I enjoy XCOM: Enemy Unknown and I enjoy the friendships I have built here on GIO. So, it seemed natural to put the two together and write about it. What better way than to ask some members to let me use their gamertags in a game of XCOM on normal difficulty with the Ironman setting turned on. We could see who would rise to the occasion and who would fall to Murphy's Law of XCOM. 

What follows in this blog, and many blogs to come, are the actual stories of those missions, as they were played by me, foolish mistakes and all. If you enjoy the series and would like to see yourself as part of the team, let me know. Also, the adventures can be followed in real-time, though heavily watered down on twitter via @brianseavey and #XCOMGIO. Thus begins Episode I:

 Operation Sacred Smoke
London, United Kingdom
Undisclosed Shipping Yard
Date: Redacted

The air was tense aboard the Skyranger drop ship as it approached the London drop zone. The four rookie soldiers, Jack Gardner, Chris Mrkvicka, Saint, and Ace13, sat in relative silence. They had trained day in and day out with the XCOM division for months, not altogether believing alien contact would be anything worse than Spielberg's E.T. seeking a Speak and Spell to phone home and now here they were, on their way to stop alien abductions at a shipping yard in London.

Jack, seeking to cut the tension, muttered a largely unknown Anchorman quip about liking Skyrangers. Saint and Ace both maintained expressionless faces and went back to thinking about the mission at hand while Chris expressed his general contempt for the Skyranger craft. The ship's red signal light kicked on, two minutes until the ship touched down at the designated drop zone. Each soldier stood, silently checking one another's gear in machine-like fashion and taking up their assigned tactical positions on each side of the exit ramp. Seconds felt like hours to the newly christened XCOM unit until the drop ship finally touched down, dropping the exit ramp.

The soldiers moved quickly down the ramp and took up low-profile positions at the entrance to the shipping yard while the Skyranger made a clean break from the combat zone, moving a few kilometers away until the pilots received the all clear signal.

Rookies Saint and Mrkvicka scanned the area to the north and west while Gardner and Ace13 kept their eyes to the north and east, monitoring a small structure where the enemy could easily hide. The yard appeared empty aside from the strewn about shipping containers, crates and piles of lumber. Ace13 took the initiative and pressed forward towards the structure, taking cover behind a crate.

While moving, Ace spotted two sectopod class aliens inside the structure. The sectopods quickly moved out of Ace's line of sight, most likely into cover behind the building. Knowing further action would be futile, Ace set herself in an overwatch stance, awaiting any further sign of movement so she cover the advance of the rest of the team.

The enemy knew they were there and knew their positions, it was time to let the alien units decide the flow of combat. Mrkvicka, Garder, and Saint all took positions to the west, opposite Ace's position and take up overwatch stances, forming an effective firing line should any enemies give away their positions.

The Team Takes Cover Positions in Operation Sacred Smoke

One of the aliens to the east, near the structure moved into the open, trying to gain a vantage point on the squad. The sectopod never knew what hit it. All four rookies opened fire on the cover-seeking sectopod with Saint's barrage connecting with the alien's oversized head, killing it instantly with a critical wound.

Hearing the barrage of gunfire on the eastern edge of the map, two additional sectoids took cover behind a series of unseen crates to the west of the heroes while the second enemy on the eastern edge of the map remained hidden in its own unseen cover.

Knowing Commander Noobtubin8er was watching, the team decided its tactics, splitting into two separate fire teams with Chris and Saint moving west while Jack and Ace13 tackled the remaining target to the east.

Taking an extreme risk, Jack dashed to the top of a large shipping container giving him a vantage point of the entire field of battle but leaving him entirely without cover. In doing so, he uncovered the two sectoids to the west, one a commander, and the sectoid to the east, hidden inside the structure. Calling out his contacts, Jack made his team aware of the situation, knowing there was a good chance he would be shot in the process.

Knowing Jack's predicament and the fact that Saint and Chris were needed to prevent the other two sectoids from flanking the team, Ace13 attempted to get into a firing position on the eastern sectoid, but it was impossible without dashing which would leave her without an opportunity to open fire. Fate and luck had to be tempted. The enemy sectoid fired, and by a small miracle missed Jacked entirely. Using his advantageous height, Jack returned fire on the sectoid, scoring a hit and kill.

Meanwhile, to the west, Chris took cover behind a series of crates and laid down covering fire against a sectoid he had no chance of hitting, giving Saint an opportunity to take cover behind a crate further west and a chance to flank the enemy. The lead sectoid responded to this by using his mind control abilities on the sectoid soldier, who fired upon Chris, missing by mere inches.

Mrkvicka lays down cover fire for Saint in Operation Sacred Smoke 

Recognizing the weakness of his cover and poor shooting position, Chris pressed forward, taking cover behind a solid ramp to the north. This position gave him a perfect line of sight on the sectoid commander and a 51% chance to hit. Taking the shot, Chris scored two kills due to the commander's connection to the soldier. Seeing the targets fall, Saint turned his attention back east, just in time to see Jack kill the final target.

Mrkvicka preparing to kill the Sectoid Commander

With four targets down and the sensors showing a clear battlefield, the team made a sweep for intel on the aliens and called back in the Skyranger returning to the underground XCOM base of operations in an undisclosed European location.

Upon their arrival, the team was met my lead scientist Dr. Vahlen who immediately took the bodies and alien artifacts without a word. Commander Noobtubin8er entered the hanger, spreading congratulations to the team and promoting Rookies Mrkvicka, Saint, and Gardner to the rank of Squaddie and assigning them to the roles of Assault, Heavy, and Sniper respectively.