Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gears of War - Board Game Review Part 1

Hello everyone!  While at Toy Fair 2012, I ran into Fantasy Flight Games, the leading publisher of board, card, and role playing games.  Most recently they released the Gears of War Board game.  They were super awesome at Toy Fair and let me have a copy of the Gears of War Board Game to review!  So let's get started:

Here's the box as it appears.  As with all FF products, it's sturdy, coated cardboard!
Here's all the contents of the box:

 Inside the box you get:
- 4 CoG figures w/ Character Cards
- 28 Grey Locust Figures w/ 10 Enemy Cards
- 35 Locust AI Cards
- 27 Mission Cards
- 54 Order Cards
- 38 Weapon Cards
- 34 Location Cards
- 4 Reference Cards
- 17 Double-Sided Map Tiles
- 2 Door Tokens w/ clear plastic stands
- 23 Wound/Dropped Weapon Tokens
- 8 Emergence Hole/Sealed Tokens
- 36 Ammo and 12 Grenade Tokens
- 1 Mission Reference Sheet
- 9 Dice: 5 Attack and 4 Defense
- 1 Line of Sight Ruler

The models are simply phenomenal!  Best I've seen in a board game!
All of the included cards are very sturdy and of the same material as their Anima card game (Also by FF).  Even though they recommend using sleeves, these cards are more than durable on their own.  The card art is beautiful and true to the GoW universe.

Additionally, the miniatures included are the best I've ever seen in a board game, and among the best of some companies who only make model miniatures.  The figures included in this game are highly detailed and made of what feels like a plastic-resin material.  The models are somewhat flexible, so no breakage will occur.  As a hobby gamer, I will be off to paint my GoW miniatures as soon as I get room on my painting table!

The Cole Train ready to crush some grubs!
The rulebook is highly detailed and covers all questions you can run into.  The rulebook is large, but it uses pictures and visuals to explain all the rules, making learning the game a breeze.  The game play system is based on "Doom"'s engine.  Game play basics work off playing cards in your hand and executing the actions on the cards.  Most cards involve moving and then attacking or some combination of the two.  Other cards allow you to explore areas to pickup dropped weapons or activate map features.  More on the game mechanics later...

The maps are truly unique.  The game comes with 5 missions and horde mode!  Each mission lists the map tiles needed for the game.  Then the map cards and shuffled and the map assembled in that order.  This allows the maps to always be different to create a different game and eliminate monotony in repeating missions.   The missions always have a primary objective, that when completed the second part of the mission is revealed.  This can include kicking down a door to clear a new area, new emergence holes opening or having to fight a boss!

Here's our map setup using the "Emergence" mission.  We move on to the board to start the first turn.
The mission reference sheet with all the cards setup, ready to see our CoG's beat some locust!
As our mission starts, our objective is to get to the last tile with the door and seal the emergence hole.  As we fight through the rooms and the locust unleash their fury on our beloved Gears, my partner gets attacked and takes wounds.  The attacks in this game work off of rolling attack dice as listed on the stat cards vs defense dice which are affected by cover.

This locust got the jump on the Cole Train, but you can't keep the Train down baby!
In this situation shown above, the locust moved up a few areas and attacks Cole Train, who is hanging out in the open.  To see if you have line-of-sight you would take the provided stick and connect the figures.  In this case Cole and Boomer are in the same area and there is no cover.  Therefore Cole, unable to dodge the attack, only gets 1 red defense dice.  The locust Boomer attacks with 4 attack dice.  The player who controls Cole rolls all the dice together and checks the results.  As shown above, Cole does not roll any shields on the defense dice.  However, the Boomer rolls a total of 4 bullets, meaning he causes 4 wounds.  You would take bullets - shields = wounds taken.  Since Cole didn't block any, he takes 4 wounds.  For each wound a CoG takes, the player must discard a card.  Since Cole's controlling player only has 3 cards, Cole is "bleeding out".  Just like the game Cole falls down and must wait for a fellow CoG to revive him.

Cole's controlling player, Crash, is distraught at the Cole Train bleeding out.
After Cole went down, we ran into a spat of trouble and were unable to complete the mission...However, being our first play through, it was a great game.  The dynamics of the board game truly capture the fast paced action of the video game.  The board games cover system is the difference between life and death, just like the games.  We ran into trouble when we were caught in the open.  But in the second review, we get a full team of 4 CoG's to eradicate the locust threat!

Here are the highlights:
- Awesome miniatures
- Tiles, counters, and cards are all top quality; sleeves are recommended
- Rules are well laid out, easy to follow and the rulebook uses pictures and diagrams to explain points
- True to GoW story and source material through in-game mechanics
- Easy, no argument Line of Sight and Cover System
- Total customizable missions and horde mode; always a new experience
- Game play is fast-paced and always changing through mission cards (changing objectives, adding new map tiles etc.)
- Single Player, Co-op, and horde never leaves you without a way to play
- Nobody has to be the "game master" or play the bad guy, since you roll all dice pertaining to your character (when attacking and being attacked)

- Occasionally enemy activation cards can chain together, giving tons of attacks to locust, to cripple a less than 4 player game
- Without a full game of 4 CoGs, some order cards are useless, but the rules give you a chance to discard them and re-draw new cards
- Sometimes "bleedout" and pickup of characters becomes cumbersome w/ crowding and LoS, but nothing gamebreaking

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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