Monday, January 23, 2012

Tutorial: Getting Started In Heavy Gear

I've recently come across a lot of gamers who are interested in transitioning their Sci-Fi gaming from "that which shall not be named" to DP9's Heavy Gear. I also see a lot of gamers who simply don't know where to start. I was there too and ended up buying a lot of Gears and other bitz that I never ended up using.

I should state that it's not Dream Pod 9's fault that the process can sometimes be a bit confusing but rather, as any gamer will attest, we're rather like magpies with new shiny things. Additionally, there's both a lot of generic units/weaponry and also many customization options within the HG universe. Coming from a background in which nearly all armies/factions have access to the same type of unit/weaponry, this can be rather confusing.

This tutorial will hopefully answer the most basic questions for the new HG gamer while providing a framework to getting started as efficiently as possible.


NO! Not this Terra Nova:

The HG universe is described as follows (from Wikipedia):

"Heavy Gear is set on a distant, fictional planet called Terra Nova around 4,000 Earth Standard Years from now (AD 6132). Terra Nova was once the pride of the United Earth Government's colonies. However, an economic collapse forced the UEG government to abandon Terra Nova and all its other colonies centuries before the period depicted in the game setting, leaving Terra Nova in a dark age. Eventually, City-states rose from the ashes and either through treaties or tyranny, united to form national unions called Leagues. These Leagues would in turn ally (again either peacefully or forcibly) to form the superpower blocs that dominated the temperate southern and northern hemispheres of the planet."

Because of Terra Nova's unique geography, climate, and lack of economic support from Earth; warfare has become dominated by giant, manned robots known as "Gears" (hence the title). Being a bipedal walker, the Gear combines the mobility of an infantryman with the firepower of an armored vehicle. However, Gears do have their drawbacks and infantry, armored vehicles, artillery, and airstrikes are still a part of the fighting on Terra Nova.

I should mention that the above background is just a snippet in terms of fluff and background. HG has been around in some form or another for over 15 years and the fluff is comparable to any other major game universe in miniature games today. If you're really interested in the background and learning more about the HG universe, hunt down the Heavy Gear RPG books, which can generally be found on Ebay for a couple bucks.


Yes, Heavy Gear is scaled at 12mm. At first, this may seem to be an odd choice, especially with the current market being dominated by 15mm and 25/28mm. However, it should be noted that this scale has two practical reasons.

First, even if the scale were brought up 3mm to 15mm, large vehicles and Striders (essentially enormous Gears that are more like walking fortresses) would be simply too big. At current scale, these minis can easily average 3" tall or more, which means an increase to 15mm would make them about 5" tall. Currently, even most "average" Trooper Gears like the Hunter stand around 28mm tall, making them almost 2" at 15mm.

Conversely, bringing the scale down to 6mm (as with another popular mecha game - Battletech), would reduce the size of most "average" Trooper Gears to around 10mm. At this size, the minis would lose most (if not all) of their current level of detail.

Second, 12mm conforms to about 1/150 scale, N-Gauge in model railroading. This means there are lots of nice terrain and building kits available at reasonable prices. For example, the Japanese kit makers Tomy and GreenMax produce some excellent, detailed N-scale buildings with large footprints for under $15-20 each.

The 12mm scale seems to be a compromise between level of detail, miniature size to ground-scale, and overall table size through both small and large battles.


The current 'armies' available in the main Locked and Loaded rulebook are:
  • The Northern Polar League (CNCS): One of the two major powers on Terra Nova, this is a league made up of several city-states who have formed an alliance of equals. The North is also dominated by the dogma of the Revisionist Church. This 'army' is further sub-divided into factions based on each city-state, which all have different strengths and weaknesses. Overall, Northern weaponry is fairly robust, with access to a wide range of weaponry, and their forces are well-led with good morale. An additional supplement Drop Bears Dive focuses on the Drop Bears regiment consisting of some unique air-droppable Gears and paratroop units.
  • The Southern Polar League (AST): The second major power on Terra Nova, this league is an 'alliance' of city-states dominated and controlled by the powerful Southern Republic faction. As with the North, this 'army' is further sub-divided into factions based on city-state, which all have different strengths and weaknesses. Southern weaponry ranges from high-tech to old-and-busted. Their forces also range from the highly-motivated, ruthless SRA to the conscripted prisoners of the MILCIA.
  • Peace River: This faction is both an independent city-state and the 'independent' corporation Paxton Arms. Peace River is located in the Badlands - the arid, sparsely-populated equatorial region of Terra Nova. Geographically and economically situated between the two polar leagues, Peace River has emerged as a protection force for the residents of the Badlands and a check against each league's aggression. This 'army' is characterized by high-tech Gears, with good access to various weaponry but lacking the more specialized units of the leagues.
  • Port Arthur Korps (PAK): Formed after the failed invasion attempt by Earth, these are the remnants of those CEF forces which were stranded on Terra Nova. This 'army' is characterized by the genetically-engineered GREL soldiers and their access to highly-mobile armored hover vehicles, as well as their use of both Southern and Northern Gears in a support role.
  • Leagueless: A 'dust-bin' force to represent anything from mercenaries, to bandits, to minor city-state forces like the KADA (the 'army' of duelists formed to defend the city-state featured in Heavy Gear: Arena). Leagueless have access to many common Gears and vehicles used by the North, South, and Peace River factions with an OK access to weaponry. There are also options to make a Leagueless faction broken-down and damaged or (fairly) well-supplied and led.
The supplement Return to Cat's Eye features the following:
  • Colonial Expeditionary Force (CEF): Formed to bring the wayward interstellar colonies back under the control of the Earth government, the CEF had almost successfully invaded Terra Nova, if not for the last-minute intervention of 'neutral' Peace River'. They still maintain a presence in the Terra Nova system. The CEF does not use Gears; preferring instead to rely on its highly mobile Hover Tank forces, genetically-engineered GREL soldiers, and occasionally bipedal Frames.
  • The Black Talons: Formed in response to the CEF invasion, the Black Talons are a Special Operations force of the allied Terra Novan forces. They are characterized by upgraded versions of Terra Novan Gears, equipped with stealth technology and a wide variety of weaponry.
  • Caprice: A planet conquered by the CEF, Caprician forces can represent the guerilla Liberati freedom fighters or the corporate interests who support both sides in an attempt to garner favor with the winning side. Caprice is a mountainous world and, as such, has developed the multi-legged Gear design known as a Mount.

The supplement Terra Nova Gambit features add'l CEF lists as well as their Utopian Colonial allies. Utopia is another world successfully conquered by the CEF. Utopian forces rely on drone-like N-KIDU units and their part-Gear/part-Hovertank Armiger control units.

Perfect Storm, the latest supplement, features the forces of NuCoal, an upcoming alliance of city-states, with Port Arthur at its core. The New Coalition features a ton of new Gear and vehicle designs, as well as rules for fielding special Gear pilots (like Aces or Duelists) for most factions.

So there are a LOT of options, which leads us to...


If you're sure of which army you'd like to run, the Starter Army boxed sets are a great place to begin for the most common factions and army lists. These will generally provide you with one Core unit, one support unit (usually an Auxillary choice, described below), and the main rulebook. In the case of forces featured in a supplement, either the supplement is included or an appendix is added to the Locked and Loaded rulebook. Another nice feature is that the forces provided are more than adequate to play a standard game of Heavy Gear: Blitz! right out of the box.

If you'd like to play either North, South, or even Leagueless and are unsure of which choice to make, the Two-Player Starter set is a good place to start and I've reviewed it previously here. From either set, you can expand your collection with unit boxes, unit blisters, or 2-Gear blister packs.

If you are totally unsure about what force you'd like to play, I recommend skipping to the next step.


Probably Dream Pod 9's best-kept secret is the army builder program known as "Gear Garage", available here and on the DP9 forums. A simple interface allows you to select any of the available HG forces and build detailed army lists. As I mentioned above, if you're confused or unsure of where to start, this program is a god-send!

Another great resource is a thread on the DP9 forum started by Gambit listing good "starter" 800TV armies for new players and a detailed listing of what purchases need to be made for these lists.

TV stands for Threat Value, simply another word for the points value of an army. 500-800 total TV is generally a fairly good-sized army and seems to be the "norm" among veteran players. Skirmishes can be fought between 250-500TV and large-scale battles involving multiple units are generally in the 1000TV+ range.

Unit type requirement is governed by the Priority Level (PL) of the mission. For example, a PL2 mission (described in the HG rulebook as a standard meeting engagement) requires the inclusion of at least 2 Core unit choices (usually a General Purpose Gear unit or Infantry unit), and the choice to include up to 3 Auxillary choices, 2 Specialist, and 1 Elite units. Unit type differs between armies and also within an armies' sub-factions.

The Priority Level also dictates how many units can be upgraded to Veteran Status. Making a unit Veterans generally allows their skills to increase, gives them access to more Gear types, and allows them to equip special weaponry.

As an example, the typical G.P. (General Purpose) Gear unit for most Terra Novan forces consists of between 4-5 individual Gear minis, with various weapon options, and is a Core unit type costing an average of 200TV.


There are no size or point cost limits - either minimum or maximum - to play Heavy Gear:Blitz! and the game scales well from a small skirmish up to large battles. So, here's the very least you'll need to play a game:

  1. The Locked and Loaded rulebook and Field Manual update addendum - anywhere from $20 for the PDFs to about $70 for the large-format full-color books
  2. 1 Core unit (generally an Infantry squad blister or G.P. Squad box) - $20-30
  3. D6 dice
  4. Rule
  5. A 3x3 table
Well, that's about it. I hope you found this tutorial helpful!


Felix Flauta said...

If I can ever get off my ass long enough to do something other than Warmachine stuff, I'll put together some Southern peoples to play. Just depends on my painting time! (Note: it took me four years to start playing Fantasy, two or three years to start playing Warmachine, and over five years to start playing Necromunda).

MiniGeek said...

Excellent article. I have linked to your blog on the PodSquad Southeast Facebook Page. Hopefully it will help increase the visibility of some of your fine work!!

psychobob808 said...

Thanks! I'll look into it but I think that many of the "Joes" at the local FLGS play the other Mini games and none of my close friends would ever think about doing my hobby. I love the models though and the storyline. I'll have to get some models and paint them anyway. And by the way... Terra Nova is one of the better shows to come out lately. Double thumbs up!