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Useful Tips for the Average Player
By Ralp
WARNING: This guide was made before the release of Enemy Within expansion, thus I cant guarantee any information here will be valid on it!

After finding out all comunity guides so far were either in russian or made by trolls, I decided to take the initiative and write a serious one [or at least something that sounds like serious]. This guide is based on stuff I saw on the web which I believe to be useful, mostly from XCOM Wikia and steam forums, and a bit from my own gameplay experience. Its aimed at players who already made the tutorial and know the controls, as well as having some knowledge about both human and alien abilities. Hints about the tactical battle can be used both on singleplayer and multiplayer, unless it refers to the AI.

Since this is actually a collection of guidelines, you may feel free to give suggestions on the comments. I am not an XCOM guru, so every suggestion added here will be credited accordingly.
Use the save, young padawan!
Unless you turned Ironman mode on, the save feature is the best way to learn from your mistakes and get better. The game autosaves your last 3 turns, but you can manually save at any moment. You may keep several manual saves, allowing you to find out where your strategies started to fail.

Please note the aim chances are rolled once the turn starts, so loading the same save and doing the same actions often gives the same results. To change this, you may either change the attack order or move the unit.

Originally posted by Lightna Core:
Another thing to note on reloading saves may change the positioning of alien spawns or what may exactly spawn at that spot. Yes, the Hyperwave Decoder does tell what aliens are going to be present but if you stumble across a Sectopod then reload a save, you may get Mutons instead in that particular spot while the Sectopod will spawn elsewhere.
This has only been confirmed for the turn after the one saved.
Satellites, satellites, and satellites!
You need satellites to make money, as well as hire scientists and engineers every game month. They also reduce the country's panic level (a very nice trick for panic management) and prevents it from generating abduction missions once a whole continent is covered. As you see, launching several of them as early as possible is the key to victory.

VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure the continent your satellite will cover has at least one interceptor to defend it. You dont want that pesky UFO taking it down, do you?
Dont panic!
Panic on XCOM can either be a soldier panicking during the battle, acting randomly for a turn, or the panic level a country may sustain before withdrawing its support. "Both are equally terrifying" but not the doomsday.
  • How to deal with panicked soldiers: Unless it risks other units' lives, fall back and wait until it recovers sanity. Sometimes its not worthy to push forward while one or more troops are panicked.
  • How to deal with panic levels: They should always be your top priority when choosing abduction missions, being the others (in respective order or priority) new recruits, engineers, cash and scientists. As a general rule, allowing panic levels to raise will make missions harder, so save your best troops for such emergencies. Losing a country is no reason to ragequit, since you only lose the game if you lose eight countries! On classic/impossible mode, you will often have to neglect some countries to keep more useful ones. In my opinion, Europe is the least important one (sorry europeans!).
Laboratories or Workshops?
Workshops, of course! Although laboratories give more scientists and speed up researches if adjacent, the ones you hire and receive from missions should prove enough for your tactical needs. Workshops, by giving more engineers, allow you to build facilities faster and receive discounts when crafting equipment. Adjacent workshop refund you some resources from newly built things!
Make room for more troops!
Increasing your squad size from Officer Training School not only means more troops to deploy (and thus more lives to waste), but also your new recruits can stand a chance alongside veterans. Even if they dont score a kill they earn experience!
Not all corpses/wrecks are actually that important
Some of them are only required for researching and completing foundry projects. Once done they may be sold freely at the gray market. For instance, the thin man corpse is only required until Improved Medikit project is complete.

For more details, have a look at this page: http://xcom.wikia.com/wiki/Gray_Market
Flank whenever possible
Certainly one of the most helpful things you should know, not only in XCOM but on every tactical strategy game out there. Flanking consists on attacking a covered unit by hitting it at its uncovered part (usually from behind), dealing the same damage as if its exposed. A flanked unit has reduced accuracy and defense, so be extra cautious when choosing your coverage and even flanking the enemy. I assume you know how Napoleon lost the war.

This is the cost-effective way to engage covered enemies, as you can also throw explosives and use psionic powers such as mindfray, mind control and rift.

Second Wave Hint: If feeling confident enough, you may turn on Absolutely Critical, which guarantees a successful flanking hit to be critical (but not the hit itself), regardless of it being from you or the enemy.
Even a sectoid can become a pain in the back!
Particularly on classic/impossible difficulty and multiplayer, sectoids are powerful enough to take down an unaware soldier. For only 400 points, they can also use supression and increase his friendlies' health and will via mind merge. A mind merged unit has also a higher chance to score critical hits.

BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL WITH MIND MERGE!! If your sectoid is killed while using it, it also kills the one benefited!
Originally posted by Traul:
A special tip for Classic: an overwatch shot from a sectoid cannot kill a 5 life soldier, a regular shot can. If you need to risk an overwatch shot to get a sure kill this turn, do it.
Save your explosives for when you really need them
Originally posted by Dr Vahlen:
You may want to instruct your men to exercise restraint when using explosives. While certainly effective at killing aliens they also destroy the artifacts we're hoping to recover from their bodies. Just something to consider.
I heard this a lot and I hate her because of it. However you should save your best toys not only for research materials but for very tough situations such as destroying enemy cover, opening shortcuts on walls and saving a soldier from certain death.

Notice you can still obtain those materials if you use explosives on the aliens and not kill them, finishing them off with firearms.
Assaults can use rifles too!
Though their primary weapon is a shotgun, it only excels on close quarters combat. A widely adopted setting when you need them to stay at a safe distance is equip them with rifles instead. This proves to be very useful at single player, as you need to unlock rifles before you may research its respective tier's shotgun.
Make sure your snipers dont get too close
The snipers are perhaps one of the nastiest units a player may control, as they hit hard and often from afar and have some nice perks such as a battle scanner. However all this might proves to be useless when the target is at mid or close range, giving them a drastic aim penalty. Also they cannot move and fire on the same turn, unless switching to pistols.

Units with high mobilty such as floaters are the best on exploiting the sniper's weaknesses.
Smoke grenades, save lives
Other than being excellent combat medics, even the lowest ranked support can protect his allies from gunfire with their smoke grenades. Anything inside its radius is harder to hit, including the enemy!

Not recommended against melee units!
Avoid running around like crazy!
On singleplayer, you trigger enemy spawns by either approaching it or when a moving alien squad encounters yours (which can be predicted when a soldier hears a strange sound). If you trigger too many spawns at once, it'll be a lot harder to deal with them all. To prevent this kind of mess, always move your troops carefully, taking only one action slot to move (you take two when you dash, ending your unit's turn) and using the other to either retreat or overwatch. You can also throw battle scanners if available, which reveals nearby enemy spawns without triggering them.

On multiplayer things are a bit different, as you know your opponent spawns at the other side the map. You usually (I said usually!) may dash as further as possible on your first turn, especially when the match begins on your turn. Just try not to leave your units exposed for no reason!
Some nice hints regarding Overwatch
  • If you really need to get past overwatching enemies and feel one of your units are discardable, use it to dash past their sight. A dashing unit has a dodge bonus against overwatch fire, increasing its chance to survive.
  • A safer way to fool overwatchers is walking through full cover. Even though the enemy will see you, he wont fire if you stay covered.
  • Suppressing fire on an overwatching unit will turn off their overwatch. (credits to Raithul)
  • An assault with sergeant rank has Lightning Reflexes available, guaranteeing him to dodge one overwatch per turn. Or more if they are triggered at the same time.
  • A support colonel may learn Sentinel, allowing him two reaction shots per enemy turn. Not recommended if you want high-healing medikits instead (through Savior ability).
  • An assault captain has Close Combat Specialist ability, which gives him as many reaction shots as his ammo clip allows without need to overwatch, as long as the enemy close on him by 4 tiles.
  • On escort missions, you are going to face several thin men falling from the sky and then overwatch. If there are reaction shots still available, they will be used against them. Very effective with squadsight snipers. (Credits to Davy Jones)
  • When facing melee units, overwatching is the best way to ambush them. Very effective against muton berserkers, because firing on your turn gives them a free move towards you!
Keep your friends close, but not too close!
This is obvious, but its always good to highlight it.
Of course you need to place your units relatively close, so if one gets ambushed the others may counterattack or even flank. But getting them too close from each other is like inviting your enemy to use area of effect weapons, like explosives and the thin man's poison. Keep this in mind when facing powerful foes such as sectopods and ethereals.
Know when to push forward and when to retreat
One of the most important rules in any tactical strategy game like this one is: DO NOT ADVANCE AT ALL WHEN THERE ARE ENEMIES TO KILL!!1!

But if for some reason you forget it, here are some lines to help you out:
  • Lure aliens into an ambush. If the AI knows you're there and retreating, they are most likely gonna chase you. This is a good method to face lots of enemies in smaller numbers.
  • If a unit is taking too much damage, get him behind the others and preferrably out of the enemy's sight, then wait for an opportunity to use a medkit.
  • Fall back if one of your troops is mind controlled and you cant find the controller. Because mind control has a cooldown of 4 turns, some prefer to kill their allied victim rather than assuming the danger.
  • Keep a distance of at least 9 tiles from chryssalids, so they wont be able to attack if they reach you. (Credits to amirhuman)
The skyranger aint there for decoration
If you feel your current mission cannot be accomplished because you lost too many soldiers or for whatever other reason, you may abandon it and return to HQ. However the skyranger will only bring back soldiers that are inside this blue rectangle near it at the moment you decide to fall back, or else they will be left to die!
SHIV: is it worthy?
Pros: Immunity to mind attacks, can suppress enemies, has high health, provides cover to your troops and even fly! No doubt the ethereal's worst nightmare.

Cons: Cant take cover, using flight exposes it too much, need lots of resources to upgrade it properly and occupies a soldier's slot. Use it wisely.

Dont start an essential mission without good equipment
Its almost madness to proceed through these missions with the same equipment you used to finish the tutorial. Since Earth wont be doomed if you ignore them for a while, take your time to research and build what you need to keep your troops alive and banging. Below are some hints of what you should have before starting certain missions:

  • Alien Base Assault: Carapace/Skeleton armor and laser weapons are recommended, although many people can do it with just the basic gear. Make sure your supports have medikits!
  • Overseer Crash Site: It should be okay to start it with the same sets as above, but light plasma rifle and alien grenades helps. Please note it actually starts by building the hyperwave relay, so a firestorm interceptor with a good weapon is a must to take down the overseer UFO!
  • Temple Ship Assault: Titan armor (or psi for the psionic soldiers) and plasma weapons. Optionally you may equip mind shields or alien grenades.
Be extra careful when on UFO landing sites!
Sending troops to take over a landed UFO is the same as with a crashed UFO, except its much better guarded by the aliens. While crashed UFOs usually have only few alien groups around it, on landed UFOs you should always be prepared to face enemy reinforcements approaching your soldiers, even if they didnt move a single step. Should this happen with you, get out of the aliens' sight, use overwatch and wait.
Check the cars for flames
Cars are, at the same time, good covers and fuse bombs. Anyone next to it when it explodes either dies or is severely hurt. Depending on how much damage it takes, the car will explode either on a couple turns or immediately. Knowledge of this concept not only helps saving your units, but also allows you to punish careless folks!

Some players reported a bug where cars sometimes dont render the flames even if theyre about to explode. Due to this, always be suspicious when a car is shot even if theres no visible fire!
Arc Thrower: The XCOM's "Companion Cube"
  • Stuns aliens permanently until the mission ends.
  • Unlocks interrogations, which reduces certain researches' duration by 50%.
  • In case you havent done it yet, you can use the interrogated alien's corpse for autopsy.
  • The stunned aliens' weapons wont break, allowing you to equip them on your own troops after doing proper research!
  • With the Foundry, you can use it to capture drones and repair SHIVs.
  • It occupies the backpack slot, which leaves you without more useful items such as grenades.
  • You often need to damage the alien a lot before dealing a successful stun, which requires extremely delicate tactics.
  • The user needs to stay dangerously close to the alien.
  • You only have two stuns per arc thrower per mission.
  • Not recommended for "farming" weapons. If you really need better firearms, craft them on HQ.

The table below shows the stun success chances based on the enemy's health:
Source: http://xcom.wikia.com/wiki/Arc_Thrower_(weapon)
Hunker down if all else fails
Sometimes you may find a unit pinned down to the point it cant move nor fire properly. The best thing you can do at such bad moment is hunker down and hope for a better turn. Assuming the unit isn't flanked, hunkering down doubles your cover's defence and makes you immune to critical hits at the cost of reduced line of sight. It can even hide the unit depending on terrain's elevation.
Multiplayer: Pay close attention to the sounds
Enjoy the opponent's turn panning the camera trying to predict where his units are and hopefully surprise him. A breaking window, a slammed door, footsteps and some typical alien noises are things the fog of war cannot hide. The closer your camera is to the unit, the louder the sound.
Help, I'm being supressed!
Supressive fire can turn elite troopers into landlubbers with ease by drastically reducing its aim for the turn, plus giving a free shot if you are stupid enough to move. And with a good chance of destroying his/her cover if using laser or plasma.

This shouldn't be more than a small annoyance for clever tacticians, as having someone else to hit the supressor is enough to disable it. Also lightning reflexes works against them much like it does with overwatchers, assuming the assault is the one being supressed. But if warfare is too intense, well, lets hope you got a spare grenade!
A few other tips the game doesn't even tell you about
By Vic
  • 1. Overwatch doesn't trigger unless a unit moves within two tiles while inside the Overwatching unit's line of sight. That means if you are caught in the open and stuck in an Overwatch trap you can move a single tile out of cover then another tile into hopefully better cover. To avoid said traps just move enough that you can enter a unit's line of sight but no farther, this makes Deadeye snipers in multiplayer trivial to defeat.
    Probably one of the most valuable hints for XCOM:EU! I'm eager to test it myself!

  • 2. Combat drugs don't give you a defense bonus, but they do give you +20 to aim and +10 to crit. The aim boost can really help you out when fighting armored opponents or when trying to land a Snapshot or Double Tap sniper shot.

  • 3. When fighting a Berserker and there are no other active units on the field, move all your units OUT of cover. If you stay in cover the Berserker can bull rush you on a dash and kill you, so avoid cover and just kite it around.

  • 4. Press the unit info button (Or LS if using a controller) to view a unit's abilities, in MP this also shows you their aim, defense, and current buffs/debuffs. When you see a green arrow ALWAYS check what it is, if it's Combat Stims then you are better off not attacking at all.

  • 5. Mind Merging a Sectoid Commander will give you an extra 25% to land a Psi attack on any unit, that means you can Mind Control Chrysalids and other SCs. In SP you can use Psi Inspire to buff your Psi Soldier's will, letting them MC Ethereals. Note that hitting an opponent with Mind Fray softens their will, making them easier to MC.
    Maybe I can get Xavier after this tip.

  • And finally: Grappling can break suppression and avoid Overwatch entirely, so use it whenever you can. You can also move farther with a grapple than with a standard move.
    Just try not to get your troops exposed after grappling around!
Mind shields are also weapons
On its description, a mind shield "strengthens the user's Will against enemy psionic attacks". What most people dont quickly realize is that Will not only affects your unit's resistance to psi attacks, but also makes his psi abilities easier to hit! This, along with psi armor and other buffs, makes your psionic "gadgets" more likely to work on every non-mechanical* unit, including ethereals! Good luck with Xavier achievement! :)

*Not sure about expansion's cyborgs though...
And that's it... for now!
This guide is far from complete, I know. Theres still a lot of useful tips I should have added, but I dont have the guts to keep it updated all the time. When giving suggestions and comments, please keep in mind I am avoiding too much depth on details. This guide, as stated before, is for the average player learn some nice tricks, not turn the reader into a master tactician.

For those looking after advanced strategies at high difficulties, I recommend reading this: http://scientificgamer.com/xcom-101/

Oh, why dont you have a look at this video? Its aimed at ironman impossible, but gave me valuable help on singleplayer in general.

As suggested, I am adding a research flowchart I found on XCOM Wiki[xcom.wikia.com]. It shows what unlocks what, including storyline missions and interrogation credits. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Download the full resolution research flowchart
Research projects list (does not include foundry)[xcom.wikia.com]
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liam.omahoney Jun 29 @ 7:29am 
Canori Jun 25 @ 3:21am 
Thanks alot :D Was a great help!
51573R RAY Jun 23 @ 8:36am 
Great guide. Thanks!
SkeletalSoup Jun 23 @ 6:35am 
Good little guide as far as I can tell.
Blerrger19 Jun 22 @ 7:54pm 
Well, maybe add some clarification?
Ralp  [author] Jun 22 @ 6:43pm 
@Blerrger19 If the assault triggers multiple overwatches at once and has lightning reflexes available, he will dodge all of them. Should he triggers more overwatches after those it wont work.
Blerrger19 Jun 22 @ 6:03pm 
I swear Lightning Reflexes only works on the FIRST overwatch attack made agaisnst your assault for that turn--not ALL
heiblm Jun 22 @ 1:19pm 
Thanks ;)
Ralp  [author] Jun 21 @ 11:31am 
It's been a long time since I last touched this guide, and I've been finding several flaws ranging from grammar errors to questionable info. If you found anything weird please feel free to highlight it for me. Thanks!
klad325 Jun 21 @ 11:00am