XCOM – Review

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You’ve played the video game right? Great, I haven’t, in fact I had never heard of it till the board game was announced to confused and angry cries of horror at the integration of an electronic app with a board game.

This review therefore will be purely about the game, with no comment about ‘it being rubbish because the video game does this and why doesn’t the board game do that.

Its a co-operative game set in the future with a hoard of aliens trying to mash us humans upside the head, while we valiantly try to hold them off with our puny guns and fighter jets.

You win if you fight them off and lose if two continents fall into utter chaos or your headquarters gets overrun.


These people have lost…by a lot.

There are 4 roles that need to be filled, with each person taking responsibility for a specific role in the defense of mankind (scientist, army dude, fighter pilot bloke and the boss man in charge). The game is broken up into a series of rounds, which are themselves broken into two parts:

  • Real time planning
  • Resolution of those plans

The real time planning is where the app comes into its own. The events that happen are always the same but the order in which you must plan for them will change every time. For example, you may be asked to allocate your fighters to defend the different continents, but wont have received reports of exactly how many spaceships will be there, so an educated guess has to be made, under time constraints. Yes there is timer going that gives you a limited amount of time to make each decision before it moves onto the next phase.


Those decisions are then resolved one at a time in a set order using a unique mechanism. In order to defeat/complete an objective a certain number of ‘hits’ must occur using a set of dice . If you make it on one roll, well done, if not…well you can try again, but you are also rolling an 8 sided die in conjunction with those hit dice. There is a fail track that starts at one. Every time you don’t make the objective it goes up by one and if that 8-sided dice rolls equal or less than that fail track, well, you can guess what happens. You fail, plus lose all the units involved on that objective. That really sucks, because it costs you money to get them back and then more money to place them on the missions. Oh, money is also crazy tight, you can overspend but then for every extra $$S you use it sends continents into further chaos, but any cash you don’t or can’t use is lost for the round (sounds like city council spending).


Great role, unless it was the second attempt…in which case they lost all their units.

The scientist can develop upgrades to help make life easier, but if you spend your budget on that, you aren’t defending the planet. Life kinda blows during an alien invasion.

There is a fair amount more to this game, but this is usually the point I get bored reading a review, so I’ll stop as you get most of the gist.

When we played on easy, we lost miserably, but in hindsight we saw a lot of things we would have done differently. The app is pretty awesome and is also the rulebook. The only thing the game comes with is a set up diagram. Then you just follow the app step by step while playing the game to learn how it goes, which is pretty groovy.

The first game will go pretty long, as you are learning the rules, but I can see games taking about 60-90 mins once you get it down. It plays well as a 1 player, as you just take all 4 roles. It would work well as a 2 and 4 player as well. The weak spot is 3 player, where one person has to take 2 roles and can kind of slow the game a touch.

You are definitely at the mercy of some dice roles and if spending a quarter your budget on one mission only to role a 1 and lose all your units is likely to drive you bonkers, this ain’t for you. If you are looking for a game with a strong theme and story arc with some great new ideas, this will be a hit.


Let’s hope Wil Smith is driving one of those bad boys…


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