XCOM: Diary Of A Wimpy Squad #6 – Deacon Gray

Terribly sorry, but this chunk of the diary might be a wee bit boring. Not a lot really happens, you see. That speaks to something that tends to happen in XCOM – the early game (at Classic difficulty and above) is characterised by regular and sudden losses because your squad are weak, scaredy and under-equipped, but if you can keep a core team alive for a little while you get over the hump and able to cope better in the field. (Until the psychic aliens arrive, at least). That’s basically where my RPS-themed squad has gotten to now- we’re on the (vital and satisfying) busywork, as we prepare to take the fight to enemy somewhat.

Think of this as one of those mid-season episodes in a TV drama where they’re just killing time until the big denouements and cliffhangers at the end of the series. Like that rubbish episode of Battlestar Galactica with the black market, or something.

Interception over Japan!

Our ship’s shot down because we only have the default Avalanche missiles – we’ve been prioritising soldiers too much. Won’t somebody think of the spaceships?

Grmmph. Oh well, let’s get some work done in the meantime. I had planned to go straight to Plasma weapons but it’s becoming a grind for resources and research times are insane. So, we get Laser Sniper and Scatter Gun researched as an interim.

Abduction mission in China!

– We’re on a train! We make most of train explode, kill a lot of Thin Men and get out of there with no casualties. That’s more like it.

Shortly after returning home, our scientists come up with Heavy Lasers and Laser Cannons, but we can’t build any yet due to a crippling alloy shortage.

Meanwhile, an engineering binge gets a load more satilletes into the air, which calms down half the world as well as improving coverage, but we’ve still got three nations on the verge of dropping out of funding. heavy laser and laser cannon researched, but I can only build 1 of the former as out of alloys. Lame!

A Council mission!

We’re forced to take the one with the lousiest reward due to panic levels. We could have had a Captain Sniper, but nooooo, $200 because some country’s got its knickers in a twist.

Another textbook mission at least, and a couple of successful stuns means we have some Light Plasma Rifles and Plasma Pistols in the bank ready for once we’ve researched them.

Back at base, we’re breaking the back of R&D – skeleton suits for our only Sniper, the gallant ‘Zulu’ Meer, enter the fray, we finally get a Foundry up to start developing upgrades to existing kit (and, eventually, tanks) and the Outsider Shard is researched, meaning an alien base invasion looms. Soon. Ish.

Another textbook mission sees Meer make Colonel and Ellison make Captain. Getting cocky now.

Terror Mission in Argentina!

We see the challenge ramp up again, after a few suspiciously safe encounters. Specifically, the deadly ovals of deadly death known by the cheerfully cheesy name of Cyberdiscs.

These robo-plates take their best shot at murdering everyone, but they hadn’t reckoned on one thing – Quintin ‘Moose’ Smith really, really hates robots. So much so that he has a 100% damage boost again them. Take that, circular robot!

Even though we’re doing very well, Adam ‘DJ’ Smith decides to have a panic for no reason. This is almost as pitiful as like when the real Adam Smith tripped over a cat and broke his jaw. Actually I’m not sure I’m allowed to mention that he did that. Oops.

A sudden poisoning of both Smiths by Thin Man phlegm, followed by a car exploding over the quaking Smith. A and squaddie Caldwell, puts us in a tight spot. Making this a bad time for a second Cyberdisc to float onto the scene. Followed by three Mutons. Erk.

Then we have a frankly miraculous turn:

A. Smith’s rapidfire lands two Shotgun blasts at 50% odds. Caldwell, out of ammo in his rifle, all but dead and still being poisoned, finishes the disc off with a pistol shot. Q.smith’s rocket takes out two of the Mutons in one feel, noisy swoop. The third Muton sensibly identifies Caldwell as the most vulnerable, takes aim… and misses. Next turn, Caldwell drags his half-dead ass over and stuns it. That’s the Belfast spirit, lad.

It’s not over yet – two more Thin Men arrive on the scene, but fortunately we’ve had a turn to relax and reload. A reaction shot from Meer takes out one, then the other five members of the team fire as one. The poor, lizardy sod doesn’t stand a chance.

And we go home. It’s promotions for Q.Smith and B.Caldwell, who becomes Sergeant Brendan ‘Spitfire’ Caldwell. Spitfire! Now that’s a name.

And Spitfire’s Muton stun also means we can start researching Plasma Rifles. The full fat kind, not the poxy Light variant.

Finally, our reward – a new Support soldier. When RPS needed support from across the Atlantic the most, one man came along. And so it happens again: welcome to the team, Captain Nathan ‘Deacon’ Grayson.

I’ve never met Nathan in real life and thus aren’t entirely sure what he looks like, so I’m going to give him a cool helmet. And make him sand coloured as he’s from Texas.


  1. Spinoza says:

    I’ve got feeling Nathan will become a legend.

  2. Gothnak says:

    I’ve been playing on Normal – Non Ironman (yeah, a wimp, i know) but as yet haven’t reloaded once, so self imposed Iron Man. Anyway, i’m about the same point in the career and so far have lost a total of 1 soldier, and that was in the 2nd tutorial mission.

    All my soldiers are now the top rank majors… It’s not been without dangerous moments of course, i’ve had up to 6 guys injured at the same time and there was a particularly memorable mission when the only soldiers i had were 4 snipers and 2 heavies, but i haven’t found anything too hard yet. I also keep running out of resources to carry on researching which is the only thing slowing me down.

    Still, great game…

    In other news i started playing the new Jagged Alliance last month and that compares pretty well tbh…

    • iucounu says:

      If you’ve played a TBS before, Normal is a nice relaxing stroll through the mechanics of the game. Classic is where the actual challenge of the game is. I *think*; I’m basically a Walker-type gamer in the sense that I don’t really want to be horribly pounded into a panicky mess by the game, and I haven’t quite made the emotional commitment to taking it on for real yet.

      • mouton says:

        In general players experienced in a given genre should play on higher difficulties. After years and years of gaming, normal is almost always boring.

        The only exception is if the game is somehow broken, or the difficulty affects something you are not interested in. For example, I played Mirror’s Edge on Easy, because I was more interested in running and jumping and found the combat a nuisance.

      • Danarchist says:

        I started out on Normal and think when I get home I am going to move the difficulty up to classic. I am old and not exactly a min maxer so I figured it would be the best setting for me. Thing is I discovered the real “hump” you have to get over is your first sets of decent armor. After that the game starts getting a bit too easy so I really hope I can bump the difficulty up a bit.

      • GhostBoy says:

        Perhaps as a counter-reaction to the sentiment that the “real” game is on Classic, I’ve decided to play through on Easy, non-Ironman, despite being pretty sure I could manage classic as well. I play most games for story, and definitely fall on the escapism end of the Walker-Rossignol scale. I do not play to experience frustration. I limit my save scumming to blatantly idiotic moves on my part, or the few cases when the move interface gets confused and decides to send my guys over a railing rather than take cover behind it (z-levels inside UFOs is pretty fiddly work).

        Even when I am all but assured that I can shoot down anything I see (using the Aim, Dodge and Track consumables) and my squad is likely to survive all missions, the game can still keep me on my toes. It does not take the all-but-assured destruction of half my squad to go “Oh crap” when I trigger two packs of 3 Mutons and realise my guys are all standing neatly within grenade range of each other.

        The ramp up in alien type escalation is a bit too agressive for my liking. Even when stunning live aliens is quite easy to survive, I very nearly missed capturing a Sectoid because I agressively pursued getting full sattelite coverage and better armor, forgetting to get the few techs needed to make an Arc Projector along the way. That was just two months into the game, and I’ve not seen the little buggers since, so it really was my last chance.

        Still, it manages to be a very entertaining game even when my guys stay mostly alive, and those I have lost I can safely say were due to my own stupidity (or happened on Abductor UFOs…. that central room past the two entry loading bays is hell to find cover in, without exposing yourself to grenades)

  3. Captain Joyless says:

    $200 is almost always the best reward you can take.

    The main challenge in this game is getting all the satellites up in the air in time. The only things that requires is money.

    • Filden says:

      Not the only thing. The bottleneck is engineers.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        Which you can acquire by spending money on Workshops…

        • Lacero says:

          up to a point, then you need more engineers than workshops give you to get the next workshop built.

          • Captain Joyless says:

            Yes, but by that point you should have enough satellites up that you are getting plenty of free engineers on a monthly basis, and have picked up a few from random council mission rewards where you had no choice in the matter at all.

        • Filden says:

          [bad info deleted]

          In any event, the best reward is usually the one you get from keeping panic levels down where it’s most critical to do so, or occasionally a good Assault officer in the early game when they’re fairly rare.

          All else being equal, I agree, money is best. A lot depends on starting location as to how tight money is.

          • Carbonated Dan says:

            the most beneficial research bonuses are not from scientists but the 50% speed bonuses that interrogating the right alien provides [early game key interrogations: floaters halve carapace armour research time, mutons halve plasma weapons’ research time]

            since scientists will always be able to finish a project regardless of numbers, but engineers are a hard cap on certain techs, engineers are strictly more valuable

            labs only deliver a research speed bonus, which, at 20% in the early game, will be less than the almost 50% bonus that 4 new scientists will deliver

            contrasted with workshops – which make all items cheaper, are necessary to produce certain techs and can be linked to provide refunds on all construction (I always build a square of workshops asap: a 28% rebate is game changing) – labs and scientists really are much less of a priority

            so yeah, $200 are worth more than four engineers (unless you need to hit an engi cap to build the next workshop) or any number of scientists, because $200 builds satellites and workshops

            on classic however, I only prioritise $200 rewards in the first month, after that I just manage panic and let the rewards fall as they may

          • Filden says:

            In retrospect, I agree. I think I was influenced by how easy my last classic /iron man run seemed, in which I built two adjacent labs for a 50% research bonus early on, which let me get through the plasma techs really quickly, (without depending on risky captures for credits) and get alloy cannon and fighter jet plasma weapons really quickly, which in turn let me shoot down anything I encountered, whereas before I usually lost at least one UFO before I teched up. And I didn’t miss beam weapons at all, where previously there was always a tight patch where shotguns and sniper rifles start to feel underpowered.

            I see the case for workshops, but I’ve just never found either labs or workshops particularity necessary to build. I never build more than 1 workshop, and usually have full sat coverage by month 4. The game gives you lots of free engineers, and keeps on giving them to you. I rarely expand more than a couple slots into the third row.

          • Soon says:

            Oddly. I found satellites weren’t that necessary either, really. I had five for most of my campaign (classic). I lost Mexico before I even got the first new one up, but didn’t lose any other countries.

            Labs and workshops were the last thing I built because I didn’t have much else to do. I never even reached enough engineers to build archangel armour before finishing it. I wasn’t deliberately rushing through the campaign, but everything seemed to just fall that way for me.

          • Filden says:

            Oh, I think satellites are necessary. I just don’t think workshop spam is necessary to get them at a decent rate. Again though, it depends on what you’re prioritizing, and what your starting position is.

            I wouldn’t have lost any countries at all my last playthrough, had I not accidentally clicked on “scan for activity” instead of a mission destination button, which caused an auto-fail and an unnecessary panic burst.

            I had to take some time away from the game after that.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      The best reward is almost always whichever reward best manages your panic. I usually take engineers early on because they are in fact scarcer than money (despite your claims to the contrary).

      • Nihilist says:

        I always tryto have some spare satellites left. When I get the 1out of 3 missions I don’t have nations which drop out then. But it’s essential then to have successful missions or you lack money and materials.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        Early on you should be spending all your money on satellites and workshops. Any other play is suboptimal, and on Impossible (and to a lesser extent, Classic) suboptimal play is quite likely to lose. Even optimal play can fall prey to a disadvantageous distribution of panic.

  4. Filden says:

    Re:”Poxy Light Variant”

    I love them. I’d use them for longer if I thought I could. The light plasma rifles are awesome for much of mid game and early game.The slight accuracy buff really seems to make a difference in how often my supports and rookies hit, or perhaps it only really makes a difference in how many shots I take, because the odds look better. They’re far better than default assault rifles in any event, which is the first thing you need to upgrade, because starting shotguns (with rapid fire) and sniper rifles are effective for much longer. But the starting assault rifles are frequently unable to kill early enemies in a single hit. After that I usually only need enough alloys/fragments to build 1 sniper rifle, and 2 alloy cannons to tide me over. Standard Plas rifles and Heavy Plas are easy (“possible”, that is) to capture. I’ll avoid researching things which use precious alloys or weapon fragments until I get the necessary gear, armor and weapon tech.

  5. Andy_Panthro says:

    “a crippling alloy shortage.”

    Always a problem, making it hard to kit out people with better weapons, armour and stuff.

    Not had much of chance to play this week (and when I did it crashed mid-mission), so I’m hoping to try the suggestions from the last diary entry this weekend (skip lasers for light plasma captures, and get more satellites up!).

    For what it’s worth, I always try and get the soldier reward, it just seems better to have a higher rank soldier than a new recruit.

  6. AmateurScience says:

    Really can’t get enough of this at the moment. But I wish the early game lasted a bit longer (I miss sectoids): I hope an enterprising modder can tone down the panic increase and stretch out the period where you’re taking on mostly abductions and small scout ships, the game feels like it ramps way too quickly for me.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      I believe the “Second Wave” options that were dug up recently has an option to make the game longer in general.

      • Carbonated Dan says:

        second wave options were found in demo code and were available to mod on launch day

        this mod enables second wave options, spawns an interceptable UFO for all missions and removes crit and hit bonuses on classic difficulty, it really is excellent and should heal many of the hurts percieved by x-com veterans
        link to forums.2kgames.com

        • Soon says:

          Oh, that sounds great. The frequency of pop-up missions compared to interceptions felt like the wrong way around to me.

        • f1x says:

          Awesome, I will try that

          The crit/aim bonuses for the aliens are fucking pain in classic,
          (on the other hand, luck factor…., having 3 soldiers on full cover miss an alien with 65% chance, then the alien crits one of my soldiers for 15 damage)

    • Lemming says:

      These are the mods doing the rounds at the moment:

      link to xcom.nexusmods.com

  7. solymer89 says:

    Something to mention, and I’m not sure if others picked up on this or that I’m 100% correct in saying…
    The difficulty ramps up with your own progression. I did some cursory readings on the base assault mission and found some folks mentioning to hit this as early as possible as the longer you let it sit the tougher your enemies become. I believe this may be due to your advancements being met stride for stride with the alien advancements.

    Again, I’m not 100% sure this is the case but I will say that I am on my fourth play through, having attempted the base mission only once. In that play through I had a couple of nations already drop out and was all over with my research and base facilities so I started a new one. The farthest I got in to the base was the first group of three Chrysallids(sp?) which proceeded to literally eat my squad. On the next play through I focused and got Archangel armor relatively quickly, but more importantly, before I research any of the story driven research projects. In a UFO landing mission I then began to come across Armor plated Mutons. I’ve never seen these guys before and at the time I had not unlocked the base assault mission which leads me to believe that the farther along your research and development process is, the farther along the alien research and development process is.

    If this is the case, then one can conceivably “game” the system in that you can avoid researching certain things in order to make sure the aliens don’t start fielding their tougher soldiers. The only reason I’m not sure if this is the case is because I have yet to complete the game and see the order and timing in which the new, tougher enemies emerge.

    • Arathain says:

      You could do this in the original X-COM, I think. If I remember, researching certain things would cause the enemies start fielding the tougher types.

      I’m not sure how it works here, though. It may just be based on time, rather than specific research goals.

    • iucounu says:

      The longer you wait to do the base assault, the tougher the set of enemies you’ll face will be. I don’t know if it’s related to time, or your progression along the tech tree, but I did it very early on Normal and it wasn’t too hard. If I’d waited, apparently it would have started throwing elites and things at me.

      • mouton says:

        I waited a while and I got Muton Elites, Chrysalids and Heavy Floaters during base assault. Hardly a problem, really.

        I suppose Chryssalids are guaranteed anyway, so unless you can handle them well, there is no point going there.

        • Mysteana says:

          I waited a very long time (Hello Titan armour for all, Archangel for the heavy, sniper was still on Skeleton, plasma weapons and alloy cannons) before I did the base assault. I had Elite Mutons (first time seeing them), Heavy Floaters, and Sectopods waiting for me. The Chrysalids were laughably tame compared to those other tough buggers because I sent in my absolute top A team in. 5 Colonels and a Major. It would have been 6 colonels had my first colonel, a sniper, not met a very unfortunate and stupid end in a terror mission… Farewell ‘Deadeye’. Many a Muton had fallen to your impeccable aim with a laser sniper rifle and your protégée was useless until he picked up the Squad Sight bonus.

          • running fungus says:

            Yeah that’s it. I had Muton Elites and Heavy Floaters showing up in regular missions before I did the base, and my squad was handling them fine with their level of tech (plasma rifles and titan armor), so it’s not like adding some chrysalids was suddenly going to pose a major threat.

      • Lemming says:

        The main problem with this, however, is if you’ve spent your precious alloys before building the skeleton key. It’s usually 2-3 more missions before another UFO lands and you get the opportunity to get the required amount again.

        Alloys are way too essential in the early game to be so lacking.

    • Ultra-Humanite says:

      I’ve tried waiting a very long time before assaulting the base and it’s not terribly difficult.

    • f1x says:

      I had a similar experience,
      First playthrough I did mostly the **IMPORTANT** researchs, then I was getting pwned by chrysallids because they 1hit normal armor soldiers and it takes forever to down them with normal guns, I didnt get to see muttons I think

      Second playthrough (the first and the second in classic) I balanced between story researchs and weaponry/armor, this way I got muttons maybe even before chrysallids, I’m not sure tho, and the alien progression went faster, a bit weird tho because I got some council mission later on when I already had full plasma = against a map thin mans (which were hell in the first playthorugh aswell), and they were a joke vs plasma

      On the other hand, second playthrough I was a bit too late with Psy Labs and had problems downing ufos because of lame ships/not upgraded

  8. Tiax says:

    “Like that rubbish episode of Battlestar Galactica with the black market, or something.”

    Amen to that.

    • S Jay says:


      (my rubbish contribution about the rubbish pseudo-noir/mafia Battlestar Galactica episode).

    • bodydomelight says:

      The episode with Bill Duke in, yeah?

      I like that one.

      I’m happy being a unique and beautiful snowflake in this.

    • BubbaNZ says:

      Thought the boxing one was the worst gratuitous filler, myself.

  9. vakthoth says:

    I finished my regular classic playthrough a couple days ago, then started my third attempt at classic ironman. It’s going pretty well, tactically — I’ve only lost two soldiers thus far, got laser rifles and pistols, got my first major, and got a squad of six. I was hoping to have a shot at the “Ain’t No Cavalry Comin'” achievement, but, although three of my initial four are still alive, they’ve each had to miss at least one mission (the missions are coming very rapidly this time); still, “still alive” is a big improvement over my last ironman attempt. I’m also being quicker with the stuns than I ever have before; already got a sectoid and an outsider (though I don’t think I’m in a good enough position, equipment-wise, to assault the alien base yet). Also, for some reason, four of the seven soldiers I’ve deployed thus far have been English — three of my starters (including the dead one), and a sniper I won from an abduction mission.

    Sadly, the strategery isn’t nearly as smooth — I had a wave of abductions come right at the end of last month and wound up losing Germany (and thus my chance to get that lab & workshop bonus) and Canada (I already had the N. Am. bonus, so less harm done there). I encountered a large UFO and lost an interceptor and got a second one severely damaged (same problem you had, still got Avalanches… I would’ve upgraded to the phoenix cannon, but I honestly find that to be a worse weapon). Got a bunch of other countries at panic level 4 now, though I’ve thankfully got an uplink and a couple satellites in the works… however, my base layout is such that I won’t be able to get all my satellites finished with my normal square layout of two uplinks and two nexuses (i.e., there was a steam pocket in the way so a thermo generator is where one of the nexuses would’ve gone). And finally I’ve still only got 7 or 9 scientists on staff (I’ve opted for too many “new recruit” rewards), and about a dozen research projects backlogged. Things don’t look particularly good right now, overall, but my squad is solid, so I’m hoping I can magically turn things around.

  10. PikaBot says:

    I HATE when soldiers panic next to a burning car. Lost three rookies that way last night. You really have to watch where you take cover against grenadine enemies.

  11. tkioz says:

    Classic is bollocks crushingly hard… AND I LOVE IT.

    I also love reading these articles, keep it up!

  12. Joshua Northey says:

    Anyone else finding the end game “world statistics” it gives completely bonkers? I just beat Classic Ironman with 3 losses and it tells me the “world” is 3 as well? Is that an average? A mode? I assume it cannot be the best, surely someone has done it with no losses (I didn’t lose a man after the third month).

    It also had implausible figures for many other things (some of the dates and number of scientists particularly). And zero failed interceptions?

    Anyway I like the Civ style end screen, but I found the data there very confusing.

    • vakthoth says:

      I’ve beaten the game twice and only gotten a bunch of dashes in the “world” column each time. But I would assume it’s an average.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        I suspect they cannot actually be averages because there is no way the average number of aborted interceptions or lost missions is 0.0. I mean I never lost a mission on that particular game, but surely some people do. And I always have a few aborted interceptions

  13. Metonymy says:

    Ive finally gotten around to playing this. It’s definitely good. Faithful to the original, the combat wasn’t ruined by the changes, and keeps most of the original non-tactical gameplay.

    As for the bad, it’s not scary enough, and interacting with human character models within your base seems hilariously out of place. Why waste all those resources making the human character models? What’s wrong with a picture of a workshop, and some generic workers? The actor for the engineer sounds like his brain is having trouble interpreting the words he’s reading in time for his mouth to speak them. The female scientist sounds like she can’t decide whether to read the sentences of her script or just stare into space. The mission briefing guy is amazing at pretending to be just as stupid. “Wait….you mean….capture the aliens….wow I never even thought of such an amazing idea, lets say some more obvious things about it!”

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  15. daniangione says:

    Hey Alec, I’m loving your diary series. It reminds me a lot of the Let’s Play Archive stuff and some other game diaries around. It kind of inspired to try making my own diary but since I was finishing Classic the moment I found out about your diary I kind of got crazy and decided to make an Impossible Ironman one lol. Anyway, if anyone want to check it out, I started it today and it probably won’t last long since I’m going to lose quite soon I suppose :P the link is http://xcomimpossible.tumblr.com, good luck with your game :)

  16. StormTec says:

    Been meaning to ask: How have you managed to take such close-up screenshots of things e.g. the dead Muton on the ground? I can’t seem to get it to zoom that far in…