Starting Your Shadowy Paramilitary Organization

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Hello neighbor!

A Handy Cut-Out Guide
Fighting back the alien hordes is a demanding and stressful job. Many new Commanders feel overwhelmed by the task, and lose sight of the many tasks vital to the smooth operation of a covert agency of the secret world government. With this in mind, your paymasters have prepared this brochure to help you get a handle on the day-to-day operations of your clandestine private war.

Happy hunting!

Day One: Hit the Ground Running

  1. Start on the low difficulty level. If this is your first time managing a secret agency, please be realistic about your expectations. While many commanders may think themselves superhumans from day one, in reality it takes a great deal of experience to defend the earth. Save the hard work for later forays.
  2. Place Your Base. The thing to keep in mind when placing your first base is that you want to protect the countries that are supplying your funding. Worrying about the fate of sub-Saharan Africa is a noble thing, but Sub-Saharan Africa is not going to pay your bills, at least not until someone strikes oil there. With this in mind, you want to place your first base to protect as much of your funding as possible. So, you're looking to put your base where its sensors can cover as much of your sponsorship as possible. The USA is usually your single largest contributor, while Europe contains a large collection of sponsors as well.
  3. Become Acquainted with your facilities. Upon receiving control of your secret underground headquarters (be sure to store the deed in a safe place!), you should take a tour of the facilities and get a feel for your new lair. Note the possible points of entry – particularly the hangars and the access lift – which have been scattered to every corner of the base, allowing an invader to enter from every side and kill your security forces without the hassle of defensive choke-points or bottlenecks. This is what happens when you contract to the lowest bidder.
    • Want to tighten up security some? Look into Overhauling The Starter Base.
    • In addition, you will almost certainly require other facilities. A large radar system is always useful, as is alien containment for housing anything you bring back from the crash site that's still breathing.
  4. Get your staff working. You have a sparkling-new research facility and a crew of scientists, freshly recruited from some supervillain's doomsday project. Get them working immediately, and keep them working! Research facilities are too important to lie idle. As soon as you have new designs to produce, keep your engineers busy as well. If you don't need equipment of your own, have them manufacture items for sale on the international black market.
    • Remember, scientists and engineers are lazy and indolent. Without constant direction on what to research and manufacture, they will sit idle, running up the bandwidth bill and playing idiotic video games.
    • For research, laser weapons aren't a bad place to start. All reports indicate that the aliens have heavy firepower at their disposal, and it might be useful to even the odds some. In addition, there is always a high demand for armaments, especially if you don't ask questions about the buyers. Manufacture these high-tech wonders for your own use and for sale!
      • Stop reading newspapers. I'm sure those reports about the rebels being scorched with some new weapon are unfounded. The Generalissimo is too benevolent a dictator to use lasers on his own people.
  5. Review your troops. All prospective X-COM soldiers undergo rigorous physical and psychological examinations. Get a handle on their strengths and weaknesses. You might recruit a few more if their weaknesses are too numerous.
    • the turnover rate among agency security squads tends to be... high. Keep some reinforcements on hand.
    • Bravery is a key stat here. Be very suspicious of anyone who scored under 30 on the psych test.
    • Also note the physical strength of your troops. Mark out those who will be strong enough to carry heavy weapons (strength 35+), and those who will have trouble with the standard kit (lower than 30).
    • As time goes on, you'll be able to be more selective in your troop reviews. As you become more familiar with the recruitment process, and you have experienced troops to lead the rookies, adjust your recruiting practices to taste. Some Commanders prefer to use marginal troops as human shields; others carefully select and train each trooper they have.
  6. Organize Your Arsenal. As an anonymous leader of a conspiratorial organization, a great variety of military hardware is available to you. Many quartermasters will try to buy one of everything for their armory, but the smart commander will standardize his weapons layout for easy logistical management.
    • Early in the game, experimentation with various weapons is a good thing, but before long you should settle on a standard set of personal firearms and heavy weapons.
    • Of course, there is something to be said for having a couple of non-standard weapons lying around for those odd contingencies.
    • You should also give thought to how much non-weapon equipment your troops need. There is limited room on a troop transport, and not everyone has to carry everything.
    • We let Boris pick out your new arsenal. Bless his heart, he's thorough when it comes to armor-piercing rounds, but you might want to look into alternatives. That man would buy armor-piercing smoke grenades if they were available. Particularly, you might want some stun rods if you want to drag aliens back alive for questioning.
    • Boris also forgets that not everyone has IR vision implants. You might want some electro-flares to light up the battlefield at night.
    • Remember to keep sufficient ammunition on hand for your weapons. This is especially important for HWP's, whose failsafes will not even permit them to deploy without a full consignment of ammunition.

Your First Month: Bodybag Bonanza

Running a private war against an alien horde is expensive both in money and men. Expect your medbay and morgue to be well used. Fortunately, the nice men in the expensive suits can provide you with an endless line of new recruits, provided you've got the cash. However, you'll see your startup money quickly used up. Here's how to keep a handle on your rapidly-spreading responsibilities.

  1. Keep enough troops in your Skyranger. What with all the injuries and fatalities, it's easy to lose track of your roster until your troop transport has landed and, whoops, there's only three troops in it! Keep a sufficient number of troops on hand to replace your casualties, and make sure you assign them to transport as the current troops are injured or lost. It can be a good habit to get into to go to the Equip Craft screen for your Skyranger every time you are about to send it out.
  2. Keep your arsenal supplied. There's few things more frustrating than carrying a weapon into battle that you don't have enough clips for. Don't let it happen to you!
  3. Sell alien artifacts. It's not certain who would pay $20,000 for a bullet-ridden alien corpse, and you're probably happier not knowing. However, it is an indispensable way to supplement your income.
    • A UFO that lands of its own accord will yield significantly more useful artifacts than one which has crash-landed after air combat. When possible, try having your Skyranger shadow an alien craft and wait for it to land. Of course, it is always preferable to shoot it down rather than let it escape - Once grounded in this way, it'll be quite some time before it can take off again, so you can wait until daylight before sending in your ground forces.
    • The science division would like you to keep at least one example of each type of item for research purposes.
      • You can sell all examples of unneeded items after they've been researched, though.
    • Keeping around a large selection of research specimens may require more general stores capacity.
    • We suggest you don't sell elerium. Strongly suggest.
  4. Keep your R&D department busy. If they don't have work assigned to them, your scientists will just sit around and collect salaries. You remember salaries, right? Their pay will be drawn out of the common fund at the beginning of each month.
  5. Keep your engineers occupied. As always, if you don't need anything in particular, have them produce items to sell.
    • Be careful what you produce for the market. Not all alien technology sells profitably, particularly those which require exotic materials to build. When in doubt, stick with tried-and-true Terran designs for selling.
  6. Expand your research and manufacturing departments. Through the wonders of modern management, the number of tasks you can accomplish increases linearly with the number of personnel on hand-- no worries of overhead, scalability or management levels here!
    • Recruit more scientists to get research projects completed more quickly. Alien technology in particular will require extra knowledge to master. Many important projects will take an average of 400-500 man days to complete, and quite a few key ones will take twice as much effort, so your initial team of 10 will be vastly inadequate in keeping up without assistance.
    • Hire more engineers. Once you have new technology to manufacture for sale, the engineering staff can more than pay for itself, and in fact can become a major source of revenue.
  7. Always respond to alien terror missions. When the aliens invade a major city, you can't afford to ignore it. The bad press generated by neglecting such an event is too big a penalty to your international standing and, more importantly, your funding. Even if you have to retreat once you get there, you can't afford not to go.
    • To make things a little easier: Equip both Interceptors with Avalanche missiles, and use both to intercept and shoot down the terror ship (if you can detect it). Use ,cautious attack' to avoid return fire. However, switch to ,aggressive' JUST BEFORE the third (and final) set of missiles is fired, and switch to ,disengage' directly after that. If you don't, these last missiles will not hit their target. Refer to Interceptions: Last Shot Always Misses.

The Battlescape: Once More Into The Breach

Before you know it, the time will come to send your Skyranger out on a mission, laden with troops and implements of destruction. While battlefield tactics can and do fill a book (See: the Field Manual), we'll focus on a few handy tips for the new commander.

  1. Disperse from the LZ quickly, and stay dispersed. having units concentrated in the landing zone invites concentrated fire from the aliens.
    • Any tight concentration of troops is an open target for an alien explosive device.
    • Of course, troops can only exit the transport so quickly. It's better to have a tight formation of troops within the cover of your Skyranger than mulling about just outside the exit ramp.
    • Seek cover as quickly as possible. The ramp and landing gear of the transport can provide cover for one or two units at a time.
  2. Stay coordinated. It's the natural tendency of a rookie soldier to strike out on his own. However, the wise commander keeps his squad's movements coordinated for mutual support.
  3. Clear The Terrain. Upon arrival at a landing site, you can expect several of the aliens to be dug into whatever cover they can find. Don't be afraid to use heavy firepower to remove their cover from them. Those farmhouses are probably insured, anyway.
    • The exception here is on terror missions. While urban renewal is a valid tactic, you must be careful about killing civilians.
    • Again, Boris's Armor-piercing weapon selection isn't ideal here. You may want to invest in more high-explosive and incendiary ammunition than he provided. The Tank/Rocket Launcher is especially useful for ground-clearing.
    • When entering any building or structure, make a new door rather than charging into the existing one. Entering through a a newly-made hole in a wall makes it difficult for the enemy to ambush you.
    • The one problem with this tactic is the UFO itself. More research will be required before we find a way to punch through the internal bulkheads, much less the external heat shielding, of alien craft. Until then, the only way to enter a UFO is through the existing hatches, where the enemy will be expecting us. Casualties can be expected on any close quarters battle/breaching mission of this sort.
  4. Light Up. If only there was some sort of night... vision... device available to the military. There isn't, though, so on any night mission you'll have to illuminate the battlefield with more primitive means. Electro-flares are cheap, and can be picked up and tossed again. For more dramatic results, use incendiary ammunition to light large areas of the map ablaze.
    • Alien forces, if not actually capable of seeing at night, are very adept at night-fighting techniques.
  5. Specialize: Scouts and snipers. Instead of having one troop scouting, then stopping to shoot the first thing he sees, have your scout spot targets for shooters further behind the lines. This keeps your shooters safe, while leaving your scouts enough time to find cover.
    • Make use each troop's strengths. If you have a soldier with good reactions, use him for a scout. A unit with good firing accuracy should be a sniper. Troops with high strength should carry heavy weapons.
    • HWPs have high mobility but mediocre firing accuracy. They make for good scouts, but poor snipers.
  6. A friendly reminder from Boris: Please remember not to use high explosive or incendiary rounds in close quarters, you could put someone's eyes out. This is the reason for preferring the armor-piercing weapons.
  7. Adapt. As you gain battle experience, you can and should adjust your battle tactics to suit your style.

Looking Ahead: Settling In For the Long War

Congratulations! You've made it to February. As winter turns into spring, you'll discover new methods of fighting, new technology to help you win, and a new moral flexibility within yourself. As you optimize your agency for the long job ahead of you, here are some things to consider:

  1. Expand. When you have an extra couple million at your disposal, it's time to begin looking at building new bases. However wisely you placed your first base, there are still many sponsors outside of its surveillance bubble. Europe and North America are your two major funding centers, but Southeast Asia shouldn't be ignored either. After that, you'll want to analyze your funding report and consider how best to serve your paymasters.
    • Not every base needs to be the command HQ. Keeping all those engineers, assault squads and scientists in one base gets claustrophobic. Specialization is both a good idea and a good way to save money. You probably won't need assault squads everywhere, but radar surveillance and, to a lesser degree, interception are always useful. If your research or manufacturing arms grow too large, you could farm those out as well.
    • Farming out large personnel sections, like R&D or Manufacturing, to separate bases allows them to expand to a larger size over the long term.
    • Whatever its specialization, though, you still need to defend it. Any base is vulnerable to retaliation by the aliens. Make sure it's got a living quarters, some general stores, and a garrison of troops and heavy weapons platforms on hand to protect it.
    • Remember to design each base to make it easy to defend. Look into Base Layout Strategy
  2. Be aware of what you depend on. If you equip your troops with Superior Alien Military™ weapons, make sure that you have a sufficient stock of ammunition and exotic material to keep them supplied. If your stocks are running low, keep a few lasers on hand as fall-backs. These wonders of Terran technology require no ammunition, and are handy to use in those lean times.
  3. Keep an eye on your finances. It's easy to run into the red while beating back the alien menace. However, if you go too far into debt for too long, your paymasters may run out of patience with you.
    • Keep in mind that personnel salaries, base upkeep costs and craft leasing fees are due at the beginning of every month, at the same time as your sponsors pay you.
    • If these costs are greater than your sponsors' payments, you should keep the difference (or more) on hand at the end of the month to cover the remainder of the bills.

As you gain experience running your clandestine war, you will certainly have more questions and need more information. Please look through our handy Knowledge Base and Field Manual as required.

Good Luck!

See Also

Glossary | Research | Equipment
Tricks, Tips and Hints
Warlord's Foolproof Plan -- Another starter guide. Much more detail, with some spoilers.
Overviews of Aliens