Between the flurry that is E3, the brawl to top the Christmas sales chart and the steady trickle of releases all through the year, the games industry has a pretty unshakeable fixation on the new. While I try to make time to play older releases I may have missed, there's always that pressure to play something current - something of the now.
One of the things I love most about board games, on the other hand, is their sheer staying power. Carcassonne is often one of the first ones I recommend to people asking for a good place to start getting into tabletop, and it was published in the same year as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. Great as Anthony Hawk's Professional Skateboarder is, it certainly wouldn't top my list of recommendations for someone looking to get into gaming.
Basically what I'm trying to say is I reviewed XCOM: The Board Game this week despite the fact it came out in 2015. Hopefully I've done enough to convince you that's ok.
The video below has a full explanation of what's in the box, how the game works and what makes it so good, but in short XCOM: The Board Game is a tense and challenging cooperative game that does a great job of adapting the source material. I say this despite - no, because of - its heavy reliance on a digital companion app, which ordinarily is enough to make me think twice about trying a board game. While there are notable exceptions (Alchemists being one), digital components can often feel shoehorned in, detracting from the simple pleasure that comes from playing a board game in the first place.
Not so with XCOM: The Board Game - as well as guiding the players fluidly through the many steps involved in each round, it randomises the order and severity of the actions taken by their extra-terrestrial adversaries, keeping things unpredictable even for seasoned players. Splitting the game into two halves - a timed phase and a resolution phase, it also sets a rhythm to the game that's really engaging. Players are given mere seconds to make important tactical decisions in the timed phase, while the resolution phase allows them to see how those decisions play out at their own pace - kind of like how time seems to slow down when you fall over.
There are one or two elements in which XCOM: The Board Game doesn't quite nail the tone of the video game, but all in all it stands out as one of the most impressive board game adaptations to date. Well done, Commander.
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