OK. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m really bad about sticking to my plans.
According to my grand vision around January 1, this was supposed to be Opportunity Fire’s “year of the Pacific.” My plan was to hammer on the games I’ve got in the Game Closet that cover World War II’s PTO.
Oh. Ooops. Pffft. Never mind. Rather, this is My Year of Blogging Horribly. All I’m going to say about that is “Stuff happens.”
Let’s just say right now, I’m spaced out. There weren’t many game arrivals over the summer. The few items that did manage to land on my doorstep here in the swamp include GMT’s new “Space Empires” and Lock N Load’s “Space Infantry.” The latter item is currently getting a workout on the Big Table.
Space Infantry in action on the Big Table.
Designed by Gottardo Zancani, Space Infantry is a clever solitaire game of combat on the far-flung worlds of the future. The player takes on the role of squad leader. Your job is to select a group of combat teams and specialists, then lead them into battle.
The game uses random number chits, rather than dice, to determine the results of various actions. The chits probably wear out more quickly than dice (doh!), but they do a better job of controlling probability distribution in the context of the game. Their use also speeds up game play quite a bit. Instead of making a lengthy series of dice rolls (and recording the results), you typically draw all of the chits for the same type of action for all units in play at the same time.
Combat results, for example, are based on a comparison between a unit’s relevant skill (Fire or Melee) and a random number (which represents “Action Points”). Divide the Action Points by the skill, drop fractions, and the result is the number of successes the unit scores. In a combat phase, you draw random numbers for all of the units involved — on both sides — in the same sequence. Quick and easy.
Graphically, Space Infantry is produced to Lock N Load’s typically high production standards. Artwork is colorful and crisp, and the die-cutting is very clean. Most of the counters are 5/8-inch, but a few — including the angry-looking squad counters — are 1-inch. Surface mission maps are 8 1/2 by 11 inches and use a point-to-point design. “Hive” mission map tiles measure 3 7/8 inches square and are printed on the same stock as the game’s cards.
The future is bald, brothers!
The game cards, which carry information on squad personnel, are neatly done and feature little portraits of your troops. Those cards, by the way, put a song in my heart. Every face in every portrait is topped by a perfectly clean, hairless pate. That’s right: In the grim darkness of the future, there is only … BALD. That rawks.
Space Infantry isn’t a “roll-and-cuss” type of solitaire game; it has a lot more player input than many solo designs I’ve played. In the style pioneered by Dan Verssen’s “Leader” series of solitaire games, task organization — selecting the units and resources for each mission — plays an extremely important role in your ability to succeed.
Each mission map features different terrain types and technical challenges. Each type of enemy (there are six) has its own strengths and weaknesses. Correctly customizing your squad to meet each mission’s specific requirements is the heart of the game.
You assemble a squad by “buying” component teams with squad points. The teams typically represent one or two grunts, or a single specialist — and you have a range of different team types to choose from. You also get to load up your squad with an array of items like grenades, extra ammo, demo charges and medical kits.
There are both basic and advanced sections in the rulebook. The advanced rules are worth incorporating into play as soon as possible because they add considerable depth to combat resolution. The rules for the campaign games — two campaigns are included — add in an experience system that greatly enhances the metagame of task organization and personnel management.
The rules, including campaign rules and optionals, run to only 21 pages. You can play stand-alone surface missions with just the basic rules, which end on page 11.