Infinite Armies v1.1

Infinite Armies v1.1

From: Blacksburg Tactical Research Center

Reviewed by: Ron McClung, Richard Fortuna

Infinite Armies v1.1is a new Non-Collectible Customizable Card Game (PDF form) from Blacksburg Tactical Research Center.

Few companies know how to take advantage of the true power of PDF other than BTRC. With Infinite Armies (IA), Greg Porter has illustrated his ability to use this power to put out a unique and interesting idea. It is interesting to note that since I received the review copy of IA, the game has won a Vanguard Award from the Academy of Adventure Games Arts & Design, aka an Origins Award. Congratulations to BTRC!

From page #1:

“Infinite Armies is a competitive, construct-your-own-army card game, with the twist that there are no rarities and nearly unlimited combinations.”

It is important to note that IArequires Acrobat Reader 4+ with JavaScript enabled. It is also best used with a color printer because all the pictures are full color.

The ZIP file downloaded contains several files. The main rulebook is a 32-page book that contains the rules of construction and play. At the heart of IAis the construction of your deck. Included in the ZIP file is also the Army Builder PDF file. Using that, along with the supplied pictures (or pictures you acquire on your own), you can build your 54 card deck to take on an opponent.

The Army Builder has many combinations of Attack, Defense, Move and special Abilities, and as you design your unit, it automatically calculates the point value of that card. There are more than 15 abilities available including Carrier, Insertion, Scout, and Stealth. Attack, defense, move and hits are expressed in terms of Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS) symbols. These represent the obvious, and the RPS symbols are explained in the system. The Army Builder also supplies you with tools to export the card images to the clipboard so you can paste it into a Word Document or Wordpad (assuming Windows).

From page #1:

“The big idea? The ability to compete on an equal footing with anyone.”

Game play is very interesting. It combines the card mechanics of a CCG with the tactical mechanics of a miniature game. Players build a deck worth 600 points and 54 cards. A deck includes one staging area, three terrains, 45 units for your Army and five reserves. The Army Builder supplies you with all the cards you need to build a deck. A fixed deck is probably the first hurdle for a regular CCG to get over but probably not a huge one.

The game area is divided up into areas called Ranks, and each rank can only hold so many units and are divided up into Zones. Some zones will contain terrain cards placed by the player at the start of play. Start of play involves placing the terrain cards and moving a card from one zone to another. Although the author supplies a picture for the first game set up, it would have been helpful to have one for each step of game set up and game play.

Once the play area is set up, game play is fairly simple. In each turn, you draw a card and then can do up to 4 phase actions listed in the rules. These actions can be done multiple times. They are Resources, Draw, Special, Deployment, and Command. Tactical actions like movement and combat take place after Activation (a Command), similar to most war games. Movement is in terms of zones, and terrain affects that movement.

Attacks are handled using the attack and defense icons, using a very elegant system. It uses the RPS symbols and terrain is factored in as well as options like Digging-in and special abilities. Everything cost resources (dice). There are two ways to victory, which are explained towards the end.

The rulebook includes several clearly written examples to help you understand the game. It is written in larger print which actually helps make it easier to follow. The layout is decent, with side bars summarizing other important aspects of the game. Although the rulebook is well written, it is a little technical and probably more than the average CCG player is used to.

There are several images supplied with the main rulebook, all associated to modern US warfare. There is a second set of images available that include real-life photos from US action in current theaters.

For actual game play, I consulted a fellow gamer and friend, Richard Fortuna for an “in the trenches” experience.

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Infinite Armies actually plays pretty smoothly, more like a combination between a wargame and a CCG. There is a bit of strategy to the game, but when it all comes down to it, you can actually lose the game during initial deployment if you aren’t careful. Also, units with high attack value can potentially dominate the game, but there is quite an acceptable game balance in that such units cost more points to activate and, being a BYO card game, anybody can throw as many big meanies in as they like.

The game concept, although notably modern-military-themed, can fairly easily be adapted to any type of army from any time period or genre. For instance, my Starship Troopers decks use many of the special abilities from the game. Plasma Bugs use the Long Range ability (able to fire multiple spaces at a penalty) while Nuke Troopers and Fleet Air Strikes are Strategic weapons (which are one shot only but incur no penalties for firing long range). By far my most nasty bug is the Tanker Bug, with 5 symbols in its attack line, 4 wounds and the “Terrorist” ability (which allows it to burn wounds for extra attack symbols…it can burn itself out and have 9 symbols for one attack!). Since the Arachnids are low-tech (a 30-point upgrade given to the home base), I can put out a massive number of them without burning up all my actions for the turn. Normally it takes an action to deploy a unit. In my bug deck, I can deploy units worth 8 points or less as a free action. That means I can place a bunch of units down every turn and swarm the opponent’s base.

Games rarely last to the bitter end. Mostly, one player runs out of cards first. You have to be really good to make it to the enemy home base, which is part of the strategy behind the game. There are more than one way to win, which makes it more of a challenge to actually crush your opponent. You could be soundly winning, but your opponent could get one or two units into your area and grind your deck down before you can actually finish the game. I have had a couple of games come that close.

If there is anything that I personally find difficult to work with, it would be making your own themed decks. Images have to be resized, cropped, and formatted as 300 DPI PDF files before they will be useful in the IA engine. This means that for most Windows users, if you don’t have a full copy of Adobe Acrobat (a $90 app at it’s cheapest), building properly-formatted PDF files is difficult. Personally I have no problems with it since I have a Mac (as does Greg Porter). However, a Windows user will get frustrated with that part of it. Fortunately, the concept has started taking hold and people are starting to make new image packs for IA. This makes it a lot more easy. I still like sci-fi/fantasy themes more than modern military, though, so for now it’s back to the PDF maker. In addition, documentation for the game could be a bit more friendly. Greg has a brilliant, creative, and technical mind for game design, but the layout and writing of the manual are a bit confusing. If you’re a wargamer, you’ll get the gist, but a younger player may actually have to see the game played a few times to get an idea of how it all works.

Overall, it’s an excellent game that inspires creative and strategic thinking, but the technical aspect of the PDF engine makes creating custom armies difficult.

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In conclusion, I can see why this game is award winning. It is sleek, elegant, and appeals to many types of gamers on many levels. It is a CCG that does not act like a CCG. It is a tactical game that is not overwhelming hard to understand. The beauty of this game lies in the customization of it. You are not limited to one genre or one type of battle field. You can do far future, your favorite movie, or fantasy. As my friend says, however, the technical aspects are limiting unless you have the proper tools. Hopefully more custom images will come out as time goes on.

For more details on Blacksburg Tactical Research Center and their new Non-Collectible Customizable Card Game (PDF form) “Infinite Armies v1.1” check them out at their website http://www.btrc.net.

Infinite Armies v1.1

From: Blacksburg Tactical Research Center

Type of Game:Non-Collectible Customizable Card Game (PDF form)

Written by: Greg Porter

Game Design by: Greg Porter

Number of Pages: 32 page rulebook

Game Components Included: Rulebook PDF, Army Builder PDF, several stock army unit pictures

Retail Price:$ 10.00 (US)

Number of Players: 2

Player Ages: 14+

Play Time: 1+ hour

Item Number: BTRC #1501

Website: www.btrc.net

Reviewed by: Ron McClung