Heavy Gear and You


Giant robots will forever hold a special place in my heart.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Pacific Rim, BattleTech, or Gundam.  If it’s a giant robot, I’m all in.  As a kid I remember waking up super early at my grandparents’ house and catching a few minutes of RoboTech or possibly Voltron and always left wondering what I was watching.  I might not have known the show but in my heart and mind I knew it was something amazing.  It was in middle school that I progressed into BattleTech.  Once again, visiting my grandparents, we went to the local mall and I wandered into a defunct bookstore chain.  I always drifted into and stayed in the science fiction/fantasy section because of the cover art on books, and it was here I discovered the BattleTech Technical Readout: 3050 and the BattleTech Compendium rule book.  I fell in absolute love with the art and I instantly knew I wanted both of those books.  After a couple summers mowing lawns and trips back and forth to the mall, both with and without money, I finally got both books and still enjoy pouring over them.

Fast forward about 15 years and I was introduced briefly to another giant robot game: Heavy Gear.  Heavy Gear was described to me as a much faster moving version of BattleTech.  More efficient, streamlined, and interactive.  Unfortunately, it never really took hold for me at the time, but for some reason or another very small aspects of the lore stuck with me.  In particular was this idea that each pilot had a computer that sits under their seat that plugs into their Gear (or mech armor) and learns as the pilot’s skill develops.  The computer is considered as intelligent as a dog, and eventually the Gear can develop a personality.  The funny thing is I started looking for other games systems to play or would be interested in, and for whatever reason typed a phrase akin to the following into a Google search: giant robot board game that has computers that are as smart as dogs.  What did I find?  Heavy Gear.  I started looking into the game and was hooked from the start.  Several months later I have two good size forces painted for both the North and South, and ready to start a NuCoal force. 

But what is Heavy Gear, you ask.  Let me explain…

Heavy Gear Blitz 3rd Edition Rules Cover.  Copyright Dreampod 9.

Lore and Game Overview

For a quick lore overview Heavy Gear is set several thousand years from now on the planet Terra Nova (although you could play on other worlds).  The long and short is that at one point in time Terra Nova was a colony of the unified Earth government.  Eventually the government on Earth collapsed and every colony across the galaxy was forced to fend for itself.  Most of the game takes place on Terra Nova, specifically in a large band around the equator called the Badlands.  The Badlands are a wasteland area that are a combination of deserts and rocky areas that are incredibly difficult to survive in.  Various factions vie for control of these areas as they contain vast amounts of resources, such as fuel and precious metals.  There are several factions in the game, but on Terra Nova itself there is the North, the South, the New Coalition (NuCoal) and Peace River.  For a more detailed look at the lore, factions, and timeline, I highly suggest the Heavy Gear podcast or joining the discussions on Heavy Gear Blitz on Facebook.

North Gears.  L-R Front: Hunter and Cheetah.  L-R Back: Grizzly, Tiger, and Jaguar.

The game itself is a 15mm skirmish game produced by Dream Pod 9.  Although there are tanks, infantry, and other vehicles, the game primarily focuses on mech combat between Gears.  The game starts very similar to 40K or Age of Sigmar: players decide on a points cap and build forces to that level.  An average game is 100 to 150 points, which gives a player around 10-20 models to play with, depending on what’s chosen.  Each faction has a starter box and provides players with around 100 to 120 points, depending on loadouts.  From there players split their models into squads based on their battlefield roll, such as General Purpose (GP) or Fire Support (FS).  Besides an overall objective worth a number of victory points, squads can also gain victory points based on specific objectives completed for that type of squad.  These objectives are determined before play starts.  Before play begins, players nominate commanders, deploy forces, and then roll for initiative.

South Gears.  L-R Front: Jager and Chatterbox Iguana.  L-R Back: Junglemower Cobra and Mamba.

At a high level there are a few things that stand out when playing.  First is that each turn has a you go/I go mechanic.  Unlike a game of Warhammer, squads have an alternate activation that keeps both players engaged during the turn.  This is pushed further by each model having a number of actions they can perform during the game turn.  Most models have one action, such as shoot or perform ECM jamming.  However larger models may have two or three actions.  Second is that actions can also be performed during an opponent’s phase.  For example, if an opponent moves a unit past an enemy unit, the enemy could shoot at the target out of sequence if they have an action and choose to do so.  However, if the enemy is capable of doing so, chooses to do it, and only has one action per turn, they are then unable to perform additional actions for the remainder of that game turn.  Lastly, each weapon has a band called optimal range.  Models can still fire at one another as long as they don’t exceed the maximum range of the weapon, but the optimal range is that sweet spot where a weapon performs at its peak.  Anything less than or greater than the range incurs a to-hit penalty.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

There are a lot of additional rules that I could cover, such as status effects and margin of success, but those can be covered in greater detail in future articles.  The same could easily be said of lore.  This is a game that’s been around for 25+ years, and has spawned a couple of video game titles, an RPG, and a couple of spin-off games.  I feel like it’s a sleeper game that I’ve discovered, but has a very committed fan base.  It’s also an incredibly well-balanced game, unlike a game like 40K.  Not only can any list evenly perform against any other list, but every single unit is viable and has a purpose.  Every unit has a role and multiple play-styles can be used in any faction, so depending on what you like you can absolutely take it and be successful.

My overall impressions of the game are very favorable.  From the lore, to the models, to the gameplay, Heavy Gear hits all marks for me.  I would highly recommend it and feel that it’d be a welcome addition to any tabletop gamer’s repertoire.

Cover image: Pilot and Gear cross-section.  Copyright Dreampod 9.

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


A New England transplant that originated from parts westward, Ryan is a bit of a nerd that knows a little bit about a lot of things, all while claiming to know nothing about anything.  Seemingly part Khajit a logistician by trade, he’s the kind of guy that can get you virtually anything if there’s coin to be had a problem to solve.  Ryan began to learn the scrounging arts while serving time in parts east as a Loggie and has been perfecting them steadily over several decades.  He has a problem with continually purchasing models, paints, and terrain that he doesn’t really need but his wife doesn’t seem to mind.

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