Ariadna Impressions 201
This mission was over in a flash. In fact, it was over so quickly that it's honestly not worth giving highlights or unit achievement summaries, except for maybe presenting the order in which my troops died to an order-fueled Marut. I don't think that this will really help the matter, though...
Endalyon opted to go first, and proceeded to jam his Lieutenant Marut down my army's throat. I managed to slow it down with multiple AROs and some careful advance positioning, but it kept doing its thing and I kept losing troops. By the end of the rampage, I was done to around 5 orders (out of a whopping 17, including 2 Irregulars), and there was very little I could do when my turn rolled around.
There were a few bright shining moments in this turn/game, though. I managed to hit and wound the Marut with my Briscard, as the Aleph war machine rolled something like 18, 18, 19, 20. We later realized that it was in a harsh environment and that it should have made some extra armour saves, but neither of us remembered at the time so rewinding would have been pointless. The Marut then stomped past an Uragan Traktor Mul, which promptly put a critical hit on it. Finally, my turn came around and I calculated that Endalyon had just put me into retreat. Using a coordinated order with two Line Kazaks and an Uragan, I managed to crit the damn Marut and score my 2 victory points for killing Endalyon's Lieutenant.
After that, I spent my remaining orders running my troops back towards my table edge (all within one move of it, actually), and spread them out as much as possible just in case he had a trick up his sleeve and I needed some last-minute interdiction against his baggage remotes (he was the defender in this scenario). The Loss of Lieutenant status, combined with my subsequent and full retreat off the board, ended the game with a 2-0 win for me.
...but it sure didn't feel like a win.
Endalyon was a great sport about everything, and I enjoyed the games insofar as they were time well spent with a friend. There is something, though, about getting curb-stomped by a TAG that just makes one sour about the whole thing. Yeah, I won, but Endalyon could have just as easily stopped one troop short of putting me into Retreat and laughed all the way to the bank as I struggled to stop him from scoring all the objective points. This is exactly what happened to another of our veterans in 102, and I feel like it raises the first major issue I have with Infinity. Namely, I feel that TAGs are a design mistake.
Please indulge me as I go off on a rage-filled tangent, and understand that this has nothing to do with the player I was up against. TAGs – when properly used – can absolutely annihilate an opponent with to-the-point precision, and there is very little one can do to consistently stop them. Should I have taken more heavy weapons in my 201 game? Probably. Would it have made a difference? I don't think so. Having a Marut with a large batch of orders behind it was enough of a blunt instrument in the first place, but when combined with Endalyon's ability to minimize AROs and the need to split bursts, it seemed absolutely ridiculous.
Did I draw many split-burst actions from the Marut? I sure did.
Did I have models protecting corners, that could Dodge into CC with the thing? I sure did.
Did I have glue guns and AP weaponry and missiles? I sure did.
What I didn't have is a turn to deal with it. If I had gone first, the Marut would have gone down in a hail of <insert munitions here>. It would have been target numero uno. As it stood, all I could do was react in such a way that my opponent had to burn through his orders to reposition his killing machine before continuing the rampage. And with 17 possible orders at the start of the game, I thought I could comfortably get some vengeance and try for the objective. I was wrong.
Endalyon and I are both competent players, and although I'm sure we both made some mistakes, we know the ropes of what to target, how to target it, when to target it, and how to react when our stuff is being shot at. I pulled everything out of my bag of tricks to try to stop the Marut's rampage, but it got me precisely nowhere: if I hadn't been put into retreat and subsequently run off the board, Endalyon could have easily spent the next few turns scoring the true objectives.
So, I've started thinking that TAGs are a serious design mistake. In the hands of a skilled player, they can side-step traps and defensive positions on their way to crushing key targets and depleting order pools so counter-attacks are feeble at best, impossible at worst. It's the combination of high BS, a lethal ARO weapon, incredible range, high speed, high armour, AND three times the regular number of wounds that just puts a TAG over the top. There are other ways to perform alpha strikes, but most of the time these can be ended with one lucky crit or one misstep on the active player's part. I got a regular wound on the reactive turn (lucky!) and not one but two crits (very lucky!), and if I hadn't...that would have been it.
So how do you stop a TAG rampage on the first turn?
Q) Hide your guys behind buildings and make your opponent spend orders getting there?
A) No problem: 6-4 mov and high burst/high BS mean you don't necessarily care about getting models in your +3 range. You just need to see them.
Q) Present a number of high-damage weapons and Camo threats?
A) No problem: isolate those models one at a time and overcome them with superior burst and ballistic skill. Kill the models that can reliably kill you on their turn and hide away, if you have to. If you can't just kill all of them, that is.
A) Cool, but how many models have this?
Q) Kill it on your active turn?
A) Also cool, but this only works if you get an active turn in the first place.
At any rate, that's my little tangent-rant about TAGs. I think they're cool, aesthetically speaking, but I don't think a model with those stats belongs in Infinity. After all, this is supposed to be a game where every choice matters, not a game where the significance of choices are crushed beneath the superior everything of a murderous war machine.
I had a great time kicking back, eating some delicious food, and playing some Infinity with another member of our Ottawa community, but I'll be damned if I don't feel that a TAG robbed me of an opportunity to play an actual game.