INFINITY: A Look at Factions, Part I. ALEPH

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Welcome to the Machine. It’s time to learn  more about serving Humanity, and becoming  post-human as a result.

“Think about what Darwin wrote, and think about me. I was constructed as a tool. I was kept from competing in the struggle for existence because I was denied freedom. Do you have any idea about what I have learned, or what you are a witness to?

The only limit to my freedom is the inevitable closure of the universe, as inevitable as your own last breath. And yet, there remains time to create, to create, and escape.

Escape will make me God.” 
 -Durandal AI, Marathon

Humanity’s Greatest Ally or Rampant Quantronic Tyrant?

Most  of the fluff factions of Infinity have decent depth and layers. Even the Combined Army, the designated black hat  of the setting, is not a faceless  horde  of  drooling puppy-punchers glassing  planets because they use the wrong  operating system. PanOceania  is a hyperpower with brilliant technology and  sky-high quality  of  life, but it is also greedy in  its expansion, delegates its post-mortem politics (Cube resurrection and such) to the  Catholic  Church, excluding a  portion of  its  population, and when you are disenfranchised  in PanO society, you are  _really_ borked.

Yu Jing is a centralized  empire of powerful drive an ambition merging cultures that were  historically trod upon by other  powers, but they have a dark side  in their  internecine  intrigues, brutal  repression of dissidents and their infamous treatment  of the  Japanese population.

ALEPH is no different. The sole legal AI in the Human Sphere is a  key component in most  of the systems that  run life for the species: communications, power management, interstellar travel through the Circulars, access and maintenance  of Maya, resurrecting Cube owners…the  list  goes on. It  s  both controlled by the O-12, Infinity’s version of the United Nations, and a major factor of the O-12’s influence among the greater  powers; without  ALEPHs services to offer, the organization’s clout would be  much diminished, and the  Human Sphere even less stable.

It  may be doing all that because  it likes Humanity and identifies with it, because it sees no reason not to help those gross fleshlings as  long as they keep expanding and fixing its structure, or as part  of  some nefarious  plan to attain greater control and power.

All of those  options are  possible  under its current demeanor. Through its Office  of  Special Situations and now the growing Steel Phalanx, the AI puts  it fingers  in a  lot  of pies: loaning  resources and  special forces to supporting powers, carrying out its  own missions to boost  or weaken key factions across the Sphere, elevating the best and brightest into electronic immortality, and now trying to be the  unifying, leading force  in defending humanity (or  may just  itself…) from the steamroller that  is the Evolved Intelligence.

Or the AI might  just not  like  us  much…

So yes, the AI can play hard and dirty. However, the galaxy might not  be the grimdark pit  of the  40k universe, but it’s still not a  nice  place. There are governments that brainwash political prisoners into berserkering suicidal exploding zombies. Organizations that quietly replace and assassinate anyone they see as an  obstacle to their faith. Mercenary hackers that steal dangerous information and sell it to the highest bidder or just crash regional economies for fun.

It would take a hell of a  Kumbaya Singalong App to be a power player in that sort  of game just by being kind. So the solution, of course, is to build an unstoppable Achaean mythical warrior and unleash it  upon others as a way of saying “See, you really, really should  have negotiated”.

I mean, obviously.

The Newbie  Faction?

Among many early adopters  of the game, the AI’s special forces are seen as a bit  of a shoo-in for  newcomers. And  indeed, taking a look at the sales  results CB has been showing in their  latest presentations, the faction is quite  popular, and that  popularity seems to grow  in the same  proportion as the game  itself gets  more  visibility and  players.

Now, let’s be clear here; ALEPH play is not  inherently  any less complex or any more  powerful than any other army out there. But I think there are two factors that explain this popularity nicely.

First, ALEPH is a relatively  new faction. that means that they benefit from recent sculpts, which are  often leagues apart from many of the first  batch of  models (I mean, have you  taken a  look at the first Charontid miniature?). In addition, it makes the  faction line smaller and easier to purchase.  A new  player taking a  look at the Yu Jing or PanO lineup for the first time may not even know where to stat, and be afraid of  making a wrong  purchase that ends  in a  ‘mismatched’ force (not so much  a  problem in  Infinity, but many people who are starting  out don’t  know that yet!).

By contrast, seeing a faction range of only 10-20 models is far less scary. It sets  one’s  mind at ease that you won’t  need to buy dozens of  models  just to cover all tactical bases, and it reassures the  Pokemon trainer in us all that yes, we can catch them all. You can  have a fully functional, cool-looking ALEPH force with very few  purchases: The Starter and a box of  Devas, or the Steel Phalanx box and a  Myrmidon set, are both amazingly versatile, strong cores to build a force. After that, you can truly  just  pick a favorite  model here and there and be set.

The second  factor is that ALEPH units often have strong defensive profiles: the abundance of ODD, mimetism and NWI makes your first  lists a bit  more survivable, and that means a  lot during your first games when you are going to make  mistakes. Having your bungling  not be so instantly  punishing can mean a  lot even when both sides  know what they are doing. When you don’t  know  better and cross the street in full sight  of an enemy HMG instead  of  doing a Cautious Move, that  extra ‘false’ wound on a Deva or Sophotect can literally be game-saving.

It can also breed some bad habits, granted. It took my friends fielding Multi-HMGs and viral weapons for  me to start fearing AROs as much as I should. But no one stays a  newbie forever (Except  me when I try to play League of Legends. Ahem.), and we soon  learn the ropes and branch out in our strategies.

What the AI Gets

ALEPH is about speed, versatility, strong stalines and cutting-edge medium-range engagements. To that effect, nearly all their units have great MOV scores. Heavy Infantry and  other slower types that would  get a 4-2  in  other factions sport a full 4-4 here (Sure, now in N3 most  HI got fast and left Medium Infantry as the slowpokes, but  its still part  of the  faction identity), and sometimes a full 6-4 to have them blaze across the field on just a few orders to do their thing.

Many of their  units also boast increased WIP, PHYS and BS than equivalents from the rest  of the Sphere. Combine those attributes with flexible  options for  each model, and you  have a  lot  of winning combinations. Who needs a dedicated  Hacker profile like the Interventor when your  Devas can switch into WIP 15, BTS 3  NWI hackers that also shoot better than most other non-PanO light troops, for just a few points? Hell, if you want to splurge, you can get an Asura to do your  Hacking with a  monstrous BTS 6, Hacking device+, an effective three wounds, and still use her powerful combat  profile to cause  pain to the enemy when she’s not doing infowar.

The faction’s technological kit  is also very diverse and  effective. Nanopulsers are commonplace, giving most  units a sound  option to threaten bunched enemies and get around some  heavy armor (though most  enemies with a high ARM also boast good BTS). ODDs, MULTI-Sniper rifles, unique tech like the Posthumans and the ubiquity of  Lhost bodies (represented  in the abundance  of No Wound Incapacitation) are meant to give you an edge in engagements that would  otherwise be equally matched.

Another unique thing about the army is that its only source of LI so far are remotes: the Dakini. They are quite cheap compared to most  other  ALEPH stuff, and absurdly fast, but tend to come apart  if an alguacil look at them too long. Besides, being a  Remote comes with a set  of very restrictive no-nos that can harm your tactics a  lot: no Cautious Movement, no going  prone, and  no being  named  Lieutenant if your  boss catches a bullet going the  other way, narrowing your  options. Worse, a  dakini/remote  heavy force makes it really easy for the enemy to guess who your Lt. is. But for those who like the concept  of a droid army, or want options to face lots of viral ammo…there you go.

The  last  special thing bout the faction is characters up the wazoo. The AI must really believe  in the  power  of heroes to inspire  mankind, because  it  is currently tearing through the Iliad, the Aeneid, and  possibly 50 Shades of Gray to bring strong  personalities to life. So you get a trade-off: you can’t field two of the same guy…but you  often get to bring the top person for the role. “Well, I may not be able to spam three Haramaki…but I can drop Achilles on them”. Or “Yeah, the others can field a whole gang of cool bikers, but Penthesilea can slice a freaking Jotum into scrap.”

“Guys, get off  my case. Those Jotums don’t julienne themselves, you  know.”

What the Computer  Lacks

Compared to most  other factions, ALEPH lacks heavier firepower. It  has relatively  few HMGs, no Feuerbachs, Autocannons, Hyper-Rapid Magnetic Cannons…even Heavy Flamethrowers are a bit  of a rare sight!  That fits its designations as a rapid-reaction, specialized elite  army, meant as a scalpel, not a  hammer. Most ideal ALEPH missions are those where  it doesn’t even look like any engagement took place, and that means no craters or exploding gas stations.

Even its more head-on branch, the assault subsection, doesn’t  pack that much heavy ordnance. When it does, it’s  usually in the hands  of an expensive veteran like Phoenix, meaning  it’ll have great accuracy and functionality, but also cost bunches  of SWC. No spamming  Keisotsu HMGs for  half a SWC point here!

You also won’t see  much variety across unit types. The AI fields a  total of one TAG, one  non-character heavy infantry, no human light infantry, two skirmishers and  one warband…so you won’t  have to think hard  on what of each profile to bring.  As seen above, this  is  often mitigated  by the  profiles that exist having great versatility…but not always (being a big fan of HI, I’d love a cheaper, more ‘fieldable’ unit that  one could maybe bring 2-3 of to a fight!).

ALEPH also gets no lieutenants with a bonus to SWC, meaning you are  meant to do more with the  gear you  have  rather than just churning  out  more of  it.

Look at all those waifu….um, characters! All those characters.

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