This is review is part of a larger review as both myself and (Phil) the ShellCase have agreed to do a joint review of Dream Pod 9’s games.
So without further ado here is my section a review of Heavy Gear Arena.
I will be reviewing the 2-player starter box set that is available for Heavy Gear Arena. As always like my other reviews I aim to do the following Fluff; Miniatures; Rulebook; Rules/Mechanics; what you get for your money and a Summary. Or FMRRMWYGFYMS for short.
I will say from the very start of this review. This game is in some ways similar to GW skirmisher games like Gorka Morka and their campaign rules. It works best as your group of characters grow rather than one-off games. It is possible but the time needed to create a character (rather than using one of the example Hired Guns) is a lot so you may as well but the effort in…
So what do I see when I open the nice box sent from DP9?
A small box full of shiny is what I see
and not forgetting the VERY shiny sleeve to the box that is shiny
Fluff – As this is based around gladiator style fighting there is not the fluff of say GW or PP but if you are interested there is loads of information on the website about the world of Terra Nova that you may find interesting. But basically it is many years into the future (62nd Century) and war is waged by giant Mechs (Gears). But there has been a market for sporting shows on telecasts and that is where Arena comes into it. So expect mayhem lots of flying metal and the baying sounds of crazed fans drowning in your ears..
Miniatures – As you may have noticed above you get 2 packs of miniatures;
Each one contains 2 Gars for you to build and also a crazy amount of weapon options for you to pick from. All 4 Gears are part of the Hired Guns section of the rulebook but don’t worry you can create your own characters as we shall see. Anyway back to the Gears and thoughts;
They go together very easily and if you so wanted there is the possibility to swap heads etc. between the Gears if you wanted although some combinations work better than others.
Which funnily enough I have done so lets have a look at what I have created.
All shots done with my trusty sidekicks for scale purposes
As you can see we get a lot of variation in size of the Gears this is no bad thing as it is represented in the rules anyway. The options you have especially with 2 kits mixed is mind blowing although I would recommend at least keeping most body parts to similar sized Gears.
But the weapon options on a whole are pretty interchanged which I think is great way of creating some unique options.
As you can see the A5 rule book has a very shiny cover that matches the sleeve of the box (as you would expect). While the insides are all in black & white this does mean that all the pictures/artwork are also in B&W this is obviously to keep costs down and the fact it is a direct copy of its big A4 brother.
It weighs in at just over 100 pages which is a nice size for the information it contains and what does it contain?
Basic rules cover just 11 pages which will mean you can at least get playing pretty quickly if you ignore a lot of the cool stuff.
Characters take up 14 pages from Team managers which are basically you in the campaign to duelists (the mech pilots) and support staff as well.
The rules/fluff for the Gears take up the biggest chunk of the book, weighing in at 28 pages (this includes weapons and perks/flaws rules as well).
Playing the game takes up 8 pages so scenarios and post game record keeping.
Overall a compact little book that needs nothing else to keep you going.
Characteristics – This will be where people may be turned off by this game here is an example duelist/gear reference sheet as you can see there is a LOT of information to take in.
It is a lot of information but some of it is not need during the game. I would suggest breaking it down to make your life easier so you can get to grips with it better.
So here is the Duelist info, with all the pre-post game information you need; such as class, pay and level. During the game the main things you need to consider are the 4 boxes on the top left these are you statistics for the various roles you make in the game.
The gear section covers everything gear related (shocking I know). This will be armour (damage boxes), movement and slots for weapons etc.
In some ways for a game that likes to see characters grow it is wise to have sheets that will carry all the info you need. However as a beginner this is frightening and a little off-putting maybe some easier examples could be worth creating (especially for those not coming in from other Heavy Gear games).
Turn phases – Next up the phases of a typical turn;
Pretty standard really Initiative, activation, end phase.
- Initiative – Roll a D6 and see who goes first all straight forward.
- Activations – a ‘you-go-I-go’ mechanism of one gear at a time.
- End phase – clear up any effects and the like ready for the next turn.
Mechanism – It is all based on D6s with the standard multipliers and modifiers when needed. All tests are done via 2 mechanisms either;
Threshold roll – So must beat a number with a D6 + modifiers
Opposed roll – Standard I must beat with my stat+D6+modifiers against what you roll (with stat and modifier).
You must beat it as well no equal to or above here oh no!!
All straight forward I feel, what makes the game begin to stand out is the other stuff…
Movement is dealt by saying before movement what speed your gears will be moving. Be it stationary (max. 1 inch), combat speed (up to first number on the gear sheet) or top speed (min combat speed up to second number on gear sheet).
Combat is all based upon opposed rolls mentioned above and has a set way of being down in the rulebook (lots of words) but you also get very handy flow diagrams that aid in not needing to read lots during battl