YOU REALLY WANNA SAVE THOSE CRAZY SWEDES, HUH?
This time out the aliens have been causing a rumpus in rural Norway, so the squad hits the road in the sky ranger and I wonder what unpleasant delights the game has in store this time.
As a cut scene triggers and my troops rush down the loading ramp of the landed ranger, I realise I haven’t equipped anyone with a med-kit. Several minutes later, the cat descends warily from the ceiling after an explosive stream of profanity rudely awakened her from her mid-evening nap.
Once an air of composure has returned to the living room, I survey the scene. It’s night-time in a humid overgrown jungle environment that I’m not sure would sit well in Norway but my geography is awful so let’s ignore that for the moment, shall we?
I manoeuvre my heavily armed miscreants north-east along a stream using the banks and nearby trees for cover, quietly excited by the splashing noises and abundance of slightly over-sized wildlife (it’s a fantastic touch that breathes life into a map but birds are roughly the size of turkeys and squirrels look like wild cats so I can’t help but chuckle).
It’s not long before I happen across our first customers: a couple of Advent troopers and a stun lancer. The stun lancers adhere to the same reboot Robocop cosplay philosophy and also carry magnetic rifles but what sets them apart from their trooper brethren is their faster movement, higher HP and stun batons. The batons can outright kill an unlucky low-ranking soldier in one hit but, as the name suggests, are more likely to stun or disorient with the option to render unconscious as well. Not the best idea to spill their pint, then.
Due to their superior speed, I’m keen to dispatch the lancer first and luckily, Farisani has a good percentage on him. Unluckily, she misses (the cat resumes her ceiling-mounted position) and I’m left with the coiffed flat-top wonder, Guile, as her back-up. Surprisingly, his ridiculous bolt caster shish-kebabs the lancer in one hit and I’m left with a new-found reverence for this dubiously designed weapon.
Kim sidles up to one of the troopers, making short work of him with his new axes and even new recruit Del ‘Funky Squad’ Tasker (I know, I’m sorry) gets in on the action with an overwatch kill on the last trooper during the AI turn.
Advancing deeper into the Norwegian jungle (nope, that just isn’t sitting well at all), the squad discover some more Advent buddies positioned on an advantageous rocky outcropping above them. An Advent officer accompanied by two troopers, a lancer and a sectoid run for cover as the fog of war unveils them and I hunker everyone down into whatever cover is available, placing Farisani and Kim on overwatch.
YOUR MOVE, CREEP
As the AI phase begins the stun lancer bounds down from the outcropping towards my troops and triggers Farisani’s overwatch, who misses again. The cat is spared another crash course in inventive expletives when I realise that the lancer doesn’t have enough movement units to make it to any of the squad and takes cover behind a tree to the right of Kim and Farisani instead.
The sectoid makes a play next, attempting mind-control (presumably) on Kim who shrugs it off to my great surprise. The officer and one of the troopers move to the left and wide of the squad, staying behind cover and ending their turn in overwatch to add a little flanking spice to the mix. The remaining trooper holds position behind cover and takes a shot at Funky Squad, thankfully missing.
The squad are in a rough spear tip formation with two soldiers along each ‘edge’ giving them good field of fire over 180 degrees around them which makes the Advent troops flanking manoeuvre ineffective but their overwatch does pin everyone down.
Falling back on old habits, I select Guile and switch to his grenade, lobbing it at the close-knit trooper and officer. The frag atomises the trooper and a fair amount of forest, destroying the officer’s cover and injuring him in the process. Effectively out in the open, Funky Squad has good hit percentage on the officer and is able to finish him off with his assault rifle.
As the shredded corpse of the officer cartwheels into the undergrowth, it generously deposits some unspecified loot with a three round self-destruct countdown. First thing’s first though.
Farisani’s once favourable reputation in tatters, I’m unwilling to take the change on a reasonable shot at the lancer. Her percentage on the sectoid and trooper is low given their height and cover advantage but thankfully her grenade launcher can reach them and doesn’t have to roll to hit. One explosion later and the gaming world is minus a trooper and the sectoid has fifty percent health.
Moving to Kim, I’m left with somewhat of a conundrum. He has poor aim on the sectoid and the nearby lancer but can use his axes to attack the latter, however that won’t kill it. Another consideration is the defence of the squad: with the exception of Kim, everyone has ended their turn without the ability to act during the AI phase. I give in to nagging doubt and set him on overwatch.
The sectoid re-animates the trooper corpse adjacent to it and sends it shambling down the hill towards Guile and Funky Squad. Taking a lumbering swipe at Guile, the creature removes half of his health but he’s still standing, if somewhat punch-drunk. The lancer closes on Kim, activating his overwatch attack which scores three damage, taking a swing at him with his baton and miraculously missing.
Wasting little time on strategy, I move Funky Squad past the zombie, closer to the outcropping and take a frankly optimistic shot at the sectoid on the outcropping, fully prepared to move Guile into back-up when it misses but the shot connects and both the sectoid and zombie bite the dust.
A short distance away, Farisani has the lancer flanked and uses her cannon to reduce him to one health. Hoping it will be enough to push him to the next rank, Kim brings the encounter to a close with his sword and, just like that, the mission ends.
The post-battle briefing is predictably bleak for Guile, giving him a ten day hospital visit, but he is also promoted to grenadier which takes the edge off. Funky Squad makes sniper, a promotion that will help as Lebedeva convalesces. Farisani sticks at Corporal but Kim joins her, gaining the ‘blademaster’ ability (how could you not with that name?!) confers extra aim points and damage when using the sword. Or axes in this case.
A further bonus is the loot dropped by the Advent officer which was automatically collected because the mission ended successfully within its countdown – an assault rifle stock that gives one damage on missed shots. I’ll decide who gets that later.
Returning to the world map, I accelerate time enough to finish excavation on the ruined chamber on the Avenger and re-assign the same engineer to construct the guerrilla tactics facility.
Starting to feel like home. If a floating alien fortress can be called that.