Three Zettabytes for Infiltration
There are all sorts of clever games coming out right about now. Some blend previously-disparate mechanics, others just refine them till they crackle. But today, I want to talk about something different, a game that has exactly three things going for it: a razor-sharp theme, a simple but effective risk-vs-reward system, and the potential for awful hilarious wonderful villainy. This is Infiltration, and although it isn’t pushing any envelopes or redefining its genre, it’s one of the best times I’ve had with a board game this year. It’s also affordable and easy to get your hands on to boot.
Your name is Singh. Monica Singh. Stylish, professional, assassin. You’ve been teamed up with five others — your boss, a techie, a thug, a driver, and an inside man — to break into CyberSolutions, Inc. Or maybe you’re playing as one of them instead. Either way, your goal is to hack, strip, beat out, and download as many zettabytes of data on the corporation’s upcoming line of synthetic humanoids as possible, then get the hell out before the authorities show up and pump nerve gas into the building — and very much before CyberSolutions uses your still-twitching corpses as production templates for their next wave of love-dolls. There are fates worse than death, after all. Not that anyone would turn Hugo Cash into a love-doll, though he’d be tickled pink to think so.
Problem is, CyberSolutions is one of the securest buildings on the continent. They’ve got employees up at all hours, state of the art security systems, rent-a-cops patrolling the floors, tech experts ready to rip data files to shreds, and the local cops on speed-dial. Rumor has it they’ve even got some sort of cleaning-bot ready to eliminate anything sensitive — employees, files, everything — at the first sign of an intrusion. It’s a career with high job security, if you’re taking that to mean security for the job instead of for the poor saps who run the place.
So how are you going to do it?
By walking right through the front door, of course. And naturally, you won’t be staying very long. Just long enough to get within range of the juicier servers, then it’s right back out, to freedom and the biggest payday of your career.
You’ve brought along the tools of your trade: a sledgehammer for battering open tech-locks and cyborgs alike, some drugs that should help pick up your feet, a comm to one of your informants within the building (he’s promised to keep you appraised, not only of the movements of the cops on the outside, but also what your comrades are up to), and, even though it raised some eyebrows, your lightweight Qianju PT cycle. You want to move fast, after all.
You caught a glimpse of what your thieves-in-arms brought with them, but your memory is already getting foggy. You were paying more attention to what you were bringing than the leftovers you passed on to them, after all. One or two had packed away items that seemed like they’d be better at disrupting would-be thieves than at getting them past the building’s security measures; spurious tools like sticky buckyballs and remote spyware modules that can drain even your storage devices. Hope that doesn’t come back to bite you.
Other than your tools, all a girl can rely on is her techniques. “Advance” and “Retreat” to move deeper into the building or back out of it, “Interface” to work with the various room controls, and “Extract” to hopefully pull more data out of the server bank than your comrades. Some teams, the low-stakes fraidy-cat ones, don’t allow the “Extract” method, instead only allowing a simple “Download” interface. But those teams are sissies, and you wouldn’t be caught dead working with those amateurs.
And that’s it. Four actions and four tools. Each turn everyone picks one, and each turn everyone reveals their selection at the same time and then resolves them in sequence. And prays the corporation doesn’t strike back.
CyberSolutions isn’t twisty or confusing. It’s a piece of ergonomic future-design, simply impossible to get lost in. Even so, make no mistake: it’s a maze.
At first there isn’t much to do but Advance, and hope you aren’t the first sap into a room. Even if there isn’t a rent-a-cop with a gun pointed at your head, there’s a chance you’ll be the one to set off an alarm, and even when it isn’t your fault that’s just about the last thing you want your comrades thinking about when everyone’s sprinting for the door to the sound of wailing sirens and automatic gunfire.
Once you’re a little ways into the building, your options expand until your head is spinning. Do you press on, hopeful you’ll be the only one around when you stumble over a massive cache of data? Or do you gamble and try to Extract a pool of zettabytes even though you’re sharing the room with two other thieves — are they thinking what you’re thinking, all of them moving on because they’ve assumed that everyone draining the room’s data will leave them with a paltry few bytes, or are they planning on staying back to drink deeply of that digital cloud? Should you break open that tech-lock and try to harvest its contents before someone else shows up to steal it out from under you? Should you murder that terrified corporate employee and loot his body for information, or are there better uses of your time?
With every passing minute, the mission grows more dangerous. In part because the plan for this heist wasn’t a very good one. It worked to the point that it got you and five others into the building, and the six of you agreed to not kill each other; beyond that, it’s every man for themselves.
A few rooms behind you, Hugo Cash, the inside man, has reached into the incinerator and severely wounded himself pulling something from the flames. You thought this was yet another sign of his idiocy until it turns out he’s actually found something quite useful, and he’s using the adjacent biomedical lab to heal his fingers and get back to the hunt within just a couple minutes. Now you’re wondering why you didn’t think of that.
Animal has found his way into a secret room, the building’s hidden 13th floor, and he’s doing everything possible to pick it clean before anyone can catch up. He’s bragging mightily about this, and you can tell Hugo is planning some way to shut him up. Permanently.
Mr. White has been carefully shadowing you, always lurking one room behind. He’s probably waiting for you to break a tech-lock or kill an employee before he leaps into the room to swipe your hard-earned bounty, so you’re living in a constant state of disappointing him. This isn’t kind on your bank balance, since you aren’t hacking much data in the process.
Santiago and Marilyn have forged ahead, and they’re gorging on absolutely disgusting quantities of data as a result. They’ve found an executive elevator that might be a way out, but while Marilyn is playing it safe and staying close to the potential escape route, Santiago is still forging ahead, saying there’s got to be another way out, one that isn’t armed with electronic countermeasures that will steal some of your precious data while you descend to ground level. You suspect this is wishful thinking on his part.
Other than the fact of everybody constantly looking for ways to trip each other up so they can get to the best data-caches first, there’s always the threat of the authorities, because once that dial times out, everyone still in the building is dead. Problem is, you can’t be sure exactly when they’ll arrive — or, worse, exactly what your desperate comrades will do. Will they sacrifice their lives trying to extend the timer, or will they just decide that if they’re going to die, they might as well be joined by the best cutthroats in the world?
In this case, you play it safe. You head to the executive elevator even though it means you’ll lose some data in the process, not that you had much to begin with. Mr. White catches up and sets up a hologram projector to make the elevator look like just another stretch of wall, then follows you down — the bastard has made it impossible for anyone else to get out of the building that way. At least he’s losing data in the elevator same as you.
Santiago keeps looking for another exit. Instead he finds a prototype lab and drops all his items to carry out one of the synthetics that CyberSolutions was about to release. This would have been a good idea (the prototype is worth a good ten zettabytes of data if he can haul it out), but unfortunately, it’s wasted effort; without the elevator, he’ll never make it downstairs in time. Especially when Hugo slows everyone down with buckyballs and comes out the front door laughing. Marilyn calls in a favor on the outside and delays the police long enough to get out through the loading dock, but time has run out for Animal and Santiago. You’ve won the game with 11 zettabytes, and two new lines of love-dolls are born.
This is Infiltration. It’s straightforward, fast, and fun. A full half of the games I’ve played have ended with everyone screwing each other so effectively that every single one of us died. And it’s one of those all-too-rare games that are absolutely pitch-perfect when you’re losing, everyone roaring with laughter and hatching revenge plots before the next match has even begun — if that isn’t the very definition of awesome, I don’t know what is.
Just remember, for the best results, use the “Extract” card and do an item draft at the start of each game.