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# Undue Difficulty When Adding More Players (House Rule, sorta)

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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.

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We have already used a house rule similar to this one twice. It does alleviate the problems a little, but we have added one other house rule. With four players we heal three wounds at the beginning of each round. It was getting a bit frustrating when being the front line soldier, trying to survive four locust activation steps, with no other cogs being able to change anything about it, and than only get two measly cards back.

With only one COG, you get 2 health after every single AI step. With four COGS after every four AI steps, and don't forget that there are also much more locust on the board that can actually activate. But you gain the same amount of health. And yes, I know that there are more COGS on the board, so more health to go around, but in our games the locust tend to mass attack the front COG, he dies, and other COGS have to spend precious cards to heal them etc.

willmanx likes this

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While your observations are definitely correct, there are also some other aspects to a 4 player game that provides balance to the things you mentioned.

1) More players means less ammunition to go around.

Yes, each player will receive less ammunition from locations, but you can always pick up ammunition from defeated enemies.  Even if this means that not every player will have a plethora of tokens, the amount of ammunition is static; i.e. in a 2 player game of Map X, the location will grant 3 tokens, or 3 overkill attacks. In a 4 player game, not everyone will get extra ammo, but the team will still receive 3 overkill attacks. Also, extra players don't just do overkill attacks; extra players means extra normal attacks, extra guard actions, etc.

2) More players means more AI cards occuring before your turn.

Yes, the enemy gets more actions, but your team does too. Plus, even if there are more locusts attacking, there are also more COGs present to soak up the damage.

Another thing I thought of is that there are a couple of cards that are better or less harmful with more players.  I don't have my game in front of me, but there is an order card that lets each COG in cover draw a card. That effect becomes more helpful with more players. There is also the AI card that spawns one of each type of locust. That is much more difficult for 2 players to deal with than 4 players.

Those are just a couple that I can think of right now, there are a few more.

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McRae said:

While your observations are definitely correct, there are also some other aspects to a 4 player game that provides balance to the things you mentioned.

1) More players means less ammunition to go around.

Yes, each player will receive less ammunition from locations, but you can always pick up ammunition from defeated enemies.  Even if this means that not every player will have a plethora of tokens, the amount of ammunition is static; i.e. in a 2 player game of Map X, the location will grant 3 tokens, or 3 overkill attacks. In a 4 player game, not everyone will get extra ammo, but the team will still receive 3 overkill attacks. Also, extra players don't just do overkill attacks; extra players means extra normal attacks, extra guard actions, etc.

2) More players means more AI cards occuring before your turn.

Yes, the enemy gets more actions, but your team does too. Plus, even if there are more locusts attacking, there are also more COGs present to soak up the damage.

Another thing I thought of is that there are a couple of cards that are better or less harmful with more players.  I don't have my game in front of me, but there is an order card that lets each COG in cover draw a card. That effect becomes more helpful with more players. There is also the AI card that spawns one of each type of locust. That is much more difficult for 2 players to deal with than 4 players.

Those are just a couple that I can think of right now, there are a few more.

True, but also consider the AI card that eats ammo AND weapon tokens that are still lying on the board. With location ammo additionally being scarce in the base rules, if an ammo just dropped after, let's say, Cole "Assaulted", and the next card is the one that removes all weapon tokens lying on the board, that just made the game that much more preservative on ammo. Rarely are kills, and even wounding shots, made by 1 regular attack roll. If a wounded Wretch, or especially a wounded Drone, goes next, they have a pretty decent chance of healing their wounds. Overall, overkill shots in this game are mandatory. Not having the ammo to do so cripples any odds of winning and complete dependence on lucking the dice.

Agreement with the AI card that spawns a constant 3; likewise, as I said above, max cap is 6 for spawns, making it more manageable with a full group than without. However, the COG cards are balanced, as "Dig-In" gives a card for each COG in cover. No bonuses there in comparison to sessions with less players. Again though, if you are playing with base rules on ammo, none of this really balances itself out. Furthermore, frontline COGs, as Scy800 said, tend to get meat-grinded by AI continuously activating outside their turns before they can heal. COGs also have to watch for area-damaging attacks if they want to stick together, like from Boomers, Tickers, and the Berserker.

Thanks for the input. I'd like to hear what the few other instances are where the game can get balanced out at higher levels. I know if you play Cole-train well and healed by "Sit-Tight"s and "Dig-In"s, he can be a beast in controlling the enemy as they assault the close-knit COGs.

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You said that overkill attacks are almost mandatory. Just curious, what is you/your group's play style?

I only really play with the same 3 people, so we tend to stick to our habits. We don't really use overkill unless we need it on a guard action to ensure an enemy dies. Other than that, try to stick to normal attacks or chainsaw. Is this why we die alot?

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I agree the more the players, the harder the game, because every player is inactive during more and more round while baddies move and kill you.

1 player : easy 100% win

2 players : medium 75% win

3 players : hard 50% win

4 players : mania 25% win

I'm looking for houseruling that so to balance the game difficulty according the number of players

Edited by willmanx

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I'd actually say 2 players (or COGs, if running two solo) is easier, because with 1 COG, one lucky hit can make you bleed out and it's game over, with 2 COGs, the other is still up and can thus revive the other.

willmanx likes this

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I'd actually say 2 players (or COGs, if running two solo) is easier, because with 1 COG, one lucky hit can make you bleed out and it's game over, with 2 COGs, the other is still up and can thus revive the other.

But one player game has another advantage : you move 2 with "follow" reaction

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"When playing solo, the follow reaction ability allows

the player to discard this card and move his figure one
additional area at any point during his Order step. He may
only use one follow reaction ability per turn." (p. 30)

But GoW isn't really a race to the end tile, so extra speed won't help as much and it's still one shot to finish the game.

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sorry, one move. That extra mobility made me win a lot in 1p. Racing to the end is a nice strategy in 1p mode because of the small number of foes.

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My gaming group is usually 5-6 people in all, so we have been considering including more players. We then realized that the most difficult element has not been the number of activations each Exploration mark yields, but rather the more players there are, the longer it is until your next the heal step. There are way too many shots being fired by the Locust that you just have to count on luck too often for our taste.

Our group is made up of players who enjoy throwing dice but love to strategize as well. We feel that there are too many luck-based elements - namely, a) cards in hand, b) Locust group activated; c) dice rolls. To counter balance this as well as to suit our group we are considering playtesting the following house rules:

1) During your Heal Step, draw 3 cards, keep 2.

2) When throwing a Bolo Granade, you may declare your target as a spawning hole and close it automatically but it causes no damage to units in the area.

Extreme balance option for 4 players:

3) For every 2 Locust activations, draw 1 card. (Mini Heal Step)

What do you think? Would that unbalance the game at all?

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Like said in the other post:

1) healing step balance : every player draw 1 card at every player'healing step. Hardened 1p, keep the nice 2p rate, make easier 3&4p. You are able to more react.

2) bolo alternate use : no roll, no damage, close the pit.

3) ammunition balance : every character can activate ammunition equipment for himself before it's empty.