Price: £49.99 (approx.)
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Marcus Fenix is about to get attacked by a Berserker. He’s got half of his health left, but a strong enough attack from the blind, enraged Locust is going to finish him off. There’s a palpable tension around the table, as four people glance from the board to their cards and back again. No one can help; Marcus is going to have to deal with this one alone. I hold my breath, and roll the dice.
Gears of War: The Board Game, is a 1-4 player co-operative action game from Fantasy Flight Games. Designed by Corey Konieczka, it lets you relive some classic moments from the Gears of War series, albeit with miniatures instead of polygons and dice instead of controllers.
The game is simple to set up and play, with a well written rule book that explains everything you need to know to get started. If you’ve never played a board game before, then this is a good place to start. It captures the feel of Epic’s brutal videogame perfectly, whilst still delivering the sort of experience you only get when you’re gathered round your table with a few friends.
Each turn is split into three steps. First you heal, by drawing cards from the order deck. You can only ever hold six cards, and as well as representing the actions you can perform, they’re also your health gauge. Fall below zero cards, and you’re bleeding out, and one of your allies is going to have to come and save you.
Second, you perform an action, spending one of your order cards to shoot, move, dive into cover, or a combination of all three. Each of the cards you play has different instructions on them, so every round you’re going to be doing something new. You can then choose to spend a second card to revive a fallen ally, or pick up extra ammo or equipment.
To attack, you roll a set number of attack dice, depending on the action you’re performing and the weapon you’re using. You also roll a number of defence dice for the Locust you’re shooting, then subtract the number of successful defence rolls from the number of successful attack rolls. If you’ve rolled more hits than misses, then you do that much damage.
Your third and final step is to draw a Locust AI card. This tells you what the Locust on the board do, where they move to and who they attack. It’s a clever and streamlined system, and it means that everyone is always involved in the action. Some cards can be even be played to make reactions, allowing you to dodge, guard and follow another player when it’s not your turn.
The dice rattle onto the table. We tot up the hits, work out how strong Marcus’ defence was. He’s safe, just, and everyone around the table lets out a sigh of relief. Then it’s someone else’s go, and the fire fight continues. Gears of War is tense, tight and delivers the sort of round-table thrills that only the best board games can.