NOTE: Custom COG Pack 2 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!
After another 12 months of design and development, I’m very happy to at last bring you Custom COG Pack 2 for Gears of War: The Board Game. If you’re visiting from the BoardGameGeek website, then welcome! It’s been a much more gruelling project this time around, as you’d be surprised how quickly viable special abilities dry up when you start making so many of them.
But then I think I’m pretty safe in saying that every character in these add-on packs have their own play style now. I’ve been very careful not to produce characters that feel like repeats of each other; trying my best to ensure that each one feels unique and different. As always, another major design goal here was to ensure that the new characters work well for a solo game as well as full multiplayer. This goal is incredibly difficult to achieve because of the frequency of certain mechanisms such as card drawing and Order steps, but I think I’ve done a good job overall. Some characters may be slightly skewed towards a particular player count, but after many hours of play testing, I’m confident that they’ll work well no matter the mission you want to use them in.
One point worth mentioning concerns deck dilution. If you are using more than one of my COG packs, there will now be a couple of characters that start with weapons that are taken from the Random Weapon deck before play begins. If you don’t want this deck to become overly diluted as a result of this (and thus limiting your card choice later in the game), I recommend only allowing one of these characters to be used per game. Some COGs also have a Gnasher Shotgun as a starting weapon- I would also recommend only allowing one or maybe two such COGs to be present in the game at once so that you don’t have to use additional proxy cards.
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 2 (Version 1.3)
- 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.
- Improved Alicia’s ability (again).
- Minor adjustments to the terms used in Ezra’s ability.
- Samantha’s ability now uses the correct terminology with reduced clutter.
- Sofia’s ability adjusted to reduce clutter. Capitalized the “H” in Heal step.
- Tai Kaliso’s ability now uses the correct Locust “A” terminology.
- Tai Kaliso’s ability now only works during the Order step- you can no longer use it during guard reactions.
- Revised Alicia Valera for better game balance
- Corrected Tai Kaliso’s starting ammo values
- Updated copyright text
- Minor adjustments to PDF quality.
- Initial release.
Rules: The enhanced ability to revive a bleeding out COG has no effect if you are playing a solitaire game.
The second special ability is optional and occurs at the end of your Heal step (after you have drawn up to your hand size of 6 cards).
Theme: Whilst not strictly referred to as a medic in the Gear of War: Judgment campaign, Sofia receives the medic loadout in the game’s survival mode and is very handy at reviving wounded COGs as a result. As a special ops cadet also, she is highly capable when it comes to battlefield tactics and strategy.
Design: Sofia is an interesting one, mainly due to how the card balancing works between player counts. The ability to easily revive a bleeding out COG obviously doesn’t work when playing in single player mode, but I thought the idea was too good to give up on.
The second ability then had to be something that was more potent as the number of players dropped (as your turn would come up more often as a result). The eventual discard-to-draw ability that I ended up with, fits this bill perfectly.
Essentially a way of finding the vital Sit Tight Order card faster (thematic for a tactician/medic), the ability to selectively discard a less useful card in hopes of getting a better one is something that activates every turn without fail- meaning it’s technically at its best when played in solitaire.
The abilities here compliment each other so well that it makes Sofia Hendrick one of my favourite new COGs.
On my own custom scale, Sofia’s special abilities rank as very useful. Her ammo distribution is 1,2,2 and ranks as sub-optimal.
Rules: More bullets = more dead grubs.
Theme: There’s nothing subtle about Clayton! After losing two of his brothers to the Locust Horde, he’s geared up and ready for combat.
Design: You’ll often find straightforward characters like this in board games and in my experience, they rarely fail to disappoint. This is a perfect character for beginners to get to grips with but is still great for seasoned players who are just looking to blow stuff up from the first turn.
My favourite aspect of this character though is just how great the card looks the first time you see it – no abilities and no nonsense; just a ton of bullets and the will to use them. Combined with Epic Games’ wonderful character art, this card just says it all despite saying very little. Rather thematic for Clayton, now I think of it!
On my own custom scale, Carmine’s special abilities rank as non-existent! His ammo distribution is 3,3,3 and ranks as perfect!
Rules: A grenade weapon is any weapon that requires the use of a grenade token.
After you receive a grenade token from a grenade equipment ability, you receive 1 additional grenade (for a total of 2).
Theme: As a demolitions expert, Samantha has an affinity towards explosives and their application on the battlefield.
Rules: My second grenade specialist, Samantha needed to be different from Dizzy but still have a unique way of procuring the somewhat rare grenade tokens. Assigning the bonus to equipment spaces was an elegant solution and is particularly effective in the Horde mode where such cards reset between waves.
Originally Samantha’s ability was simply an immunity to indirect damage – any damage not caused by a direct attack. This meant that she could throw grenades into her own space without being hurt, as well as wade through swarms of Tickers without having to worry about collateral damage.
Defining the term ‘indirect damage’ in a concise format on the card proved impossible however and I soon ditched it in favour of the alternatives you see now. Not being able to guard with grenades is something that you always lament in this game so it was nice to have one COG who could break that rule and still feel balanced!
On my own custom scale, Samantha’s special abilities rank as very useful. Her ammo distribution is 1,1,3 and ranks as specialized.
Rules: This ability works in much the same way as Dominic Santiago‘s bonus move ability (from the base game). You may perform an additional attack with the Gnasher Shotgun weapon before or after any bullet point printed on the Order card you are resolving.
You may not make this bonus attack with any other weapon and you may not spend an ammo token to make it an overkill attack.
Theme: A fiercely loyal soldier, Barrick has always favoured the vicious Gnasher Shotgun when getting up close and personal with the Locust Horde.
Design: Originally I had Barrick’s ability as a carbon copy of (base game) Dominic Santiago’s ability but with a free attack instead of a free move. It didn’t take long to see how insanely powerful this ability was though, so the challenge was on to see if I could find a way of balancing it.
The first thing I did was swap out the Lancer for the Gnasher Shotgun in weapon slot 1. The Gnasher is weaker than the Lancer because of its limited range and I restrained the free attack further by making it Gnasher-only. This means that in order to get the free attack you have to be dangerously close to the enemy, but even then I still wasn’t done.
The final tweak was to restrict the free attack to be a non-overkill attack; thus preventing outlandish one-turn kills on any big enemies such as Skorge or the Berserker. The ability is still remarkably useful (you’ll activate it on many of your turns) but not game-breaking like it had the potential to be originally. Barrick has always favoured the Gnasher in the franchise’s official material so in the end it came together quite nicely in terms of theme as well as utility.
On my own custom scale, Barrick’s special abilities rank as very useful. His ammo distribution is 3,1,1 and ranks as optimal.
Rules: Certain Order cards have actions that can potentially be advantageous when resolved in a different order. These cards are: Advance, Assault, Dig In, Slaughter and Charge.
Her second ability means that any Order card you have in your hand that says “Move X areas”; may be treated as if it said “Move X+1 areas”.
Theme: As a COG reconnaissance operative, Alicia is experienced at delving beyond the front lines and has learned to be quick and adaptable in dangerous situations.
Design: A tough character to get right, Alicia’s primary ability is situational, but on the whole it’s still quite useful when you find the opportunity. There are a specific set of action cards that can benefit from being played in a different order and I enjoy how this recon character gets expanded options whenever those cards show up.
It’s nice thematically as it means this character, like most speedy operatives, sometimes work better alone (when you get to always find the correct cards)- it’s great for a solitaire game especially.
On my own custom scale, Alicia’s special abilities rank as useful or very useful if playing a solitaire scenario. Her ammo distribution is 2,1,2 and ranks as optimal.
Rules: The first special ability allows you to ignore the requirement of tracing line-of-sight from the cover symbol when you’re occupying a cover space.
Additionally, whenever you perform an attack that does not require the use of a grenade token, you may reroll once any single attack die you are using in that attack. This bonus triggers every time you perform an attack but it does not trigger if you are using an ability that is performed instead of an attack. You cannot reroll a die whilst using the Lancer’s chainsaw or a Troika turret for example.
Theme: Despite his rather casual demeanour, Jace possesses a keen analytical mind and is very handy at making pin-point shots with a rifle.
Design: A highlight of playing Jace is the unique ability to ‘shoot around corners’ whilst still in cover. Although not always the case, the first ability grants you additional opportunities to attack even when you’re playing defensively (something you should always be doing in this game).
This alone was not enough to create a balanced character however, as on some maps the bonus rarely comes into play. It’s at its best when there are plenty of corners and choke points from which you can target enemies that would normally be hidden to you. In order to round things out a bit I added the ability to reroll attack dice- something that could be effective every turn as opposed to just being situational.
On my own custom scale, Jace’s special abilities rank as very useful. His ammo distribution is 2,2,1 and ranks as sub-optimal.
Rules: When using the first ability, you may deal 1 wound to a Locust “A” in your area – any Locust “A” with only 1 health will be instantly killed by this, whereas a Wretch with 2 health for example, will simply become wounded (apply a wound token to that figure as normal).
You may activate the second special ability as a result of using the first but only if that Locust “A” has more than 1 health. Any Locust that is killed by the first ability will die before it can be moved, so using it on a Ticker for example, will cause that Ticker to detonate in your area and thus deal you a wound.
Note it is also possible to activate this ability when playing the Forced Entry Order card. After you have moved the targeted Locust out of cover and dealt it a wound, simply move it 1 area of your choice as normal. Remember that affected Locusts will not take cover as a result of you moving them in this way.
As of Version 1.3, the ability to move Locusts only works during your Order step. You cannot move a Locust when you’re performing a guard reaction ability.
Theme: Tai is often seen breaking out of his spiritual calm to deliver brutal blows to the enemies standing before him. Best not to get in his way when he does or you’ll be sent flying!
Design: There are very few abilities in this game that allow you to freely move enemy figures; a thought that led to Tai’s focal ability of being able to move any Locust he manages to wound. It can be frustrating to only wound a Locust when you really needed to kill it that turn; a situation that can happen often due to the dice powered combat. I liked the idea then of an ability that actually made wounding Locusts beneficial; something that might sometimes be tactically better than trying to remove that figure from the board entirely.
Wounding an enemy Locust is something you can’t always count on though and it isn’t something that you should be actively looking to do often. This led me to add the additional feature of automatically ‘punching’ a smaller Locust (Locust A) at the start of a turn- something that’s great when you’ve been surrounded. It’s really fun to start your turn by wounding a Wretch; pushing it back into an adjacent space. You can just imagine Tai going nuts and punting the thing across the battlefield; very satisfying!
On my own custom scale, Tai’s special abilities rank as very useful. His ammo distribution is 2,2,1 and ranks as sub-optimal.
Rules: When setting up starting weapons for each character, the player who chose Ezra Loomis as their COG, searches either the special weapon deck or the random weapon deck for a card with “pistol” in its name and adds it to their play area with 2 ammo tokens on it.
The two applicable weapons in the core game are the Gorgon Burst Pistol and the Boltok Pistol. There is no hard rule that prevents you from taking another Snub Pistol if you wish, but this will rely on card counts and player preference (it is the weakest of three options).
You also roll 1 additional attack die whenever you attack with a weapon that has “pistol” in its name.
Theme: In the Gears of War: Judgment video game, Loomis is often seen dispensing justice with his trusty Boltok Pistol. Despite being a high ranking COG official, it’s not totally uncommon to see him take to the battlefield; handily plugging any Locust that’s foolish enough to cross him.
Design: A bit of fun this one. I tried long and hard to come up with a decent idea for a Victor Hoffman character card but ultimately failed to find something that really worked with both the officer theme and the need to balance player counts. After playing Gears of War: Judgment recently though, I saw another officer character that practically offered the theme and mechanic I needed on a silver platter.
Pistols are usually the holdout/last resort option in Gears of the War: The Board Game; rarely do they fit an overall strategy in battle. Because of the abundance of more powerful alternatives, they are also the least used weapons in this game, so it’s nice have them as a viable option when picking this COG.
Due to the attacker bias in this game, the ability of rolling an extra die for attacks is absurdly powerful for conventional weapons. When specifically reserved for pistol weapons however; they sort of balance out. But rather than just being a vanilla character in that sense, Loomis has a few hidden boons that you may not notice at first. Consider that Snub Pistols can be fired without the need for ammo tokens- meaning the player choosing Ezra always has a decent fallback attack and can let other COGs prioritize nearby ammo tokens more comfortably than usual.
Loomis is also an ideal candidate for wielding the Boomshield (if he can find it) as its usually harsh restriction of only being able to wield pistols in tandem is much less of a concern to him. Just be sure to pick the Boltok Pistol as your selected weapon if you’re looking for maximum theme!
On my own custom scale, Ezra’s special abilities rank as useful. His ammo distribution is 1,1,1 and ranks as specialized.