XCOM Build Order (5 Sats strat, Impossible)
If you are hooked on XCOM, you’ve probably invested quite a few hours tweaking your build order in March.
Playing on IMPOSSIBLE difficulty, March is the make or break month, when every star needs to align just right. While it is possible to survive and later thrive with just one additional satellite in March, if you manage to pull off 5 sats in March, you have pretty much won the strategic battle.
So what’s the ideal build order for March?
1) I chose Asia for starting location because the bonus is nice (cheap soldier upgrades) and I don’t plan to sat it first. I’d rather leave the smaller continents in “panic”, then sat them. Asia and Europe are more difficult to manage through sats, so you’ll need to do missions there.
2) March 3: you need to start your workshop ($130). You’ll also need to select Engineers whenever you have an abduction mission (+4).
3) March 11: you need to have 4 sats building (4x$79). Note: always build sats one by one (as opposed to batches), because this way you can cancel 1 if the money is short later in the month.
Money is short, so luck comes in. There will be a small UFO around March 7th. Ignore it and shoot down the medium one they’ll send after it. I got lucky to shoot the medium one on March 11. Sell the alien navigation, computers, everything.
4) March 17: you need to start your satellite link building ($150), which means you needed to place your power plant on March 11/12 ($60).
5) Late March: there will be a council mission. Ideally you want engineers and/or money to help with next month’s expenses.
6) March 31st: Launch your 4 sats, targeting countries in red. You won’t be able to cover any continents, yet. That will happen in April.
In April, you need to continue building workshops, power plants, satellites (by April 10, you need 5!), and sat links (by April 16, you need 2). It is possible to do it and it’s not as much luck-based as the medium UFO you need by March 21.
You’ll probably need to sell everything, which means your research will suffer. You will be fighting aliens in basic armor and with basic weapons all the way through May.
Shoot for light plasma research, start it after the mission you see (and capture) your first muton. Which means you’ll need to set aside a few Sectoids to get done with Xeno Biology and the Alien Containment.
A few bits of tactical advice. I’m assuming you are aware of most of the points about fighting aliens on impossible difficulty as better AI, increased HP, etc.
- First mission is tough because you only have assault rifles. Use grenades to soften up the Sectoids, then finish them off. You need to rotate your troops, so all four get a promotion.
- First abduction mission could be tougher, so use blocks as much as possible. Second turn in general there will be movement from the AI, so plan your position and overwatch carefully. Your sniper needs to get to squad sights (lvl2 skill), so give him a few kills. It’s important not to lose soldiers, so use explosives as you see fit.
- Mind merge is great because you can kill the Sectoid that initiated it and get two kills in the process. Easy with run-and-gun (see below)
- Thin men need to be killed on sight. Rockets, double grenades, whatever it takes. Weapon fragments are important but you are only researching plasma and that’s month 3 anyway. Winning tactical battles and getting promotions is more important.
- UFO missions - obviously, don’t use explosives unless you are blowing up walls. A damaged computer can cost you 35 credits and make it impossible for you to get 5 sats in March.
- May missions – Mutons will start to appear, make sure you’ve researched Xeno biology, so you can stun the first Muton you see. This will give you light plasma rifle (item) and allow you to start the research on it with a bonus to plasma. That means not selling 4 Sectoid corpses, sell everything else, even elerium and alloys.
- Muton charge – some missions in late May/early June will pit you against 6-9 Mutons. If you are lucky, you could be armed with light plasma (so get more assault/support guys in battles). You will need to fight a retreating battle, the AI is pretty easy to fool to follow you. Just show them someone in full cover (hunker down), whenever you’d like to see them moving in any particular direction.
- Rockets and grenades are your friend here, not only for softening, but more importantly, to blow their cover. Mutons are 10 HP and your assault rifles (even snipers) will do 2-3 damage, unless they crit. So a fire rocket or 2 grenades are the perfect opening.
- Learn the spawn positions on maps. It looks like sometimes the AI will spawn a group only when you get close to a spawn point. So scout with the guy that’s part of “hit team” and not with the lone sniper on the roof. You might get a nasty surprise.
- Go assault heavy or sniper heavy. Hybrid teams can work out but generally require more research. Assault teams work well if you are losing people – run and gun is assault’s first and most useful skill (after you get New Guy at the Foundry). So if you have problems keeping your people alive, go assault heavy and send those squaddies to the front line. If you enjoy a more defensive play, get multiple snipers but keep in mind that plasma sniper is not coming before June, because first you need to get a regular plasma rifle, research it, and then research plasma sniper. In the meantime, your assault squaddie swill be running with light plasma, running and gunnning.
- Assault tank – I don’t mean the SHIV, it’s too much research. I mean if you get 3 assaults, it might be worthwhile to get one of them to spec as a tank (+defense). Use him to lure enemies with a full cover + hunker down. It should get him close to 100 defense, though he still won’t dodge grenades!
- Cheese alert: new rookies you hire will come at 6 HP, as opposed to your original ones. Some consider it a cheesy tactic, however, you have little choice here as you’ll need to recruit new people. The other “cheese” I found is that thin men when dropped will only come at 3HP. You can wait just next to their future location with an Arc Thrower ready. Or you can Overwatch a rookie (2 tiles away not to get poisoned).
P.S. If you are done with XCOM and you are looking for an online tactical game, check out Riftforge. Yes, it has a fantasy flavor but when it comes to tactics, it really doesn’t matter if you are running from a blood call Muton or an enraged Caldarian (walrus-like brutes).