On the invitation of Newbreed, I'm here to do a bit of guest blogging.
Yes, it is a board game now. A co-operative one to be precise, for up to four players, playing time around 30-90 minutes depending on numbers and difficulty settings. Myself, Aido, John and Padriac were down in Maynooth’s Gamers Hub and decided to give it a go.
You play one of the four eponymous GoW characters. Here’s me, Baird, the “science guy” (he wears goggles in place of nerdy specs). The models are all well designed, especially the Locust, but unpainted, it can be a little hard to tell them apart.
Depending on the character you pick, you’ll get different stuff to start put with in terms of guns and ammo. Along with an individual special rule, as this character card indicates. Grenades are important. Very important.
The maps are arranged with random tiles, a series of rooms and corridors. Missions are randomly selected from a group of seven. This is “Emergence” the beginner mission. Our four intrepid heroes enter on the bottom right tile, and must fought their way to the red dot (an “Emergence” hole) in the furthest one, sealing it up with a grenade, before eliminating the remaining bad guys.
Weapons match those of the game, with the “Lancer” the most common (with a nifty mechanic for using its in-built chainsaw). Using up ammo tokens allows you to add more die to your rolls, but every weapon has a base number of die that you can roll without expending ammo. Grenades though, are gone when they are gone. You can pick up weapons from dead Locust.
That’d be these nasty buggers. The Locust are actually quite weak in the game, their strength coming from swarming numbers.
And here they come. You can rank how dangerous they are by size. Wretches, the smallest, are barely a threat, while the Boomers, the biggest, can mess you up with grenade launchers. A steady stream of Locust will be heading our way all game until the objective is completed.
And it doesn’t take long for them to reach us. As in the video games, the board game operates a “cover” mechanic (the curved arrows) which allows you to add more die to dodge and defence roles.
The turn system operates on a “Player A – Them – Player B – them” system. Everytime a human player is finished a turn, he takes control of the locust, drawing “AI Cards” to determine the general instructions for what they do, which can include attack, advancing or adding more Locust to game board. The player can, sometimes, decide the specifics of what the Locust do though, such as which of the four players they actually attack. This emphasises the co-operative nature of the game, as you work to protect the weakest from Locust assault.
Attacks are made through action cards like this one, of which you are dealt up to seven, depending on the character you picked, receiving an additional two every turn. Aside from letting you do things, the action cards also simulate health as damage is calculated by removing cards from your hand. They also each have individual effects as indicated by the symbol on the top left of the card, which can allow you to dodge an attack, get in an attack on a Locust about to shoot you etc.
The Locust AI cards frequently leave the enemy piled up in front of you in large numbers, in this case, just about every bad guy on the board in one square.
Die rolls are made with black for attack and red for defence. Those red flashes mean hits and damage (of which Locust cannot take much), while skulls are “omens” which activate special rules depending on the weapon used. In this turn, John pitches a grenade at the enemy, and rolls several die.
With bad consequences for them. Grenades are powerful, somewhat over-powered for this game, and are plentiful in this specific scenario. A common game tactic is simply to wait until the Locust are inevitably jammed into one space then pitch a grenade. One of the cowards is actually running away in the top-right.
I start using movement-centric action cards to advance through the map while the coast is clear. Other scenarios might actually be better done with a “Dig-In” mentality, but not this one. Of course, it is easy to get cut off on your own if you don’t collaborate on movement.
It is not long before more Locust are winging their way towards us.
As Aido and John are stuck back in the first square (unable to finish off some Wretches), myself and Padraic take to the high ground, which offers some boosts to attack. But the Locust are not far behind and poor Baird is already down to just two action cards.
And down he goes. Like the video game, I’m not dead, just “bleeding out”. Another player can exhaust an action card to get me up, as Padraic does. The players lose when all four are down. This takes a lot of damage to accomplish, but it is a snowball effect: you can operate easily enough with one player down, but two down means less targets for the Locust to choose from, less offensive options, then suddenly three are down, then you’re all dead.
Another grenade clears the enemies and now we are all advancing down the last straight, the objective firmly in mind. The board game really does capture something of a video game in my opinion, the basic teamwork, the hordes of bad guys falling before you etc. The creators have done a decent job of translating virtual mechanics into board game ones.
We approach the objective. The way seems pretty packed, but you can move past live Locust if you wish. Question marks are ammo points, where you discard action cards to get more food for guns. Pretty important here, to get more grenades.
We make a run for the objective. The first attempt fails, but an ammo point is readily available.
Success! The Emergence hole is sealed. Getting this far was plenty of fun, and the game benefits from such specific objectives, giving it that military feel.
One last thing to do, as a final horde of Locust stream into the map depending on how many players are left. Unfortunately for them, grenades remain really over powered....
Padraic slaughters the lot easily.
Victory! Our team stands united in triumph (except for Aido who was too busy being a glory-hunter).
The game has some minor flaws – hard to distinguish models, over-powered weapons, easy enough enemies – but many of these can be overcome by playing on higher difficulties (we played on “Normal”) which throws greater numbers of more difficult enemies at you, all the way up to Berserkers. But overall it as a good gaming experience. The teamwork, combat, and Locust AI mechanics are all good, the rules avoid unnecessary complexity, and it can all be done in an hour or so. Fully recommended.
David Costelloe is the author of Never Felt Better, the bestest blog on the internet, and personally knows, like, THREE Warheads.
Labels: Boardgames, Gamer's Hub, Gears of War, HandsofBlue, Maynooth, Never Felt Better, Review