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Subject: Andre outlines XCOM: The Board Game (pros & cons) rss

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Andre Jeworutzki
Germany
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XCOM is a real-time cooperation game by Eric Lang (Blood Rage, Rising Sun) in which each player takes a role with a special task. The game is separated in a real-time phase (distribute resources) and a resolve phase (dice rolling).

What makes it special?

It is one of the first professional real-time cooperative board games that integrates an app as a "dungeon master". The XCOM licence is also only used in this game.

Roles:

* Commander: manages the money for all players, chooses crisis cards, and distributes airplanes on the world map

* Researcher: decides which tech to research

* Squad Leader: sends soldiers to defend the base or attack a location

* Central Officer: distributes satellites on the world map, operates the app and tells other players the app events

Pros:

+ Artwork (not great but good)

+ Theme (defend the world against aliens, captures the XCOM universe well, XCOM equipment is well integrated by cards)

+ Components quality (a lot of detailed minis)

+ Many scenarios and difficulty levels: each game has different aliens (but this matters only to the Squad Leader) and a special end mission (some variability)

+ The app creates quick pacing and includes a step-by-step tutorial

+ Resource management: how to spend money for all actions in a round (usually the part that is more discussed between players - controlled by the commander)

+ Communication is necessary due to the shared money pool. Players can sometimes help each other with special tech cards from research

+ All: push your luck dice rolling: risk resources or stop rolling?

+ All: indirectly managing the tracks for the six countries (loose game)

+ All: deciding when to exhaust a special effect card (push your luck)

+ Commander: which crisis to pick? May effect one particular role or all roles (quite tense).

+ Squad Leader: which mission to pick? It depends highly on the bonus especially when a particular country is in a very bad shape

+ Squad Leader: push your luck: how many soldiers to deploy?

+ Researcher: which tech to research, which role should get the benefit?

+ Researcher: push your luck: how many scientists to deploy?

+ Central Officer: communicates the events from the app to the other players

+ Central Officer: push your luck: how many satellites to deploy?

Neutrals:

# Theme is good implemented from the PC game but the game feels more like an abstract meta game all about resource management

# People who played the PC game and expected a tactical dudes-on-the-map game might be disappointed. I would also love to see a tactical dungeon crawler with the XCOM licence.

# Some roles are more interesting than others

# Replayability may suffer over time because each role has only limited tasks

# After players get to know the cards, the game becomes simpler (less reading required during real-time phase)

# Language dependent (text on cards)

# No alpha gamer issues since there is not enough time

# Some tokens are underwhelming compared to the other components

# Best with 4 players but: roles are not that complex, solo is also possible.

Cons:

- Downtime during the resolve phase: gets less interesting over time...

- ...because of too much repetitive sequential dice rolling during the resolve phase for each role

- Luck and order of random events, especially due to the order of real-time events: sometimes players have to deploy units before aliens / Ufos get revealed and players do not know when the real-time phase ends. However, some players may appreciate this kind of uncertainty.

- Handling (counting) money tokens in real-time can be fiddly and error-prone

- No rulesbook or reference book

- Tasks of each role is very (too) simple. If you are a gamer who wants to be challenged, then better play solo or with 2 players so that each player has more to do. However, with less players you may end up managing 10+ tech cards and may loose the overview.

- Cooperation is necessary, but I wish, there would be more intersections and dependencies between the roles

- Real-time stress is not for everyone

Thoughts:

I am a fan of the PC games. I like the unconventional approach for this game, but it does not work for me. I miss more challenging tasks, interaction, and deeper gameplay. The resolving phase is not exciting because of too many dice rolls.

Similar games:
* UBOOT (better cooperation between roles because they depend more on each other while in XCOM it feels more solitaire, real-time, app integration, worker placement, light simulation, more complex, different roles, great thematic and tactile elements, potentially limited replayability due to the submarine theme)
* Level 7 [Invasion] (cooperative, area control, similar theme, long playing time, requires 5 players, complex game with not enough decisions, no real-time)
* Space Cadets (real-time, coop, space exploration, scenarios, many mini games depending on the station, similar resource distribution, chaotic)
* Damage Report (real-time, player movement over modular locations, pick-up-and-delivery, actions and events based on timed intervals, chaotic)
* Space Alert (Sci-Fi, coop game with real-time programming and resolving phase, quick playing time, no dice, no luck, requires communication between players, different roles but all roles are equal, more chaotic)
* Galaxy Defenders (dungeon crawler / tactical combat game inspired by XCOM the PC game with a good AI system)
* Level 7 [Omega Protocol] (1 vs many dungeon crawler, feels a bit like Stargate/XCOM themewise with military squads, very tactical combat, no real-time)
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Geppo Muzzak
Italy
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We have addressed several of the key cons you mentioned *and which I agree with* with a huge set of mods that takes care of them. For example, and I'm taking ONE example, the Alien progression mod takes care of the aliens that are not inserted in the game. This means since all aliens are available, the SL doesn't really know in advance which soldiers he needs for a particular alien type (any alien may come out of the deck and remembering the icons of 20 aliens is a lot harder than those of 3 or 4 aliens).

Keep in mind that the order of real-time decisions is scrambled if in the previous turn, you did not clear the orbit from UFOs. That is intended.

More interaction is also added by the MELD/EXALT. All roles have been revamped since you do lose assets when the base takes damage. Make sure to check the Evolution Expansion but again, head for the mods section straight away.

I myself have been building a mega-mod which is test ready and there's even a tech progression mod for the chief scientist, black market, base facility building, etc.

Good review, good one indeed.
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Tomer Mlynarsky
Israel
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I agree with some and disagree with others.

The downtime in the resolve phase is real, however, it also becomes something that players play much faster as time goes by.

It is also a good thing since the real time on harder difficulty has a lot of pressure it's good to let people relax.

Bathroom breaks are also welcomed occasionally





Other than that, the expansion does indeed fix a lot of the problems listed here and they at least gave its rulebook printed (really should have done that with the original as well)

As for things like keeping track of money, it isn't that difficult when you get your system on. For example, we put all tokens in piles of 3. So it's easier to grab or give some up.

And as people spend the money, the CFO just moves the tokens in his area to keep track.

You tend to develop little tricks to help you with the time management.



Just so you know, the alien invasion plan also heavily dictates what happens. For example, some plans would put more ufos, others would put more aliens in base etc



The only thing I still really wish this game would do is :
Give the scientist more ways to cooperate with everyone else. He seems the least involved and while I can understand that he has the most text to read, it still seems a bit off once you get to know the cards.

If possible add better final missions that would require other people to do something as well.

I get that it was like that in the video game, but it's a bit of a let down that the final mission is pretty much up to the Soldiers guy alone.

I would wish that they would do something like for example, you can't do the final mission until the research guy manage to make some breakthrough on it, then discover that it requires you to get to a base in continent X and you can't get there if there are ufos there so the CFO has to clean the path for you to get there or something.
 
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Geppo Muzzak
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You're basically talking of the 'key' mission.

I started that mod a while ago as of the research we don't have the gollop chamber but the ethereal device should be required and, this would of course require you to capture an ethereal via arc thrower (and this is already in my ultra-mod).
 
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