Do you like giant robots? Do you like awesome future tech? Do you like roller skates? Well then my friend, are you in for a treat. Many games are pretty fantastic but lack the art to really encompass their majesty. However this game has some truly fun art that is stylish and expresses the world quite well. Also the system is pretty great. So lets dig right in to...
Peritextual ElementsOne of the great strengths of this series is the art and layout. They are very well put together games with some truly stylistic and excellent art. The cover is pretty nice, The robots and anime influence are on display, and the black and yellow background colors makes for a unique experience. I will have to also review the Silhouette core rules set as well, as that is where a majority of the rules are The cover for that is a lot less...well its just a lot less in general. The formatting is easy to read and a solid example of two column design. heavy Gear also has a bunch of really solid maps of the planets involved and the regions on the main planet of Terra Nova. Rarely a page goes by without some sort of illustration on it. I dig it.
MechanicsThe mechanics of the Silhouette system are pretty simple, but they work rather well. You roll a number of six sided dice equal to your skill rating and take the highest die roll and add in your attribute modifier. You then compare that rolled number to a target number(either a static target or a rolled number by an opponent). How much higher or lower you roll is your margin for success or failure. It lets you know how well or how poorly you did at the roll. If you have no skill rating then you roll two dice and take the lowest number. If you have more than one six rolled each additional six adds a +1 to the total. If you roll all ones you have critically failed. As you can see there is a lot of information you could pull out of a given roll or set of roll. Your Attributes are: Agility, Appearance, Build, Creativity, Fitness, Influence, Knowledge, Perception, Psyche, and Willpower. They are rated from -3 to +3, centered on 0. You buy attributes with Character Points, and you have enough to have most of your attributes at 0 and a couple a little higher. Heavy gear is an adventurous game, so you start with 30 CP. There are also a bunch of skills and and different coasts for purchasing skills. You buy them with Skill points, in Heavy gear you get 50 SP for buying skills. You may also use those SP for purchasing Perks, and gain extra SP by taking Flaws.
I am kind of hate flaws that add points at character generation. I feel it tends to lead to certain behaviors in game that are less than optimal. Basically I think this concept can be designed better, and in fact I think it has been designed better. That said there is nothing inherently flawed with flaws of this sort, but it places the burden of the flaw on the GM rather than on the player or mechanics. Sorry, rant over. It is just a pet peeve of mine. Back to the rules breakdown.
You also get a bunch of derivative Attributes that alter play: Strength, Health, Stamina, Unarmed Damage, Armed Damage, Flesh Wound Threshold, Deep Wound Threshold, Instant Death Threshold, and System Shock. These are important, but they are not chose, so much as calculated based on other factors.
There are other systems that are used for the setting as well. You could use the d20 OGL system, as there are special classes and rules for that in the 3rd edition. There is also a lovely conversion to the D6 system done by a fan of both. I really dig that one, it uses Mini Six and is compatible with the rest of the system. So I could probably combine Heavy Gear and Star Wars...and Meta Barons...And Ghostbusters...and...well you get the idea.
SettingThe setting for Heavy Gear is pretty neat. It is set on a far off planet in the distant future. they were a colony. ON earth a long time ago the economy began to collapse and they pulled back from all their colonies, just leaving them in whatever condition they were in with whatever equipment and population they had. Terra Nova ended up abandoned. The planet has a massive desert around the equator and all the major population centers are in the north and the south, the middle is a sort of no mans land full of petty kingdoms and desert badlands. The north and the south are made up of big countries that use mecha called Heavy Gear(Its the name of the game) to fight a longstanding cold war that occasionally flares up hot. Also there is a bunch of meta plot where the forces of Earth returned to Terra Nova and attempted to reclaim it. They did not have mecha, but they did have Grells, genetic super soldiers. The Terra Novans fought back, unifying the face of the greater threat. However now that they drove them off they are back to squabbling. There is a lot of backstory and meta plot for the setting, but it kind of breaks down to having zany adventures in the central badlands, piloting Gears and fighting the evil Northerners/Southerners. It is quite complex, but it is pretty interesting as a read through. Also Gear have tracks on their feet, so its mecha on roller skates, could it get better? I submit that it could not.
And thus we end the Second Game of Christmas. Tomorrow...