XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 6

11 April, 2015

11.58pm

Operation Burning Bell

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From left to right, Sq. Othnieltcs, Cpl. Eri J3w3l, Cpl. Gypsy Syl and Rk. Joseph Skyrim.

All the squad knows is that a French military convoy was caught in an ambush and that aliens were seen in the area. The main objective is to investigate, and locate and secure any survivors or cargo that remain, eliminating any opposition as necessary.

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It’s a dark night with fairly poor visibility.

As the team spreads out among a streetscape of rubble and burning vehicle wrecks and scattered uniformed corpses, it’s clear -something- serious has happened here, but not what.

Contact is made almost instantaneously, a Thin Man on a roof, and another who jumps down to ground level.

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They take turns firing at Sq. Othnieltcs, who unfortunately towers over the cars and can’t take cover, doing 4 and 2 damage respectively.

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Cpl. J3w3l takes aim from where she is crouched behind a burning bench, with a 57% chance to hit.

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(The yellow target over the alien indicates she’s using Squadsight. This extends a sniper’s range and gives them a true ‘sniper’ feeling, as long as they have uninterrupted LOS, they can shoot anything a squadmate can see that would otherwise be out of their normal base range.)

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Down goes the Thin Man on the ground.

In the meantime, Sq. Othnieltcs takes aim at the one on the roof, with a 58% chance to hit.

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Another minigun execution with extreme prejudice.

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As the squad moves up further towards the attacked convoy, examination of the bodies reveals something disturbing.

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Conventional weapons fire killed the men in the convoy. But then… why are aliens at the scene? And who was responsible for the attack?

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The squad advances further. It’s slow work, moving from cover to cover cautiously. But certainly, they’ve had more than enough excitement on the last mission already.

Slow and steady and by the book is a lot safer, especially in a place producing lots of questions but no answers.

They surprise another Thin Man, which makes a dash to the roof to seek cover.

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That doesn’t hide it well enough from Sq. Othnieltcs, who stops to take aim again, with a 58% chance to hit.

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One more exploding cloud of green goo, one less Thin Man on this planet.

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One more reminder of just how annoying these miniguns are, when it comes to ammo consumption.

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Plenty of uninterrupted time to reload though. Slow and steady wins this race.

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Further down the road, scanners indicate there’s someone still alive!

The team continues to advance carefully, assuming nothing.

That caution is rewarded when a Thin Man moves just beyond the survivor. Cpl. J3w3l takes it out while on Overwatch.

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As Sq. Othnieltcs and Rk. Skyrim reach the survivor, he doesn’t seem too happy to see the XCOM squad and surprisingly reluctant to share any information.

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Central makes the decision to bring him in, whether he likes it or not.

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A bunch of new Thin Men show up on the scene.

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For whatever reason, the aliens seem to be very interested in this survivor or this convoy.

Not that it really helps them.

With a 63% chance to hit and 75% chance to critical, Cpl. J3w3l takes out the first.

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Sq. Othnieltcs lumbers by, drawing out a reaction shot from the Thin Man on the roof…

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…and then takes it out in return.

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In the meantime, the survivor is busy calling the squad a bunch of names as he’s asked to move along, sometimes requiring the barrel of a very long gun pointed in his direction before he does.

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More aliens show up, and a furious amount of fire is exchanged.

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A lot of misses.

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A few hits.

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Sq. Othnieltcs is now down to 5 health bars, and while it’s not panic time yet, it’s not terribly great either.

Just enough hits to matter.

Rk. Skyrim had 50% chance to hit, and did, killing this alien for 4 damage and getting a promotion out of it.

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Cpl. Syl tries another grenade toss to the roof to take out the last alien.

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It’s a really long shot.

(The blast radius didn’t appear to cover the alien at all, but I was puzzled by why the Thin Man was still highlighted by a red square. So, what the heck, tried it anyway.)

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It’s a pretty explosion, and probably took out some of its cover, but the alien remained unscathed.

The Thin Man retaliates, spitting a poison cloud at Cpl. Syl.

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Well, that’s annoying. But if it can see Cpl. Syl, she can see it just as well.

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59% chance to hit, 20% chance to critical… 6 critical damage with a shotgun.

One new poison cloud on the roof to go with the one on the ground.

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Operation Burning Bell comes to a close with the successful retrieval of the survivor, though he still seems very reluctant to talk.

9 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost.

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The after action report is busy indeed.

Cpl. J3w3l has been promoted to Sergeant, and the automatic nickname assigned is ‘Lady Grey.’ (Taking requests and suggestions to change it to whatever…)

Sq. Othnieltcs has been promoted to Corporal.

Rk. Skyrim has been promoted to Squaddie and is now a Heavy. (Any interest in being a MEC trooper or gene-modified?)

Cpl. Syl has been promoted to Sergeant, with an automatic nickname of ‘Caper.’ (Ditto.)

Cpl. Othnieltcs and Sgt. Syl were wounded and will be sitting out for 10 and 6 days respectively.

And a whole slew of medals!

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The Council Medal of Honor, yeah, yeah, whatever.

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Our lady of frag grenades gets the first of this lot, naturally.

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But look, here’s an additional “Taken One For the Team” medal!

Taking nominees for the second of this batch.

Coming up next, the second UFO contact and Sgt. Izlain’s return!

(Though still temporarily called Pox since I had a few missions stored up from the last play-through. I should be able to get to playing XCOM again soon and update everything after mission 7.)

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XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 5b

10 April, 2015

Somewhen in what is turning out to be a very long day…

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When we last left our heroes, Sq. Bhagpuss was busy getting strangled by a mechanical and be-tentacled alien creature after Sq. Othnieltcs left him in favor of body blocking for Sq. Wolf, who in turn was “one stubbed toe away from dying.”

(The Seeker, a new enemy in the XCOM: Enemy Within expansion, does 2 damage on initial strangle hit, and paralyzes the victim caught in its coils. Every turn thereafter, the strangled individual will suffer 1 damage.

From an “on paper” perspective, I really like the design of this enemy. Similar to how special zombies in Left 4 Dead dissuade lone rambo heroes, the Seeker encourages an XCOM squad to stick together or at least travel in pairs with a partner – something just as tactically sound as staying in cover and always trying to flank your enemies.

Dealing with one though, especially when you’ve never seen it before…. urgh.)

Sq. J3w3l is still climbing down from the roof (but has since switched back to sniper rifle) and has her view blocked by pretty much everything, so her rescuing Sq. Bhagpuss is right out.

Sq. Othnieltcs is needed where he is to deal with a roomful of pissed-off aliens.

As fortune would have it, Sq. Wolf is juuust about near enough to try something.

A frag grenade is right out, of course, since Sq. Bhagpuss is just as in the way.

So, taking care to hug PLENTY of cover this time around, Sq. Wolf leans out from behind a full cover corner to attempt a 57% chance to hit, 70% chance to critical shotgun blast.

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It connects! But only does 4 damage out of its 5 health bars.

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With an indignant screech, the alien creature recoils in pain? and releases Sq. Bhagpuss from its tentacled grip.

Good news, Sq. Bhagpuss is no longer choking to death.

Bad news, he’s now catching his breath with a still alive alien right next to him.

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(Catching Breath imposes a 75% penalty to movement, so it’s pretty impossible to run away AND -50% to aim.

Sq. “Can So Too Hit The Broad Side of a Barn” Bhagpuss, you may or may not recall, only has a base Aim of 55.

Hmm, we’re going to need to shorten that nickname to 11 characters eventually, when he officially gets one later.

And there are a whole host of other factors in play.)

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Yes, he’s at super-close range, which gives a +41% chance to hit, but it has a natural -10% defense, it’s flying so another -20%, and he’s catching his breath -50%.

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All tallied up, that means a 16% chance to hit…

…assuming he even had ammo to fire in the first place.

Turns out the Thin Man running away from him while he was in Overwatch drew out the last of his bullets from the LMG (heavier weapons are notoriously prone to chewing up ammo quickly), leaving the way clear for the other alien creature to attack. Egads, how dare they coordinate!

He does still have a rocket launcher left, but since he can only fire it while remaining in place – and it’s known to do 6 damage – that wouldn’t be smart at all.

There’s naught to be done but sit in place and reload.

Sq. J3w3l has finally made it down from the roof and got to a place of cover where she -should- be able to help with the altercation about to take place within the building, and just as theoretically ought to be able to help Sq. Bhagpuss…

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…except there’s two big pillars and a honking big station wagon blocking her view. Dang it.

So she takes out the only alien she -can- see, hiding way over yonder building behind a counter, thinking no one can see it.

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Wrong.

Sq. Othnieltcs stomps his way up to flank the other alien – 100% chance to hit and 60% chance to critical… with a minigun.

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It only has 3 health.

It’s not so much of a fight, more of an execution.

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And what of Sq. “Really Close to Dying” Jeromai Wolf?

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He’s in full cover, but there’s a detached mechanical monster with lots of tentacles pretty close by, and let us not forget, they came as a pair.

So there’s another invisible one lurking around -somewhere.-

The Commander proposes that he might be safest moving further away from where the tentacled things -probably- are, and lurking in cover -behind- a counter very close to their team’s own mechanical monster, Sq. Othnieltcs.

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Which leads to a heartfelt curse of epic proportions as his dash takes him in view of a previously unseen floating alien in mid-flight outside, at the other end of the building.

Somehow, the angle wasn’t right for Sq. Othnieltcs and it to have seen each other, but -now- the thing gets to take a free reaction shot at Sq. “One Bar Left” Wolf.

Which miraculously, misses.

He also did activate Run & Gun, which leaves him the ability to fire a shot after dashing.

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And at close range with a shotgun, takes care of the alien hovering over Sq. Othnieltcs’ head with 4 damage, just enough to take it out and send it crashing in a heap on the ground.

Well, if he’s going to die this mission, he may as well give a good accounting of himself, right?

It’s Sq. Othnieltcs’ turn to act, and the Commander finally realizes the -other- disadvantage to MEC suits.

Their minigun eats up ammo so fast, they can only shoot twice before having to reload.

Ordinarily, it would be wisest to move to a safe position and reload, but there’s a very wounded soldier behind Sq. Othnieltcs to worry about, and we KNOW the alien outside can see Sq. Wolf, having just taken a free shot at him.

What the hell. The big guy has 14 bars of armor and health to spare.

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See this bigass gun, you mechanical freak? I’m a gonna shoot you with it next, once I reload it, that is.

It takes the bait.

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It fires down at Sq. Othnieltcs for 4 damage, possibly melting a bit of surface metal and probably ruining some of the paint job.

Back outside, the one visible alien next to Sq. Bhagpuss… decides to vanish from sight.

Now we’re back to TWO invisible aliens. One seriously wounded, and one at full health still not yet showing itself. Dammit.

All goes quiet, and it’s the XCOM squad’s turn to move again.

This turn, Sq. Othnieltcs’ promise to shoot the floaty thing comes true.

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85% chance to hit, 10% chance to critical.

No critical, but 5 bars of damage puts the floating thing away for good. It’s a really fortunate thing for Sq. Wolf that the alien thing doesn’t seem to have much brains.

In the meantime, all the much more human and squishy soldiers have been called back at a dead run (poor choice of words there?) to gather at the front of the petrol station, near to each other and all in cover this time, in a more tactically sound formation, where Sq. J3w3l can cover their asses in Overwatch.

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Sure enough, the very angry wounded alien creature comes out of stealth and makes a bid to strangle Sq. Bhagpuss again.

Sq. J3w3l takes a reaction shot… and misses!

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That’s the last thing Sq. Bhagpuss sees before he’s choked up again in coils that tighten around his neck for another 2 damage. Down to half health, now.

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Let’s not count Sq. Wolf out of the fight just yet. From around the pillar where he’s taking full cover, he crouches and takes careful aim at the top of the creature…  an 85% chance to hit and 70% chance to critical.

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Blowing it away for 7 points of critical damage where we only needed just one.

Sq. Bhagpuss is left to catch his breath (no doubt, very thankful there’s no such thing as friendly fire with shotguns in XCOM.)

One more invisible alien to go. Overwatch time.

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Sq. Othnieltcs calmly collects the last Meld canister by himself, daring any aliens to just pop out and stop him. Just try.

(I think MEC troopers are choke-proof. Shoulda used him to rambo off from the get go, but who knew these dang Seekers existed then?)

The last invisible alien finally makes itself known.

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This was terrifying to watch, because it had picked Sq. “No Health Left to Speak Of” Wolf as its target.

If it latches on, he’s probably bought the farm, unless he gets lucky enough to be ‘merely’ critically hurt and bleed out in 3 turns.

(Assuming the rest of the squad can complete the mission within 3 turns and evac the soldier for treatment, that will still inflict a -Will penalty, though I’d gladly still take it as the lesser of two evils.)

It has 5 bars of health.

Sq. J3w3l appears not to have line of sight and thus couldn’t fire while in Overwatch.

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Sq. “Broad Side” Bhagpuss saves the day.

The floating alien is blown away pre-attachment for exactly 5 points of damage in an Overwatch response.

(Which remember, imposes a -20 Aim penalty, and the thing is flying so another -20, and has a defense of -10. Guy’s got 55 Aim, and only has a close range bonus to help him out.

The LMG has a base damage of 3-5 damage.)

Absolutely stunned, the Commander is left staring at the ragged remnants of the miraculously still-intact squad, wondering why on earth the mission hasn’t ended yet.

Sq. Othnieltcs is sent to scout.

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Oh, this guy.

The Thin Man who ran off and decided it was better off waiting for its friends to do the killing.

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Wrong decision, there.

(Not that I’m arguing with the dumb decisions any aliens choose to make.)

Another execution by Sq. Othnieltcs and the mission thankfully ends.

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Operation Blind Thunder, incredibly, ends with an Excellent rating for all categories. Just past midnight. Longest day ever. (So far.)

8 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost. (Teamwork and incredibly good luck brought you-know-who home. Alive. Barely. BUT STILL.)

2 of 2 Meld canisters collected.

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After action report for Operation Blind Thunder.

Yours truly is gravely wounded for 11 days. BUT STILL. ALIVE. “It’s just a flesh wound!”

Sq. Bhagpuss has been wounded for 11 days too, and has gotten a promotion to Corporal.

Sq. J3w3l is unscathed and has gotten a promotion to Corporal.

And Sq. Othnieltcs is perfectly fine, though the engineers are no doubt tut-tutting at the state of his suit’s paint job.

When it rains, it pours.

11 April, 2015

10:18pm

It’s not even 24 hours that the XCOM squad got back from Operation Blind Thunder, to be called on again.

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This time, it’s another urgent council communication.

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There has been a hijack attempt on a mysterious French military convoy. The alleged perpetrators were human, but aliens were also seen in the area, raising some questions about what “cargo” was being moved (and possibly stolen.) An XCOM squad will be sent to investigate.

Coming up next, Operation Burning Bell with our two unwounded soldiers from Operation Blind Thunder, with the now-recovered Cpl. Syl and Rk. Skyrim filling out the team!

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 5

10 April, 2015

2.30am

Another simultaneous three-pronged abduction.

The aliens have realized XCOM’s weakness, unable to be in three places at once. One squad may win a battle, but lose the war.

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The Commander’s decision is a little tougher this time. The base desperately needs money, and Nigeria is promising a respectable sum for XCOM’s help.

The base definitely doesn’t need a new sniper (yet), and is doing fine on engineers, though more are always welcome.

The panic level in Germany is not at all good though, and there’s the concern that leaving the population to fend for itself this time may produce panicked riots and force authorities there to pull out of the XCOM project to see to their own internal troubles.

Munich, it is.

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Operation Blind Thunder is underway.

The objective is simple, neutralize all hostiles conducting an abduction somewhere at a petrol station (or gas station for ze Americans) in Munich.

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The squad lineup is Squaddie Eri J3w3l, Squaddie Jeromai Wolf, Squaddie Bhagpuss and Squaddie Othnieltcs.

Sergeant “Bad Luck” Izlain was not involved in this action, having been given some R&R time after five missions in a row. (ie. He was ranking up way too fast and leaving the rest behind in the dust.)

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The transport deposits the squad in front of the petrol station.

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Sq. J3w3l ascends to the roof to take a cautious look around, while the rest fan out alongside on the ground. All quiet so far.

In the meantime, the Commander is having way too much fun reviewing Sq. Othnieltcs’ capabilities inside his MEC suit. Look at that health bar, 14 hp!

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One ability can destroy any cover a target is hiding behind and do some damage to boot. This particular suit was also equipped with a kinetic fist, instead of a flamethrower, which allows for a 12 damage (!) melee attack.

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Then the Commander took a look at the distance a MEC armored trooper can move (and still fire – dashing would double the distance shown) and gasped with awe.

Striving not to be distracted by this lethal fighting machine, the Commander orders Sq. Wolf to head to the left, where a Meld container is discovered. Still no aliens in sight.

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Moving Sq. Bhagpuss to the right though, he catches sight of the first group of aliens. A pair of Thin Men, leaning over a cocooned civilian pulled out of a car.

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They scatter for cover.

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Sq. Bhagpuss fires wildly at the pair, but misses.

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Sq. J3w3l unfortunately can’t get a good view of them from where she’s standing on the roof and has to move up to get them in line of sight.

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One is not able to move and fire a sniper rifle in the same turn (unless you choose a specific ability for it) so she pulls out a pistol instead with 78% chance to hit.

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It does hit, but it’s only a graze for 1 damage.

Sq. Othnieltcs is asked to move up, and it’s about this point in time when the Commander realizes one of the downsides of a MEC suit.

It’s so big, it’s impossible to take cover.

Oh. It’s a good thing there’s 14 health bars to work through, then.

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Of course, it -does- have a rather big gun too.

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There’s not much need to take cover if your opponent is a green puddle spreading out on the ground. (And vaporizing into the air, in this particular case.)

Sq. Wolf, meanwhile, collects the first Meld canister unmolested by aliens.

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Moving up on the right flank though, we encounter a chilling sight. A hitherto unknown and unseen pair of tentacled alien creatures. (New to the Commander too, as an Enemy Within addition!)

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We barely get a good look at them, impossible to say if they’re organic or mechanical or a mix of both, before they fade out of sight and vanish from all scanners.

Dr. Shen suggests that this invisible unit was made for the purpose of tracking isolated single targets.

A chill runs down the Commander’s spine at the realization that one squadie was sent out alone to the left to grab a canister and that the sniper is alone on the roof. Oh, this is not good. Time for Plan B, everybody find a buddy and move in pairs at the very least.

The aliens, though, get to move first.

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The remaining Thin Man snakes its way to the cover of a lamp post, braving a gauntlet of fire from Sq. Bhagpuss, who misses.

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And Sq. J3w3l, who also misses. (Though this one is, as usual, a careless commander’s fault for leaving pistol selected and going into Overwatch too quickly, having forgotten to swap back to a sniper rifle.)

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The Thin Man buggers off unharmed.

The Commander radios Sq. Wolf to rejoin the rest of the squad urgently, worried about where the invisible duo have disappeared to.

As Sq. Wolf dashes to cover the distance from left to right, a careless order leaves him out of cover, standing in front of the door to the petrol station’s office. –

A large commotion is suddenly heard inside as something spots Sq. Wolf’s shadow or silhouette against the door.

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A pair of Mind Melding aliens, and a pair of floating mechano-organic monstrosities. The -four- aliens scramble for cover, then turn to look threateningly at the only human in their view, carelessly out of cover.

Oh god.

There’s only one thing left that the Commander can think to do. Radio a coded distress burst to Sq. Othnieltcs, who gamely breaks off from the careful advance with Sq. Bhagpuss up the right flank, and dashes nearly his full MEC suited distance, smashing through a window with great fanfare and looming in the center of the room, head nearly scraping the ceiling.

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The servo-motors in the suit are too stressed from the dash to actually operate the minigun, so all we can do now is pray.

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Sq. Bhagpuss, suddenly left alone (with only one alien in sight, and two more invisible ones that could be -anywhere-), with Sq J3w3l still working her way down from the roof, goes into Overwatch behind the trunk of a car…

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The alien in front ignores Sq. Othnieltcs and fires furiously at the caught-out-of-position Sq. Wolf, critical hitting him for 6 points out of his 7 health bars…

The Thin Man ducks away from Sq. Bhagpuss again, eliciting a hail of overwatch fire, which still misses.

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Back in the building, the second alien has, thankfully, taken the bait and fires at Sq. Othnieltcs…

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…and misses.

The floating alien outside throws the other entrance open and fires at Sq. Othnieltcs (yes!)

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…and misses! (YES!)

Just then, a strange sound is heard outside, as the first of the invisible creatures reveals itself.

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Right next to Sq. Bhagpuss.

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Is this the end for our intrepid heroes, foolishly thinking they could go anywhere without Sgt. “Bad Luck” Izlain?

Stay tuned next post for the heart-stopping conclusion to Operation Blind Thunder!

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 4

And the first medal of the campaign goes to…

Well, since you asked so nicely... :P
Well, since you asked so nicely… 😛

12 March, 2015

Alien activity has gone quiet for the moment.

The wounded rest and heal up in the infirmary…

At least it's not a tally of the dead... Yet.
At least it’s not a tally of the dead… Yet.

…while the XCOM Commander has a bit of time to do some base housekeeping.

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Mostly scraping up as many satellites as the miniscule budget allows.

The scientists are put to work researching the strange alien materials – given how devastating the aliens’ plasma weapons appear to be, the Commander has deemed any kind of additional armor to be a priority.

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The engineers are delighted when the first workshop is constructed, giving them more room and additional manpower.

22 March 2015

5.03am

Ten days later, the peaceful industry is shattered by sirens indicating alien abductions across the globe.

This time, there are three of them occurring in sync, as if the aliens have coordinated this on purpose.

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XCOM only has sufficient manpower to respond to one of them.

Fortunately, panic levels are low in all three countries suffering from abductions, so the Commander makes an executive decision to go for what the base currently needs more of. Scientists.

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Operation Rotting Engine will send the squad to Baltimore, on a simple ‘eliminate anything extraterrestial’ mission.

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From left to right, Corporal Izlain with a medikit, Squaddie Bhagpuss with a nanofiber vest (+2 health), Squaddie J3w3l with a nanofiber vest and Squaddie Jeromai Wolf with a frag grenade.

The team almost immediately stumbles on a pair of aliens as Sq. J3w3l walks up to inspect the first building.

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Sq. Wolf moves up to cover Sq. J3w3l, trying not to look too hard at the strange green residue of an abducted civilian right next to him,

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but quickly realizes that they’re way too far away to hit with a shotgun, or a grenade.

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7% chance to hit is fairly ridiculous, so he goes into Overwatch instead, in case they venture nearer.

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The aliens do their trademark Mind Merge, and the linked alien takes a shot at Sq. J3w3l, critical hitting for 4 damage!

Cpl. Izlain moves up then, but isn’t in a good position to shoot the originator of the link.

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Whatever, there’s still a free target to riddle with bullets, at a 68% chance to hit.

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His aim stays true. It’s blown away for 4 damage. So much for the Mind Merge.

Sq. J3w3l has 4 points of health left, and is looking for some payback.

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63% chance to hit, 25% chance to critical…

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… takes it out with plenty of damage to spare, even without a critical.

Sq. Bhagpuss meanwhile has been advancing up on the right flank, along the street, and interrupts a pair of aliens leaning over a cocooned civilian.

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They look up, chitter with alarm and scamper off, annoyingly out of range.

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There’s not enough cover for Sq. Bhagpuss to advance and shoot, nor does it seem advisable for him to dash up alone into what lies beyond.

He -is- sporting a rocket launcher, but the range isn’t right just yet. They’re just narrowly out of reach. So he goes into Overwatch.

Then the aliens advance, having Mind Merged, and the front one takes a shot at Sq. J3w3l.

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It misses.

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Now, this is what Sq. Bhagpuss has been waiting for.

It’s the absolute maximum range of the rocket launcher, and it’s a little dubious whether the second alien will be caught in the blast radius… but well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

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With a wing and a prayer, the rocket speeds on its way.

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If only Sq. Syl were here to see this…

It’s with some surprise that the squad searches the rest of the area and finds no other aliens.

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Well, that was quick.

Operation Rotting Engine is an unqualified success.

4 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost.

2 of 2 Meld canisters recovered.

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The after action report: Sq. J3w3l’s wounds will take 8 days to heal.

Cpl. Izlain has been promoted to Sergeant, and has gained a nickname of “Pox.”

(Feel free to post in the comments if you think any soldier needs to be given a better nickname, in the days ahead.)

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And we even unlocked a new medal!

Urban Combat Badge. Bleh. Boring.

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This is a lot less boring. And look, it gives +5 defence when in cover.

The benefits of firsthand experience, I suppose. Always make sure to hide -all- body parts when taking cover.

I’m sure you all know who gets the first of this batch…

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Back at the XCOM base, industry and expansion continues over the course of the coming week.

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Research scientists reach a breakthrough by mapping the aliens’ genome using one of the dead specimens recovered.

The bad news is, Dr Vahlen doesn’t hesitate to inform us, that they’ve hit a limit to what else they can learn from the aliens without a live specimen.

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Catching one will involve getting up close and personal, with a device that can stun it with arcs of electricity. The squad may have to take bigger risks soon.

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But not just yet. Preparations have to be made. A secure area to contain any alien captives is essential, and the Commander dryly points out to Dr Vahlen and Dr Shen that the XCOM project has already allocated nearly all of this month’s budget. All available space is already being put to good use, and excavating new areas takes money. Having enough power to keep the base running takes money. Have they noticed the brownouts currently taking place until the new power generator is finished, for instance? Manufacturing Arc Throwers takes money.

Plans for next month’s budget have already been put into place. A Cybernetics Lab and Genetics Lab are both exceedingly promising new technologies to be taken advantage of, and something has to be done regarding all those Meld canisters stacking up in the storage warehouses.

It will all have to wait until the following month’s budget, assuming XCOM doesn’t stumble across a rich billionaire and receive a lucky largesse.

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Two days later, the new power generator comes online without a hitch.

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The Council Report was fairly positive as well.

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And then the Cybernetics Lab opens, something the Commander was eagerly awaiting…

(The initial plan was to build both a Cybernetics Lab (for making mechanized troopers that use mech-like suits) and a Genetics Lab (for gene mods that give normal soldiers more advantages) and then ask if bloggers and readers had any preferences or distinct dislikes for being a badass mech or getting genetically augmented. That still stands, so feel free to leave any wishes in the comments that I’ll try my best to fulfill, budget and my own game needs coming first, of course.

Turns out that I was so eager to play with this new Enemy Within addition that I started looking at my barracks list and found a spare unnamed soldier from the tutorial that already had been assigned a role. (You can only turn soldiers that have roles into MEC troopers, not rookies.)

Naturally, I couldn’t resist tossing this guy in to try out my new toy.

Back to the story…)

… A brave volunteer chooses to undergo the procedure.

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Which involves amputating all limbs and replacing them with cybernetic implants that can interface with Mechanized Exoskeleton Cybersuits (or MEC suits.)

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When not actively in combat, the soldier makes do with simpler robotic prosthetic limbs, doubtless less flexible and with less range of motion than his or her previously human limbs, but it’s a sacrifice made to be able to don a MEC suit and become something formidable in the fight against the aliens.

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Of course, after that, I had to name my new MEC trooper.

Coming up next, we put the MEC suit through its paces and at least one soldier hears Death knocking on their door in the roughest battle to date.

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 3

Well, team, welcome to Paris.

The good news is we’ve landed.

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The bad news is that there’s a bomb almost about to explode.

In three turns, to be precise.
In three turns, to be precise.

The XCOM team received the mission briefing about Operation First Law just as the transport crossed over into France airspace.

Team members Izlain, Syl and Bhagpuss eye their new member Eri from one side of the plane.
Team members Sq. Izlain, Sq. Syl and Rk. Bhagpuss eye their new sniper Sq. J3w3l

The increased alien activity was a cause of concern for local authorities. One brave police patrol ventured into the affected area to discover a strange node glowing with the green plasma energy the aliens seem extraordinarily fond of. Then they found a second, and thought they saw a third in the distance before energy bolts started whistling over their heads, forcing them to beat a hasty retreat.

This was just as swiftly brought to Council and XCOM attention, where engineers concluded the most likely scenario was that the nodes were intended to charge a plasma bomb of some kind and that detonation was imminent.

The primary objective of the mission is, of course, to disarm said bomb before it levels an unknown number of city blocks.

Dr. Shen, XCOM’s leading chief engineer, has suggested that it may be possible to drain the power nodes and thus delay the charging of the bomb.

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No time like the present to test that hypothesis out.

The squad arrives in front of a closed delicatessen and butchery, and right in sight next to a parked car, is one of the glowing power nodes.

Sq. Syl takes on the task of disarming it, and powers it down.

No bang.

So far so good.

Time is of the essence here, so the team is forced to spread out and cover more ground moving quickly and looking for both the bomb and more nodes to deactivate.

All is quiet until Sq. Izlain slides open the door leading to the cold room at the back of the butcher’s.

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There is a reptilian hiss, and a tall, thin, shadowy figure darts out of the cold room’s back door into the alley behind.

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Dr. Vahlen remarks on its humanoid appearance and suggests that the team should capture it, but the team isn’t equipped for that today. Bomb disposal is the order of the day, not alien safari.

Any other thoughts about its resemblance to humans are quickly dispelled as the creature bounds up to the roof of the neighboring building in a single leap.

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Then it unhinges its jaw and spits a cloud of corrosive poison at Sq. Syl, who begins coughing and choking immediately.

Sq. Eri, who was also moving up with her in support, just narrowly misses getting hit.

Sq. Izlain comes out of the cold room in hot pursuit of the figure he just saw, looks up, and riddles it full of bullets.

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More power nodes are found, one in the cold room and three in the alley.

Rk. Bhagpuss moves up to disarm the one in the cold room.

Sq. Syl takes on the first in the alleyway, despite the corrosive poison still eating away at her armor.

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Before Sq. Syl can get to the second power node in the alley, more alien guards appear. A more typical-looking pair, with the squat appearance and wide oval eyes of the previous two missions.

They’re also on the roof of the building overlooking the delicatessen, and one of them takes a shot at Sq. Syl.

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She’s using a large truck for full cover though, and the shot goes wide.

The other alien moves up to join its friend, and now it’s Sq. Syl’s turn to return the favor. With interest.

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No one is quite sure who approved the use of a frag grenade in a potentially very explosive environment, but I think the conversation among the squad must have gone something like:

“Fifty bucks says that I can toss a ‘nade right up to the roof and avoid hitting both power nodes below, or damaging too much of the building just in case the bomb’s in there.”

“Betcha can’t.”    “No, wait-!”    “What?!”

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“You can pay up when we get back to base.”

“…”         “…”          “…”

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Sq. Izlain and Rk. Bhagpuss just after they ducked away from that explosion, Bhagpuss having just completed power node deactivation.

Sq. J3w3l moves up and finally spots the bomb… which is indeed in the building.

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The alien guarding the bomb fires furiously with its plasma pistol, and lands a hit for 2 damage on Sq. J3w3l.

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Sq. Syl, who may have been moved to haste by the poison that slowly but steadily taken off 4 points of damage so far, decides to Run & Gun up to the alien and forgo cover in a gamble to end it.

(Run & Gun is an ability that Assault classes can use to still fire after moving the full distance by Dashing.)

She takes aim…

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59% chance to hit and 20% chance to critical…

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And it pays off as the alien is blown to smithereens.

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Sq. Izlain and Rk. Bhagpuss guard both entrances as Sq. J3w3l does the honors and defuses the actual plasma bomb.

The caution is warranted, as Central radios in with a warning that alien activity is once again detected in the area.

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Like bad pennies, two Thin Men turn up,  seemingly dropping out of the sky onto the squad’s location.

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The squad takes three reaction shots in succession, and all of them miss.

Fortunately, there’s still time to fire again.

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Sq. Izlain takes more careful aim this time, with 90% chance to hit and 60% chance to critical.

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Boom, headshot.

Rk. Bhagpuss climbs up to the roof where the last Thin Man is, and flanks it for 78% chance to hit and 68% chance to critical.

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It too goes down without a fight.

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10:12am.

Operation First Law is completed.

Most of Paris will never know what could have happened here, if not for the XCOM team.

6 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost.

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The after action report for this mission is quite full of information.

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Squaddie Izlain has been promoted to Corporal.

Squaddie Syl has also made Corporal, but has been wounded for 10 days. She does also have ten kills to notch on her gun (or should that be, her grenades?)

Rookie Bhagpuss has only one kill so far, but lots of power node disarms, and he’s been promoted to Squaddie and assigned a Heavy class. Heavy weapons ahoy!

Squaddie J3w3l, alas, didn’t get to fire a shot so far – bomb disposal missions where everyone has to move quickly are not exceedingly conducive to how I prefer to play snipers – and has to sit out for a week, healing up from plasma burns.

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On the bright side, Paris is safe and sound, and XCOM has -some- money to burn.

And here’s where I need some input from my readers, whom I hope are enjoying this as much as I love playing XCOM.

Turns out that the Enemy Within expansion has Medals that can be unlocked by completing certain criteria, which is pretty nifty. They are an award that can be given to a soldier, and confers some kind of upgrade/benefit.

I just unlocked the International Service Cross with mission 3, for completing missions on three different continents:

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But you know what? That’s so boring. It’s the most generic name for a medal I’ve seen in a while.

I’ve already picked the upgrade, but I want -you- guys to suggest a new name for the medal and which soldier should get it.

It doesn’t have to be related to the power at all, just something relevant to anything that’s happened in the first three missions. 🙂

The more ideas I get for this, the faster I can move on past this naming block and get to mission 4!