc. 

I was disappointed with this section - only one trooper being able to gain experience (under very strict guidelines) was a bit rigid (though I understand it would be done thus for balance reasons). The scenarios were linked in specific order - i.e. everyone plays x scenario, then the winners play y and the losers play z complete with a flowchart and diagram.

TL:DR  A fairly "tight" campaign without much flexibility.  The scenarios are a welcome addition to Infinity but Paradiso seems to focus on competitive club play. 

For example, base Wildcat line troopers look more "Special" to be honest...

New Rules
These are all available free from the website (Corvus Belli always provides everything you need - including templates and markers) to play the complete game - kinda like providing free rules and codexes for each faction, so you are constantly updated to the latest edition. (There was Infinity, Human Sphere and now Campaign Paradiso so - there has been no core rule changes, simply new weapons and abilities added.)

Although Paradiso introduces far less new content than Human Sphere did, I feel Infinity is headed down a slippery slope. A game with unique mechanisms and gripping gameplay, where it is "always your turn" - the reaction (overwatch on steroids) system and order pool make for a cinematic, ruthless game where careful positioning and resource management are supreme.

However the base Infinity started out with 54 special skills and Human Sphere added another 22.  Paradiso adds 7 more, for a total of 83 unique skill rules.  In addition there are now 61 unique weapons which fire over a dozen ammunition types (each with their own unique effects) and 31 pieces of equipment.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks 200+ rules in addition to the basic mechanics is excessive.

Infinity players have a saying - "It's not your list, it's you" - inferring that unlike say 40K and Warmahordes, your skill in creating a uber army list has little bearing on victory. However I feel this is no longer true - "It's not your list - it's your memory" - is perhaps a better motto.

I'd prefer to be "ambushed" by clever tactics, not an unexpected rule.

TL: DR  New content keeps the game "fresh" but too many special rules will make it like Warmachine (a game so unbalanced by excessive rules that it's actually naturally balanced) - the winner is the player with the best memory for the zillion unique rules, not the best tactician

 Infinity is in danger of choking great mechanics with too many "special rules"

Paradiso was a bit of a mixed bag, for me.  A beautiful rules book, you are nonetheless effectively paying $50 for 14 scenarios, 30 pages of rather rigid campaign rules and 120 pages of fluff.

The fluff, art and production values were exceptional as ever. I felt satisfied with my purchase based on the "shiny factor" and I will get enjoyment out of simply reading through it.

As a gaming resource, the scenarios were detailed but somewhat prescriptive (i.e. place elevators at exactly x and y location on the game map) and there are already some well-made and widely used houserules out there such as YAMS(which contains many similar scenarios).  That said, getting away from deathmatches is a welcome change and many people are most comfortable with "official" rules.  
The ability to only "upgrade" one line trooper with your XP and only army-wide generalised "buffs" will be disappointing to those who have played Necromunda, Mordhiem and similar "true" campaign games. Paradiso reminds me more of those one-off campaigns that GW runs for 40K.

TL:DR  Basically, this game seems well-balanced for the competitive club crowd at the expense of long-term playability and all-round usefulness.

Verdict: Will fire up Infinity players at your local club, and give a much-needed variety to vanilla deathmatch play for those who insist on "official" scenarios.  It seems to be carefully balanced to avoid uber-characters/armies-of-doom but it's prescriptive structure means it won't rise to be the Necromunda replacement-but-with-awesome game mechanics that it could have been.

Recommended? Definitely for a club campaign or if you love the artwork and fluff.  Otherwise, you can save your $50 and use YAMs for scenarios as the "campaign mode" and experience system doesn't add that much flavour to your army besides a few tweaks.


  1. Great review, thanks very much. I have been umming over this one but now think its something I would enjoy reading but not actually get play value out of. In the right circumstances it sounds great, but thats not where I am - at the moment anyway.

    I agree with your comment that the beautiful figures in the books are both inspiring and intimidating. So much so that I have to pluck up the courage to attempt the first one!

  2. If you have a regular gaming group it would provide a well structured, balanced coherent campaign with a good narrative. As a gaming toolbox for home-brew fun, it is a little "light on".

    I'd really love to know their "points system" for giving stats to models as you could then make your own level up system. Though I doubt simply allowing +1 to each of the stats (which is a 5% increase based on the d20 used) would not be gamebreaking.

    Painting - the superfine detail and lack of raised area on the minis make them hard to paint - they don't respond as well as usual to drybrushing and shading. The power armoured troops (PanO, Yu Jing) are the easiest by far to attempt. What factions do you have?

  3. I got PanO and Yu J figs for that exact reason! A basic set of forces for now. I'd love a lot more but I'm juts not playing the game at the moment.

  4. "the superfine detail and lack of raised area on the minis make them hard to paint"

    Amen! I really like the figures, but I find them very hard to paint. They don't suit my normal painting technique and I find it difficult to motivate myself at times, especially when something else, anything else, is on the paint table!

  5. Paul ...good thing you can resist... I now have 10+ figures of EACH FACTION (do the math for the costs of this) even though I rarely play nowdays (but the local club is gearing up for Paradiso). I only collect the ones I like so they're a bit of a random mix games-wise.

    A bit OT - I have discovered some wonderful miniatures at a fraction of the price - Red Star/Empress moderns are about equal in sculpt quality. I'm doing a zombie vs Spetsnatz game using Infinity rules. Photos to follow once my 80+ zombies are painted to acceptable standard :-/

  6. I've no knowledge of the game, other than what I've read on this very informative blog, but have downloaded the rules and may well buy at least some of the figures (currently 2 for 1 at my local gaming shop).

    That, however, is merely a way of justifying my rather obtuse question regarding your final point, namely, just what is an 'acceptable standard' for a zombie, given that personal appearance would not seem to be high on their priorities? I've found myself asking this a few times, not least at one of the annual zombie festivals I sometimes find myself wandering around, when I went to the lavatory and was greeted with the sight of one of the undead, with a length of piping protruding from his chest, in addition to copious blood and rotting tissue, who was carefully examining himself in the mirror and adjusting his hair. Zombie vanity seems to be a seriously underexplored aspect of the culture, and ripe for academic enquiry.

    1. Zombie vanity is indeed an unexplored topic. I recommend "Warm Bodies " (actually, I don't - think Twilight teen zombies) and "Pride Prejudice & Zombies" (actually an amusing book) to further your investigations.

      For minis, an acceptable standard = flesh, a few different colours for clothes, liberally splattering any poorly painted bits with disguising gore, generous brown ink wash.