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.|