22 January 2015 | XCOM: The Board Game

Salvaging Hope from the Wreckage

XCOM's Chief Scientist Gives Humanity a Fighting Chance at Survival


Standard military responses have proven ineffectual. Human civilization stands on the brink of collapse. In the face of an extraordinary threat, the time has come for extraordinary solutions…

The digital companion app for XCOM: The Board Game is now available for download, and the game is scheduled to arrive at retailers late next week!

In XCOM: The Board Game, you are part of an extraordinary team of individuals. You and up to three friends assume the roles of XCOM’s department heads, and it’s up to you to find some way to use your soldiers, scientists, satellites, Interceptors, weapons, and other resources to establish an effective response to the alien invaders that brushed aside the world’s militaries.

Throughout our series of previews, as we’ve explored the different challenges that XCOM offers players, we’ve looked at how the different roles allow you to respond to those challenges.

  • We’ve seen how the Central Officer is responsible for maintaining XCOM’s satellite network and obtaining accurate information from the game’s digital companion app.
  • We’ve seen how the Squad Leader forms teams of soldiers to simultaneously defend the base and undertake dangerous missions.
  • And we’ve seen how a good Commander will help the team manage its efforts to stay within budget, strategically directing its expenditures toward launching and completing the game’s final mission to achieve victory.

Today, we explore the responsibilities of the Chief Scientist, the fourth of XCOM’s department heads, and we look at how XCOM’s science division can provide the technological advances that just might help you win your war against the alien hordes.

Chief Scientist

In XCOM: The Board Game, your team starts out horribly outmatched and outgunned, thrust into a world that is falling swiftly into panic, and if you are to have any chance of winning your war, you’re going to need new technology. Fortunately, as the Chief Scientist, you command a science division comprised of some of the world’s most brilliant individuals.

Per the Chief Scientist’s reference card, your role is defined by two key responsibilities:

  • Research – assign tech and scientists to research
  • Salvage – use alien materials

However, that’s an intentionally minimalist expression of the role and its responsibilities. It doesn’t explore the role’s impact in the game or stress the importance of the decisions that you’ll make:

  • As the Chief Scientist, you are responsible for supplying your teammates with the technological advances they need to repel the alien invasion.
  • As the Chief Scientist, you are responsible for developing a far-sighted approach to the war that overlooks early losses to aim for ultimate victory.

Of course, no matter how you look at the role, it is defined first and foremost by the deck of twenty-eight tech cards from which you draw and select new technologies to research. From Holo-Targeting to Firestorm and from UFO Navigation to Alloy Cannon, these technologies provide your team with different benefits, but before you can use any of these technologies, you need to research them.

To research a tech card, you must first assign it as a task to one of the three stations in your laboratory. Then, you must assign a number of scientists to the task. You can assign up to three scientists to any task, and you should typically assign a number of scientists that weighs the benefits of the technology against the budget and the number of successes you need.

Each tech card indicates a number of successes that you need to complete your research. In this example, Elerium requires two successes. Understanding the tremendous potential financial benefits of researching this technology on the first attempt, the Chief Scientist has assigned three scientists, meaning that he will roll three dice when he attempts his research.

However, while some may look at your job in such simplistic terms as “assigning scientists to research tasks,” you recognize that you’re not just forging a random collection of new technologies. No, in order to win the war, XCOM relies upon you to make key strategic decisions about the technologies you research.

For example, a Plasma Cannon demands a heavy research investment, and though it can make it much easier for you to defeat the enemies you face, the energy you spend researching it won’t pay off if your Commander can’t keep Interceptors on hand to place upon it in the resolution phase.

Likewise, Revive is more useful in some circumstances than in others. If your Squad Leader can’t keep support soldiers on hand, it’s not useful at all, but if your enemies aren’t focusing their attacks on your base, it may help you mount a successful and efficient defense that relies on only one soldier.

Finally, technologies like Weapon Fragments that provide you economic benefits are more effective the earlier you research them. The closer you get to your final mission, the less effective they become, and the more you need technologies like Battle Scanners that can help you succeed at your tasks.

Like the Commander, then, the Chief Scientist benefits tremendously from understanding the alien invasion plan and the enemies your soldiers will face. The more you understand the nature of the challenges that lie before you, the more you can strategically direct your research to respond to them. The two scientists you assign to a task may require the same two credits as the two soldiers you’d assign to a mission or the two Interceptors you’d assign to global defense, but if you assign your scientists wisely, they may make a far greater impact over the course of the game. Assigned poorly, however, they may make no positive impact at all.

Accordingly, as the Chief Scientist, you will want to make good use of your Research Center and Workshop.

  • If you identify which technologies are most likely to help you, you can dig through your tech deck by exhausting your Research Center and discarding tech cards that would be less helpful.
  • On the other hand, if your team is strapped for funding and asks you to refrain from late-game research as much as possible, you can still assign crack teams of scientists to your Workshop to derive temporary benefits from tech cards in your hand before discarding them.

Together, these two assets provide your role with enough flexibility that you can shape your research for maximum impact from turn one through the end of the game.


Another key part of your role as Chief Scientist is the management of salvage. Each time an enemy is defeated, it’s claimed as salvage, and the Chief Scientist can make use of these fallen enemies in a number of different ways.

The first use of salvage is provided by your asset card, Laboratory. During the resolution phase, as you’re resolving your research tasks, you can discard one salvage to your Laboratory to add one XCOM die to each of your rolls on one task. Effectively, by discarding a salvage, you gain the benefits of assigning another scientist.

This can be an effective way to research new technologies even while your teammates are asking you to hold back on expenditures, and it can also give you a bonus die when you decide you really, really need some new technology now. While you’re limited to three scientists per task, discarding salvage to the Laboratory allows you to roll as many as four XCOM dice for critical tasks.

Meanwhile, there are two tech cards that open new uses for your salvage.

  • Weapon Fragments allows you to sell off surplus alien tech, transforming any number of salvage into an equal number of credits on Emergency Funding.
  • Xenobiology, on the other hand, takes the ability of your Laboratory and pushes it to an extreme, allowing you to discard salvage during the timed phase to immediately research any one tech card from your hand, provided you discard salvage equal to the number of successes you would need to research the tech.

Paired with Archangel Armor and a focus hauling enemies back to XCOM headquarters as salvage, an early Xenobiology can greatly accelerate your research and mastery of alien technologies, allowing you to weaponize them and bring them to the battlefield.

These cards and their effects illustrate how much can be gained from the dissection and examination of your fallen enemies. Of course, to get those bodies, you need the full cooperation of the Squad Leader and his soldiers. Accordingly, it pays to research some tech for the Squad Leader to keep him happy, and to keep XCOM’s soldiers safe in the field.

  • By reducing the threat by one during a mission or enemy task, Holo-Targeting decreases the risk that your team will lose soldiers on a mission or during base defense.
  • Some tech you may give to the Squad Leader, like Run & Gun and Battle Scanners, add dice that greatly increase the chances that your team’s soldiers will succeed at their tasks.

If you can keep the Squad Leader happy, then, you might convince him to make use of Archangel Armor. This tech can feed you as many as two salvage per round, though you’ll need the Squad Leader to hold two soldiers back from missions to do so.

Crafting Your Comeback

Reports are coming from around the world of alien ships being blown out of the sky, military aircraft bearing the markings of no country, and special forces soldiers with weapons and body armor unlike anything we’ve ever seen…

Where the world’s militaries have failed, XCOM must succeed. To do so, you’ll need as much cutting edge tech you can possibly wield. You’ll want Alien Alloys, Battle Scanners, a better Defense Matrix, Plasma Cannons, UFO Power, and Blaster Launchers.

As the Chief Scientist, you’ll keep your teammates fully supplied with the tools they need to survive their encounters with the alien invaders. Accordingly, you want to come to the mission with a plan. You start on your heels, and time is against you. Still, if you perform your duties well, you just might help your teammates strike harder and faster, and you might help them survive shots from weapons that would have killed them otherwise.

Next week, you just might help win the war.


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