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The Battlescape is the tactical portion of the game, where all ground combat takes place. This is where soldiers and aliens live, fight and die. Terrain and mission objectives vary on the Battlescape, but one rule is paramount - don't allow your men to get killed. Veteran soldiers are an invaluable resource, but only survivors gain experience.

The terrain on the Battlescape depends on the geographical location of the mission. When you intercept a UFO, you can sometimes wait until it is over favorable terrain to shoot it down. Most of the world is covered by farm, forest, or jungle terrain, however, so you will have to make best use of whatever natural and artificial cover is available. Unfortunately, the aliens will also be making use of this cover, so missions on flat, featureless terrain (such as polar tundra) are often the easiest to play, as the aliens have nowhere to hide (except for their UFO). On the other hand, if things start to go wrong, you will have nowhere to hide either.

The Playing Board

The battle takes place on a small layered tile map. Maps will have dimensions that range between 40 to 60 tiles in width and height and have either 2 or 4 map layers. Exterior maps always have 4 elevations and can have areas of 40 to 50 square tiles. Interior maps always have 2 elevations and are always played in 60 square tile areas. TFTD differs slightly in that interior maps use 4 elevations except the maps in the final level, which only use 2 per map.

The map shows all walls, obstructions, ceilings, floors that can are currently in view or have previously been seen seen. The general look of the battlescape is determined by the mission, the aircraft that have landed at the site and the area the mission was initiated.

Everything on the map is static by nature. They do not change until they are damaged by weapons fire.

In addition to physical items shown on the map, it will also show differences in lighting which can affect visibility when on Night Missions. The parts of the map not visible to your troops will be left black, as the shroud of war.

The lighting in a particular spot or tile consists of an ambient light level to represent the time of the day and any fixed light sources in the vicinity. It also is affected by the light thrown off by moving light sources, which are made up of player controlled units, flares and fires.

The shroud of war, or fog of war, is common in many strategy games to represent areas that have not been seen or visited. In effect, areas of the map are coated in black until a friendly unit looks at it. From then on, the fog is lifted for the rest of mission, although it should be noted that enemy units moving into a previously seen area will not be highlighted, you merely still retain knowledge of the terrain itself. For this reason you should sweep the combat area in such a way to avoid aliens getting behind your lines, which can both be dangerous and time consuming to locate them at the end of a mission.

It must be noted that gravity in the battlescape does not apply to any map features, except the units and objects that can be picked up by units. This means that the entire lower floor of a building or craft can be destroyed without causing problems for the upper floors.

The Playing Pieces

On a map, soldiers, aliens and sometimes civilians interact with each other and the environment. Generally by way of projectiles and explosives.

General rules for the pieces

  • Only one playing piece or environmental feature can occupy a tile at a time.
  • Multiple items may occupy the same tile.
  • Each playing piece move onto the same tile as the items, provided that there is no playing piece on that tile.
  • Each playing piece is unique with individual variations in their statistics and ranking.
  • Each playing piece and environmental feature can be destroyed. Often the playing piece turns into a dead body (another item) drops everything from the inventory to the floor.
  • If a playing piece is incapacitated or stunned, it will turn into a body, and can be treated as an item, until the stun points are sufficiently diminished.

Playing Pieces

  • Soldiers: The principal playing piece of the player, representing an X-COM soldier. Comes in two genders and four different races. His starting inventory can be selected by the player, before the battle, after the arrival of the troop transport. He can equip and utilise any item on the battlefield, including those that are dropped or thrown by the aliens. In addition, he can be equipped with different sorts of body armour at the base, before the mission, which may grant him the hover ability. However, he is susceptible to physical damage, stun damage and fatal injuries that is mainly inflicted by the aliens. Also he may lose morale from squad casualties or panic attacks from the aliens. In worse cases, he can be even mind controlled, at which point the alien gains temporary control. Survival will ensure that that the soldier will experience statistic grow, providing that he took some part in the battle.
  • Aliens: The alien's playing piece comes in eleven different races, all with varying statistics and inherit resistances to various types of weapons. Has never been observed picking up items from the floor, nor throwing any other item besides a primed alien grenade. Otherwise, has very similar properties to the Soldier playing piece.
  • Tanks:
  • Civilians: Carries no weapons and will only run around. Will be targeted by aliens.


A list of droppable items, and of course a description on explosives in general

Environmental Features

Doors, post box, signs, lamps, walls, stairs should go in here

Combat Damage Model

All discussion on how damage is dealt and received by units. Covers damage, armour, explosions.


Psionics are initially a dangerous facet of facing two of the alien races that can make things very difficult for your squad, especially for those soldiers that turn out to have low Psionic Strength, as they will be targeted constantly by these psionic capable aliens. One you have captured a psionic alien and researched it, you will be able to develop psionic soldiers by training them in Psionic Laboratories and equipping them with Psi-Amps.

Psionics allow the wielder to attempt to either panic or Mind Control enemy forces, with the success rate being dependent on relative psionic strength and skill between the attacker and defender, and the range between them. Panicked soldiers can be a problem as they can leave gaps in your lines, but Mind Controlled soldiers are far more serious a problem, as they will turn around and fire on their comrades. A psionic attacks effects will last for one full turn per attempt, including both the users and the following opponents part of the turn, although the morale lost to a successful attack will often mean the soldier will be out of action for longer as they continue to panic or berserk for a time, even if no further attacks are directed towards them.

Battlescape Interface

Battlescape Screen

The bulk of the battlescape scenario will take place here. Here, the player can view the areas of the board visible to their pieces and can choose actions for them via the Battlescape Control Bar.


The main features of the Battlescape Screen are labeled. Refer to below for an explanation.

  1. Item carried by the piece's left hand. Left click on that area to use.
  2. Move up or down. Only usable if the piece is equipped with a flying suit, or if located on an elevator tile.
  3. View different floors.
  4. View the map screen.
  5. Switch between kneeling and standing stance. Kneeling costs 4 TUs, standing costs 8 TUs. Will affect the piece's height, the firing accuracy, and the required TUs to move in the next player phase. Unit will stand automatically upon being given a move command in exchange for 8 TUs
  6. Switch to the inventory screen.
  7. Centre the Battlescape Screen onto the currently selected piece.
  8. Select the next piece.
  9. Select the next piece, and forget the current one. (Meaning: repeated use of 8. or 9. will no longer select it. You can still select it manually, though.) Use when you won't be moving the current soldier any more in this turn.
  10. Hide or reveal the roof or ceiling. Useful for viewing inside enclosed areas.
  11. Open the Battlescreen Options menu. Use this to modify the firing, scrolling, and movement speed. Note that it is only possible to save, not to load, the battlescape scenario. However, the option to load will be available within the Geoscape screen, and the title menu of the game.
  12. End player turn button. The alien phase will then commence.
  13. Dust off button. For UFO Crash Recovery, UFO Assault and Terror missions transport ship will then take off, leaving all the pieces not within it's initial deployment area behind. For Alien Base Assault, the pieces in the deployment area will retreat, leaving those elsewhere within the board behind. For Base Defence mission, it will concede the battle and the base to the alien without further loses to the player. Most of the units left behind will be listed as MIA and will be unavailable for the rest of the game.
  14. Item carried by the piece's right hand. Left click on that area to use.
  15. Reserve TU buttons. Will stop the piece from taking any action once a certain amount of TUs has been used. Those TUs may be used for reaction shots in the Alien's phase. Top left is to reserve none, Top right is to reserve enough TUs for a snap shot. Bottom left is to reserve for an aimed shot, with the bottom right similarly for auto-shot.
  16. Indicates the rank of the selected piece. Click to view detailed statistics, including current armour values.
  17. Information panel detailing the name, and the current status of the piece. The green bar, and the number corresponds to the current TUs available, with the yellow bar and number for the current energy. Likewise with the red bar and number for the current health with the purple bar and number representing the morale level.
  18. Currently selected piece.
  19. Mouse cursor and selection box. Left click on the board to move the piece to a specific location, consuming TUs in the process. Move to the edge of the screen to scroll along the board. Right click on the board to have the currently selected piece face that direction. Also used to target areas and pieces for the item to be used on.
  20. Aliens sighted buttons. Left-click to center the screen on the indexed alien. These buttons are assigned in "increasing order" in terms of the appropriate file. In particular, the numerically highest alien sighted will also be the maximal rank sighted.

Inventory Screen

This is accessed by pressing the "Inventory" button on the main battlescape screen and is shown at the very beginning of a tactical mission. This screen shows the equipment where your soldier is


The main features are labeled. Explanations are as follows:

  1. Soldier portrait. Shows the armor worn by the soldier, and possibly their face(Coveralls and Personal Armor only)
  2. Soldier name.
  3. Not on picture.
  4. Control buttons. "OK" exits inventory(and begins mission if this is a start-of-mission screen). Arrows switch to the next or previous soldier unit.
  5. "Unload" button. If a weapon is deposited on this button when the soldier has two free hands and 8 Time Units, the clip will be removed from the weapon and placed in the left hand, while the weapon itself will be placed in the right hand.
  6. Backpack inventory slot. 3x3 space for items.
  7. Left Hand inventory slot. Any item can be placed here.
  8. Right Hand inventory slot. Any item can be placed here.
  9. Right Shoulder inventory slot. 1x2 space for items.
  10. Left Shoulder inventory slot. 1x2 space for items.
  11. Belt inventory slot. 6 squares in an upside-down 'u' for items.
  12. Items on ground. Any item can go here.
  13. Left Leg inventory slot. 1x2 space for items.
  14. Right Leg inventory slot. 1x2 space for items.
  15. "More" button. If items on ground exceed available space, pressing this button will display more items there.

How to end a mission

Missions will end if one of the following happens:

  1. All aliens are killed or knocked unconscious. All equipment and UFO components will automatically be recovered from the battlefield. If any X-COM units are under alien Mind Control when the last alien is defeated, those units will be "MIA", and lost forever.
  2. All soldiers and tanks are killed or incapacitated. All soldiers and equipment (including the transport) will be lost.
  3. Player aborts the mission. All units and equipment in the transport will be recovered; all units and equipment outside the transport will be lost. No UFO components will be recovered. Any unconscious aliens inside the transport will be transferred to Alien Containment, if you have one. If more aliens were killed than X-COM units, you will probably still end the mission with a positive score.

There are several cases where aborting a mission may be a good option:

  • If your forces are overwhelmed and likely to be defeated, get as many back to the transport as you can and cut your losses.
  • Early Terror Missions (especially at night) can be very difficult. However, not responding to a terror site costs X-COM a lot of points in its monthly evaluation. Fewer points will be lost if you send a transport, even if you abort the mission right away. You may also be able to pick off a few aliens before abandoning the mission.
  • Alien Bases can be raided and looted an unlimited number of times, as long as at least one alien is left behind alive and conscious (these are known as "Smash and Grab" missions).
  • Early in the game, capturing a psionic alien is of a high priority. If you manage to knock out a Sectoid Leader/Commander or an Ethereal during a dangerous mission, you may choose to grab its body and escape from the site as quickly as possible. Navigators, leaders or commanders may also be captured this way.

Though the game reports that aborting a mission as a failure, this is not necessarily always the case as long as the results that you set out to achieve are completed.

See Also