The idea of asymmetrical trading is something that comes up often in tactics discussions, particularly when the faction in question is Haqqislam. Many people view asymmetrical trading as an absolutely crucial aspect of how Haqqislam plays. However the concept can be a little difficult to understand, so this article is devoted to exploring it.
Asymmetrical trading is about exchanging resources with your opponent in a way that isn’t equal. In a game of Infinity what this means in practice is using cheap units to threaten more expensive units. One example would be if a line infantry kills a heavy infantry before dying. This would be an asymmetrical trade because the line infantry was worth fewer points than the heavy infantry, and was probably less important to the owner’s overall strategy. The goal is to have your units ‘punch upwards’ and achieve critical goals despite the fact that you’ve invested few points in them.
I think the word trade can be somewhat confusing because it suggests that both individuals exchange resources at the same time. However, when it comes to spending orders in Infinity, you almost never trade due face-to-face rolls. The nature of these rolls means that only one person gains because the action that the other player declares is cancelled. Of course there are exceptions to this (and I’ll cover them later), but generally individual orders in Infinity don’t result in true trades.
The fact that you need to win face-to-face rolls is important to bear in mind because it highlights a huge difficulty with the strategy. When you threaten an expensive troop with a cheap troop it’s very possible that they’re just better than you, so winning that roll can be tough. It’s true that troops only get to take a single shot when they ARO (barring exceptions such as suppressive fire), but if the opposing troop is taking a shot with a multi-rifle at BS14 and your active troop is shooting with a rifle at BS11 then there’s a very real chance it can all go downhill very fast. Luckily there are plenty of strategies cheap troops have access to which can even up the odds, which I will cover in a later section. However at a superficial level I’m sure you can appreciate that the idea of trading cheap for expensive is tricky and prone to going wrong. Therefore you should view this strategy as something that requires a careful game-plan and lots of orders spent. It’s not something you can execute flawlessly with a single order.
We can think of trading in Infinity as something that mostly occurs across multiple orders, instead of occurring with one single order. Let me demonstrate with a very simple example. I have two units near to an opposing heavy infantry. I move the first unit around the corner and the heavy infantry, feeling confident, declares a shot. I declare shoot too, hoping to take him down, but unfortunately I lose the face-to-face and my unit dies. Disaster! Fortunately, I have another unit nearby, so I do the same thing. This time the heavy infantry is cut down with viral ammunition, and my troop survives.
What’s the net outcome? Well it might seem like a simple 1-for-1, but let’s say my troop that died was worth 23 points, whilst the opponent’s heavy infantry cost 45. In reality my opponent has lost close to double the number of points that I have. Furthermore, the cheap unit that I lost was not essential to my list, whereas my opponent’s heavy infantry was a big piece with an HMG so it was a critical part of theirs. I’m winning on points and I’m winning in terms of opportunities (i.e. I have all my important troops, but the opponent has lost one of theirs). If you repeat this scenario over and over again in your head it should become clear that this kind of long-term trading is reasonably order intensive (because I normally have to attempt kills multiple times) but ultimately results in my force being very far ahead of the opponent’s force in terms of points remaining.
And that’s how trading actually works from a theoretical perspective in-game. It’s a long and concerted effort across multiple orders to have your cheap units take out more expensive ones.
So How Do I Trade Effectively?
The downside of attempting to trade upwards with cheap troops is that it’s difficult and things can go wrong. I want to make it clear that if you are going to attempt this strategy you need to do it both carefully and effectively. Ineffective trading usually just results in you sending waves of cheap troops at some kind of impenetrable defence and seeing your entire list quickly end up in tatters.
In practice we can split attempts to trade effectively with the opponent into two categories: opposed and unopposed.
Opposed traders try to win face-to-face rolls. Unopposed traders try to avoid face-to-face rolls altogether.
Skirmishers are the most common trading units that oppose enemies with face-to-face rolls. Skirmishers tend to have poor ballistic skill values (11-12), paper thin armour (0-1), and generally basic weapons (rifles, shotguns). So how do they trade with much more expensive units? Simple. Modifier stacking.
Modifier stacking is probably the best way for a cheap troop to oppose an expensive one. A combination of camouflage and surprise shot immediately puts an opposing troop on -6. Engaging them at close range with a shotgun ensures that unless they have a shotgun themselves you have a higher modifier to your BS than they do. And trying to position yourself so you can hit them out of cover takes away any bonus to their armour (this is obviously unnecessary if you use a template weapon).
The picture below demonstrates the likely outcomes of a skirmisher walking up and shooting an opposing heavy infantry with a shotgun. In this example the heavy infantry is in cover. Let’s also say that for the sake of this scenario the heavy infantry ignores the skirmisher’s camouflage and surprise shot, and it shoots back with a weapon at a favourable range (breaker pistol):
As you can see the skirmisher’s chance of success is fairly low, and if it’s going to get through the opposing heavy infantry’s multiple wounds it’s probably going to need lots of orders. What’s worse is that the heavy infantry’s chance to wound the skirmisher is actually appreciably high.
Let’s try another example. This is what happens if a skirmisher approaches the same heavy infantry from an angle that does not give it cover, and the heavy infantry does not ignore camouflage or surprise shot. In this example the heavy infantry chooses to dodge because its BS would be 8, whereas its PH is 11 (-3 from surprise shot):
As soon as the skirmisher stacks camouflage and surprise shot, and approaches in a way that denies the heavy infantry cover, they’re suddenly much more favoured. Furthermore, when they do this the heavy infantry is probably going to dodge instead of shoot, which means there’s literally no chance that the skirmisher dies. This is a very good way of asymmetrically trading because it drastically increases your chances of gaining value from your cheaper units.
Another valid strategy to consider is hacking. Hacking devices can be taken on reasonably cheap troops, and they can be very threatening to expensive heavy infantry and TAGs. One key advantage of hacking is that it can be done without line-of-sight, which means the opponent can only declare reset as their ARO. As with the example above this is perfect for a trading unit because it means the only way they die is if some other unit interferes.
When you want a cheap unit to kill an expensive unit and you’re forced to deal with a face-to-face roll, you need to stack the odds in your favour. Think about: range-bands, negating cover, camouflage, and surprise shot. You can also consider other strategies such as hacking or MSV2 + smoke tricks.
Less often you will have the opportunity to take out a threatening troop without having to put up with a face-to-face roll at all. This can occur with clever positioning, template weapons (if the opponent does not dodge), and Ghazi.
I won’t explore clever positioning in too much detail because it’s fairly self-explanatory. Cheap troops can obviously threaten much more expensive troops if you shoot them in the back and they can’t do anything!
Template weapons sometimes result in unopposed rolls if the opponent does not choose to dodge. You’ll see this quite a lot with big, beefy heavy infantry who think they can survive the hit. A typical situation occurs when you declare a shot with a chain rifle, and the opponent declares a shot with any other weapon. Your chain rifle auto-hits them, but they also hit you with their weapon. You both roll your saves and you either both die, neither die, or some other combination occurs. This is a reasonably unique situation in Infinity terms because it’s one of the only times that two troops can kill each other simultaneously.
The most lethal templates are probably flamethrowers because fire ammunition is capable of doing multiple wounds at once to opposing units. As with all templates they can also hit numerous troops simultaneously so they’re fantastic for trading purposes. I like to use templates as ARO weapons because many opponents hate having to dodge in the active turn. The opponent either dodges, which is a little wasteful because then they cannot shoot, or they choose to shoot instead, which means they’re automatically hit by the template. This makes positioning a cheap flamethrower ARO piece next to an opponent’s heavy infantry a fantastic (but very difficult!) lockdown strategy – particularly if they have to dodge multiple times to get out of your template range.
Finally, Ghazi Muttawi’ah deserve a small section to themselves. The trick with Ghazi is forcing the opponent to make a bad decision which results in your action being unopposed. The key to this is that they have two weapons that require a dodge to avoid, and one that requires a reset to avoid. If the opponent shoots then you get an automatic hit with a template. If they choose to dodge then you can use the jammer which requires a reset ARO. And if they choose to reset then you can use the chain rifle or e/marat which requires a dodge. Either way, you’re unopposed. A similar situation comes up with any hacker against a hackable target. If they dodge you can hack them, whereas if they reset you can shoot them. In this way you can put your opponent into very tricky situations.
Haqqislam and Asymmetrical Trading
Haqqislam is particularly gifted at asymmetrical trading because we have lots of cheap units that can punch above their weight. I’ll highlight a selection here.
Ghazi Muttawi’ah: Ghazi are the undisputed kings of trading up. The combination of their low cost and circumstantially powerful weapons means you can throw a number of them at a problem and still trade asymmetrically, even if a few die. Two things are fantastic about Ghazi in particular. The first is that they have smoke which means they can cover their own advance up the field (this helps them get into template range). The second is that the jammer can hit units without line-of-fire so you can safely attempt to jam heavy infantry and TAGs without them being able to do anything more than reset.
Daylami: These units are very cheap and can pack limited camouflage with inferior infiltration. They’re also able to take panzerfausts which are very powerful weapons. The chance of having a Daylami successfully infiltrate is low (you need to roll a 7 or less), but it doesn’t even matter if they fail. You can deploy the panzerfaust profile on a board-edge with a view to the centre of the field and happily take ARO pot-shots with your 8 point troop. If they fail then you lose 8 points – no big deal. If you pass then you’ve probably just accrued some major value. Lots of people underestimate these troops and choose to move-move their units even if you do declare an ARO. This is usually a big mistake because with BS11 your chance of hitting isn’t that bad, especially if the opponent’s unit isn’t in cover.
Al Hawwa: Whilst this troop is much more expensive than the last two it still comes with kit that allows it to threaten much more expensive models. The combination of camouflage, surprise shot, and a boarding shotgun is enough to deter heavy infantry, and the ability to take an assault hacking device further adds to the package. The loss of an Al Hawwa hurts a lot more than a Daylami, of course, but this unit comes with enough defensive tools to enable it have a good go at taking on tough targets without necessarily being in too much danger. The hacker profile is particularly relevant here due to hacking not requiring line-of-sight and therefore severely limiting ARO options. Of course as the cost of your unit goes up the consequences of failing in your attempts to trade asymmetrically go up too, so some finesse is needed.
Lasiq: Another good way of making asymmetrical trades is to take a really dangerous gun on a cheap platform. Viral weapons on Lasiqs fill this niche nicely. The Lasiq boasts a minor modifier to BS attacks from mimetism, but its real selling point is that successful hits with a viral weapon force the enemy to make two BTS saves. These guys can make short work of most units because there’s a tendency for profiles to have lower BTS than ARM, and because you can drown your opponent in saves. Imagine hitting three times with a viral rifle! It’s obscene. There’s not too much to say about the Lasiq except that it’s a competent gunfighter at a cheap price, and that makes it a good candidate for asymmetrical trading.
Asymmetrical trading is the practice of using cheap troops to threaten expensive troops. It’s a tricky strategy because expensive troops tend to be better than cheap troops in terms of hitting with their weapons, dodging, and successfully passing ARM or BTS rolls. However there are many cheap units in the game that can punch well above their weight, either by severely hampering the opponent’s chance to respond through abilities like camouflage and surprise shot, or by allowing no aggressive response at all, as in the case of hacking from outside your opponent’s line-of-sight. Haqqislam is particularly effective at asymmetrical trading due to it’s extensive roster of cheap but potent unit options.