The board game version of popular alien punching video game XCOM is a step beyond the original franchise. Whereas the computer game puts you into the core of the action, the board game puts you in the role of senior manager types. It’s a co-op game in which you frantically work together, desperately trying to plug together enough resources and troops to prevent an alien invasion. It’s also famous for the use of a special ‘timing’ app that turns the game into a fun but stressful experience.
Everyone who plays XCOM for the first time loses, but after a while you and your friends become a well-oiled machine, balancing time and resources and pushing the alien menace back to the brink. Or at least you find yourself losing less. Of course, this means it’s time to add an expansion to stop the game from becoming a little too familiar.
Evolution adds a bunch of new mechanics to the game (and there’s a button on the app to let it know that you’ve gotten the expansion). Firstly, it introduces the threat of the EXALT, humans who are interfering with the Earth’s defence for their own ends. This changes the theme of the game slightly and makes it more likely that thing your team has worked to gain may be quickly undone (unless you work swiftly). It also means that the Central Officer has a lot more to do as he scans for internal threats and clears EXALT tokens as they build across the board. This piles the pressure on the Central Officer, making it more fun to play. The Commander gets more crisis cards, and now things can break on the base. It’s more of the same trouble, but the variety is nice.
The big bonus is the addition of MELD and the ability to spawn Cyborg soldiers (provided the Science team is on the ball). These come with lovely MEC soldier models which look great and they really do pack a punch, if certain situations. If you can get the things into play, they’re a real boon to the struggle and give you more things to do.
Which you’ll need, as Evolution ups the difficulty level to a significant amount. The game has never been easy, but this add on turns the whole thing into a mad scramble. More stuff, more problems, cool mech suits and lots of shouting. Sounds like a good XCOM game to us.
XCOM THE BOARD GAME – EVOLUTION / DESIGNER: SAMUEL BAILEY / PUBLISHER: FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW