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Published on July 25th, 2013 | by Colin


Cardcore Gamer: Grinding Gears



Listen up, maggots! It’s time to talk like an army guy, because today I’ll be reliving the gruelling horrors of my time playing Gears of War: The Board Game. Look alive! Check your six! Other military stuff I don’t understand! TEEEEEEEEEN-HUT!

Yes, I know it’s not Puppet Wars, but I’m taking the time to get a few more games of that under my belt before I launch into a rules explanation, so in the meantime, I’d like to share my first solo game of Gears of War. I chose to tackle the first mission in the game, Emergence, in which the albino space marine mole-men known as the Locust Horde are ruining your lawn and must to be stopped to death using bullets.

This might be the opportune time to mention that I’ve never played the titular video game trilogy and therefore my knowledge of the lore is iffy at best. I chose 2 beef-slab soldiers for the mission; Nutrocious BreakFIST (played by Marcus Fenix) and Unbalanced DIEt (Augustus Cole) and prepared to be up to my Ears in Gore.

All we have to do is make it to the end of this Tetris piece.

All we have to do is make it to the end of this Tetris piece.


Each COG chap has a hand of cards which allow you to take actions, sometimes even interrupting other players, or the Locusts’ turn. The problem is that as you use cards, you leave yourself more vulnerable to being murderlated. After each COG takes a turn, the Locusts activate by resolving AI Cards, which are simple, situational ‘IF/THEN’ instructions allowing those blanched Freddy Kruegers to move, attack, swarm you and even heal up. The mission was simple: run along to the end of the map, then seal an emergence hole with a grenade. Easy!


Unbalanced DIEt inspects the floor for enemy Locusts


By the end of turn 1, two of the mid-sized Locust Drones were splattered and chainsawed respectively, but the honking great big Boomer utterly flattened Unbalanced DIEt, who now counted as bleeding out. Though the COGs can miraculously survive this indefinitely, it renders them unable to do anything but crawl painfully from one area to another until revived by one of their chums. If that’s not bad enough, they still trigger a Locust AI card at the end of their turn, so they do nothing but make things worse for everyone else!

By turn 3, Nutrocious BreakFIST had blown away the hulking Boomer and the floor ahead was littered with shiny new weapons, dropped by the Locusts as they fell. Playing the Explore card, Nutrocious legged it up to a Hammerburst gun and discarded a card to grab it, preparing to blap more enemies off the walls.

So this is the plan; you lie there and bleed and I'll go and grab that gun...

So this is the plan; you lie there and bleed and I’ll go and grab that gun…


This is probably an opportune time to explain how the dice work in Gears of War. You’ve got two types; black attack dice and red defence dice; the black dice will score hits, double hits, Omens or (and especially at a crucial moment) nothing at all, whereas red dice will score single or double defence symbols. When an attack happens, you subtract the defence symbols from the hits and any excess is taken as damage. Omens, unsurprisingly,  are the things to watch for, for they trigger special abilities which differ depending on the weapon being used, or the Locust making the attack.


From the top: hit, defence, omen and “oh crap”


The next turn showcased the way that a bit of smart cardplay can pull your buttocks out of the furnace. BreakFIST used the card Active Reload to blast a Drone to bits with his newly stolen Hammerburst, discarding an ammo token to make an Overkill attack and roll more dice. The drone rolled well on defence, leaving it wounded and not deaded, but the fun was not yet over; Active Reload allows you to resolve a further Order Card step if you make an Overkill attack, enabling Nutrocious BreakFIST to play Sit Tight. 

This second card allows a COG figure to draw two cards, increasing both their health and their options, but before resolving it, BreakFIST discarded a further card to bring Unbalanced DIEt back to the realm of the not-bleeding, making him a valid target to draw the cards! Sit TIght also allows the COGs to forgo the Locust AI card for the turn at the expense of moving a Locust figure closer to them. Unbalanced DIEt, feeling much less deathly also played Sit Tight leaving both COGs at almost full health by the start of turn 5.


They wave, I wave back. I am holding a grenade.


Turns 5 and 6 were short and bloody, with more wretches spawning and closing in. On turn 7, Nutrocious BreakFIST played Roadie Run, a card which enables a COG to move a whopping 5 areas. Feeling suddenly clingy, Unbalanced DIEt discarded a card with a ‘follow’ symbol to hitch a ride and both COGs charged stupidly heroically toward the distant emergence hole. The Locust AI triggered a Drone and Boomer to move in and open fire, but by hiding behind some handily placed cover, BreakFIST weathered the storm of bullets unharmed.


Nobody could possibly find us over here!

As in the video game, cover is important for not getting dead. Cover provides two extra defence dice against incoming attack, but is rarely big enough for more than one COG or Locust at a time. What’s that? Yep, the smaller Locust bods can use cover, too, though the bigger ones, such as the Boomer would be like an elephant trying to hide behind a street light.

Turn 8 and BreakFIST went blood-mental and used Slaughter to inflict three attacks on the encroaching goth bodybuilder, sawing a Drone in half, then overkilling the Boomer on his second attempt. With ammo running short, three wretches swarmed closer and the stage was set for a final confrontation. Unbalanced DIEt hefted a bolo grenade at the emergence hole and with a mighty roar, he failed to do anything at all. The AI deck spurred on the encroaching Wretches, wounding Nutrocious BreakFIST and spawning another of their filthy number at the still-open hole. Two more attacks weakened BreakFIST, but with cards yet to play he stayed on his great big honking feet.


Leave me alone! You can all have autographs later!

Playing Advance, Nutrocious BreakFIST tried his hand at grenade slinging, failing to seal the hole, but turning two Drones into a fine paste. Discarding another card to collect a second grenade, he then bravely ran away, hoping to live long enough for a second chance. As the Wretches relentlessly followed, Unbalanced DIEt discarded two cards to saw apart an equal number of Wretches, before being reduced to zero cards as they struck back, barely surviving with his pants intact! His turn up next, DIEt used Cover FIre, revved the saw and took another wretch to pieces, only to be swamped and taken down, bleeding out as the remaining Locusts reduced BreakFIST to zero cards. Things did not look good for our chunky heroes.


This is where you fall down.

Determined to end this madness, Nutrocious BreakFIST lobbed yet another bolo grenade at the emergence hole, sealing it and causing a ketchup tornado of Wretch bits to rain all over the map. Stage One of the mission was complete!

Gears of War missions are built in several stages, in this case, two. With the emergence hole sealed, all that remained was for our COGs to wipe out all the Locust on the map, including the re-enforcements who rudely barged in through the door…

Facing off against four Wretches and two Boomers, Nutrocious BreakFIST ignored Unbalanced DIEt tugging on his trouser leg. The AI card activated the Boomers; just two attacks to survive and maybe the mission would succeed. throwing away a card for a pre-emptive Guard shot, BreakFIST tomato-chunked the first Boomer with his stolen Hammerburst gun, then braced himself for return fire…




Oops. Both COGs were down, the mission was over and the Locust Horde had a barbecue with some cheap, off-brand beer to celebrate. It had been a hard fought battle, full of blood, sweat and COGs. COGs, or maybe Gears. Gears…OF WAR! WAAAAARRRRR! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR!

And breakfast.



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