Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Infinity Defiance game from Corvus Belli

Infinity Defiance is a new dungeon crawler game system coming from Corvus Belli, the makers of Infinity the Game and Aristeia.

At the time of writing this review the game I was made to feel that it is destined to be a Kickstarter exclusive which launched on October 29th, 2019. I really hope the exclusivity will change. Especially after having some time to get to grips with one of the prototype copies of the game which is based around the demo they have been giving at shows and events recently.


(Much more than in the prototype. Especially floor tyles)

If you've ever played games like Space Hulk from Games Workshop or even Space Crusade from MB Games (and again, Games Workshop) then you get the basic idea. 

Set on the space craft, Defiance; an elite team from the Human Sphere put together by the Bureau Aegis of the O-12 have to complete various missions (12 by the sounds of things so far) to stop the Evolved Intelligence's invasion plans, which is looking to mainly be made up of troops from the Shasvastii Expeditionary Force.


(I wish I got to use all those different enemies)

If you've not been following Corvus Belli or any of their social media then you have been missing out on large amounts of teasing of the incredible miniatures which have been designed for the four initial heroes and the many enemies they will face. And this is one of the reasons I'm really hoping this game get supported beyond the Kickstarter. All the miniatures in Infinity Defiance are compatible with Infinity the Game and I believe some will also be usable in Aristeia too (though that I'm not 100% certain on).



Seriously; these are a cool bunch of metal 28mm size miniatures. And that's just the core four from the PanOceania, Yu Jing, Nomad, and Ariadna factions in the setting. More hints make it seem like there are plans for more too.


Dammit; I seriously want to add Quang Gao to my Invincible Army with his heavy machinegun!

So... exciting miniatures aside; what about the game?

Infinity Defiance is designed for up to four players. One controlling each hero. And yes, it does work as a single player if you really get that itch (and yes, I did).

But hold up... what about the enemies?

Well; here is the clever part. They have their own system which decides their actions. Ranging from assaulting and attacking the closest hero to acquiring the hero with the most damage as a target and attacking them. And it works. Really well. But more on that later.

I managed to do that sensible thing of reading through the How to Play V1.0 booklet and the Mission 1 sheet rather than trying to dive straight in, and I'm glad I did.



Looks tasty, and don't let the fact that there are just four board tiles in use make you think it limits what you can do and will lead to a limited game. Oh no... that small map gets hectic. Fast.

However; with this being a prototype it took me a while to get to this stage, and I'll be feeding back to Corvus Belli on my thoughts and findings. But here are a few.

Because of the way setting up also involves having a bit of an understanding of the mechanics of the game. I feel that the "setting up" segment should take up more room and have better explanations of the different "Units" decks for the enemies, which units are "deployed", and other mechanics. 

A perfect example is how the heroes character cards and equipment slots are explained. Great visual examples and excellent text to support them.

There was a problem where the layout image in the How to Play booklet, photo in the contents section, and the Mission 1 leaflet all vary from each other. But I am sure this has been changed.


(Starting positions finally worked out)

So then; once I'd finally set up for my first session I tried playing through the mission twice. But I realised I made many mistakes. Mostly with the aggro mechanics which builds up on a character the more they do things like kill enemy units or activate important consoles. This leads to them being targeted more often, and one hero can really build his up quickly but also has the most armour and wounds too (yes; he is the 'tank' of the party).

The other mechanic I messed up quite a bit was reinforcements, which is the way Infinity Defiance recycles enemies.

I completely believe that a well laid out reference sheet would fix that so players don't spend time flicking from page to page. Although after some playing it will likely be easy to remember as I'm sure it is for those people who have been play testing and giving demos over the past however many months.



Combat. That part that can make or break a game. Is it too complicated? Does it slow the game down? Is it all one sided?

Frankly, no. None of those. The combat system uses the same colour coded and symbol based dice as Aristeia. Characters equipment cards, Character cards, and Enemy Unit cards show you exactly which dice to roll, any modifiers to apply (such as adding one symbol as if you rolled it). You might have a thing called a "switch" which is a special ability you can choose to spend symbols to activate, if you rolled the correct ones (enemies always activate theirs). Then any damage is applied.

It's quick and wounds can add up quickly.

I do hope that there might be some more distinction between ranged and close combat though. Unless that starts to slow things down that is.


(Evil. Constantly attacking and stopping you in your mission)

The main enemies I got to use are the Nox. There are three kinds in this mission. Leader, Spec Ops, and Hacker. But none of the cards specified which figure is for which, plus the cards are "units" so cover two figures each. Did get a little confusing with the bare metal minis. But I did notice in the colour photos that the demo set has colour coded base edges and I'm guessing numbers on too.

So session one I was honestly a little confused and a touch frustrated at not being able to get to grips with it quickly. Only half playing through the mission twice due to making mistakes and realising I'd done things wrong (plus realising it was now past 2am) likely didn't help. So I put it away (I have young children and a cat. No way was I risking leaving this set up) and got some sleep.


(Uma starts with two pistols and is serious at dishing out damage)
Next day, once I finally got some time to myself, and off we go again.

Setting up... done. So much quicker now that I had an idea why different things were placed in a certain way. Plus I went for a more "rules as intended" way of thinking when I much prefer "rules as written". Little things like deciding that all doors except the security door are already open. That I mainly decided because I wasn't sure how enemies interacted with doors. Sounds silly I know but that did confuse me.


(Machete waving frenzied fighter. Essential for a "quieter" attack before alert is raised)
And into the third go at Mission one.

This felt so much better. Smoother and I even remembered about using the Alert mechanic which gradually increases the longer a mission goes on for, resulting in more respawns and reinforcements for the enemy and eventually flipping enemy unit cards over when hitting maximum alert. That is when things get really nasty.

Things did get worrying when the Gwailos first opened fire with it's heavy machinegun. Lots of dice. Lots of wounds. Run away being a really good idea.


(Nasty, violent, killy alien)
I've realised that I haven't mentioned the turn system. Sorry.

This isn't a one side does everything, then the other side does everything sort of game. Each round has a character go first as decided by the players. They then complete two actions like move, attack, interact, etc. Then once that character has finished any player can flip the top initiative card to show which enemy unit is activating.

This unit then flips it's AI card which shows a series of symbols which match to actions (something else which would be useful on a reference sheet). Starting with unit member 1, the actions list is worked down until the member has completed two actions (skipping ones it cannot attempt like assault if already in base contact). Then unit member number 2 does their two actions. 

That repeats through until every character, ally (there's a couple of extras in the mission), and enemy have been.


(Jazz is pretty good at unlocking security doors and frying brains)
So on my third go through I actually managed to complete the mission on the sixth round after taking a reasonable amount of wounds and having that nasty Gwailos bearing down on the heroes.


(Yay... all got out. Now for mission two... at some point in the future)

And... I want more. Much more.

I always loved Space Hulk but this takes the idea to a different place where you have the classic online MMOLRPG (think that's right) party of tank, mage (hacker in this case), and DPS. No healer as they all carry single use auto medkits. And an artificial intelligence system based enemy which you cannot fully predict which is very different to anything I've played before.


(The team tank. Builds aggro and can take a kicking for the team and still keep going)
Overall, massively impressed with the game. But it does need some tweaks to make the initial first steps easier to understand.

The quality of the board sections, tokens, markers, and all the cards is top and they felt like they would survive plenty of use. The printing definition on the board sections and character cards could be better but again, this is a prototype so I'm sure that will improve too.



Unfortunately all the miniatures were already assembled so I cannot show you the parts. But you can see how some are cut across torsos or bulky arm areas but there looks to be no tiny fiddly pieces. Even on the Shasvastii.

And frankly the details and casting quality is sky high as has come to be expected from Corvus Belli products.



The only thing really left to say is go and check out the Kickstarter which funded in less than 15 minutes and runs until the 19th of November. I really hope that they continue to support this excellent game afterwards.

You can keep track of Corvus Belli products by following their Facebook page or joining the official forum which caters for all their games.

I hope this has been of interest to you. Thank you for your time and don'f forget you can subscribe via email in the right hand column.

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