Sunday, 15 March 2015

XCOM Solo - One man against the alien scum

XCOM the Boardgame is an app assisted board game set in the XCOM universe and was developed by Fantasy Flight games. 

It's designed as a co-op game, but it can actually work well as a single player experience, if you are insane a like mental anguish and having information overload that is. 

So, I took on the challenge of playing it solo, i've done that 4 times now and won twice and lost twice. The first time I attempted this report on my 3rd play through, I took a bunch of photos, and then found the camera data card in my computer........ so this is attempt four. In all it's glory. 

I'm always cagey about session reports, as i think they always soudna little like Rimmer from red dwarf, talking about the time he rolled a 3 and a 1 in a game of risk. 

Anyway, here it is. 

One of the refinements i made after my first attempts was to optimize the layout so that everything was easy to find in a hurry. Several of the actions in the turn have less than 10 seconds, so knowing where things are in crucial. It's also important to remember to use you cards, so i placed all the "timed phase cards" right in front of me. 

The mission is "domination", which appears to focus more on the air-war than other missions, my HQ was in Australia (which allowed me to zap 1 ufo a turn) and the Aliens were a reasonably easy assortment of outsiders, Sectoids, Sectoid commanders, Mutons and Muton Elites. The game was set to normal difficulty. 

Each turn will have two images, one from the end of the timed phase, and one from the end of the resolution phase. 

Turn one - And so it begins

I drew an unusual assortment of tech cards, and decided to go for dollars to keep me in cash for the whole game, so selected elerium and UFO power. Combined, these would give me $4 extra a turn, which would be helpful. 

Arc thrower was also there and as far as i'm concerned, it's a must have. That said, no floaters or thin men in the enemy deck, but alien special powers truly suck. UFO power and Arc thrower are obtained!

Crisis cards were laughable this round, Elite soliders don't get an extra dice and discard all salvage. Awesome, none of either of those. 

I slightly overspent this turn on Air and Space defence, thinking more aliens would be attacking later in the turn. But i figured that it would be good to stay on top. as it stands, the Satellites stuffed up and left a UFO alive....

The base was attacked by a Muton and Muton elite, and it took 3 rolls to kill the Muton. So i figured letting the base take 1 hit was better than losing 3 troopers. 

Which turned out to be a great move as the mission went horribly wrong. I passed the first check, then boom. An Outsider kills 2 soliders and the mission is failed for now...... 

I also forgot to increase panic by 1 in the lowest panic continent, oops. 

So after turn 1, things are looking pretty solid asides from some casualties in the troops. 

Turn two - More incompetence from squad command. 

Turn two i was focused on getting good tech and rebuilding squad command, so i really dipped into emergency funding to get the extra resources. 

Light activity in the skies again meant a minimal commitment there, and with troops training to be elite and out on the skyranger, I could commit few troops to the mission and base defence. 

Xenobiology is a great tech card as it allows you to get that extra tech a turn, and with arc thrower i wasn't too concerned about Outsiders not being salvageable. Firestorm also popped up, and it's a very useful card. Along with the Australia commander card, that's 2 dead UFO's a turn. 

Firestorm and Elerium tech's obtained this turn. 

Crisis cards were moderately annoying, increas panic in North America by 1, exhaust the Satelitte uplink and players cannot roll more than 3 times against each task. 

Space command again failed at the first step leaving two ufo's in orbit, and i remembered to increase panic this time. 

My base defender took 3 rolls to kill the sectoid, so i let the outsider damage the base again. 2 hits on the base, i think you can afford to take 1 a turn without getting too panicked, plus i am short on troops, despite buying 2 this turn. 

However, the mission again turned out to be a graveyard. Both soldiers died on the first roll, and with no satellite uplink or weapons tech, i was in trouble. 

After turn 2, XCOM is holding steady, things aren't out of control, but i'm not that well set up. The big thing is I now have an extra $4 a turn to spend. 

Turn 3 - Squad command finally does something. 

Ok, so far so good, but my soldiers need some toys to fight the aliens or they are going to keep dying. 

Money isn't too tight so I spend six credits on tech and raid the emergency funding hard. I have about $20 to spend, which is a lot in XCOM. The new techs on the agenda are Alloy cannon and light plasma, to help out the troopers. 

It's a clean sweep on the techs and i'm feeling good, despite spending all my salvage and six credits to get them. 

The air war heats up a little, and I commit a modest amount to it. It's a good turn in the skies as we nearly clear them for the loss of two interceptors and two satellites damaged. 

Base defense is again poorly done, and the 2 troopers struggle to kill the Sectoid Commander. I let the Muton Elite damage the base and trigger the invasion special, which does nothing. Also, no crisis cards this turn as the sole crisis "kill two soliders" was dealt with by the skyranger. 

Finally, the mission is one and my Squad Commander is saved from a summary execution. Winning the mission also reduces panic and grants me two additional troopers. 

Asides from being a little short on interceptors, things look really good heading into turn 4. 

Turn four - Holding steady, gaining power. 

Emergency funding is cleaned out, but that's ok. Our job here is to keep powering up for the final mission and making our troops as good as they can be. 

It's a full trooper tech selection, with Plasma Cannon, Plasma Sniper and Blaster Launcher. I think all 5 of these is overkill normally, but my other options were average at best. I used xenobiology to get Hyperwave comms in the timed phase to immediately reduce 1 continents panic by one. 

Both normal weapon tech's are obtained and my soliders are over the moon. 

I balls up a little by only having 1 satelitte this turn, as i forgot the crisis card was "spawn two ufo's in orbit". I spent my money on buying new interceptors, instead of placing satellites, oops. 

Base defence is easy this turn, with the 3 aliens all dying under a hail of good dice and new tech. The squad commander also rockets through a mission that reduces panic. Good round by squad command, and heaps of salvage for next turn. 

The only major issue this turn is those 4 UFO's in orbit. 

Turn five - Final mission, the push to win, oh god, what's that in the skies. 

Things really heat up in the skies this turn with 9 UFO's heading to Asia in one turn (the eight above, minus one from the Australia card)

I'm confident, that with two missions complete, that the final mission will be up this turn or next. So I continue to gear around that. 

I use xenobiology to get arcangel armour, and promptly gain more salvage for my tech rolls. The amazing UFO navigation is available, as is carapace armour. Cards that should really help me with the final mission (3 alien dice rerolls!)

Crisis cards are manageable, panic up in Africa by 1 and resolve the invasion critical effect. Not too scary. 

The Air and Space battle goes remarkably well..... sort of. I kill most of the UFO's on the board by interceptor command is in dire condition at the end of the turn with only 2 serviceable fighters. 

Base defence goes smoothly, with the sniper and heavy not even having to roll to kill the Muton due to our awesome weapons tech. 

Three soliders are committed to the final mission, and in retrospect, that was probably a mistake. I should have gone all out on it. 

The outsider dies under a hail of tech upgraded weapons, but I need 3 success on the next task. Two obtained, but 3 alien dice rerolls all end in a dead squad. 

While we are looking good to win if we survive this turn, the state of fighter command is really worrying. Africa becomes the first nation "in the red". 

Turn six - We need to nail this now!

At the start of the turn i reduce panic in Africa by 1.

This turn is all about survival and letting the strike team win the final mission. I discard two techs looking for "Shiv", but find Interceptor repair. Xenobiology brings that too the table immediately and two more fighters arrive at fighter command!

I fumble a bit this turn as it's a hectic one and don't make all the best decisions. I get revive as a tech, but fail to keep a support around to utilize it. No matter, just no one die this turn. 

I had to discard 3 techs and spawn 2 ufo's thanks to crisis cards. This game can't go much longer as Elerium, Xenobiology and UFO Power go in the bin, great techs, but i need to win this turn. 

The alien UFO fleet turns up in force, and despite that, Fighter command has a blinder of a turn, keeping the air above North America clear and reducing the alien fleet. There are some panic increase, but it's still very manageable. 

Base defence is again very smooth thanks to easy to beat aliens and weapons technology. 

The final mission comes down to 1 roll of 3 dice, and another roll of 2 dice, thankfully, I have 3 alien dice rerolls. And you know what..... i use all of them on the second roll.

Final mission nailed..... but as a solo game, you can't really 5 five anyone in victory. 

In the end, I felt I had good control through the whole session. getting Elerium and UFO power early on really helped, despite losses in fighter and squad command, I could just afford to buy dudes back. 

And while those big UFO swarms mad me feel I could be in real trouble, some good rolls on those turns really did help keep me in the game. 

My advice for XCOM players is this. Sort your economy out early and don't overplay on the first few turns, and don't be afraid to skip a mission for a turn or take some damage on the base. 

Once you have a small number of resource providing cards, the game becomes a bit easier to manage. And while I had Elerium and UFO power, revive, interceptor repair, alien construction, xenobiology, defence matrix all save you money over the course of the game. 

Once you are set up, you can then push to complete missions and build your squad for the finale. 

Oh, and take the time when it is offered. "Pick a mission" and "emergency funding available" have long timers, use the extra seconds to think about your next tech purchase or what timed cards you have available. 

I recommend XCOM solo to anyone who really likes a formidable mental challenge under pressure. 

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