Sanding Down Talons

Well, after a lot of scheduling conflicts and such, Adam and I found an evening where we could play a game of Heavy Gear Blitz and maybe a game of Infinity. I’d just like to point out just how compatible KR Multicase 1 KRU units are with the Battlefoam Beta bag! The Battlefoam stuff is pretty rubbish for storing Heavy Gear, but it turns out all the old 40k/Warmahordes KR foam that I have is perfect for Heavy Gear… ish. Heavy Gear stuff is so wildly differently sized…

Anyway, spoiler alert, 150 TV games take awhile, so we didn’t get to play a game of Infinity… shame, because I was going to take the following to a game of Quadrant Control or Frontline:

Control
GROUP 1 10

TASKMASTER (Lieutenant) Red Fury, Pulzar, Crazykoala ( | TinBot: Firewall [-3]) / Heavy Pistol, DA CC Weapon. (1 | 47)
BRAN DO CASTRO Combi Rifle, E/Mitter / Pistol, DA CC Weapon. (0 | 33)
MORAN (Repeater) Combi Rifle, Flash Pulse, D-Charges, Crazykoala ( ) / Pistol, CC Weapon. (0.5 | 17)
MORAN (Repeater) Combi Rifle, Flash Pulse, D-Charges, Crazykoala ( ) / Pistol, CC Weapon. (0.5 | 17)
SALYUT (Total Reaction, Repeater) Combi Rifle ( ) / PARA CC Weapon(-3). (0 | 19)
SALYUT (Total Reaction, Repeater) Combi Rifle ( ) / PARA CC Weapon(-3). (0 | 19)
JAZZ Hacker & BILLIE undefined / undefined. (0.5 | 24)
JAZZ (Hacker) Submachine Gun, Pitcher, Cybermines / Pistol, PARA CC Weapon(-3). (0.5 | 18)
BILLIE Flash Pulse, E/M Mines / Pistol, PARA CC Weapon(-3). (0 | 6)
PROWLER Spitfire, Nanopulser, D-Charges / Pistol, CC Weapon. (1.5 | 39)
CARLOTA KOWALSKY Breaker Combi Rifle, Light Flamethrower, Adhesive Launcher(+1B), D-Charges / Pistol, CC Weapon. (0 | 34)
MORIARTY PARA CC Weapon(-3). (0 | 4)

GROUP 2 3 2 2

VERTIGO ZOND Missile Launcher / PARA CC Weapon(-3). (1.5 | 17)
JAGUAR Adhesive Launcher, Panzerfaust / Pistol, DA CC Weapon. (0 | 11)
JAGUAR Adhesive Launcher, Panzerfaust / Pistol, DA CC Weapon. (0 | 11)
MORLOCK Chain Rifle, Smoke Grenades / Assault Pistol, AP CC Weapon. (0 | 6)
MORLOCK Chain Rifle, Smoke Grenades / Assault Pistol, AP CC Weapon. (0 | 6)


5.5 SWC | 300 Points | Open in Infinity Army

I think that’s a pretty oppressive list. The Baggage bots are kinda weird, but I think they might synergize well with the Morans for Koala spam? I dunno. That wasn’t a huge part of the plan, I’ve always just liked the TR combi bots. Anyway, this is a Heavy Gear battle report!

One thing that I’ve noticed with the Heavy Gear reports is that they’re much harder to write than the Infinity ones. There are several reasons for this:

  • I’m New – I’ve spent a LOT of time and energy thinking about and writing about Infinity, and I have a well-developed ability to scrub through the “mental video” of a game and reproduce the events. Part of that is the cognitive load of the game mechanics is close to 0 for Infinity, but still quite high for Heavy Gear as I’m learning. Eventually the fog of “what the hell am I supposed to roll now” will clear, and the game will become a tactical simulation instead of a “shrug helplessly as Adam and I are confused” exercise.
  • Orders versus Activations – Infinity is easier to write about because not everyone does something during a turn (or even the game), so explaining a turn is easier. “The linked HMG moved forward and shot 3 things” is a reasonable statement, and compresses about half a turn into a single sentence. Conversely, positioning and attrition are key aspects of Heavy Gear, so if you really want to capture all the detailed interactions (which the earlier sentence about the linked HMG does), you have to explain every unit’s activation. I’m sure that I’ll eventually be able to compress a turn effectively in prose, but it’s hard to in light of being new right now.

So, apologies to those of you used to my Infinity reports–these Heavy Gear ones will be a little wonky for the next several sets of games. I’m also not going to write up all my Heavy Gear games, like I do for Infinity. I’ll probably only do ones that I play in person, and maybe not even all of them then.

Overview

  • Forces: CEF versus Black Talons
  • CEF Objectives
    • Break the Line
    • Detailed Scan
    • Hold
  • Black Talons Objectives
    • Break the Line
    • Capture
    • Hold

Rules Under Test

One of the other things Adam and I are doing in this game is testing some rules we suggested to The Rooster after our show last week. Here’s a short synopsis of the suggested rules change.

Goal of the Change

  • Have the timing of declaring speed be consistent.
  • Keep all speeds working until clean up.
  • Have all speeds cleaned up at the same time.
  • Stop units from declaring Top Speed, while remaining stationary or hardly moving in cover keeping Hidden and gaining defense dice. This important since FO/ECM don’t suffer movement penalties, so it feels gamey.

Suggested Change

  • Speed for the turn is declared the first time a model declares and Action or Reaction.
  • Until that point, the model is at combat speed.
  • Bonus defense dice from Top Speed is not cumulative with defense dice from cover.
  • Units set to Top Speed MUST end their activation at least their MR away from their starting position, if possible. Difficult terrain might be factored into this to end 1/2 MR away if affected.

The defense dice not stacking with cover is exactly the same as the Mekong enhanced shields, so there’s precedent for that as a mechanic, and it makes it less ambiguous.

CEF List

Well, I played a game against Frank Washburn on TTS under the watchful eye of The Rooster and got absolutely WRECKED by an Iguana MP squad covered by an Iguana Black Box’s ECM. I over-extended a ton of stuff and wasn’t cagey enough, so I tried to correct as best I could in both list and playstyle. Some of the feedback I got from The Rooster was that I wasn’t matching speeds in my combat groups, so slow things would get left behind. This was particularly bad when my HC-3A hovercar ran away from some GRELs…

Anyway, this time I took two LHT-67’s and a HC-3A as a Recon group to be mobile and pounce on things. Their speeds and movement modes are identical, so I figured that was fine. I took a MHT-95 because I wanted a chonky thing, and then padded out the SK group with two Morgana FLAILs and a Aphek Rex to provide ECM for the MHT-95 as well as some additional firepower.

Finally, I took a bunch of Hoverbikes, an HPC-64, and a GREL support team, because god those things are good.

Name
TV MR AR H/S A GU PI EW Weapons Traits
CG1
RC
Command HC-3 13 H:10 5 3/3 1 4+ 3+ 3+ LLC, LATM (LA:1) Agile, Airdrop, Comms, ECM+, Sensors:36 (Aux), TD, Jump Jets:2 (Aux), ECCM, SatUp (Aux)
+ Combat Group Leader Init Skill:5+, CPs:1, CGL
+ Veteran 2 Vet, SPs:1
LHT-67 15 H:9 7 4/4 2 4+ 4+ 5+ MPA (T), LABM (T) Agile, Airdrop, Jump Jets:3 (Aux), Sensors:24, TD
+ Smoke 1 Smoke
LHT-67 AA 17 H:9 7 4/4 2 4+ 4+ 5+ MLC (T, AA), LATM (T) Agile, Airdrop, Jump Jets:3 (Aux), Sensors:24, TD
+ Smoke 1 Smoke
CG2
SK
MHT-95 25 H:6 9 5/3 2 4+ 4+ 6+ MRG (T), MRP (T, Link), MLC (FT, AA), HMG (FT, Auto) Airdrop, Jump Jets:3, Sensors:24
+ Combat Group Leader Init Skill:5+, CPs:1, CGL
Morgana FLAIL Single LPZ 7 I/H:7 5 2/1 1 3+ 4+ 5+ HMG, LVB (AI), LPZ Agile, Brawler:1, Stealth, Jetpack:4
Morgana FLAIL Single LPZ 7 I/H:7 5 2/1 1 3+ 4+ 5+ HMG, LVB (AI), LPZ Agile, Brawler:1, Stealth, Jetpack:4
Aphek Rex 13 W:7 7 4/4 1 4+ 4+ 5+ MRC (FT+F), LATM (FT+F), HMG (FT+F), LSG React+, Stable, Brawler:1, Climber, ECM, TD
CG3
GP
Command HPC-64 Support 13 H:9 7 4/4 1 4+ 4+ 4+ MAR (T) Airdrop, APC:1, Jump Jets:2 (Aux), ECM, SatUp
+ Smoke 1 Smoke
+ Combat Group Leader Init Skill:5+, CPs:1, CGL
Jan GREL Anti-Tank Hoverbike Squad 7 H:12 3 4/2 1 4+ 3+ 5+ HIW, MAVM Agile, Jump Jets:2, SatUp
Jan GREL Anti-Tank Hoverbike Squad 7 H:12 3 4/2 1 4+ 3+ 5+ HIW, MAVM Agile, Jump Jets:2, SatUp
Jan GREL Hoverbike Squad 6 H:12 3 4/2 1 4+ 3+ 5+ HIW, MIGL Agile, Jump Jets:2, SatUp
+ Smoke 1 Smoke
Jan GREL Hoverbike Squad 6 H:12 3 4/2 1 4+ 3+ 5+ HIW, MIGL Agile, Jump Jets:2, SatUp
GREL Support Team 4 I:4 4 2/1 1 3+ 3+ 6+ HIW, HIS (Burst:2)
Total 146 16

And yes. I had an airstrike counter, and I FORGOT AGAIN!!!

Black Talons List

I’m really only familiar with CEF and Caprice at this point, and I’m learning Nucoal… so Adam’s list is just a pile of “HUH?” Everything has massive guns, Stealth, 100 re-rolls, and two actions. If they see you, you ded. I don’t feel like there’s much in terms of thinking about Black Talon tricks–they just hit like trucks and are annoying as hell to kill. Adam even had more combat groups than me, which is pretty crazy. I suppose with everything in BT having two actions, more or less, this is easier.

Name TV MR AR H/S A GU PI EW Weapons Traits
CG1
FS
Dark Naga Kappa 27 W/G:7 10 4/4 2 3+ 4+ 6+ 2xLFG, MRC (FT+F) React+, Airdrop, SensorBoom (Aux), TD (Aux), Stealth (Aux), Vet
Omega Vulture 24 W/G:6 9 3/3 2 3+ 4+ 5+ LRG (Arm, Precise), MGM, MFC, MVB (Arm, Reach:1) Arms, Airdrop, Jetpack:4, Stealth, Vet
+ Combat Group Leader 0 InitSkill:5+, CPs:1, CGL
CG2
GP
Dark Mastiff Alpha 7 G:8 6 3/3 1 4+ 4+ 6+ LRF (FT) APC:1, Airdrop, Stealth (Aux), Vet
+ Combat Group Leader 0 InitSkill:5+, CPs:1, CGL
Dark Mastiff Alpha 7 G:8 6 3/3 1 4+ 4+ 6+ LRF (FT) APC:1, Airdrop, Stealth (Aux), Vet
Theta Squad 6 I:3 3 3/3 1 3+ 3+ 6+ LIW (Silent), MAVM Agile, Airdrop, Jetpack:4, Stealth, Vet
Theta Squad 6 I:3 3 3/3 1 3+ 3+ 6+ LIW (Silent), MAVM Agile, Airdrop, Jetpack:4, Stealth, Vet
CG3
SK
Alpha Owl 17 W/G:7 7 4/2 2 3+ 3+ 4+ MRF (Arm), MRP, MVB (Arm, Reach:1) Arms, Airdrop, ECM, ECCM, SatUp, Jetpack:6, Stealth, Vet, SP:1
+ Combat Group Leader 0 InitSkill:5+, CPs:1, CGL
Dark Jaguar Alpha 13 W/G:7 7 4/2 1 3+ 3+ 5+ HRF (Arm), LRP, MCW (Arm, Reach:1) Arms, Agile, Airdrop, Stealth (Aux), Vet
Dark Jaguar Gamma 12 W/G:7 7 4/2 1 3+ 3+ 5+ MAC (Arm), LFC (Arm), LRP, MPZ, MCW (Arm, Reach:1) Arms, Agile, Airdrop, Stealth (Aux), Vet
CG4
RC
Gamma Raven 15 W/G:9 5 3/3 2 4+ 3+ 3+ MAC (Arm), LFC (Arm), LRP, LVB (Arm) Arms, Agile, Airdrop, Comms, TD, ECM+, ECCM, Sensors:24 (Aux), Jetpack:6, Stealth, Vet
Beta Eagle 16 W/G:7 7 4/2 2 3+ 3+ 4+ HAC (Arm), LGL (Arm), MRP, MCW (Arm, Reach:1) Arms, Agile, Airdrop, Jetpack:6, Stealth, Vet
+ Combat Group Leader 0 InitSkill:5+, CPs:1, CGL
Total 150 16

One of the concerns some of the other folks doing playtesting had regarding the new Focus rule (it lets you spend an action/reaction to buff a direct shooting attack by 1d6) was that it would make Black Talons waaaay too powerful. I did a bunch of math regarding that, which isn’t completely proved out yet, but here are some preliminary results with the 1st and 3rd quartiles and average expected damage. The scenario is Adam’s Owl either:

  1. Shooting the MRF and MRP at something in cover with AR6 in optimal range
  2. Shooting the MRF with Focus at the same thing in optimal range.
Scenario 1 Scenario 2
Owl Shooting MRF Owl Shooting MRP Owl Shooting MRF (Focused)
Mean Damage 1.77 1.59 2.53
Q1 0 0 1
Q3 3 3 4

So basically you end up doing more damage by shooting twice instead of using Focus in most scenarios. You can use Focus if you really need to punch through some defense dice to land a shot, especially if you have a Particle Accelerator to cause Haywire effects. In most situations though, it’s probably not worth it.

FIGHT!

I resolved to play very carefully and very cagey, and set up most of my stuff in total cover, because I’m afraid of getting shot by big Black Talon guns. I left my MHT-95 covering some firelanes while in area cover, figuring that if I just put it there it would occupy a lot of Adam’s attention. I didn’t expect it to survive or anything, but I hoped that it would at least be hard to remove. The Aphek hung out nearby. I put my Recon squad with the two LHT-67’s on the right with the HC-3A along with the HPC-64.

I decided to just spread out all my Hoverbikes, figuring that they have enough movement to effectively be wherever they want to be. Adam kept his Owl squad together, but spread everything else across the table to threaten me. The two Mastiff APCs airdropped in near the middle of the table to really put the pressure on.

The current version of the rules that we’re working with (we’re getting several updates a week as the team iterates) has you place objectives after you deploy… but it’s worded funny… anyway. We did the thing, and placed objectives after. Adam had to capture two and hold two objectives for a total of four area control objectives. He also had to get two things into my deployment zone at the end of a round. I had to hold two objectives, scan two of his commanders, and get two things into his deployment zone. You can see his objectives in blue and mine in green in the shot below.

Adam started things off by winning initiative and then pushing his squads forward to pressure me. The first thing he did was ECM Attack my MHT-95 with i Owl to Haywire it. BOOO. The other stuff in that group took some pot shots at my Aphek, who threw up ECM and fired a LATM back at its harassers.

With the rest of his squads advanced, that brought his Eagle and his Mastiff into range of my Hoverbikes, so I scooted forward and got Detailed Scan on both of them for an easy two points before tucking back into cover. That felt pretty good after getting my MHT-95 Haywired! I played very carefully with my Recon squad, scooting them around in cover and not even popping out to take any shots. Instead, I just popped smoke with both tanks to cover the HC-3A and the HPC-64 that joined the collection of models behind the big rock on my right. I was already two points up, so all I needed to do was keep my stuff alive and wait for Adam to overextend something.

It ended up being me that overextended something–I put the Aphek into a position that it could be seen by the Naga and it ate a bunch of LFG fire! Adam shot twice, once focused once not, which did a ton of work, especially with re-rolls.

My MHT-95 was Haywired again, putting another point of damage on it too. Very frustrating. That Owl made things very difficult for me as it kept pushing up the table.

Adam moved up a Dark Jaguar to finish off my Aphek and threaten my tank. A Mastiff dove into my deployment zone for Break the Line, so I spent some effort trying to take it out with my LHT’s and the HC-3A.

I fail to kill the Mastiff, but I do try to harass the Owl with some Hoverbikes. It goes very poorly… that ECM is a pain in the butt even for MAVM from the ‘bikes.

Adam tries to annoy me by attacking my Hovercar with his Raven. This exposes it to my tank, so I dump both actions on the Haywired MHT-95 into a focused Laser Cannon shot and FREEM the Raven into a crippled state. Huzzah! I hop the Morgana FLAILs out of the APC and go on a murderous rampage with them, forcing the Eagle back, and killing the Raven. I even manage to plonk an LATM shot on top of the Mastiff in the midfield and overkill it, forcing the guys inside to take two wounds.

The other Mastiff goes down to a combination the MHT-95’s HMG and Hoverbikes and I paste the infantry that were inside with the Light Airburst Missile from my LHT-67. Unfortunately, the Dark Jaguar makes its way into my deployment zone, getting Adam his second Break the Line point. My Hoverbikes harass the Dark Jaguar a little, but fail to do anything serious to it. It spins around and Frag Cannons the wounded Hoverbikes off the table.

My LHT-67AA manages to take down the Vulture with a combination of laser and anti-tank missile fire, but takes a lucky railgun shot in a weak section of armor and goes down to 1 wound remaining! I manage to clear out the last infantry squad by throwing my HC-3A under the bus to get a TD off on them for my LHT-67 to rain some air burst missile goodness down on them. The damnable Owl finishes off the HC-3A on its turn with some rocket pod fire, and I lose my LHT-67 to the Naga’s field guns. My MHT-95 goes down too, this time to a point blank shot from the Jaguar.

At some point during all this chaos, I’ve managed to get my Hoverbikes and Morgana FLAILs into Adam’s deployment zone to score two points for Break the Line. My GREL Support Team has also been trading fire with Adam’s Eagle, with little to no results. I give up and start moving them towards one of my hold objectives, hoping to park on it. I lose a Morgana to the Eagle while the other one keeps rushing across the table to harass Adam’s Owl, which by now has retreated to finish off my Hoverbikes on my left. I manage to take out the Dark Jaguar with rifle first though, so that’s worth it.

Last few activations of the game, Adam manages to get his full-health Naga and his injured Owl onto objectives. I secure both of my Hold objectives, and then send in the Morgana to try and HMG down the Owl, but fail to do anything.

I’ve got all of my objectives, scored at the maximum possible points, and Adam has Break the Line for two, one of his Capture, and one of his Hold. That puts me at a

6-4 CEF Victory!

Post Game Analysis

Well, I forgot my Airstrike counter again. Sigh. I just put in an order at Dream Pod 9 for some actual airstrike token miniatures, which hopefully will make it harder for me to forget the fact that I paid 4 TV for one!

Things are finally starting to click for me. List building is a huuuuge part of this game, as it defines a lot about your capabilities for your turn. I’ve got a tenuous grasp on it–I can do it sort of, but it’s difficult to articulate. In some cases, there’s not much decision making to be had–a thing with a big gun should pew pew at stuff. However, some other stuff like APCs have a lot going on for them. You don’t want to expose an APC to fire, because they have important stuff inside, and you want to go fast to deliver your cargo… but at the same time you want to be braced so your cargo can get out and do stuff on their activation.

So you could conceivably just move an APC and then not have any useful targets for it. In such a case, you want to make sure that you have a good outlet for Actions that are meaningful, much like having a mana sink in Magic the Gathering can be useful. To that end, I like the Command HPC-64 variant because it adds ECM. This is a great action sink, because just keeping a +1d6 defense bubble up is a great use of the HPC-64’s action.

As for what it should be armed with, I’m not sure I like the one with the Medium Artillery Rockets and kinda prefer the one with the Laser Cannon… Here were my thoughts on that, lifted from a discussion on the Discord.

  1. it’s gonna be in a GP squad with a ton of infantry, probably. Unless I’m taking AVM infantry or Mortar infantry, I’m not really going to be Forward Observing and nominating the GP squad. Plus in a Hoverbike CG group, the bikes will be all over the place and won’t be able to effectively be a part of the FO anyway, probably.
  2. I really want to be spending that action on ECM defense or smoke if I have smoke. I don’t want to spend the order on the MAR for one die on stuff if I can avoid it. There are some activation order of operation tricks that you can pull, e.g. leaving the GP squad till the end, but my hover bikes are so important to my strategy that I want some flexibility in activation order.
  3. I want the threat of a LLC. I’m willing to dump ECM to take a shot on a gear attacking one of my other things, if I’m in optimal range. I can’t do that with the MAR.

Honestly I’m really considering just downgrading all the way to a Command Medic HPC-64 to get two points, discourage you from actually shooting it, and letting me spend the action where I want it, on ECM. I’ve played a few games with the MAR now, it just feels awkward to have the MAR, and I’ve wished multiple times to have the LLC in all the games I’ve played. One can certainly build to make the MAR relevant, but I struggle to find a scenario where that’s better than CEF’s other options. Maybe there is one, but right now the MAR feels counterproductive to what I’m asking the HPC-64 to do.

In the same Discord chat, it was brought to my attention that the rules for allow two interpretations of indirect fire, which allows you to target an arbitrary point on the table in addition to targeting a model. If you target a model, you must have sensor lock on the model. However, it’s unclear if you require sensor lock to a point. I was taught that you require sensor lock to both models and points on the table, but some longtime players have interpreted the rules as you don’t need sensor lock to a point.

Under said interpretation, you could fire indirect weapons at maximum range at all times. You’d be on bad dice odds, but you might get lucky from time to time. In this case, I’m still not convinced that the MAR is the right tool, if for no other reason than I don’t like rolling bad dice odds on multiple attacks and failing repeatedly. It tends to make me feel stupid for trying, and like I wasted the action… which usually is a recipe for me getting frustrated and making bad decisions. I’d rather take the more likely shot on a LLC, or just save 2TV and take the Medic variant so I can have more smoke elsewhere in the list. In any case, if you’re interested in following the discussion, you can check out the forum thread.

I do think that I played this game very carefully, and used my Hoverbikes well to score objectives and to harass Adam’s lighter gears, which is what they were designed for, I think. Perhaps I’m treating the game too much like Infinity, as that is the game that I’ve got the most experience in. I’m curious to know what I think of the idea of an “action sink” a year from now. For example, in addition to the above discussion about the HPC-64, I basically spent a whole turn not doing anything with my Recon group of two LHT-67’s and the HC-3A. I wish I had a better action sink for them than the smoke–and their comparatively light armor made me leery of attacking Adam’s gears aggressively.

I think CEF does benefit from their relatively high movement rating and ability to ignore many different types of terrain thanks to Hover and Jump Jets, so they can reposition effectively. I do think that having the Morgana FLAILs on the left to serve as guards for my MHT-95 would have been a better use of them, which would have allowed me to shift my Hoverbikes to the right and harass Adam’s gears some more. Morgana FLAILs moving I/H: 7 is pretty great and would’ve let me go harass Adam’s Owl much earlier, which was causing me so much grief.

Some comments on Black Talons:

  • They hit like TRUCKS.
  • They are very hard to kill–you need to catch them in the open.
  • They don’t really play the attrition game well, which I’m coming to understand is a big part of this game (hence the battle report title).
  • They really don’t want to be doing missions that require them to take and hold an area, because they don’t degrade gracefully.

I think one of the nice parts of CEF is that I can take some truly chonky monsters that aren’t considered Fire Support, so I can take a whole point off the table for enemy fire support squads. I like that a lot, and I think it forced a bad decision on Adam here to choose both Capture and Hold (although I think his sublist required him to take Capture?).

Regarding the testing we were doing, adding the ability to choose speed the first time you act/react didn’t break the game, but it did introduce a lot more fussing and bookkeeping. Ultimately, while it offered some more interesting tactical choices, we thought the additional cognitive load and book keeping far outweighed any positive things. We’ve passed that feedback on to the powers that be.

Anyway. I have some more thoughts which aren’t well formed enough to really articulate yet, so I’ll leave things here for now. I hope to continue improving on the quality of these reports. I don’t think I’ll start photo-editing for them to the same degree as I do my Infinity reports–that sucks up a huge amount of time (and isn’t very fun, honestly), but I can probably increase the number of photos. Let me know if you have strong opinions about it! Thanks for reading.

WiseKensai

WiseKensai

I primarily play Infinity and Heavy Gear nowadays, but I dabble in plenty of other game systems.

One thought on “Sanding Down Talons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.