Do you and your crew have what it takes to save the world from aliens? XCOM is essentially a memory game that focuses on allocating resources globally to combat the alien invasion. 1-4 players take the necessary roles within XCOM: Chief Scientist, Commander, Central Officer, and Squad Leader. The Chief Scientist’s focus is to create new technology for the other players and to help the cause of XCOM. The Chief Scientist can increase his chances of success by using the salvaged alien parts that are gained when the Squad Leader defeats aliens. The Squad Leader leads the soldiers into battle not only defending the XCOM base, but also squashing the alien threat across the globe. Keeping an eye on the application and placing satellites in orbit to insure strong intel is the task of the Central Officer. Focusing on the budget and also defending the skies with interceptors is the task of the Commander. Each role can allocate their workers to try to complete tasks, the common thread throughout is that they all cost money.
All the resources sent out to protect Earth draw money from a common pool. It is a balancing act for the Commander to make sure everyone can complete their tasks while not overdrawing the budget. Players will also need to remember which researched tech they have and if it will help in the situation.
But Phil, this doesn’t seem like that much to remember!
Try remembering this while the clock is counting down, and your friends are yelling at you to go faster! After the yelling and stressing out, the game moves to a press-your-luck dice rolling mechanic. Tasks are given a number of successes required to complete and gain it’s benefit. Players roll a six sided die for every resource assigned to the task and one eight sided die. Every time players roll the dice trying to complete a particular task the threat level rises. If the number on the eight sided die is equal to or less than the threat level all resources are either killed or exhausted. This makes successes hard to come by, and losing can cripple your plans.
I also want to talk about the app that is required for play. It works super well, and I believe its could not be replicated by a card deck or a different physical item that could be included with the game. The order of events is a dictated by certain information you feed to the app, which is also the rule book for the game. A step by step tutorial is the first mission you play, and helps instruct players on their roles. The app is the timer for the game, if the team can complete their tasks they are rewarded at the end of the timed round. This should be the gold standard of how to incorporate smartphones and technology into board games.
The theme of the XCOM video game is preserved well in the board game. The crippling defeat of losing all your soldiers on a mission or the feeling of despair as you watch your Interceptors get burned out of the sky by a UFO’s lasers are alike in both the video and board game. One thing it does expand on is the role of the lead scientist. You can work your scientific masterminds to their brink trying to crack the alien technology at the risk of exhausting them. Fantasy Flight has also plucked the art and music straight from the video game, making you feel at home in your underground bunker.
These run against the clock cooperative games can be great, and stretch the bounds of friendship. This game can be quick, and I bet after your first game the group will be begging for more. You will enjoy this game even if you know nothing of the XCOM universe.