GKR Heavy Hitters, is simply dripping with robot killing, rocket launching, mechanised board game greatness!
What’s It All About?
GKR Heavy Hitters is all about climbing aboard your oversized machine of utter destruction and laughing like a maniac as you crush opponents underfoot and tear towering skyscrapers down to rubble and dust! At least that’s how it was for me.
Any game that allows us mere mortals to pilot behemoth rocket fuelled robots is already a winner in my book, but, when such glee is accompanied by some absolutely essential gameplay, then everyone’s a winner.
In GKR (short for Giant Killer Robots if you will) players are dropped into the far-flung future where a whole new approach to combat sport is alive and kicking…and, firing missiles, and chucking grenades like confetti at a wedding. Mega corporations scrap it out in their GKR’s for salvage rights across the abandoned cities of Earth, sponsors throw lucrative deals to the successful, the spectators clamour for a view of the destruction, and the pilots are the planet’s new rock stars. Sounds good eh?
As players in this new death on a mechanised stick playground, we get to pilot one of the mighty GKR machines, and utilise three smaller support units in a strategic contest to find the perfect balance between tactical smarts, and gung-ho bullet spraying bravado, and as I’ll try to explain over the coming paragraphs, it’s quite magnificent!
Let’s load some rockets and strap in for the fight…
There is just so much good stuff taking place during a session with Heavy Hitters. First off let me start by addressing the element that truly surprised me, that of streamlined action.
Heavy Hitters is a big beast of a box. What sits inside is a big beast of a game. When in action, and said game lies sprawled across the table, it is a mightily impressive sight. It has this wonderful over-sized feel that sits beautifully with the theme. However, I also noted upon first opening, that the rulebook for enjoying some GKR punch-ups is an equally impressive 38 pages long. That is a reasonably sizeable read. A glance at the contents of the book threw out titles such as; Heavy Hitter Dashboard, Holo-Boards, Pilots and Glory Hound, Support Unit Cards, and Achievements Board and Upgrades, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the tiniest bit daunted at the prospect of devouring these rules, and then regurgitating them into some semblance of fluid play later on (that sounded horrible, apologies).
However, I need not have worried. We should never judge a Giant Killer Robot on first appearances, and rather than being a difficult encounter riddled with head scratching and re-reads, it actually proved welcoming, straight-forward, and easily embraced. The rule book does such a stellar job of explaining the steps of a round, how each component plays its role, and how strategic moves impact the combat, that we were up and running at a great pace within a couple of rounds. Why this was the case, in my opinion, is that although a complete round of the game runs across five different player actions, each one is so wonderfully streamlined that it quickly becomes second nature.
Where this takes us as players is deep into a game that allows the time to be spent strategizing and planning the route to victory, rather than clarifying rules. And I love it! Let me cover a few basics as an example of the simplicity. Players begin the game by building a deck of 25 cards. Within this deck they place primary and secondary weapons, deploy cards for support units, and other cool little extras such as retaliate cards. This deck not only acts as the tools for destruction to be used each round (players draw a hand of six), but also as the current state of the GKR. As damage is inflicted, cards are placed in a damage area, lose all your cards and your GKR is reduced to a molten pile of nuts and bolts.
Over the course of a round players have five energy to spend on movement, firing weapons and so on. They can exceed the five point limit if necessary, but this means pushing your machine beyond its threshold, and is depicted by placing cards into the damage area. Nice, dangerous too, but sometimes critical for success.
Let’s look at the round sequence and why it works so seamlessly.
We start with the deploy phase where players can place support units onto the battlefield. Support units come in three unique flavours; Combat, Repair, and Recon. Players can use a deploy card to spend two energy, or deploy without a card for four.
We then move swiftly to the movement phase. Players, in turn, move their GKR’s on the map for one energy cost per hex moved. Then in turn again, players move the support units, this time for free. Each unit has a movement allowance, and each is different, so the combat unit has considerably less room for manoeuvre than the recon for example. Everyone happy, job done.
Now to the meat and bones of the round, the combat phase. Each player simultaneously chooses which weapons from their hand of six cards they will use this round having checked for little details such as line of sight and distance. Simultaneously, each player reveals weapon choice, and energy is spent.
Then, each weapon also has a firing speed, so players place the weapons in speed order from fastest to slowest, and the round plays out with rockets launched, grenades dropped and machine guns rattling as each player’s weapons are fired in speed order, damage inflicted, and panic stricken evasive action taken. If it sounds a little prolonged, or disjointed, believe me, it absolutely isn’t. The combat rounds are fast and frantic affairs, often punctuated by whoops of delight and deep furrowed brows of concern depending on how you’re faring. Damage is determined by a very simple roll of the dice. The attacker rolls two black six-sided dice, to hit a GKR they need 5 plus, to hit a support unit, seven plus. The defender rolls as many white dice as the damage rating of the weapon fired, for every five and six rolled they avoid one point of damage. It’s a simple as that, and it is wonderfully slick and satisfying in action.
Post combat comes the tagging phase. Here the many high-rise buildings dotted about the warzone can be tagged by your corporation’s colour. If you tag a building four times you get rights and can tear the tower down. Each building tagged is worth one sponsor card to the tagging player. These cards offer little perks to the owner and little hindrances to those they play it on, for example I managed to give one of my opposing pilots food poisoning for a round meaning they had a disadvantage on their attack roll.
And that is basically it. Heavy Hitters has been designed in such a way that it allows for genuine strategic play, it is open for a variety of approaches in the race for glory, and it brings some real depth to the combat, but it does so in a way that never gets in the way of the flow of a game. We’re supposed to be in the middle of a futuristic sporting event fuelled by noise, madness, and twisting metal, and thanks to the fluid nature of each action, it delivers this in a very real and exhilarating way.
Hey Good Looking.
Next, I just have to mention the utterly sumptuous visual appeal Heavy Hitters holds. The game is pitching these Goliath robots stomping heavy iron feet through downtown Rubblesville, and it really does hit this right in the bullseye. The scale of GKR’s against skyscrapers and support units looks fantastic! The detail and colour of the main robots stands out boldly against the greyer decayed aesthetic of the abandoned cityscape, and screams of big corporation money, and garish logos. I also love that each GKR and support unit is unique. Every player’s units look different from the others, giving each team a real diverse appeal, and it also means most players will quickly find themselves with a favourite team. The towers look great, and then when removed the rubble base remains rather than leaving an empty space, again pointing at the rich detail achieved in this superbly aesthetic game. Heavy Hitters is a head turner and no doubt.
Another aspect I am a big fan of comes from the achievements board. Here players can rank up their pilot by performing certain actions. As an example, if you tear down a building, you move up the achievements board one space. Some spaces unlock GKR boosts in targeting and defending, and it means players are often looking at avenues besides mechanical carnage to gain these all important ranking boosts. It’s very simple, and works very, very well.
Each pilot comes with a little backstory and a little ability, and there are a good range to choose from. This again can influence a player slightly in tactical decisions, but also allows for some extra immersion in the theme, something I will forever be a fan of.
Finally, a real highlight during my own plays of Heavy Hitters has come from the sheer number of options available in the race for victory. Do you go in heavy, using the big guns and getting up close and personal? Do you stay in skyscraper shadows, hitting from afar and utilising support to its maximum? Do you go for the tag and tear down of buildings in the hope you can demolish enough to claim a win? Or, as is often the case, do you find yourself constantly shifting in time with the movement of the landscape, flying shrapnel and accumulated damage? The only certainty in the flow of a game, is that it is never dull.
The game accommodates upto four players, which gets very interesting very quickly, but it also has options for two and three player games. Map set-ups are detailed in the back of the rulebook, however, players can just as easily dream up there own battlefields, and all-in-all the scope for replayability is huge.
What’s Not So Good?
You know, there’s just not a lot I didn’t thoroughly enjoy when playing Heavy Hitters. But, if I had to pick out a couple of things, they would come from the components rather than the gameplay. As I mentioned, Heavy Hitters is big. The pieces are numerous, with cards aplenty, tokens galore, and towers unbuilt. The result of this is that set-up and take down is pretty time consuming. Maybe fifteen to twenty minutes each way, possibly longer in set-up due to buildings having to be assembled and placed. This isn’t a huge issue, a typical game will run for around 90 minutes to two hours, so a little longer set-up can be overlooked, however, in terms of a game that I would always say yes to playing, then Heavy Hitters misses because there are times I simply cannot be bothered to unpack it all, set up decks, build towers, and finally play. No matter how good the game, sometimes it’s just too much hassle to get underway.
My only other gripe is in the shape of the towers themselves. The cardboard build on a couple has started to deteriorate due to having to slot them into the bases at every game. Slight fraying at the edges and little tears are appearing. For myself this a little disappointing, but I know for some gamers it will be a big issue. The overall component quality is first class, but, these cardboard towers are only going to get worse with every play in my opinion.
Where’s The Appeal?
The appeal here is great. You want a game that opens the way for tactical depth and strategic magic, you’ve got it! You want a game that is deep yet fluid, complex but streamlined, thoughtful but fast? You’ve got it! You want to sit in the pilot’s seat of a huge bullet spewing, rocket launching, grenade eating, ground stomping, rubble rousing, robotic killing machine? You’ve got it, and then some!
Heavy Hitters brings visual appeal in combination with excellent gameplay. The theme is certain to appeal to many, the miniatures are some of the best I’ve seen in any board game, and the competitive nature is another draw. I feel like it’s also a game that will stand the test of time thanks to the various approaches available when playing. I can still see us pulling this from the shelf for a long time to come rather than it being a flavour of the month sort of treat that enjoyed briefly then replaced.
One For The Kids?
Despite the room for strategic thinking, I would happily sit to play this with my younger children. In fact, there’s something quite refreshing about a seven-year-old child who just wants to unleash his giant killer robot upon an unsuspecting battlefield all guns blazing, carefree, and missile happy! It definitely offers a different challenge. The clear explanations upon cards, and the straight-forward nature of the general mechanics, mean this is a big, meaty game with a very welcoming nature.
The only potential issue might be stretched attention spans when the game stays for a good while, but Heavy Hitters is the sort that you can walk away from for a few hours before returning to the action after a recharge of the batteries, and simply pick up right were you left off with little problem.
I’m sure it is already blatantly obvious, but I love GKR Heavy Hitters! And I’m not alone, when we tested this one out it was a huge hit with all our players. The fact that a game can hold so much in terms of strategic thinking, and pre-planning, yet still move at such a fantastic flowing pace is just wonderful to experience. It feels like the designers spent real time fine-tuning every aspect of the game to lift it to where they were happy, and in doing so have elevated it to such dizzying heights that we should all be ecstatic with the results.
The theme shines bright throughout thanks to the brilliant miniatures truly feeling like colossal rampaging war machines that dwarf other units and stand shoulder to shoulder with towering buildings. The grey of the landscape is in superb contrast with the bright, bold colours of the corporation built mechs, and the feel of a Dystopian future sporting event is alive and kicking hard from every corner.
The variety of approach means every game can hold a slightly different experience for the player, there are occasional dips into routine, but they are rare and usually demolished by another player surprising the life out of you with a left field move that leaves you picking up shredded metal and screaming for the repair droid.
The set-up might be a little bit of a pain, and drop it from tasting perfection, but as a complete package, GKR Heavy Hitters, is simply dripping with robot killing, rocket launching, mechanised board game greatness! And probably a little engine oil. A big, beautiful, masterpiece.