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Here's the situation, right now.

  • At this very minute, my researchers are interrogating the Outsider I just captured.

  • My troops are walking around in a mismash of Carapace and entry level body armor. A couple have laser rifles. Everyone else has standard starting gear.

  • There are exactly two satellites orbiting the earth right now, and my interceptors haven't been upgraded...ever.

  • Japan has already left the project, and China and India aren't far behind. I have $20 remaining and 18 days left this month. I haven't sold anything on the gray market - I don't know yet what's important for research.

  • I'm playing on Normal. It's May 25.

I don't know anything about XCOM. Have I fallen deeply behind the research/finance curve here or is this normal at this point in the game?

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What month are you in? –  Raven Dreamer Aug 24 '13 at 0:13
    
@RavenDreamer - Edited. It's May 25. –  Steve V. Aug 24 '13 at 0:21
    
So month 3. Game starts in March I believe? –  Raven Dreamer Aug 24 '13 at 0:24
    
I forget, but that sounds reasonable. –  Steve V. Aug 24 '13 at 0:26
3  
Then no, you sound about right for a first time player! Don't get discouraged! –  Raven Dreamer Aug 24 '13 at 0:28
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3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Overall this is pretty reasonable for a first time player, and you shouldn't feel the need to restart or anything. Only having lost one nation means you aren't even close to defeat yet.

A good indicator that you really are hopelessly behind is losing multiple high-level units, to non-terror missions. I assume you aren't playing on iron-man, so if you can't get through a basic UFO crash without losing your high ranked units you should then consider restarting. If you have multiple decently ranked troops left you can generally recover, especially on normal or easy difficulty.

That said, there is one primary thing to work on in future games, and it is related to the reason you feel constantly broke: Satellites. The most important goal in the early game is to get as many satellites up and running as possible. This is because satellites are your primary source of income (they give a bonus each month), and are reliable sources of panic reduction as well. It's possible to launch as many as 4 satellites in the first month alone, and the "satellite rush" is a popular strategy. That said, I would not try for that so soon, especially since on normal difficulty it is overkill. Instead, in future games try and launch a minimum of 2 satellites per month, for the first several months of the game. This will give you a strong economic backbone, as well as ensuring panic is at low levels throughout the early game.

With regards to your current game, satellites are going to be valuable as well. However now that you are several months in it may be a bit tough to fit them into your budget.

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one of the most common mistakes beginners make is that they think they can't manufacture satellites until they have the uplink. Despite having that big warning pop up, its possible to manufacture them and its actually recommended due to the long 20 day lead time. –  z ' Aug 24 '13 at 2:29
    
Every month, you should ALWAYS consider whether you should build satellites when you are 20 days before the council report. They take 20 days to build. Satellite uplink can be build later on since they take 14 days to build (7 with advanced construction) –  BlueTrin Nov 14 '13 at 15:24
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The game is tuned so that in early months you have a lot of pressure. Losing a country is what the designers want to happen. You don't lose the game until you lose 8 countries on Normal.

Even if you do your missions 100% perfectly, panic will still happen in the 2/3 areas you didn't choose for the terror mission.

The pressure in the early game continues until

The base assault mission is completed, which lowers panic 2 bars in all countries that haven't left the project.

After that, finish launching your satellites and you should be able to hold on to the remaining countries.

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The main tension in the early game is between spending on strategic goals (getting satellites up for money and panic reduction) and tactical ones (research & equipment). It's hard to find the money to do both. Later in the game this pressure does ease somewhat.

It sounds like you may have gone a little too far in the tactical direction (although as others have said, if you're still winning missions without losing your top soldiers you're probably not too far gone).

The first time I played on Classic I went too far in the strategic direction - I had plenty of satellites, but I was facing multiple packs of Mutons with the starting equipment... that didn't go too well either ;-)

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