Cardboard Children: XCOM: The Board Game – Part 1

Hello youse. With XCOM being a game that is significant in the history of PC gaming, I thought I would do something a bit different with my coverage of XCOM: The Board Game on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Often, when a board game supports solitaire play, I’m asked how well the single-player aspect works. And I’m often unable to answer, because I rarely play board games alone. But with XCOM, I thought I would make an effort. The PC game series is a real single-player, one-mind-against-the-machine experience. How does the board game stack up?

In this first part, I look at XCOM: The Board Game for one player. Next week I will talk about how the game scales up to a full team of four.

XCOM: THE BOARD GAME

First things first – there are no rules inside the box.

Opening a board game box to find no rulebook is a bizarre experience. The game requires that you download a free app, for your laptop or mobile device, that will lead you through a tutorial designed to ease you into the board game’s systems. I downloaded the thing to my android phone and an iPad, and it works nicely on both. It’s slick, easily readable on a small screen, quite attractive on a large screen, and is nicely themed after the most recent XCOM computer game. You can even open it in your browser right now, if you want.

You set up the board according to a short set-up guide. There are four roles in the game. The Central Officer is the person who takes control of the app, relays all the information that the app provides, and sends satellites into space to shoot down UFOs. The Commander is in charge of XCOM finances, and sends jets to deal with any UFOs that are hovering above the continents of Earth. The Chief Scientist allocates scientists to research posts, invents new technologies, and uses alien salvage to aid the human cause. The Squad Leader controls the XCOM troops, deciding how and where they’re assigned, on missions and in defence of the XCOM base.

In a 4 player game, each player will assume one of these roles. In a solo game, where we are right now, one player has to do it all. The game’s objective – complete missions until a final mission appears. If too much of the world falls into panic, the game ends in failure.

With all that explained, let’s press PLAY on the app.

The game round starts with a timed phase where the app starts spitting out alerts and instructions. Every one of those four player roles will have opportunities to act, when called into action by the app. The order of these instructions will change from round to round, keeping everyone on their toes. There will also be alien actions too, with UFOs moving into position and aliens attacking the XCOM base. This is the part of the game where all the decisions are made, against the clock. The Commander takes cash, stacks it up ready to spend. The Chief Scientist draws tech cards, chooses the cards he likes, and decides whether or not to start researching stuff. A mission will appear. Someone on Earth needs help. Maybe it’s an abduction, and a rescue. Maybe it’s a search and destroy, a bug hunt. The Squad Leader decides which mission to deal with, and decides which of his units to send. But wait! More UFOs have arrived. The Commander sends out some jets. But where to? Which continents are most terrified? Who to prioritise? But wait! Now the base is under attack. Units will need to be kept at the base to defend it. But which units? And does the Squad Leader have enough troops on standby? But wait! UFOs in orbit, trying to block communications. The Central Officer can activate some satellites, sure. But how many? And can we afford it?

Commander, can we afford it?

Robert, can we afford it? Can I afford it?

The timed phase is fast and furious, with lots of alien activity and an overwhelming amount of decisions for one player to cope with. Almost everything you do on the game’s physical board costs money. If you place soldiers out there on a mission, it costs money. If you activate satellites, it costs money. If you send jets, it costs money. As Commander, you are constantly counting and re-counting, making sure you haven’t put out more than you can pay for. Regrets start to pile in on top of you. One less soldier on a mission and you could have sent one more jet to defend Australia. One less researcher building armour out of alien hide could have put one more satellite into orbit. The Commander has an emergency funding card with a little stack of cash on it, and there’s opportunity in every timed phase to dip into that. But when? Now? Or later? Will there be a later?

And while the Commander counts and worries and counts again, the UFOs keep coming.

SCIENCE

The Chief Scientist always has some interesting tech in hand, and these techs are crucial. But they need to be built. There are three build slots on the board and the timed phase will open them up at different points, spreading the decisions out over the round. Every scientist sent to work on a tech increases the chance of that tech being successfully built. When built, the tech will be given to the relevant department. Weapons and armour will help the troops. New jet tech will go to the Commander. New satellite technology will go to the Central Officer. It’s up to the Chief Scientist to work out what the strongest, most efficient spread of new tech will be in each game, and in what order it will be built. It’s a crucial role.

In a solo game, it’s on you.

IN ORBIT

Above the planet, UFOs prepare for an assault. The Central Officer needs to keep the skies clear. By sending satellites out there he can attempt to bring the UFOs down, and you do not want UFOs in the sky. Any UFOs still in orbit at the end of the round can mess with XCOM communications, causing the next timed phase to spit instructions in a less useful order, clouding player information. It’s a beautiful little addition to the flow of the game, and it makes the Central Officer role a key one.

ON THE GROUND

The Squad Leader knows she must complete missions if the game is to end successfully. Missions are made up of tasks and combats, and they will demand different proficiencies from the soldiers sent out there. One mission might need a sniper, and might give bonuses to an assault troop. The Squad Leader will have to hope she still has the necessary soldiers when the time of deployment comes. And how light will base defences be this round? Can the base stand to take a couple of hits? What do you think? You have about 30 seconds to decide. Mission or defence? Both, and hope for good fortune? What if every soldier is lost? Can you recruit more? Can you afford to?

Commander, can we afford it?

Robert, can we afford it? Can I afford it?

PEOPLE IN PANIC

The people of the world hate seeing UFOs above their cities. Don’t ask me why. The Commander, when not worrying about money, is trying to shoot those UFOs down. He sends jets to Europe, Africa, maybe one jet to America. The more jets the better, of course. But there aren’t more jets. He can’t afford them.

Do we let a continent slide into panic? Is one of them a lost cause? Can we afford it? If panic spreads there is less income for XCOM. Can we afford it, Robert?

REGRET AND REDEMPTION

When the timed phase ends, we roll some bones.
After all the cool app-side stuff, we get down to the traditional rolling of lovely, lovely dice. Here’s where some of the most magical moments in board games are hidden after all – in the click-clack-clatter of dice on a table, under the shadow of the hand of fate.

It’s all resolved so simply, after all that panic.

The game’s blue six-sided dice each show two success symbols and four blanks. There is a red alien die, a d8, that is always rolled with them.

Every single task in the game, whether it’s research or air-to-air combat or ground troop battles or a mission, is pretty much a matter of scoring a certain number of successes. For every unit allocated to the task, a blue die can be rolled. Failure to get enough successes will leave a tech half-built, or some UFOs still in orbit, or a continent still in terror, or a mission incomplete, or a base ready to be battered.
But you can PUSH your units to work harder, fight harder, if you want. That’s where the red alien die comes in – that terrible red die that accompanies every single roll. On a first roll on a task, the alien threat is at 1. Only by rolling a 1 on the red die will disaster occur. If you PUSH your XCOM troops, you can re-roll your dice to try to get more successes. But the threat level will rise. Now a 1 or 2 on the red die will cause disaster. And you can keep pushing, all the way up to a threat level of 5.

And disaster really is disaster. Every jet on a continent destroyed. Every soldier on a task killed. Every researcher exhausted, out of use until much later.

It’s risk. Pure, tempting, sometimes essential risk. And it’s the kind of risk-taking that just has to be done on a board, with physical dice.

It’s exactly where I said out loud “I get it. Now I get it.”

THE GAME CONTINUES

Everything gets paid for, and any money left over is used to recruit more troops and jets. Any UFOs left above cities cause panic, and the game state changes.

The app asks some questions of you. How many UFOs still in orbit? How are the people feeling? Are they in terror? How is your base? Still standing?

“BASICALLY, ROBERT, ARE YOU DEAD YET?” it asks, coldly. And then a new round begins, if you’re lucky.

THE IMPOSSIBLE PUZZLE

As a solo game, XCOM: The Board Game hits you like a fraught, tense, impossible puzzle. You are everything and everybody, one against all, and you are against the clock. Each role has special abilities that I haven’t discussed in detail. But they are major, game-changing abilities that allow for interjection with stuff like “Wait, I could transport your troops from there to here if that helps.” The special abilities create further interactions between players, but in a solo game they just create more stress and more struggle. That’s not to say the struggle is unpleasant – in fact, there’s something quite exhilarating about having all the decisions, every one, at your own fingertips.

The real-time aspect of the game drives the experience forward at a breakneck pace, and familiarity will be the solo player’s friend here. Once you know everything that is in the science deck, decisions will flow faster. Once you have experience with the tactical balance of jet, troop, researcher and satellite, I suspect that your hunches will improve and that your in-the-moment calls from the gut will seem more solid.

In fact, I expect that familiarity in a multi-player game might actually cause more drama and perhaps even some conflict. Four experienced players might have different takes on how the units should be used, and how the money should be spent. “Commander, I must have more troops,” spoken aloud by another, is probably far more stressful than hearing it inside your own head.

The game itself is a fascinating one. The app is relentless, almost menacing, pushing you into decisions before you’re ever ready. There seems to be a million things going on at one time. And then you’re into that resolution phase, with the brilliant push-your-luck dice rolling. I’m glad the dice system is so simple, because it really feels like the meat of the game is in the decisions you make. The simple dice rolling just tells you if you’ve done enough to swing the odds in your favour. And then you can push for more, if you dare. It’s something that will often punish you, but the rewards can be massive. And I’m glad the dice rolling is there at all – it’s a real statement that this is still, after all, a board game.

Weirdly, the game’s board doesn’t seem to be designed for solo play. Each side of the board belongs to one of the roles, so that four players can sit round a table with only the role-relevant stuff right in front of them. In solo play, if you were to lay out the board as suggested, you’d really need to move round the table as you play to work efficiently. (I actually quite fancy trying this – playing the game on my feet, moving, as if round a battle map in a war room.) The game can easily be laid out in a manner so that everything is at one player’s convenience, but it never really feels right, and is quite cluttered.

Before playing the game I had concerns about the app. I play board games to play board games, and I hoped that the app didn’t have too much game locked up inside it. It’s a relief to find that the app actually works more as a gamesmaster of sorts. It controls the sequencing of each round, keeps everything to time, and pushes all the book-keeping stuff behind the scenes. As the game tilts in the aliens’ favour, it re-orders the game’s phases so that some of your actions are blind to certain details of the alien invasion, and that’s the kind of thing that’s very difficult to do in any conventional board game.

To those of you expecting an XCOM board game to be a turn-based, tactical experience with units moving around a grid – this is not that game. Frankly, we have plenty of those games in board gaming, and we hardly need any more. What we do have here is a game that neatly packages that strategic level of XCOM, all that good stuff that happens between the missions. It’s a challenging, immersive puzzle, and even in solo mode I’ve been quite impressed by it. I think some of you might like it quite a bit.

NEXT TIME

How does XCOM play with more humans at the table? With two? With four? And will Rab ever defeat the aliens?

62 Comments

  1. SlimShanks says:

    Wow, that looks fancy. Very nice.
    But when does the Xenonauts board game come out?

    • edwardh says:

      This. Then it would actually be turn-based. ;)
      When I read something like “against the clock” while skimming the article, I thought to myself “Pffft, that’s just like modern X-COM. Screw that.”

      Now, “against the clock” may or may not have been meant literally but thinking about a board game that requires an app and is based on an IMO still ruined franchise just sends shivers down my spine. And not in a good way.

      • Asurmen says:

        Why though?

      • soulis6 says:

        Like Rab says though, there’s already plenty of games like that. Just go play Earth Reborn or Dust Tactics if you want a turn based squad tactics game.

        Also IMO some of the best co-op board games ever are real time, like Space Alert, which also requires either an MP3 file or an app to play, and is fantastic.

        • Synesthesia says:

          ugh space alert is so fucking awesome. I wish I had a more hardcore group to play it.

  2. thekelvingreen says:

    When I first heard about this I thought it was going to turn out to be some cringeworthy modern version of Atmosfear. I’m happy to be wrong.

  3. JackMultiple says:

    I love X-COM the PC game(s). I loves me some board games! I loves me some apps! My only real concern with mixing the two is… longevity. With a “normal” board game, as long as you don’t lose the pieces (or the rulebook!) your daughter can pull this game out of the cupboard in 20 years and say “I remember this game! Let’s play!”. But in 20 years, where will Fantasy Flight be? Where will these apps be? What devices will we still own that can play them? Will FF keep this particular app up-to-date for the next 20+ years so all future devices can play it? Since the laptop/desktop/browser app seems to only work while it’s online, will FF always keep their online server for this game available (and up-to-date with the latest security patches, OS conventions, etc.)?

    You might intuitively think that you’ll always be able to play the app. I’m not familiar with Android, because we have Apple devices around here. Apple in particular likes to “coerce” its users to upgrade their devices to the latest iOS version. At some point, Apple will cutoff old devices by virtue of no longer supporting them in the latest iOS. For example, I’m betting you can’t play this app on an iPhone 3G. That sounds ludicrous… “nobody” still uses iPhone 3Gs. Maybe true… but in 20 years, “nobody” will be using iOS 8 devices. And when Apple has forced all App Store apps to require use iOS 20 as their lowest-common-denominator, well…

    This is essentially an “online board game” where the app is the “server” and also one of the “players”. It is crucial to the game, and even understanding how to play, that the app is running when you want to play the game, since as you pointed out there are no rulebooks in the box.

    I’m not against this sort of game… I’m just saying, this is something “new” to think about when you think about the kinds of games you like, and how long you want your investment to last. You can level these same arguments against old NES cart games, always needing to keep an NES around to play them. Agreed (more or less). I’m just saying… as a board gamer, I’ve never worried whether I can play a game in the future or not. Now it’s something new to think about.

    • thekelvingreen says:

      If and when it does lose its online support, some bright spark of a programmer will put together a free version, I’m sure.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      The “app” is also available for Windows and OSX to download, and there is a web version.

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      teije says:

      A very good point. Would I still be able to play awesome games like the now 36 year old Awful Green Things from Outer Space or Snit’s Revenge with my son if there was an app required?

    • Deano2099 says:

      Load the app onto the device. Look after the device, the same way you apparently look after your board games, and it’ll still work in 20 years. What are you doing with those old iDevices? Hell, in five years if you upgrade, stick the old one in the XCOM box with the rest of the game.

    • Kefren says:

      Absolutely. I look at my shelves with boardgames from 25 years ago which I can still play. I don’t have much faith in apps or programs. I’ve only been using Android for a couple of years but have already encountered apps breaking after a update, or even after the OS updates in some way. The idea of leaving an older device in a box doesn’t appeal – the batteries would probably corrode inside it over time. The only way I’d have faith in this is if the programme source code was made freely available so that even if the game maker stops supporting it, others can adapt it to work on newer systems. Could lead to fun mods and adaptations too. Of course, even that is beyond my control, and depends on enough people still liking the game many years on.

      It gets me thinking that the source code for anything sold should go in a repository somewhere, and only becomes available when it stops being sold. We wouldn’t have things like HOMM3 expansion source code being lost then.

  4. Bracknellexile says:

    I’m rapidly falling in love with this game. The app; the ohcrapohcrapohcrap panic of the timed rounds; the temptation to take just one more roll, the feeling that, even though you’re not prepared, you have to try to win right now because you might not survive another round; it all adds up to one of the best games I’ve played in ages.

    It’s the subtleties in the app that really make it though and after a couple of games you start to spot them – the more players you have, the less time you get; the number of missions you have to complete goes up with difficulty; those radar blips that may be your salvation or, if you miss them may be your downfall – as players get more familiar with the game it keeps presenting tougher challenges and familiarity will not be a guarantee of victory. It’s got enough variety to keep it fresh, all tucked away in that devious little app.

    I was skeptical of the lack of tactical tabletop skirmish, ala Descent, when it was first announced but it really doesn’t need it and in fact, it’s probably a much better game for not having it. It keeps the game much tighter and with very little downtime for any player (I know Rab’s only discussing the solo variant here but whether with one two or four players you always feel involved).

    The lack of housekeeping for the players and the game’s ability to adapt is a breath of fresh air that you just couldn’t get from a static rulebook unless it was inordinately complex. The balance has clearly been worked on very carefully and it captures that panicked inexorability of XCOM really well. All in all, it’s utterly glorious!

    But that app, that damned, relentless, evil little app, It’s definitely the jewel in XCOM’s crown and I’m coming to love it and curse it in equal measure :)

    • agauntpanda says:

      I played the game when it was in beta and talked at some length with the FFG guys. They made the observation that if you’re going to make a board game version of a video game, the #1 thing you want to avoid is for players to wonder, while they’re playing, “Hey, why am I not playing the video game?” Since we couldn’t ship co-op with XCOM: EU or EW, and that was a widely-asked for feature, the fact that it was co-op was a big draw for me personally. The fact that it emphasizes the strategy layer, whereas in the computer version the player spends most of his or her time in tactical, was also a really good design decision FFG made.

      • Slaadfax says:

        It also helps that we have a pretty solid number of grid-based tactical games in the catalog already, like Descent 2nd Edition and now Imperial Assault, to a lesser extent Gears of War. An X-Com tactical game would probably feel a little stifled in that company, but it largely depends upon it’s format and function.

        Of course, there’s also Ares’ Galaxy Defenders, which is very X-Com-esque, and others mentioned above.

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          teije says:

          Big fan of Descent. Hadn’t heard of Imperial Assault before, looks pretty interesting.

          • Bracknellexile says:

            A friend described Imperial Assault as Descent 3rd Edition, it’s ironed out a few of the rough edges, changed the mechanics a little and re-skinned it but it’s still very much the same family of game.

            That said, I’ve not tried it myself yet so I couldn’t vouch for the validity of his opinion.

    • Agnosticus says:

      My thoughts exactly!

      Additionally, I see a problem concerning privacy. If the app sends information to the server, it “knows” when, where and how long/often you play board games.

      Yes, yes, steam does that all the time, but with steam I’m more willing to trade privacy for constant updates, cloud saving, a communication tool, etc.

      • Bracknellexile says:

        Has anything been said anywhere about the app calling home? It didn’t ask for any permissions on install and it runs just fine on my phone with it in flight mode.

  5. Steven Hutton says:

    So I can do everything right and still suffer a massive catastrophe on my first roll on a one in eight chance? That’s a really horrible piece of design.

    • Bracknellexile says:

      There are ways to mitigate that 1 roll that appear quite quickly, it’s not a guaranteed disaster. And even if it is, well, that 95-to-hit shot could always miss in XCOM too. I feel it fits with the nature of the original computer game, recovering from it is part of the challenge.

    • Asurmen says:

      It is? Random chance is present in most board games, and as pointed out the computer game.

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      deadbob says:

      If you made any successes they still count even if you fail on the alien dice roll. So your brave soldiers may still defend the base while laying down their lives etc.

    • soulis6 says:

      Couldn’t you do everything right on the PC game and still miss a critical shot because your hit percentage was 90% though, and the game ‘rolled’ a 1? I don’t really see how it’s different, all games with randomness and chance in them are partially about mitigating that chance.

    • Slaadfax says:

      A not-small number of board games rely on random chance and have a strategy that revolves around minimizing the potential for catastrophic rolling. Some people don’t care for that, but fortunately there are many, many games made to accommodate that mode of play.

      • Steven Hutton says:

        Not really… I can’t think of many popular tabletop games (outside of chess and go and mahjong?) that eschew randomness in their designs.

        Space Alert I guess?

        • soulis6 says:

          Out of any boardgames, and not just co-op ones? There’s tons; any of the big Euro games (Agricola, Stone Age, Ticket To Ride, etc), most Deckbuilders (Dominion, Ascension, Trains), and lots of others. And that’s not really counting adversarial games or more abstract games like Hive.

    • Archonsod says:

      If a single roll can result in disaster, you haven’t been doing everything right in the first place.

      • Steven Hutton says:

        Rab literally described the catastrophic consequences of a single missed roll. You lose all fighters on a continent for example. It’s a punishment, not for playing badly but just because.

    • jalf says:

      Just like with the PC game, if you play in such a way that a single unlucky roll will ruin you, then you’re just playing badly.

      The trick to the PC game (and it sounds like it is much the same here) is to put yourself in a situation where you can afford the odd bad roll. Sure, you’ve got a 95% chance of hitting and killing that Muton. What if you miss? Do you have another soldier as backup? Anyone got a smoke grenade ready? Is your guy at least in cover? If you only have that one shot at it this tun then maybe you should just hunker down instead and wait until you can get more troops into position.

      That concept is basically what the entire game is built around. The idea that things can go wrong quickly, that a single lucky shot can kill one of your guys, that you need to be prepared for all eventualities, and that you have to work around this.

      You may not like it, but I don’t see how it is objectively “bad design”.

  6. Shardz says:

    This is bound to be better than the last 52 PC adaptations that we’ve seen…and 52 times more expensive, as well.

  7. frenz0rz says:

    Oh wow. Colour me bloody impressed from what I’ve read so far!

    It sounds like it nails XCOM, particularly that ominous feeling early-game where you’re making tough decisions, planning ahead and struggling through each encounter; you know you’re just about holding it together but it could all come crashing down at any moment.

    I’ll wait for the multiplayer review before I reserve judgement (feels bizarre to write that about a boardgame), but I could certainly see my group enjoying this.

  8. Drake Sigar says:

    I can see the players taking their roles to heart, all trying to get the commander to invest in their department and increase their relevancy. Might even get that classic antagonistic relationship between the chief scientist and squad leader!

    A dad of two or more kids would be a good commander, they’re used to dolling out the pocket money and making sure everybody gets a fair share.

  9. Rizlar says:

    you’d really need to move round the table as you play to work efficiently. (I actually quite fancy trying this

    This is the most eccentric thing I’ve read since some rambling about being a table made from a psychic tree. You brilliant, mad man.

  10. Radiant says:

    If the app ever stops working dopes it means the board game needs to be thrown away?

    • Deano2099 says:

      Yes. The app won’t stop working unless you break it though. You can put it on your device or PC and that hardware will continue to run it in perpetuity unless you break it.

      Just like any other game, if you lose a key component, the game can be left unplayable.

      • Wytefang says:

        Well except for the fact that most standard cardboard or paper (even plastic) components can be replaced by proxy. So yeah, if this App ever gets borked somehow, you’re screwed. Probably won’t but it’s certainly a negative to consider.

        • Bracknellexile says:

          Given the array of old 1980s emulators that are around these days, not to mention DOSBox, I’m fairly sure there’ll still be a way to run the app on a PC or Mac in 20 years time, even on brand new 2030s hardware.

    • Kefren says:

      It is a worry. I look at my shelves with boardgames from 25 years ago which I can still play. I don’t have much faith in apps or programs. I’ve only been using Android for a couple of years but have already encountered apps breaking after a update, or even after the OS updates in some way. The idea of leaving an older device in a box doesn’t appeal – the batteries would probably corrode inside it over time. The only way I’d have faith in this is if the programme source code was made freely available so that even if the game maker stops supporting it, others can adapt it to work on newer systems. Could lead to fun mods and adaptations too. Of course, even that is beyond my control, and depends on enough people still liking the game many years on.

      It gets me thinking that the source code for anything sold should go in a repository somewhere, and only becomes available when it stops being sold. We wouldn’t have things like HOMM3 expansion source code being lost then.

      • jalf says:

        Really? Board games from 25 years ago generally *sucked*. What 25-year-old board game would you *want* to play?

        Also, I don’t see why people assume the app to be irreplacable. It’s software. There’s nothing stopping enthusiasts from hacking together a replacement if the orignal becomes unusable or is taken offline.

        • Kefren says:

          Warrior Knights, Rogue Trooper, Talisman, Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Battlecars, Block Mania, Judge Dredd, Kings & Things, Car Wars – I have a shelf of golden oldies.

          “There’s nothing stopping enthusiasts from hacking together a replacement if the original becomes unusable or is taken offline.”

          The main things are time, skills, desire. Also the difficulty, and how much DRM the original software might have included, or lack of commenting in the code released to the wild. Even then, as a voluntary thing, it might not be complete, or supported. It may get takedowns from copyright holders, or even those who _think_ they own the copyright, or companies working for them. It’s nice to think that things can be remade, but it isn’t trivial to do so, and if it happens at all it would only be for the games that were still played a lot.

          What you suggest _could_ happen. But it is far from a foregone conclusion. Over the years I’ve had many games that were no longer playable. They weren’t popular enough for anyone to fix or reverse engineer. They just faded away.

  11. Greggh says:

    Wonderful wonderful wonderful!!! (insert more encouraging words here)

  12. Wytefang says:

    I’m sorry but I don’t agree at all that we “have enough of that stuff” concerning tactical board games with units pushed around a grid. Well I should say that while there ARE a decent amount of those types of games around, I still don’t feel it’s hit a breaking point where most of those games are great or that we even have enough great types of those games yet.

    This seems like fun but also not quite enough like the videogame to be of interest to me. Opportunity lost, imho.

    • Asurmen says:

      It sounds like the game with enough changes to make it into a board game.

  13. RuySan says:

    My cousin had a board game in the 80s, i think it was about boats and importing/exporting goods, that came with a ZX spectrum tape, which was part of the game. Does anyone know what i’m talking about?

  14. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    I’ve heard from quite a few separate people now that this game just doesn’t work. You don’t have time to enjoy what you’re doing and there’s too many arbitrary limits on how you can play the game.

    I’ll be giving it a miss based on other sources.

  15. It's not me it's you says:

    This game is so fucking good. Played it with 4 people and also had a shot with just the missus. The separation between the timed phase (making decisions quickly based on imperfect information) and the resolution phase (not timed, discuss strategy going into the next timed phase) is great. The presentation is excellent but that’s pretty much expected from FF games. This is the first time I ever put a game on the table without opening it myself first and reading up on it (it arrived literally as my first guest did) and its tutorial mode sorted us all out no worries.

    The complaining about this game’s app is beyond tedious – it’s not a hidden thing, if it’s a deal breaker then by all means do not buy it. It allows for some fantastic and very novel experiences in a board game though, and the amount of bookkeeping it does is excellent.

    As for longevity – Just download the unity file from the web player and the windows / mac standalone executables, stick ’em all on a USB stick to pack with the box if you’re paranoid and I am very confident the digital part won’t be what becomes unusable first.

  16. Moraven says:

    Round 2 Tutorial. Soldiers successful complete to their mission and base defense but at the cost of their lives.

    6 KIA. Yep, this is XCOM.

  17. Moraven says:

    I recommend anyone to simply load up the app and play the tutorial.

    You get a good feel the the Real-Time tasks and Resolution phase.

    Real Time phase Tasks
    New Tech Available – Chief Scientist draws up to 6 cards.
    Budget – Commander retrieves the given budget amount.
    Enemy in the Base – Draw 1 alien to base. Infinite Pause.
    Assign Research – Assign a tech card and up to 3 scientists to that card.
    Crisis – Draw 2, pick 1. Add to crisis pool. Infinite Pause
    UFOs Detected – Place UFOs on map. Infinite Pause
    Choose Mission – Draw 2 missions. Pick 1. Lots of time.
    Emergency Funding Available – Can assign spare funds to budget.
    Deploy Squad to Mission – Reveal alien that is in mission. Assign soldiers to task (more if mission is carried over from last round).
    Deploy Interceptors – Assign Interceptors to continents to counter UFOs.
    Deploy Satellites – Assign Satellites to Orbital Defense.
    Defend the Base – Assign soldiers to base defense task.

    Events like UFOs, Crisis are the random elements. I believe they depend on the state of the game also, like how many UFOs are still in Orbit. I could not tell if Expired Timers had any effect.

    Each difficulty has a one time per round pause. You gain time by clicking done early on tasks.

    Resolution Phase (always done in same order, no timer)
    Budget Audit – Each Interceptor, Soldier, Satellite, Researcher assigned costs $1 credit. Overspent is 1 crisis level for the lowest continent panicked.
    Recruit – Excess credits recruit additional soldiers and interceptors.
    Resolve Crises – Bad things like lose interceptors, elite soldiers are bonuses are subdued, etc.
    Resolve Research – Roll for each tech card in play with scientist assigned. Each scientist = 1 blue die. Roll as much as you want or until successfully research the item (number in top left has success token requirement).
    Resolved Orbital Defense – Each orbital satellite provides 1 blue die. 1 Success = 1 dead UFO.
    Resolve Global Defense – Each continent with Interceptors is its own separate task (reset to Theat level 1 for each continent). Each Interceptor = 1 blue die. 1 Success = 1 dead UFO.
    Resolve Base Defense – Threat does not reset between tasks (each Alien attacking is a task). Each alien is a task. Soldiers and aliens have skill icons on them. Match skill icon = 1 blue die. Gold skill icon matches = 1 extra die. Loss roll = lose Soliders that were assigned to the current task/roll.
    Resolve Mission – Complete mission tasks from left to right. Same thing as Base Defense.
    Update panic levels in app.
    Refresh exhausted cards and tokens in reserve. Discarded cards placed on the bottom of their respective decks.
    Return all units assigned to a task or placed on a card return to their reserve (this and the previous step are important to do in order, since exhausted satellites and scientists are Not refreshed).
    Tell app how many UFOs are in orbit.

    Task rolls. Basically each thing you spent a credit on is 1 blue die.

    Each position gets cards that allows you to avoid losses and other benefits. Carapace Armor I think lets you reroll the Alien Die once. Chief Scientist cards usually spend 1 salvage, which you get for each defeated alien.

    Budget management, panic levels, how far will you go on the Threat level, using your ability cards, picking which crisis of the 2, how much emergency fund to use, do you overspend. There is a lot going on beyond luck of the roll.

  18. Moraven says:

    This is how I configured my table for my first full solo game, after a couple 3 rounder test runs.

    link to imgur.com

    Time Phase asset cards.
    Resolution asset cards.
    I used success tokens as markers for when I exhausted cards. Have plenty of them anyway.

    Even on Tutorial/Easy, I was on the verge of losing on that last turn. Need to focus on Interceptors more. Soldiers you can get away with fewer of and there are more asset cards that you can research towards buffing soldiers.

    • Bracknellexile says:

      Marking the exhausted cards like that is a nice idea when space is tight for a solo player because you want everything at your fingertips. Might have to steal that stroke of genius. Beats trying to turn stuff sideways or over in amongst so many cards.

      • Moraven says:

        I stacked all the extra Soldiers with the interceptors. Credit pool next to it.

        When it came to make my budget, I just moved what I needed to the soldier pool spot.

        Crisis deck near to draw. Discard and draw pool stack nearby.

        Threat I just chant in my hand before each roll.