Wednesday, July 6, 2016

X-Com War Diaries, Part IV - May 2016


In May 2016 X-Com detected six UFOs, shot down three and completely destroyed one. Destroyed craft cannot be recovered (obviously), but they award a cash bounty from the Council instead. All four kills were scout class UFOs. The other two UFOs were an abductor and a raider. The abductor was allowed to land, and X-Com troops foiled the abduction attempt that followed. The raider, on the other hand, could not be intercepted due to lack of interceptors. They'd all taken licks taking down the scouts, and none were available to harass the raider, which, to make matters worse, was actively scanning. Shortly afterwards my fears were confirmed when it shot down the satellite over Japan.


Monthly report for X-Com at the close of May 2016. Two countries have left the project, and panic is rising in Asia.

The loss of the Japanese satellite meant that there were no satellites in orbit around the Earth, and as such no more UFO contacts could be reported. The only missions X-Com would be getting would be abductions, terror missions, and Council missions. You can't subsist on abduction missions alone, as successful completion only awards money - UFO crash recoveries and assaults bring back substantial amounts of elerium, meld, alloys and UFO components like flight computers and power sources, all of which are crucial for R&D and manufacturing. In addition satellites generate income and ameliorate panic so it was imperative that we reestablish coverage as soon as possible. Also if you leave the UFOs unharassed they will be able to complete their nefarious missions, which means they tech up, and you will find yourself fighting tougher and tougher opponents on the battlefield.


Our strategy was to create a network of workshops so as to heavily subsidize production costs from June onwards.

My original plan was to create enough uplinks and satellites so that prior to the end of the next month (June 2016) we would be able to launch several satellites simultaneously to coincide with the beginning of the new funding cycle in July. My strategy was to invest heavily in building workshops and structures which gave adjacency bonuses so that all manufacturing from May onwards would have a substantial discount. Once all the workshops were in play I would be close to a 50% discount of all manufactured goods (workshops are subject to diminishing returns). The infrastructure was laid down in the months between March and May, and from June onwards money would be spent on churning out satellites, arms, armor, and whatever else X-Com would need. For those unfamiliar with the Long War, satellite spam is not a feasible strategy at the start of the game, because satellite numbers are limited by the number of engineers in the base. In the Long War building workshops do not increase the number of engineers - rather they are acquired through missions and Council requests, and there is nothing you can do to increase the rate at which you acquire them.

Because of this bottleneck I could focus either on building laboratories, researching foundry projects, or creating workshops, and I chose the latter. My plan was to launch four satellites just before the end of June 2016, and presto, full satellite coverage over Asia with the income to boot. That was the plan anyway - the aliens screwed that up when they began bombing, harvesting and generally terrorizing the shit out of China. Without satellite coverage I couldn't see the UFOs coming and going - all I got were text lines saying "heavy UFO activity over China" and "A UFO has bombed targets in China, increasing panic", followed by a declaration at the end of the month that China had withdrawn from the X-Com project.

Doh.

That's not part of the plan, dude.

In May X-Com conducted 12 missions - five abductions, three crash recoveries, one terror mission, one Council mission, one DLC mission and one EXALT mission. The terror mission was in China - when the aliens want a country they hammer it with raiders, abductors, and terror vessels to raise its panic levels and force it out of the Council. If I had a satellite to spare I could have probably held China, because satellites overhead increases a country's panic threshold. I didn't have a satellite in reserve, and the combined UFO activity was too much for the poor Chinese, who probably wrote off X-Com in disgust and made a deal with the visitors.

The Council mission was another familiar one, requiring X-Com to extract Peter Van Doorn and his aide. The DLC mission was Friends in Low Places, which introduced "Chilong" Zhang and began the Operation Slingshot DLC arc. Both missions went off without a hitch - I've played both so many times now - and added three new soldiers - Zhang, Doorn and Friendly - to the roster. We only suffered one casualty in May, and it occurred during the terror mission in China. I idiotically pushed up Mason too far after wiping out a pod of chryssalids, and aggroed a second. We had nothing left to deal with the second pod - all I could do was pull back as far as I could, and pray. No one was listening, and poor Mason paid the price for her commander's carelessness. The rest of the squad then had to deal with the sight of Mason rising up as an embryo-implanted zombie. Syria's Jabour did the honours of putting her zombified corpse down for good. This mission also marked the debut of laser rifles, but it was tarnished by the fact that one of those rifles had to be pulled from Mason's bloodied corpse. Just goes to show that all the tech in the world can't save you if your commander is a moron.


The enigmatic "Chilong" Zhang joins the team.

EXALT also made their debut this month, siphoning off a significant chunk of X-Com's money in their very first mission. EXALT can be a pain in the ass, with their ability to steal funds, raise panic or disrupt research, but they're also a good way of training X-Com troops against mediocre opposition. Some of the missions can become quite challenging due to the number of EXALT troops present, but tactical use of the arrays can go a long way in mitigating their numbers. Hacking the arrays in missions disarms every EXALT trooper on the map for one turn, giving you time and space to wipe them out. I always use fast assault operatives with the Run and Gun perk so they can dash between arrays and hack them on back to back turns on maps where this is possible. Doing this triggers all the pods on the entire map sometimes, but even of you have 12-15 EXALT surrounding your squad it's not a problem as long as they can't fire their weapons. You just have to watch out for grenades and the, ahem, occasional rocket launcher. I learned this the hard way in previous campaigns, and now heavies are priority targets in our kill order.


10 EXALT in sight, but thanks to our operative, none of them can shoot...

That's our team's cue to enter the area with reckless abandon and slaughter the whole lot of them. Both screenshots are from an earlier campaign.

More soldiers earned their callsigns:

Ghairat "Arcturus" Ahmadzai, Gunner, Pakistan
Catalina "Keen" Archuleta, Grenadier, Mexico
Peter "The General" van Doorn, Infantry, US
Brett "Izlain" Favre, Grenadier, US
Glenn "Freaky" Friendly, Infantry, US
Oleg "Jeromai" Kurnakov, Sniper, Russia
Jack "Coreus" Shearer, Assault, Australia
Shaojie "Chilong" Zhang, Scout, China

Not a single satellite orbits the globe at the end of May 2016.

Did I mention that Mexicans can't go on peace keeping missions because of their constitution? I've got more of them on the way because RNG allocated several Mexicans to my initial pool of soldiers. Fidelity to reality be damned, however, because they're kicking ass - three of my best soldiers in-game are Mexicans, but if they transition into the fan fiction piece they're going to turn Spanish or Argentinian to conform with established patterns of UN contributions in real life. Also "Coreus" Shearer was the first X-Com soldier who died in my fan fiction story. In this universe I made him an assault soldier, because assault soldiers and scouts have the lowest life expectancy out of all the classes I play, and I fully expected him to die. So far the tough bastard has led a charmed life, and has survived being flanked, eating a grenade from a muton, and being shot at from all sides. There's always the dark temptation to suicide him, so as to make the death roll conform to the written narrative I've made. But my last few campaigns have illustrated the folly of that approach, and actually pressures me to reload results which don't conform to the story I want to tell. This time the game is driving, and if this causes my game to diverge further from the story I'm writing then so be it. For now "Coreus" Shearer is alive and well, which is two months longer than his counterpart in the original campaign from which the fan fiction piece is based on.

Next: X-Com War Diaries, Part V - June 2016

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