POSTED BY KYLE
Post by Kyle

Was it really last summer when we did our first Learn-to-Play session for the new edition of Heavy Gear? It’s amazing how time flies! Just prior to Christmas (the real culprit, I think, in making the tail end of 2016 feel like such a blur), we did a second Learn-to-Play session for this made-in-Canada Mech game. At the end of that day the consensus among the group was that it was high time to move from rules tutorials and multiplayer megabattles over to more proper games. So that’s exactly what we’re doing next weekend!

On Saturday, January 28, we’ll be running a gaming day for Heavy Gear—sure, everyone is still pretty new (or extremely new) to the system, but that’s actually more a benefit than it is a burden. Back in the early days of the store’s 40k Beginners League, there were many a night when veterans of 40k—but inexperienced with the current edition—would play against absolute beginners and completely demolish them …which risks chasing that new player away (and thereby shrinking the local community for that game). But with everyone being so new, the stress of uneven pairings will be virtually nonexistent. This will be an afternoon of everyone stumbling their way through the rules and developing tactics on the fly!

Myself, I’m excited enough about this that I’m aiming on participating that day! I had planned on going through, step by step, the Heavy Gear force I’m planning on bringing. My only problem is that my force is configured to the previous edition.

This is the entirety of what I have painted at the moment. Though I do feel that what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality, I’m disappointed that I haven’t been able to set aside painting time more consistently—for all my projects. Seriously, if I could just find the free time to paint for 20 minutes every two days, I would get so much done over the long run.

Strike Squad

My Strike Squadron is a mixture of Sidewinders and Black Mambas. The squad leader pilots a Command Sidewinder with a rifle and satellite uplink, there’s another Sidewinder with the Riotmaster Frag Cannon (for those tussles with infantry), two more Sidewinders—both with the standard autocannon-medium rocket pod load out—and the squad is capped with an up-armoured Strike Black Mamba (armed with a light bazooka).

Recon-Electronic Warfare Squad

This was my Recon Squad. I upped its capabilities a bit by upgrading the light gears, the Iguanas, to have electronic warfare and EW countermeasure suites; the Chatterbox load out features a satellite uplink dish, while the Black Box Iguana is dedicated solely to electronic warfare. To help protect the Iguanas, I passed over the standard medium Jager gear and set my sights on the far, far uglier Basilisk, thus rooting my force in the Eastern Sun Emirates force (the factory for the older Basilisk design resides within the ESE and the gear is very common across all its regiments). A standard load-out Black Mamba with a medium autocannon and 32-shot light rocket pod completes the squad.

Venomous Sagittarius Strider

Picking up the support role, was a lone Strider, the Sagittarius with the “Venomous” load out of multiple bays of very light rockets. Essentially, the Sagittarius was my artillery and was fielded singly more due to points limitations than because I felt that one was all I needed. When possible, I would use my Iguanas to spot for the indirect firing rocket pods of the Sagittarius. It was a tactic that would deliver a telling blow about once per game…which always felt worth it when I could pull it off.

This was as far as my force got before the new edition and its Kickstarter campaign for plastics were announced. I have to admit, with the closing down of this edition, the wind was knocked out of me. I mothballed everything and immersed myself (as much as I can, what with having a store to run) in other games while I waited for the new edition to be completed and available once more.

Conforming to the New Edition!

Heavy Gear Kickstarted their new edition with a desire to transition from metal to plastic models. Though plenty of their range is still of the metal and resin variety, every faction in the game now has an army box of all plastic models available to them—and each box set has a decent variety of models at that! This transition was done very smartly: unlike the last two significant edition changes, Dream Pod 9 this time has kept the scale the same and done their best to ensure that their older models and newer models can both be placed on the table without either looking out of place.

Building a force in the older edition could be a lot of fun, but mostly… it was never fun. The army lists offered so many options, with many other options being opened up by those first primary options (how very meta!); building a squad ended up being a rather byzantine process and not for the faint of heart. It changed a bit when some fans of the game built the “Gear Garage” army-building program; it wasn’t perfect, but at least it was easier for players to build legal squads for their armies.

The new edition brings a bit more user friendliness to army building—without relying on an app to do so. However, as I soon discovered, the price of this benefit was that in some ways, there was less flexibility in the composition of squads. Don’t get me wrong, in quite a few ways there was more flexibility than before—and the streamlining of army building was surely welcomed by me, but that didn’t change the fact that the combination of models in my old Recon squad was no longer legal. To further punctuate that, my Basilisk gears no longer exist in the game either. Sigh….this is the way of edition changes, I guess.

Understanding Squad Building

Back in the older Heavy Gear Blitz edition, armies were built by selecting a squad among a list of squads used by your faction and then, if you were so inclined, adding any upgrades or substituting any variant gears you desired. The squad sizes were set and the options were myriad…and often confusing.

In this edition, squads are designed from the ground up. First you decide what kind of squad you’ll be building, according to its role on the battlefield (the exhaustive list for gear squads is: General Purpose, Strike, Fire Support, Recon, Paratrooper, Mountaineering, Special Forces, Engineering and Striders).

As with pretty much all other miniatures games, a semblance of balance is achieved through the use of points indicating a squad’s quality (the points are called Threat Value in Heavy Gear). Players meet up with armies of the same Threat Value, broken down into various squads according to how each player reconciles quantity of troops with quality of troops.

Heavy Gear also adds a second metric to balance out game play on a squad-by squad basis: it essentially measures the number of things a squad can do in a single turn to potentially dominate that turn. Because it’s a game where players alternate activating their squads on the table, it’s important that no one squad be able to do significantly more in one turn than another squad can. The game’s designers decided to equate this as being able to do four to six actions per squad (models can move for free and anything else above that—firing a weapon for instance—counts as an action).

With that limit in mind, and with most gears having just one action apiece, gear squads will have no more than six models. However, all gears are not created equally: the bleeding-edge technology built into some elite and black-op gears may include automated systems (or what not) that give them a second action each turn; and Striders, being multi-crewed giant gears used in support roles, all have two or more actions. Tanks can have even more actions. All of these follow the same squad size limit and their squads cannot do more than six actions per turn.

This all comes together so that elite squads using only the best tech will always be smaller forces (due to the higher points cost of their gears) and act in several smaller squads instead of one or two large squads. Striders and tanks, being support machines—and presumably expensive—will never be concentrated or fielded on the battlefield in great numbers. Regular, standard load-out gears, being more “troops of the line” in nature, will operate in larger squads compared to the other two, which feels very appropriate to our present-day sensibilities.

Allied Southern Territories

The Allied Southern Territories: (l to r) the Mekong Dominion, Southern Republic, Humanist Alliance (annexed by the S.R.) and Eastern Sun Emirates.

The Eastern Sun Emirates

The Eastern Sun Emirates is a hereditary aristocracy, a rarity on Terra Nova. The government is arranged along feudal lines, with Emirs owing loyalty to a single Patriarch. Its recent history sees the E.S.E. recovering from the inner turmoil brought about from several Emirs battling each other to ascend the Patriarchal Throne. Though the civil war has been resolved and a sense of normalcy begins to return to the country, there are still several city-states that do not acknowledge the new regime. Life in the E.S.E.  can be complicated…and dangerous.

The Basilisk: a gear so ugly, only their mother could love them!

The ESE does not have a unified military force. Each emir is expected to recruit, train, and equip a force for defense of their lands as well as support of the Patriarch and defense of the League. This leads to Emirate military forces varying widely in composition and quality. I chose the Eastern Sun Emirates—but not because I liked the idea that the country was essentially a feudal society made up of a patchwork of alliances between noble families. The great thing about Emirate armies is that they can include gears from other factions in their forces (representing how individual noble families might act in their own interests and make some backroom deals with outside factions—perfect for me, considering I’ve bought a few random gears belonging to other factions over the years).

I also chose the Eastern Sun Emirates because, in the new edition, they can give any gears with a designation/combat role of Fire Support, General Purpose or Strike the “Basilisk Upgrade.” The upgrade is really just a rules upgrade that gives the affected gear a small movement bonus and a small sensors bonus when they’re braced, but I figure this will let me continue using the Basilisk gears I already have painted up: I figure I’ll put them in my list as Jagers but with the Basilisk upgrade.

Early on in my endeavor to rebuilding my force, I discovered an online squad builder program, Gear Grinder. I’ve found it a useful tool for squad building, but it has its limitations: it’s not great at doing formatting, making it a not-very-great army building program. Still, it’s useful as all get it when you have a pile of models and trying to make them a cohesive squad.

My Newly Configured Gear Force

As it turns out, despite some of the pains from the new edition, I was able to make my force going to the Imaginary Wars Heavy Gear game day to be very similar to my classic build.  With the flagrant use of Sidewinders, I’ve had to reconfigure my classic Strike Squad and chose to downgrade it to a General Purpose Squad in order to include the Riotmaster Sidewinder; because it’s now a GP squad, the Strike Black Mamba has been replaced by a Striking Jager. Attached to this squad, is my Venomous Sagittarius Strider, not quite the artillery piece it was in the last edition, but I’ll take it!

SIDEWINDER COMMAND SQUAD (General Purpose)

STRIDER SUPPORT SQUAD (Attached Unit to Sidewinder Squad)

My Recon & EW Squad suffered the most changes. Because my Basilisks are now Jagers with the Basilisk upgrade (which now have a Unit Designation of General Purpose, Strike and Fire Support), they can no longer be in the same squad as Iguanas (who have the Recon Unit Designation only). So I’ve decided that this will be a strike squad of two Black Mambas (one with a bazooka, the other with a grenade launcher) and two Striking Basilisks. Because the Basilisk upgrade gives extra mobility and extra sensor range, I’m dubbing this squad my “Heavy Recon” squad. It should also be pointed out that the “Executive Officer” upgrade only costs 1 point for E.S.E. armies, making the Heavy Recon Squad have a 44 Threat Value, not 48 TV.

HEAVY RECON SQUAD (Strike)

So that’s my army as it stands today. In order to be playable on the upcoming Game Day, I’ll have to scrub one Sidewinder Gear from its squad; the Brawler Black Mamba will also have to ditch its upgrade to Veteran status in order to bring my Threat Value down to the 100-point limit. Overall, I think I’m satisfied with this build. Now I just have to work on how I’m going to incorporate the two Iguanas back into my force.

See you on Saturday!

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