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The unholy marriage of board games and mobile devices has begun

Will Fantasy Flight’s recent announcement of XCOM: The Board Game be the harbinger of a growing trend towards hybrid games that used both physical and digital elements?  A few months back we posted an article about innovation in gaming that mentioned the potential for games that use both physical components and digital hardware and software.     

xcom board gameOf course, the is not a new idea, as fans of Dark Tower can attest, but the number of games that take this approach appear to be increasing.   A great example of this integration can be found in Bezier Game’s recent title, One Night Ultimate Werewolf.    

In this game, a companion app is used to facilitate gameplay.  While you can play without the app and have someone take on the role of the announcer, the app is so simple to use that  I suspect that most players will use it.

The approach by Fantasy Flight is that the app is essential to the game, and it must be used.   The following is a description from Fantasy Flight’s website on how this works:

While you and your friends immerse yourselves into your roles as XCOM department heads, the alien invasion continues to escalate. XCOM: The Board Game incorporates the use of a free digital companion app, which you can either download or access online. By coordinating alien activities in real-time, this companion app heightens the game’s dramatic tension and its immersive qualities.

Each round, the app tracks the time you have allotted to respond to each task, forcing you to think quickly, even as you must carefully measure the strategic implications of your decisions. However, the app does far more than track time. Its design is integrated deep into gameplay, and it permits both a mutable alien invasion plan and a dynamic turn structure.

When you start a game of XCOM: The Board Game, the app randomly selects one of five different invasion plans. These plans represent the different, overarching strategies that the aliens might employ as they send forces against the earth’s different continents, create catastrophes, and target your base, pressing back against your resistance efforts.

Each invasion plan establishes a larger pattern for the aliens’ tactical use of three different game elements: UFOs, crises, and the enemies assigned to assault XCOM headquarters.

Each round, UFOs appear in orbit, hovering over the world’s continents. UFOs that your Interceptors don’t eliminate spread fear through the continents that they menace, and if two continents fall into panic, your organization loses funding, your efforts are undermined, you fail to safeguard humanity, and you lose the game.

Personally, this sounds intriguing and I’m looking forward to seeing how the reviews of this game.  I also believe that using the XCOM IP for this game will have the potential to attract new gamers to the board gaming hobby as fans of the video game XCOM franchise might give this a try.


XCOM: The Board Game is anticipated to release this year and retail for $59.95, which is the average price of other Fantasy Flight Games titles.