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Monday, May 29, 2017

Boards & Brews at Home: XCOM The Board Game

For this home segment we are reviewing the 1 to 4 player real-time co-op game, XCOM: The Board Game.  Neither Claire nor I have played the video game version of this, so our first and only exposure has been the board game.  To keep the theme of the game going, we had two Alien Brain Hemorrhage shots.  They consist of 3/4 Oz of Peach Schnapps, 1/4 Oz of Irish Cream, 1 dash of Blue Curacao, and 1 dash of Grenadine. We tossed them back, and neither of us liked them.  We agreed that they tasted like creamy cough syrup mixed with Alcohol.  Definitely not the finest shots we’ve had, but they were fun to try at least one time.  For those of you that are unaware, the XCOM app on the iPad is essential and the board game cannot be played with out it.  The app can be downloaded for free on any smart phone or tablet.  The world is needing saved once more, so the fate of mankind rests on your shoulders.  However, this time it’s not from viral outbreaks and world-wide disease epidemics, it’s an alien invasion to end all humanity.  See if we save the world or if life as we know it is toast.

In XCOM: The Board Game, you and or up to three other players assume the roles of the leaders of the elite, international organization known as XCOM. Where the world’s militaries have failed, It is up to you to defend mankind, keep threat levels low so the rising panic is maintained, and eliminate the alien invasion.

As mentioned before, the game is entirely app driven and can be played from 1 to 4 players. In this game, Claire and I each took on two separate roles so that the amount of required roles was properly utilized. Claire took on the roles of the Chief Scientist (responsible for researching technology and upgrading the XCOM forces), and the Commander (responsible for auditing the XCOM budget and deploying interceptors to repel alien UFOs). I took on the roles of the Central Officer (responsible for controlling the app and relaying important information to other players), and The Squad Leader (responsible for leading the XCOM forces on missions and defending the base). The real-time aspect of this game comes in once the game is all setup and the app begins the round. At that point, a continuous timer is running in order to keep you accountable to your tasks during each round. The players still have to make decisions based on research to make, how many soldiers to compromise in defending the base and going in missions, where and how many Interceptors to send, etc. etc.. The app is designed much more as a player aid and timer to eliminate AP (Analysis Paralysis), the alpha gamer, and thus keeping the game moving more swiftly. The gameplay consists of two parts per round, a timed phase and a resolution phase. The timed phase is the first portion of the game and is essentially where the decision making takes place for each of the players. It’s also the placement of the enemy on the board. The resolution phase are the actions to carry out to see if your decisions were in fact wise or not. It’s vital in this game to understand the proper executions of the chief scientist and central officer. If you can manage to do that, this is one of your key components to winning the game. Using the extra scientist card during the timed phase for exhausting the Crisis cards is absolutely necessary. It’s just as important for the Central Officer to have research to use his remaining satellites to mitigate and help the team.

This is a really good game. Anyone who plays cooperative games knows how annoying the alpha gamer can be. The fact that it eliminates the alpha gamer as well as analysis paralysis is HUGE for us! The co-op aspect of the gameplay is unique for each of the 4 players because there’s more than just individual character abilities. The actions taken by each character are specific to their role and cannot be completed by other players. The interconnectedness between the roles coupled with the time shortage means you have to be engaged constantly throughout the game or everyone will suffer. The theme is well integrated into the design and game play, providing an immersive experience that is enhanced by the fantastic app. The app is visually pleasing and has fantastic music. Another visually pleasing aspect to the game is the overall production quality of the components like the miniatures, cards and tokens. I would absolutely recommend that 4 individual players are at the table for this game. It’s harder to assume two individual roles per player especially during the timed phase where you need to make decisions but also keep track of your other abilities that can be utilized during the initial phase and how missions should be considered when selecting them. The instruction book is not really an instruction book as much as it is a set up guide. While many of the instructions are explained well in the app, it didn’t used to be anywhere near as good with the earlier versions back when we first purchased the game. We only recently updated the app in order to get more important details that weren’t even included in the instructions before.

The game takes up a lot of space and the board feels a lot more cluttered. With all of the contents of the game, it’s harder to maintain cleaner structure with all of the components scattered about. We had to use our dice tower to compensate for the lack of space just to be able to roll for our actions. This wouldn’t be so bad if each player didn’t have a bunch of cards they needed to place in front of them, which makes the game play area inevitably crowded. We did manage to save humanity though! Some of our views about the drawbacks in XCOM are not so bad that we would shy away from this co-op game. It’s just different, but in a very good way. We definitely need to play it more, but we are easily able to recommend this one to anyone who loves co-op games!

XCOM: The Board Game
Overall Meeple Rating: 7.5/10

Game Mechanics:
1) Cooperative

2) Dice Rolling
3) Hand-Management
4) Press Your Luck
5) Variable Player Powers

Have any thoughts or questions?  Leave a comment below.

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