Gears of War: the Board Game uses a modular system for setup, and includes several different scenarios to play through, each with different enemies and objectives. There’s even a Horde mode, which should bring a smile to fans of the video game’s awesome survival mode. Lowly wretches and drones all the way up to powerful Boomers and an immense Berserker are among the Locust you will face. Each turn, an AI card must be drawn, which dictates the Locust tactics and actions, which might include spawning more foes or causing all the Locust to move closer to the COGs. As you might expect, there is a large degree of tension and “we’re not gonna make it!” when a particularly brutal AI card is revealed.
Combat is handled by rolling a set of custom dice. Attackers roll a number black dice, based on the weapon they are using. Defenders roll red dice, with additions for cover and other modifiers. The amount of wounds rolled by the attacker is compared to the shields rolled by the defender; if there are more wounds than shields, damage is dealt equal to the difference. An omen symbol on a die means special abilities trigger, like the grenade’s power to seal an emergence hole, for instance. It’s an intuitive system that plays out well.
Fantasy Flight Games is known for having high quality components in their board games, and Gears of War is no exception. The design of the cards uses art from the game, and feels very much like a natural extension of the Gears of War universe. The map pieces, tokens, and other bits are made of solid cardstock with a wear-resistant finish. Best of all are the miniatures, which are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The Locust in particular look incredible, with an impressive level of detail. The Gears themselves look good too, though they are a bit tough to differentiate in battle due to similar poses.
As a fan of the video game, I was thrilled when Gears of War: the Board Game was announced, and my excitement has not dulled upon actually playing it. Almost every aspect of the video game, even down to the visceral thrill of sawing a drone in two with a Lancer, is replicated. It’s an impressive design, and works brilliantly as a highly cooperative tactical board game experience. Fans of Marcus and Dom should start up their own bromance with this excellent tabletop game.