Tough as nails – Gears of War the Boardgame

Gears of War the board game is an adaptation of a video game. Since I haven’t played the video game I’m just writing here what I gathered from the board game. The players are heavily armed human commandos which have to complete a specific mission while fighting of hordes of so called locust enemies, which emerge now and then from holes in the ground. Gears of War is a cooperative game for 1-4 players. It is a sci-fi dungeon crawl without a game master. The enemies are activated by cards which are usually like this: activate all monsters of type y – if enemy in range attack – if not advance – if no monsters of type y in play, spawn one at map exit etc.

As usual Fantasy Flight Games has delivered a high quality product. There are a handful of missions included in the game and each mission plays very differently due to different enemies, different victory conditions and different map board elements. A mission will always have the same map board elements which are assigned to the mission stage. Typically there are 4 maps per stage and 3 stages per mission. The sequence of map boards in each stage is randomized by cards making a mission highly replayable without becoming boring. This is an important feature, because the game is really difficult.

Near the end of a mission. Only few locust are still standing

Near the end of a mission. Only few locust are still standing

After I bought it at the Spiel in Essen some years ago I played it once or twice in a two player game and we were beaten by the AI. Many months later we tried it again and again until we completed the first mission. We found out that:

You shouldn’t spread up your team to far, because if one player gets shot down and there is no one around to heal him, losing his turn can be critical
As in computer games you shouldn’t advance too quickly, because you will spawn and activate new monsters which soon become too many for you to handle (although your grenades sometimes help)
Always use a dodge card when you are attacked (unless you are in full cover and attacked by just one die)
Conserve your ammo (you may empty your pistol though)


Why do I like this game?

Once you get used to the difficulty level of the game it actually becomes quite tense and thrilling. If you can live with a bit of setback the challenge is actually rewarding since winning a mission means so much more than in other cooperative games. I also found that you just need to find the right tactics for each scenario to significantly improve your chances of winning.
As with Death Angel, I can almost hear the hammering of the assault rifle’s burst fire and the clinging sound of the empty brass jackets falling to the concrete floor. Very immersive.


Single Player

I played thw game with two players and solitaire. In both cases I recommend two heroes. The scaling calls for too many enemy figures if you play with three or more characters and playing alone just gives you two few synergetic options, like drawing fire with one character or boosting the other or even heling him if he is shot down (although you usually have few chances of winning if that happens to you).


Tips for playing (if you already know the game):

The miniatures are of the typical high quality, which is to be expected from FFG. The players minis are red and the enemies grey, so far so good. While the enemies (locust) are quite different in looks and size and can therefore easily be distinguished, the four player miniatures all look very similar. Although I own brush and paint for miniatures, I only have a limited amount of time available and I can’t be bothered to paint the minis for board games. What I did instead was putting some color stickers on the mini and the respective card thereby identifying who is who.


 Two of my minis and associated cards, distinguished by color stickers

Two of my minis and associated cards, distinguished by color stickers