Wednesday, July 13, 2016

X-Com War Diaries, Part V - June 2016


With no satellite coverage X-Com was blind for most of the month. My lack of foresight in keeping a satellite in reserve cost me dearly - UFO activity over Japan must have hit an all time high, as the country left the country mid-month. Despite our lack of satellite coverage X-Com was able to detect two UFOs - one over Nigeria, and another one over Japan. Stationing interceptors in a country gives you a small chance of detecting UFOs without satellite coverage, which explains how X-Com detected the Japanese bogey, but don't ask me how we were able to pick up the contact over Nigeria. At any rate there was nothing X-Com could do about the Nigerian contact, which was scanning for God knows what. The Japanese contact (UFO-20) was also scanning, but it seemed like in vain, as the aliens had already shot down the satellite over Japan. Nonetheless we were determined to shoot it down in order to be able to research it (researched UFO craft take more damage and yield more salvage). The bogey was incredibly tough - I had to scramble all four of our planes to bring it down. It also destroyed one of our jets in the process. But bring it down we did, and the alien fighter's secrets were soon laid bare by Vahlen's research. 


By the end of June 2016 Japan had also left the Council, taking the total to three.

My original plan had been to make a simultaneous launch with four satellites at the end of June to blanket the continent of Asia. With Japan and China down that plan was no longer feasible, and so we switched continents, launching three satellites over the US, Canada and Mexico respectively. Establishing coverage over North America gave X-Com a discount on the purchase and maintenance of interceptors. Our fourth satellite was launched over South Africa, with an eye towards eventually securing the African continental bonus in the future.


By the end of June 2016 all our workshops plus supporting adjacencies had been constructed, giving X-Com an unmodified 55% discount (3 workshops at 10%, plus 5 adjacency bonuses at 5% each). Diminishing returns dropped this bonus down to about 35%, however.

From experience I knew that this would be the hardest month of the early game. Pod size and enemy types were still manageable, but the crunch would come from the increasing frequency of missions plus the two back to back DLC missions that would come at the end of the month. In all my Long War playthroughs the final two missions of the Operation Slingshot DLC always occurred at the end of June and early July, separated by a few days, and this time was no exception. Everything I did in that month was geared towards gearing and preparing a squad of troops for those two missions. The first mission was Confounding Light, and it was a timed mission along the length of a train in a deserted train station. Experience once again allowed me to complete this mission without a hitch - I've played it several times already, and so I knew a squad of snipers and scouts supported by SHIVs and a single assault would suffice to clear out the thin men and mutons dropping in from the sky.


Prelude to the toughest mission in the early game, as an alien battleship looms large over Hong Kong.

The last mission of the DLC was a different thing altogether. Knowing the map and drop patterns was a definite advantage in avoiding nasty surprises, but success in this mission would be determined in the big engagements in either the first or second antechambers. Ideally my squad would have liked to creep forward and kill enemy pods methodically and in isolation, but in most of the games I've played the shit always hits the fan as we cross the massive rooms. As soon as my squad gets into a contact it's a race against time to wipe out the pods - invariably more and more pods arrive, and it's not uncommon to be squaring off against 10-12 aliens in these large rooms. What makes it worse is that the cyberdisks debut in this mission, and they're very difficult to kill with the weapons we have at this point. The mission was going swimmingly until we ran into a big pod of mutons which we couldn't kill in one turn. The very next turn a pod containing two cyberdisks arrived, and everything went south fast. The mutons were upgraded versions, and "Jeromai" Kurnakov was killed on his sniping perch by a 26% shot by an overwatching muton with the Covering Fire perk. Jeromai was perched on high, he had cover bonuses from the Damned Good Ground perk, and it was his bloody turn - regardless, when he tried to shoot a muton it shot first because of Covering Fire, and killed him with a low percentage shot.

Fuck. I really, really wanted to keep Jeromai alive because it was his X-Com series that inspired me to start mine. It would have been a nice homage to the man, but sadly it wasn't meant to be - I've already abandoned a previous campaign because I was cheating to keep him and Tenshi alive. This time I gritted my teeth, and kept trucking on.

Things would only get worse. Most of my damage was now coming from Tenshi and Akuma - my sniper and scout respectively - with two gunners in the front trying gamely to lock down the cyberdisks with suppression. Another gunner fell - this time it was Arcturus, who ate a plasma bolt to the face. Another blogger down. I was looking down the barrel of a squad wipe. Tenshi and Akuma were laying down accurate fire, but they had to chew through two cyberdisks, several mutons, as well as drones and a few floaters I hadn't been able to kill. The only thing keeping the two shooters alive were my two grenadiers - Keen and Oni - who kept popping smoke to cover them. Somehow we survived several turns of enemy return fire and managed to whittle the enemy force down to manageable proportions. When the firefight was over three X-Com lay dead, but the field was ours.

The fight wasn't over by any means. We still had to destroy the remaining conduits on the battleship, and I debated whether to press on, or to cut my losses and run. I decided to see it to the end - if we wiped I most likely would have abandoned the campaign for the seventh time. We didn't however - the tattered remains of the squad were able to inch forward, kill the remaining pods of thin men, destroy the conduits, and secure the battleship. The question of whether I have it in me to continue the campaign in the face of a full squad wipe of my favorite soldiers will have to wait another day.


At the conclusion of Operation Gangplank 39 aliens die at the cost of three X-Com soldiers.

The Memorial of the Fallen. Three more names - "Jeromai" Kurnakov, "Arcturus" Ahmadzai and Ghaffar - are added to the list.

In addition to the two DLC missions X-Com completed nine other missions - five abductions, one EXALT mission, one terror mission, one recovery (UFO-20, the fighter which had shot down one of my interceptors) and one Council mission which required us to disarm an alien bomb. Four more X-Com soldiers were promoted to Corporal and earned their call signs. The survivors of Gangplank - "Tenshi" Hatakeyama, "Akuma" Ishikawa, "Syncaine" Ben-David, "Keen" Archuleta, and "Oni" Okamoto - are also building nice back stories for themselves. Time will tell how many of them will survive the war.

Next: X-Com War Diaries, Part VI - July 2016

2 comments:

  1. Ouch! I never realized that Long war added so many enemies, especially for a mission like Gangplank.

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    1. Oh it only gets worse as the months roll by. :D

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