A Comparison for New Players by Red Rick Dias
One of the more interesting things about Heavy Gear Blitz! is that most factions have similar – but not identical – designs to handle certain jobs. Most of them have some sort of 6 or 7 TV Gear used to easily fill their forces with a GP role machine, a 12-14 TV Fire Support Gear with the React+ trait, and so on. Comparing these models is one of the most important things a new player can do in order to figure out which factions they want to focus on, and this article offers a guided tour of various Strike Gears. Newcomers will gain a better understanding of what tasks each of these Gears is best at, and have a basis for doing similar comparisons between other models. It will also show how the game is balanced, as we will see that none of these is truly the best; they all have one thing they do better than their peers, or have drawbacks to balance their strengths.
While the Force Compendium (August 2021 version) labels several models as being ‘Strike Gears’, for the purposes of this article we will focus on just four of them: The Jaguar, Black Mamba, Cuirassier, and Warrior IV (an Assault Gear, but its stat layout is similar enough to the others for our comparison). Each of these has 3+ Gunnery, 3+ Piloting, Speed 7, a decent variety of weapons to choose from, at least one ‘commander-use’ upgrade, and the Agile and/or Airdrop traits.
For brevity, only a few universal/veteran/duelist/sub-list/faction upgrades will be discussed;; this article would be twice as long if it covered all of these possibilities. A few very important upgrades as well as the Warrior IV’s faction-specific options will be discussed, but this is only due to the huge impact they have on force building.
We will start with a look at the North’s Jaguar, which is the most typical of the Strike Gears.
The Jaguar sets the trend for Strike Gears, with its stat layout of GU 3+, PI 3+, EW 5+, Agile, and Airdrop. It also features one main React gun, a React melee weapon, a LAPGL for close-range defense, and a versatile LRP. In terms of just its stats, the Jaguar is the most average of the Strike Gears; virtually all of its peers are equal to it in every stat, and may be outright better than the Jaguar at a few. Yet it does have its advantages, ones that are found only once we look past the basic stats.
The first thing going for the Jaguar is its weapons variety. No other Strike Gear can wield as many different guns as the Jaguar can. Many can equip some of the same weapons, but not all of them. Players that want a highly mobile, well defended ‘sniper’ can use the Flash Jaguar and its incredibly long-range, Precise-trait LLC. The Sniper Jaguar and Pathfinder Jaguar offer similar performance with their HRFs, trading some accuracy for higher damage.
The Arrow Jaguar’s LATM lets it serve as an artillery piece that can protect itself, while the Wildfire Jaguar offers access to a Fire:1 LAPR that has a chance of doing damage both to infantry and well-armored tanks. The Fire Jaguar offers a very efficient MRP (Link) weapon, making it an excellent ‘all around’ choice. Assault Jaguars deserve special attention here, as their MSC is a good weapon for hunting tanks as well as fortifications thanks to its mix of AP:3 and Demo:3 traits. No other Gear currently in the game offers all these choices.
Another benefit is its flexible choice of Roles. While it obviously has the SK and FS roles typical to a Strike Gear, some variants add others. Anyone wanting to fit it into a RC combat group (or add a RC sub-role to a group, which will give them better deployment options) can go with the standard Jaguar or the Sniper and Pathfinder Jaguars. The otherwise rare SO role is available with the Flash Jaguar.
Unfortunately, it does have two drawbacks. First, its stats and traits are purely average (indeed, they set the average) for a Strike Gear; it does not excel at anything. Second, the Jaguar also lacks a few weapon variants one would expect it to have, such as the MFC. That versatile weapon instead shows up on the Jaguar MP, which is technically a different model/machine from the Jaguar.
Nonetheless, the Jaguar has the widest weapons list and role options.
Next, we will see how this contrasts with the South’s equivalent Gear, the Black Mamba.
At first glance, the Black Mamba appears to be nearly the exact same machine as the Jaguar. It has the same weapons layout, speed, and many of the same stats. However, it has far fewer weapon variants to choose from. It is fair to wonder why anyone would want this Gear, and only a closer look will reveal why the Black Mamba is great.
Take note of the Hull/Structure (‘H/S’ from now on) value. It is 4/2, while most Gears have a H/S stat of 3/3. This one change, on its own, is enough to give the Black Mamba an important niche. Remember that any unit dropping to 0 Hull gains the Crippled status, which applies a -1d6 penalty to their attack and defense as well as leaving them unable to use Top Speed movement. Any damage that would leave the Jaguar at HS 0/3 (and thus Crippled) will have the Black Mamba with 1 Hull; the Black Mamba can continue to fight at full power! It trades versatility for durability, making it a great pick for forces that know exactly what they want out of a Strike Gear.
Additionally, its MGL and MRL are both very good weapons. The MGL was previously a terrible choice, but balance changes added to the August 2021 update to the Force Compendium made it a viable ‘side-grade’ to the MAC in many scenarios and an outright upgrade in others. The Jaguar does not have these weapons, giving the Black Mamba another small advantage. The ‘Razor Fang’ upgrade package also gives the Black Mamba a good set of traits for an officer/commander to use. They aren’t the best commander upgrades, but making the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘best’ is important here.
On the other hand, the Black Mamba has serious limits on what jobs it can handle. It struggles with hunting heavy armor, as its LBZ cannot match the MBZ many other Strike Gears carry. Its LATM variant has the LA:2 trait, giving it only two shots. Black Mambas also have trouble accessing anything other than the SK or FS roles; only the standard variant has the RC role and only the Blazing Mamba has SO.. Much of this is because these other weapons and roles show up on different Southern machines, such as the Diamondback or the Black Mamba MP.
This makes the Black Mamba the ‘higher durability, lower versatility’ choice among Strike Gears.
In contrast, we have Peace River’s Warrior IV which trades some defense for a better variety of upgrades.
While the Force Compendium declares the Warrior IV to be an ‘Assault Gear’, I am including it because its stats, fighting style, and TV cost are very similar to those of a Strike Gear. The Warrior IV loses Agile and has a standard H/S stat of 3/3, but gains some unique advantages to make up for this. It is easily the most customizable of the Gears in this article, and the only one to offer decent ECM options.
ECM combined with AUX \\ Sensors:24 allows the Warrior IV to do ECM Hack attempts on targets that may be outside its optimal weapon range (most Warrior IV variants have an optimal range of 6-18 inches), allowing it to inflict the incredibly powerful Haywire status on enemies. This is something none of its peers can even try to do, as none of them have ECM (they may have ECCM on some variants, but ECCM does different things than ECM).
Warrior IVs also come with a MRP on most of their variants, with only the Pilum Warrior IV changing it out for a LATM (LA:2). MRPs are versatile, hard-hitting weapons and having one where most Strike Gears use a LRP is a very nice advantage; doing even 1 more damage is incredibly valuable in a game where many Gears are crippled by 3 damage and destroyed from 6.
This is a Peace River design, so the classic sales pitch of “But wait, there’s more!” applies. While its choices of React weapons are purely average (aside from the MRL variant), the Warrior IV has three extremely good upgrade packs that are all compatible with one another. The Special Forces upgrade adds AUX \\ Stealth, halving the range most foes can Sensor Lock it from. Note this upgrade changes the Warrior IV’s role to SO, it does not add the role to the pool of legal options. In other words, a standard Warrior IV with the Special Operations pack may only be used with the SO role; it loses its normal SK+ and FS role choices.
The Jetpack upgrade is also very good, as it adds a Jetpack:6 to the Warrior IV. 6 inches of jump height is very useful, able to get this Gear over small hills and on top of some rooftops with ease. Even better, it is ‘Jetpack: 6’, not ‘AUX \\ Jetpack:6’ like some other units with Jetpacks have. This means even a Warrior IV with the Crippled status can still get to an elevated position and fire at enemies with decent accuracy. Add in the Chieftain Upgrade, and you can easily make the Warrior IV a good officer/commander machine.
Warrior IVs have two meaningful flaws, though one is easily fixed. The biggest problem is their lack of role options; none of them offer the RC role, meaning the Warrior IV is reliant on either airdropping or having another model provide RC deployment options if they want to deploy further up the battlefield. It also lacks Agile, but this is only a problem for Warrior IVs used outside of Peace River forces (for example, in a Leagueless force). As of the August 2021 update to the Force Compendium, Warrior IVs in Peace River forces may purchase the downright amazing ‘Warrior Elite’ upgrade for +1 TV, which improves its H/S to 4/2, EW to 4+, and adds Agile. This is a Peace River specific rule, and is not available to Warrior IVs fielded outside that faction.
This results in the Warrior IV having the most flexible upgrade options among its peers. While the Jaguar has a better weapons list, the Warrior IV can pick up other traits entirely. It should be noted that a fully upgraded Warrior IV is incredibly powerful, but you will pay a lot for it. A Warrior Elite with Chieftain, Special Operations, and Jetpack upgrades will cost at least 15 TV (and it can go higher in some circumstances), compared to the other Gears in this article which typically cost 10-13 TV.
The Warrior IV’s variety of upgrades make it easily compared to NuCoal’s Cuirassier, which is far less versatile but is able to excel at a few specific tasks.
At first, the Cuirassier seems to be the worst of the four Gears in this article. It has the Jaguar’s stats, the Black Mamba’s low number of variants, and none of the fun upgrade packs the Warrior IV offers. However, the Cuirassier is the best choice for handling a few specific jobs. Particularly, it excels at anti-air work and being a combat group leader.
The Cuirassier Lance stands out, as it includes a MAC (AA) for the same 11 TV cost that many other Gears would only offer a standard MAC. It does this by sacrificing the RC role that the standard Cuirassier has, but that can be a trade worth making. None of the other Gears in this article can claim to both be the best at the anti-air job and be the most TV efficient option for this, since they either have to buy the (AA) upgrade separately for their MAC or settle for a weaker LAC (AA). It may only be a 1 TV efficiency, but ‘just one point’ can buy a sub-list upgrade, add a Drone, purchase Sidearms, or further improve a Veteran or Duelist in your force.
Admittedly, the rest of the Cuirassier’s variants are uninspiring. It has competent loadouts for the MBZ, MFC, HRF, and MGL, but they perform no better than the equivalent variant on most other Strike Gears. They are good enough for the job, but they are not exciting and we will have to look elsewhere to see what makes the Cuirassier stand out.
Its CV Upgrade is the real prize. For +1 TV, this option makes the Cuirassier one of the best possible choices for a commander. It adds Comms, SatUp, EW:4+, and AUX \\ ECCM. None of the other Gears in this article gain all of these benefits for just +1 TV; many come close, but all of them omit at least one of these traits or pay more TV to gain the full set. Having AUX \\ ECCM gives the Cuirassier CV and all allies within 6 inches a +1d6 bonus on all electronic warfare rolls (not just independent ones, but every EW roll). This gives the Cuirassier CV access to the ECCM Firewall reaction, and makes any out-of-formation Orders far more likely to succeed. Since ECCM helps allies too, the Cuirassier CV can bring a Recon Drone upgrade with it and that drone will be more likely to succeed on its Forward Observer actions.
While it may be the weakest fighter of the four, the Cuirassier is still able to hold its own in most battles and its CV Upgrade gives it a unique role; none of the other Gears in this article can support their allies in quite the same way.
The Jaguar, Black Mamba, Warrior IV, and Cuirassier show how Heavy Gear Blitz! tends to balance its models: All of them fill roughly the same job for their faction, but none of them are the best at everything. Each of them has at least one area where they excel over the others, so none of them are outright inferior.
Interestingly, the one time where there is a superior choice (the Warrior IV with a ‘Warrior Elite’ upgrade), the game balances this with two things. The first is the obvious increase in TV cost, which directly justifies being better than the other Gears. The second aspect is more subtle: It requires playing as Peace River. While Peace River is a strong faction, it has some gaps in its model selection (especially with infantry), and its sub-lists only offer partial solutions to this problem. In other words, fielding this outright better Gear requires the player to have worse options in other areas to compensate.
Many models in HGB use one or both of these methods to balance them. Some are superior, but limited to factions with meaningful – and likely intentional – flaws in other categories. Alternatively, many are similar to another faction’s model but have weaknesses in one area (stats, weapon variety, etc.) in order to be stronger in another. Learning to spot these differences and understand them is an important part of playing Heavy Gear Blitz!, and can make it easier to figure out which factions will be the most satisfying for you!