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."
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.