Some considerations on starting country, how to get engineers, what to build and which classes to prioritize.
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I’m a big fan of starting in Mexico with the Wealthy Benefactor bonus. Its my favorite starting country, and I wrote a post all about it: Long War – Benefactor is the Best.
But there are many other starting countries that will add some variety to the game. Unfortunately, some countries have a great bonus (Australia, Russia) but are painfully far from their continent HQ, and that will sometimes mean a UFO is able to escape in March. North America is the best starting continent, but any continent is manageable. Below I discuss a few of the most popular starting countries, grouping them into rough categories.
Mexico – Benefactor
China – Xenological Remedies
US – Special Warfare School
Benefactor gives the least amount of money but you get it immediately. Xenological Remedies provides the most money, but it is spread out, and back loaded. Special Warfare School is somewhere in between the other two in both the amount, and the timing.
Bit of Everything:
France – Quay d’Orsay
Quay d’Orsay is completely unique. It is the only bonus that helps you acquire more Scientists and Engineers, and the only one that helps countries defend against panic. More requests also means you will have more money, be able to launch satellites sooner, and get research done faster. By midgame all these strategic benefits will have trickled down to the tactical level. It really does help with everything. Quay d’Orsay is powerful and also very different from every other starting bonus, and should be tried at least once.
Canada – Cadre
Japan – Ghost in the Machine
Brazil – Jungle Scouts
Cadre is an incredibly strong tactical bonus. It gives you four Corporals to chaperone your rookies through March. They will make surviving that swarming abduction much easier. With Cadre it is very possible to acquire squad size I before April, and Large Landed UFOs in March become much more feasible, if you are into that sort of thing.
Ghost in the Machine is popular with those who love SHIVs, and what’s not to love about SHIVs? If you plan to play the whole game with a robot buddy, this a great bonus, otherwise it falls off in value.
Jungle Scouts becomes useless when you upgrade to Carapace armor, but before then your soldiers get an extra equipment slot which means you will probably never run out of smoke, or grenades, and be able to give most of your soldiers plating as well.
Tactical Bonuses are a great choices when you first start playing, and are struggling at the tactical level. but at some point it may be a good idea to throw away these crutches, and stand on your own.
At the start of a campaign, engineers are more important than scientists because they unlock additional Satellite Uplinks, and getting enough engineers to build an Uplink in May is far from guaranteed. There are only a few things you can do to get more engineers.
Launch Satellites to fulfill requests; and over +Engineer countries
Quay d’Orsay starting bonus
Research Alien Weaponry first
I like to start in Mexico and rush the Air Superiority bonus by launching satellites in Canada and the US. But this prevents me from chasing satellite council requests. If Canada and the US don’t request satellites, the situation with engineers is usually pretty tense, and I find myself praying for Carlock or Van Doorn. All the while I am getting spammed with requests for Sectoids, unlocked by Xenobiology.
Once upon a time, I accidentally selected Alien Weaponry as my first research project, instead of Xenobiology, and found that this is actually a pretty good option; it opens up the council request for weapon fragments which give engineer rewards. I received numerous requests for fragments in late March and early April and had more than enough engineers for another Uplink by the start of May. On the downside, these requests devoured my fragment reserves leaving me without enough for Beam Weapons. Instead I chose Improved Body Armor to research in mid April. Not good.
Researching Alien Weaponry first is one way to diminish the odds of being short of engineers in May. Its not the most efficient strategy for gaining additional engineers, but there aren’t many ways to do that, and this is the only one that is compatible with starting in North America and rushing Air Superiority.
Its not clear to me what the best strategy is for the first three technologies. What is clear, is that it is mostly about council requests. Scopes and Alloy Plating are nice, but the trade-offs involved in Scientist vs. Engineer rewards are huge.
After the 3 council request techs, I go Beam Weapons and Adv. Beam Weapons, mostly for the Laser Cannons which make interceptors far better at everything but especially at killing Raiders. Lasers are a big upgrade at the tactical level as well, but not necessarily better than armor.
Carapace is my next step. This usually takes me till mid June to finish, unless I’ve been delayed for some reason.
Xenobiology or Alien Weaponry
Alien Weaponry or Xenobiology
Adv. Beam Weapons
Improved Body Armor
Adv. Body Armor
brianowens.tv is dirt poor at the start and that means we must prioritize carefully. Here are my basic guidelines through June:
Satellites and Uplinks till I can’t build more.
Interceptors. Laser Cannons. When in doubt, build more.
Modest outlays to help on the battlefield: SHIVs, scopes, alloy plating, etc.
All the tactical gear: armor, weapons, foundry upgrades, etc.
I prioritize satellite expansion, and winning the air game above everything else. Those efforts, if successful, will provide brianowens.tv with more funds, and make other goals easier to achieve. But it is costly. Often I will need 20+ Interceptors in June if I want to challenge the bombing runs, which I often like to do. Its very common for the brianowens.tv project to be running deficits over $100 a month under my leadership.
I rush OTS upgrades. These are powerful and required to level up officers. Other than that, I only make a few purchases that will help my soldiers win battles. Gear is expensive, so I usually have only 1 scope for awhile, and 2 alloy plating. I like to have 2 SHIVs as they get damaged regularly.
A priority in late April/May is to build a Workshop to save money and resources. Its very important to get a Workshop or two built, as well as the Repair Bay and Foundry, before the major purchases (lasers, carapace) that are needed in the midgame.
Once I have some workshops, I will go on a shopping spree for all the armor and weapons and foundry upgrades that will help on the battlefield. Typically I buy only 3 Phalanx and 6 Carapace, as they are expensive and eventually will have MECs.
Some classes are better in the early game, and so you will want to choose those classes to help you win missions right away. And some classes are important to start leveling sooner as you want to make them your officers, or because they get very powerful once leveled up. Here is a very rough ranking of my class priorities and how many of each class I am going to want by about mid-April. Of course I am not going to get what I want, but here is what I like to aim for.
Rocketeer (3): Strongest class in the early game. Important to level them up to corporal rank.Scout (4): Solid class in the early game, and they get very powerful when leveled up to TSGT rank.Engineer (4): Very good in the early game. Always useful. Not important to level up.Gunner (3): Second most powerful class in the early game, but doesn’t need to be leveled up to be effective.Sniper (3): Good in the early game. Very important to level up.Assault (3): Very important on some missions. Want a couple CCS Assaults for Terror Mission and Newfoundland in April. Need an assault with steadfast to be the operative by May. These soldiers don”t need high levels to be effective.Medic (2): Not very good in the early game. Very important to level up a single medic to TSGT for large UFOs. If you are going to use Medic officers, then maybe prioritize this class much higher.
Infantry (2): All around good soldier. Solid back up officers. Can be replaced by SHIVs, other shooters.