Pitching a BoB X-Com Hack


(Justin (He/Him)) #1

So I’ve caught wind that I’m not the only who thinks Band of Blades has a lot of potential to be re-adapted as an X-Com style UFO defense game. I’m a bit too busy with Moth-Light and other projects to start work on this as a solo project right now but it’s definitely on my radar.

This thread serves two purposes:

-To lay out the fiction and features I envision for such a hack.

-To offer the opportunity for collaboration in creating such a hack in the future.

So what do I envision for an alien defense game?

RESIST: Alien Insurgency is a game of urban rebellion. Players take on the roles of both Resistance Agents, soldiers in the war against the alien insurgency, and officers in the rebellion: scientists, engineers, spymasters, commanders and more.

Game features:

  1. An urban environment: this game would be on a smaller scale than X-Com.

  2. Options to customize your invasion: GMs and players could pick between other-worldly, extra dimensional, or even internally arising invasion forces.

  3. Alien Generals: options for the enemies you’ll face. Will your invasion consist of sentient alien A.I. or body snatchers who have spent centuries infiltrating the population.

  4. Research and subterfuge play major roles: the invading force is nigh unstoppable when the game begins and the rebellion has to invent and research new methods to defeat them.

  5. Base building elements: a crew sheet that reflects your chosen staging area, whether that be a subterranean bunker, a business front, or a dark-web forum.

  6. A living city: a big part of the game would be getting other factions on your side.

  7. Board games style strategy elements: a families map layer that offers rewards and penalties based on mission success and randomizes campaign events.

  8. A rich emotional environment: A setting inspired as much by urban resistance fiction like the comic DMZ or Attack the Block as much as X-Com.

  9. Less UFO Defense and more War of the Chosen: the aliens have already won. They are as much an occupying force as an invasion from beyond.

What would you include in your X-Com hack?

And If any of this gets your brain moving, let’s talk.


(Scott Krammer) #2

This sounds like it could really be a cool game — I look forward to seeing how it develops!

I’ve not played a whole lot of XCOM (got through, I think, about 50% of the game on PS3), but one of the mechanics I thought added a lot of flavor was the support from various nations around the world. I could see it working a lot like the faction game in BitD, but it’s less about how positive their relationship with you is, and more about how terrified they are of the aliens, or how they’re just more concerned with how to care for their own people in the face of the invasion. It could make for some interesting dynamics in roleplay.


(Michael Atlin) #3

My mind’s been working along similar lines, and I’ve come up with a list of questions for customizing your own alien invasion. I can share if you’re interested.


(Ian Hart) #4

That sounds interesting to me!
These are the constraints I’ve come up with so far, for what aliens can and can’t be for a War of the Chosen type experience.

Secure Technology: Enemy technology cannot be reused by the resistance, and must instead be reverse-engineered and rebuilt using salvaged components.
Occupation: The aliens have good reason to occupy and pacify the human population, instead of just exterminating them.
Hope: While it may not be known at the start, the aliens do have a central weak spot that, if defeated/exploited will give humanity as a whole a chance to rise up.
Time Pressure: The aliens are progressing towards a state that will, if not prevented, render future resistance functionally impossible.


#5

A single city’s small defence force wouldn’t be able to save the earth, I’d assume, so to make the scale smaller but the objective possible you could say you’re trying to hold out until the world defence gets back on it’s feet.
There could be an XCOM style organization that sometimes gives you missions, intel, resources etc, but most of the time you’re on your own.

Maybe the goal you’re holiding out for is finding out the weak point?


(Jake ) #6

I’ve been working on something for a while now that’s more based on XCOM:2. The aliens already won and you’re trying to help build up resistance movements around the country (the alien occupation force is limited, it was only a smallish expeditionary force and based in a single country even though they’ve defeated all the major worldwide military powers). The major time pressure is that the aliens are working on the construction of a gateway that will allow the rest of their forces to complete the invasion.


(Michael Atlin) #7

These are the questions and constraints I’ve been working with:

Earth was invaded by aliens. We fought. And we lost. Now, from the shadows, we continue to fight, to take back Earth from the monsters who stole it from us.

These aliens, while strange, have comprehensible motivations, and are able to communicate with us. In Stars Without Numbers terms, they are Like rather than Other. They needn’t be bumpy-foreheaded humanoids, but they must be able to interact meaningfully with us. Their immediate goal is does not involve annihilating us - if they wanted to nuke us to glass, they could have already. No, instead they have plans…

To determine the characteristics of the aliens, consider using the Stars Without Number alien generator random tables.

Ask the table these questions:

Where did they come from?

The sky?The sea? Underground? Another time? Another dimension? Were they here the whole time?

How have they saved us? What persistent problem that we could not solve, have they solved for us?

Have they stabilized the planet, ending natural disasters and bad weather? Bigotry and racism? Poverty and inequality? Disease and old age? Envy and jealousy?

Who is better off as a result of the invasion?

The poor; the oppressed; the rich and powerful; specific professions; specific countries.

What terrible atrocity did they commit?

Nuking a city; biowarfare plague; hunter killer drones who killed everyone with a specific name.

What was the one great pyrrhic victory humanity won?

Did we crash a ship into New York? Blow a stargate, trapping their army on our side? Did we turn Toronto into Stalingrad?

What advantage made their conquest of Earth inevitable?

High tech weapons; dimensional phasing; mind control; weather control.

How intrusive has the conquest been to daily life?

They only set policy; they’ve puppeted governments; deep penetration of institutions; troops on every corner; ubiquitous surveillance;

What is their stated reason for conquering Earth?

Real estate; it was in a strategic location; natural resources; us; religion.

What is their stated reason for not killing us all?

Parasitism; labour; ethics; research.

What normal human technology or cultural artifact do they regard with horror and revulsion?

Social media? Internal combustion engines? Eating meat? Eating vegetables? Live birth? School? Business? Non-Violence? Violence?

What human taboo do they blithely violate, and encourage us to do the same?

Cannibalism? Infanticide? Incest? Rudeness? Public Nudity? Veganism? Obligate Carnivorism?

What do they find horribly unpleasant about the planet, and complain about constantly?

Insects? Plant life? Specific weather? Specific climates? Day duration? Seasons? The colour of the sky? The food?

What do they love about the planet?

Insects? Plant life? Specific weather? Specific climates? Day duration? Seasons? The colour of the sky? The food?


(Justin (He/Him)) #8

Great questions, Michael! I think the “how they saved us” one is especially interesting. I can imagine an invasion that claims to have saved the planet from our irresponsibly destructive technology, for example.

@Tubal I’ve had one or two people mention that they assume a small defense force couldn’t push back the aliens but I feel in cinematic terms they could discover and disseminate an important revelation, weak point, etc. that could spur a greater global rebellion, allow people to fight back, or convince them that the aliens aren’t the saints they pretend to be.


(Justin (He/Him)) #9

One drift from BoB I’d like to see: I’d like for there to be social missions from time to time. It makes sense that in a small resistance movement the soldiers would also be handling some of the PR and negotiation. To that effect I think spies should be a specialist unit rather than non-combatants. (Which isn’t to say there wouldn’t be a Spymaster type. In fact the ability to send units of all kinds on solo missions could be really interesting).


#10

It’s just that I’ve seen Battlefield Earth and I’d rather jump off a cliff than play a game that reminded me of it :smile:


(Michael Atlin) #11

It neednt even be a falsehood. Its much harder to organize an insurgency against aliens who have cured cancer and distribute clean water and nutrition packs.


(Justin (He/Him)) #12

Something I’ve been thinking on: the initial mission should probably establish the alien threat, either by hinting to the players what their insidious plans might be or highlighting the cruelty of the invasion.

Stumbling upon the secret cloning facility, hacking into the municipal mainframe, receiving a message from a contact on the inside, that sort of thing.

To that effect, something I’d like to work with, as inspired by x-com 2, is the need to reveal and then thwart the alien plans as represented by a multi-tiered front. Players would have the ability to reveal elements of the front before they can be realized.

Maybe an alien faction chosen from the book comes with its own set of insidious goals and we start the game with one of them already in accomplished (as revealed in the establishing mission).

Example: The Caretakers start the game with three goals: drug the food supply with pacifying chemicals, create powerful and obedient human-alien hybrids, and launching a high altitude weapons system in the guise of a weather control system.

As each is revealed, the available missions would be remixed, eventually allowing the resistance to thwart, subvert, or defeat them.


(Michael Atlin) #13

Have you played Headspace? I had been panning to crib their corporate projects for alien projects. Basically, the aliens start working on a project, that lets them seriously change the fictional landscape. Maybe they build a stargate to get a solid connection back home, or maybe they build a dam at gibralter and start pumping water out of the Mediterranean. Or the pacifying chemicals in food, weather control weaponry, and human alien hybrids.

You figure out what the aliens need in order to complete the project cheaply, quickly, and effectively. Maybe for the stargate, they need a lot of highly refined polonium to keep the connection steady (effective), they need a good supply network to deliver construction materials to their volcano base (cheap), and they need to recruit Dr. Aida Abebe and her high energy physics team to run the calculations because the alien scientists are busy doing other stuff (quick). So now you have your targets. X-Com needs to taint the supply of polonium the aliens are using to make the connection unstable, hijack a bunch of shipments and blow up refineries to make it really expensive, and kill, kidnap, or radicalize Dr Abebe’s team. Accomplish 2 of the 3 before the alien project clock finishes, and no stargate.

Give the players a few different projects that are happening simultaneously, and make them choose whether they try to stop the stargate, the damming of Gibraltar, or the injection of psychic monitering chips into all schoolchildren.


#14

Im not a big enough X-Com fan to fully dive into this but Im always down to give feedback on stuff, especially #5 and #7, very interested in those concepts applied to FitD. You know where to find me :cowboy_hat_face:

Primary base mechanic I’ve been running with is that players actually draw out the base as a group, placing important features and creating a unique base every time they play. This is how dungeons work in Wicked Ones.


#15

If you’re doing an XCOM style hack obviously the base is on a grid, and when you’re invaded you use it to inform the events :smile:


(Michael Elliott) #16

What a fantastic idea opening this up to the community. I love these sorts of open collaborations, you get so many neat ideas.

I love the questions system @Michael_Atlin introduced. That’s a great way to establish the tone of the threat and overall themes of the game.

I also like the idea of setting out the alien’s goals and the steps needed to accomplish them as ticking clocks. That has a very x-com feel to it, of having not enough resources and trying to figure out where the enemy is weakest and which mission will give the best advantage down the road. Blades already has a faction clock system we could use for this, and maybe doing specific missions (recruit scientists, taint polonium, sabotage refineries) reduces the clock by specific amounts (3,4, or 5 ticks). That way we can have multiple fronts and players can easily see what goal is close to being completed and exactly what they can do to delay it or cripple it while juggling multiple plans.


(Michael Elliott) #17

I keep thinking of the idea of conflicting interests and multiple fronts for the insurgency. For example, one of my touchstones for thinking about this is the tv series Colony. In that series you have multiple characters all trying to combat or work with the alien colonists and their human puppets to get what they want. Some want to overthrow the system entirely, some are working with them, and others just want to get the difficult to find medicine for their kids to survive. I think BoB does something like this, where not every character is part of the same mission, where there can be multiple fronts (ie: two characters are trying to charm and hack their way into the puppet government’s network, while others are planting explosives to sabotage the refinery).

Not sure where to go with this, just brainstorming. Feels similar to how War of the Chosen as agents you can send into the field, maybe these can be NPC contacts that can do additional damage to the alien’s goals if a PC manages them with a downtime action?

Something also related to this, I was thinking about the personal details for PCs (heritage and background) and maybe it can look something like:

Background - what your character did before the invasion took place: labour - military - criminal - etc.
Role - your assigned work in this new world: law enforcement - diplomat - interpreter - government

This can introduce a nice push your luck fictional positioning. If you’re a diplomat, do you use your position to gain intelligence for the insurgency? If you enforce rule of law how do you keep the alien hunters away from the insurgencies safe house?


(Michael Elliott) #18

I guess this idea is really sticking with me. Today I was thinking about communication, that’s often a big part of insurgent stories and games. How do the different cells communicate with each other? Radio broadcasts? Code? Dead drops? How could we measure this in the game?

This could function something like a claim, a key piece of infrastructure that makes it easier to find resources (bonus to downtime actions?) or something that grows and develops like rep? Maybe you get more benefits the larger your network grows, but that comes with increased risk of being discovered?

Oh and there could be some sort of curfew in effect for humanity (maybe a major disadvantage when you do a mission outside curfew).

Alright, I’ll stop with the ideas and let other folks chime in.


(Ian Hart) #19

If you do want to pursue human vs human conflict, Phoenix Point is planning to explore that in a big way. So probably some good ideas to take from there.

Seems like it might be a bit too easy outside a videogame though. When you say “can’t we put this issue aside until we save the Earth”, it is going to be harder to take the character seriously when they say no…


#20

If you base it off of BoB the individual soldiers don’t really have downtime actions. It’s the Quarternaster that decides on downtime I think? I’ve only listened to the game as podcasts :stuck_out_tongue:

That said, there are labourers in BoB that I think function as your extra downtime. You could just use that unchanged. You need a lot of people to run a resistance after all.

The officers for an XCOM style game would obviously (I think) be the engineer, the scientist, and the mission control officer.
The GM gets to be the faceless guy on the screen :smile:

You might have to be a little creative, but given human nature it’s inevitable that there’s animosity between them, even during an alien occupation.