Heavy Gear Fighter

Published by Ianus Publishing.
Reviewed by Ken Tidwell.

I recently purchased a Canadian game called Heavy Gear Fighter: Showdown in the Badlands. It is an anime battle armor game couched in a card playing mechanism. Each player chooses a mech and the two players fight it out (more players can be introduced using expansion sets).

Each mech has a different set of attacks, speed, and strength of armor. That part of the game seems to work really well. The mechs seem well balanced and interesting. Players trade blows by playing cards from their hand. The cards represent generic raw power or ammunition but are translated to a physical effect using the key for your mech. Your opponent can counter with defensive card play. Each blow (and active defense) also consumes power. When the power is gone the player must rest. No blow can drain the mech below zero power. When you bang your opponent hard enough and long enough they are eventually stunned and you get one free move. If you have enough power left then it is a free shot with their active defenses out of the way. If you don't have enough power left then you spend the free move catching your breath and you eventually lose the game. Stun points accumulate with each blow so a delicate dance ensues. You must tease your opponent to the brink of exhaustion so that you can stun them using a rabbit punch and save most of your energy for a mighty, undefended killing blow. Meanwhile your opponent is trying to decide when to take their stun and occasionally dropping their defenses on purpose. That part of the mechanism is great.

Unfortunately, there are two parts of the system that just don't work for me. Intermixed with the normal load of cards are some wild cards that both throw the game way out of kilter and add some much needed chaos. There are two or three really powerful cards (including one that can become any two of the other wild cards!) that I would chuck out straight away. The other hitch is the fiddly mech key card. It is covered with loads of very small symbols that the players must memorize, constantly look up, or, even worse, misinterpret. They even used both the letter 'O' and the number 0 then printed the whole thing in that hideous computeresque square font that was never actually used on anything except very bad dot matrix printers and clocks with LED displays.

The game runs around US$25 and is published by:

Dream Pod 9
Ianus Publishing
5000 Iberville

There is also an expansion set which adds more players and some new wild cards to the game.

If these Canadian games keep popping up Tim Trant will no longer be able to deny the existence of a Canadian gaming industry!

The Game Cabinet - editor@gamecabinet.com - Ken Tidwell