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*brushes the dust off of my login credentials*

*taps mic* Is this thing on?

First, some background: I loves me some XCOM. Kersus introduced me to the original Microprose version (UFO Defense... with an 's'? Man, I can't recall) in the way-way back, and I was instantly hooked. There was no gateway drug, just straight to the turn-based free base. I really don't know how to accurately sum up my devotion to this franchise other than using heavy-handed substance addiction metaphors (see above)...

(sips beer)... what?

Anyway, I've followed the ups and downs of the title over the years, and when Firaxis (shout out to Sid Meier!) released that gem of a reboot back in 2012, I was in heaven.

And then life happens... a wife, a daughter, a cat... more important things come up than seeing the sunrise on a school night after saving the world from an alien invasion.

Enter XCOM2. What a bitter-sweet set of circumstances: having everything (wife/kid/cat/mortgage?) and yet having nothing (disposable income to purchase new shiny game on release day/a PC with the ponies under the case to run the damn thing/mortgage). So I console myself with my current collection of unfinished games and be an "grown up". And by grown up I mean, seeing this awesome title on sale for a song during a Steam Black Friday event, and buying the darn thing so I at least have it in my library for later, when I upgrade the Beast... likely when the kid goes off to college... but she's only a year and a half now, so... (cue Charlie Brown Arg)... but still, PLANNING, PEOPLE!

The months go by, and part of being a grown up is realising you can't pirate operating systems anymore (also, it stopped updating security features and crap, son, I do my banking here and it's where I keep my baby pictures)... so I budget and I save and get the new Windows, and I'm up late and figure "shoot, I've got the hard drive space and a brand new month of internet bandwidth", so I download and install the game on a lark.

Sweet profanity, the profanity profanity game runs on this profanity beautiful machine! If I ever meet Bill Gates in a bar, I will allow him to buy me a drink! Several, even!

So I sacrifice sleep (toddler in the house, yo) for bringing the fight to those alien evil-doers one more time, and, I bowel-movement-you-not, I beat the game (base version, no expansions) at 2AM on my 41st birthday. Can't make that crap up... I'm still waiting for Hollywood to get back to me with an offer for the movie rights (expansion packs are expensive... Call me!)

Naturally, I almost immediately begin a replay. But something happened, and I do something different.

I enable Ironman mode. For the first time.

For those who know the implications of that, let that sink in. For the rest of you, let me explain: it is a widely held belief among the fan base that the only TRUE way to experience XCOM is to play it straight up, no reloads, every movement counts, IRONMAN! And this is the first time I've ever gone that route.

Well, not entirely true, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Bottom line, I realised I'm (deep breath)... a lazy gamer. I treat it as escapist indulgence. I play single player games on easy mode, and feel good about myself as I naturally bat my opponents around like a kitten with so much digital yarn. I realised I've tried to play Ironman games before, but quickly rage-quit (quietly, on my own, with no witnesses) and went back to my old ways. Not thinking twice about loading an old save for every missed rifle shot or being surprised by an alien around that particular corner. Reload, change tactics based on information I shouldn't have, and bash on to victory.

It's not just XCOM. I'd play any of the Civilization iterations and quickly re-start if another faction ever dared to finish a Wonder before me.

Is that healthy? Probably not (at least that's my first stab at analysis). I'd like to open that question up to the Board and we can "unpack that", as they say, as we move along (hopefully) with the discussion.

So, the point: I've got a game open in another browser. It's Ironman, on a difficulty level other than Beginner (okay, it's Veteran). I've been doing pretty well, lost a couple soldiers but I have a Sniper on Lieutenant and some quality NCO's. My last mission was even a flawless victory! But this last mission went south, fast.

My Corporal medic is in-and-out of Panic. The rookie I brought along to gain experience is alive but unconscious. My much touted senior Sniper needs to reload and doesn't have the high ground, and the rest of the squad is pretty spread out. I'm vastly outnumbered and outgunned (it's still very early in the game), and my time-specific mission to destroy the data relay ends in five rounds.

I am not going to salvage this one. Can't happen. This time, I'm going to lose.

I've got to find a way to bug out and keep those losses to a minimum. And rather than figure out damage control, I wrote this novel of a post.

I can't guarantee frequent posts or anything resembling consistency, but who wants to ride along as I try to grow as a gamer - nay -as a person?



Off to bed for me (gotta love the turn-based goodness), but, if there's interest, I'll try to update you all on who lives, and who dies. If nothing else, you'll witness a grown man descend into tears as he gets bested by pixels.

Tell me THAT'S not quality entertainment!
Needs more cheese dip, but a good read.
Fair enough, man, but I'm taking that response as a green light. Off we go... oh, and I should probably add this for posterity (and maybe figure out how to edit my post title): since the long-term plan is to play *AND WIN* this Ironman edition, you'll essentially be reading a game walk-thru. Albeit one done over weeks, and mostly examples of what not to do. And possibly some crying. Whatever, my point is *SPOILER ALERT* details of the game XCOM2 will be revealed in this post. There, I said it. Moving on!

Now that I've made the decision to get the heck out of Dodge, I just need to hammer out some details. Using the very robust "choose your own evac location" feature, I've calculated (like actually figured out to the map square) that I can get three of my five soldiers out of this running bad decision during my next turn, with two of these soldiers being able to squeeze off one last shot before they go (from Hell's Heart I stab at thee!)... that just leaves my panic-y medic and my unconscious rookie.

Depending on how much luck I get from those two parting shots, Scaredy McMedkit - IF she survives the aliens turn (not likely) - could make a mad dash for to the dust-off point, or try to fireman-carry the hapless rook back to the boat. I've decided on the latter, because it makes for better drama (can the medic redeem herself and save the new guy? She'll either succeed or die tryin'). My main concern is with the damn Heavy Lancer positioned between her and my chosen bug-out site (he's this little alien bastard armed with a damaging/stunning cattle-prod, running around the map and ruining days. I will refer you to the wounded-but-blissfully-unaware-of-his-immediate-demise rookie)... so he'll be the focus of my last offensive volley. If my retreating troops can take him out, Nurse Poopypants and Mr Van Winkle might just have a chance of buying the Skyranger pilot a beer in the ships' bar. If not, up go their portraits to the wall of the fallen. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this game?

If only I had put this much thought into each individual turn prior to this cluster-expletive, my five virtual soldiers wouldn't be in this mess.

I guess I should ponder that for a minute (the "personal growth" portion of this project). Was my (former?) gaming style a result of my lifestyle, or a reflection of current society? Go, go, go! Rush through this and get to the next thing! Get that dopamine reward by essentially cheating and inflating your own self image as a brilliant and infallible battlefield commander, even though your victories are hollow and unearned! (And I don't mean to get political, but wasn't that what President Bonespur essentially did when saying he'd rush in without fear during that last disaster in Florida? Oof, tangential thinking, Groo, tangential thinking...).

Is this evenings' lesson "slow down and enjoy your leisure time/life"? Because I work in a fast-paced, high-pressure job, and mentally I do take that garbage home with me. Maybe. Heck, when I got home today I made a point of NOT booting up the Beast and firing through the above plan (spent WAY too much timing thinking about this during the workday), and instead actually playing with my awesome daughter... we got to bed pretty early, and I'm only online now after she woke up at 4AM and needed a change.

But for now, let's see how my plan works out.
Close... so very close!

After setting my evac point, I immediately pulled my heavy gunner out of the fight. He was right next to the Lancer, but didn't have the movement points to move and shoot. I opted for him to fight another day, since he was a skilled Sergeant and the loss of "Big Money" Delgado would be felt for a while. Next, I moved my sniper ("Lights Out" is his nickname) to the evac point.. his rifle was out of ammo, but his sidearm still functioned... I took a shot at the lancer and TOOK THAT ALIEN DOWN! Boo-yah! The sniper retreats. My last immediately retreat-able soldier is actually my more senior medic - the Specialist class - and the only other one with an offensive shot left... but her hit percentages were crap from where she was standing, so my "a-ha!" moment was to use the Aid ability of the class to boost the defence and dodge stats of the panicked Squaddie, and then off she goes too.

So it's just down to a boosted Squaddie Mary Edwards from the US of A, with nothing between her and sweet, sweet freedom but a passed out rifleman. I run over to Marshall (the downed trooper) and pick him up. I wasn't sure of the game mechanics exactly, because I don't do this often, but I was sure having Edwards pick up Marshall would end Edwards' turn. Not so! She could still move a little further! Not quite all the way "home", but further away from the danger!

Then my turn ended.

An alien baddie moved to a flanking position and fired off a shot. It connected, but not enough to kill (she was down to 2 health). The robotic MEC moved next... for some season, it just moved to a high-ground position and didn't fire... dumb luck? I'll take what I can get! A Viper (Snakeman alien) moves in from Fog Of War and takes a shot at me an advanced tech rifle... BUT MISSES! HA! But then... then the second cattle-prod having Lancer moves in. I didn't even know he was there.

His shot connects (didn't even have the guts to go melee). Edwards goes down. Marshall is listed as "captured". His bad day probably only just began.

What did I learn?
  1) If you're evacuating, picking up a downed person won't end your turn, which might've changed where I selected my evac point.
  2) Maybe taking a low-percentage shot before getting out was the right call, rather than the defence boost? Undecided on that.
  3) I used my biggest asset - my senior sniper - poorly. He didn't take the high ground first (missed *SO* many shots) and I didn't upgrade his weapon with the extended magazine... he ran out of bullets.
   4) The squad got far to spread out so I couldn't evac everyone the same turn
  5) When I started this mission a couple nights ago, I was tired and thought about going to bed. That was probably the thing to do, rather than play the while tired and make bad tactical calls. Sleep, you're the *real* MVP!

On the plus side, "Big Money", my Grenadier, earned a promotion from killing a few baddies on that colossal disaster... He's an Lt now, but Gravely Wounded so will be out of action for just under two weeks. Now I have a decision to make... he can either have "Heavy Ordnance" (and extra grenade) or "Holo Targeting" (EVERYONE gets an aiming boost against the enemy he takes a shoots at). This is actually a tough decision, one that I don't feel up to making right now... my old playing style favoured grenades (you can get very specialised load-outs as you progress), but the squad-boosting holo-targeting might be preferred in the New Era of Gaming, so I'll need to think a bit. I've got 12 days before Delgado is back in the fight, so I'll decide then.

I failed this one. The consequences are I didn't get the Supplies from beating the mission (so I'm broke) and all Intelligence costs (another in-game resource) are doubled for a month. I also lost whatever gear Edwards and Marshall had on them when they got left behind. Fantastic.

You know, though, even though the mission was a disaster, I had a lot of fun doing this and don't really feel that terrible.

Well, a little terrible.

So close.
(03-03-2018, 08:48 PM)Groo The Wanderer Wrote: [ -> ](And I don't mean to get political, but wasn't that what President Bonespur essentially did when saying he'd rush in without fear during that last disaster in Florida?)

Not in the least. Watch his reaction when a man jumps the barricade. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zErgz09dESs

That's panic. He doesn't calm down until he sees that someone else has taken care of the situation. And that guy was unarmed, let alone firing a military grade weapon.

Being completely inaccurate in the following statement, you've been feeling good about your wins after rigging the system. Trump is trying to take credit for something without doing anything at all. You actually went through the games. By saying he would have done something, he wants praise as if he had actually done it.

btw, nothing wrong with easy mode and resets. It's an interactive story. You didn't like the way the story, so you used editorial power.
I've been struggling with my usual reading lately and these posts were invigorating. Well written and fun!

As for difficulty and iron man.... I usually start any game on the hardest setting and only fall back if it seems "impossible." Ironman in the old games, sure, sometimes. In the modern ones? I find the quirkiness (read: my lack of knowledge) of the mechanics make it harder than it should be. I'm happy to die in game because of a mistake or even bad luck, but when it's just a lack of utilizing game mechanics to their strongest, I sometimes get irritable and that's when I'll reload to an earlier point.

All that said, I've probably played every XCOM game in every way except this XCOM2 (which I stalled) and X-Com Apocalypse. I even played Enforcer and the flight simulator one quite a bit. 

One thing I learned from tabletop RPGs is that big deaths (important player characters or hilarious moments) not only make the best stories over time but they also force the rest of the group to find new ways to work together. Some of the best character development is after the death of a powerful ally everyone leaned on. 

In a computer game, does that still stand true? Certainly I want to succeed in every XCOM mission, but as Groo shows us, it can be pretty awesome to fail and keep moving forward.
(03-04-2018, 06:54 AM)Oedipussy Rex Wrote: [ -> ]
(03-03-2018, 08:48 PM)Groo The Wanderer Wrote: [ -> ](And I don't mean to get political, but wasn't that what President Bonespur essentially did when saying he'd rush in without fear during that last disaster in Florida?)

Not in the least. Watch his reaction when a man jumps the barricade. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zErgz09dESs
That's wild. I really don't know how to respond.
(03-04-2018, 06:54 AM)Oedipussy Rex Wrote: [ -> ]btw, nothing wrong with easy mode and resets. It's an interactive story. You didn't like the way the story, so you used editorial power.

Okay, fair point, but my self-criticism is that I've gotten lazy and the pendulum has swung too far in that direction. Refer to my sentence in my opening post about Civilization; Here's a game that I've played many MANY times. The story wasn't new. Any "editorial power" I exercised was just me wanting my own private echo chamber where to only story I was interested in was the one that stroked my ego: "Groo The Infallible dominates the Globe again, film at eleven". I'm starting to think it was just me wanting to assert dominance in the only avenue I felt I could (hashtag armchair psychiatrist)... and the further I ponder that, it makes me wonder if that has allowed a "weakness to grow strong" (a loose quote from the band Hey, Rosetta!), that I have lost my ability to lose, even when all that was at stake was essentially meaningless and forgettable. And THAT, in my opinion, is a big can o' worms.

That's all I've got for now on that point... I'm going to do a quick reply to Kersus' post (really glad I to hear from you again, old friend!) and maybe try an update on Where In the World Is Carmen San Di-Alien.

(03-04-2018, 02:36 PM)Kersus Wrote: [ -> ]As for difficulty and iron man.... I usually start any game on the hardest setting and only fall back if it seems "impossible." Ironman in the old games, sure, sometimes. In the modern ones? I find the quirkiness (read: my lack of knowledge) of the mechanics make it harder than it should be. I'm happy to die in game because of a mistake or even bad luck, but when it's just a lack of utilizing game mechanics to their strongest, I sometimes get irritable and that's when I'll reload to an earlier point.

We could not be more polar opposite in our approaches, old friend. Usually because of financial issues, when I get a new game there's an understanding that this will be played again, and again, and (wait for it) again; I just don't have the funds to treat these increasingly costly entertainment items as disposable.  Those first easy settings and frequently reloaded run-throughs are where I *LEARN* the mechanics of the platform - to game the system, if you will. Could you imagine learning how to play chess, but not bothering to figure out that Queens can move diagonally as well as straight across? How much would that hobble your ability to enjoy the dance? But even that backfired in Operation Fuster-Cluck; due to my lazy playing style, I rarely encountered an opportunity to carry a wounded troop off the battlefield, and my ignorance of that mechanic may have resulted in poor execution regarding where I chose my evac point. Coulda/shoulda/woulda, right? And the other downside to my style is the inertia... I mentioned my "echo chamber" thought to Oedipussy Rex above, and how those satisfying dopamine hits of constant success have left me deficient (in my opinion) of rising to an actual challenge. I've forgotten how to "lose with grace" in these Ironman trials, and up until now never saw the point of the aggravation.

Time will tell on that last point, I guess.

Also, just so we're clear, if you haven't taken a stab at XCOM2 yet and have the means, I would highly recommend it. Very much a sequel to the XCOM reboot, not just a repackaged expansion pack designed to make money.

One last thing before I write my in-game analysis for the evening... as a point of order, what's the forum etiquette on posting screenshots or in-game photos? I am operating this through Steam, and sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words, or 950 words after fees, tax, and inflation. I just don't want to start killing your available space and everyone else's bandwidth... or even, if you all would suggest, losing some of the written drama by taking the easy-peasy "smile for the camera" approach... let me know either way.
"When last we left our heroes..."

The Skyranger got back to the Avenger (the game's mobile flying base... seriously, I love this game) and I got down to the business of planning my next move / base expansion... but after NOT getting the supplies from the last mission, my options have been limited to "Sitting at the HQ location and farming the Intel resource". Real edge-of-your seat stuff. I already *have* a good pool of Intel, and the Black Market (where you can use that resource as currency for any number of things) doesn't have much that I want/need/can use.

So a few in-game days pass without anything bad happening... be careful what you wish for, right? My engineers manage to finish constructing a power relay (constructed over the exposed coils for the stat boost, of course), so I've got disposable power for the first time in game-weeks (I'd reached my maximum pretty quickly)... I re-task the engineer to clear debris from a room ASAP... it'll give much-needed space to build, and much-more-needed disposable cash (er, supplies). Really, really need those supplies.

I also finish researching and "Alien Data Pad", which just means I have even more Intel at my disposal. Which I guess is a good thing? Or just Alanis-style irony (as in, not technically ironic; just Canadian and sad), in that I have so much intelligence at my disposal and yet pooched my last mission essentially because I decided to ignore sleep and play video games? Since it's about 1:52am in my local meat-space, I may be detecting a theme... Anyway, I re-task my science boffins to unlocking Magnetic Weapons, this XCOM version of laser weaponry. That may have been an error, because even once I get the research done, I have not cash handy to actually equip the new tech (and who knows if that research event triggers the next step-up in the Alien response?).

Who's got two thumbs and a case of buyers remorse?

And just as I retro-actively regret my decision, a mission pops up onscreen. It's an alien retaliation strike against a human resistance stronghold (basically, a repackaged "Terror Mission" from the XCOM reboot). Oh, goody. I can't ignore this (OR FAIL!) because I'll lose contact with the region, hurting my already-bleak income, not to mention the only continent bonus I've got right now: I can re-use weapon modifications (handy!). So I'm basically all-in.

Now we think: I will NOT be performing this mission tonight. I'm tired, and I honestly think that's what cost me the last run. So... is it worth even selecting the squad and equipping them for this fight? Maybe, but I'm also leaning towards "no"... but I can make some notes to remember for tomorrow's entry (maybe in the afternoon, when the daughter-spawn is having her nap? Don't know... if the weather's nice again I might not post at all - it's been a long winter and my vitamin D could use the boost and fresh air from the outside world...)

Okay... I've got space for 5 troops on this mission.

I'll be bringing Lt Femi Kumalo along, aka "Lights Out"... it's a risk to rely so heavily on this one sharpshooter (the next highest sniper in line is merely a Corporal with nowhere near the versatility), but this really is a high risk mission. For kit, I'll be equipping Femi with the Battle Scanner... it has two uses, and is how I've been managing my old (bad) habit of rushing in like a fool without knowing where my targets are. I simply cannot do that anymore. I may also alter his rifle, swapping out the Advanced Scope (+10% to hit) for and extended magazine (+1 round in the clip).

Next, we'll need a medic. Two candidates, both Corporals with exactly the same stats. I'm choosing Cpr Ross Price, as Cpl Yuan was on the last mission and she deserves a break (*cough* bad luck *cough*). Price will be packing the Medkit (obviously), but I'm not sure what to do with his rifle. A decision for tomorrow then.

I'm leaning on bringing both of my ranked Rangers on this one (both Sgt). One is specialized in melee combat ("Paladin") and the other is more suited towards stealth ("Buzzsaw"), but the close-quarters nature of the mission favours shotguns (which they both pack), and again, I'll figure out specific weapon tweaks before I go live.

The final space will be either my junior Grenadier or a second (also junior) Sharpshooter. Grenades are useful, but so is getting experience on the lower ranks. A deep bench can win games, as they say in basketball.

The only other thing to remember before I leave for the mission is to assign a "personal combat sim", another new extra in this game... Think of a nicotine patch that can have different (and permanent!) boosts associated with them... in this case, I've got one that can increase a soldier's dodge stat. That might've been helpful last mission during the bug-out phase... or I might've lost that useful piece of kit too, so now is not the time for spilled milk.

What it *is* time for, good people, is sleep. We'll catch up soon, and hopefully have some better news in the after-action report.
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