Mistakes have been made, and casualties taken. But so far we've given a little better than we've gotten, and the only question now is whether this next mission will prove as profitable as everyone seems to hope it will be...
Let's take a moment to re-introduce the squad.
Squaddie Alejandro Gonzalez, Heavy from Argentina.
Squaddie Brad Mason, Assault from the USA, equipped with a S.C.O.P.E. to improve aiming
Squaddie Emily Wallace. Support from the USA, equipped with a Medkit to heal an ally
Squaddie Emeko Dambuza, Sniper from South Africa, also equipped with a S.C.O.P.E.
Gonzalez is still resting in the infirmary for a few more days, so Rookie Ronen Malach, an Israeli, joins the team for this mission.
The mission in question? We've just managed to shoot down a UFO over Germany, and we're going to see what we can find in the wreckage.
It's immediately interesting from a tactical point of view. Every other mission so far has been in an urban environment, offering plenty of hidey-holes and elevated areas. This UFO came down in a forest, and although the approach is littered with destroyed trees, bushes and debris, it feels a lot more open. The squad immediately starts to gel pretty well. As a Sniper, SQ.Dambuza cannot move and fire in the same turn, and so the group quickly falls into a very natural movement of 'leapfrogging', with a couple of them on Overwatch, and a couple advancing each turn. Contact is made with three Sectoids, with two more joining the fray as Mason advances forward with his shotgun.
It's a relatively smooth operation. Mason takes a nasty hit, but Wallace is on hand to patch him up with the Medkit, and RK.Malach and SQ.Dambuza efficiently and cleanly pick off one X-Ray after another (X-Ray has caught on as the 'soldier lingo' for the hostiles).
One Sectoid had retreated back into the cover of the UFO wreckage, pulling into the left-hand side (as we viewed it from our approach). Fearing a trap, I ordered Malach to check out the right-hand side. He, of course, didn't enter the vehicle, but just came close enough to be sure that there was no secondary alien unit sneaking around to flank us. Meanwhile, the remaining three advanced forward, trying to panic the last alien into making an unwise decision, or just cornering him.
A quick word here about Overwatch. I already explained previously, Overwatch allows a soldier to 'save' his firing, and to fire on the enemy's turn if an enemy moves within this soldier's range. I want to emphasize that this literally means a 'move' in the mechanical sense. A unit can stay in cover and fire, and even though the animation usually involves popping out from cover and firing before hiding again, this won't trigger Overwatch. As such, despite keeping Wallace on Overwatch every turn to prevent the Sectoid from running out and shooting Mason right in the face, it was still able to fire from its position without triggering any counter-attack. Another quick tactical word about ammunition. Your soldiers have infinite ammo for their main weapons (explosive weapons, like grenades and rocket launchers, do have limited ammo per mission), however the weapons do not have infinite clips. As such, they do have to take an action to reload every so often, which counts as their 'fire' action for the turn (so they can't then fire or go into overwatch afterwards). A good commander needs to keep an eye on this, and make sure that the squad is staggering their reloads.
Dambuza was taking shots at the Sectoid with his Sniper rifle, and also took a nasty wound himself, while Mason advanced forward to bring his shotgun to bear. And then...then Mason ducked behind a fallen tree right on the UFO's doorstep. All of a sudden, this triggers some sort of bizarre energy creature to materialize, seemingly out of the UFO's power source. This creature immediately dashes to the right-hand hole in the UFO, undoubtedly preparing to attack or flank me on the next turn.
I'm still in control, but this understandably makes me a little nervous. Advancing Mason into the UFO to shoot the Sectoid at close range is no longer an option, as it would expose his back to an easy shot from the energy creature. Similarly, there's precious little cover on the right side of the ship, and all of it that shields me from the energy creature would leave my back open to a shot from the Sectoid. I need to eliminate one of them from their semi-entrenched positions.
First things first, Malach is now in a spot that is threatened by the new attacker, and so I order him to pull right back. If the energy creature decides to come out into the open, it could easily threaten Wallace and Dambuza's position, but they should be safe for this turn. I compromise by moving Wallace to a safer spot, and putting her in Overwatch. She should be able to hit the energy creature if it tries to advance on Dambuza, and she can also still see the Sectoid's hidey-hole too. Dambuza and Mason both unload into the Sectoid, but it ducks out of sight once again to avoid being hit.
The energy creature is apparently a pretty damn good shot, and gets a solid wound scored on Malach without moving from its position. Next turn, and I have Malach pull further away, both in distance and trying to get more obstructions in the way to block line of sight.
It's all for naught, as the energy creature gets in a second good hit, and Malach goes down. He was a promising rookie that could easily have carved out a permanent spot on the squad...but that's just the way things go here.
Mason, Dambuza and the Sectoid have all continued to trade shots back and forth with zero effective gain in either direction. But the other creature has something to say about that, and leans around the corner to deliver a killing shot on Dambuza... and almost makes it. Dambuza is down, but he's not dead. He's bleeding out, and in a few turns, he'll be gone for good. I can stabilize him by using a medkit on him (this won't get him back on his feet, but it will at least mean he survives the mission). Unfortunately, I only brought a single medkit with me, and Wallace already used it earlier on Mason. Perhaps driven over the edge by her impotence to save him, Emily Wallace begins panicking, firing off a frantic burst of ineffective bullets in the killer's direction, before collapsing behind her cover and wimpering.
It's time for All-American Hero Brad Mason to save the day.
BAM! Shotgun to the Sectoid and it goes down. The energy creature tries a shot on Wallace, to no effect.
Mason wheels around the UFO and ducks into cover, reloading his shotgun as he does so. Two turns left so save Dambuza.
The creature leans out to try and and take down this impudent human that's charging at it, but it just can't get a clear shot.
Mason leaps over the debris, blasts the creature in the chest and ducks down behind a log. It's still standing, and although it has no face, there's definitely something like fear in its movements as it tries another shot and Brad Mason just swats the lasers aside with his hand.
It's all on this. If we can secure the area this turn, then we can save Dambuza. If we can't, then Dambuza gasps his last.
Brad Mason saunters out of cover. He's nonchalant as he strides forward, lifts his shotgun and blasts that X-ray in the head.
Mission fucking accomplished.
There's grieving for Malach, of course. But casualties are expected, and it's almost overridden by the sheer elation that Dambuza was saved. The Council and Vahlen are ecstatic too. I secured the UFO wreckage with no use of explosives, and also no stray bullets hitting delicate equipment, so we've recovered a lot of alien tech and materials.
For a brief moment, things seem to be going well.
It's too bad that the commander is about to screw it up.