After distinguishing himself in the Pendulum Wars, battle-hardened COG Marcus Fenix had established a promising military career...until he found himself serving a prison sentence for abandoning a post to save his father. Now, as humanity faces annihilation, Fenix will again take up arms against a relentless enemy.

Last month, Fantasy Flight Games announced the upcoming release of Gears of War: The Board Game , a fully cooperative board game for one to four players. Designed by Corey Konieczka, this action-packed battle against a cunning AI opponent is based on the wildly popular series of third-person shooters by Epic Games.

Today, we’ll take a brief look at the chief protagonist of Gears of War , Marcus Fenix, and we’ll see how his COG Character card conveys his unique stats and abilities. Then we’ll examine several Order cards, discussing how these versatile components are used to execute a broad range of tactical options.

A legendary war hero

Marcus Fenix has seen more than his share of battle. As a hero of the Pendulum Wars, this seasoned soldier has developed the expertise to use his Lancer Assault Rifle more effectively than his fellow COGs, while his years of experience give him a broader range of available tactics and his natural toughness means he can stay in the fight even longer. These unique talents are represented by both his high number of Ammo tokens and his special text abilities.

Take a look at Fenix’s COG Character card below. Beneath his name, you’ll find a list of three weapons, and each weapon shows its supply of ammunition to its immediate left. While most COGs begin the game with these same three weapons, the amount of Ammo and Grenade tokens that each COG begins with varies. But what do these tokens mean?

When faced with an overwhelming horde of Locusts, it’s often best to hit them with an all-out berserker attack. But even in these extreme conditions, Fenix has a trigger discipline that surpasses that of other COGs, letting him get the most out of every shot. With three starting Ammo tokens on his Lancer, Fenix can utilize this weapon’s “overkill attack” three times before exhausting its supply of ammunition (rendering the Lancer useless for all ranged attacks). And as you can see under his Special Abilities, Fenix even receives an additional attack die when using his Lancer’s constant ability (its Chainsaw Bayonet), for when the action gets up close and personal!

The red square in the lower left indicates the number of defense dice that all enemies must add to their attacks against Fenix, but this, along with the specifics of standard and overkill attacks, will be covered in a future preview. For now, let’s move on to Fenix’s hand of Order cards, the tools with which he wages war against the Locust horde.

Choose your actions carefully

The Order card is by far the most versatile component in Gears of War: The Board Game , and it can be played for a range of effects. Every COG begins with six Order cards (except for Fenix, who receives seven), and can never, under any circumstances, exceed his maximum hand size. This is because while Order cards represent a COG’s various tactical options, they also represent his health! Choose your actions carefully; with each card you play, you bring your COG one step closer to incapacitation.

But before we move on, to fully understand the context of the Order card’s importance, you must understand each player’s turn summary:

  1. The “Heal Step” is the main means by which players receive more all-important Order cards. At the start of each of your turns, you’ll draw two new Order cards (never to exceed your maximum hand size). While this may sound like a steady income of options and health, you’ll find that given the various ways players can lose Order cards, you’ll constantly be faced with the prospect of dwindling resources.
  2. In the “COG Order Step,” you’ll play Order cards for all sorts of effects. Whether you’re executing a brutal short range attack, roadie running across the map, or diving for cover, you must discard an Order card each time you perform some display of martial prowess.
  3. In the “Locust Activation Step,” your AI enemy gets its chance at revenge. It is during this step that the Locusts move, attack, and spawn from Emergence Holes. We’ll cover this step in far more detail throughout future previews, but suffice it to say that the Locusts won’t use it to invite you to afternoon tea.

One card, many purposes

We’ve established that you’ll receive two new Order cards during your Heal Step, which takes place once per round. But how can you lose them? There are plenty of ways, and the reckless player may quickly find himself cardless and bleeding out, waiting for a fellow COG to pick him up so that he can draw cards once again.

First, you lose Order cards by taking damage, discarding a number of cards (of your choosing) equal to the points of damage you’ve sustained. Next, you must discard one Order card during the COG Order Step of your turn, choosing one of the following results for your payment: Move up to two areas, perform one attack, or resolve the action(s) listed on the discarded card.

Three Order cards. They may be played to move, attack, or perform their text ability.
Or, they may be played during the Locust Activation Step to interrupt enemy actions.

During that same step, you may also perform special actions like picking up a fallen comrade, grabbing a dropped weapon, or activating special equipment in your area...but each of these actions costs one Order card as well!

For every action...

But what if it’s not your turn, as with the Locust Activation Step or another COG’s Order Step? While another figure is acting, you have the option to utilize an Order card’s Reaction Ability, discarding it to perform a sort of interrupt action. In the upper left corner of every Order card, you’ll find one of three possible Reaction icons. Use these for a well-timed defensive boost or a surprise attack, but use them wisely! If an Order card is discarded for its Reaction Ability, the rest of its text is considered blank, so you’ll be giving up potentially valuable tactics that might otherwise be used on your COG Order Step. And let’s not forget that you’ll also be bringing yourself one step closer to bleeding out...

You may discard cards with the Guard Reaction Ability to make an immediate surprise attack just before a Locust figure moves or attacks. You may even interrupt a Locust’s movement midway through! Just be careful to communicate with your fellow COGs; only one Guard Reaction can be performed during each Locust Activation Step, so if more than one player wants to play one, you’ll have to cooperate to make the best tactical decision.

Do the Locusts have you in their sights? Discard cards with the Dodge Reaction Ability to add two more defense dice to attack rolls that target you! You must play this Reaction before dice are rolled, and can only play one Dodge per attack, but the added defense will mean that all but the most skilled attackers will miss.

With the Follow Reaction Ability, the cooperative nature of Gears of War: The Board Game is at its peak. This ability represents a squad of COGs moving through areas together as a unified group. On another COG’s Order Step, if he begins in your area or moves through your area, you may play a card with this icon to fall in line behind him, ending your movement wherever he ends his. If multiple players use this same card, they can all form up alongside each other, potentially roadie running across the map in formation!

As we’ve seen, the Order card is a component with amazing flexibility, serving as a health meter, a selection of tactics (to use when you are acting), a pool of interrupt actions (to use when someone else is acting), or a type of currency (to spend to perform certain special actions). Keep checking back in the coming weeks, when we’ll take a closer look at weapons, combat, and the Locust Activation Step. Then, look for Gears of War: The Board Game on store shelves in the third quarter of 2011!

Gears of War: The Board Game , designed by Corey Konieczka, is based on the wildly popular third-person shooter by Epic Games. One to four players take on the roles of COG soldiers cooperating to destroy the Locust horde, and must work together to complete missions against an ingeniously challenging and varied game system.

© 2011-2012, Epic Games, Inc. All rights reserved. Epic, Epic Games, the Epic Games logo, Gears of War, Gears of War 2, Marcus Fenix and the Crimson Omen logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Epic Games, Inc. in the United States of America and elsewhere. Board game mechanics and rules © 2012 Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc. Fantasy Flight Games, Fantasy Flight Supply, and the FFG logo are trademarks of Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc.
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