TABLE GAME REVIEW: Gears of War – The Board Game

Gears of War Board GameThis week on Geek Syndicate Table Games, we look at a game converted from a video game franchise. Gears of War is a co-operative skirmish game, but how does it work on the table? Find out after the break.

For a time, the humans of Sera knew peace…then Emergence Day came. The Locust horde arrived without warning, and countless horrors spilled forth from their underground burrows. The Coalition of Organized Governments (COG) struggled to fend off the subterranean threat, but their defenses were quickly crushed. With billions dead, humans turned their weapons of mass destruction on their own cities to deny the enemy control. Now the long struggle against overwhelming odds approaches one final, desperate stand.

Gears of War: The Board Game, designed by Corey Konieczka, is based on the wildly popular third-person shooter by Epic Games. One to four players take on the roles of COG soldiers cooperating to destroy the Locust horde, and must work together to complete missions against an ingeniously challenging and varied game system. In Gears of War: The Board Game, you’ll relive classic moments from Gears of War and Gears of War 2 – Roadie Run into cover, spray your enemy with blind fire, or rip him in half with your Lancer’s chainsaw!

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Number of Players: 1-4
Play Time (Approx): 180 Minutes
Ages: 13 +

 

Gears of War: The Board Game is a Co-Operative miniature based skirmish game. Up to four players work together to complete missions that are composed of a number of stages. Each player takes on the role of a member of “Delta Squad” – familiar to those who have played the video game series of the same name. Each of these squad members (Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago, Augustus Cole and Damon Baird) start with two weapons and a number of grenades. In addition, each has a special ability that will help the team during the mission.

Gears of War Board Game Delta Squad

Delta Squad miniatures

As with any co-operative game, the board is the enemy. Or rather, the enemy miniatures on the board are. The game has a set of “AI” rules and cards that dictate how the Locust Horde will move and fight. Each mission uses a different selection of rooms and enemies. Also, since these are placed from a deck of cards, each play through of the game will be slightly different, meaning that the seven included missions are more re-playable than it seems at first glance.

The rules of the game are fairly complex, although due to the nature of the game, this is not a bad point. If the rules were too simple and predictable, then I think the longevity and re-playability of the game could be compromised. However, this complexity and the fact that a successful mission can take up to three hours to play does mean that players need to be perhaps more focussed than for a standard board game.

Gears of War Components

Locust and Game Dice

Players each have a hand of six (or seven in the case of Fenix) cards that represent both the actions they can perform and the character’s health. Each turn, a character must use a card. They will either perform the action on the card, move up to two areas or attack. Up to two cards are replenished at the beginning of the turn. When in combat, the player may well lose one or more cards from their hand. The team must work together, playing special actions at appropriate times and taking out the Locust on the board while also attempting to meet the mission’s objective.

Combat is performed using the custom dice provided in the game box and takes a form familiar to players of tabletop war games or roleplay games. Each character, whether Hero or Locust, has an Attack value and a Defence value. The values are the number of dice that the character roles for attack or defence. As with other war games, results can be modified by being in cover and so on. Ultimately, if the attacker hits with a higher number of successful results than the defender defends, then the defender is injured. Locust can either be killed outright or injured (and they may well recover if not finished off), heroes who lose all the cards in their hand become “down but not out” and can be revived by their fellows.

Interestingly, ammunition and the number of grenades available are a factor in this game. Rather than allowing players to throw a grenade every turn or keep blasting away on full automatic fire, tokens represent the ammunition and grenades available. This adds a real sense of resource management, and I’ve made some bad calls combined with bad dice rolls that mean I’ve been stood almost weaponless before the Horde. Other weapons and ammunition can be found on the map, and sometimes killing an enemy will result in a weapon becoming available. I like this element, as it helps get over some of the feelings of being in a post-apocalyptic environment and having to manage weapons that were present in the video game.

Gears of War Cards

Samples of Game Cards

The components included in the game box (which retails around the £55 mark) are beautifully presented. Fantasy Flight Games has a good reputation in this regard, and it’s one that this game deserves. The game includes detailed plastic miniatures representing the heroes and the alien locust they face. The sculpts of the Locust are superb and instantly recognisable to those familiar with the video game series. The hero figures are also detailed, but they seem less stocky than their digital counterparts. Having said that, this more “normal” build for the team does make the Locust seem more threatening! The cardboard components (card decks and board pieces) are also nicely presented and are printed on quality stock card. They should last a good number of play throughs without getting tatty.

Gears of War: The Board Game is a complex game that will take a few attempts to get a full handle on. The missions are challenging and are re-playable due to the random factors of card-decks and dice rolls being added to the mix. What I also like about the game is that the nature of its rules means that missions can be attempted solo. Each mission uses a different number of different enemies depending upon the number of players. As such, games will always be a challenge. While I don’t think the game will appeal to everybody, it is definitely a worthy buy for anyone into skirmish games or co-operative games. The nature of the game also means it’s a fine introduction to miniature gaming as a whole.

 

Rating: 3.5 / 5
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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