A to Z 2015 : THE X-FILES

This next A to Z feature is based off of one of my favorite TV shows. Though, admittedly, towards the end I kind of fell off until the last few episodes/series finale. There are 2 movies, with a third in the talks, which is making me nostalgic to watch the series completely from start to finish. For a brief time there was even a CCG card game released, which I collected (and still own), but I never played.

Are you ready find out if the Truth is really out there? Find it before your department is shut down forever by the Syndicate in...

The X-Files is a semi-cooperative game for up to 5 players. I say semi-cooperative, because one player takes on the role of the Syndicate. All other players are working together to find the "Truth", so they either win or lose together. It's important to keep that in mind, using teamwork, to succeed.

The game itself has a lot of components to it.  Multiple token types, decks of cards, a bag, and even a shield/screen for the Syndicate player to use, so that they may hide certain information from the other players. I won't be able to go into each and every detail/rule (I'll save that for later!), but I wanted to point out that despite everything, I think it's a fairly lighter game compared to most.

Players begin by deciding who will be the Agents (and which) and who will play the Syndicate. It's recommended in 2 player games that whoever plays the Agents control more than one, keeping the cards, tokens, etc separate from one another. It's important to note that various aspects of the Syndicate's turn and game mechanics function based on the number of Agents there are. Players collect their Agent badges and place their markers in the Northeast region of the map.

Cards are separated by type (Agent/Syndicate/X-Files), shuffled, and placed face-down on the board where marked. Tokens are also separated by type (Cigarette/Evidence/Influence/Progress/Wound), and placed in piles within reach. There is a token for each the Agent and Syndicate team, which are placed at the top of the Score Track. The final components are the 9 puzzle pieces depicting Mulder's "I Want to Believe" poster — the ultimate goal for the Agents is to complete it.

The Evidence tokens are placed into the Evidence Bag and shaken. Each Agent receives 3 Influence tokens and 5 Agent cards, while the Syndicate player takes the Cigarette tokens and places it behind their screen. Reveal an X-Files card for each Agent (this is how many X-File cases can be open at any given time) and place them in their specified region. Only the South allows for more than one X-File to be open in the region, otherwise if the region already has an open case, place the X-File card at the bottom of its deck and reveal a new card. Repeat this until the quota is met.

When the board setup is completed, the Syndicate player draws 5 Syndicate cards and collects 1 Influence token for each Agent. They may then place Syndicate cards face-down on the color-coded spaces (one each) of the board connected to a region with an open X-File case. Most regions allow for 2 Syndicate cards, but some allow more or less.

Once the initial setup is finished, the Agent player to the left of the Syndicate player starts.

Agent players will take turns moving region to region attempting to solve open X-File cases. They will do this with the aid of Agent cards and their fellow players, if any. On an Agents turn they may Move to one adjacent region or Consult Another Agent (essentially swapping one card) that is in the same region. Then they may Plan (collect 3 Influence tokens) or Act (play 1 card from their hand). Then the play may Replenish (draw 1 Agent card — there is no hand limit).

Each Agent card has an icon denoting what type of skill (Conflict/Paranormal/Political/Science/General) is used in resolving the card. Each player will find that they are "Strong" in two skills and Weak in one (these are highlighted by colors on the badge; green and red, respectively). If a skill isn't listed the Agent is considered Neutral in it. Agents cards cost no Influence if a player is strong in the skill used, 1 Influence if neutral, 2 Influence if weak.

 Each Agent also has a special ability that may be activated or triggered once per turn!

Each Agent also has a special ability that may be activated or triggered once per turn!

Most cards an Agent play on their turn, if they choose to do so, allow them Investigate. To Investigate an open X-File, that player must be in the same region as the case. Cards that allow a player to investigate also have a number after "Investigate" (for example: Investigate 3). This is the potential amount of progress that can be made on an open X-File. Each X-File has a number denoted in the lower lefthand corner of the card representing how difficult the case is. Essentially, this is the minimum amount of successful investigations that need to resolve to close the X-File. Progress on each X-File is kept track of with the Progress token.

Once an X-File is closed, the card is flipped face-down and active player is awarded with taking an amount of Evidence tokens out of the Evidence Bag as dictated by the X-File card (a numbered icon found on the upper half of the X-File card). Each Evidence token is marked by a number 1-3. These tokens are used to pay for pieces of Mulder's "I Want to Believe" poster. The cost per piece is equal to the number of Agents. So if there are two Agents, each piece costs 2 Evidence tokens.

NOTE: The icons for both and X-File card's Difficulty and Evidence Reward match the icons on their respective token counterparts associated with them. For example, the Difficulty rating and Progress tokens are the same color and feature a picture of a folder, making it easier to identify.

Be careful while investigating, though, because the Syndicate player may attempt to spring a trap, revealing their Syndicate card(s) at that X-Files location! Also, depending on how many unsolved X-File cases there are on the board when the Syndicate player plays there turn, a certain number of Evidence tokens are removed from the Evidence Bag, saved behind their screen, and a Cigarette token is added! This makes drawing Evidence tokens even harder as the game progresses, and represents the Syndicate getting to the evidence before the Agents. This is also when new X-Files are opened so there are — once again — a number equal to how many Agent players there are.

There are a handful of other mechanics like Allies, Wounds, and so on, but I will cover them (and the above in greater detail) in the full review.

Play continues until either the Agent players have pieced together the entirety of Mulder's poster, or the Syndicate player has collected 25 points worth of Evidence tokens and the X-Files are shut down forever!

Full Review Forthcoming

Have you ever played The X-Files board game? If so, did you enjoy it? Have you played as the Syndicate player? Do you prefer one role over another? If you haven't played it, does it look like a game you'd want to try? Were you a fan of The X-Files TV show? Any favorite characters?