Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over 18 months and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every other Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday, 9 March 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- XCOM: The Board Game - Evolution

GameXCOM: The Board Game - Evolution

PublisherFantasy Flight Games

Designer: Samuel Bailey

Year20
16


When I originally bought the XCOM board game, it was as a gift for Amy along with the promise that I'd play it at least once. She was a big fan of the video games and I thought that there was no way I could enjoy a board game based on a video game about defending the earth from aliens. 12 months later and we've played XCOM: The Board Game over 10 times and both class it as one of our top ten games of all time so we bought the expansion the day it was released in January this year.

The Evolution expansion adds a few different kinds of extra content to the game. The most obvious is the MEC Troopers -  a new kind of troop who are specialised at every combat type. However the expansion giveth, but it also taketh away with the exalt tokens which make it more difficult to complete tasks. In addition there are extra aliens, extra science cards and extra crisis cards that reference the new content.

Unlike with other troops, you do not start the game with any MEC Troopers. Instead the 3 miniatures are placed in the central supply and you needed to rely on the scientist to use their tech to get you these powerful troops. The scientist needs to discard salvage to buy the MEC troopers so they need to make a value judgement about whether to use salvage to help them with research or to help the Squad Leader. When an action is specialised the MEC Trooper will always count as specialised as that action and has all four symbols, making them really useful where a large combination of abilities is required and there isn't that much budget to spend on assigning troops to base defence and the mission.

The MEC Troopers - Really big, detailed minis - Hopefully Amy will paint XCOM one day...
However, in my opinion the game overall is more challenging with the expansion. The MEC Troopers are powerful but for us the Exalt tokens are more detrimental than the MEC Troopers are helpful. There is a central supply of Exalt tokens all of which depict the different resolution elements of the board. If a location has an exalt token then you use the 6 sided alien dice instead of the original 8-sided dice meaning you have much more chance of failure in your rolls, meaning that your interceptors and troops are lost much more easily. You can spend successes you roll to remove Exalt tokens but this is instead of removing the UFO, killing the alien or succeeding at the mission. If you're not careful, the number of exalt tokens quickly get out of control and you really struggle to get back on top. Researching the right tech cards that help with the removal of these Exalt tokens was definitely key to us winning our last game.

Other new content for the expansion. New aliens, missions, crisis and effects that occur when you take base damage.
We've played 3 games with the new expansion. In our first game our we lost miserably due to damage to our base. We then turned down the difficulty on the app and have been able to succeed in our next two games, but it's often felt a lot more tense than when we've played the base game alone. The expansion definitely rewards a different mind set when it comes to researching tech and taking risks to plan ahead, removing exalt tokens at times rather than taking the immediate advantage of successful rolls. Evolution is not a game changing expansion, but it fits seamlessly with the original game and I can see no reason for us to play without it. Having said that I was pleased to see that they've updated the app so you can play both with or without the expansion which is a really reassuring sign for the longevity of support for this app-based game.

I'm not sure Evolution is quite the expansion I wanted for XCOM, I might have preferred something that had more game changing aspects so that I felt like I might sometimes want to play the base game and sometimes the expansion. For extra content though it's quite a good value expansion and fits very well with the base game in terms of consistency and the fact I can fit it in the base game box. XCOM: The Board Game - Evolution expansion gets a 7/10 from the Yellow Meeple.

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