Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Board Game: XCOM

Boy, I am really bad about doing these posts. Like, I'll play the games, take some pictures...and then completely forget about doing the write-up. Not that I think I have an especially big readership in general, and certainly not for board game posts, but it's annoying to me that I forget them.

WELL NO MORE. (Probably yes more.)

The Game: XCOM
The Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Time: 60 minutes, give or take
Players: Me, Michelle, Al

Shadowy folks fighting a shadowy war.
Game Play: I've played the video game version, and this does a pretty good job of capturing that feel. There are four roles, but you can play with as few as one person, because the game requires an app that tells you what order things happen in, what the aliens are doing, and so forth. It is therefore possible for a single human to play against the app; we had three, so Michelle played two roles.

One role deals with the app, one deals with budget and planetary defense, one deals with sending soldiers to fight and die against aliens, and one deals with SCIENCE! In practice, though, they all do basically the same thing - make decisions about resource deployment and then roll dice to determine whether they beat their objectives or die trying.

When you roll, you're rolling a couple of customized d6s (either victory or naught), and a d8. Your d8 is the alien die; if it comes up equal or less than the current threat level, you suffer a loss, and what that means depends on who's rolling and for what. You need a certain number of victories to achieve a goal, and you can keep rolling as long as a loss doesn't, say, kill all your soldiers.

So f'rex, as the Science Officer I'm researching new tech. Each piece of tech has a Tech Level, which is the number of victories I need to finish it. I can assign as many as three scientists to a given task, which gives me more dice to roll to research it...

...but putting resources on the board costs money, and if you come in over budget bad things happen (the app asks you if you're over budget and then calibrates accordingly).

Al shuffling, or being a bunny, it's hard to know.
There's a lot going on: You have to deal with crises (random Bad Shit that can strip your resources or increase the Threat Level), alien attacks, missions, flying saucers knocking out your satellites, and then of course there's a final mission that lets you win the game...but you can't tackle it initially and it's hard in any case, so you need to build up the chops to take it on.

The board in play. See, lots happening.
Opinions: The game feels a little too punishing at first because it starts with the aliens doing shit, which means the first part of the game is an app telling you to move cards and figs around. And then you get to do stuff, but it takes a while to get to that point. Once the game gets going, though, the app is a nice tension builder. The other thing that I was worried about during the first turn was that the roles aren't actually all that different, and that's still kind of a thing; it's all about resource management but you really do have to pay attention to what's on the board and what's happening to make the best decisions.

I think that the player controlling the soldiers probably has the most to deal with, but I'd need to actually play that role before I'd be sure about it.

Overall, though, the game is fun, especially if you've played the video game and would rather experience it using pieces of plastic and cardboard.

Keep? Yes.