Nils "Deadeye" Alrik just lost contact with his sole remaining teammate. He knows there are at least two members of the Northern Reapers team still active, and he's low on ammo. Luckily, his Crusader IV is equipped with a sword.
He spots the Reapers standing too close together, so he charges forward and strikes with a Vibrostab, then combos it into a High Stab. For added style, he slaps the last Reaper with the flat of the blade. It doesn't do any damage, but the sponsors love it. Welcome to Heavy Gear Arena.
One of the largest roadblocks for any miniature war game is the acquisition and painting of all the minis. For some, that's a fun and vital part of the hobby. For others, it can be a major pain and a real wallet buster. Heavy Gear is not a game that requires a huge army of minis to begin with, but the entry barrier gets a lot lower with Heavy Gear Arena. Now, you can build an elite squad of pilots to fight in the Gear combat leagues of Terra Nova, and you can get started with as few as two gears (the Terra Nova term for mechs). While you can build your stable as large as you want, arena combat is limited to six gears per side. That means you can field a full arena team for roughly the cost of the latest edition of Madden football.
If you've never played Heavy Gear, you don't need any other books to jump into the arena. Heavy Gear Arena is a standalone game. It's built on the basic rules as presented in Heavy Gear Blitz, but all the rules are included in the arena core book, along with background information on the world of Terra Nova. Plus, each section of the rules is not only explained in the text, it's diagrammed with a clear flow chart that shows exactly how to handle various in-game situations, what modifiers to add and when to roll the dice.
I'm not an expert on Heavy Gear Blitz, so I can't tell you every last detail about how the arena mechanics differ from your usual Heavy Gear battle. What I can tell you is how much cool stuff Dream Pod 9 has added to really flesh out the arena combat experience. There's a whole extra layer of role-playing and strategic play that goes into running your arena stable. You've got to hire a manager, hire the pilots, find some corporate sponsors, hire your support crew, and of course allocate your gears and outfit them with weapons. Each element can affect others - your support crew can improve pilot performance, while sponsors can offer access to rare weapon systems or discounted gears.
The core rules give you a ton of material to work with, like lists of skills for pilots, page after page of corporate sponsors and the gears they can offer, NPCs you can hire, add-on weapons, advancement charts and more. You can borrow bits of it and jump right into some quick-play arena battles, or you can use all of it to play out all the behind the scenes action and develop an ongoing campaign that traces the arc of your team's career.
One new mechanic that really stands out to me is a system of combo moves that can be chained together. This allows you to pull off amazing, insane stunts in the heat of battle. It also gives you a focus when it comes to specializing your pilots and gears, since the combos are grouped by type (long-range weapon combos, sword style combos, defensive style combos, etc.). The post powerful moves that can be comboed into are at higher levels, so you have to work to get access to them.
I've been really impressed with Dream Pod 9 and Heavy Gear all along, and Heavy Gear Arena only reinforces that impression. You can acquire print or pdf copies of the Heayv Gear Arena core rules at Dream Pod 9′s online store. You'll also find starter kits that come complete with minis, and even a sheet of sponsor decals to deck out your gears with logos. Or, you can simply enter the Robot Viking/Dream Pod 9 Heavy Arena contest and win your own copy of the two-player arena starter kit.
And if that isn't enough to whet your appetite for some mechanical gladiators, here are some exclusive wallpapers in both widescreen and standard screen formats. Download and enjoy.
This post by Ed Grabianowski originally appeared at Robot Viking.