Monday, December 9, 2013

XCOM Musings

I've been playing a ton of XCOM: Enemy Within in the last few weeks, so naturally, I've been pondering an XCOM tabletop game. There are two aspects to XCOM: EW - the tactical squad combat and the strategic global management/tech upgrade aspect.

Admit it, you'd buy a game with this art on the book cover. Pic from here.

For the tactical combat, I don't foresee that being too difficult to port over to a tabletop game. There are plenty of games out there that can handle lethal tactical combat. I'm thinking somewhere along the lines of an extremely simplified D&D 4E - something built off the 13th Age system, maybe. The big key here is that it's got to have a level-up system to replicate XCOM ranks and it's got to be absolutely lethal to simulate how often XCOM soldiers are killed. A plus would be quick character creation, for the same reason.

The strategic element could be a little more difficult. In the video game, there's only one player to make all those decisions - in a tabletop game, there are generally going to be at least two (three if you count the GM). There are also a lot of aspects to make decisions about: choosing which abduction mission to go on, tech upgrades, research options, items to buy, what countries to send satellites to, etc. Making these decisions as a group has the potential to be divisive unless there's a clear role for each player. So, I'd call one player the Head Scientist, one the Chief Engineer, one the Strategic Lead, and one the Tactical Lead. Each would get a quarter of XCOM's budget to take actions for their section.

The Head Scientist would make decisions on things like research options, autopsies, and tech upgrades. The Chief Engineer would make decisions on what buildings to add to the base and Foundry upgrades. The Strategic Lead would make decisions regarding satellites and which missions to take on, and the Tactical Lead would make decisions on what equipment to purchase and equip soldiers with, along with choosing which XCOM soldier would be the squad leader on the various missions. This way, every player has a strategic role to play alongside controlling a character during tactical missions.

Options for the four strategic roles could be something like this:
Head Scientist - purchase scientists to shorten research time, choose research projects, and run autopsies and interrogations.
Chief Engineer - hire engineers to speed up Foundry upgrades and build times, build base facilities.
Strategic Lead - purchase satellites, run intel scans searching for Exalt, sell surplus at the Gray Market, make decisions on what missions to take.
Tactical Lead - hire soldiers, purchase equipment, choose squad leaders, choose Officer Training School options.

Now, I realize that this limits the game to four players plus a GM, but I don't really see that as a problem. I'm thinking XCOM would be less of a roleplaying game than it would be just a really good boardgame with a tactical combat module bolted on. It would certainly be possible to add a lot of roleplaying elements into it, what with playing the soldiers as well as the XCOM HQ roles.

I may not make this game, but it's fun to think about. So, what are your thoughts on an XCOM tabletop game? What would you do different?

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