It’s hot. Too hot. Somewhere, Ming the Merciless is assailing the earth with heat waves, hoping to break our spirit. It won’t work, Ming! It won’t! So what better way to build some sort of psychic barrier against the high temperatures than by exploring the new Corvus Belli battle pack Operation: Coldfront?
A New Rivalry
Operation: Coldfront introduces us to a simmering conflict between the Cossacks of Ariadna and the agents of ALEPH’s Special Situations Section. Whether you see the colonists of the planet Dawn as the proud defenders of autonomy against the intrusive and sinister agents of ALEPH depends on your perspective. Like all previous Infinity releases, the conflict set up in Operation: Coldfront is supported by a complex and gripping narrative that’s rich in nuance and depth.
The booklet’s fluff does a great job in exposing new players to the layered intrigue of the Infinity universe. It also dazzles you with just how cool and characterful each of these particular factions are. Ariadna and ALEPH are distinctly different, the former being closer to a 21st-century tech level with an aesthetic that will appeal to anyone with an interest in modern military hardware, the latter sleek, advanced and exotic. After spending a little time with this book, when asked which faction you’re going to run with, your answer is likely to be short and given without hesitation: “Both.”
As with previous battle packs, Coldfront includes a series of cool little missions that introduce unit types and rules in an easily digestible way. The introductory rules are really well laid out, so new players should be able to get rolling really quickly.
As I mentioned in the unboxing video (sorry about that terrible Russian accent; I’ve been watching too much GLOW), one of the things I love about Infinity is that the art style is fresh and contemporary, rather than ‘grimdark’. Now, I’d go on a march to assert the glory of this rules set, the genius of the game’s intricate design and exquisitely balanced forces, but the aesthetic is the thing that grabs people first. Whether it’s the world-class physically realistic miniatures or the colourful anime-influenced artwork, Infinity looks distinctive partly because it’s looking forwards, not back. This isn’t a dark future in which technological advancements occur every ten thousand years and mechanoids have giant smokestacks on their backs. It’s a future that feels believable, less of a cartoon. That’s not to criticise the more ‘grimdark’ games – of which there are many, several of which I like – it’s just nice to come across something that stands out.
For a lot of players, the first thing they look for is the new unit profiles. What’s new? What can I slip into my tournament list? What does that massive hammer do? Coldfront gives us a glimpse of what ALEPH and the Cossack sectorial are going to be bringing to the game, and it’s quite the showcase.
Corvus Belli have been dropping a lot of new tech and skills lately. We’ve seen Full Auto, Counterintelligence, cybermines and various other cool elements introduced with the Tunguska sectorial. Coldfront continues this trend of expanding the tactical scope of the game.
We get a glimpse of Trench Hammers, Mine Dispersers, Jumper: Level Z (I’m an ALEPH newbie; this is new, right?) and a host of new combinations of weapons and equipment. It’s genuinely exciting to imagine how the new units are going to perform, and what is waiting in the wings. Here’s a couple of troop profiles that really popped for me.
With Forward Deployment Level 2, this Kazak recon unit will be starting close to the centre line of the battlefield. Ambush camouflage means that the trooper will not only be starting the game in marker state (so you have to discover it before you can attack it) but also allows the player to place a second, false marker down within 8”. That’s really devious. With a T2 marksman rifle and mines, this profile will cause a few headaches for enemies seeking to advance unimpeded up the table.
This guy’s a toolkit. A forward observing Lieutenant, also with Ambush Camouflage, but sporting a T2 sniper rifle. He’s also Dogged, so if he takes a wound, he can choose to stay on his feet and continue fighting at the cost of dropping dead at the end of the turn.
Armata-2 Proyekt ‘Ratnik’
The poster-boy (or girl) of the booklet, the Ratnik is a hulking Heavy Infantry. The model itself could be construed as a deadly weapon if you threw it, the design is superb and it would look mean even if you stood it next to a Gecko. The profile in the book offers Minesweeper (giving you an option to deal with mines, E/Maulers and perimeter weapons), a heavy rocket launcher, a heavy shotgun, a heavy pistol and a Trench Hammer. It looks glorious, and the stat line is great. It starts at ARM 6 (which is good, even for a HI) but degrades to Battle Ravaged after taking a wound. However, the unit also has Dogged, so when you absolutely have to hold your ground at all costs, the Ratnik can comply.
[One thing I did notice I that the Ratnik has mines on its waist. The booklet profile doesn’t include the Chest Mine weapon, but I’m guessing that other profiles will have that option.]
It’s not all Cossack. ALEPH is bringing some sweet units to the fight, too. The Shukra Consultant profile has Chain of Command, a Biometric Visor Level 2 for dealing with impersonators, and Counterintelligence. This last one is a really strong ability for armies that take first turn as it limits the opponent’s options for removing orders or restricting your Command Point expenditure. We’ve seen it in Tunguska (it’s definitely worth it) and now ALEPH get it too. This will surely help with ALEPH lists that go heavy on elite, expensive units.
The Tactical Assault Team looks awesome. This is one of my favourite minis from the set, partly for the wizard sleeves, but also for the full-on space opera helmet. Their skills are impressive too. They’re veterans, with shock immunity and No Wound Incapacitation, making them very durable, especially with ARM3 and BTS 3. In terms of armament, the booklet profile is delicious. A multi-rifle, an E/Marat and drop bears. The Yadu is ready for anything. Then there’s Yadu Officer Shakti, for when you want to include a bigger gun and a buffed-up Killer Hacking Device.
Ever fancied running an ARM 4 REM? Well, this thing has STR 2 and a mine dispenser. Gun-wise, it’s fitted with a multi-rifle but being ALEPH you’ll be able to buff it with marksmanship or swaddle it in White Noise. This thing is going to be terrifying.
In short, they’re gorgeous. They fit together easily, even the troopers who are holding their guns in both hands (I found some older sculpts were a challenge to put together). The details are deep and crisp and the poses are dynamic. The big model, that brutalist slab of badassery that is the Ratnik, went together easily and held with no pinning. Better humans will pin it, of course, but I am not a better human. Flash was easy to remove. I found the Dakini feet took a little time to get right, but once built, the new Dakinis are really impressive.
In short, as you might expect from a Corvus Belli product, the miniatures are top-tier. Real connoisseur stuff.
300 Point Armies
In keeping with previous battle sets, Coldfront includes sample 300 point armies. Both are pretty small, balanced between cheap troopers and elite monsters.
The book also contains a nice introductory guide to preparing and assembling the miniatures, all very clean and crisp to look at. There’s even a helpful painting guide. Everything feels inviting and accessible, so even those new to the hobby will be rocking up with their Ratniks in no time.
Look, this is my favourite game. It’s the best set of sci-fi tabletop skirmish rules ever devised, and the miniatures are beautiful. But let’s try and be objective here. The set is worth it just for the models. Factor in the scenery, which is lush, and the rules, and the faction dice, and the card stock templates and counters, and the well-designed and visually stunning book, and you have a package that Infinity players will find hard to pass up. Like previous big releases, I can see it reeling in other gamers who have yet to sample the delights of the Infinity system.
Now we wait with baited breath to see more of the Cyberdancers and the other Ratnik and Gunbot profiles, and how these sectorials will develop. One thing’s for sure, ALEPH and Ariadna players have some serious new toys to play with.
So what’s grabbing you about Coldfront, and which of the new units are you looking to slip into your lists?
[Bored? Got some time to kill? Check out some short stories set in the Infinity universe!]