Firaxis and 2K Games have announced a partnership with Fantasy Flight Games to adapt the hit turn-based strategy video game, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, into a board game, arriving in late 2014. The cooperative game tasks up to four players with assuming command of XCOM and defending Earth against alien invasion. XCOM: The Board Game will make its first public appearance at GenCon 2014 in Indianapolis, which runs August 14-17.
A board game adaptation is a particularly natural fit for XCOM, since lead designer Jake Solomon reportedly re-worked many of the game’s core systems with Sid Meier by creating their own board game midway through the design process.
Each player assumes the role of one of XCOM’s department heads, dividing up the responsibilities of running the organization. The Commander manages the organization’s budget, assigns interceptors to deal with invading saucers, and resolves the crisis cards that come up every turn. The Chief Scientist handles all collected alien materials and prioritizes research into alien technologies that will aid in your fight. The Squad Leader chooses missions and deploys ground troops both for stopping alien threats around the world and defending your base. Finally, the Central Officer tracks global threat, manages satellites, and relays intel on incoming UFOs. Cooperatively managing the spread of terror across a world map by playing different roles gives the game a more than passing resemblance to the popular Pandemic.
The game is played in real time, with limited time allotted to dealing with each task. That structure is run by a free, downloadable companion app that also dictates the alien strategy across three levels of difficulty. The app also serves as a tutorial when learning the game.
App integration into analog board games is a relatively new but natural extension of games from the last few years that have used recorded soundtracks to guide the action, like Space Alert and Escape: The Curse of the Temple. The increasing ubiquity of smartphones and tablets gives publishers more leeway to experiment with this sort of fusion between analog and digital gaming. Imbuing games with more intelligent and responsive systems is particularly useful for the recently popular cooperative and semi-cooperative games.