This round felt surprisingly… un-XCOM-like. It went altogether too well, and I kept waiting for something to happen to shake things up and keep me on my toes, if not knock me right off ’em. It didn’t happen, though. Not in this mission, at least. So I can only apologise to those who come after me because XCOM is saving up for something extra XCOMy. It’s the only explanation.

When I took over the save — we were getting to pretty dire straights so far as Avatar Project progress was concerned. Three more pips, and our world would’ve suddenly turned a lot less hospitable for us.

But UnwiseOwl managed to skulljack an officer and kill a codex, reducing the project’s progress by one. Then on this mission… Well, let’s jump into it!

Operation Furious Gasp

As I took command, I found myself possessing supplies. So I did what any reasonable commander would do and spent them all. Seriously. We’re not buying anything else until we get some more. But! We now have the Gauss Rifle for our snipers, the pistol (also for our snipers — particularly Endalia, who is somewhat proficient with one) and the Arc Blade for me our Rangers.

It turns out we also finished clearing some space for a new structure and had plenty of available projects available in the Proving Grounds, but pfft. Weapons!

After this spending spree, I fly over to Asia and start making friends. Or rather- finish making friends. But, unfortunately, UnwiseOwl had been cut just a day short of establishing contact on the Asian continent. So I finish that up, then head over to East Asia, where an Avatar Project facility is hiding away, just waiting to be turned into a crater.

On the way, we finish up researching Alien Encryption techniques, earn an instant completion on the Advent MEC breakdown, and I get the Advent Turret Breakdown underway. Reaching out to East Asia continues apace, but our engineers are faster still and clear out another section of the UFO we call home. Between the cleared space and finishing off the Alien Encryption research, we could build a Shadow Chamber.

For some reason, though, we are rather short of supplies.

Not to worry though, Shadow Chamber research is pretty advanced stuff. It can wait- What’s that? We have a Codex Brain already? … Look, shush you. It’s fine.

Contact is established, and it’s time to go make the Avatar Project more like a… a… OK, I can’t think of a- Ooh, I got one, Cadaver Project! Yeah, take that Advent!

After selecting and loading up the team, we’re good to go.

My version of the Suicide Squad. Why the name? Uh- No reason. I fully expect every one of these soldiers to come back alive.

There were no actual medics available for this run, so I give as many of us as possible a medkit, especially given the ‘Very Difficult’ tag.

A Codex, and two Sectoids.

In mission, we find ourselves in a wooded area, far from civilisation.

Far enough, I suspect, that no one will ever hear us scream. Or find our bodies. And the very first alien pod I encounter gives me cause to believe this is a likely outcome.

An uncontrolled Codex, let alone the two Sectoids, can be quite a bit of trouble.

But they didn’t know we were here yet. Clearly, they weren’t expecting us to attack them at the seat of their power.

Sidebar: The Things I Try to Consider In A Turn

This won’t be comprehensive. There’s just too much to it. Even so, this seemed like an opportune moment to talk through my general principles to movement and actions.

It’s very situational, though. e.g., I move differently when the team is in concealment vs when it isn’t. If the whole team is in concealment, I’m more willing to spread out for a better lay of the land. Once that goes away, it’s time to play tighter. Although ideally, not so tight that a single AoE (Grenade, Poison Spit, etc) can hit multiple people. And if you’re already engaged with an alien pod? Very good idea to stay within the realm of your already explored map to avoid making additional, unwanted friends.

Beyond that, your overarching goal is to minimise risk to your team. Of course, the RNG factor makes it difficult to ever be entirely sure how something is going to play out, so it’s important to consider what a negative/failed outcome of the planned action/movement looks like, too.

Otherwise, some of the key things I consider and balance out are:

  • When to sprint and cover ground (especially against a timer)
    Pushing into unexplored map with a sprinter is generally not a good idea as first action. But if catching up to the team, through cleared territory, or, you have adequate overwatch cover? It can be a pretty fun time.

    It can also be worth sacrificing the opportunity to attack to get into full cover if something dangerous arrives on the scene. Full cover is worth its weight in gold, I tell you.
  • Overwatch
    Overwatch ambushes are fantastic. They can really give you that feeling of ‘Oh yes- it’s allll coming together’. When they work. And when employed at the right time. Having a timer ticking against you probably isn’t the best time for an overwatch crawl.
  • Flex Character(s) / Post Overwatch Response
    Once the dust has settled from the overwatch scrap, you can sometimes find yourself in a position of really wishing you could still do something. Be that healing someone, triggering a Combat Protocol drone attack, launching a grenade, or simply moving depending on whether your overwatch succeeded or not.

    Depending on how happy I am with everyones position and how confident (or not) I am in outcome, I leave between 0-2 XCOM Soldiers capable of taking more deliberate action.

When I’m playing at my best, all of these things come together, and the dance of balancing them out turn by turn, depending on what is happening, feels like ballet. Other times… Perhaps more like an ogre attempting ballet. For the first time. Blindfolded. And hog-tied.

Back to the Battle

In this particular case, I kept nothing in the tank. Except for Magi, whom I selected as the initiator of this ambush, all soldiers were set to overwatch. I very much wanted everything I was looking at to die before ending their scramble.

I was worried, though, that they might break right instead of left. If that happened, we could be in some trouble. But the soldiers I would’ve left as a reactionary force in this event were too far to respond should that happen anyway… So… *throws the dice*

I considered whether or not to use Magi’s Deadeye ability — it increases damage but reduces accuracy. I had a 100% chance to hit any of the trio of enemies without using Deadeye but I couldn’t see the Codex dead without it, even with a maximum damage roll. If the Codex managed to escape and start duplicating itself, everyone was going to be in for a bad day.

With Deadeye on — the Codex would die, but there was a 12% chance I would miss.

And… The rest of the mission went similarly smoothly.

The building was equipped with two turrets, because of course it was, but they dealt no damage to anyone thanks to both targets they attempted to light up being behind full cover at the time.

I then crept into the facility itself, expecting Vipers, or Mutons, or MECs, or anything really behind every corner. But I planted the bomb, set my extraction point right outside and on our merry way we went.

They did attempt to call in reinforcements.

Buuut, we were already out of there before they could land.

Job done. *dusts off hands*

I like to imagine that none of the soldiers looked back at the explosion as they flew away.
It’s a rare mission that doesn’t require you to kill everything present. This was one of ’em, though. No injuries! I think that might be a first for me since the tutorial mission.

After Action Report

Only two promotions, but at least everyone is ready to fight another day!

I select the Shredder skill for Mason; armour is becoming increasingly common in the enemies we fight. But… It was hard passing over an extra point for armour for Mason himself. Hopefully, this won’t be a decision I come to regret.

For Bookahnerk, I break the pattern from the combat hacker tree to pick up extended use of med-kits. I still imagine Bookanerk will be combat-focused overall; I just didn’t think the scanning option was worth it vs extra healing power, with how few healers we actually have. (I think just one, actually. Although I did put another rookie into specialist training before departing on this mission.)

It’s over to Rakuno for the next mission. The save is here! If you want to check out the rest of the story, the summary and links to full posts are both over here.


This was posted during Blaugust 2021, the annual blogging event hosted by Belghast. Blaugust is an event aiming to welcome new blogger blood into the fold and revitalise those who’ve been at it a little longer.

The Blaugust Discord is still available to join in, year-round!