This is another in an ongoing open-ended series of posts digging into various rules I’ve encountered since I’m actually getting to play Heavy Gear Blitz! 3.1 occasionally. Please note that I’ve done work for the publisher, Dream Pod 9, although not in a rules writing/creative capacity.
Importantly, I’m still a new player to these rules and will make mistakes! Feel free to correct me, preferably on the DP9 Forums or the Heavy Gear Blitz discord.
“ECM” in Heavy Gear Blitz is roughly akin to ‘magic’ in a lot of other war-games: It’s a sort of layer of stuff that interacts with the normal moving and shooting of the wargame, but provide a feel of the idea of jamming, hacking enemies, and similar trickery that makes sense for the high-tech battlefields of the Heavy Gear universe.
ECM is part of the core and can be ignored if you don’t use it, but many models (often those intended for ‘Recon’ usage) have various Traits which enable and enhance it. That could be a separate article, but right now this is a focus on ways to get the valuable ‘ECM+’ trait. Here’s the ECM+ trait description:
This model has an enhanced electronic counter-measure system. A model with the ECM+ trait performs all functions of the ECM trait, but its ECM defense is always in effect unless it is haywired.Heavy Gear Blitz 3.1 rules, page 48
So basically this trait replaces the lower-level basic ECM trait, which enables several Actions and Reactions to hack enemies, jam communications, and protect against enemy ECM. These all take Actions, but ECM+ makes one Action automatic: The ECM Defense action.
ECM Defense is an action which creates a 6″ diameter “bubble” in which every friendly model (including the model activating ECM Defense) gets a +1d6 bonus to all defense rolls. That’s a huge bonus! Models with ECM+ are always generating this bubble so don’t need to use actions to create it. This means the ECM specialist in a team can keep the defensive bubble up and still make a hacking attempt. It’s a somewhat limited trait, and there’s minimal need for more than one or two sources per CG.
The below is a review of the ECM platforms:
The Northern forces have the Weasel as their premiere ECM+ platform with the Weasel. At 9 points it’s near the bottom end of costs, although it’s predictably on a fragile chassis with only a Light Autocannon and a knife for defense. It does include the free Veteran trait, and the Tattletale upgrade adds an extra SP on top of that. The Weasel has potential as a command platform or ‘second in command’ if it’s used properly.
The other option is the White Cat Cheetah model as well as the stealth variant based on the Cheetah, the Black Cat. Both are 11 point models and offer improved survivability and airdrop features the Weasel can’t offer.
The Basilisk is essentially a Jaeger with upgraded sensors. The Silverscale is a Basilisk with further upgraded sensors and ECM+ along with comms, a Target Designator, and sensor boom. Like it’s Northern Weasel counterpart it’s 9 points, which isn’t the cheapest option, but close to it. The Silverscale retains the common ‘trooper’ array of armaments: A Light Autocannon, Light Rocket Pod, and Vibroblade and APGL. The sensor boom also allows for some interesting tricks to keep it in defensive cover if used as a spotter.
Next up is the Black Box Iguana, one of several variants of the Iguana recon-focused design. It’s 11 points for a very capable ECM platform with average firepower for defense. Note that the Chatterbox is a slightly less capable version and a point cheaper than the Black Box’s 11 points. However, only the Black Box variant has ECM+ on the ubiquitous Iguana platform. The Paratrooper Iguana doesn’t have a full ECM+ equipped variant.
As the North and South tend to mirror each other’s technical developments, it should be no surprise that the South’s Stealth Gear roster has an ECM+ variant. The Chameleon is derived from the Iguana, but massively redesigned to add stealth capabilities. Every model has ECM+ at 12 or 13 points. With the included Veteran trait it’s a great pairing with the heavier stealth Snakeye Black Mamba or Green Mamba variants.
Peace River has a few more options than the North and South, but more importantly the POC or Peace Officer Corps sub list can use the ECM Specialist rule to upgrade 1 gear or strider per CG from ECM to ECM. At a single point, this is a great deal. Models with ECM include:
- Warrior (with the Spectre upgrade)
- Warrior IV (again, with the Spectre upgrade)
- Spartan (Requires Spectre upgrade)
- Black Wind
The upgrade does allows for some fun tricks like a highly mobile ECM+ bubble with the Black Wind. Note that as EW skill is not upgraded, some platforms may be easy to hack and shut down the ECM defense.
Moving to regular models, the Skirmisher is 9 or 10 points depending on the variant, but all variants include ECM+. It’s a pretty capable reconnaissance design with high speed and Agile to aid survivability.
Despite being based on the Skirmisher, the Shinobi moves it to a 2 point upgrade to a base model that ranges from 9-12 points. An 11 point stealth model is cheaper than other stealth options that add ECM+..
The Greyhound is an 11 point ECM+ asset that is very fast. There’s a command variant in the Chieftain Upgrade that enhances the other ECM capabilities by lowering EW to 3+, adding ECCM, and adding a Skill Point.
The Hyena II is a tank-strider and one of the more expensive models to have a ‘standard’ option for ECM+. It can spend 2 points for the Spectre Dog Upgrade which also drops the EW skill of the model from 6+ to 4+. The Hyena is an expensive model at 20 points with only a single action, but the Spectre Dog can enhance survivability for the strider as well as its team.
The only EMC+ in the NuCoal armory is the Jerboa and Paratrooper Jerboa variants.
A Jerboa needs to be either the stock model or the Jerboa Flash version at 9 or 10 points respectively. However, the Jerboa has weapon ‘upgrades’ to replace it’s normal Medium Rifle with either a Frag Cannon or Rapid Fire Bazooka: Both reduce the point cost by 1 point, so a basic Jerboa is 8 points and tied for the cheapest source of ECM+ on the list. This is a great option if the intent is to have the Jerboa using its actions for other ECM-related actions instead of shooting.
If you need airdrop capabilities the Jerboa Paratrooper is similarly affordable at 8 points and has a LAC/LGL for it’s primary weapon. It’s slightly less capable as the ECCM upgrade is swapped out, but a great accompaniment for others units that can be deployed from the air.
One concern for the Jerboa is while it’s high speed, it’s a standard ‘W/G’ SMS unit and can’t take advance of the ‘W/H’ features of the Chasseur trooper despite having the same speed.
It would be a surprise if the elite, stealth-focused Black Talons didn’t have access to ECM Defense and ECM+. In addition to purpose-built units the Black Talon Recon Teams (BTRT) can use the ECM Specialist rule identical to Peace River to add ECM+ to units with basic ECM. Units that can benefit from this include:
- Dark Warrior
- Dark Cheetah
- Dark Naga Psi
- Black Wind
The more focused ECM+ platforms for the Black Talons start with the Raven which is 14 to 16 points depending on the variant, but also a two action model allowing a very wide ‘mission profile’ for the elite unit. It’s part of the ‘Claw Series’ of cutting-edge Gears so all variants are well-armed and highly mobile compared to older dedicated platforms.
If you need something cheaper, the Dark Skirmisher ranges from 11 to 13 points, but you’re only getting a single action. It’s likely that Dark Skirmisher pilots are recruited from Terra Nova forces that pilot the Cheetah, Iguana, and Skirmisher-based units (including their stealth cousins) and retrain on the more familiar Dark Skirmisher before being trained on the highly mobile Raven or similar. The Dark series are ‘normal’ Gears compared to their cousins that have added special features to enable special mobility and similar.
The Dark Hyena II is similar to the Peace River model but pays a base of 22 points for the stealth and veteran upgrades and retains the 2 point Spectre Upgrade option to enhance the EW score and add the ECM+ trait. It’s essentially the Peace River Tank-Strider with stealth and better trained pilots.
The “invader” factions are all quite limited on ECM options. The CEF is reliant on the HC-3A as its only ‘native’ ECM+ option at 13 points for the hover command vehicle. It’s expensive, but a highly mobile recon vehicle that can upgrade to a GREL crew for a hefty 3 points to lower every skill including the EW skill.
Caprice has a single ECM+ platform in the Jammer Bashan at an expensive 15 points. This is a complete ECM platform with the usual Caprice advantages and drawbacks. The Terra Nova factions can get a dedicated ECM+ model and still have enough for a dedicated ‘cheap’ trooper for the same cost. Caprice players need to make use of their walker’s climbing abilities and Stable trait.
Utopia’s ECM choice is the Recce Armiger. All three variants are 14 point ECM+ platforms. The difference between the three is the equipped weapons, so thought may required as to the role of the unit.
One option I was reminded of for this is the Other Utopian Forces can use the Frank-N-KIDU to purchase a Veteran or Duelist upgrade option for one Drone per combat group which could allow a few drones, specifically the ECM Commando N-KIDU and ECM Recce N-KIDU models, to upgrade ECM to ECM+. This allows for our cheapest option, a 4 point Drone with a 1 point option: a 5 point ECM+ model. This is very limited, as it’s a single sub-faction
Unlike the other “Invader” factions, Eden has two models with ECM+! However, they range from the 8 point Warlock Adept Golem to the 80 point Baroness airship. The Warlock Adept is the most likely of these to be distributed where it can provide cover for Combat Groups.
The Warlock chassis can go cheaper if you’re willing to sacrifice maneuverability: It’s eligible for a -1 point Hydor “upgrade” that swaps the normal jetpack for Submersible movement. The Sub trait is highly terrain dependent and it might not be worth it, but if you need to shave a point it’s an option. Something to consider is the use of a 7 point ECM+ model to augment various other ‘invader’ factions (or Black Talons) which have sublist options allow Eden allies
The Baroness is in the unofficial ‘Very Large Model’ range and probably not an everyday model for most. Of the current ‘Very Large Models’ it is the second most expensive at 80 points (the Gilgamesh can be 85 points for the “B” configuration or 77 for the A with Engineering Upgrade). It is also the only one that provides ECM of any sort although Coms and Satellite uplinks are universal: You will likely want a ‘minder’ for most of the large models to provide the ECM Defense bonus.
If you can’t find ECM+, another option is to use the Duelist upgrade slot, which is a limited resource for almost all factions. If your force hails from Khayr ad-Din this is easy, but for most forces you’re limited to just one Duelist They essentially get a form of the Peace River or Black Talon ECM Specialist rule in that a Duelist can upgrade ECM to ECM+ for 1 point. This is likely on top of expensive Veteran upgrades, but does provide an option.
ECM Defense is a large advantage and I think the current implementation is fun as it encourages actively using ECM Attack to strip a squad of this defensive layer. In my limited experience I’m also looking at he actual ‘cost’ of the lesser ECM to keep the defense bubble active. It costs an action but ECM is much more common. It’s often available on multiple-action units and in some cases there may be value to using an Action to give an entire combat group a bonus die to defense on models with a single ‘big hitter’ weapon like the Command Naga or similar. The ‘ECM Bubble’ does encourage maintaining a tight formation, which of course makes the blob a tasty target for area effect weapons.