Thursday 3 July 2014

Heavy Gear Miniatures - the ultimate DIY metal minis?

RANT WARNING:  The reason I say it is the ultimate DIY kit is because there is a LOT of "do it yourself." In fact, the models require so much "prep" work you might as well carve the robot yourself out of a chunk of pewter ore. 

I took less time building the entire game table than I did some of the models!

I recently bought some Heavy Gear models at half price (i.e. "somewhat acceptable" instead of their usual "laugh out loud ridiculous/Games Workshop" level) - but I still feel a bit ripped off.  With all the prep work to get the model to a reasonable standard, they should be paying ME. After all, I am doing most of their job for them. 

Considering each metal 28mm miniature costs RRP $12+, I think the miniatures are squarely in the "boutique" range for pricing.  But they certainly are not "boutique" quality. 

Here are a few issues I have encountered:

Mold lines
On 2/3rds the models. Difficult to remove. Can't think of any good reason why the mold lines should exist.  It's not as if the models are dynamic, intricate sculpts like Infinity the Game. They are pretty simple, staid sculpts, in multiple parts.

These are "general purpose" Jager/Hunter squads and required a fair bit of trimming and drilling.  The fire support mechs were much harder to put together but the recon boxes were not too bad. 

Tags of metal/bits of sprue miscast on model
Some are very large and chunky (i.e. so big they require tin-snips - you can't simply file them off.)
Sprue > Limbs/Weapons
Arms/weapons are flimsy compared to the uber-thick sprue they are irrevocably wielded to. Removing them from the sprue invariably leaves chunks of sprue on the arm/weapon, requiring more filing and unsightly marks.

 They look so innocent now....
Arm joints/sockets are terrible
The arm sockets are never drilled out properly - you'll need to drill out each and every one yourself.   In addition, the "plugs" that are supposed to fit into the socket always outsized and have to be laboriously filed down.

Lack of Instructions
A few times I had to go online to identify what a part did or how to put it on.  If instructions like this are needed, it should probably come in the box.  For $12+ a mini, I'd expect a full-colour data card. In the very least, the ability to put it together.

Distinctly Underwhelmed
Each 28mm miniature took significant prep work.  I'd estimate at least 20-30 minutes to get each model to "acceptable" level. Every model needed lots of drilling, filing and trimming.  Imagine the outcry if each GW Imperial Guardsman was so full of molding faults it took 30 minutes to assemble.  If Dream Pod 9 advertise "made in Canada" as meaning better quality - then all I can say is no wonder Canadians are lampooned on American TV.

These are literally some of the worse models I've had to assemble (except perhaps for the miscast Firestorm Armada resins) and certainly #1 for poor price/quality ratio.  When I compare the quality of a $12 "Gear" to say a Red Star/Empress 28mm modern trooper (~$3ea) - the discrepancy is glaringly obvious.

I've teetered on the brink of "getting into" Heavy Gear for years - lured by the interesting setting but put off by the price. If you are in a similar situation, I'd now say "don't bother."

You may recognise the "buildings" - they are mostly the plastic packaging from the models themselves!
If you are the sort of person who would happily whittle a perfect 1:1000 scale model of the titanic out of a log of firewood, or you are an advanced modeller who doesn't mind paying boutique prices for a incomplete product, then I can recommend the Heavy Gear models with good conscience.  Otherwise, save your money and avoid the frustration.


  1. I thought they were being sold in resin now.

    1. I think some of the walkers and tanks are part resin, part metal.

      Normal mechs are pure metal. Ugh I'm staring at another 5 boxes of them to assemble... enthusiasm low....

  2. Hi!

    I have the same issue. I picked up a load of them on clearance a while back but they were still a tad pricey for what I paid and just can't summon up the enthusiasm to put them together. When you take into account the price of vehicles and the vagueness of which rulebook is current, I just gave up on the idea of getting into Heavy Gear at all!

    All the best!

    1. The rules are actually not bad. They are just horrifically laid out across a rulebook (Blitz) + (Locked & Loaded) supplement. They are quite detailed but considering it's more a skirmish game (say 8 mechs, 2 APCs, and some infantry) that's not the problem. It's the way they are impossible to find.

      There are new rules in the pipeline but they seem simplified, more 40K style. Not so the game plays faster and easier, but so they can have bigger armies and sell you more miniatures.

  3. I think you're being a bit harsh here, while mostly agreeing with you that the models do take time to assemble, but unlike you, I actually enjoy assembling them, and customizing the models to meet my needs. I think therefore it's as much a horses for courses thing. As for the price, better to have them than not, but there again I enjoy making them, and if you don't then it's likely YMMV, as it clearly does.

    Anyway, enjoying your blog. BTW: I assume you saw the DP9 KS? It's not to late to get in on the act as they're running a fund fall account for those who missed the KS.

    1. I don't mind assembling the models - it is the extensive prep work (filing off bits, drilling out, etc) to make it servicable.

      It's not like the sculpts are particularly complex.

      Did see the Kickstarter, but still have a bunch of boxes of more metals I couldn't be bothered constructing as I was too annoyed with the last batch.

      I'm a little concerned the new rules will over-simplify and remove overwatch and long weapon ranges in favour of "40K with robots."

    2. Yeah, the ranges of the weapons bother me too: or should I say the rule mechanics to handle the ranges bothers me. But what really bothers me is the layout, which to my mind makes the rules virtually unreadable, as in tiny text on long lines with not enough line spacing, but I use to be a paste up artist and DTP person so this stuff bothers me more than most.

      I suspect that I'll end up Lardifying Heavy Gear to meet my needs. In much the same way as I Lardified BattleTech.

    3. I'd actually put that as my #1 complaint about the current rules: the rules are scattered across two books (HG:B and L&L) and are almost impossible to use....

  4. I have a very basic question about the miniatures, as I've never seen them in the pewter (BTW, you do know 'pewter ore' is a contradiction in terms, I assume?) That wasn't the question, BTW, which relates to the size. You refer to them as 28mm, which suggests that, at least approximately, is their actual height (in which case, they are indeed horrifically expensive). This, however, seems odd, given the few mech miniatures I have seen, which are considerably larger. I have a couple of Battletech minis, which are about twice that size, and a couple of sets of the much larger Mechwarrior painted plastic models with movable joints, some of which I have begun, very laboriously, to repaint, after removing from the plastic bases they come on. (OK, I haven't actually painted any yet, as stripping the factory paint, which my OCD compels me to do, is taking so much effort.)

    While I can just about see the Battletech and Mechwarrior minis working together, I have a hard time envisaging a Mech / Gear of a mere 30mm or thereabouts fitting in. Bear in mind I'm very new to this aspect of gaming, and have never played a game of this type. (You've already worked out I'm an archtypal Napoleonics gamer, of course, at least as far as my mindset is concerned). I know - from this blog, in fact- that there are also micro scale mechs available, but this scale does not appeal to me, at least at present.

    I think DP9 describe the scale as 1/144, which would make a human about 12mm in height, in which case 28 - 30mm would presumably be reasonable for one of these machines, depending on precisely what you consider them to represent. (Gundam kits are also 1/144, but vastly larger, so considerably another breed altogether). Reaper's models are N gauge, which is 1/160, so not so different, but again, I've never actually seen one, so if they're also a mere 28mm or so in stature, they are also overpriced, particularly in their new plastic incarnations. (I've seen some metal ones on eBay, but without knowing how much alloy they're made of, am cautious about purchasing any, particularly as they're in the USA).

    The question, therefore, should it not be readily apparent, is whether the DP9 and / or Reaper minis are more or less of a size with my Battletech models, if not the Mechwarrior ones (which actually vary in size, the smaller ones still being appreciably larger than the Battletech mechs).

    This leads to another question, as I'm also trying to decide on a set of rules. I recently noticed that a new version of Heavy Gear Blitz is in the works, and available to download in unfinished form. Your comments about the apparent dumbing down are a major concern, as I have no interest in 40k style games. (I've played it a few times, as nothing else was on offer, and wondered at its popularity). I know of your liking for CAV, and have downloaded v2, but as it's a big document, haven't had it printed. I may do so, in spite of the cost, if it is indeed the best option, but now see there is a new version, called CAV: Strike Operations, which is available as a printed book, which I much prefer as a format. However, I can find no information on it. BGG doesn't even list it. I'm therefore interested in any opinions, whether based on actual play or not.

    Thank you for your attention. I apologise for the length and probably rambling nature of the queries. I know time is precious.

    1. Basically a Heavy Gear mini (standard size one, not the fire support ones which are ~50% larger) are about the size of a GW Space Marine. Since Battletech also has 3 size scales I cannot use it as a benchmark, sorry.

      ....Or easier, google "Heavy Gear mech size comparison" - I see there are a few good pics about

      However the older HG models (I'm talking 10+ years back, not the recent changes to plastic/sculpts) are much larger, I believe.

      Yes, the models are vastly overpriced. Period.

      How they "fit in" size wise - Heavy Gears are more a multpurpose AFV - they are about the size of a Mechwarrior elemental, and carry weapons similar to an IFV or gunship i.e. 30mm cannon, supplemented with rocket pods/ATGW. They should have them alongside infantry in the DP9 store, but again, google "Heavy gear infantry" for an idea.

      v2 of Heavy Gear is still in beta, but I wasn't deeply impressed with the changes and found the simplified rules equally confusing. The issue with v1 is that the rules are scattered across 3 books. So neither is ideal.

      I think the CAV I tried was v2 and I recollect it was sensible if uninspired, but more accessible than HG. (2-3 years back I think?)

  5. Thanks. I'll follow up your suggestions in due course. Incidentally, the first version of CAV is still available from an eBay seller in Canada (historymakinggames, from whom I have ordered several times, and am about to again - though not for this, as yet). They also have versions 1 and 2 of Lightning Strike, as well as a Companion for it, and Ripper Wars for Savage worlds, which I have ordered. The prices are fairly low, as I believe they got a lot of old RPG and miniatures books at cost price.

    1. Lightning Strike v2 is awesome and the best game I never play. ....Basically as there are no minis for it....

      DP9 (who seem to be expert on how to mess up a good thing) on sporadically release the tiny portion of sculpts they have. Overpriced, of course.