As the layout is still ongoing I'll continue with some previews and explanations for some decisions made along the way. A lot of the work for the new Heavy Gear rules has been to make sure that the new rules could faithfully render models from the field manual. In some cases a straight port became more and more impossible and some radical new directions had to be taken to be true to the design but balance properly.
The South strider the Fire Dragon is an example of this. The Fire Dragon has always stood out as one of the most odd looking models in the South range. Six legs in a game where most other models have two and four at most plus a rounded. bulbous feel makes it a very alien looking strider.
Here is a Force Dragon of mine converted to be driving in ground model. The chin turret is magnetized and should have a Light Pulse Laser, not the flamer shown).
Here are the updated attributes:
The biggest change that veteran players will notice is the switch to two actions instead of three. It was discussed at length and the decision was to lump the Dragon in with all the other striders with two actions. There are some compensating points about this which I'll discuss below.
First and foremost the Fire Dragon is designed to attack. At only 1.5" tall it can lurk and use terrain very effectively. Most of its weaponry is very short to medium ranged place it very much in a close support role. Not too close since the Dragon lacks a means to effectively defend itself in melee combat being defenceless. This means it will only roll 1D6 for defense in melee and can be overrun if not supported.
In terms of mobility it is slightly above average for its size with an acceptable walking movement rating of 4" and 6" if it can use Ground mode. Note that the Lumbering trait means the Dragon can only make one turn per move which means the only advantage of the Walker movement type for the Dragon is that it is not affected by a penalty for crossing difficult terrain and can cross obstacles up to 3/4".
The survival of the Dragon is high with an Armor of 10 and eight Hull and Structure points. It is a tough model with More Hull than structure rating. Even with its dismal Pilot skill of 6+ a Heavy auto cannon still needs to score a margin of two or better to chip away at the Dragon.
Where the Dragon really shines is in the firepower department. A Gunner skill 3+ model with stable? Yes please. Stable adds a +1D6 modifier to the models attacks at any posture allowing a surprising amount of mobile firepower. This is even more significant when you consider that the update is removing the old ability to trade actions for extra attack dice (action bonus). This means that a Fire Dragon can toss a 4" radius Heavy Anti-Vehicle Rocket Pack at a target indirectly (ignoring terrain cover) and still roll 2D6 for the attack roll. The weapons the Dragon carries won't overly worry tank commanders until you start rolling 3D6/4D6 to attack with a Gunnery Skill of 2+ thanks to the Pulse Lasers Advanced weapon type bonus. The Split two trait on the Medium Pulse Laser is really the icing on the cake where two devastating attacks can be made each round with the big gun.
But where the Dragons really shine is their threat against the foot slogging models that might try to take it out. The Dragon mounts two light chain guns mounted so that they effectively fire as a single turreted weapon covering all arcs. The Auto trait on the Light Rotary Cannons (LRC) means that the LRC can always snap fire without spending an action, though the weapon may still only be fired once per round. A rotary cannon has the Burst:2 trait and though the Auto trait reduces the gunnery to 4+ it will still spit out a 5D6 shot at Penetration 6, more than enough to tag a recon Gear that is making a nuisance of itself.
The only down side to a Dragon is that it is a very costly model, with only six more points you can get a Visigoth. Is it worth it? That is what the Beta will try to answer. The Dragon was the single most overhauled model in this update though you will notice that the number of traits overall has been significantly reduced. This cleaning up of the attributes is a big step towards making the game more accessible to new players.
So there is the Dragon. I'll keep up these previews until the Living Rulebook drops.