Hey folks, I thought I'd share my impressions from GenCon and some photos I took of the experience, along with a brief impression once we replayed it back home.
First let me say this: Kudos to the FFG staff when the time slot my wife and I signed up for had a bunch of people show up with generic tickets (they did not have pre-purchased event tickets for the time slot in question), FFG did their best to accomodate everyone - they found more tables and more copies of the game. I would also like to thank FFG for NOT making people wait until arbitrary times to buy games at their booth this year and for moving VIG's to the front of the line - THANK YOU!!!
On to the game at GenCon! I bought the game as soon as we got into the Exhibit Hall at 9:00am (an hour early because we bought VIG badges this year) along with Ventura and the expansion for Twilight Imperium. My wife and I had signed up for a Saturday evening slot together. I had skipped (and sold my ticket back) a Friday afternoon game, so I was not going to miss this one! As mentioned, when we showed up way too many people were there for the number of slots, but fortunately we had pre-purchased tickets so no worries, and as mentioned FFG got everyone who wanted to play in due extra effort on their part. We played a three player game with another guy.
I chose Marcus Fenix, my wife played Dom and the other guy chose Baird. That was mistake #1 one, but little did we know it at the time - I will explain later. Each character has their own strengths. Fenix gets a hand of 7 cards instead of 6, and because this is also your life total, that is a big swing. Fenix starts with a Lancer, Snub Pistol and Bolo Grenade. As seen in the picture, I picked up a Mulcher during play. See the cards I had for Fenix here. Fenix's other special ability is that he gets 5 attack dice with his Lancer chainsaw instead of the normal 4 dice. WWWWWWWWrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreennnnnn!!!!!.... Baird also starts with a Lancer, Snub, and Grenade. Baird's special ability is that he does not discard cards to perform COG Special Actions as per page 10, which is a huge ability. Dom starts with a Shotgun, Snub and Grenade. Dom can move one extra time before or after a COG Order card is played. Doesn't sound like much, but that extra space of movement can save your bacon!! And lastly there is the Cole, or in the words of the video game "It's the Cole Train baby!!" Cole starts with a Lancer, Snub and Grenade. Cole's special ability is that he can perform the Guard action with ANY card, not just those which normally allow it, AND he can perform this Guard action as an additional Guard even if another player has already guarded this turn. That ability is HUGE. This ability of Cole's is the reason why not choosing him in our three player game was our first mistake. (If I am in a two player game, I pick Cole and Baird before all others.)
You lay out the map in semi-random fashion. You gather the map cards as outlined in the scenario setup card and then deal the map cards out one at a time, building the map as per page 7 example. We started in the upper right of the map pictured here. You can see where the other cards and tokens for the game are set up here. We maneuvered through the first few rooms okay, learning as we played. GOW does have some very basic Line Of Sight rules: If you can draw a line from anywhere in the area/space you occupy to anywhere in the area/space area where the target is, and that LOS does not cross a solid black line (border, wall, etc) you can shoot. Except if the target is in cover, in which case you have to trace LOS specifically from, or to, these little <<>> diamond markers on the cover spots. If it wasn't this way, this game would take WAY too long. Wretches and Drones always move for cover, Boomers never move into cover. Wretches are simple to deal with one at a time, in a swarm look out. Boomers... well, Boomers suck. If in their attack roll they roll that Omen symbol they damage everyone in the area/space... and that hurts... a lot. Kill Boomers dead as soon as you can. However, killing Boomers is not as easy as you think. They start with 3 hit points. If you wound them and don't kill them, they move to 2 hit points. They stay at 2 hit points until you kill them by doing 2 damage - if you do 1 damage to a wounded Boomer, too bad, nothing happens and the Boomer stays at 2 hit points. Ouch.
We moved through the first scenario of them game as noted, on a fairly normal progress. We only realized later at the end of the game how we got hosed by our map layout. See that last room here, where we are all dead and the last Boomer is standing? Well, at that "?" mark there was a pile of grenades, that according to the scenario is unlimited until we seal the last emergence hole and open the door (that was right next to the edge where the Boomer is standing) - normally grenade and ammo piles are limited to one token. Well, having that grenade pile right next to the end of the scenario... sucks. We got to this last room and decided to go for it, seal the last emergence hole as soon as possible. We sealed the hole with some Wretches, Drones and a Boomer still on the board. That was mistake #2 and it turns out, our fatal mistake. When you seal that last hole, a whole crap ton of hurt comes pouring in through the door and if you aren't ready for it, you're dead. Well, we basically got overwhelmed and deaded.
We played that first scenario again with some friends of ours when we got back home. That is where we discovered how good Cole's ability is, and why it is a mistake to leave him behind. We were more cautious with closing the last hole this time and found a choke point to sit and wait for the horde that is unleashed when you close that last hole. One well placed grenade from the player playing Cole wiped out all the Boomers and the Drones - grenades apply their attack role to everything in the area/space, friend and foe alike. We won that second go around. Lesson? It is a simple enough game to learn, with some fairly basic LOS rules, but you still need to pay attention and be ready for hurt locker storms, otherwise you are dead. The game does scale for 2, 3, or 4 players so there is no real advantage there to be had for the players. And the AI does a good job of running itself.
FFG did a great job with this game and it really captures the feel of the video game. I agree with the other posters that the COG figures are hard to tell apart unless you paint them - which I am currently in the process of doing - which is my only criticism of the game. I look forward to seeing expansions and new scenarios for this game!