In days before, the gears still turned and the old machines still worked. The sky was clear and blue, and life flourished. Then noxious clouds came and choked the air. Smoke blanketed the sky. Some people departed in flying cities, ascending above the clouds to the World Above. Others dug deep beneath the ground, vanishing into the World Below. Meanwhile, those in the Borderlands watched the world grow dark as the gears ground to a halt.
Gearworld: The Borderlands is a game of negotiation, conquest, and construction in which two to four players compete to gain the favor of the Sky People for their tribe of scavengers in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Based on the classic board game Borderlands designed by Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, and Peter Olotka, Gearworld: The Borderlands has streamlined the original rules and re-imagined the game’s setting while retaining its predecessor’s spirit and core mechanics.
When the world darkened, and the Sky People first left the surface behind for to live in the World Above, they took vast stores of energy in order to secure their independence. After generations spent in the World Above, the Sky People’s stores of energy have finally begun to dwindle. Anticipating this problem, the cities’ engineers have drafted plans for great engines known as skyworks. The skyworks will bring the heat of the Fire Below up to power the cities of the Sky People. The Sky People know that the starving, scavenging tribes of the Borderlands are desperate for any goods that they can get, and the Sky People need the tribes of the surface to build their skyworks. Building the skyworks for the World Above ensures a tribe’s survival, and in the Borderlands, survival is all that matters. Gather resources, trade with other players, and battle your rivals in an effort to be the first to develop three skyworks for the Sky People and gain favor for your tribe.
The tribes of the Borderlands have mined the land for coal, gold, and iron for generations, and are adept at extracting scrap from ruins. Horses are the primary mode of transportation of these goods and are valuable in war, so a ranch can make or break a tribe’s success. Each resource is essential to building your tribe’s strength and, eventually, the skyworks.
Scavenging the wastes is not an easy task, and luck plays a large role in which resources each tribe has to work with at the outset of its struggles. Controlling a production site gains your tribe one of those resources during the production phase. Tribes must jealously guard their mines, scrapyards, and ranches if they have any hope of being able to build or barter.
During setup, players take turns placing Resource Tokens facedown on the map. Once all the Resource Tokens are on the board, they are flipped over to reveal what each site produces. Players then place their tribe’s figures on spaces of the board. Each player must try to secure as many resources as he can for his tribe while constructing a defensible front to fend off greedy neighbors. Then the struggle for the favor of the Sky People begins.
While building the skyworks is the end goal, each tribe must use its resources wisely in order to reinforce its strength and enhance its ability to transport goods. Combining resources into weapons, bridges, ships, and riverboats while conserving enough to build skyworks is the delicate balancing act that each tribe must undertake.
Weapons will reinforce your military might, making them extremely valuable when your tribe comes under attack. A ship can give you control of the coast, and steamboats make transporting resources via the river an easy task. Both of these vessels also add to your strength in battle. Bridges are a quick and inexpensive way to connect the islands of Claw, Ironside, and Locke to the main landmass of Haestus, potentially opening up new avenues for resources.
In order to build any of these developments, including the skyworks, all of the materials required must be in the same space, so the effective transportation of resources is essential to your success. Each tribe must produce, trade, or steal the resources they need to build new developments and protect what is theirs.
Resources in the wastes of the Borderlands are scarce, and there will be times when a tribe will need to trade in order to gain the supplies they need to succeed. Trading allows two players to swap any amount of resources and place them in any area that they control. Trading is an efficient way to get the resources you need while bypassing the problem of transporting resources all over the wasteland. Take note, however, that while a good trade may bring you closer to your goals, it does the same for your competition.
Even with the friendliest of trade conditions, there will be times when diplomacy breaks down, and the only option is to do battle. During the battle phase, each player chooses another player’s tribe to attack in a neighboring space. Players can form alliances to reinforce defenses or enhance an attack’s strength. Gang up on a tribe that has had a runaway lead, or defend your own interests by reinforcing a weaker tribe to keep a buffer zone in place. Defeat an opponent, and your tribe controls that space including all of its resources and any developments that may have been built there.
Spearheading, a new addition to the rules of battle in Gearworld: The Borderlands, allows an attacker to declare ships, steamboats, and horses as spearhead reinforcements. These additions boost your strength in battle and allow you to reinforce your newly conquered area with these units if you succeed. Winning battles lets you follow up with a second attack or take advantage of an extra transport action, so the tide can turn quickly within a single round of play.
Acquire resources by conquering your fellow scavengers, carefully defending your own lands, or using trade and diplomacy to gain an edge. The favor of the Sky People is yours for the taking provided you are able to outwit the other tribes of Gearworld: The Borderlands!