DISCLAIMER: This is not an anti-list building post, instead try to encourage new players to build their own lists
You’ve got your shiny new models, they are all painted and ready to go. You’ve got an awesome opponent lined up for the evening but something is still missing. Most of us have been there and done it at the beginning including me. What am I talking about? I’m talking about asking other people to build an army list for you. In this short article I’m going to talk about the difference between asking for a list and having a list critiqued.
As a relatively new player myself I can understand why people would ask for a list to be built for them against ‘x’ opponent, especially when coming from other gaming systems where there usually seems to be an ‘optimum’ list that gets the most out of your chosen faction/force. It’s natural to think that Infinity must be the same in that there is an ‘optimum’ list and because you don’t know it yet, you ask other people to build it for you to crush your opponent. But Infinity is not like that…you can do well with a whole variety of lists in the same faction. Even with a ‘good’ list you can still get absolutely stomped so it’s not all down to lists. Not to mention that there are so many variables such as whether you playing a standard faction or sectorial, what ITS mission you are playing, who the opponent is etc.
Why asking for a prebuilt list is bad
At the moment I see this a lot mostly on Facebook and occasionally on the forums –
“I’m playing a friend on Saturday, can you give me a 300pts list to beat him”
As I said previously, I can understand why people would ask this question however this is far too vague for anyone to give any meaningful advice. Sometimes players ask this question in innocence as they are new, but sometimes it is just pure laziness not to learn. There are a few important reasons why asking for a prebuilt list in this way is bad:
1. You rob yourself of learning
By asking others to make a list for you, you rob yourself of learning about your chosen faction and its units through your own experiences. The greatest way to learn in Infinity is through trial and error and from your own play experiences. Sure, you may get stomped a few times at the beginning but these are valuable learning experiences to make you a better player. The aim of the game is fun, don’t get too hyper competitive and only seek to win as this will give you tunnel vision about your lists and units. In Infinity bigger is not always better and taking more powerful units is not the answer if you haven’t learnt how to use what you already have.
It’s always better to put a list together yourself and try it out so that you can learn what units you do and don’t like, what works for you and what doesn’t. By doing this you will learn what a unit’s strengths, weaknesses and role is as you use them and you will learn whether it is appropriate to take them in your list or not depending on what you want the unit to do and what you are trying to achieve. I would always recommend playing units that you like the look of at the beginning and learn how to use them first, then you can assess how these units work in the bigger picture of your list.
The more you play, the more experience you will have under your belt and be able to see how units synergise together. One of the most satisfying parts of Infinity is learning about the units and using them effectively to overcome the obstacles of your opponent. If you simply take a list given to you by someone else you will not have any experience of how to use the units and how they synergise together.
2. You don’t discover your own playstyle
By asking for a prebuilt list, you also rob yourself of discovering your own playstyle with your faction and are at the mercy of another player’s playstyle. Each player has their own preferences and playstyle so by using a prebuilt list, you are already buying into a playstyle that you might not even like or be suitable for you. By building your own lists and trying them out you will get a feel of what kind of playstyle you like. Playstyle is a broad term but it could be something as simple as aggressive or defensive and choosing units based on that. On the other hand it could be something more in depth such as preferring camo heavy lists, high order count lists, heavy infantry lists or AD jump lists.
Making your own lists is another opportunity to learn more about your faction and it’s units and which units excel in certain playstyles or roles, don’t rob yourself of that learning experience!
3. You see your faction through the biased lens of other people
Over time we all get attached to the faction we have chosen, most of us choose our faction based on ‘the rule of cool’ and aesthetics. Do you like the look of the Ninja sniper? Then just use her! Learn how it plays and gain experience. The problem with asking for a prebuilt list is that the list is already coming to you through the filter of someone else’s approval.
You might think the Ninja sniper looks awesome (she does) but then you are handed a list that doesn’t include her and are told that she is ‘bad’ and ‘useless’ and ‘don’t take her’. No unit in Infinity is bad or useless, it is all about learning how to use them. For all you know the person who said the Ninja sniper is rubbish may have played her very badly and walked away with a negative experience, never taking her again and telling other players to do the same. By using a prebuilt list, you are already letting the biases of other players determine what units you play with, and even worse, you may end up just going along and agreeing with them and not even finding out for yourself. A Ninja sniper can actually do everything a normal Ninja can do in close combat yet also has a deadly MULTI sniper rifle, combined with TO Camo, hidden deployment and infiltration she is something special…
But the point is, play the units you like the look of and learn. Every player has their own biases and preferences about each unit, discover your own.
Why asking for list critique is good
So you’ve started making your own lists. You’ve played a few games, started to get a feel and you want to expand your lists and try out unit ‘x’ and ‘x’. Asking for advice on your own lists is a good thing. List critique is a great way to learn more about your faction through mutual learning with other players. The important thing when looking for list critique is to be specific as you can:
“I’m playing against a friend this Saturday who is using Neoterran Capitaline Army, he usually takes a couple of Sierra Dronbots which are annoying. We’re playing 300pts ITS Supremacy and I’m thinking of using this list in this way (post list and game plan). Can you guys offer any advice or tweaks?”
List critique is good for various reasons:
1. The wisdom of the veterans
From what I can see the Infinity community has a good amount of veterans hailing from previous editions who have faced most of what there is to face on the tabletop. Asking for list critique is a great way to learn about tried and tested methods that work well with your faction. Most veterans are able to look at your list and see the big picture and be able to point out possible holes or weaknesses that you may have missed. In this way you can learn more about your faction through others who have extensive use and maybe even try out units you had not considered before for that mission or against that opponent.
2. Thinking outside the box
Another great thing about list critique is that it can help you to think outside of the box. Since we all have different play experiences with units there is a whole wealth of knowledge out there about how to use certain units or what loadouts to give them in certain situations. Because Infinity has such great tactical depth and complex rules there are many different synergies that can be built into your lists and your game plan, looking for list critique opens you up to a whole community of knowledge and different ways of thinking which you never knew. Maybe you always like to hide your Lieutenant and have never played him aggressively, or have you considering taking 2 of ‘x’ unit? Or what about using your Shaolin Monks to provide a smoke screen for your Domaru to advance behind? Or have you tried using this unit in this way instead? In this mission it is usually a good idea to do this on the first turn etc etc.
In this way list critique can help you see your list in a new light and maybe come up with a list that you wouldn’t have figured out on your own or to approach a mission with a different mindset.
3. It’s your choice
Ultimately list critique is a mixture of opinion and experience. The great thing is you can just glean the good advice and discard the bad advice. Sometimes you might just disagree with people over certain units, someone might say ‘drop the Ninja sniper’ but you might keep her there because you have a game plan for her and know how to use her with the rest of your list. The main thing is to be open to advice and to the wisdom of others, while at the same time sticking to what you already know too. It’s your list and your choice. List critique is a great way to learn more and to tweak your list how you want and to improve upon what you already know.
Eventually as you learn and grow with your faction in Infinity you will be able to assist other players looking for advice on their lists too. Share your experiences and your wisdom about units but don’t be overbearing about it. Remember in Infinity most of the time tactics trumps unit choices anyway! Unit choices help and can mitigate bad decisions, but ultimately it is sound tactics that wins the day (and maybe a little dice luck).