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Tabletop Game / Heavy Gear

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Heavy Gear was originally a tabletop wargame created in 1994 by the Montreal-based company Dream Pod 9. It centered around the conflict of the Northern States versus the Southern Territories on the planet called Terra Nova, with an expanding storyline. The centerpiece of these conflicts is the armored battle suit called the Heavy Gear, with both sides developing their own variants of the mecha.

The universe has a tabletop game, a character-based RPG, a card game, two video games, and an animated TV series to its name.

The Video Games, released under the titles of Heavy Gear and Heavy Gear II and developed by Activision, are mech simulators that mix mech controls and standard FPS controls. (Fun fact: Heavy Gear uses MechWarrior 2's engine, if anyone wonders why they play similarly. Heavy Gear II uses its own "Dark Side" engine.) In the first game, the player was a Duelist on the Northern landship Vigilance, and had to help the ship fight its way back to Northern Territory, all while engaging in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the Draco, the Southern landship counterpart.

In the second game, an attack from Earth had the North and South call a cease fire, and the player leads an elite squadron piloting advanced Gears to stop the Earth attack from trashing the planet.

The TV series centered around the Heavy Gear championship series, where a rookie Gear pilot named Marcus Rover joins the southern Shadow Dragons and competes against the northern Vanguard of Justice.

Has two sister games (both of which exploit the minis game/RPG bifecta), Jovian Chronicles (IN SPACE!!) and Gear Krieg (In World War II!).

Heavy Gear Assault, the third videogame in the series, was being crowdfunded at the official site, but details on the game were sparse and the ongoing discussion with developers on Facebook has dodged details on pledges, funding, and the actual existence of a development studio rather than Stompy Bot being a reskin of the MekTek modding collective from MechWarrior 4. The crowdfunding effort failed, and further news has not been forthcoming. Crowdfunding of the newest edition of the tabletop game, however, seems to be doing rather well for itself. As of 2015, however, Heavy Gear Assault has managed to get back into development again by MekTek Studios and is in the early access stage. The game will utilize the Unreal 4 engine and is scheduled for a full release in 2018. However, development suddenly came to an indefinite halt in mid-2018 due to the publisher Stompy Bot Productions utilizing a dodgy cryptocurrency system that eventually swallowed up the company alive due to sunk costs; things went further south when TokenPlay, a then-unknown third-party publisher apparently behind the backing of the cryptocurrency system, froze up the assets of Heavy Gear Assault in late 2018 and, as of February 2019, hold the development of the game ransom with a $200,000 CDN offer to bring the game back to Steam, under very shady circumstances. Time will tell whenever this issue is resolved.


  • Ace Custom: The Gears in the TV series are all modified or special designs of standard Gear chassis.
    • The first video game allowed you to create your own custom Gear and loadouts, a la the the Mechlab.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Sorta. There are no true A.I.s, but the neural net computers used in the Heavy Gear universe can pick up habits from their users. If it's a Gear, this can include obscene gestures among other things. Terra Nova's advanced neural net technology is the Secret Weapon that it can export to other planets to give them an advantage over Earth's genetically engineered Super Soldiers.
  • Adaptation Decay: The TV series universe differs from the DP9 universe. Expected because DP9 had little input into the series. Lampshaded in at least one sourcebook where characters talked about how bad the series was.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: Of a sorts. Unusual magnetic activity on Terra Nova means that massive "landships" can hover about on magnetic repulsion. The first game features two, the Northern Vigilance and the Southern Draco, both prides of their military. They of course meet.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The extra art books sold by Dream Pod 9 contain lots of fluff and art about the mecha, the planet, and the characters in the universe. The first game's manual contains much of the same.
    • The two PC games have their own sourcebooks which include details that aren't in the games themselves.
  • Ambiguously Brown - The people of Terra Nova are stated to be this. There are some variations from country to country, but with the exceptions of the Badlanders there are no "white" people or "black" people. The book art does not always reflect this— most likely because of Minority Show Ghetto.
  • Animesque: Especially evident in the tabletop game's character art.
  • Anti-Armor: Any weapon with the AP (Armor Piercing) trait, since as long as the attack hits, the target will always take at least one point of damage, regardless of the targets Armor stat. Anti-Tank Missiles and Tank Cannons are particularly fearsome examples, since they combine long range and already high damage output with AP scores that mean anything but the most glancing of hits will be devastating.
  • Attack Drone: Utopia's armies composed of a few humans, supported by automated drones.
  • Axe-Crazy: Many GRELs stranded after the War of the Alliance, being engineered, bred, raised and trained for nothing but war have quite a bit of difficulty adopting to less military life styles.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The first videogame.
  • Brain in a Jar: FLAIL's are an extracted GREL brain plugged into a robotic frame. The rulebook even describes them as "little more than brains in a jar".
  • The Brute: A special rule for NuCoal's Khayr Ad-Din faction is named this, and it allows one of their Duelists to pilot a Strider. Whether they qualify as this or The Big Guy depends upon if you're in front of their guns or behind them.
  • Byronic Hero: Ranger Edward Scott, the protagonist of the first video game.
  • Cannon Fodder: Any model with the Conscript trait is implicitly intended to be used as padding for more valuable units, since they cannot be selected as a Commander nor given the Veteran upgrade, and any unit that doesn't come with it as standard actually has its Threat Value cost dropped by 1 if "upgraded" with the trait.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Although Jerusalemism is described as a syncretism of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all the Jerusalemites seen in the sourcebooks are indistinguishable from Catholics.
  • Combat by Champion: What the position of Duelist was originally created to fulfill in the early days of Gear combat. Since Gears were quite rare, often a single vehicle in a combat detachment, armies would often simply have their Gears engage each other and whichever Gear lost, their forces would retreat. As Gears proliferated, Duelists began to be nominated from among the best pilots in a given force, with similar duels continuing to take place to preserve lives and materiel. Nowadays, the desperate open warfare of the CEF invasions means such duels have become much rarer, but Duelist is still a title bestowed upon the best pilots in an army, and it takes a truly fearsome combatant to earn such a privilege.
  • Company Town: What the actual city of Peace River was for the Paxton Arms corporation, at least before the CEF engaged in some spiteful antimatter deployment. Peace River was a much cleaner and more civilized example than most, owing to the corporation's philosophy of enlightened self interest, high technology base and great standard of living for its citizen employees.
  • Conflict Killer: The CEF’s invasion of Terra Nova forces the North and South factions to cease their fighting, and join forces in beating back the invaders. As soon as the CEF were defeated, it’s back to business with each other.
    • Happens again when the CEF and their freshly conquered colonial auxiliaries return for a second try, bringing the ongoing squabbles between the Polar Leagues, Peace River and the NuCoal to an abrupt halt.
  • Critical Encumbrance Failure: The first videogame allows you to customize your own Gear, but each chassis and part has a Load limit. Exceed this load by strapping on too many (or too heavy) weapons and your Gear's top speed hits rock bottom.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: In the TV series, the Southern duelists always play fair and the Northerners always cheat.
  • Duel to the Death:
    • Specially trained Duelists, essentially Gear pilots with exceptional piloting skills, will be called upon by their superiors to engage in a one-on-one fight against an enemy's Duelist when dire situations happen to be on the line.
    • In the first video game, this becomes a plot point for two missions:
      • When the protagonist is allegedly responsible for the death of Colonel Arthur Janus' son, Henry, after surrendering to GREL troopers in an ambush. The Colonel cannot bear his subordinate being supposedly recalcitrant and challenges him personally to a one-on-one duel to settle the vendetta.
      • When the protagonist faces the person truly responsible for the murder of the Colonel's son in the final mission. The captain and his crew are shocked to find out that their Lieutenant is none other than a double agent working for the AST and is the one undermining the internal affairs of the Vigilance by clandestinely sabotaging marital relationships with its officers as well as leaking information from the carrier to the Draco. Ranger Scott is sent to take her on one-on-one to finish the job at all costs.
  • Elite Army: The primary gimmick of the CEF, as they have no truly cheap or expendable options in their lists and so must rely on sheer quality to make up for their limited quantity on the field.
    • Khayr Ad-Din are able to field an army of nothing but Duelists, since they are allowed to ignore the usual numerical restrictions on such elite pilots.
  • Enemy Mine: The Northern and Southern factions temporarily join forces to combat the invading Colonial Expeditionary Force from Earth.
  • Energy Weapon: The Laser weapons in the first game fired visible, continuous beams of energy that instantly hit anything they were aimed at. What made them demonic in their effectiveness was their accuracy, silence (they only made a quiet buzz when fired) and their damage, capable of killing anything (and that means ANYTHING) in one shot. The beam could even be swept across groups of enemies, causing damage to all of them. Then you had the Gatling Laser, combining the firing rate of an autocannon with the effectiveness of a laser.
    • Practically the National Weapon of the CEF. Expect to find a Laser Cannon, Rotary Laser or Particle Cannon as the primary armament on just about anything sporting their insignia.
  • Escort Mission: Convoy missions.
  • Evil Brit: In the show, Rank is an unrepentantly crazy and bloodthirsty excuse for a soldier among the Vanguard, and speaks with a pronounced lower-class Londoner accent.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
  • Flamethrower Backfire: Equipment Catalog: Terranovan Equipment. If the fuel tank of a flamer (flamethrower) is hit it will have (undescribed) catastrophic results.
  • Gatling Good: The Gatling Laser in the first video game combines this with Frickin' Laser Beams. The second game's Very Heavy Autocannon (VHAC) is your standard bullet-belcher. Illustrations of the first game depict the waist-mounted Light and Heavy Machine Guns as these, even if the game renders them as tiny blocks.
  • Going Native: The NuCoal (New Coalition) was formed around the abandoned survivors of the CEF's first invasion fleet, who reorganized themselves into the Port Arthur Korps. When the second invasion arrived, much of the PAK decided their loyalties lay with their new home and took up arms against their former comrades, though infighting with and betrayals by closet loyalists have prevented them from bringing their full might to bear.
  • Guide Dang It!: The first video game allowed your Gear's neural net to pick up abilities, such as automatically acquiring a target or giving a "missile approaching" warning. Does it tell you how to unlock these abilities? Nope.
    • Same with the Gear customization option. Want to know what Strength or Structure mean? You're gonna have to poke around to see what happens.
  • Hover Tank: The CEF forces have Hovertanks in their arsenal. They are powered with a large turbofan and are armed with a particle cannons that can tear through armor like cardboard.
    • NuCoal also boasts a lineup of hovertanks, both old CEF gear kept in good order and their own designs.
  • Ho Yay: invoked Gay marriage is legal on Terra Nova, and not even religious conservatives object to it. However, most of the NPCs shown to be in gay marriages have been women — such as Grand Marshal Victoria Edden-Smythe and Proconsul Lang Regina, two of the most prominent military leaders in the CNCS.
  • Hufflepuff House: While half of the colonies have detailed sourcebooks and feature prominently, the others (Home, Jotunheim, Botany Bay and New Jerusalem) have very little information published so far.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl - Back story material covers at least one instance of a normal woman pairing up with a deserted GREL trooper. In the letter she was described as being small, and most male GREL lean heavily towards the large end.
  • Interrupted Declaration of Love: In the first video game, Jennifer Brockton, who is presumed dead after defending the Vigilance from an AST assault while the carrier was undergoing repairs, reveals herself to Edward Scott via commlink from an undisclosed isolated area. She pleads to Scott that the war between the CNCS and AST is not worth fighting for and she admitted her desertion to him from the former's carrier. Brockton attempts to coax Scott into joining her side and defect away from the Vigilance and reveals to him that she has actual intimate feelings for him. However, just when it seemed like she was about to make her Declaration of Love for Scott official, her mental issues kept her from spitting it out to him and she left it out at the last second. Of course, this bond between the two would not last for long when a later mission shows the Wham Episode concerning about what actually happened earlier in the second mission.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The standard battle tactic favored by NuCoal forces is to zip in close and hammer away, made possible thanks to their usage of CEF hover technology on just about anything that it can fit into. Often overlaps with Fragile Speedster, as many of their statlines are more focused on avoiding damage in the first place through pilot skill and sheer speed.
  • A Mech by Any Other Name: The mecha in Heavy Gear come in two flavors — humanoid and not. On Terra Nova, the humanoid types are called Gears or simply Walkers, while other kinds of walker machines are termed Striders. Each of the other planets with mecha has its own name for them: Earth Battle Frames, Caprician Mounts, Utopian Armigers and Edenite Golems.
  • Military Mashup Machine: Eden boasts the Baroness, a patrol and interdiction VTOL hovership which packs an impressive arsenal and can ferry squads of ground troops.
  • Mini-Mecha: The titular gears fall into this category, being larger than Powered Armor, yet smaller than a traditional Humongous Mecha.
  • The Mole: In the first video game, Lieutenant Jennifer Brockton. It is revealed later towards the end of the game that she is an agent of the AST's Draco sent to the CNCS's Vigilance to pose as a soldier of the 67th Regiment in order to extract information from the carrier. While groomed as a CNCS trooper, she clandestinely joined a GREL unit to undermine the operations of the Vigilance in the early going. She's responsible for killing Henry Janus, who is Colonel Arthur Janus' son. However, she and the GRELs covered up the evidence, and made it seem that the protagonist Ranger Edward Scott was responsible (from behind the scenes, of course) in order to get the Colonel riled up and face him in a one-on-one duel; all while Brockton hid under a sympathetic facade towards the protagonist. When Scott finds out that she's responsible for Henry's death after the Vigilance's communications crackers showed him a clip of her shooting Henry in the head which wasn't revealed in the second mission, he sets out to find and eliminate/capture her. Having already learned ahead of him, Jennifer escapes capture and possible execution, and doesn't show up until the very last mission where she becomes the Final Boss in a one-on-one duel with the protagonist.
  • More Dakka: The first video game allowed you to Alpha Strike your weapons. If your Gear was suitably equipped, it could put on quite a show. Hitting the target and penetrating its armor was a different matter.
    • Autocannons are extremely popular weapons among Terra Novan designs but especially among Gears, favored for their decent punch and tactical flexibility. Expect a lot of lead to get put into the air whenever even light Gears are on the field.
  • Powered Armor: Utopian APE suits, modified from construction and hazardous environment hardsuits, serve as elite infantry and a midpoint between their elite Armigers and highly expendable N-KIDU's.
  • Putting on the Reich: The icons of the AST and the CEF are based off the Nazi Eagle. The AST has the the eagle half, whiles the CEF has the cross.
  • Race Lift: Louise DeRouen is shown to have very dark skin and black hair on the back of Blood on the Wind, but in Forged in Fire she is shown with light skin and Blonde hair.
  • Real Robot: Similar to Armored Trooper VOTOMS, which it is inspired by. Gears tend to be much smaller (4-5 meters), and aren't all that dominant over conventional vehicles and infantry which they need the support of.
    • Some of the sourcebooks even point out that only the abundance of terrain that tracked and wheeled vehicles have trouble traversing makes the Gears practical as war machines. In the areas that allow more conventional combat vehicles to operate, Gears tend to get torn apart because they're far softer targets than tanks are.
    • This is reinforced by the video game sequel: in hilly terrain with lots of cover and uneven ground, Gears are able to act as very large infantry that even aircraft have a hard time engaging. On open terrain, however, tanks are able to take on Gears at a 2-to-1 disadvantage and still win handily. Players are repeatedly asked to engage tanks while at a significant numbers disadvantage, and can usually only win by doing the two things tanks cannot: peeking out quickly to take shots and rapidly climbing/descending the terrain.
  • La Résistance: The overall Metaplot is about Terra Nova trying to form alliances with resistance groups on the other colony planets to overthrow the invaders from Earth.
    • On Caprice there's a group called the Liberati who are fighting to free the planet from Earths control.
  • Rollerblade Good - Wheels, treads or halftracks in the Gears' feet are used for movement over flat ground.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: CEF Battle Frames are rigged with these when they get destroyed to keep them from being salvaged by the enemy. Though it also means the GREL pilots will end up dead.
  • Shoulder Cannon - Shoulder-mounted rocket/missile launchers and grenade launchers are the norm in this universe.
  • Shout-Out - To both Nextwave and Dark Shadows.
  • Show Within a Show - According to the second edition of the Duelist's Handbook, the television series is, in fact, a live action series in-universe.
  • Shown Their Work - The team at Dream Pod 9 did their research and as a result, none of the technology presented in-game breaks known physical laws.
  • Spider Tank: Caprice 'Mounts' are four to six legged mechs with guns on their backs. They were originally designed for mining in the harsh conditions of Caprice before having guns attached on their backs.
  • Stranded Invader: Many of the CEF forces were unable to make it off planet after the first invasion of Terra Nova. The ones left behind have little choice but to get settled and live among the Terra Novans. The majority forming the New Coalition composed of former CEF personnel, and Terra Novan refugees.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: You get access to Rocket Packs, Panzerfausts, and Bazookas, which follow the one-shot, one-kill policy.
    • On the tabletop, almost every single Gear features at least two explosive weapons of some description. Even the most basic Gears: Hunters, Jaegers, Warriors and Chasseurs, all feature a Rocket Pack and Anti-Infantry Grenade Launcher as standard. Hunters and Jaegers go one further and also boast Panzerfausts and Hand Grenades, respectively.
  • Subsystem Damage: The first videogame, based off of the Mechwarrior 2 engine, also models damage on separate parts of the Gears and Striders. If you shot off a Gear's right arm (which holds its "primary" weapon), you can to pick up the enemy's gun. Shooting off one leg cripples a Gear and prevents it from standing up or moving. Shooting off both legs renders the "mech" destroyed.
    • Present in an abstracted form on the tabletop. All models have two levels of hitpoints, Hull and Structure, the former of which must be depleted before the latter can be lost. However, upon losing all Hull points, a model is considered Crippled and loses several abilities to represent the loss of functionality its beginning to suffer.
  • Super-Soldier:
    • GREL troopers- genetically enhanced warriors and damn good gear pilots.
    • The "Life on Terra Nova" sourcebook mentions that part of the GREL genecoding was recovered from the descendants of a previous generation of bioengineered supersoldiers (who were genetically normal humans, just at the upper limits) called Primes, who were such good mech pilots they could operate Frames, which are sort of like gears without the computer support that allows anyone to learn to pilot them.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: In the first video game, Corporal Henry Janus in the second mission, who is killed by Lieutenant Jennifer Brockton off-screen as it is much later revealed that she is an agent of the AST.
  • Tank Goodness:
    • The first computer game won many fans by making tanks tougher and more heavily armed than gears to the point that it was suicide to go against a Northern Alliance railgun tank.
    • The second game nerfs tanks considerably. Fans reacted badly to this and declared the the second game "illogical junk" in spite of the better controls and graphics.
  • Theme Naming: While there's a couple exceptions in each list, it's easy to tell what faction a unit belongs to just by the name.
    • CNCS often uses terrestrial mammals, mostly bears and big cats. E.g. Jaguar, Grizzly, Koala, Ferret.
    • AST typically employs the names of reptiles, usually snakes and occasionally mythical. E.g. Sidewinder, Naga, Python, Iguana.
    • Peace River, in direct contrast to their name, mostly uses types of warriors from history, as well as canines. E.g. Gladiator, Pitbull, Cataphract, Coyote.
    • NuCoal makes heavy use of French soldier classifications, with a smattering of animals. E.g. Cuirassier, Fusilier, Hussar, Jerboa.
    • The Black Talons really like their bird names when they aren't adding "Dark" to someone else's Gear. E.g. Eagle, Vulture, Dark Jaguar, Dark Naga.
    • CEF is all about cold, logical designations which are simple letter and number codes. E.g. BF2-21, MHT-72, HC-3A, Type 42
    • Caprice goes in for Biblical locations. E.g. Aphek, Kadesh, Moab, Hamath.
    • Utopia favors purely functional names which literally states a units given role, though they do get fancy with heavy support units. E.g. Recce Armiger, Trooper APE, Support N-KIDU, Gilgamesh.
    • Eden prefers law enforcement titles and mythological creatures or concepts. E.g. Constable, Griffin, Warlock, Gargoyle .
  • Time Abyss: Heavy Gear is set over four thousand years in the future, but because civilization has collapsed several times, technology is only 100-200 years more advanced than the present day. Much of history has been forgotten, allowing ancient conspiracies to lurk in the background and creating mysteries like the giant stone heads that are frequently seen on Terra Nova.
  • Token Minority: In the show, both teams have a single member who is very conspicuously Japanese. Tachi of the Shadow Dragons, and Yuri of the Vanguard.
  • Transforming Mecha: Some mechs have the ability to transform from mech to vehicle mode. Units of them have separate models that have them in one mode and the other.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Zig-zagged for the first video game. Your gear can pick up/swap out its primary weapon for other primary weapons, if you can find it after the enemy Gear flies apart. However, your gear cannot pick up or use anything that's not on the Gear's right hand, i.e. shoulder or back-mounted rocket/missile packs, waist-mounted machine guns, or grenades.
  • Viewers Are Morons: The entire logic behind the Executive Meddling that heavily hamstrung the animated series was that viewers would get confused as to why the first arc's villains would now be fighting alongside the heroes, despite the fact that their planet was being invaded by an overwhelming hostile force.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: Centuries of war and pollution have been pushing Earth's biosphere to the point of uninhabitability. This motivates the New Earth Commonwealth to reconquer the former colony planets in order to resettle Earth's population.
  • Wham Episode:
    • In the first video game, in one later mission, the protagonist, Ranger Edward Scott, is shown a video clip by one of the Vigilance's communications crackers that plays the full outro cutscene of the second mission which reveals Lieutenant Jennifer Brockton responsible for offing the Colonel's son.
    • The second game's introduction is one to the whole of Heavy Gear's metaplot, with the Earth-sponsored destruction of Peace River, which had been a major location in the game up to that point.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: There are no outright evil factions in the galaxy, and just about every faction is portrayed as trying to do right by their people. Even the nominally evil invaders of the CEF have been driven to their campaign of colonial reconquest out of sheer necessity to prevent the deaths of billions back on Earth. No one is absolutely "the good guys", and story material is often balanced between works sympathetic and hostile to any given group.
  • World War III: Earth suffered this resulting it being turned into a nuclear wasteland. The New Earth Commonwealth emerged from the conflict as the new rulers of Earth and set about conquering the colony planets to rebuild Earth.