NOTE: Custom COG Pack 1 was created by Alex Hajdasz for Gears of War: The Board Game using elements copyright Microsoft Studios, Fantasy Flight Games, and Epic Games.
Originally posted on 17 December 2014, CelJaded is re-publishing this material for Gears of War: The Board Game as part of a brand new content update. Enjoy!
Gears of War: The Board Game is good. A massive shame then that its typically expansion-happy publisher Fantasy Flight Games has no intention of ever releasing a proper expansion set. However, last year I sought to help correct this unfortunate situation by designing a new set of playable characters for the game. And so after a lot of design toil, play testing and painstaking editing of scanned cards, I presented the community over at BoardGameGeek with my first Custom COG Pack (now presented below in an updated format for CelJaded).
I am a professional graphic designer by trade and have striven for as much accurate detail as I could produce based on the original cards. I think you’ll agree that the results below are pretty close to looking like their officially produced counterparts. Consisting of 8 brand new character cards including alternate versions of the original cast plus 4 all new COGs, Custom COG Pack 1 can be used with any scenario and makes for a nice addition to the base game. Below you can find a preview of each card in this set along with verbose rules text and design notes that I compiled during their production.
Special thanks also go out to BoardGameGeek user, Roolz, who very kindly gave his time to offer helpful suggestions and printing tips during the early stages of this particular pack; I know the production is better for it!
If you want to try these for yourself then you can either save the compressed images below to your preferred mobile device or alternatively print them using the high quality PDFs. The entire collection can be downloaded from BoardGameGeek.
Custom COG Pack 1 (Version 1.5)
- New uncompressed PDF allows for higher quality prints. PDF is supplied in a .zip archive to reduce file size.
- All character images have been brightened up.
- Tweaked the blood smear at the bottom of all cards so that it no longer obscures the ability text.
- Changed Anya’s ability text to read “defense” so that it matches the American spelling of the core game.
- Changed the wording of Baird’s ability text to reduce clutter. Now uses the correct “equipment ability” terminology.
- Dizzy now starts with the Lancer.
- Improved Dominic’s ability. He now starts with the Gnasher and a tweaked ammo loadout in order to compensate.
- The image of Marcus has been changed so that the card looks more consistent with the others in this pack.
- Revised Dizzy Wallin for better game balance and ease of use.
- Revised Damon Baird’s ability text to reduce clutter.
- Fixed minor grammar error in Cole’s ability text.
- Updated copyright text.
- Revised Anya Stroud for better game balance and ease of use.
- Revised Marcus Fenix for better game balance.
- Weapon keyword has been highlighted in Baird’s special ability text.
- Visual changes to Bernadette’s sniper rifle (text made bigger and noise added to the image).
- Carmine’s defence value tweaked to look better.
- Minor adjustments to PDF quality.
- Initial release.
Marcus Fenix (alternate)
Rules: Treat every attack as if you had rolled an additional wound result except for attacks made using grenade weapons or grenade tokens.
Theme: Carrying main character status, Marcus is an all-round expert soldier. His attacks are more deadly as a result of his experience and years of service.
Design: One thing that I did not want to happen when designing these new COGs was to end up creating abilities that just felt like rehashes of each other. An easy way to accomplish this would have been to go with a simple framework of “you deal 1 extra wound if…” or “your attack made in this way deals +X wounds” etc.
I settled early on the idea of having just one character possess the simple yet powerful bonus of “all your attacks deal 1 extra wound” and it was clear to me that main character Marcus Fenix was the one who really suited it.
The ability is extremely effective because it is always active and is relevant in every player turn where an attack is made with this character (attacks are a very common occurrence in this game), so it only made sense that Marcus; the mascot for the series, should have it.
When revising these cards for version 1.3, I altered Marcus’s ability by restricting his damage bonus to non-grenade weapons only. I did this not simply as a balance tweak but also to make my grenade focused characters feel more specialized and useful. I’d like to include a grenade specialist in every COG pack I make so it helps if there’s more leeway when thinking up special abilities for them.
On my own custom scale, Marcus’s special abilities rank as very useful. His ammo distribution is 2,2,1 and ranks as sub-optimal.
Dominic Santiago (alternate)
Rules: Draw 3 cards during your Heal step (instead of 2). You may not exceed your maximum hand size of 6.
Theme: Dom has suffered great personal hardship in his life. This ability reflects his resolve to push past the pain and continue fighting.
Design: Now with his updated ability text, this second version Dominic is a lot easier for players to understand and use. My previous versions of the character may have been more balanced, but in hindsight they were pretty boring and didn’t allow players to feel special in their role.
Now that his ability has been improved, however, I’ve had to reunite Dom with his signature Gnasher Shotgun for better game balance.
On my own custom scale, Dom’s special abilities rank as useful. His ammo distribution is 2,1,2 and ranks as optimal.
Damon Baird (alternate)
Rules: After you pick up a weapon, either from a dropped weapon marker or equipment space, gain 1 ammo token and place it on any weapon you own. If you are simply gaining ammo from a dropped weapon marker (because you already owned that weapon when you picked it up) you still gain the bonus.
In addition, when you activate a Weapon equipment ability you draw 3 cards from the random weapons deck (but still only keep 1).
Theme: Baird is a technical expert and is often seen scavenging parts to repair and expand the COG armoury.
Design: You often find yourself running out of ammo tokens when playing this game so I always liked the idea of a COG who was good at securing more of them.
Again, this is one of those bonuses you have to be careful to balance and so I was careful to ensure a player wouldn’t find themselves swimming in ammo by the end of a scenario.
Although the trigger for the ammo collecting ability is somewhat specific, the bonus can potentially last well into the game as it lets you kill more Locusts and allows your most powerful weapons to function for longer- something that’s especially useful when playing the Horde scenario in particular.
Baird is stronger when Locust enemies drop weapon markers (not all of them do) so I added an extra boon whereby a player gets to draw more cards from the random weapons deck. No ability has done this before and I like the added chance of the crowd-pleasing mortar weapon to show up as a result!
Originally this extra ability allowed a player to take a weapon from the special weapons deck instead; the intention being that you would have a wider selection to play with. I quickly realized however that this would mean a player could just opt to select the Hammer of Dawn satellite laser! Yeah, I doubt that would have worked to be honest…
On my own custom scale, Baird’s special abilities rank as useful or very useful if playing a scenario with a greater number of weapon pickups. His ammo distribution is 2,2,1 and ranks as sub-optimal.
Augustus Cole (alternate)
Rules: Cole essentially behaves like the Order card Forced Entry as he can move into cover spaces that are occupied by enemy figures. Do not deal the Locust a wound when using this ability unless you have actually chosen to play Forced Entry on your turn.
You may only use this ability when moving due to an Order card effect or follow reaction ability – getting knocked back by an enemy or a similar effect will not trigger this ability.
Theme: ‘Cole Train’ is an ex football star known for being unstoppable during a charge; no Locust is going to get in his way!
Design: Forced Entry is currently the only Order card that has directly inspired one of my special abilities. Out of all the Custom COGs I have created so far however, I think this version of Cole is the neatest and perhaps the most balanced out of all of them.
There are so many times where taking over an enemy cover space is useful that it’s kind of hard to mention them all in full. It’s a really cool ability because it overcomes one of the weaknesses of this game- lack of cover spaces during a 3-4 player session. It’s also great because you can use it defensively (seeking out cover where there normally isn’t any) as well as offensively (removing an enemy’s bonus and making him easier for players to take down).
At the same time however this ability doesn’t just win you games by itself; it still requires careful planning and cunning play to exploit to the fullest. And there will be those turns where the ability isn’t useful at all, so in the end I think it’s very well balanced for what it is.
On my own custom scale, Cole’s special abilities rank as useful. His ammo distribution is 2,1,2 and ranks as optimal.
Rules: Any of Anya’s current weapons that do not use grenade tokens get +1 maximum range when she is in a cover space. This includes the Mulcher (if you have it) which will operate at 4 range (instead of 3).
When you are attacked by an enemy Locust, you may reroll once a number of defence dice equal to your cover defence bonus (if you have one). For example: if you are attacked whilst in partial cover you may reroll 1 defence die whereas being in full cover would let you reroll 2 dice.
Theme: Anya presents a smaller target than the other COGs so she’s adept at avoiding shots when in cover. She is also an excellent marksman as indicated by her range bonus.
Design: Something the Gears of War video game franchise sorely lacked until its third release was playable female characters. The board game inherited this oversight mainly because it was based on the first game in the series. I’ve seen on the Internet however that quite a few players have created their own Anya Stroud miniatures to use with the game so hopefully this character card in particular will be a good fit for them.
Before version 1.3, Anya’s special ability granted +1 maximum range to all weapons (grenades included) as well as a similar defence dice reroll ability that was a bit clunky in how it worked. I knew I had to fix the reroll ability to work more smoothly but at the same time I ended up making it a bit more useful too. This worked out well however because I had already planned on making the maximum range work for non-grenades only; part of my ongoing plan to make my grenade focused characters feel more specialized and useful.
Anya is another one of those custom characters that feels remarkably well balanced with a toolbox of nice little abilities that come together well.
On my own custom scale, Anya’s special abilities rank as useful. Her ammo distribution is 2,1,2 and ranks as optimal.
Rules: Carmine’s abilities are self-explanatory but are very easy to forget during a turn. Always remember his bonuses when you are attacked!
Theme: Keep your head down, Carmine!
Design: Two custom character cards for Carmine already exist (created by BoardGameGeek members the_gecko and samruiz123).
Both of those designs are already so good that I wanted to create an amalgam of the two. This version of Anthony Carmine has the 2 defence dice (instead of just one) as well as an ability to more frequently dodge attacks.
I think that any ability that reads “you may treat any card in your hand as if it had a <blank> reaction ability” needs to be followed up with something else to make it feel more playable but in this case I think the extra defence dice already allows for that. It essentially means that Carmine is always in partial cover at least and gives you the opportunity to pursue manoeuvrers that you normally wouldn’t consider.
In the Gears of War video game, Anthony Carmine is presented as an unlucky palette-swap schmuck who is frequently seen getting killed in several brutal cutscenes. I know some fans would probably be unhappy at the theme with this card I’ve made (it’s damn useful!) but then you have to consider what’s playable because if we really went out of our way to make a more fitting Carmine then I doubt anyone would even bother picking him.
Carmine is a popular character from the series regardless so I know there will be those who’ll back me up on this one.
On my own custom scale, Carmine’s special abilities rank as very useful. His ammo distribution is 1,1,2 and ranks as sub-optimal.
Rules: Simply ignore any blue elevation lines when you move (for any reason).
If a fellow COG performs a follow reaction ability during your movement, they will follow you through any blue elevation lines.
Theme: Bernadette is a survivalist and knows the best way to approach new terrain. Use these hidden paths to guide other COGs and line up perfect shots with her sniper rifle.
Design: Pound-for-pound, this is probably the most original new character I’ve ever come up with for a board game. A good thing too because it took ages to get that sniper rifle looking that good on the card! I was always keen on having a COG start with a Longshot (normally a rare weapon) but I knew that their ability would have to be somewhat downplayed as a result because of the rifle’s power.
Bernadette’s card came together beautifully though when I realized that one of my shortlisted abilities in my notebook (moving through elevation lines) was already somewhat under-powered. The two features went together wonderfully and thematically they worked wonders in portraying this survivalist character who could reach those difficult sniper positions.
In short; I’m really proud of this one. It’s a blast to play and all of the pieces fit together so well; there’s nothing I’d change or do differently here.
On my own custom scale, Bernadette’s special abilities rank as situational. Her ammo distribution is 3,1,1 and ranks as optimal.
Rules: Using this ability you may convert ammo tokens into grenade tokens. It does not matter how many ammo tokens you were about to receive – you only get 1 grenade token per instance of receiving ammo.
You also roll one extra attack die when attacking with a weapon that has grenade in its name. For Bolo Grenades this means you will roll 5 attack dice (instead of 4).
Theme: Dizzy is an expert engineer and enjoys to make things that go Boom!
As a former Stranded he makes good use of the Scavenging Order card as he is able to find explosives as well as ammunition when resolving it.
Design: The first of my grenade specialist COGs; Dizzy was a tough one to get right. Grenade tokens are much harder to come by then standard ammo tokens because of their utility in destroying multiple enemies in a turn. I had to be careful when giving the player an ability to secure more of them- the volume of additional tokens had to be kept to a reasonable level.
On my own custom scale, Dizzy’s special abilities rank as very useful. His ammo distribution is 1,1,3 and ranks as specialized.