Underdogs bite, and they bite hard! Today we look at Infinity’s Ariadna.
Hic Sunt Dracones
Merciless lands breed harsh people. Living beyond the frontiers of civilization means letting go of many luxuries, affectations and even instincts gained in softer, more plentiful times, and yet struggling to not give in to the savagery and inhumanity of their precarious position.
That means pragmatism. Initiative. Resilience. Patience. Opportunism. Humankind has so long been the top dog in its own environment, it rarely cultivates those traits until there’s an emergency, and by then it’s often too late. But when living past the borders, ‘emergency’ is a way of life. Ariadna are those who faced that challenge and survived. Not only that, but thrived. They went as far as one could possibly go from the cradle of civilization and comfort, were left stranded in a pitiless world with every factor stacked against them, looked those odds in the face and doubled down. And now that the Human Sphere caught up with them and steers a covetous eye to their hard-won resources, they are all too willing to face that behemoth down as well and assert their independence.
Ariadna’s history begins right where that of the old Civilization game ends: by sending a colony ship out into space. Granted, it was the second of such ships, but it still counts. Humanity has just discovered a stable wormhole leading to a system with a habitable planet, and after sending the first ship through to start the colony, another, more ambitious vessel was constructed under a multi-national mandate to go shore up the colony.
That’s when things went south. The wormhole promptly collapsed when the Ariadne ship passed through it, dashing the new Space Age just as it was stepping out of the cradle. worse, the crew landed on a planet that had no signs of the previous colony ship, but a whole lot of territorial, aggressive alien creatures known as Antipodes. Between trying to establish living conditions, hoping for a rescue that wasn’t coming, fending off the aliens and holding community stable, the colonists had their hands full, and the original colony went through a sort of voluntary collapse: the Russian, French, Scottish and American elements of the population migrated into smaller, separate settlements to try and save resources while making sure that at least one of them would survive.
Surprisingly, all of them did, through sweat, tear and a fair bit of blood. Even more so, they remain the truest examples of the cultures that birthed them, since back on earth things were changing fast and the old powers and national identities were being subsumed into the giants of PanOceania and Yu Jing. USAriadna might well be the last place in the universe one can get a real coke.
Centuries later, Ariadna was a tale of hardy success. Caledonia turned into a group of clans fighting each other when they were not banding together against Antipodes or trespassers, the Kazaks turned their discipline and and backbone toward expanding their settlements, and Merovingians found their space by linking communities and getting trade going between everyone else.
And then the Human Sphere found them again.
But this wasn’t the happy reunion of castaways. The human factions that now hovered in high orbit over the planet had very little in common with the world they remembered leaving, and even less than what they hoped to meet. Worse, the voracious corporate and state powers of PanO and Yu Jing soon learned of Teseum, the ridiculously valuable neomaterial that was quite plentiful here, and were all too eager to start carving out the planet for their own benefit and gleefully ignore its human population as little more than backward relics of a failed age.
Enough was enough. The hardened survivors of Ariadna put the hopes of the past behind them and banded together to assert their independence, attacking the early exploratory missions of the greater powers before they became relegated to squatters on their own planet. Eventually, Haqqislam and the Nomads lobbied O-12 to make sure that Ariadna could safely lay claim to their own planet before the attrition became all-out war, partly out of a genuine desire to keep smaller powers viable, partly because letting the PanO or Yu Jing get their way too much is always bad for business.
Don’t Tread on Me
The hardy Ariadna colonists excel at asymmetrical warfare. Nomads can do it as well, and Shasvasti can pull it off with more hi-tech units, but no one does it as extensively as the people of Dawn, or require it as intensely for achieving victory. You can send your best heavy hitter to attack the enemy’s top unit and sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Make that top unit extend itself, chase after camo markers, spend useless orders and open vulnerable flanks, nuke his order providers mercilessly, and you’ll win waaay more often than not.
To that effect, the army has a wealth of camouflaged units across nearly all categories, from skirmishers with shotguns to anti-armor specialists pulverizing TAGs with Autocannons. It also has a bunch of options of advanced deployment: Infiltration, Mechanized deployment, Tactical Jump, Parachutists, ambush camo and the like. This helps you a lot in setting up fire lanes, area denial, and camping near objectives to force your opponent into making mistakes trying to stop you.
Mass Warfare is another Ariadna trademark. It has precious few of the uber-expensive units you can find in the ALEPH, Combined Army and PanO roster, and plenty of their stuff is quite affordable, letting you bring lots of what you want. For 60 points, you can bring 10 crazy sword-swinging, smoke throwing dogged scots to charge enemy lines and blanket the table with smoke markers, terrifying anyone who didn’t invest heavily into total Reaction remotes or a truckload of mines. And if they die, it’s no big deal. They already forced the enemy to spend mines, orders and change positioning rather than deal with your actual attack.
Exotic Rules are also a thing for the faction. While it lacks the ultra-tech of te rest of the Sphere and the alien guests, it picked up quite a few odd things in the harsh world of Dawn. Units of domesticated murder-critters controlled remotely, giant werewolf hybrids parachuting behind enemy lines, Teseum and viral ammunition to give your guys an edge in engaging the enemy are all factors the Ariadna player can rely uponin order to keep things properly uneven (in your favor).
Specialist swarm is another Ariadnan advantage. Granted, they are not usually the top of their league, but they are not too shabby either, they come cheap and have plenty of fun gear and rules. you have camo specialists, infiltrating specialists (or both!), parachuting specialists, impetuous specialists if you want the meanest engineers the universe ever spat out, and so on.
Another classic Ariadna trait is heavy ordnance. These guys believe in traveling low and attacking with overwhelming force before melting back into the backstage. So Armor-Piercing HMGs and rifles, mighty autocannons, Traktor remotes that can pepper areas with saturation fire, Adhesive cannons to glue TAGs and HI in place are all in decent supply!
Finally, there is the fact that the bulk of your forces are unhackable. So even if you are shut out of most of the infowar shenanigans, they are also very much limited in what they can do to you. Your mostly non-Cubed troops don’t even have to fear being Sepsitorized!
The Empires Strike Back
It’s not all wine and roses, though. Not for anyone, and especially not for the underdogs just trying to get a bit of respect. Ariadna has some keen drawbacks that you have to be aware of to make sure you win games as well as enjoy they playstyle of the army.
Lower tech is the main thing, of course. Sure, the army has options to get around it and engage in competitive terms, but you’ll still see no monofilament stuff to inta-kill TAGs, no TO Camo to baffle the enemy vanguard, no Hacking Device + or Impersonation to shield your units as something else, no cool bipedal robots stomping their way about and soaking in enemy firepower, not even combi-rifles to get that sweet +3 all the way from 0 to 16 inches (Unless you’re William Wallace, that is). Accessing mercenaries can give you some wiggle room, but it’s still a thing.
Fragility is something else to take into account. Other than their lupine pals, nothing in the Ariadna roster is sporting two real wounds. A few bigshots here and there get access to No Wound Incapacitation, and that’s mostly it, meaning you better watch out for Shock, Viral and DA ammo that will send even your elite straight to the grave.
Another issue is Inferior Hacking. Even if you bring in some mercs to help you out, you’ll do it worse that almost everyone else. You’ll have poor map coverage due to having no repeaters, lackluster hackers and no fun EVO gadgets, meaning that you won’t get to boost your remotes, mark enemy targets or guide your drops as well as your rivals.
Look for more Infinity in the days ahead!