by Red Rick Dias (with images from Heavy Gear rulebooks)
With the beta release of Heavy Gear Blitz! 3.1, Leagueless has received a huge overhaul. Previously one of the weakest and most heavily restricted factions in the game, 3.1 has made them much more flexible. This guide will show how to build an effective Leagueless force, looking at both the faction’s built-in rules as well as useful options they can pick up from other powers such as North, South, Peace River, and NuCoal.
Let’s start with the core rules for Leagueless.
Every Leagueless force gets one Source, which is chosen from the four Terra Novan powers: North, South, Peace River, or NuCoal. This determines your starting model list, and you also get any Universal models marked as available to Leagueless or any of your selected Sources. This means that at the bare minimum, you get nearly the same model list as one of the four main Terra Novan factions.
However, there is one serious limitation: The ‘Judicious’ rule means that any non-duelist model that comes with Vet on its stats may only be in a veteran combat group. This cuts down on players sprinkling rare equipment (from a lore perspective) into every combat group, requiring them to either use only a small amount of it or really lean into the idea and field an entirely veteran force. This is still a huge improvement over 3.0 Leagueless, since the faction can now use Advanced weapons and heavier Armor than they could under the old rules.
After that, you have three upgrade slots to build your own sub-list rules with. These include gaining additional sources, grabbing faction upgrades from a Source, ways to downgrade models in return for discounts on their TV cost, and even various upgrades. This guide will look at each option in detail, and explain the benefits offered by each Source.
Since Sources have the most impact on how a Leagueless force plays, they are our next topic.
While each Leagueless force gets one free Source, it’s possible to spend one of your upgrade slots on one additional Source. Just one; per recent clarification by the developers, the ‘Additional Source’ upgrade can only be taken once. Additionally, most (not all) Sources also offer a ‘sponsored’ or ‘influence’ choice that lets you pick from their “faction upgrades”. Note that “faction upgrade” is a broad term, including not just the top-level options like Hammers of the North or Warrior Elite; it also specifically includes sub-list upgrades! This means things like Norguard’s ‘Pan-Northern’, Peace River Defense Force’s ‘The Best Men and Women for the Job’, and so on are legal so long as your choice meets any restrictions or requirements the sub-list upgrade has. Be careful though, you can only pick one faction to pull these special rules from, if you take Northern Influence, you cannot take Southern or Peace River rules, and vise versa.
With that said, here is a quick overview of each Source and a few of their more interesting models. This is not an exhaustive list, as that would make the article far too long.
A well-rounded Source, North has a little bit of everything but has a slight lean toward Airdrop-capable models and heavy weaponry; their Dogfire R and Dingo are some of the least expensive Light Field Gun models in the game! They also have the Wild Ferret, which at 6 TV is a very low cost ECM platform. The Northern Influence sub-list upgrade also lets you choose from several great options.
Among the more noteworthy Northern Influence choices:
- Hammers of the North: A snub cannon with the Precise trait is very scary; this fixes the weapon’s normally low accuracy.
- Pan-Northern: A very efficient way to get three different sub-list options for just one upgrade. There are serious limitations on it (some of the best WFP, UMF, and NLC options are specifically banned from Pan-Northern), but this is still a flexible choice.
- Drop Bears: This requires building your Airdrop combat groups in very specific ways to get the full benefit, but letting them spread out at the start of the game offers some powerful tactical options.
- Warrior Monks: An efficient melee upgrade, this provides a strong melee weapon, Brawl:1, and Reach 2 all for +1 TV.
The South is a well-rounded Source with no major gaps. However, it focuses on having several low to mid-cost models that are specialized in some way; one might have more durability than similar models, while another may bring extra firepower. South also emphasizes close combat, with a variety of melee and shield upgrades plus some inexpensive models with Flamers. Additionally, their Cobra MP combines above-average armor and firepower on an Airdrop capable model with a shield; it is an excellent way to have a strong mid-field presence. Their Lizard Riders are decent cavalry, allowing a cheap way to fill out a force.
South-specific upgrades of note include:
- Police State: All three of South’s MP models are good at short to medium range combat, and being able to put them in a wider variety of combat groups is always nice.
- Pride of the South: This Southern melee upgrade can be directly compared to Warrior Monks; the practical difference is this version is somewhat more accurate (thanks to the Precise trait) but loses Reach 2 in return.
- Metsuke: This makes it much easier to maneuver your MP models, as cover is now merely a nice bonus for them rather than a must-have.
Note that Conscription is available to Leagueless forces as a normal upgrade choice, so there is no need to bother with picking up the Southern Influence version of it.
Unlike the North and South, Peace River has a very clear combat style: ECM-equipped melee specialists backed by a mix of gears, vehicles, and striders with long range weapons. Players selecting Peace River as a Source will need to either use their Universal models to provide infantry and cavalry, or spend an upgrade slot on an additional Source (such as South or NuCoal) if this is important to the force you are designing. This may be an excellent idea in any event, as Peace River has some models that play particularly well with other factions. The most noteworthy among them include the Pit Bull, which after upgrades can be a 7 TV Agile ECM-equipped model with a good Role list. Their Hyena II offers amazing accuracy on the move, and they have a variety of vehicles that can fill most gaps in a force. There is also the standard Warrior, which offers one of the least expensive LLCs in the game at 8 TV.
Some interesting Peace River sponsored upgrades include:
- E-pex: This improves a model’s EW stat, but take note that picking it does not change its wording. It still reads “One Peace River model (emphasis added) within each combat group may…”. In other words, players cannot use E-pex on a model acquired from another Source; it must be something from the Peace River model list.
- Warrior Elite: +1 TV to improve a Warrior IV’s Hull/Structure stat (4/2 is better than 3/3), improve their EW stat to 4+, and add Agile is an incredible bargain. If you plan to field any Warrior IVs, this upgrade should probably also be chosen unless you can articulate a good reason for not needing it.
- Laser Tech: Some infantry-heavy forces will benefit from this, but take careful note of the restrictions: The model must have the Veteran trait and be Universal infantry, or Veteran and a Spitz Monowheel. This prevents handing out Advanced weaponry to various other kinds of infantry and cavalry, so be careful that Laser Tech is only being given to legal recipients.
- Architects: A strider duelist is always a fun time! A costly TV investment, but exciting all the same. Just keep in mind it must be a Peace River strider.
- The Best Men and Women for the Job: This is one of the few ways to get Black Talon models in Leagueless forces.
- ECM Specialist: ECM+ is a very powerful ability, and getting it for +1 TV is absolutely a good choice. Note the lack of a faction requirement; one could toss it onto a Northern Wild Ferret if you have both North and Peace River as sources.
This Source has a little bit of everything, but specializes in high Speed, above-average weapon range, and superior commander upgrades compared to the other Terra Novan powers. In addition to good EW gears like the Jerboa, NuCoal boasts one of the best infantry and cavalry model lists in the game; En Koreshi, Lizard Sandriders, GREL Hoverbikes, and general GREL infantry all stand out. Additionally, they have a few North and South models such as the Wildcat and Copperhead.
NuCoal completely lacks a ‘sponsored/influenced’ upgrade. This is probably intentional by the game designers, since freely combining NuCoal sub-list options could lead to some very overpowered forces; mixing KADA’s Heroes of the Arena combined with Jannite Pilots and other upgrades is a quick example, and there are likely other good reasons to not allow a ‘NuCoal Sponsored’ rule.
However, NuCoal source forces do get some interesting things thanks to specific rules interactions. Among them:
Wildcats count as North models and NuCoal models: They show up in both factions’ model lists, and fielding a Wildcat via NuCoal Source still lets you access Task Built. This is because of one key sentence in the North sub-list rules, the one right above Task Built: “All Northern models (emphasis added) have the following rules”. It is perfectly legal to use a Task Built Wildcat via NuCoal Source without taking North as a Source.
Copperheads count as South and NuCoal models: Just like the Wildcat, this appears in both the South and NuCoal model lists. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do anything useful for Leagueless in the 3.1 beta rules; all of South’s faction-wide rules specify ‘South forces’, not ‘South models’. Nonetheless, in the event an ‘all South models’ rule is ever added to the game a NuCoal Source Copperhead could use it.
Having more than one source is usually a good idea; it lets you pick the best possible match for what your force needs. However, any upgrades not spent on an additional source can be used on upgrades built into Leagueless’ single sub-list.
Outside of the sponsored/influenced choices, Leagueless has several upgrades that may be chosen regardless of which Sources you selected. This section will go over each one, pointing out their best uses. One key note: An upgrade allowing you to field certain models in your force does not count as adding them as a Source. Thus, the only ways to get access to the ‘Sponsored/Influence’ upgrades is through your inherent Source or your optional Additional Source.
Rules Clarification: While the beta 3.1 document (as of May 5, 2022) does not say so outright, the developers have clarified that each Leagueless upgrade may be selected only once unless it outright says it can be taken multiple times. This isn’t the same as using an upgrade multiple times; upgrades like Conscription or Discounts may be used more than once provided a legal recipient exists each time. On the other hand, something like Local Knowledge cannot be selected more than once; only one combat group will gain this benefit.
- Expert Salvagers: This requires very precise force building, but if you know exactly which models you want to fill small gaps in your army then Expert Salvagers is an excellent way to handle it. For example, if you’re only using a few models from each faction then this can be more efficient than taking Additional Source multiple times.
- Stripped: This allows for a very interesting, low-cost way to either build an entire SO or RC group, or finish up an otherwise typical combat group of nearly any role. The MSC-equipped Stripped-Down Hunter is particularly fun; using SO group deployment makes it much easier for them to get in weapons range. This upgrade allows the use of Stripped-Down Hunters and Stripped-Down Jagers even if you lack their relevant Source.
- We Came from the Desert: This is a lore-driven upgrade, since all of its game mechanics overlap with Additional Source: NuCoal. According to the developers, this upgrade primarily exists for storytelling reasons; a player may use We Came From the Desert to build a force that adheres closer to earlier Koreshi lore.
- Purple Powered: Like the above upgrade, this is a good way to add models to your force if you can’t get NuCoal as a Source for whatever reason. Note this includes both GREL infantry and cavalry, including GREL Hoverbikes. The option to improve their gunnery may be useful in certain cases.
- Veteran Leaders: This is the exact same upgrade seen in several factions and their sub-lists; it remains very useful in Leagueless as a way to help keep your commanders alive or whatever else you may want a reroll for.
- Badland’s Soup: All of these upgrades are worth considering, as they are an easy way to make a combat group excel at a certain task without spending extra points on making them Veterans. ECCM stands out as especially useful, allowing cheaper models to protect more expensive allies from ECM hacking attempts.
- Personal Equipment: This, also, is a nice way to help models specialize in certain tasks. One clever use of it is to upgrade a Crusader IV with Resist:H for 1 TV, fixing their Vuln:H flaw without losing the MRP (Link) they swap out for a standard MRP in their Crusader V upgrade; players intending to send their Crusader IV into close or mid-range combat may find this to be a better choice.
- Thunder from the Sky: This makes an airstrike counter more expensive, but also a bit more accurate. This could be useful to take full advantage of AP:2 on airstrikes that include it.
- Conscription: Popular with some South players, the Leagueless version of this upgrade (downgrade?) is also a good way to get a TV discount on your models. This will require careful positioning to keep the Conscript models in formation with a commander, though.
- Local Hero: This upgrade can help offset the problems posed with Conscription, and gives you an additional way to use Lead by Example. A very powerful ability for players who can position their forces well enough to make use of it. Local Hero also interacts well with Drones, which now have the Conscript trait in the 3.1 beta.
- Ol’ Rusty: Another convenient way to get a discount on gears and striders, though this is best used on ones that are less likely to be shot at in the first place; look for ones with long weapons range, indirect attacks, or no reason to be in line of sight to any enemies. Note that each model may only use Ol’ Rusty once.
- Local Knowledge: Deploying six inches further than normal is a very nice option for groups that don’t intend to Airdrop or use spec ops deployment. This is a better upgrade than it seems in 3.1 beta, due to a significant rules change: Recon secondary units no longer grant their group recon deployment; it must be a primary unit in order to gain that benefit.
- Discounts: Another ‘downgrade to save a TV’ option, this can be worth it if you expect to need the extra base damage of a HAC over the extreme accuracy of a LLC. Remember that traits will be retained, which is useful for LLCs that come with the AA trait. Interesting choices for Discounts include the Varis and Dragonfly VTOLs on the Universal model list, NuCoal’s Fusilier, and South’s Hun among a few others.
- Shadow Warriors: This requires forward deployment of some kind in order to make the most use of it (for example, spec ops deployment or Airdrop), but starting the game with a hidden token can be very powerful. En Koreshi stand out as an excellent choice for this upgrade due to their rifle having the Silent trait.
- Operators: Having two duelists can be very powerful, allowing you to finely tune a second gear to fit your exact needs.
- Jannite Pilots: A superb upgrade, this effectively allows your veteran gears (not just those with the Vet trait on their profile by default; it works with ones that had to take the Veteran trait as a separate upgrade as well) to nearly double their firepower. Veterans with a good melee weapon can put this to particularly good use, as can any veteran with two worthwhile ranged weapons.
Leagueless in the 3.1 beta takes more studying and decision-making to build a force for, but the payoff is that you can make an army that is tuned exactly the way you want it. No longer constrained by the heavy restrictions they had in 3.0, Leagueless is a much more enjoyable faction now. Outright described in the rulebook as the ‘build your own sub-list’ faction, Leagueless is well worth considering for players willing to put in the time to learn about models in multiple factions!