Game: XCOM: The Board Game - Evolution
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Designer: Samuel Bailey
XCOM: the Board game - Evolution is an expansion to what is probably my favourite game of all time. Xcom itself is a 1-4 player cooperative game where you fight off an incoming alien invasion controlled by a tablet app. It combines a timed phase where you have harsh limits on your time in order to assign your resources, followed by a resolution phase where you roll dice in order to see how your assigned forces did. The game is asymmetric, with each player having a unique officer who manages different parts of the XCOM organization, some are more intensive than others, but each is vital to your success.
Evolution adds several new features to make your life that little bit harder, you face human insurrection along with the alien invasion, along with new alien terrors, new crisis’ that the invasion inflicts on you and much more deadly attacks on the XCOM base. To counter this you have a plethora of new technologies, a handful of new starting assets and a brand new type of trooper to fight by your side.
The Mec troopers are lovely models, standing far above the normal XCOM soldier, the board game doesn’t really highlight how these are actually normal soldiers who have had their limbs surgically amputated in order to have cybernetic enhancements grafted to them. It would have been somewhat thematic to have to kill off one of your other troopers to get one, but that’s a minor gripe (along with the lack of gene-spliced, and psionic soldiers). MEC troopers are specialised in all 4 enemy tasks, which makes them great at all combat, but they are expensive to replace and can’t be made elite. You’ll need them as the new missions can be evil.
|Everything in the box, a very welcome addition is a paper copy of the rules, as good as the app is sometimes, when you forget the nuances behind 1 rule, it's just easier to open up a booklet|
The XCOM base now has a damage deck, while the base game has 4/7 spaces result in no lasting damage occurring to the base, now each step of the damage chart hurts you. You now draw damage cards which shut down one of the game’s starting facilities unless you spend 2 of your reserve funding, giving you a tough decision to make, but also making defending the base that much more vital to your success. The new missions feature meld, which is a powerful element that doesn’t last long under earth conditions. If you complete enough of a mission on the turn it appears then you can secure and isolate it giving you a bonus for your speed, encouraging you to take more risks for bigger rewards. The risk/reward balance is where XCOM shines, and that’s exactly where Exalt hit you.
|Each player gets a new asset card to start the game, there's also a decent amount of new techs, many of which interact with the EXALT tokens|
Exalt are a group of human rebels who are trying to take power while XCOM, and the world’s armies/governments, are distracted by the aliens. In the computer game they serve as a separate faction, like XCOM without the moral hang-ups, more willing to use unstable alien tech. They provide a mirror to your activities, as you genetically mutate your own soldiers in order to get every advantage, and question if you really are the saviours you’re meant to be. Unfortunately in the board game they serve a lesser function, they appear as a bunch of tokens which get placed on the different areas of the board. If there is at least 1 token in an area you roll the 6 sided alien dice rather than the 8 sided one. You can defeat an Exalt token by spending a success. This gives you a choice between making your future rolls safer, but wasting success now, or further risking your troops for immediate results. It’s a good balance, but I just wish Exalt had a bit more of a spotlight shone on them.
Evolution also adds a few more alien invasion plans, which serve as the global mission which you need to beat to win the game, of particular note there is one which provides an extra long game (a long war if you will), I’ve yet to play this one, but I look forward to the challenge. Evolution is a welcome expansion to a great co-op experience, while I would have liked a few more nods to the Enemy Within expansion for PC, and a bigger showing for Exalt. What is included is very enjoyable, overall it makes the game a little harder, though still very well balanced, there’s less room for error now and higher costs for mistakes. In short, it’s more of what made XCOM great!