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Squad Building in Heavy Gear Blitz

First Thought: They aren’t Squads

I’m getting back into the ‘rules’ side of Heavy Gear beyond idly painting when my limited spare time permits. One thing that I think is important to keep in mind compared to older editions is that Heavy Gear Blitz 3rd edition uses ‘Combat Groups’ (abbreviated CG) as a game term. Here’s the official definition from he newest version of the rules:

A combat group is a group of models that acts as a team.

Heavy Gear Blitz Tabletop Wargaming, 3rd Edition Rules (Version 3.1), Page 7

Importantly, this is the term used across the rules. There’s a couple tiny steps away from it, but a HGB3 Combat Group is a universal term and could be anything from a single ridiculously huge tank to a small pile of Utopian Drones. A full CG of Infantry might represent a couple dozen pairs of boots on the grounds even if it’s much less detailed in game.

Looking at it from a technical standpoint, a Combat Group is:

MetadataCG Name, etc.
RolePrimary Function. This is one of GP, Strike, Fire Support, Recon, Special Operations, and Fortification and the ‘main’ models in the CG will need to have this group listed under the Roles column. This Role is also used for generating objectives: A Strike CG will be expected to do more aggressive stuff than a General Purpose group.
Models from Primary RoleThe CG must have 4-6 Actions worth of models which match the role specified above. Note that many faction/sub-faction rules mess with availability almost always adding it. Most Models are a single action, with exceptions for vehicles with multiple crew members and the more ‘elite’ specialists.
Secondary RoleThis is basically an “add-on” and is used to constrain supporting units.
Models from Secondary RoleTake the number of Actions selected for the Primary Role and halve it. There’s a hard cap of “3” just in case a special rule allows the normal limit of 6 to be exceeded. You can add this many Actions of models from a supporting role.
CGLThe Combat Group Leader is designated.
UpgradesVarious ‘positions’ within the CGL unlock access to various upgrades.

Previous editions of Blitz used various terms for the concept of ‘Squad:’

Squad, Cadre, Platoon, Team, Troupe, etc.

(Bonus: These aren’t even consistent within a faction, especially as there’s some models that break the rules and just kind of show up on their own.)

This reflected a somewhat more ‘simulationist’ style of force construction. The player was basically detailing a fictional unit of a military force in the setting. You could take your constructed force and use it as the backbone of a pseudo-historical “TO&E” (Table of Organization & Equipment) for the setting.

That worked, but had a few issues.

Second Thought: A Combat Group as part of a more Infinite World

I haven’t had a chance to actually talk to The Rooster, the primary designer behind HGB3, but I feel like there’s some definite influence drawn from the Infinity game. From what I’ve seen of Infinity, it has a similar “flow” with a tight turn limit so players have focus on achieving objectives quickly and efficiently. There’s no room to ‘waste’ actions and even initial placement of models can have a serious impact on the game. Place your forces too hesitantly and they won’t be able to get to their objectives.

(To compare, for HGB the standard game is 4 rounds. That means a single Action model, which includes most common troopers or an Infantry team, can act four times. Even the ‘Main Battle Tank’ scale Medium Hovertanks can only act 12 times, and the slightly insane HHT-90 Overlord would have a total of ((3+3(*4) 24 actions, but it’s also 70 points and all but a ‘one model’ army, if you don’t mind that one model being ‘kind of ridiculous’.

The first tabletop wargame I played was Warhammer 40,000 3rd edition. A lot of scenarios had random turn limits, but it seems like a lot of places ignored those rules or only used them in ‘tournament’ style games. You might have a turn or two of “pot shots” and maneuvering before the interesting bit happens, and I don’t feel the rules of that era helped things. Modern games (including, I think, new versions of 40k!) are written with the idea that gamers want to actually finish a game, and maybe have time for 2 games without requiring chess clocks, draconian enforcement of rules, or skipping the mandatory juice box/adult beverage/snack break.

Third Thought: It’s Cinematic

So Combat Groups are an evolution of Squads, but If eel they’re a very different thing. I feel that in consideration we need to look back a bit and consider this from a slightly cinematic angle. In other words:

A Combat Group is how the fictional military units we’re playing with would ‘actually’ work in a stressful combat situation.

That’s my working theory. A Combat Group isn’t something that would be set in stone in the game’s fiction, but more something the force’s commander would arrange as needed: Splitting up a “real” squad into fire teams and adding in supporting units both closely aligned (same Role) and more diverse (Secondary Role).

The fiction is the Force Leader saying, “OK, we need to hold this line. Who’s available? Let’s use Red in his Sidewinder with Harold in his Blitz Jager as backup and a couple Infantry Teams to round it out. Oh, and they have a Cobra in case they need to threaten a tank. Everyone else is needed for the other mission, over here…”

It’s more how in a movie you’re more concerned with what looks good moving around the battlefield than who’s signing the paychecks for the infantry vs. the special forces they’re working with.

Is It a Good System?

Overall, I think this is an improvement and good for the game.

Personally, it’s breaking me away from my miserably slow painting making me worry about building Squads (or Troupes, Cadres, etc.) and just worry about painting models. I can now just keep an inventory and have them uniquely identified by faction. It encourages fluid list building and a larger game environment (or ‘meta’) where the expectation is that if (for example) the Snakeye Black Mamba is deemed to be over-powered it will get revised in time. Constant small evolution of the game to keep the game from getting stale and make the experience better. Don’t spend a week’s pay buying the recently released broken squad of the month, because it will get fixed sooner instead of later.

I don’t know if this is an intent of the developer: Despite doing work for DP9 I enjoy being surprised and don’t ask for a lot of inside information beyond what is needed to do my job.

I do wonder if some more exceptions should be made. It bothers my “fluff sense” to see some groupings that don’t make as much sense, and I sometimes feel like as written the Roles are too easily assigned.

For the ‘fluff’ aspect it just feels weird to use Infantry Teams to basically ‘pad out’ a Combat Group. It makes some sense from a mechanical aspect and my above rationalization works somewhat, but it just feels weird. I’ve previously suggested before having Infantry as a sort of specialized exception to the current rules: A Combat Group of Infantry must be all Infantry and Infantry Vehicles with perhaps some leeway for Gears in the Secondary Role.

As for Roles being too easily assigned, I wouldn’t have minded if we’d seen almost all models with two or more Role options drop one. As I mentioned above, there’s six options. However, you lose one to Fortifications (which are Buildings after all) so it’s effectively five. The common ‘three Role’ models cover half of the Roles! It’s often “GP, SK, FS” so the Roles feel a bit interchangeable. I’d love to see how the community reacts if the average ‘GP, SK, FS’ gear lost one of these. It could potentially be gained back by Sub-List rules.

Sub-List rules often modify Roles. For example, the Western Frontier Protectorate get:

Pristine Antiques: Hunters, Ferrets, Weasels, Wildcat and Bobcats may be placed in a GP, SK, FS or RC units. This does not include Hunter XMGs.

Heavy Gear Blitz Tabletop Wargaming, 3rd Edition Rules (Version 3.1), Page 81

That’s great, except:

  • All plain “Hunters” already get GP, SK, FS with the most basic Hunter getting GP+. (Without the + you can only have two of the same model in a CG.). Same for the Stripped Down Hunter, Para Hunter, Spearhead Hunter, Armored Hunter, and Bear Hunter.
  • The Ferret, Weasel, and Bobcats are all GP, FS, RC.
  • Wildcats are similar to Hunters (GP, SK, FS) with the exception of the Pathfinder variant (GP, SK, RC)

Essentially each impacted model gets one Role added. It’s a small rule, and it sounds cool to people reading it… But it does distressingly little. I guess it rewards ‘diligent’ players who have a lot of rules mastery as in general you probably don’t want slow, “meh” electronics Hunters in Recon groups, or fragile Ferrets in Strike groups. It’s still something. though. It’s a bit frustrating to the less experienced player as it looks impressive, but really isn’t.

The Southern “Police State” rule is a bit better. It only impacts three chassis (The Mamba MP, Cobra MP, and Iguana MP) and doubles their availability, with all variants going from GP or GP+ and SK availability to add FS and SO.

Debrief and/or Wrap Party

The take-away is to not be overly precious about units that “feel” right. Make Combat Groups that have synergies (as skill I’m still learning) and go from there.

Disclaimer; I’ve down work for DP9 over the years, mainly trying to keep their internet presence stable and happy. I don’t contribute to rules development any more than any other voice on the DP9 forums. Games Workshop (40k) and Corvus Belli (Infinity) don’t pay me anything, but I also don’t do any work for them, so I guess we’re even.

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