So the alpha of the new edition of Heavy Gear has been out for a couple of weeks for the public to comment and help improve on. I was a playtester for it last year and I do like the format overall for the new rules and think it is a step mechanically in the right direction for Heavy Gear. It's obviously still got some warts but as it is still in alpha testing but I expect most of those to be ironed out over the next year. After an initial reading looking for glaring issues and typos, I've tried to avoid commenting on the mechanics in recent weeks till I got in a game with the most recent version of the rules. The army lists, which weren't really addressed in the previous private testing, are frankly a mess.
While Dave has done a good job of listening to feedback about some of the more egregious single issues, the problems seem to go alot deeper. I don't hide my dislike for the rampant power creep in the recent Blitz Paxton pdf (Blood Debt) with free character stat upgrades, free gear upgrades, and especially free special rules for entire armies.. none of which are paid for with TV because "fluff". The previous two army guides (South and Nucoal) were at least on par with each other despite their issues but Blood Debt blew all that effort out of the water unforunately. Seeing the alpha rules continue that power creep with multishot heavy bazookas as the Paxton "fluff" upgrade along with cheaper weapon upgrades on gears that with stats markedly better for no reason (and not paid for with TV) while other factions got nothing comparable brought up a very bad taste in my mouth. I really don't have anything against Paxton but they seem to be the poster boys for everything wrong with Heavy Gear in recent years. It feels like the army lists were put together going quickly from one unit to the next without any consideration of how they relate to other factions or models. Whatever seemed "cool" at that moment was just thrown on and the level of "cool" feels proportional to the level of personal excitement the creator had for the faction. Combine that with the absolutely horrible idea of "sliding scale" costs for the same thing depending on the faction and you have a recipe for disaster. To be frank, that kind of crap is a large part of why Heavy Gear is in the state that it is in currently. Some factions always seem to get the short end of the stick while others get markedly better. If something does "X", it should cost "Y"... not "Y-2" just because it's a particular faction (like Paxton in the last release).
The alpha with it's completely incompatible rules is the chance for HG to wipe the slate clean and come out with something more balanced than their blitz offerings. I would have preferred if the initial army lists were more bare bones to allow people to test the rules but that ship has sailed and the vastly broken lists are out in the wild. I do hope that the "beta" product released around Gencon will be a bit more even across the factions and the most recent revision has shown significant improvement. Hopefully that trend (instead of broken mechanic of playing faction favorites) will continue. I have to admit that the army list issues combined with the delays in the release of the North pdf for Blitz have dampened my enthusiasm for the game but I still look forward to testing out the new damage mechanic sometime in the next couple of weeks and will hopefully post a battle report on it as well.