Part 1: Operation Blinding Shroud
Operation Blinding Shroud
This is the first mission the game gives us, and is a tutorial mission for the new resource introduced in Enemy Within, Meld. It also provides a lot of Shen and Valhen dialog that is thankfully removed from the LP via the Reduced Beginner Dialog. Typically this is useful information for first time players, but play enough and their intrusions into the gameplay become very annoying.
Topics discussed in this video:
Starting Base Location
I think a few people will be surprised that I picked North America. I understand entirely so let me lay out my reasoning behind the five options.
North America: Air & Space grants 50% off airplane cost and maintenance and 50% off aircraft weapon build costs. It doesn't strike many as a very powerful bonus, and maybe rightfully so. The bonus is nice, but not all together very powerful. At the start of the game it saves 20 X-Com bitcoins per month and the savings will only increase as you need to maintain more and more aircraft to cover the council countries. That means this bonus will save you 10 X-Com bitcoins per month, per plane. This adds up over time to be a lot of money. More so if you choose to stock each continent with two fighters. Redundancy is safety, but it is also expensive.
The primary reason I chose this as my base is the starting position it offers. The USA is the single largest funding country in the game. That combined with the cheaper monthly expenses Air & Space allow means an easier time in the first months having money to go around. You get the most funding, and least upkeep for the first month or two of the game. That said, and as I stated in the video, covering Africa with satellites is high on my early priorities.
Europe: Expert Knowledge grants a 50% reduction in the cost of building and maintaining workshops and laboratories. Guava and I feel this is the weakest bonus. Workshops and labs are nice, and having them cheap is better, but it pales in comparison to the raw usefulness of the other continent bonuses such as Africa or Asia. Even compared to North America it is weak. Air & Space will always be useful and will always be saving you money while Expert Knowledge requires building labs and workshops, something that isn't always a necessity.
Asia: Future Combat grants a 50% reduction to the cost of projects in the Foundry and the Officer Training School. This is a clear cut powerful bonus. The things you can buy in the OTS and the Foundry can have profound effects on how well you can combat the alien threat. While powerful, the OTS and Foundry projects are also very expensive and this bonus is very nice to have to cut into the step costs that you will encounter. This bonus technically has situational usefulness, its use is dependent on you investing a lot of money into the OTS and Foundry. Honestly though there isn't a real game plan that does not involve buying multiple projects from both the OTS or Foundry. It is a given that any player will spend there money there and Future Combat eases the weight of the costs and allows you to get potentially game changing upgrades that much faster.
South America: We Have Ways allows for instantaneous research of autopsies and interrogations. This isn't a particularly powerful bonus in my opinion, though Guava will offer different thoughts on the matter. Being able to shave a handful days off your research times is nice. It's a good ability that has a clearly measurable value. Not that I've calculated the research time of all the autopsies and interrogations to give you that exact number. As a starting location though, it is rather poor. The value here comes in that South America only takes two satellites to cover and thus gain the ability. It's worth covering South America with satellites at any point in the game when you are not using satellites to put out fires else where.
Africa: All In provides a boost of 30% to all monthly X-Com funding. This is the most powerful ability, hands down. The amount of money this can generate through the course of the game is massive. There is simply no debate needed than to look at it and understand of course you'd want 30% more money. As a starting point though, it is a little rough. Starting in Nigeria means you only earn 100 X-Com bitcoins to start with. It might still be worth starting here if you fell less than confident about managing global panic and still occasionally allow countries to withdraw from X-Com. I would not fault anyone for picking Africa first and foremost every time they played.
Meld will be explained fully once it is researched in the lab. For now all that is needed to know is that most missions come with two meld canisters somewhere on the map. Their locations are not immediately known, though the game does give the player a sort of 'Meld Sense' to keep the player moving in the right direction. All meld canisters except for the first one in the tutorial are on time limits. If you take too long the canisters will self destruct and the resource will be lost forever. Meld canisters are also fragile, and are very easily destroyed if you shot near them, use them for cover, or shoot at an enemy using one for cover. Each canister is worth 10 meld, which isn't much on its own. As we will see later serious application of Meld can cost 100 units easily.
To safely secure Meld canisters simply move a soldier to the canister and click on it. They work the same way the power nodes for the time bombs do with the important exception that Enemy Within does not allow you to collect a Meld canister if the soldier attempting to recover it has taken their entire turn. While collecting Meld is a free action it can not be done for example after a soldier has dashed to it.
For lack of a better term, I mean control of a situation. Have an enemy in your sights with some action that is guaranteed to kill them. Have a sniper with 100% chance to hit, a grenade throw, or a rocket ready to fire. Once you are safe and certain you can kill your target try to find a way to kill it using the least expensive resource possible.
A simple example of this is having a Sectoid in cover who has a good or flanking shot on one of your soldiers. You don't want your soldier to die, so you need the Sectoid dead by the end of your turn. A easy way to establish control in this case would be to bring a soldier into range to throw a grenade at the Sectoid as a guaranteed kill. But before you throw that grenade see what else you can do. Maybe your other soldiers have 50% chance shots on the Sectoid. Go ahead and take those shots first if there are no other threats left. Ammo is replenishable but grenades are not. If you are lucky you may shoot and kill the Sectoid, saving you a grenade for later use in the mission. If you aren't lucky, well at least you tried and you still save your soldier.
Understanding this concept of control is a vital element to owning the flow of battle. When you can manage your troops and their resources like this you can save vital skills or resources for the most grave threats. This of course relies on being able to read the situation, assess the danger level, and make a judgement about the appropriate response, such as 'if I use X now, will I be more or less likely to need it later in the mission'. Putting this all together in your head and keeping track of things can be tricky but it's a great skill to have.