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Subject: Our FirstGgame of XCOM - Very Enjoyable rss

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Allen OConnor
United Kingdom
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Glass Bead Board Games
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Date: 17/02/15

XCOM base: North America
Invasion Plan: Domination
Aliens: Mutons, Muton Elites, Sectoids, Sectoid Commanders and Sectopods

Allen - Central Officer
Anthony - Chief Scientist
Bobby - Commander
Matt - Squad Leader

The main event for the evening was a new game that I grabbed the previous day. I hadn't played the video game in the series but Ant and Matt had; and they commented on how well the theme came through in the mechanics of the game. In XCom, players each have a different role, and must cooperate to repel an alien invasion. What makes this game different to other cooperative games, is that the game is controlled with an app on an iPad; I was a little bit skeptical of this at first, thinking that it may be a bit of a gimmick, but the app integrated very well with the mechanisms of the game.

I was playing as the Central Officer, my job was to communicate the messages on the app to the other players, and to control satellites; this started as a fairly easy role, but quickly became difficult to manage once the aliens had started to get into orbit, and disrupt the app. Anthony was the Chief Scientist, and was given the task of researching new technologies; in effect getting new asset cards for each player to increase our options and in turn make us stronger. This was a very interesting role, because it meant that the team had to invest in future turns at the expense of having less on their current turn. Next up was Bobby as the Commander, who had to manage the budget for all the player, and deploy interceptors to fight off the UFOs that fill the board each turn. Bobby had a very difficult task in making sure that no one player was monopolising the budget. Finally, Matt was the Squad Leader, and in my opinion had the hardest of all the roles. Matt had to both protect the base from attack, and had to complete a series of missions, including a final mission that would win us the game. So in effect, Matt was both stopping us from losing the game by protecting the base; and was responsible for our only win condition by completing the final mission. We played through the the first two turn using the tutorial, which was really very helpful; the tutorial talked players through every circumstance that could happen in the game; though I am a little disappointed that the game didn't come with a traditional Fantasy Flight rulebook.

After trying the tutorial, we set the game up and started again on normal mode; which was the third out of five difficulties. The app gives us one out of a possible five invasion plans, which doubles up as a final mission; we were up against the Domination plan, which could spawn extra UFOs into the game at set points. The app also told us which aliens to include in the alien deck; in this game we would be up against the Mutons, Muton Elites, Sectoids, Sectoid Commanders and Sectopods; the last of which were the toughest enemies. We played conservatively at first, researching new technologies and keeping the UFOs at bay. We completed our first mission and each had a number of new asset cards; we thought that we were doing well, then things started to go very wrong. A few Sectopods were coming out in each round and attacking the base, and we were powerless to stop them. Bobby had a few bad rounds keeping the UFOs at bay, then the countries started moving towards the red zone, signifying that they were going into panic. If two countries reach the end of the panic track then it is game over. One of our biggest downfalls was not keeping enough of the budget behind to pay for reinforcements; when the final mission came up we committed too many troops to the mission and not enough to protecting the base. In the resolution phase, the aliens attacking the base could not be stopped and the game was over before we could resolve the final mission.

We were pretty close to beating the game, and we had all learned a few lessons about what we could have done better for next time. We didn’t get enough reinforcements, and we didn’t give Matt (Squad Leader) enough asset cards. My first impressions of the game were very positive; I really like this this game. I wasn’t sure how well the app would integrate, but the fact that one of the players is constantly communication it to the other players seems to work really well. The push-your-luck element to the game works very well too, though it can be quite harsh. This is definitely one that I want to play again, and one that I can imagine being very rewarding if you win. Highly recommended.

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