Sometimes you want to feel your way through a game, learning it's intricacies as you go, other times you just want to be a massive robot destroying everything in your path. GKR: Heavy Hitters is not a subtle game in many ways, but it is a hell of a lot of fun, but could it be funner?
Giant Killer Robots
The first thing that strikes you is obviously the painted Heavy Hitters themselves. These things are gorgeous and done to a really high quality. The other three GKR robots for each colour are also excellent, but they lose out a little in comparison to the Heavy hitters. The buildings are cardboard with plastic toppers and bottoms, they don't fit back in the box constructed though so I'm a little worried about how long they will last...
I have the Kickstarter version with the plastic dash boards, which are great, but not needed. Also not needed are the pilot minis that were available as part of the KS campaign, as all they do is mark a space on your upgrade track. This juxtaposition of over the top components vs functional components is woven all through GKR - would the game work without the massive miniatures? Sure. Would I play it with the same gusto? Not so easy to answer!
That's not to mention the obvious result of this extravagance - cost. You are certainly paying for the contents here at least as much as the gameplay, but I have to say I think the base game represents reasonable value. I'm not so sure about the recently release expansions though, which seem to have far less content for a similar price to the base game.
GKR can be won in one of two ways. You can place four 'tags' on a building to bring it crashing to the ground, do this on four buildings and you win. It's fair to say this has been the most common way of winning that I have seen. Or totally destroy all the other Heavy Hitters. So player elimination is a possibility in this game, but it doesn't usually happen until the closing stages somewhat alleviating the problem.
To help you achieve this victory you have three smaller GKR units that you can spawn onto the map should you choose to. One is a medic, one a combat, and one a flying scout type unit. These can all tag buildings as well as attack so they are well worth employing within your strategy.
Most of your actions, including spawning your GKR units cost energy. You get topped up to five at the start of each round, but this is a limit you will have to manage. You can use more at the expense of your own Heavy Hitter's health, but you don't want to be doing this too often. Your health itself is measured through your deck of 25 cards. Whenever you take damage you must discard a card from your hand or deck, thinning the offensive options at your disposal.
Weta the Heck?
Your deck is constructed following some simple rules at the start of the game. You will take a number of primary and secondary weapons with you and also some more defensive minded cards. This adds some variety to the game, as you will not be able to take every weapon into each battle.
Weapons come with a number of stats including an initiative number. As you play you will learn quite quickly the numbers your opponents have and be able to try and combat their potential moves. Although combat is resolved by dice, you can sway the odds in your favour and the way the attack and defence numbers work is clever, if not uninspired.
GKR represents Weta Studios, known more for their visual effect and movie work, first foray into the board game world and it is a bold one. Weta have gone big, and it mostly pays off.
The biggest complaint I have with GKR is longevity. The frustrating thing is this is something that could have been easily fixed without too much extra work. Even though each Heavy Hitter has completely different weapons, they ultimately don't feel that different. Each faction GKR units are carbon copies in terms of stats and powers, when some slight differences would have made all the difference. There are unique pilot powers, but it would have been nice to see some themed powers for factions, rather than the pilots not being tied to a particular faction themselves.
Despite this, GKR is a super fun game. It is dripping in style and looks the business on the table, gameplay is straightforward enough and even if you take a battering one round it is easy enough to regain your footing. Weta's experiment isn't perfect but it is successful and I look forward to their next project. Especially as it's based on District 9!