When Good Missions Go Bad (Xenonauts)

Xenonauts is a strategic / tactical hybrid in the style of the original XCOM, even down to the plot (1980s ill-prepared humanity gets invaded by vastly superior alien force and struggles to rally a defence). It’s more like the original than the Firaxis remake. More depth, more strategy, better AI but not so glitzy and LOADs more unforgiving (esp on hardcore).

Which is demonstrated by the ignoble end to my last mission (and game,as it turned out).

The war had started well. I had eight troopers that had gone through a few missions and xenonautshad gotten a few points better in accuracy, toughness, bravery and time-units (how much they can do per round). I’d dropped all my money on research and gotten some armour and weapons partially based on alien tech (laser weapons and alien alloy-based armour). The last breakthrough had given me some facts on alien biology plus some tech centred on capturing a live alien (nerve-gas based grenades and rocket ammo) .

The mission was fairly straight-forward; a couple of my aircraft had knocked a UFO out of the sky and I’d decided to send the squad in to clear out the wreckage (rather than air-strike it and sacrifice the precious, precious loot). It was the first time we’d encountered this class of UFO (it was a bit bigger than the others) and it’d given my pilots a hard time. This hopefully meant we’d get some nice technology.  The troops were apparently hoping for an expresso-maker and body-armour.

We’d cleared the entire map after my drop-ship landed with one casualty (a victim of a reptilian sniper lurking in the 3rd floor of a town building. Not sure if it was a book repository). The aliens were all the reptilian type we’d encountered before and so we had a decent lead on their strengths and weaknesses from our research division; strong, tough (they regenerate all damage every round) and fast but with with poor eyesight (and accuracy) through their eyes made them immune to our smoke-grenades.

Finally, we’d located the ship (it was quite scarily big) and I’d set my guys up around the main door ready for a breach. Short-range guys at the front (assaults with shotguns plus my heavy weapons dudette), then riflemen arranged to get full arcs of fire into the ship and finally my snipers at the back. The heavy-weapons lass had reloaded with a nerve gas rocket and my riflemen were kitted out with a mix of flashbangs and nerve-gas grenades. They were all crouched to maximise accuracy and were ready to go.

Pretty tense. :S

I opened the door…. and nothing. A large entry-way with three doors at the end. I’d made a lot of noise with the breach so I thought whatever was in there would come running, so I ended the turn with plenty of TUs on my guys for overwatch. I’d already captured a live lizardman so I thought if we shot whatever was in the ship, no loss. Better safe than sorry, right?

Hidden movement; loads of noises from inside the ship and around the level (I hoped all those doors I could hear opening outside were from civilian population and local town cops ). Then bursting in from the right-hand door was a HUGE reptilian holding a plasma gun I’d not seen before.

Ok, he looks scary but he’s only one guy, right? He parks himself behind an alien alloy terminal (hard to destroy) and cuts loose. My armoured guys at the front are reduced to a red goo and two of the others are suppressed (TUs halved for the next round). Oh dear.

Not just a flesh wound
My troops

Now comes the first of several fatal mistakes. Instead of the correct reaction (“EEK! What the hell is that! KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT”) I got greedy (“Woah! Imagine what that guy could tell us if we cap him! And that gun! Yummy! All right men; low level weapons only. And no grenades!”). My HW guy cuts lose with the gas rocket, blankets the entire room…. and the huge alien is immune.

Hmm. Ok, plan B. Hail of small-arms fire please! Except he’s behind good cover (50% block rate, can’t be destroyed with the guns I have) AND he regenerates most of his HPs every round so the few wounds we dish out close up immediately.

He cuts lose again with another insta-kill so I pile in with my two assaults. It’s a right squeeze but they get close enough to reduce the impact of cover….. AND they both miss. Damn. Another fatality this turn then but that means my snipers should get a decent shot (they have high accuracy so the cover has a reduced effect). They may as well take their shots as well even if they can’t kill him as damage reduces the morale of the enemy.

At that point my elite sniper who’s crouched at the back of my team promptly shoots the woman in front of him in the back. She keels over gurgling while “Hawkeye” stares at his gun in horror. At least I hope thats what he did in the 2 seconds before Rambo the Reptillian vaporises him.

Unfortunately Rambo doesn’t stop after saving us the trouble of a court martial but promptly threw a grenade (which I’d never seen the enemy do before). And this wasn’t a namby-pamby high-explosive fragmentation device like we had. Oh no. This produced a massive explosion (some deaths) followed by what can only be described as a hurricane of fire (assaults at the front incinerated). Line of Sight was now blocked by the flames and smouldering squaddies and things were Looking Pretty Damn Bad.

Plan’s A and B sucked. Lets go back the tried and trusted and blow him the hell up. My HW trooper reloaded with Hi-Ex and moved slightly to the left to get some cover (she’s already on half-health). Cover might give her time for a second shot and there was plenty of room to fire the rocket round the edge of the doorway.

No, actually it appears there wasn’t. The point-blank detonation kills another trooper and wounds the HW guy so she’s bleeding out (damage per round) and has 1 health left. End turn and the myopic heavy-weapons specialist keels over.

At this point I have one sniper left who’s literally standing surrounded by the charred and eviscerated remains of her companions; I’m fairly surprised she’d not already run screaming for the chopper (panic happens quite a bit on my missions; I can’t understand why).

When you take a shot in Xenonauts you can spend additional Time Units to boost accuracy at the cost of doing less that turn; snap shooting allow three or more shots, normal shots get two and an aimed shot normally only allows the one (at the best accuracy). So the current problem is that while an aimed shot has the best chance of hitting Rambo past his cover, it also means he’ll just regenerate the damage.

So; time to take a risk. She goes for two normal shots (~40% chance to hit) and miracle of miracles she drills him twice; the alien death machine drops like a sack of bricks. My celebrations were cut short by the fact the mission didn’t end. That meant there were nasties still lurking in the ship and without more troopers to focus them down success was unlikely.

But Super-Sniper turned on Super-Sayan Uber Mode; bursting through the second UFO door she performed a successful double-tap on the next Lizard-Man against all odds, and then drops another two with her last gas grenade in the last room.

Mission over! Though I’d probably disagree with the mission statement summarising it as a ‘success’. The lone survivor would probably also disagree as she had to go home and wash her team-mates blood, eyeballs and viscera from her smouldering uniform.

A pyrrhic victory though. The loss of all my experienced troops AND their equipment meant the aliens were able to treat the earth as a large “Eat As Much As You Like” buffet as the governments collapsed.

Time for attempt number three.

2 Replies to “When Good Missions Go Bad (Xenonauts)”

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