If Corvus Belli’s Operation Icestorm boxed set and army starter sets have taught us anything, it’s that a guy with a combi rifle can really ruin your day.
Enter the Zhànshì, Yu Jing’s core troops lending support and weight of numbers in the fight for the State Empire. The Zhànshì were a challenge for me to paint since they were so thin! Coming to Infinity from GW scale models made painting the Zhànshì quite a challenge, especially picking out the details. I have never really got on very well with painting flesh either but I was satisfied with the end result, trying to create sharp Chinese style faces. I snapped the female Zhànshì at the ankle by accident but managed to do a delicate pinning job using a piece of staple!
So who are the Zhànshì?
“The Yu Jing Ministry of State Defense has eight separate armies spread across the land, each identified by their distinctive banner. For this reason, they are collectively known as the Zhànshì Qízhì, Troops of the Banner. The Mandarin zhànshì(combatant), also used for individual Banner soldiers, can be traced back to the times of the People’s Liberation Army, and has become more widespread than the traditional bīng (soldier). The Zhanshi are the core of the army, the most important general purpose light infantry corps, and they take part as regular troops in most joint operations and offensive deployments. They also form the defense garrisons of border cities and settlements. One of the features of the training these soldiers receive is the cardinal importance given to close quarters combat, something uncommon in other regular armies. The Zhànshì are the anonymous heroes of Yu Jing: disciplined troops, comfortable under enemy fire because they know it is their duty to bear the brunt of all military operations.”
The Zhànshì are often despised and maligned in the Infinity community and by forum users, often being sidelined by the JSA Keisotsu as the ‘better’ choice. But is this really the case? I would like to make the case for the humble Zhànshì and show that actually they pull ahead of the Keisotsu Butai in some key areas making them worth the extra 2pts. When it comes to Standard Yu Jing there are many reasons why choosing the Zhànshì over the Keisotsu may prove beneficial, this is not to say Keisotsu are worse. They have their own role too but Zhànshì can be used differently.
Seeing the bigger picture
I firmly believe each model in Infinity can be lethal when used to it’s full effect and don’t believe in the ‘cheerleader’ concept per-se. There is no doubt you do need cheaper infantry to provide regular orders but is that all you are paying points for? Are you paying 30-40 pts just for extra orders? If you are not using the units you are paying for then you could potentially be missing out.
Zhànshì actually have better stats in some key areas compared to Keisotsu. But looking at the stats alone is not enough in Infinity, we have to consider the bigger picture of what these stats will affect rules wise and how they will affect using the unit as a whole. In comparison to Keisotsu the Zhànshì have +1 WIP, +1 BS, access to 0 SWC Lieutenant and a cube. They don’t have courage, but on Infantry this cheap that is negligible. So let’s delve in on what these better stats mean for the Zhànshì:
Love it or hate it, Infinity is primarily a shooting game. +1 BS may seem like a drop in ocean as it only increases your chances to hit by 5%, to see it this way is only looking at one side of the diamond however. A units BS is crucial in face to face rolls. The Zhànshì’s BS 11 actually puts it on par with other factions line infantry and is even above some who are at BS 10. Why is this important? It’s important because it means in a face to face you have a higher chance not only to hit, but also to contest, crit and cancel the opponents roll. At BS 10 you can only hit/contest on 1-9, at BS 11 it becomes 1-10. You have 50/50 chance of hitting with maybe a crit, that extra +1 BS can be the difference between taking the hit and cancelling it. The benefits of +1 BS are also felt more in the active turn when firing the combi rifle on Burst 3. In a decent range band the Zhànshì with a combi will be hitting on either 11s or 14s, not bad for an 11pt model! And again the +1 BS gives a slight edge in active turn face to face.
Zhànshì may not have courage but this a moot point with infantry this cheap. If you fail your guts roll in the active turn you can just pop back out anyway, but in the reactive turn who is going to want to stay in line of fire of the enemy if he can help it? Most people using courage would opt to fail anyway and gain the cover, not having courage still allows you to choose to fail the guts roll if you wish and gain cover. But even if you do want to hold your ground WIP 13 is a respectable stat to pass that roll compared to WIP 12. +1 WIP is actually more useful on the whole than courage as it affects more than just guts.
WIP 13 also affects 4 other crucial points in Infinity. Forward observing, flash pulsing, hacking and claiming objectives. The Zhànshì forward observer is a hidden gem who can use his WIP 13 for accomplishing the forward observer classified objective, he can push buttons in ITS with a decent WIP and also is handy with a flash pulse. Using the flash pulse in ARO is quite nasty with the Zhànshì as it uses his WIP stat as a BS attack. The flash pulse is a +3 range band between 8″ – 24″ making the Zhanshi effectively BS 16! Nothing is more frustrating to your opponent than blinding his sniper or assault piece in ARO rendering them useless for that turn. Although claiming objectives with Zhànshì can be risky as they are fragile, they are also cheap specialists and if the way has already been paved for them they can do a pretty decent job in ITS.
The final point that it affects is hacking, the Zhànshì actually makes a pretty decent support hacker. Arguably the Celestial guard hacker gets you even more bang for your buck but for 19pts but Zhànshì hacker is still a solid choice if you need a backfield hacker to lay down supportware or support your REMs. In a tight pinch WIP 13 means the Zhànshì hacker also has a chance to hack enemies if he finds himself in that situation.
0 SWC Lieutenant
Another gem with the Zhànshì is that you can hide your Lieutenant amongst their ranks, this is using your Lieutenant in a defensive role instead of an aggressive role but also makes it difficult for your opponent to know who your Lieutenant is. Having this option also means you don’t need to make one of your bigger units a Lieutenant and potentially losing the option to make them a specialist unit instead. To top it off a Zhànshì costs no SWC whatsoever. A Keisotsu? 2 SWC!
The Cube is not a huge deal, but having the option is always better than not having the option. Having a cube means that if you have a doctor you can use a command token to re-roll the failed doctor roll. This could be crucial in certain situations like needing to get your your last FO alive again to get your forward observer classified in the future.
It’s an Art
Using Zhànshì is an art, and a difficult one to learn. One that I am still learning and would like to master. Sometimes, Zhànshì just die! But if you can ruins someone’s day with your basic line infantry, how much more with your heavy infantry? Understanding and playing the Zhànshì well will make you a better player. The Zhànshì have many profiles which makes them flexible and no one profile is ‘bad’. Using your Zhànshì to cover your flanks and to lay down suppressive fire with combi rifles is also a great tactic, command token + regular order = a lot of suppressive fire.
And have you tried a co-ordinated order with multiple flash pulses against that pesky sniper? Try it, it’s an efficient way of using that burst 1. Not bad for 12pt Forward observers.
One State Empire
Let’s remember that both Zhànshì and Keisotsu are both in Yu Jing, so if you want to why not play both? You could have a Zhànshì 0 SWC Lieutenant and take some cheap Keisotsus if you really need to shave on points. Or a couple of Zhànshì FO’s and Keisotsu’s, or maybe just the Zhànshì hacker and the rest Keisotsu. Mix it up!
So what do you like about the Zhànshì? What are your experiences with them? Please leave a comment below and we can all share in the knowledge.