On March 8, ten Heavy Gear Blitz fans converged on Avatar Games and Comics in Las Vegas for a 285 Threat Value (TV) tournament. Local Pod Squad god Mark Perre collected the $5 entry fee, refereed the event, played the ringer army, and supplied many of the armies and most of the terrain. With the restrictions of Priority Level 1, 285 TV, and a single squad, fielding my elite Black Talons would be impossible. A week or two before the tourney, I asked Perre to help construct a list for me from either the Northern squad or Southern squad I have, but he did me one better and offered to create a list from his own miniatures. I was almost all set.
Learning a Game Through Tournaments
While this may anger some players, I believe that the best way to learn a competitive game and get good at it is to play it in tournaments. In theory, you will face competitive, well-balanced lists. Your opponent will not have tailored his army to either crush yours specifically or to let you have an easy win. Most tournament players’ lists will also be free of experimental ideas and goofy or silly themes. Bragging rights are on the line and an entry fee has been paid. Because of this, I have played many more games of Warmachine in tournaments than I ever have casually. With the elimination of sportsmanship scores in most tournaments, another objection to noobs playing tournaments is removed. Even if horribly beaten and dismembered, the newbie can’t mark his opponent down, so there should be no concern for holding back on the new player. With all this in mind, I had RSVP’d for the tournament, intent on improving my game.
Southern Gearhunter Cadre
The list Perre handed to me was a Gearhunter Cadre from the South. I had two offensive Striking Jagers with Light Bazookas. These both had an extra Sturdy box coming from Field Armor for +10 TV each. My Army Commander (AC) was in a Command Jager and had 3 Attack and 4 Defense. He was supplemented by a regular Jager with Light Auto Cannon and Field Armor as well as a Brawling Jager. All of my Jagers had Light Rocket Pods.
Game 1: South on South
Having briefly reviewed my Field Manual and paid the entry fee, I faced my first opponent, Tony Sandoval. Sandoval was also using a Southern Army. Sandoval has been playing Heavy Gear since he was 16, when it was a card game. He has a number of the older Ral Partha HO-scale gears which are out of scale with Dream Pod 9’s modern figures. I tried to place my five Jagers conservatively against him, hoping for some Cover bonuses knowing that Heavy Gear is action-packed from the get-go. We chose to spend our Support Points on more Command Points. I only learned later that we were required to do this by the tournament rules. I was also surprised to learn that tournament games were limited to 3 Turns. It turns out that I needed a lot of refreshers, but I had an excellent teacher in the form of my opponent.
When the dust settled, I was victorious because the Mamba I managed to take out cost more points than the sole Jager Sandoval had eliminated. Speaking about the match later, Sandoval said, “I thought it was a good game. It was fast like Heavy Gear should be. It was just a little weird teaching somebody how to beat me.” Sandoval’s “lessons” were mostly in the form of bonuses and penalties. If I would move that Hunter just a bit further up, I would get a Crossfire bonus. If my gears were at Top Speed, they’d be harder to hit. We both agreed that bad dice were not a part of my eventual victory. Sandoval’s plan had been to headhunt my Army Commander, but his Hand Grenades’ shrapnel found nothing but air against my AC who boasted 4 Defense dice. Since I was going last, at the bottom of Turn 3 I was able to throw aside any defensive considerations and concentrate fire on one of his exposed Mambas. In this case, I believe Sandoval pointed out that I could go to Stop to get a further +1 to my Attack rolls, which ended up making the difference. After the fight, Sandoval also pointed out that my Brawler Jager with a Light Grenade Launcher spent 90% of the game out of the action, in part because I had placed him far back behind a building. More importantly, I had not realized I had the x15 Light Grenade Launcher until midway through the game.
Despite the loss, Sandoval was excited about the upcoming updated releases for the North and PRDF, though he will have to wait a bit to enjoy them in person. The next morning after the tournament, Sandoval relocated to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor, but he plans on starting a Heavy Gear blog or podcast once he returns. His parting advice to me was, “Just remember to stack your modifiers. Always try to gang up on one guy; concentrating fire is very helpful. The biggest thing is to figure out how to best stack your modifiers against your opponent. Taking a crappy shot with one guy is good if you can get a great shot with another guy.”
Game 2: Battling the Ringer
I began Game 2 when some others players were wrapping up their second games. With the other players tied up, I played organizer Mark Perre who was running the Northern ringer army, a Western Frontier Protectorate Army Veteran Dragoon Squad. Determined not to leave any of my squad out of the action and to be harder to hit from the get go, I positioned my Jagers forward, all at Top Ground Speed.
Like Sandoval’s Southern squad, Perre had me beat on Comm Events, so I rejected even trying to Forward Observe for the rest of my squad’s Light Rocket Pods. Instead I tried to get the Crossfire bonus from shots coming from greater than 90 degrees apart. My gears ran right up to the board edge, bunching up, trying to get their Light Bazooka shots in. Then metal started getting mangled. One Jager collapsed into a heap, blood oozing out. He became terrain. “Hot metal-munching mama!” I whispered to myself. The rest of my squad avoided a similar fate by simply being obliterated by Perre’s Anti Gear Missiles (AGMs) which were raining down. In the end, I was left with a single gear standing and had only taken out one of Mark Perre’s gears. Part of the reason I had survived even to Turn 3 was due to Perre providing three of my squad members with that Field Armor which added Sturdy boxes to my damage capacity.
Walter Childs won Best Painted for his Southern gears and received a Nu Coal Strike Squad, which he will have painted soon, no doubt. Childs went 0-3 in his games, but was in good spirits. As he pointed out, “For me, the hobby’s about painting, so I felt like I won. That’s all I care about. If I put my models on the table and they get smoked, I’m ok with that.”
The Overall Winner came down to Kill Points. Though he lost his first game against a Southern player’s Naga striders which were hunkered down behind buildings, Randy Guintivano won his next two games against Northern armies with his beautifully painted Peace River Defense Force General Purpose Squad. Guintivano is a relative newcomer to Heavy Gear Blitz, yet has racked up a lot of games in the two months he has been playing the game, even joining the Pod Squad as a play tester. But Guintivano had done his research; he spent two years reading the Dream Pod 9 forums before moving his first miniature.
Guintivano packed two Rapid Fire Bazookas into his squad, carried by Warriors, the workhorse gears of the PRDF. Yet it was his other two Warriors who had the greater glory on the battlefield, armed with Fragmentation Canon/Shotguns and HHGs. HHGs, as his opponents were quick to learn, are Heavy Hand Grenades. Instead of having a x15 Damage multiplier, they boast a x25 and Guintivano’s MVPs had three each. In his battles, he split his force into flanks in an effort to gain the Crossfire bonus. Then maximizing cover, he ran his close-combat Warriors up at Top Speed, spending Command Points to lob HHGs into the opposing gears’ surprised faces. Guintivano’s tactics on the field were rewarded with a $35 gift certificate to Dream Pod 9’s web store as well as a Peace River Strike Squad.
The tournament had other gains as well. One Warhammer 40K player who witnessed the tail end of the fighting, the ten armies, and the turnout for Heavy Gear is no longer on the fence about Heavy Gear: Blitz. The North has gained a new recruit in Las Vegas.