Cmdr Spike's AAR - [Spoilers]


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#1 sp1ke

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 09:25 AM

A thread for my own AAR in case anyone is interested.

I've started four games of latest patch, Steam Version, Enemy Unknown (not Within), not Second Wave. Two were Ironman, two were saveable. The first saveable game I abandoned after a few months when I realised I had done the base building completely wrong. The first Ironman I abandoned after a total assault team loss on the first non tutorial ground mission. So I'm running with  a saveable game, Game 2, and an Ironman game, Game 4. Both are on Normal (default) difficulty.

I don't like save-scumming which is why I love the Ironman feature and prefer it. On my saveable game I have done limited restores. I have done restores when I didn't know how long I have to respond to a mission and the mission evaporated. Now I have learned that lesson I just respond promptly to each mission. I also have restored in a few situations where a single shot or attack is critical and I only have one chance. So I am going back a few seconds at most. I have never restored to save a character, or for any kind of mission failure or death, other than the "single shot" type of scenario. I have gone on capture missions that have failed and I've had to kill the capture target, costing me months, for example.

My current situation in the saveable game is that I'm in June and doing the crashed Overseer ship assault. I went in with Carapace armour and laser weapons, not much more than that. One agent, the most senior veteran, Col Slim Clark, with new Psionics, not really field effective yet. Two of the six agents were rookies or near rookies.

By the time I had cleared the area and cleared most of the ship I was down to the two most senior agents, Slim (a Sniper), who was badly wounded, and Maj Zhang (the Slingshot character). Since then I have made multiple attempts (save and restore) to take out the Overseer. By drawing the Muton Elites out of the ship I have managed to take them out as well, leaving just the Ethereal Overseer. But by no means can my two guys, even two on one, take out the Ethereal. Even when I sacrifice Chang to draw the enemy out and try and get a sniper shot on the Ethereal, it just fails. With both agents hitting the Ethereal hard, the Ethereal still kills or controls one or both of the agents, then withdraws into the ship. The Ethereal seems to be able to move, attack, and then move out of sight. Some XCom agents can get similar abilities so maybe the Ethereal has a special ability. I have camped the UFO with direct LOS on the Ethereal's position for 50 turns without the Ethereal moving. (It's almost like it's psychic!). It only emerges if I send a man in, and that man is lost (controlled usually and dies by my own sniper's shot), and then the mission is lost.

So at this point I am faced with the two agents aborting and I suppose waiting for another Overseer ship, if the game will send one, while I rebuild my team. And in fact to be fair I should lose all the agents and return Status Black, because realistically my guys would not have aborted until they met the Overseer and then they would not know what hit them.

Basically by the time I tangle with the Overseer, even alone, I need to have at least 4 combat effectives remaining, or maybe at a minimum 2 very good effectives and 2 decoys.

Now I'm not looking for hints here guys! :-)

Maybe that's not fair of me to post if I'm not looking for hints, but I'm just sharing the feeling of challenge, because it feels good.

My Ironman game , Game 4, now has the (first?) Alien Base assault lined up next, though it's also June. For some reason the Ironman game has been much harder and much slower progress, like I was on a much higher difficulty level. Possibly because I failed the first two Outsider captures? Panic has been really bad, I lost Egypt and then the USA, and the Situation Room always looks like a Christmas tree and I have no money and no alloys all the time. And no missions. And a lousy base layout. But I'm soldiering on and I have pulled it back from the brink, Panic seems to be stabilising, and we are using cannibalised plasma weapons since I don't have the money or alloys to build more than the bare minimum of lasers.
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#2 sp1ke

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 09:38 AM

 sp1ke, on 24 September 2015 - 09:25 AM, said:

My Ironman game , Game 4, now has the (first?) Alien Base assault lined up next
To be honest I don't fancy doing the Alien Base assault again. Let alone the airborne Battleship assault (Gangplank). It was kind of tedious and I'm dreading it. Maybe I need to give the game a break for a while before I attempt it.

This is why I liked being able to skip battles sometimes in Original XCom, if I knew I could win the mission but it just would be time consuming and tedious I would use xcomutil -win just to skip past the ground mission.
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#3 sp1ke

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 11:22 AM

"Central, this is Big Sky, I am inbound, Status Red from Op Twisted Chant. Mission abort, four KIA and two serious casualties on board, one critical. Please stand up a medical team on the landing pad."

"Central from Big Sky, be advised, I am going supersonic over Poland."

"Yes sir, copy that, I understand that is prohibited. The strike team leader is insisting. "

"Central from Big Sky, strike team leader is requesting Six Actual on the line. He is highly distressed and says he needs to talk to the Commander in person right now."

"Copy that Central, standing by."

"Central, be advised the deputy strike team leader has gone into systemic arrest, all vital signs negative. KIA."

"Central from Big Sky, strike team leader is insisting on getting Six Actual on the line, immediately, not willing to wait until we land. "

"OK copy that Central."

"Central from Big Sky, strike team leader is saying he cannot wait, there is no time to wait, he says the Commander needs to authorise Talon Delta on the mission site. Total destruction of the mission site. Tactical warhead on the object location, 12.5 kiloton, ground burst, impact fuse, quick reaction flight, immediate. I say again Central, Talon Delta Immediate requested for Op location Twisted Chant. "

"Copy that Central. I realize that's Russia. I am just relaying the strike team leader's request. He says.. make it look like an accident?"

"Sir, there is no need to be offensive, sir, I have a tense situation aboard this aircraft. The strike team leader is holding a gun to my head."

"Yes sir, literally. He is literally holding a gun to my head. A very large one."

"Yes sir the cabin was locked and sealed as per post-assault protocol. I guess we didn't get around to testing whether the blast door can withstand the new Heavy Lasers. Well, now we know it can't. "

"Central from Big Sky, strike team leader is revising his immediate tasking request for Talon Delta. Specifying we use three weapons, on three different  strike aircraft on three different attack vectors and..  stand by..  he is emphasising do not used manned aircraft. Use unmanned aircraft only. He is very insistent and highly distressed. Do you copy, Central?"

"Copy that Central. He says there is no time for Intel debrief, we need to act immediately and that you need to..  ah, 'get out of his mind'?... and... stand by.. oh. Crap."

"Central this is Big Sky. Status Black. All operatives KIA. The strike team leader just shot himself in the head with the Heavy Laser. I am dropping to subsonic and resuming normal approach. You can stand down Ravens 2 and 3 en route to intercept me. Big Sky returning to base, Status Black, mission failed."

"Big Sky out. "
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#4 sp1ke

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 01:38 PM

Actually with a lot of save-scumming in Game 2 and trying lots of different tactics, I managed to kill the Ethereal out in the open, two on one. (The Overseer eventually came out in the open, actually while I was trying to recover my last two guys back to the Skyranger and abort the mission).  After a high damage critical Laser Sniper Rifle headshot, I sacrificed my chief sniper/team leader (and only Psi agent) Col. Clark. Then Maj. Chilong Zhang finished the Ethereal off alone, in an epic battle of Heavy Laser vs heavy psionics that raged over about three rounds. Zhang was down to 1 Health, but everything the Ethereal tried either didn't work, or at least failed to kill Zhang. I am wondering if Zhang is the "psionic inertial" from (I think) one of Hobbes' stories? Or maybe Zhang just has really strong Psi score but just not quite strong enough to qualify as a Psi agent in the Labs.
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#5 Hobbes

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 03:32 PM

 sp1ke, on 24 September 2015 - 01:38 PM, said:

Zhang was down to 1 Health, but everything the Ethereal tried either didn't work, or at least failed to kill Zhang. I am wondering if Zhang is the "psionic inertial" from (I think) one of Hobbes' stories? Or maybe Zhang just has really strong Psi score but just not quite strong enough to qualify as a Psi agent in the Labs.

RNG is a better explanation for the failed Ethereal attacks. There's no Psi score, the soldier is either a Psionic or not, although Will increases the odds of the soldier being a Psionic when tested.
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#6 sp1ke

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Posted 25 September 2015 - 01:05 PM

Actually having read your Strategy Guide, Hobbes, the reason progress is slower in my Ironman game, Game 4, is because I elected not to do Slingshot. I was sick of playing that  tactical mission to many times. I didn't realise that the alternative Council missions are basically identical tactically, and the benefits of Slingshot are huge. Eg in Game 2 I have stable Panic worldwide, ample Scientists and engineers, and Blaster Launcher technology.  In Game 4 I have 2 countries lost by June, struggling to control Panic, and acute shortages of everything
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#7 Hobbes

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Posted 25 September 2015 - 02:12 PM

 sp1ke, on 25 September 2015 - 01:05 PM, said:

Actually having read your Strategy Guide, Hobbes, the reason progress is slower in my Ironman game, Game 4, is because I elected not to do Slingshot. I was sick of playing that  tactical mission to many times. I didn't realise that the alternative Council missions are basically identical tactically, and the benefits of Slingshot are huge. Eg in Game 2 I have stable Panic worldwide, ample Scientists and engineers, and Blaster Launcher technology.  In Game 4 I have 2 countries lost by June, struggling to control Panic, and acute shortages of everything

You can simply take the 1st Slingshot mission to get Zhang and then ignore the others... actually no, since in vanilla EU the Slingshot missions will keep appearing if you ignore them (on EW they're gone once you ignore any of them).
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#8 sp1ke

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Posted 26 September 2015 - 07:25 PM

Now that Ethereals have arrived even Small Scout missions are proving impossible in Game 2. My squad, already massively depleted by the Overseer raid, was wiped out by the Ethereal carrying small scout mission a few days later. After save scumming a few times the best I can manage is an Abort with 3 survivors. I kill everything except the Ethereal and sometimes its Muton Elite guard. I went back equipping one agent with Titan Armour and a Mind Shield but he was too weak by the time we engaged the Ethereal. I tried the "knock and run" tactic to draw the Ethereal out of the ship where I could take it with snipers. The Muton Elite sometimes falls for that but the Ethereal never did. And I don't have the strength or numbers  for a frontal assault inside the landed ship.

One thing I may be doing wrong is trying to flank all the enemy by advancing up the left map edge. This seems to have the effect that all aliens spawn at once and hit me en masse. But another way of looking at it is that I had too little depth in my squad by June and so the heavy losseslosses on Twisted Chant (Overseer assault) have crippled me.

I guess I need to treat landed and downed UFOs as experience farming missions for a while until I build my squad up, and not bother actually achieving the objectives.
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#9 Hobbes

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 02:15 PM

 sp1ke, on 26 September 2015 - 07:25 PM, said:

Now that Ethereals have arrived even Small Scout missions are proving impossible in Game 2. My squad, already massively depleted by the Overseer raid, was wiped out by the Ethereal carrying small scout mission a few days later. After save scumming a few times the best I can manage is an Abort with 3 survivors. I kill everything except the Ethereal and sometimes its Muton Elite guard. I went back equipping one agent with Titan Armour and a Mind Shield but he was too weak by the time we engaged the Ethereal. I tried the "knock and run" tactic to draw the Ethereal out of the ship where I could take it with snipers. The Muton Elite sometimes falls for that but the Ethereal never did. And I don't have the strength or numbers  for a frontal assault inside the landed ship.

One thing I may be doing wrong is trying to flank all the enemy by advancing up the left map edge. This seems to have the effect that all aliens spawn at once and hit me en masse. But another way of looking at it is that I had too little depth in my squad by June and so the heavy losseslosses on Twisted Chant (Overseer assault) have crippled me.

I guess I need to treat landed and downed UFOs as experience farming missions for a while until I build my squad up, and not bother actually achieving the objectives.

Your first objective should be to clear the outside of the Small Scout without activating the command pod (Ethereal + Muton Elites). Only then you should approach the UFO and place your soldiers so that they are able to take down the Ethereal on the turn of its activation. Don't worry about the Elites if you can't kill them as well when they are activated since the Ethereal is more dangerous.

About clearing those Small Scouts, the UFOPaedia has overhead images of all the terrains showing XCom's and the alien starting areas so that might help you figure out where you are exactly. Nearly all of the Small Scouts have plenty of room to move at start without activating alien pods but sticking to one edge of the map can be risky because the aliens might pin you down while patrolling. Usually when I'm advancing on those maps I try to make a line over my axis of advance with the units at the flanks to act as tripwires for alien patrols.
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#10 sp1ke

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 07:03 PM

Yes before I had been doing as you suggest so I may go back to that. And yes I am eliminating all resistance before I tackle the command pod.

I just did the Supply Barge and with two moderately effective Psi agents in good armour it is starting to become easy. It's August and I could do the Temple Ship mission now. I have no idea if my squad is strong enough to succeed but I am in position to try. I have near total satellite coverage and low Panic. I am wondering if it would be counterproductive to have complete satellite coverage, as then I would get no Abduction missions, and I am using these for cash / loot and to broaden my squads. I nowhave EMP Cannons so I am already digging my way out of a drought of alloys etc. I expect by September XCom will be totally dominant in air / space and ground. We're already close in air / space.

So it's time to think what the next challenge will be. Move up to Classic difficulty, or finish Normal on Ironman? Or both - switch to Classic difficulty, Ironman.

Actually maybe I should switch to Classic now, mid game, so I can adjust to how much more difficult the game will be.

It feels kind of wrong to finish the game on a difficulty level that now feels too easy. I was unhappy to learn the game buffs my hit chances 20% above what it reports. I would rather not be lied to by a game. :-)
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#11 sp1ke

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 03:26 PM

As August comes to a close it is now getting very boring as I  have two Psi agents who can reliably mind control almost anything and one of them can reliably mind control the Ethereal. I'm on track for total satellite coverage by September, in fact I am only leaving coverage gaps for training purposes. I have nearly all the tech and most of the other power ups I want. I have no reason to expand my HQ any further. My squad is stunning Muton Elites just to steal their Heavy Plasmas. And from September even my money worries will be over.

Time to switch to Classic I think.

I wonder how viable it would be to run the strategic game at Classic but switch back to Normal for the tactical game. Or vice versa. I am not sure I could handle both aspects of the game at Classic difficulty. I make too many mistakes and I imagine recovering from dumb mistakes on Classic is very tough.


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#12 Hobbes

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 04:33 PM

 sp1ke, on 27 September 2015 - 07:03 PM, said:

So it's time to think what the next challenge will be. Move up to Classic difficulty, or finish Normal on Ironman? Or both - switch to Classic difficulty, Ironman.

Actually maybe I should switch to Classic now, mid game, so I can adjust to how much more difficult the game will be.

I felt more the difference when I moved to Classic from Normal than from Impossible to Classic. I wouldn't advise going Classic Ironman since it can be very frustrating not being able to repeat a fight and try something different.

Besides the bonus aim for the player, he other major difference between Normal and Classic is that the AI is restricted on Easy/Normal to only use 5 units when engaging XCom units, if there are more than 5 aliens activated the remainder will pull back from the fight. On Classic/Impossible this restriction is removed so you can quite easily find yourself facing a lot more aliens than on Normal if you're not careful with the activations.
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#13 silencer_pl

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 05:09 PM

The encounter with Etherals can be made trivial if you manage to get sectoid commander and wait with building hyperawave decoder until you have at least 1, preferably 2 soldiers with mind control. I think AI prefers to target mind controlled units.
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#14 sp1ke

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 09:13 AM

Well I finished the game (on Normal). In hindsight I could have gone to the Temple Ship in August, I didn't need to wait to mid September and I didn't really have much extra stuff. One extra suit of Psi Armour for the junior Psi guy, Murray, who was not very useful on the Temple Ship, and a junior sniper who was also not much use. My veterans did all the work really.

It was quite easy even though I could not use Mind Control on the last level. Nor could I use Rift effectively. I took down the Uber Ethereal with good ol' fashioned gunfire. I only had one casualty, Junior Psi guy Murray. Executed after he got Mind Controlled. I guess I should have given him a Mind Shield as well as Psi Armour. And I actually I needn't have killed him as we killed the Uber Ethereal the same round. I was not expecting killing the Uber Ethereal to end the game, I was just trying to take down the most dangerous target first while I still had all my guys alive. Weirdly the 2 regular Ethereals didn't seem to do anything in the fight. One fired a Psi Lance once or twice. The other one just stood on its platform. So maybe they are not big fans of the Uber Ethereal?

I gave Psi Armour to the Psis and Mind Shields to the non Psis. It really cramped my style having no Advanced SCOPEs but it paid off on the last level I think. It fit the story line anyway, as we were expected lots of Ethereals and some kind of super tough Ethereal.

Apart from the last level which was over very quickly, the hardest levels were the two Sectopods, because of their cluster bombardment ability, and the Muton Berserkers. I was expecting there to be some kind of super Chrysallid but they were just normal ones which was disappointingly easy.

Also there were low numbers of aliens. Because each compartment just has one kind of alien (or related group of aliens) it's much easier to maintain a good ratio of numbers against the enemy all the time.

So, Temple Ship, hmm, it was kind of fun but not the hardest mission in the game, despite the Big Boss at the end. Killing the first Ethereal was way harder than killing this guy. They didn't seem to be as smart in their tactics as the Scout UFO Ethereals. And they are basically standing in a shooting gallery like sitting targets. The Uber has Rift ability but didn't use it against us. They didn't take cover so, even though will still didn't get any criticals, it was easy to stay in cover and still concentrate fire on the aliens. It's quite a small level as well, and tactically seems to favour the XCOM assault force rather than the alien defenders.

And the storyline... hmm. Surely the Uber should at least have attempted to persuade the Volunteer to come over to the dark side? The Volunteer isn't even given a reason to stop just wasting everything that moves like he's been doing all through the ship. Surely they should say "aha now join us", you know, before the shooting starts rather than after they are dead??

Next stop, Classic! :-)
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#15 sp1ke

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Posted 30 September 2015 - 07:36 PM

Classic game is going nicely. I had an A February and an A March. Only one casualty so far, a rookie. The tactical challenge is MUCH higher and I am really enjoying. It really makes you focus and immerses you in the sense of danger.

For me it's that sense of threat that makes the whole XCOM series great. Always feeling like you are a second away from disaster, with the fate of the human race at stake.
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#16 Space Voyager

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Posted 30 September 2015 - 09:15 PM

Well you are seconds from disaster. If there's one thing I resent XCOM, it is being less forgiving to error than the originals. The panic system is to blame IMO.

#17 sp1ke

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 11:24 AM

I agree the Panic system is unforgiving and managing the Council is much harder than in original XCOM. The pattern of  simultaneous Abductions only makes sense as a deliberate strategy by the aliens to undermine Council support for XCOM.

For that matter, why don't countries with high Panic give MORE resources to XCOM in exchange for help? The countries aren't behaving rationally. Any of them could afford to pay XCOM to put up a satellite for example. Panic should work in XCOM's favour - like it does with the regular  military and security services who have their budgets increased in tines of fear. We don't sack the army when war is looming or sack the police when riots break out. As long as XCOM is resisting the aliens  effectively in other parts of the world, it should actually start a bidding war for XCOM protection, not a boycott. Funding should only fall in a country if XCOM intervenes in that country, or maybe that continent, but fails badly. In my opinion.

So in my view, Council missions should come primarily from the counties with rising or high Panic, not just the comfortable ones who are  greedy for technology.
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#18 sp1ke

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 11:43 AM

Taking the Outsider alive in Classic with an unimproved Arc Thrower (April 7th) is really tough. It took my whole 4 man team tackling the Outsider, several save scums, and in the end accepting a critical wound on my only Support as the price of capture.

In hindsight ideally  I needed to go in with conventional pistols, not laser pistols, and set everyone up for non flanking pistol shots before using the two Arc Throwers I brought.

I tried using the Flanking / Overwatch AI bug but I couldn't get it to work.

I did have one conventional pistol and two laser pistols but I should have brought all conventional pistols.
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#19 Space Voyager

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 12:48 PM

One point damage can come in handy, true...

#20 sp1ke

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 01:39 PM

Yes but getting it down to 1 point health  for 90% stun is tricky. I had it down to two health and 80% stun twice, but failed both times, even with multiple stun shots. And it's no use reloading the game as the RNG seed is preserved.
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