Designed by Eric M Lang
# of players 1 - 4
Ages 14 and up
Playtime: 90 minutes
You are humanity’s last hope…
Overall components quality is excellent. Fantasy Flight tends to have good miniatures.
This game has many plastic miniatures. Unlike a lot of other games out there, the minis do not have skinny parts that are destined to break off. They look good and aren't going to break. The cardboard chits and tiles seem to hold up well. Everything fits pretty easily into the box.
Of course, the game has one very special component: Your own tablet running the app. The game cannot be played without the XCOM app. Its available for Apple and Android. It is compatible with a lot of devices and seems very stable. I feel strange making this next complaint about a board game. The app's music and sound effects get a little stale.
XCOM is rather special in that each player has a unique role to play. Each role has totally different responsibilities. The Squad Leader manages the soldiers. The Chief Scientist researches better tech for everyone. The Commander manages everyone's resources and assigns interceptors to the UFO's. The Central Officer actually uses the app, communicates with the other players and assigns the satellites.
Another different element in the game is that it has a phase of each turn that is timed. And I mean rigidly timed. In some cases, you have just a few seconds to make a decision. It is very intense and adds an original layer to the game. The first couple of times you do the timed phase you can feel a little lost, but the app does a good job of keeping you on track and you get used to the flow rather quickly.
So this is the way the game plays out; At the beginning of each turn is the “Timed” phase. The app, in real-time, tells you what resources you have and presents you with various challenges. You have to decide, immediately, how you are going to handle these challenges. You are presented with a mission, enemies attacking your base, UFOs flying over continents and available technologies for study. Each of these things must be assigned a certain amount of resources by different players. (“A Muton and a Floater have entered the base? I'm assigning one Heavy and one Assault to handle it!”) There is even a player who has to manage the problem of players allocating too many resources to their problems. (“Taco, stop putting so many fighters out there. We don't have the money, I'm telling the CO to pull one of them back!)
If you and your friends get too good at the game, you can adjust the difficulty. I feel this helps the replay value. Also, there are slightly different scenarios that you can play and I feel that also cuts down on repetitiveness.
The foremost question in many peoples minds when looking a this game is: Does having an app really enrich the game or is it just a gimmick? I am pleased to say that the app works well with the game. The game's creators managed to integrate an app into a board game in a way that is both original and feels natural.
Having different roles for each player makes you feel like a real team. And subjecting your friends to the timed phase will lead to some very entertaining and chaotic results. The Moscow Mules I was pounding didn't hurt, either. I am a bit of a sucker for co-op games, but I liked XCOM a lot and I'd be happy to play with my friends anytime.
*Frantic in a fun way
*Can increase difficulty
*Great team dynamic
*App audio gets old.