Monday 13 May 2013

Dropzone Commander

Been a busy week writing, or should I say wresting words out of my skull and typing them one at a time onto a screen as I recount on my writing blog.  What I've been doing gaming wise is getting myself into Dropzone Commander from Hawk Wargames.  I'm currently writing a review for Henry at Miniature Wargames.  What I'll say is that the miniatures are sexy and that 10mm is the new 6.

It has been noticed by one of my readers that I've not posted anything about BattleTech recently, and where is the missing battle report.  I will try and find time to write up the notes I made from the last game sometime before the heat death of the universe.  I promise, okay.

Sunday 5 May 2013

Heavy Gear Blitzing

An overall picture of the table that we played two games of Heavy Gear over.  I think I might go back and re-do that river at some point.  Who am I kidding, I don't have the time, and if I did I need to finish off my other boards that are still to be done.

By the time you all read this I have played two games of Heavy Gear Blitz with my friend Roger, who has been most tolerant of my occasional brain freeze moments as I tried to get my head around a new game. We are both long time BattleTech players, and I have a lot invested both in time and emotional attachment to BattleTech that makes it hard for me to let go of it.

In a lot of ways BattleTech is too constrained by the assumptions inherent within the rules, and the fact that it has had way to much stuff added to what was, and still is fundamentally a Beer & Pretzel game of giant stompy robots.

We are using my Takara VOTOMS for this game. You can see Roger's three Diving Beetles to the right, my two Scope Dogs are to the left.  Fire surprisingly ineffective at this range, which was all of twelve inches or so.

Heavy Gear Blitz therefore feels very much like the new kid on the block, though truth be told it too has been around a while having first been released back in the early 1990s.

Unlike BattleTech, the Heavy Gear game has changed course a couple of times and the game today has taken new a direction by moving away form a hex based RPG combat system to becoming a miniatures based game called Heavy Gear Blitz. Dream Pod 9, unlike Catalyst Games Lab, sell miniatures, and one gets the impression that they make a fair amount of their money from selling same.

I've just taken out one of Roger's Diving Beetles here, which seemed to me to take forever.  Upside was we had gotten through a whole load of turns to get this far, so it's quick to play.

Let me start off by saying that if I were starting from a position of not knowing either game then without doubt I would choose to play Heavy Gear Blitz over BattleTech. I like the fact that the paperwork is is really streamlined down, and yet it stills manages to make one feel that one is controlling an awesome giant stompy robot.

Okay maybe not a humongous giant stompy robot, but still it works for me. However, I feel that it is unlikely that Heavy Gear Blitz, where Blitz truly does describe the lightening speed of the game, will become my number one robot war game. 

As you can see I've finally gotten my third Scope Dog into the fight just as I lost one.

The reasons for that are rather emotional.  I really found myself disliking the dice mechanics, which are based on opposed rolls that are added, or subtracted from the result rolled on a D6 to produce a margin of success, or failure.

I can see the maths, because Roger was kind enough to send me the odds for all the different margins. I can also see that at the end of the day that it represents a combined to hit and effect roll.

However, I just hated the feel of the mechanic. 

My turn to take the pain as the second of my three Scope Dogs is taken down by his Diving Beetles.

Yet there is so much to like about Heavy Gear Blitz game universe. The background setting is fresh and intriguing. The game play is fairly fast, and the range of available miniatures is good, if expensive. Quality is top notch though, and I'm not one to complain about paying for top quality, but quality doesn't come cheap.

This is where the game did a really good job of capturing the feel of VOTOMS as I weaved my Scope Dog back and forth trying toget the rear shot to improve my odds of getting a good margin of success role.  Roger's Diving Beetle goes down.

One of the other niggles I had with the game was the over complicated movement modifiers, which require a six sided dice to track models with an added interpretation for hull down versus stationary.

In my opinion, this really added very little extra value to the tactical feel of the game. And don't get me started on the jargon in the rule book, which drove me nuts. Also, in my opinion, some of the explanations of the rules obscured what was meant.

Last turn and by the skin of my teeth, I managed to channel Chiricoe Cuvie (VOTOMS Ace pilot) and take down the last of Roger's Diving Beetles.  Roger happily reversed this outcome for the next game, which seemed fair all things considered.

So, if I were starting from fresh, and had to chose a giant robot game, Heavy Gear Blitz would get a look in.  However,  I'm no longer a person who can tolerate jargon and complexity for the sake of increased immersion into a game system.  What I want is KISS: keep it simple stupid.

Your mileage may vary from mine, terms and conditions apply regarding tolerance of rule writing, and errors and omissions were no doubt made in playing this awesome game by myself and Roger.