Yeah OK, so I probably already play way too many games as it is, and I certainly don't need to try and cram anymore 'Line of Sight' rules into my head! But, recently I've been a looking around at some other games that interest me a little bit, but I don't actually play... yet. 'Yet' being the operative word. Believe it or not there are some games out there I don't play! Obviously money is a big factor in me not playing some of these games, because I can't afford to play everything. As well as the fact that I'm currently playing far too many games as it is, and I don't feel like I'm getting enough use out of the games I already have. Still, that doesn't really stop me looking enviously at new shiny toys, from new shiny games, and thinking 'hmm... that looks like fun'. So without further ado I'm going to do a round up of the games that 'currently intrigue me'. First up in this series is Heavy Gear Blitz:
Company: Dream Pod 9, who started life as part of another company called IANUS Publications I believe. But, they split off to form Dream Pod 9 as a standalone company sometime in 1994. So they've been around for well over a decade. That shows at the very least they must have had a stable business plan. Also that they have a business model that can support the company and the product line they have today. So will they go under? Who knows what the future holds, but their track record suggests they're here to stay. Oh yeah, for all you Canadians out there you really ought to support them as they're Montreal based, and for you that makes them home grown.
Website: Dream Pod 9: Heavy Gear Blitz
Starting cost: OK I'm not going to lie to you here about this or sugar coat it. This game is expensive, very expensive when you take everything into consideration. The army starter sets will set you back £78. Yeah, you did just read that out right. They've done a two player starter kit, which gives you the very basics required to learn the rules and not much else for £45. This isn't a cheap game, and trying to convince yourself otherwise seems like a foolhardy undertaking. The individual miniatures themselves aren't any cheaper either, with some single tanks setting you back £30. Now I'm sure some of you are sitting there thinking, 'well that doesn't sound too bad for a tank Frontline Gamer, whats your problem?' Well thanks for asking, this isn't a 28mm game or 32mm game. Oh no, it's a 10mm scale game, that's right it's roughly Flames of War scale, but a little bit smaller. The cost is ridiculous when you realise that this isn't a big huge tank you're buying, but a 10mm scale miniature. The price seems steep. I think the starter box sets do come with free rules though, but I don't think you can download a free copy to try it out for yourself. Or if you can I haven't seen it. Bad form Dream Pod 9, bad form. Rules should always be available for free as far as I'm concerned to let punters try your wares. 9 times out of 10 we'll buy the book anyway! If people can point me to a free download of the rules on their website I'll happily post a link.
EDIT: The Colour Kiwi helpfully posted the link to the free downloadable quick start rules PDF. Thanks.
Game: Having said you can't download the rules for free, I did manage to get a copy myself from the Beasts of War 'Back Stage Pass' area. So I have had a good look through them. In the main I quite like what I've seen. The rules have a really nice tactical depth to them and offer you as a commander some really cool options. The profile of the troops / mechs is nicely detailed and has a rich amount of data allowing for some significant variance between factions by simple manipulation of profiles. Its all very polished actually and I have to say my inner mecha geek has already written more than one army list. A sure sign I'm dangerously close to wanting to take the plunge. I also like that the game has alternating activations, so I won't be sitting on the sidelines waiting for very long, something that's starting to grate on my nerves with certain games. Honestly there's a lot in the rulebook to commend the game. I just wish I could convince someone to throw down with me in a test game or something... but I think people are scared they'll enjoy it and need to remortgage their house!!!
Miniatures: As many of you who know me will attest, it's the miniatures that get me first normally. If I like the look of the miniatures I'll take a look at your background and if I can your 'free' quick start rules *shakes head at Dream Pod 9*. So if your miniatures suck donkey balls I'm really quite likely to just ignore your game completely. Yeah that might make me shallow, but hey I'm a visual whore! Thankfully though, I do have a thing for mechs, as I've probably stated on multiple occasions. If I could, I would build my own Mech and stomp people into the ground for real. However, as I'm neither an engineer or in any way smart or rich enough to build my own mech, my insatiable mech urges have had to be soothed and sated over the years with various wargames, computer games and anime. The Heavy Gear Blitz mechs look fabulous on the whole. I really like their designs and I think the differing factions actually do have clearly defined looks, and yet retain a good solid overall consistent design brief. I also love the 10mm scale as it allows you to create those big city scenes you've seen in all those mech anime, and have big all out brawls. So detail, design and scale wise I like Dream Pod 9's product. But some of the tanks and other vehicles just aren't up to scratch, I guess you could avoid some of the dodgier pieces or proxy them, but it's always nice I think to use the 'official' miniature. But as I say, on the whole they're fine as a range of miniatures.
|Comic book / anime stylings... yeah I'm a sucker for it.|
Background: Ah yes, the fluff. The stuff serious gamers say they pay no attention too. Well I say bollocks. Of course they do, it might not be the most important aspect of the hobby for them, but we all deep down, and sometimes even secretly like to know the motivations for our toy soldiers going to war. So what is the Heavy Gear universe like? Well it's your typical sci-fi fare isn't it? Big huge political powers vying for control of a each other and natural resources. I honestly haven't been able to find too much out about the back story to the universe as I would have liked. I guess that's what the full rulebooks are for, so I wouldn't want to do it a disservice. But from what I have seen, it looks good enough to motivate you to crush your opponents! However, I'll bring a further criticism, albeit constructive I hope, about Dream Pod 9's website... it's awful. It really needs a total overhaul. Give me a gallery of painted miniatures by faction, hell include a little bit of background blurb at the top. Give me an idea of how the game plays out, maybe a video tutorial or two, inspire me to play your game. But most important of all make it easy to navigate! People turn up to your website and it's the first interaction they'll have with you as a company and a product. Right now it's not a great first impression. That's a shame because behind the badly laid out website, the lack of information and the costly miniatures, is what appears to be an engrossing and great game, with big feck off robots!!! What red blooded geek wouldn't want to play that? Tell me that on your website!!! A hint sometimes less is more, especially where clutter is concerned. And sometimes more is more, where information is concerned.
+ It's small 10mm scale skirmish game, so you can play huge battles on your standard board.
+ It has mechs, lot of mechs. That's a plus right?
+ The rules are detailed and actually offer a good level of tactical depth. I like tactical depth. Yet I think the game will be quick and easy to play out.
+ Dream Pod 9 have been going for a long time all things considered. So future support for the game is likely.
+ For many people it'll be something different, from all the 28mm to 32mm skirmish and mass combat games we're all used to. Variety is the spice of life and all that!
+ It has a fervent and rabidly loyal following. Rubbish games don't encourage such behaviour in humans I normally find.
- Cost. No two ways about it, the biggest hurdle for me, and I'm sure many others is cost. It's just too expensive to start up. I'm told you wouldn't need much more after a starter set. But even so buy in cost seems steep.
- Although I quite like the look of their mechs, some of the tanks and jeeps look a bit iffy to me.
- Linked to above, it's a highly stylised game and the aesthetics will not have universal appeal... because some people have no taste and don't like big robots!!!
- There's not really a thriving community here in the UK that I could hook up with.
So there it is, my brief look at whether or not getting into Heavy Gear Blitz is a worthwhile endeavour. Honestly, almost everything about this game appeals to me. I mean I was a silly insane Battletech fan. And quite frankly I still would be if I hadn't sold all my mini's after I left University, to help pay for a new Wood Elf Warhammer Fantasy Army (great investment that turned out to be!). So Heavy Gear Blitz speaks strongly to the mech-head in me, it really does. I'd love to have two proper factions in my hand so I could demo it to people and try and drum up support for it, because I think the game looks superb. But the cost is prohibitive for me. I'd like to do more articles on the game for you all, as I think the rules themselves are dandy and it deserves a wider audience. The miniatures on the whole look pretty cool, especially the mechs, but I think the studio paint jobs don't do them justice so I'd like to show you all some better pictures of them. Sure I could take or leave some of the transports, tanks and troops. But they're all more than passable given the scale. No it's the price that puts me off, even if I was in work I'd probably baulk at getting into Heavy Gear Blitz... no that's not true. I'd try hard to convince others to get into Heavy Gear Blitz and they'd mostly baulk at the price.
|They do look cool all lined up. Damn my love of mecha!|
Let me be clear though it's not so much because I wouldn't want to spend that much money on the game, more that I know trying to convince others to do likewise would be a real struggle. As we all know you need at least two people to tango in wargames. Plus you need more than just two of you to make a thriving community. So the prohibitive costs just leave me wandering whether I'd ever be able to convince enough people to start up to make a viable gaming community. I doubt it right now as I don't have the dosh to get one let alone two starter sets to run intro games, and that's normally what it takes for me to drum up support. So for now Heavy Gear Blitz is just a big no, no for me, the price needs to come down drastically I think before this game could take off in any meaningful way here in the UK. Although right now there do appear to be strong localised communities in certain locales all over North America. If you live near one of these communities then you're lucky, and you should go and try and get an intro game in if you like Mecha. Next I'll be looking at MERCS. Peace out!
EDIT: Just been emailed by John Nguyen to inform me that Heavy Gear blitz is in fact a 12mm game as opposed to a 10mm game. But what's 2mm between friends?