Heavy Gear is a game universe published since 1994 by Canadian publisher Dream Pod 9. It includes a tabletop tactical wargame, a role-playing game and a lesser known combat card game (Heavy Gear Fighter). The setting is also known through the PC-game incarnations published by Activision in 1997 and 1999, developed after Activision lost the rights to the Battletech/MechWarrior series. It also spawned a 40-episodes, 3D-animated TV series in 2001, which featured a much simplified version of the universe developed in the role-playing game.
The background universe of the game is extremely detailed: several million words have been published to date in more than a hundred books and game accessories. A continual epic storyline runs throughout all of the game's material, with new publications moving chronologically along the timeline.
As the name implies, Heavy Gear is best known for its humanoid combat vehicles (or mecha): the 'Gears' and 'Striders' used by the military forces in the setting. Its mecha designs are typical of those found in the Real Robot anime genre; they are most similar in size and tactical role to those in Ryousuke Takahashi's 1983 Armored Trooper Votoms anime.
As of 6132 AD (TN 1936, local calendar), the Confederated Northern City-States (CNCS) and the Allied Southern Territories (AST) are recovering and rebuilding from the War of the Alliance, a brutal (and failed) attempt by the new Earth government to regain control of its colony. Despite a common enemy, the polar superpowers have great fear and animosity for each other, while the independent City-States of the equatorial region known as the Badlands simply try to survive the crossfire.
The storyline behind the game eventually moves off-world, as Terranovan special-ops teams are sent to try and regain contact with the other human colonies in order to unite them against the fascist government controlling Earth.
The Heavy gear setting has a number of unresolved mysteries in the setting. A few of these are listed below. It is unknown if any of these will be revealed due to the developer turnover at Dream Pod 9.
The Heavy Gear books are notable for their heavily illustrated content, above and beyond most of the games of the same period. Each book featured highly-detailed plans and cutaways of the machines, along with flags, insignias, maps and other visual information to help players' immersion. Most of the artwork was done by illustrator Ghislain Barbe, who was also responsible for the artwork of Jovian Chronicles, another Dream Pod 9 game line with similar anime inspirations. Although he has since left Dream Pod 9, Ghislain continues to produce book covers for Heavy Gear Blitz!.
The third edition of the Heavy Gear RPG uses a separate Silhouette CORE Rulebook, which is needed for play. The Heavy Gear 3rd Edition book contains useful summaries from many 2nd edition products, combined with some detailed statistics for both the SilCORE and OGL D20 systems.
Heavy Gear: Blitz! Locked & Loaded is the most recent Heavy Gear publication, which contains no role-playing material and is styled as a dedicated wargame. It is the first updated set of Heavy Gear: Blitz! rules since its first incarnation in 2006 which was released concurrently with a new line of miniatures. The latest version of the book contains an streamlined rule system, and innovative new army building system, complete army lists and background information for four factions, a basic campaign system, a painting guide, and a timeline of historic events in the Heavy Gear universe. The Heavy Gear: Blitz! rules are intended for use with 1:144 scale model terrain, but it is still possible to use hexed mapsheets and paper counters.
The Heavy Gear Blitz! ruleset was a nominee for the 2007 Origins Award for Best Miniatures Game or Expansion of the Year.
A fourth edition of the Silhouette game engine will be published by Steve Jackson Games in 2009, under agreement with Dream Pod 9.
Heavy Gear has had three successive lines of wargaming miniatures starting with the RAFM produced 1:87 scale line, then the in-house produced 1:144 scale Tactical Rules and varrying scale Fleet line, and the current 1:144 scale resculpted line for Heavy Gear: Blitz!
The 1:87 scale RAFM line was launched in 1995. The miniatures were largely cast in lead until public safety concerns, originally raised in 1993, influenced the gaming industry to cast lead-free miniatures. The price increase from the adoption of lead-free pewter made Dream Pod 9 reconsider the size and scale of their miniatures. As a result, the RAFM line of Heavy Gear miniatures was discontinued and never expanded beyond the Northern and Southern Terra Novan factions.
The 1:144 scale Tactical Rules line was launched in 1997. It was largely the result of a desire to decrease the production cost inherent in lead-free pewter miniatures. The Tactical Rules line was also developed with a greater attention to the control of proportions of the various Heavy Gear designs using CAD illustrations as guides. The Heavy Gear miniature range was then expanded beyond the Northern and Southern factions to include designs from the Badlands and Colonial Earth Forces factions. The later Tactical Rules line miniatures were sculpted by Philippe Ferrier Le Clerc, who joined Dream Pod 9 in 2001. He also provided Heavy Gear limited edition resin miniatures through his boutique studio, Minimaniak
During the same era as the Tactical Rules miniatures, Fleet Scale miniatures were also introduced which ranged from 1:350 scale for infantry, tanks, heavy gears, and striders to 1:3500 scale for landships.
The 1:144 scale Heavy Gear: Blitz! line was launched in 2006. It preserved some of the Tactical Rules line miniatures for recasting. However, the majority of the Tactical Rules line miniatures will be resculpted. The intention of this change was that the miniatures bear a closer resemblance to the original hand drawn illustrations, that they have a greater range of possible poses, and that unit recognition is made easier for overall improved gameplay. In order to accomplish this, the difference in size between some miniatures has been exaggerated by approximately 10% and the miniatures are now cast on sprues, which allows many smaller, modular parts to be cast. Another effect of the Heavy Gear: Blitz! line of miniatures has been an appreciable increase in detail due to new sculpting and resin-master casting techniques. It has also produced the first new Heavy Gear designs in many years.
Fusion Models has also produced a 1:35 scale resin model of Heavy Gear's Kodiak heavy assault Gear.
The task resolution and tests involve rolling a number of 6-sided dice, taking the highest result, adding in modifiers for attributes and/or situation, and then comparing it to a set threshold number. If the result is higher than the threshold the test is a success; if it is lower the test is a failure. The margin by which the test succeeded (Margin of Success, MoS) or failed (Margin of Failure, MoF) helps to determine the final outcome. Characters may suffer penalty-inflicting wounds rather than depleting a set number of health points.
Some players regard the system as particularly lethal, especially for inexperienced characters. A variety of optional rules are available in the SilCORE rulebook to mitigate this lethality.
Activision acquired the computer game license in 1995 after they lost access to the Battletech/MechWarrior property. The story of the first game, Heavy Gear: The New Breed, followed the crew of the CNCS landship (an enormous hovercraft carrier), 'Vigilance' as they played a cat-and-mouse game across the Badlands with a rival landship from the AST, the 'Draco'. The game was made for the Windows 95 operating system and was partly based on existing MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries code.
An online demo version of Heavy Gear 2 was available some months before the official demo and was a success in the Mechwarrior community.
In the second game, Heavy Gear 2: Black Talon, an atrocity caused by the New Earth Concordat (NEC) — the destruction of the Peace River weapons facility by a special explosive charge — leads to a formal cease-fire between the Northern and Southern Leagues. A team of elite Special-Ops pilots from across the planet, equipped with advanced prototype Gears, are sent to the planet Caprice, the nearest NEC base, to find out more and strike back at the enemy. The game was made for the Windows 98 operating system, though a Linux version was also released later on by Loki Software. Unlike the previous title, it used an entirely new game engine, which was also used in Interstate '82.
DVD releases include two volumes released in North America in 2002 by Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment, each with five episodes edited together into "feature length" stories. 2004 saw a UK two disc Season One set released including both "feature length" stories and three standalone episodes, which collectively held the first thirteen episodes of the series in one form or other, but lack the bonus commentary tracks present on the 2002 North American releases. Also in 2004, Anchor Bay briefly released a very cheap single disc release in Canada with another five episodes from later on in the series. Columbia Tristar's releases are anamorphic widescreen, whereas Anchor Bay's release is letterboxed widescreen, both of which are preferable to the cropped fullscreen versions seen on most syndicated broadcasts.
The Dream Pod 9 creative staff had very little input in the series' content, and the animated universe differs significantly from the game's. The show was aimed at an audience much younger than the one the property had previously targeted. The producers' original intent was to start the series with a mecha-combat tournament held between the Vanguard of Justice and the Shadow Dragons (representatives of Terra Nova's Northern and Southern armies respectively), but after the resolution of the tournament storyline rising tensions would lead to war between the North and South, which would in turn be followed by an invasion from Earth trying to reconquer its old colony planet, forcing the North and South to join forces for their own survival. Worries that having the bad guys from the early episodes (the Vanguard characters) suddenly working with the good guys, and shifting from a tournament-styled competition to all-out mecha warfare, would have been too confusing for their targeted age group led to a decision to not use the war storyline. What ended up happening on the show was that they ran the tournament storyline as planned but even though the tournament had been 'won' within the first dozen or so episodes, the two teams just kept having exhibition matches and the like for the remainder of the 40 episode run.
The "in-universe" explanation for the difference between the universes is that the animated series is a Terra Novan entertainment program not unlike real-world professional wrestling.
Sony Pictures Family Entertainment has acquired the rights to the popular video game Heavy Gear.(Brief Article)
Nov 08, 1999; Sony Pictures Family Entertainment has acquired the rights to the popular video game Heavy Gear, which the studio will bring to...