This is a revised re-post from an earlier reply in the "number of players and difficulty scaling" post. I am posting this because I believe it is important to relieve the confusion of those who may enjoy their Gears product but do not enjoy the increased difficulty as you add more players, or if you are interested in picking up a copy of Gears (great game, btw) and this could be informative in helping you crossover to buying this game, or if you are an FFG associate and would like to understand a possible overlooked mechanic in your Gears product.
If you have played Gears of War board game, you may have noticed the increase in difficulty as you add one playable COG after another. This is due to a formula of f(x)=xCOG/AI+1EXPLORE, as x equals the number of COGs playing. To clarify, if 4 COGs are playing, location cards on the board will always equal 1 use, and there will always be an AI step at the end of each COG's turn (this instance, 4). However, if we do the same example again, but with, say, only 2 COGs, exploration use is still only 1, and AI is still 2.
Therefore, the less COGs playing in the base rulings of the game, the more ammo COGs can distribute among themselves (from common exploration cards such as Ammunition, Grenades, and Weapons). For those who have not played this game, ammo tokens are very important as they allow you to do more potential damage to your enemies and there is one card that is recycled that slowly takes away your ammo. 1 COG in solo-play using a one-time use activation for 3 ammo versus 4 COGs racing to get the same 1 time activation for 3 ammo, you can see how an equal distribution of enemies but not ammunition kills your team the larger it is.
I have rectified this by instead making the equation as so: f(x)=xCOG/AI+xEXPLORE, as x equals the number of COGs playing. Now when you begin a Gears game, instead of discarding the card after its first use when playing with 2 or more players, you can begin play with markers (ammo tokens) to represent how many uses the discardable location card starts with.
Example: when playing with a 3 player game, a Grenades location card will have 3 Grenade tokens assigned to its card and an Ammunition location card will have 9 ammo tokens (as each Ammunition use gives 3 ammo). When one of these locations is activated, you follow the instructions from the card. I play also that a COG can activate the same location more than once so long as each location area is only activated once a turn by that COG, respectively. The same ruling goes for Weapon cards and anything else that would logically have multiple use. Hammer of Dawn only has one because only one HD weapon card comes with the game.
Consequentially, you can make the game easier by using the following equation f(x)=xCOG/AI+(y+xEXPLORE), where x equals the number of COGs playing and y equals the number of additional uses location cards can have in the session; for instance, if you wanted a 2 player game where each location may be activated 5 times, you use f(2)=2COG/AI+(3+2EXPLORE), creating an easier session.
Alternatively, I also have wondered if spawns too are somewhat uneven. Tonight my cousin and I were being swarmed in Belly of the Beast by Lambent Wretches by 6 spawns at a time. I realized the game caps at 6 Wretches, so I assume adding additional COGs would make the mission easier because damage will be more evenly spread (that is my estimation). Perhaps a spawn cap needs to be assessed for the future, but I have not had time to evaluate thoroughly in-game the consequences of 1vs6 Locust spawns versus 4vs6 Locust spawns, but I can only assume the AI activation at the end of each turn doesn't balance it out much. My only reasonable guess would be the following formula would balance it: f(x)=xCOG/EMERGENCEHOLE. In other words, if your one COG in solo mode would spawn 6 Lambent Wretches because he is within 4 movement of each emergence hole, instead only 2 spawn at the closest emergence hole. If there were 2 COGs, it would be 2 spawn at the 2 closest emergence holes, each (total 4 Wretches); finally, if 3 or more COGs, all Wretches spawn as normal.
Again, I reposted my earlier comment because as is Gears punishes its players when more friends choose to join the game, and that does not sound fun nor reasonable mechanic-wise for a game to do so. This is not so much a variant but more a correction in the overall balance in game play with 2 or more players. Gears of War is a great game that I would enjoy seeing an expansion to. If you do not own it, I believe with this rule addition it is must have.
Thoughts, questions, comments?