Plugging holes and blowing up bigger ones!
All forces have access to optional equipment upgrades in Heavy Gear Blitz, things like anti-aircraft modifiers, smoke, and grenades. Far more than neat bits on the model’s sprue, these modifications can allow you to significantly alter the play style of some units, or repair an otherwise critical flaw in a list. Your options include veteran, duelist, and commander upgrades, as well as universal drones. Each of those is deserving of its own article. For today we are just going to focus on the standard upgrades section, so basically guns and grenades. This kind of equipment comes in three flavors: smoke, anti-aircraft tech, and explosives. First though, we’ll talk about how these upgrades are purchased.
Each combat group can purchase one of the Standard Upgrades once. There is no limit to how many upgrades any model can have, so long as it qualifies to use them, you can load them up with as much death dealing junk as you want. However do take note that the costs of this equipment is a little tricky. Some options have a point cost for each item purchased, while others allow you to equip multiple models for one cost. This is largely because all purchases have to be in whole points in Blitz and some items are just not worth a point by themselves. I’ll cover the tricky bits item by item below.
Smoke is a very essential tool for light to medium units. It is available to any one except VTOL units. Up to two models in a unit can purchase smoke at one point each. When deployed (as action or as a reaction with an Order) it creates an AE:3 smoke cloud centered on the unit. The cloud is considered a template 4” high that grants models +1d6 to defense.
Smoke stacks with other defensive bonuses, so for a light unit, or fast movers, it can make you pretty hard to touch especially combined with Top Speed and ECM Defense. Since the smoke doesn’t move with you, this requires a bit of planning. It might be worth practicing the order of activations before you get to the table. Another time smoke is useful is for models that you plan to hold an objective, like GP units, that might not be able to rely on speed or positioning for safety. One last note on smoke: remember that the enemy can use your smoke cloud, so be careful where you drop it.
Fly Swatting: Anti-Aircraft
Flyers form a sort of light rock paper scissors in blitz. While you are unlikely to run into tons of them, if you didn’t bring at least some way of dealing with them in your list, a powerful VTOL or well placed Airstrike token can do immense damage. There are plenty of excellent anti-air units, but you might not always want to bring one. The AA upgrades make up for this. Up to two models in a combat group can take this upgrade.
- Any Auto-cannon, Rotary Cannon, or Laser Cannon of any size can add the AA trait for 1 TV.
- Any ATM can also purchase the AA trait for 1 point -or- you can change it to an Anti-Air-Missile of the same rating for one point. AAMs give up a lot (they lose guided, AP, and a point of damage) but they do gain Flak giving them bonus dice against VTOLs
With the exception of the AAM for ATM swap, adding the AA Trait doesn’t change the profile of the weapon, so it is always a safe choice. And the worse case scenario is that you are only out one point.
Things that go Boom
Now we get to the real fun stuff: explosives. There are three kinds of explosives you can add to your models Grenades, Panzerfausts, and Shaped Explosives. They can only be added to Infantry models and models with the Arms trait. Here is where the weird cost thing happens: If you buy Light explosives (panzerfausts, grenades, shaped explosives) then up 2 models get them for 1 TV total. If you buy the medium version, up to 2 models get them for 1 TV each. This means if you are buying the light versions you should always make sure to find a second person to carry them. Otherwise you are leaving free guns behind.
Let’s talk about Grenades and Panzerfausts first. Whether you buy the light or medium versions they have similar profiles.
They both have the 3-6/9 profile of short range weapons. What sets Panzerfausts apart is lower damage, but higher AP. It is equivalent to a medium Bazooka (with shorter range) for only 1 point! This makes it a good option for tank hunting if you know you can get enough successes to make use of the AP. The Grenades meanwhile give you an option for indirect fire, AE:3 and higher damage, but only AP:1. They can be a good choice for units with lots of long range weapons that want to have something in case of a short range fight, or for a unit that lacks any good way of inflicting random damage.
Shaped explosives are a whole different thing. At Dmg 9 and AP:3 AS. They combine the damage of Grenades with the AP of panzerfausts and can be used to knock down buildings. But the catch is that they can only be used in melee, and have brawler -1. As such they are best on gears that already have a high brawler rate to cancel this out, or used for tank hunting. A fast moving recon gear that can get a tank in the flank will be rolling at 4d6 (+2 for flank, +1 for helpless, -1 for the weapon) and can do some serious damage.
Finally, it is worth noting that all of these upgrades can be added to infantry squads or teams including those on bikes which give them some real punch at close range. Because infantry can also hide in a transport you can deploy them right into battle to use them too. Also, keep in mind that most vehicles hoping to clear infantry will have to do so with proximity weapons, meaning they will be walking right into the danger zone for these explosives.
Too. Many. Options.
Heavy Gear Blitz can seem overwhelming with the massive numbers of profiles, sub-lists, and upgrades. But what things like the Standard Upgrades do, more than allow for killer combos to exploit, is allow for you to play the game the way you want to. They offer quick fixes for specific holes in a list, and while you might not use all of them every game Standard Upgrades are a good tool to know.