This article originally appeared in Pyramid #14

Pyramid Pick
Heavy Gear Fighter

Pyramid Pick

Heavy Gear Fighter/Video Fighter

Published by Dream Pod Nine

Designed by Jean Carrières

$29.95 each; Expansion Set $24.95

Heavy Gear Fighter: Showdown in the Badlands is a quick, colorful, tactical card game of mecha combat. The mecha in Heavy Gear aren't the titanic walking beasts of BattleTech or other games; they're a little smaller (a mere 15 feet or so tall), and have a terrific, lithe athletic look that the larger walking gun emplacements don't have.

The robots in Heavy Gear aren't based on any specific Japanese cartoon (anime) series — they're all the original creations of Dream Pod artist Ghislain Barbe (how did French Canadians become so good at Japanese art?).

The game's a little pricey for coming in such a small box (a videocassette box, of all things), but the components inside are all full-color (except for the rulebook) and top of the line. You get 8 mecha cards, over 100 offensive, defensive and strategy cards, and assorted markers (which you have to cut up yourself). The mecha cards are very nice, with all sorts of information on the back which ties in nicely with the Heavy Gear roleplaying game due out any day now, and all the game stuff on the front. That includes tracks for keeping tabs on your damage, actions and overload, and an icon-filled list of available moves. These icons and how they interact with the game cards is the heart of the game.

Every mecha has ten moves to choose from, and each assortment is unique to each robot (though most robots have at least a couple moves in common). Each move is color-coded green (quick hitters, don't cost many actions or cause much overload, but light on damage), yellow (more damage for a higher cost) and red (the devastating "Sunday punches" of the game, though you really have to pick your spots to use them). To lay one of these moves on your opponent, you have to have the right offense card in your hand; the cards you draw can sometimes be a limiting factor in your options.

Heavy Gear Fighter Cards Each type of attack has its own damage rating; the defender has an armor rating that subtracts from the damage, and he can use defensive cards (either shields or certain moves that can be used defensively) to further reduce the damage. Damage is done both to the Structure of the robot (which is permanent) and in Overloads. When you've taken your limit in Overloads, your opponent gets a free shot at full damage that can frequently make the difference in a fight, so be careful. One good strategy is to pepper an opponent with lower-cost moves that have high Overload ratings, then lower the boom when he can't defend.

There's a lot of tactical sophistication built into this fairly simple system. Attacks happen at three ranges — Short, Medium and Long, naturally — and come in four varieties. Armed attacks use a hand weapon like a sword or club or gun; Ammo attacks are a subset of armed attacks that fire bullets or rockets or whatever; Unarmed attacks are all the neat punches, spinning kicks, flying tackles and such; and Power attacks are certain specialty attacks that defy simple description, like the "Zoom Punch" or the "Flip & Slam" or the "Weapon Whack."

Video Fighter The first Heavy Gear Fighter expansion set, Weapons & Equipment, is out. It contains — you guessed it — a deck of Equipment cards and a deck of Weapons cards. The Weapons cards are just more ways to do horrible damage to each other, though the basic weapon cards can be mixed and matched with various Spec and Boost cards to give you many more weapons to play with than the number of cards (36) would appear to initially. The Equipment cards are modifications to your mecha — everything from Heat Resistant Armor to a Flashy Paint Scheme (the Flashy Paint Scheme has a 50/50 chance of either demoralizing your opponent because you look so dashing and costing him a card from his hand, or boosting his morale because you look so ridiculous, giving him an extra card). Weapons and Equipment also includes rules for multi-player combats, team events and arena fights. It's a nice addition to the game.

And that's not all for Heavy Gear Fighter. Dream Pod 9 promises an RPG by June (and various supplements after that), and a second expansion set to the card game for August, called Tactics & Training.

Heavy Gear Fighter was the first game in the "Silhouette" series that Dream Pod 9 released, but that wasn't always the plan. Video Fighter: Dragons of Fury was the first game designed, and the whole videocassette packaging idea came from the idea that Video Fighter would be promoted as a "video game in a box." The idea is to simulate with a card game the quick action and tactical moves of a Mortal Kombat or Streetfighter video game. And while that's a pretty ambitious goal, Video Fighter comes pretty close to succeeding.

Video Fighter Cards The game doesn't have that many differences from Heavy Gear Fighter — you get the same types of cards, and they work together in the same ways. The four combat types are Punch, Kick, Chi and Psi. No weapons here — real fighters use their fists and feet (and magic and psionics — hey, it's a game). Instead of Overload, fighters take Stun damage. But other than that, it's the same game — and that's a good thing.

There aren't any announced supplements for Video Fighter, but there is no reason why there couldn't be — the system has plenty of room for additions. And there is no reason why the system can't be used in other genres, either; Dream Pod 9 says a Fantasy Fighter card game will be out at the end of the year.

Jean Carrières has a neat game design here, and the art of Ghislain Barbe really brings the Japanese-inspired animation worlds of giant robots and martial arts duelists to life. Dream Pod 9 isn't all that well-known yet, but if they keep doing games like these, they will be.

— Scott Haring

Article publication date: August 1, 1995

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