This is the first in a series of guides on various mechanics in the game Heavy Gear Blitz by Dream Pod 9. This is the first part of the guide on Forward Observation – perhaps the least understood mechanic in the game. It explains what Forward Observation is, gives a step by step guide on how to perform it, and identifies a series of questions for the designer of the game to make sure we have this correct (which reveal assumptions the authors have made in the process of writing this guide).
I have now written the second part, which I’d suggest checking out after you read this one.
What is a Forward Observation?
A Forward Observation (FO) is an action the currently active model can perform to allow other friendly models to fire Indirect or Missile category weapons at a target. It is best to think of it as one model pointing to a target electronically and saying ‘hey friends, shoot at this thing!’. Which friends receive this message and the necessary targeting information depends on various factors, discussed below.
There is a special type of FO called a Satellite Forward Observation (SFO) which is similar to a regular FO, but is used to target off-board models, or to call in an Air Strike on an on-board model. This will be covered separately in a later guide.
How exactly do I perform a Forward Observation?
Before I answer this, let me note that my explanation is going to be a pretty exhaustive step-by-step process. It will seem very long and complicated, but in actuality most of the steps become very fast once you’re used to them, and not all apply to every FO.
- Activate a model in your active Combat Group
- Choose Braced or Combat Speed posture (can’t FO at Top Speed)
- Choose whether to use Active Sensors (can trigger enemy Snap Fire but gives you an extra 12” of Sensor Range)
- Move or spend actions, if you wish, but remember you need at least one action to FO
- Spend an action point to declare a FO action – your active model becomes both the Observer and the Origin Model (potentially triggering enemy Snap Fire) for the duration of the action
- Declare a single target, either:
- A model in Sensor Range
- A point on the battlefield to which you have Sensor Lock
- If the Observer has the Target Designator (TD:X) trait and has Lock (aka line of sight) to the target then the FO is hereafter considered TD Enabled
- Determine Receivers of the FO
- The active model is always automatically a Receiver of its own FO
- If the active model has SatUp:X any friendly models with SatUp:X may be defined as Receivers
- Now declare a Comms Action. You’ll need to measure the Sensor Ranges of nearby hostile units with ECM:X. For each point of ECM:X on a hostile model which has the Observer in its Sensor Range, reduce the Comms:X rating of the Observer by 1
- Any hostile model with ECM:X which has Sensor Lock to the Observer and either a Stand By token (of either sort) or unused action may attempt Active ECM to block the Comms Action. If they succeed in blocking the Comms Action skip the next two substeps – there are no additional Receivers
- If the Observer has Comms:X and X is not 0 (remember that hostile Passive ECM may reduce the rating of Comms:X) it may nominate X additional Receivers
- If the active model does not have Comms:X or Comms:X has been reduced to 0, then it makes an unopposed comms roll using its Electronic Warfare skill. If it has Comms:X then it may nominate as many Receivers as it gets successes from the roll up to a limit of the rating in that trait before Passive ECM was applied (so if it had Comms:2 originally, it can use up to two successes). If it doesn’t have Comms:X then it may nominate one Receiver if it gets at least one success on the roll.
- Any model in Formation with a Receiver which is also their Commander may act as though they are a Receiver as well
- Any Receiver may use as many unused actions or Stand By Tokens or Stand By (Braced) Tokens as they wish to chain attacks from any of their Indirect or Missile category weapons. Declare all actions which are being chained to the FO
- For each chained action:
- Identify the Firing Model
- Measure the range from the firing model to the Primary Target. The Primary Target is always the target of the FO
- Pick the weapon being fired. It must be in range of the target, have not already fired this turn, and have the Missile or Indirect category
- Pick the category, either Missile or Indirect, for the weapon being fired (Missile is basically preferable to Indirect)
- If using the Indirect category and the firing model is completely under overhanging terrain, cancel this chained action
- Work out any Secondary Targets based on Area of Effect (AE)
- For each target, do the following:
- Verify the attacker modifiers (with 2d6 as the starting point)
- If the action was taken using a Stand By (Braced) token: +1d6
- If firing model Crippled: -1d6
- Apply the appropriate Category Range Modifiers unless the FO is TD Enabled and the firing weapon has the guided trait
- If rolling against the Primary Target and the FO is TD Enabled and the firing weapon has the guided trait: +Xd6 where X is defined by TD:X
- If the FO is TD Enabled and the Observer is in the back arc of the target, apply the Flanking modifier: +2d6 vs vehicles, else +1d6
- If the FO is not TD Enabled and either the Observer or firing model are in the back arc of the target, apply the Flanking modifier: +2d6 vs vehicles, else +1d6
- If rolling against a Secondary Target, remove the Flanking modifier unless the weapon category is Missile, the FO is TD Enabled, and the Observer is in the rear arc of the Primary Target
- If rolling against a Secondary Target: -1d6
- If the weapon category is Missile and the firing model is entirely higher than the target, apply the Elevation modifier: +1d6
- Verify the defender modifiers (with 2d6 as the starting point)
- If the fired weapon has Blast then cover is worked out from the point of impact: skip the next three steps
- If FO is TD Enabled and the firing weapon is guided then Cover modifiers apply from the perspective of the Observer
- If FO is not TD Enabled and the target has no cover from the perspective of the Observer then no Cover modifiers apply
- If FO is not TD Enabled and the target has cover from the perspective of the Observer then work out Cover modifiers from the perspective of the firing model, treating Solid Cover as Heavy Cover
- If defender has a Stand By (Braced) token: -1d6
- If defender is Crippled: -1d6
- If the fired weapon does not have AE or Blast then apply any relevant ECM Defense modifier
- Make the opposed roll and work out the Margin of Success (MoS)
- If MoS is 0 and the weapon fired is not Blast or Precise then if the defender has Agile then the attack misses
- Otherwise if MoS is 0 or greater the attack hits
- Work out damage as normal and keep a running tally of damage to each target but do not apply damage at this point
- Work out any special damage from Fire:X or Corrosion:X and add it to the tally, as well as adding a Corrosion token if appropriate
- Resolve all chained actions before applying damage or working out any special effects like Fire:X. This means:
- You must fire all the weapons you declared you would use
- If a roll you make cripples a target, or destroys its cover, it does not alter the defender modifiers until all rolls are concluded
- Continue the activation of the model, moving or spending other actions, if you wish
Phew! Well done getting through that. Remember that this entire process becomes very quick once you’re used to it.
Now on to some questions where the answers weren’t clear from the rules. I hope to get feedback on these from the designer, but even if I don’t they will hopefully be useful to show where we have had to make assumptions/rulings ourselves in writing the above step-by-step process.
Rules Questions about FO for David McLeod (designer of Heavy Gear Blitz)
Does TD alter the cover modifier for non-guided weapons?
“A Target Designator allows the target the terrain Cover modifier it would have against a direct attack from the observing model.”
What we decided: This only applies to weapons with the guided trait. This is not stated, but is implied, since in every other way TD is only relevant to weapons with the guided trait.
Can Active ECM contest the automatic successes from Comms:X?
What we decided: Yes. Active ECM can block any Comms Action before you get to the rolling phase, if the Active ECM model is successful in their opposed roll. This is implied by the fact it is specifically not possible against Comms Actions between two models with SatUp, despite the fact such actions do not require a roll of any kind.
Do you have to declare which weapons are being used in each chained action before rolling any of them?
“All chained actions must be declared before any chained action is resolved, and all chained actions are resolved simultaneously.”
What we decided: No. You declare all chained actions before proceeding, but you declare the weapon independently during each chained action. This works the same way as normal attack actions – you get to measure range before you decide which weapon you’re using. To avoid confusion you do the working for each chained action separately, but apply the results simultaneously.
If you chain an action to a FO and can’t fire a weapon, does that use up an action?
What we decided: Yes. An Indirect Attack action is not a free action. Because you don’t get to measure from the firing model to the target until you’ve declared your action, you may find it is out of range of any of your Indirect or Missile category weapons. In this case you’ve wasted your action.
Does the ‘no cover for target of FO if they’re in the open from the Observer’ rule apply to Secondary Targets of AE weapons?
“Targets of Indirect attacks do receive a cover modifier unless the target of a Forward Observation is in the open when viewed from the Observer”
What we decided: No. Secondary Targets determine cover from the Firing model (or from the blast point, if weapon is blast). They aren’t ‘the target’ of the FO, they’re just hit because they’re nearby. It doesn’t make sense for their cover to be determined by the cover the Primary Target has.
Do you get the flank attack modifier against a Secondary Target of an AE Missile category weapon if the Observer has TD:X and is in the rear arc of the Primary Target, but not the rear arc of the Secondary Target?
“Area Effect Attacks targeting Primary and affecting Secondary Targets do not benefit from the Flanking modifier (See Table 8.2b)unless the attacker:
- Is in the Rear arc of the model being attacked.
- Attacks with a weapon in the Missile category and the Observer model has both the Target Designator (TD:X) trait and is in the rear arc of the Primary Target.”
What we decided: No. You need to be in the rear arc of both the Primary Target and the Secondary Target. Note that although cover is determined from the point of impact from blast, there is no indication that flanked modifier is.
If the Observer has Comms:X but X is 0 due to passive ECM, it has to make an unopposed EW roll to determine Receivers. Does its original Comms:X rating before the effects of passive ECM indicate how many Receivers it can have?
Source: 14.1b, 14.3
“If a models Comms:X trait is reduced by Passive ECM interference, it may attempt a Comms roll (See 14.1a). A Comms roll with one or more successes will allow one successful Comms event per success, up to the rating of the Comms:X trait.
Example: A Comms:2 model is in range of two model with passive ECM:1 which reduces the Comms rating of the active model to zero. The model rolls a Comms roll an rolls one success allowing one Receiver model.”
What we decided: Yes. This is a case where the LRB should clearly say ‘up to the rating of the Comms:X trait unmodified by Passive ECM’, otherwise you can’t get any Receivers. 14.3 should also be updated to reflect this, rather than simply stating ‘one Receiver’.
If the Observer does not have Comms:X it makes an unopposed EW roll to determine Receivers. Can it designate Receivers up to the number of successes of this roll, or only one?
“An unopposed Comms roll has a BD:2 with Standard Modifiers (See 2.2). If successful, the Origin model may communicate with one Receiver model.”
What we decided: Only one. The section about multiple successes giving you multiple Receivers only applies to models with Comms:X who have been reduced to 0 by Passive ECM, not to models without Comms:X to begin with.
If the Observer has SatUp it gets a single automatic success in any Comms Action with a Receiver which also has SatUp. Does this count toward the limit on Receivers imposed by Comms:X?
“A model with the Satellite Uplink:X (SatUp:X) trait cannot be jammed by an Active ECM reaction (See 14.2a) if communicating with a Receiver that also has the SatUp:X trait. Comms actions between models with Satellite Uplinks always succeed with one success.”
“A model that Forward Observes may communicate to a number of models equal to its Comms:X trait rating. A Receiver for a Forward Observation may be any model in a Force, not just models in the same Combat Group.”
What we decided: No. The two are separate. If the Comms:X limit was an absolute limit it would allow Passive ECM to interfere with SatUp based communications, which doesn’t make sense. It would also conflict with 14.1b.
In all cases the limit of Receivers is defined by successes, whether from a roll, automatically from Comms:X, or from SatUp. Since Comms Actions between models with SatUp automatically get one success, you can designate any number of SatUp models are Receivers if the Observer has SatUp, without counting toward the Comms:X limit. The Comms:X limit only applies to automatic successes from Comms:X.