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Category: HandsofBlue

Gears Of War: The Board Game

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.

Dark Angels are back?

So I have been getting a lot of texts about the new DA FAQ and it has been discussed both on this site and others that maybe just maybe there is now the potential to make them work.

If you are interested in seeing what I have to say on the codex overall please read my Primer as posted here several months ago.

Lets see. The FAQ has fixed TH/SS issues, made the Apoth give his unit Fnp instead of the old rule, given us the Heavy 2 Cyclone and brought the PotmS and Smoke up to regulations.

Is this a really big deal? I don’t really think so.

Any army must have a certain number of things to make it work. The most obvious of these is the ability to shoot and the ability to assault. With DW these abilities IMO must be present in each squad or any opponent worth his salt, will merely shoot the assaulty stuff and assault the shooty stuff. I have agonised over the inclusion or removal of Chain Fists in each squad long enough to realise that it is a necessity.

Each squad should also have these things as they are the core of your army; with the base cost of 215 points for 5 lads, you don’t have the options that might otherwise be available to you.

The first reaction I had was to see how many TH/SS guys I can get on the pitch.

Belial; TH/SS
Command Squad; 5 X TH/SS, 1 Cyclone, Apoth.
5 X DW Squad; 5 X TH/SS, 1 Cyclone.

This leaves you with enough for 2 Speeders or a Chaplain/Libby.

Problems here are mainly due to a lack of S8 + and it is very slow, even with DW assault., Which I would be nervous about without Homers.

Lets spark this up somewhat and see what I would deem better. My main focus here will be on making each unit more diverse while also allowing for wound allocation, which when you have 30 figs, is your friend.

Belial; Claws.
Chaplain; Combi-Melta.
Command Squad; Apoth TH/SS, Cyclone TH/SS, Srg TH/SS, SB/CF, TLC
5 X DW Squads; TLC, TH/SS, Srg TH/SS, Cyclone SB/PF, SB/CF.

Even this doesn’t really do it for me. I think that they are too Swiss Army Knife, mainly because there are 5 squads.

Stormy sent me this list earlier today:

Belial; Claws
Command; Cyclone, SB/CF, 4 TH/SS
3 X DW Squads; 5 X TH/SS, 1 Cyclone
2 Speeders; M Melta, H. Flamer
2 Speeders; M Melta, H. Flamer
1 Speeder; M Melta, H. Flamer
Godraider, Extra Armour.

This could work, but the speeders are not reliable and the army lacks S8 +, with a single CF and the two Lascannons, the fact that it is a Godhammer means will also not be played as aggressively as it needs to be.Also the God Raider only has capacity for 10 models so Belial will be walking with the others.

My army from 3 Warpcons ago seems to have most of the pieces I think might be needed.

Belial; Claws
Command; Banner TH/SS, Srg TH/SS, Apoth TLC, H. Flamer/CF, TH/SS.
2 X DW Squads; Srg TH/SS, Cyclone TH/SS, SB/CF, TH/SS, TLC.
2 X Ven Dread, Lascannon/Missile Launcher
Ven Dread; Auto Cannon, H Flamer, Extra Armour.
Land Raider Crusader; Extra Armour.
Speeder, M Melta, H. Flamer.

Having said all this, I think that the addition of one or two extra TH/SS into my most recent Raven Death list would prob be the best as it will give the army the speed it needs while bringing in more Melta and Sammy on his Speeder.

Belial; TLC
Samael; Speeder
DW Command, Apoth TLC, Srg SB/PW, Ass Cannon/PF, SB/CF, TH/SS.
2 X DW Squads; TLC, Srg SB/PW, Cyclone SB/PF, SB/CF, TH/SS.
RW Command; Srg PF, Apoth Plasma, Plasma, Attack Bike M Melta.
RW Squad; Srg PF, 2 X Melta, Attack Bike M Melta.
Speeder; M Melta, Ass Cannon
Speeder; M Melta, Ass Cannon

The later would be my preference in terms of play style and competition. I know that others will disagree. I would like to try out the first list with all the TH/SS and I’m sure it will make an appearance.

I may have to start playing these lads again as it could be that my best general is in jeopardy once people realise what these lads are capable of.


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