Review – XCOM: The Board Game

Posted on by Jesta

A cooperative, digitally integrated game.

Title: XCOM: The Board Game

Year Published: 2015

Designer: Eric M. Lang

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Players: 1-4

Game Time: ~90 Mins

Set-up Time: >5 Mins

Ages: 12+

Theme: XCOM

Mechanic: Coop, Dice Rolling, Push your Luck

How to win: Complete the final mission

Game Description

You are humanity’s last hope.

You assume the roles of the leaders of the elite, international organization known as XCOM. It is your job to defend humanity, quell the rising panic, and turn back the alien invasion.

Where the world’s militaries have failed to stand against the alien invaders, you must succeed. To do so, 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.

Set Up

Place the board in the middle of the table and assign roles to each player. I generally assign roles first so you can rotate the board to it’s most convenient position for everyone. Make sure each player has all the ‘bit’s relating to their role.

Put the correct number of Soldiers, Satellites, Interceptors and Scientists on their respective reserve cards.

XCOM Unit Setup

Put 1 of each unit and 2 Interceptors on the Recruitment Pool on the board.

XCOM Reserves

Put the Threat token on space 1 of the Threat track and the Damage token on the Blue space on the Damage track.

The Chief Scientists shuffles the Tech deck, the Commander shuffles the Crisis deck and the Squad Leader shuffles the Mission deck.

Those set-up actions are the same for every game… the following will be different and will require the app.

The first app action is to pick an Invasion Plan, make sure the Squad Leader picks the same one to put on the board.

XCOM Choose Mission

The app will also tell you which enemy cards to use. They are shuffled into the Enemy deck.

XCOM Pick Aliens

The app tells the Commander where the XCOM HQ is, put that token on the board. The App will remind the Commander which cards they will have at the start of the game. Each continent has it’s own card you will have for the game so the starting HQ space is quite important.

XCOM HQ Location

Update the Panic levels as shown on the app.

XCOM Starting Panic Levels

Then you’re ready to go!

Game Play

The app will then guide you through the Timed phase… These phases are quick so you have a very small amount of time to complete your action. You need to do it as fast as possible, and let the Central Officer (who controls the app) know so they can move on to the next task.

The first action is always “New Technology Available” for the Chief Scientist. They draw up to 6 tech cards.

XCOM Scientists Cards

Science cards are colour coded to the department they belong to for easy reading.

The second action will always give the Commander their Budget.

XCOM Budget

Each token is ::little finger in mouth:: One Billion Dollars.

The following actions are done in a different order most rounds. (By the player role in brackets)

UFO’s Detected (Central Officer). You put UFO’s on the board in the relevant Continent. Some UFO’s are placed in Orbit.

XCOM UFO's Invading

2 in Africa, 2 in South America and 2 in Orbit… Very convenient for taking a photo.

Assign Research (Chief Scientist). This will be for 1 of the 3 labs but all 3 labs will eventually be assigned in a round. You put a card from your hand into the relevant Lab and assign up to 3 Scientists to it.

XCOM Science Card

This card will require 2 successes, the player assigned 2 Scientists.

Choose Mission (Squad Leader). Draw the top 2 cards of the Mission deck and puts one on the mission space. If there is already one there, they can skip it this time.

If there is a space for Alien cards, these are placed from the top of the deck face down.

XCOM Mission Card

This mission has one face down Alien card.

Crisis! (Commander). Draws 2 cards from the Crisis deck. One is placed in the crisis pool, the other is discarded.

XCOM Crisis Card

The commander chooses to increase panic in Africa by one… but not yet! These cards are resolved later.

Enemy in the Base (Squad Leader). Put an Alien face up in the relevant space on the board.

XCOM Enemy in the Base

A Thin Man. The other two spaces are for a Hair Crow and Cowardly Brian.

Deploy Squad to Mission (Squad Leader). Any face down alien cards on the mission are flipped face up then the Squad Leader puts up to 4 Soldiers from their supply to the Mission card.

XCOM Assign to Mission

The Squad Leader assigned 3 units to the mission, I hope the Commander has the budget for it!

Emergency Funding Available (Commander). Take any number of credits from the Emergency Funding card.

XCOM Emergency Funding

Tempting to take all of it, but this has to last all game.

Deploy Satellites (Central Officer). Place up to 3 Satellites in Orbit.

XCOM Assign Satellites

One Satellite, 2 UFO’s… Who will win?

Deploy Interceptors (Commander). Place Interceptors anywhere around the board on their designated spaces.

XCOM Assign Interceptors

3 Interceptors vs 3 UFO’s… Evenly matched!

Defend the Base (Squad Leader). Add units from the supply to the base.

XCOM Base Defence

The Squad Leader thinks one unit is enough to defeat the Thin Man. (Maybe they didn’t read the Thin Man’s ability?)

Ending Timed Phase. Now players have a chance to use any abilities that can be used in this timed phase. The amount of time you have here not only depends on the difficulty level, but how quickly you completed each task.

Resolution Phase

Now you resolve the above actions, but these are not timed…

Audit the Budget (Commander). Pay $1 for each Soldier, Interceptor, Scientist or Satellite on the board. If you have overspent, the most panicked continent is moved one space on the panic track.

Recruit Soldier/Build Interceptors (Commander). Buy any one of these for $1 each from the budget surplus. Any remaining money is returned to the supply.

XCOM Buy Units

2 Units and an Interceptor cost 3 Billion.

Resolve Crises. Go through the Crisis deck from top to bottom, performing the action as written.

XCOM Resolve Crisis

Panic in Africa is increased by 1. Africa was the least panicked continent so this was a good choice.

Resolve Tasks

Resolving tasks is based on dice… You roll one blue XCOM die for each unit you have assigned to the task. These shows a ‘Success’ symbol. You also roll the red ‘Alien’ die, which is linked to the Threat track. You push your luck on rolls, each time increasing the threat track by 1. If the Alien die rolls equal to or less than the threat track, you can no longer re-roll and this is a loss. You don’t fail as such, you just can’t re-roll and you may lose something.

XCOM Die Rolls

2 successes rolled and the Alien die is above the current Threat level. Well Done.

Resolve Research (Chief Scientist). Roll one XCOM die per Scientist and add one success token per success. If the Success tokens equal the research cost of the technology card, it is successful. If you fail with the Alien die, exhaust the Scientists. The threat track resets for each Lab.

Resolve Orbital Defence (Central Officer). Roll one XCOM die per Satellite and destroy one UFO per success. If you fail with the Alien die, exhaust the Satellites.

Resolve Global Defence (Commander). For each continent, roll one XCOM die per interceptor and destroy one UFO per success. If you fail with the Alien die, destroy the Interceptors. The threat track resets for each Continent.

Resolve Base Defence (Squad Leader). Assign one soldier with at least one matching symbol to one of the aliens in the base. Only one soldier can be assigned per symbol. Roll one XCOM die per soldier plus one extra per matching specialised (gold bordered) icon. If the number of successes equals or exceeds the Aliens health, it is killed and turned face down for savage to the Chief Scientist. If you fail with the Alien die, kill the Soldiers.

While each enemy in the base is an individual task, you do not reset the threat track after each one.

For each surviving Alien, deal one damage to the base.

Resolve Mission (Squad Leader). Resolve tasks from left to right one at a time on the mission card. These work the same way as fighting an alien. If you fail with the Alien die, kill the Soldiers. Again, while each enemy in the base is an individual task, you do not reset the threat track after each one.

If the mission is not completed, you can continue in the next round.

If it is, you get both the rewards on the card.

Input Panic Levels (Commander). Slide the Continents to their respective colour on the panic chart. This is to let the app now how things are going.

XCOM Adjust Panic Levels

2 Continents in that Orange bit and it’s game over.

Mission Completed? (Commander). You let the app know if a mission was completed. The quicker you complete missions, the quicker you get to the final mission.

Refresh Phase

Refresh cards and refresh tokens in your reserve. Except for Soldiers assigned to mission, return everything assigned to the board back to their supply in their current state (Exhausted tokens stay exhausted)

The app will then ask how many UFO’s are in orbit. These UFO’s disrupt communication and mix up the order of tasks in the Timed phase. This can mean you having to deploy Interceptors before UFO’s have arrived… Tricky.

Then you start the next round.

Game End

If you complete the final mission.. you win and save the world!

XCOM Victory

If two continents become panicked or the base is destroyed, you lose.

XCOM Game Over

Round Up

The game is quite frantic but playing this game gets less frantic the more you play it.

Other timed games like Escape: the Curse of the Temple keep you at a high level of panic… The better you get, the quicker you can do things but it means you do more in the time you have. You’re always at that top level.

As you get experienced at XCOM things get easier, time seems slower but you don’t really have MORE to do. You’re just able to do the few things better.

With each role you’re playing a different game… sort of. Most have a similar “Assign things now, roll dice later” thing going on but it doesn’t really feel that simple. This is mainly due to your role having a few other bits to do… OK, for the Squad Leader this is all you do but what else would a Squad Leader do?

It has been said that the Central Officer, who has the app, is playing more of a game than everyone else. Yes, hey have this lovely app and bark orders and are technically involved in every action of the timed phased but again, I don’t FEEL like it’s their game with 3 helpers. They still feel part of a team that MUST work together to win.

Speaking of the app, it’s great. Not only is it visually and functionally fantastic, game wise it’s KEY. It gives you controlled randomness in a way a deck of cards or a die roll couldn’t do. Having UFO’s in orbit disrupts the action sequence, which may force you to send out Interceptors BEFORE UFO’s have been placed… Ouch.

It’s a fun game that plays quickly, gives 4 different experiences and tells the Alpha gamer where to stick it!


One I’d like to play more often than I do.

I give it 7/10

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