XCOM – New game old game!

on August 11, 2014 | 0 Comment

In these hallowed pages I’ve often talked about my love of XCOM and referred to it often. You can imagine my excitement when Fantasy Flight Games announced they were producing a boardgame based around it. Needless to say I investigated every last word, battled with the Alien invasion ideas and widespread excitement ran amok through the Orlando offices! A new game of my favorite old game! This almost trumps winning a free vacation earlier in the week… almost.

x-com original game shot
For those that never played XCOM it was an video game originally produced by Mythos Games and Microprose in 1994 with a recently updated version released by 2K Games in 2012. The premise of the games involved you playing the XCOM, or later X-COM, unit, a secret earth defense unit not dissimilar to S.H.I.E.L.D. of Marvel fame, battling an Alien Invasion. By investigating Alien crash, abduction or incursion sites the player would make discoveries that would enable them to research and develop better equipment and weaponry with which to battle the enemy Aliens. 

Each character of the “away team” got experience and skills/equipment as they completed turn-based missions. This added an appealing roleplaying feel to a heavy real time strategy game. While you were away on missions, other event centers around the world resolved or started. This left you quickly feeling things were out-of-control, forcing you to set priorities protecting certain continents more heavily than others. Your units simply couldn’t be everywhere at once, further immersing you panic of the invasion sweeping the earth.

XCOM the Boardgame box
In XCOM: The Board Game, you and up to three friends assume the roles of the leaders of the elite, international organization known as XCOM. It is still your job to defend humanity, quell the rising panic, and turn back the alien invasion. As with the computer games, you must make strategic use of the resources available to you. You must launch Interceptors to shoot down alien UFOs, assign soldiers to key missions, research alien technology, and use that technology to defend your base, all while trying to keep the world from collapsing just long enough that you can coordinate one final mission to repel the invaders for good. Easy right?

Innovative Digital Enhancement:

XCOM Contents
Now to prove this game has moved on in 2014 from it’s humble beginnings in 1999, XCOM: The Board Game incorporates a free and innovative digital app into the core of its gameplay. It then uses that app to promote a unique play experience that certainly enhances game play. This digital companion will be available both as a downloadable app and as an online tool, meaning all players will have access to it.

The app’s primary function is to coordinate the escalating alien invasion, randomly selecting from one of five different invasion plans. Each invasion plan represents a general outline that the alien commanders will use to coordinate the arrival of new UFOs, plan strikes against your base, and respond to your successes or failures as it seeks to conquer Earth.

XCOM Alien Invasion Points
The app manages all of these tasks and heighten’s the game’s tension as it forces you to respond in real-time just like the original game(s). Then, after you move quickly to coordinate your response, you engage the enemy in the untimed resolution phase and feed the results to the app. Based upon these results, the app launches the invasion’s next strikes until you are victorious and save the planet or we all become drones in a new Alien led world order. Now, I don’t know about you but Grey is not my favorite color.

Additionally, the app teaches you the rules, controls the information that your satellites provide you, and tracks the progress of your resistance efforts, even as it allows you to enjoy the game at any of three levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal, or Hard. And from what I read Hard is just that… HARD!

The use of this app does more than simply streamline your play experience and track your turns in real-time. It also permits a uniquely dynamic turn structure. While the variety of game phases remains the same from round to round, the order in which you must play through them may change, as may the number of a given phase.

XCOM Crisis Card
As a result, while you’ll want to know where UFOs appear before you deploy your Interceptors, the alien invaders may be able to disrupt your satellite intel and force you to deploy your Interceptors on patrol with limited or no knowledge of the UFOs current whereabouts. Similarly, you may be forced to think about the costs of resolving the world’s crises before you know how many troops you’ll need to commit to your base defense.

The effect of the app, then, is to immerse you deep into the dramatic tension at the core of XCOM: The Board Game, and it ensures that the game presents a challenging and cooperative (or solo) experience. Which, again, closely mimics the original game(s) in a very attractive way.

The Part You Play:

Each player takes on a unique role within XCOM that will help decide the fate of the teams overall success.

XCOM Commander Logo

The Commander:

The Commander is responsible to manage XCOM’s budget and must display enough foresight to know when best to access the organization’s emergency funding and how best to allocate it.

Additionally, the Commander makes the tough decisions about where to assign XCOM’s limited number of Interceptors to global defense. Wherever you commit your Interceptors, you have a chance of destroying UFOs and slowing the spread of panic. Wherever you don’t commit your Interceptors, fear and anxiety are bound to run rampant. Exactly as I described from the original game.

XCOM Chief Scientist Logo

The Scientist:

If XCOM are to have any chance of successfully repelling the alien invaders, you’ll need better technology. Like that’s new news. The Chief Scientist’s responsibilities include studying advanced technology, learning how to harness it, manufacturing better weapons and armor, and equipping the rest of the organization with the tools they need to survive. Not having these developments can be brutal on your troops.

Of course, only a limited number of scientists possess the necessary training and intellect to quickly dissect, analyze, and replicate alien technology. Part of your job as Chief Scientist, then, is not only to decide how best to direct the organization’s research efforts but also to prioritize between them, allocating more scientists to the projects you decide will best benefit the war effort.

XCOM Central Officer Logo

Central Officer:

The Central Officer serves as the communications relay between XCOM and the outside world. This means you manage the organization’s satellite network, and it is your job to ensure that the organization remains alert to potential threats, communicates and coordinates its efforts effectively between branches, and scrambles as many alien transmissions as possible.

Succeed, and you’ll reduce the number of UFOs in orbit. Fail, and you’ll suffer communications blackouts that will force you to act blindly in the midst of a war, forcing the commander to deploy interceptors in vain hopes of stumbling into UFOs.

Additionally, the Central Officer communicates all of the information provided by the game’s digital app to the players. The clock is always running, so it’s vital that you share all relevant information quickly and clearly. From all accounts having a loud voice helps with this role.

XCOM Squad Leader Logo

Squad Leader:

In the end, XCOM needs boots on the ground to confront the alien invaders, and it’s the Squad Leader’s job to ensure that the right troops are tackling the right missions. As the invasion escalates, you must assemble strike teams to meet the aliens in battle. Simultaneously, you must assign soldiers to defend the XCOM base, and you’ll need to strike an effective balance. If your base falls, so do you. So does the earth. I made this mistake a couple of times early on playing XCOM the video games. Learn from my mistakes.

Still, you need to succeed at missions to win. Each mission you complete brings you closer to uncovering a means of launching one final, fatal blow against the alien invaders. More information and examples for your scientists means faster (s)he can develop equipment and weapons with which to arm your troops! Therefore the Chief Scientist is your defacto BFF.

Team work makes for “not a drone” future

All four player roles are vital to XCOM’s success, and you and your friends must divide them among yourselves in every game. Your soldiers won’t succeed without the upgrades your scientists can research, nor will you be able to launch successful Interceptor strikes against UFOs unless you acquire good intel from your satellite network. It’s as simple as that. Work together, prioritize successfully and you’ll eventually turn back the Aliens. Failure leads to a future of assimilation, but in XCOM resistance is far from futile.

XCOM Mission Card and Minis

XCOM: The Boardgame is very true to the original experience. Has a great blend of roles and certainly enhances the out-of-control panic choices you have to make by using the app. We can’t wait to play more.

XCOM Defense Diagram

Who’s this game for?

If you like cooperative games – This game is for you.
If you like high levels of strategy – This game might be for you.
If you like competitive head-to-head games – This game is unlikely to be for you.



  • 1 Game board
  • 16 XCOM soldiers
  • 8 Interceptors
  • 24 UFOs
  • 5 Custom dice
  • More than 200 cards and tokens

Code: FFGXC01
MSRP: $59.95
Release: 4th quarter 2014

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