XCOM: The Board Game Is The Board Game Of XCOM

By Graham Smith on August 6th, 2014 at 3:00 pm.

So many little pieces!

It’s been almost two years since XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and even with the Enemy Within expansion in between that’s too long a time to live without a new XCOM game to play. We can therefore justifiably lust over the just-announced XCOM board game coming from Fantasy Flight. It’s called XCOM: The Board Game, it requires a digital companion app to play, and it’s due out before the end of the year.

Cor, look at all the little cardboard pieces in the image above. I could roll around in those all day.

Why do you need a “free” companion app to play? Because that’s what handles the alien AI, to produce a dynamic and escalating threat over the course of the game. And because drawing crisis cards is for chumps. From the Fantasy Flight blog:

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. The app manages all of these tasks and heighten’s the game’s tension as it forces you to respond in real-time. 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.

When the aliens do strike, each player can have a different assigned role: commander, chief scientist, central officer and squad leader. I would like to play the role of arbitrarily restrictive shadowy government figure, who turns up periodically throughout the game to make life more difficult for the players, but alas the rules don’t seem to support that. The descriptions of the actual roles do sound pretty cool, though; the central officer, for example, manages the organization’s satellite network and is “the communications relay between XCOM and the outside world.”

Little figurines!

There’s little explanation of what that actually means in practice (do I roll dice to deliver press conferences? I hope so), but I do like that there’s an obvious amount of thought behind representing the mechanics and world of XCOM. Fantasy Flight are also the people responsible for the Battlestar Galactica boardgame, which did an admirable job of translating its subject matter into game mechanics.

Board games, eh? They’re like PC games except they don’t run on PC. There’s more info over at the Fantasy Flight site.

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38 Comments »

  1. Dawngreeter says:

    I will play this like a motherfucker. My whole group was in horrible need of a new, awesome cooperative boardgame.

  2. Brinx says:

    This looks really, really awesome. I love cooperative board games, because my friends are not really into board games and these I can play by myself. (Pretty much like I played X-Com for PC by myself.)

    Also: If the app-mechanic works as intended, it could make for a really awesome hybrid, that could inspire even more games with it.

  3. NarcoSleepy says:

    I’m of two minds about this game. On one hand, this sounds frakking awesome. On the other hand, if it requires a companion app, why not just go play XCOM on your device of choice? Is the companion app only for iOS? If so, a non-starter for me. All of Fantasy Flight electronic games/apps so far have only been for iOS.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      Elder Sign is on Android, with all the DLCs. I can report it works absolutely fine.

      Also, the XCOM companion app will also work as a web app so you’ll be able to run it wherever.

      EDIT: Actually, all the Fantasy Flight apps have been made for Android as well, except for the two toolkits (Warhammer and Arkham Horror).

    • Deano2099 says:

      Because it’s a different game? And yes the app will run on a PC.

    • alh_p says:

      Closer inspection (Graham missed it) reveals that the AI will also be inter-tube accessible – so not just an app.

    • jalf says:

      On the other hand, if it requires a companion app, why not just go play XCOM on your device of choice?

      Because XCOM on your device of choice is not a board game, and is not a social experience and is not a physical game that you and your friends can interact with in a three dimensional space.

      Board games are fun because they’re tangible things that you and your friends can *physically* get together around and have fun with.

  4. Ivan says:

    This is fortuitously timed, to say the least.

    I just got on the X-COM: EU/EW train a few weeks ago (it had been on my wish list since release, but I never actually got around to purchasing it, until I was given it as a “sorry I can’t come to your wedding” gift by a friend). While playing it (more like huffing it/absorbing it intravenously) over the past few weeks, I’ve constantly thought that a lot of the concepts would translate really well to a cooperative board game. (My regular playgroup mostly just plays cooperative board games, so those are what I’m familiar with.)

    While, in my mind, it included both tactical and strategic elements (each player plays both a soldier type on tactical encounters and a head scientist/head engineer/commander/etc. type during the strategic phases), that version was purely a wisp of an idea in my mind, whereas this is a bonafide physical (and part electronic) product.

    Pretty hopeful it’s actually a good game, though.

  5. Stormworm says:

    I’m gonna be THAT guy and ask if we can still expect a Wot I Think: Wargame Red Dragon? Pretty please with sugar on top. :3

    They released their first free DLC for it not too long ago, celebrating its millionth copy sold in the series. It is rather well done for a niche series I’d say.

    • alh_p says:

      I have no idea why but RPS has basicaly ignored the entire Wargame series – from European Escalation to Red Dragon. Very odd given how they fell over themselves to applaud RUSE.

      Then again RPS isn’t a review site – it publishes press releases and some good opinion pieces that occasionaly include reviews.

    • slubberman says:

      An article on RPS about Wargame was the reason that made me buy W:EE in the first place, so I find it hard to see why they would not want to get their hands on this game and try it..

      And when you consider the fact that there has been several shoutouts for a review in the commments section of other articles since Airland came out, I get a little sad. This game could seriously use some more publicity.

    • Premium User Badge Thurgret says:

      What a curious place to post this!

      I don’t hold it against you in the slightest, however. We did, after all, just recently have a comments section devoted primarily to the posterior of a statue. I think Wargame is an equally good cause. And Red Dragon really is fantastic if you just quietly ignore everything to do with ships.

      • Stormworm says:

        This is not the only site where I am pestering the writers to write about the game. You can also see me do this on Destructoid. Apparently they had no one to review Red Dragon at the time. Instead, they posted an article about Snoop Dogg being in the latest Call of Duty DLC. Though, I must admit that one most likely made more clicks than latest entry in the Wargame series ever would have.

        The reason I decided to post about it in this article was that I remember the very same Mr. Graham Smith here, covering the title earlier on when it was still in development.

        I love the series and it deserves way more coverage than it had. For some reason it just seemed most sites decided not to. If only one of the Youtube personas I follow would’ve made a video on it…

  6. Deano2099 says:

    The app-mechanic will help fix the biggest problem with most FFG co-op games that use an AI, in that it’s hard to have enough different possibilities to keep it interesting. They could add more whenever they like, without needing to balance against the cost of card to print them on and having to release them in the expansions.

    Also it seems like being “the communications relay between XCOM and the outside world” just means you get to hold the iPad. More info on the actual mechanics, including the core push-you-luck dice system here: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite_sec.asp?eidm=269&esem=1

  7. Elos says:

    It’s designed by Eric M. Lang who did Chaos in the Old World which is one of the best designed board games ever made, IMO. So this may be very good, even if it comes with the usual Fantasy Flight baggage.

  8. sinister agent says:

    XCOM was already a board game, so I’m surprised it took this long.

  9. Premium User Badge Stellar Duck says:

    I’m probably a Luddite but I really don’t want to play a board game with a companion app.

    I play board games to get away from all that. :(

    • pepe says:

      I would also be worried if this trend were to develop.
      First, one reason I appreciate boardgames is that it is so easy to pick-up any old one and still be able to play. Will you be able to play this one in twenty or even ten years ?
      Also, battery life issues…

      • Premium User Badge Stellar Duck says:

        And I don’t actually know anyone who has a tablet.

      • Premium User Badge JiminyJickers says:

        My thoughts exactly, the companion app sound cool, but if I pull the boardgame out of my wardrobe 5 to 10 years from now, will I still be able to play it? There may not even be android or apple operating systems that can run it, so the game would either need a paper alternative, or it just wont work for me.

        • jalf says:

          Uh, you know the “app” is also available as a web page, yes?

          Also, have you never lost a piece from one of your board games before? Or spilled a dirink on the cards? With or without an app, there’s no guarantee your game will work when you pull it out of your wardrobe 10 years from now.

          And how many 10 year old board games do you still play?

          • Undecillion says:

            200 year old Poker, 1500 year old Chess, 3000 year old Go, 5000 year old Backgammon.

            20 year old XCOM: Enemy Unknown (digital).

            Xcom the board game… I give it 3 years.

          • sinister agent says:

            That is one of the most ridiculous analogies I’ve ever seen on this site.

    • Wytefang says:

      Yeah, that does make you sound like a bit of a Luddite.

      I see no problem with that, in fact, I’ve been waiting for this merging to become more prominent as things evolve in the tabletop gaming industry. :)

      • Undecillion says:

        I think he sounds perfectly rational. How long will it be before this practice is common and monetized? Charged money each time you play the game to use their app? Charged for patches and cosmetic items? How long before the app and webpage are shutdown for lack of use and you’re left with a box of useless plastic and cardboard?

        It might be argued that you haven’t made a very good board game if you have to augment it with something else. It begs the question – why make it a board game at all?

  10. MkMax says:

    sigh, ios, android, table games, make XCOM 2 or another expansion already

    • johnkillzyou says:

      They’ve already made XCOM 2, it’s called Terror from the Deep. Maybe you’re after 3 instead, XCOM Apocalypse? Maybe you’re more of an Interceptor and Enforcer kinda guy. Perhaps you want a sequel to The Bureau: XCOM Declassified? Or are you clamoring for the next version of OpenXCOM? Or X@Com, the XCOM roguelike? Or are you like me, and just waiting for them to reboot XCOM Alliance?

      • sinister agent says:

        … or they might want XCOM 2, a sequel to the xcom game this article is about.

      • MkMax says:

        Actually that was X-COM terror from the deep, the 2K game was XCOM without the “-”, openxcom is openxcom not xcom, i have never heard of X@Com (and google isnt being helpful either) and why would i mean The Bureau: Subtitle ? it had nothing to do with the game the cards are based on

        so i could only possibly mean a sequel to the 2012 XCOM by 2K

        • johnkillzyou says:

          I know, I’m just taking the piss. Why complain, it’s not like they have the same team working on this that would work on the actual videogame. If anything, this is a good sign there will be another XCOM.

  11. IonTichy says:

    Need to tell my local game shop to order this one for demo purposes, not sure if I’d want to blind buy this one (even if it looks kind of awesome)-

    arbitrarily restrictive shadowy government figure,
    I usually stand by my opinion, that said figure is acutally Agent 47…I mean, just look closer at him…and that voice…clearly 47 with a new desk job!

  12. 0positivo says:

    The concept of the “real time threats with separate resolution phase” sounds a lot like Space Alert…

    Which is excellent! Because Space Alert is absolutely glorious, and there’s definitively not enough games pushing for that kind of real, timed pressure. Experienced boardgame players like our group have a tendency to drag even short games loooooong, making sure that every single tiny detail is perfectly laid out and planned. If you throw a time limit in there, suddently you’ve revolutionized the way we need to approach everything.

    It is really a fantastic paradigm shift, and makes for basically infinite replayability

  13. Premium User Badge Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    An app to provide the antagonist is a nice touch, but part of me can’t help but wish that they would make a terrifying malevolent cardboard AI like Arkham Horror.

  14. Wytefang says:

    It’s about time we start to see more integration of digital with tabletop gaming – it’s been WAY overdue, imho, and I for one welcome our new digital tabletop overlords. :)

  15. CMvan46 says:

    This looks suspiciously similar to Pandemic.

  16. Muffintop says:

    Now we just need a Long War ruleset and it’ll all be gravy.

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