Defense and choices

Blog Topics 6 How to defend effectively (cover, ECM, Hull Down, Speed, Boosting actions, Defensive traits

I apologize for the delay between development blog posts but the March madness sale has started earlier than usual and the great deals are keeping the production side quite busy.

But back to defense. It’s all about choice.

In game terms the most important factor is to allow the players of the game choices. This blog is going to be about defense, or how you can react when being attacked in Heavy Gear (the Alpha test version).

When attacking a player chooses to move/displace, posture, and weapon. This is not usually a complicated choice, the weapon in range that has the best chance of damaging the target is the easy choice with another weapon being chosen due to other factors such as proximity of targets, available cover etc.

You would think that defending is easier but there is at least as much choice involved as a target. First you have to decide if the target model, or another model in formation, will snap fire. If you think there’s a good chance that a snap fire attack will be the only chance your model will get to attack due to imminent death then take the chance! You never know when the choice to snap fire will make future attacks more cautious, or make the player hold that command point re-roll for a defense check rather than use it on the attack.

If you don’t use your action for snap fire then there are a couple of option. You can use your action as an action bonus for an extra dice on defense. This can be a good thing especially when there is a re-roll available since the extra dice will add to both the original test and the re-rolled test. Since the active player has to make the choice to use or leave a re-roll opportunity before the passive player the passive player will always know the test to beat and can decide accordingly.

Depending on the weapon it may be more advantageous to hold your action for a We’re in Trouble Roll. There are several weapons in the game (like weapons with the AT trait) that are highly dangerous to slow but heavily armored models. In this case the ability to reduce the MOS may make all the difference between some and no damage. the only problem with WiT is that it is a PILOT test so tanks and striders with worse attributes won’t be very successful unless they are hull down to improve their pilot skill. They also might need a re-roll to ensure that they can get that important success.

Other options are to rely on nearby EW specialists to provide some virtual cover thanks to their ECM systems. Use the Full Speed Ahead order to keep an extra defensive dice available after activating, and using the Hide and Hull Down options to lower your sensor profile and improve defense skill respectively. Hide and Hull Down will still use an action but can be valuable for letting a functional model advance safely to use a weapon, or capture an objective.

There is also one other decision that must not be ignored. There is always the option to do nothing. After all an action spent reducing or avoiding damage does nothing to respond to a threat, it only postpones it. You can’t snap fire with a tank gun or a rocket pod so sometimes the best thing to do is be patient and wait for your activation while relying on your cover modifier to help you weather the effects of attacks.

One of the essences of finding success in the alpha test is to test if any of these options is overpowered or extraneous? Are there the right number of re-rolls available, too many, or not enough? My own playtest games show that there is a balance between them but that’s a limited sample and shows the importance of test games by players.

As a skirmish level game Heavy Gear should function with a level of complexity, but should also be fun. Activating first in a round should not be a death sentence for the player who lost the initiative. Conversely activating first should be desirable, a balance that is delicate and dependent on so many factors.

That’s the blog on defense completed, now a quick word on the schedule for the update. The next scheduled alpha file update is March 15th and I am on schedule to complete that update on time. The army lists will be updated with the errata and responses from testers and forum responses and accompanied with a changelog with a list of changes.

The biggest changes will be in the weapons sections as the ability to split fire between two targets has been removed from the burst trait and is now applied to specific weapons though the Grenade Launchers and the new category of Rotary Cannon come with the split:2 trait included. This is  a powerful incentive to advance into combat optimal range as the firepower from an attack is effectively doubled or more. This creates an interesting balance point between models that have a smaller Autocannon that gets split fire and a larger gun that does not. The addition of small changes to streamline the EW section is also a priority with the roll of ECCM being particularly important. The online bug reporting system is suffering some bugs of it’s own but is still planned to be active before the end of the Alpha test. This will allow players a simple online form to report issues, errors, and play test game reports in a standardized form. More news on that feature as it becomes available.

In the background we’re hard at work getting some of the newer sculpts online with some great things planned that we will be able to tease about more as we get closer to Gencon

forum handle: dave
Currently painting: Heteroi Long Fangs and Heteroi Sparks
Current Favorite Alpha forum topic: Utopia (issues and ideas)