Armor Protection

As a design issue one of the hardest places to work on conceptually was how to define the effectiveness of armor in Heavy Gear. Armor as a technology is almost as old as the technology of weapons of war. There are numerous examples of how armor technology developed from simple leather and wood armor and shields to the composite laminated military armor used today.

One perspective that must be taken is the balance between the ability of weapons to penetrate armor and the ability of armor the resist the weapons has always been in flux. That this effect is poorly understood is an understatement.


As I've mentioned in several other development blogs in the past one of the things that I really enjoy abut the job of line developer is that I get to do some pretty serious research into military history and technology. I've always been a bit of a military tech geek starting for me with the age of sail and the Napoleonic era.  In that era the age of the iron hulled battleships was just about to begin and thus the drive towards the modern equivalents of tanks and warships. Most navies were still using muzzle loading cannon and had not yet switched to breech loading cannons. Very quickly those that failed to keep up with the trends would see their cannonballs bouncing off the armor of the target. A great visual example of this is in the Hollywood film Sahara where the first couple of minutes shows the cannonballs bouncing off of the iron hull of a confederate warship is well shown. It wasn't a perfect defense but it did eliminate the most common form of death for sailors in combat which was not death by cannonball but death by the effects of a cannonball hitting the oak planking and having large splinters spall off the inside from the force of the impact.


Modern armor is a variation on ancient designs and is now focused on reacting to the many kinds of attacks that could be made. In the future of Heavy Gear we have to assume two things to make the game interesting: That there is a somewhat perfect balance of armor vs weapons where no ammunition can defeat any armor and also conversely there is no armor that can ignore a weapon. Second that vehicles have weak spots that if targeted will largely ignore the advantage of their armor.


This is examined in detail in the second edition Heavy Gear Technical Manual where the concepts of polymer composite armor is explored and what that means for balanced armor protection in the future. It's well known that layers of armor can reduce the energy through dispersion and baffling. Early on in play testing there were different kinds of armor traits what gave you advantages against certain types of weapons but that level of detail was dropped in favor the the simplified generic type of armor. We are assuming that there is enough variation in armor types and associated ammunition types that a kind of balance is reached that can be averaged out in terms of rules.


It's concepts like this that informed the early design decisions for the new Heavy Gear rules, what would become the living rule book, would not be a massed force game. It would not be a game where the basic trooper Gears had only one hit and then they were dead. I sometimes refer these types of miniature games to 'bucket' games. This refers to the bucket that you use to pour your models on the table, and then toss them into when you are done.


At the same time we didn't want each Gear to require a whole datasheet with details like locations for hits etc. There was a very defined way that we wanted the toughness of models to be expressed with the simplified Hull/Structure method. Almost a year ago the final expression of that method would be in the first Living Rule Book. The combination of a single value for armor and two values to represent the condition and durability of armor was essential to finding a good balance for the game. 


It was an early design choice that the higher tech gears would have a less favorable durability in their hull/structure ratings to represent not a lack of armor but that the higher quality of internal components, actuators, myomers, and other systems that would be required for a high performance machine. A good example is the Japanese Zero in the second world war where armor protection was exchanged for range, and a better performance envelope. Later planes would work to find a balance but the essential elements of the trade-off between protection and performance have been understood for centuries with cost being the only other factor that could mitigate the negative effects by exchanging cheaply made components with highly expensive components.


Anyone reading the technical manual would do well to read those sections on technology and armor protection instead of just skipping to the weapons. In the arms races of today and the future it's always a relevant topic.