Thursday 22 November 2012

Heavy Gear - Mech Combat in 6mm - Cheap Fun

I've always liked the Heavy Gear game and universe - combined arms mecha combat where mechs are a believable size (not a target the size of a 5-storey building) and don't tend to fly through the air Silver Surfer style on jet hoverboards.  Tanks and infantry also play a significant role.

  The mammoth Soviet tanks from Brigade are quite nice and have a "Red Alert" vibe to them.

The game is fairly gritty, with weapons long ranged and quite powerful.  Two game mechanisms appeal to me - the "degree of success" where a good hit does more damage than a glancing one - and the "to hit" and "to damage" roll is merged elegantly together.  The second mechanism is the way mechs take damage - there are four states - light damage, heavy damage, crippled and destroyed. 
This does away with the ridiculous armour of Battletech (where you have to scour away dozens of "hit points" of armour before you can do actual damage) and retains a good balance of simplicity and detail.  Record keeping is practically non-existent but tokens do clutter the board up a bit.

I have a Heavy Gear starter set - $60 for a few size-8-font tiny B&W rules booklets, half a dozen "customizable"* 28mm mechs (*i.e. in a million pieces, frustrating to put together) and a tape measure. The tape measure admittedly is mildly cool but I don't think $60 was worth it....

So why don't I play this paragon of a game?  Price.  Dream Pod 9 rivals GW in its price structure and an "army" would set you back over $250. Given Heavy Gear is unheard of around here, plunking down half a grand for two armies to simply try a game is a bit to rich for my blood.

So I decided to see if I could play it for under $50....

Whilst Dream Pod 9 makes "fleet scale" mechs they are $2 for a 15mm figure - double that of other companies such as GZG. 

Whilst the GZG 6mm Dirtside walkers are among the nicest (and have a strong VOTOMS vibe) I wanted plenty of variety. So I went to Iron Wind Metals who make Battletech minis - their smaller battlesuits work well as mechs in 6mm.  Brigade were fractionally cheaper than GZG so I plumped for some of their British and Soviet tanks and support vehicles.

About $30 scored me two decent sized forces. I deeply regret painting the hovertank force blue. It's kinda a yick Ultramarine-y shade.

20/20 Hindsight
In my race to try to finish both armies in under 3 hours from start to finish, I sprayed black overcoat over the based minis.  The paint mixed with the still-wet PVA in the sand base to form a kind of tarry sludge. 

A bench grinder was an inspired idea for grinding the bases of 6mm infantry flat so they sat neatly on the bases. It made the job really fast and easy. I decided to got for 5c coins instead of washers which was easier to base as I didn't have to worry about the hole in the middle.

I also could have painted larger quantities just as easily - I had to wait for paint to dry before I could move on.  Next time I would paint double the amount of miniatures. 

I do a lot of 1:300/1:600 aircraft but this is only my second attempt at ground forces.  Basing is far more important than in 15 or 28mm.  You can see how my hasty gluing and spraying means the base of the mechs bulge up rather obviously.

The neo-Soviets came out OK.  The little power armours (2 to a base) on the right look quite cool - they have a MaK vibe to them. 

The Iron Wind battle armours scale well with 6mm and provide a huge range of mech types.  You could probably re-base plastic Mechwarrior clix but clix seem to be selling at a premium - it was cheaper to buy some packets of metal minis. 

The Project So Far
Total time 3 hours (base and paint); $18 of Brigade British, $18 Brigade Soviet, $12 assorted Iron Wind battle armours; 60c of 5c pieces for bases - total cost $48.60


  1. This game has some appeal, but 3 things are holding me back:
    1. I really don't need another game
    2. Price
    3. I've been told repeated times that I'm wrong; but I think those models look like they would test my limited modelling skills. Lots of pieces that require pinning.

  2. Mine are - price, price and price. I've had enough of GW and I am not interested in heading down the path again.

    You do not have to pin the models, but apparently most people use magnets between the joints to allow weapon swaps which does sound rather fiddly... especially in the numbers required

    5+ 4-man squads = @$50each; tanks in the $40 range....

  3. I have a bunch of those GZG not VOTOMS so I am quite interested to see where you go with this. Are you going to use that hex-mat for movement?
    Who knows,if you lead I just might follow :)

  4. Hex maps and mechs seem to go together (a carry over from Battletech) but Heavy Gear does not actually use hexes, neither does the Fistful of TOWS rules I am also considering. I'd have to change the move/firing ranges which are pretty vast in Heavy Gear.

    The GZG not-VOTOMS are larger and cleaner sculpts than the IWM ones who are a bit "busy" and they look a lot better than the ones I have displayed here. My own are currently painted in Gundam/VOTOM original schemes and I'm ordering more as they are superior to all but the vastly more $$$ DP9 Fleetscale ones. I'm also considering 15mm-scale robots such as Khurasan Meks as they are about the same size.

  5. This is really cool! While I am one of those who actually feel ok with buying DP9's stuff it will be interesting to see how this turns out.

    Also wanted to let you know that I've put Delta Vector as one of my Liebster blogs, a kind of viral award thing going the rounds right now. Feel free to pass it on or ignore it. :)

  6. Thanks Martin. I must say your blog is one of my favourites. Along with The Man Cave you seem to eerily reflect pretty much my same interests :-)

    No criticism of those who do support DP9. I've just had my fill of companies (GW, PP) that charge $10 a mini and then require you to buy 30 of them to play their game. If you're buying 10 or so (Infinity) it is a bit more reasonable....

    1. I'm glad to hear that as I feel the same way about Delta Vector (and I've just discovered The Man Cave as well!)!

      It's certainly pricey stuff, and I can't see myself ever returning to the fold of the present Games Workshop (retro 40k/fantasy or LotR... maybe) but smaller operations like DP9 have a different effect on me. Combined with using less models to play I feel it's worth it to me. Still, my current 750TV army cost about 120CAD and that was including their Christmas sale. :(