Squad Composition and Tactics (UFOAI)

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Planning Combat Roles

Soldiers do not have pre-defined classes, so any recruit can become proficient in any weapon skill. But the varied strengths and weaknesses of different weapons make them ideal for some tactical roles and terrible at others. For instance, the grenade launcher is an excellent offensive weapon for its ability to use Indirect Fire to hit otherwise unreachable targets. However, it is unable to perform Reaction Fire, meaning that it is unable to perform any defensive role during the enemy turn. When considering squad composition you should ensure you are able to respond properly to a wide range of tactical situations. The following guide will provide general advice on how to prepare your squad.

Understanding TU Costs

The TU cost of a weapon's firemode is one of the primary factors which governs how a weapon will be used. A firemode with a high TU cost, such as an aimed shot from a sniper rifle, will almost certainly draw Reaction Fire from any enemies who can view the unit. Conversely, a firemode with a low TU cost, such as a snap shot from a pistol, is very likely to not draw reaction fire and can even beat an enemy unit to the draw during the enemy's turn. For this reason, evaluating the different TU costs associated with your weaponry is important when building a squad.

You'll want to make sure that you have at least some units equipped with low TU firemodes, so that they can be positioned defensively during the enemy's turn. These units will act to protect your other units from enemy fire during the enemy's turn, and must have firemodes that are cheap enough to win Reaction Fire contests. These units will be most effective when you're forced to enter buildings or in other close quarters battles in which you are likely to encounter enemies at such a close range that any enemy fire is certain to hit its target.

In general, however, weapons with low TU firemodes (pistols, shotguns, plasma blaster, assault rifles) tend to ineffective at range or deal less damage. You'll want to make sure your squad also has strong offensive capabilities, so don't neglect weaponry with high TU costs, such as grenade launchers, machine guns, sniper rifles, needlers, flamers and rocket launchers. Each of these weapons deals very high damage, but will need other soldiers with shorter TU firemodes to help protect them from enemy fire.

Assault weapons, which have low TU-cost snap shot firemodes as well as high TU-cost modes, make good general-purpose weapons. They can perform defensive roles when grouped together but still deal decent amounts of damage in offensive encounters.

Short and Long Range Fire

Most maps will require players to engage aliens at short, medium and long ranges. Each range represents its own set of problems and you'll want to equip your squad to be effective at all of these ranges.

Short Range

Close encounters typically occur inside buildings, around corners and in other places where obstacles prevent visibility. In such situations, enemy fire is almost certain to hit your soldiers. For this reason, you'll want to employ Indirect Fire to kill the target without exposing yourself or use low-TU firemodes to win Reaction Fire contests. Grenades can be thrown or fired around corners. Good defensive firearms include shotguns, the plasma blaster, and any of the assault rifles (plasma, laser) when used in snap shot mode. Many of the assault rifles, however, can not ensure a one-shot kill on a target, so it is good to use them in packs of more than one soldier.

Medium Range

At this range, enemy fire has a reasonable chance of hitting your soldiers. When in cover, a wide variety of weapons can be effective, from high-TU assault weapons (machine guns, full-auto assault rifles, grenade launchers, rocket launchers and sniper rifles). But safety can not be assured at this range, so smoke grenades will be important to set up concealed firing positions.

Long Range

Encounters at distance are often the safest. Snipers are the most effective at this distance, although grenade launchers and rockets can often reach out over very long distances. Full-auto assault weapons, such as machine guns and needlers, can be effective at distance but quickly burn through ammo. Smoke grenades should be deployed to provide safe firing positions and conceal your soldiers during the enemy's turn.

Indirect Fire

Indirect fire from grenades or grenade launchers will allow you to hit targets that are behind cover without exposing your own soldiers. You always take along at least one soldier equipped with a grenade launcher, and other soldiers should carry as many hand-held grenades as their strength will allow.

Medikits

There are three strategies to bringing medikits. Some players prefer to have a dedicated medic, usually a Scout who can reach anyone wounded and apply medical aid. This frees up some space in other soldiers' loads for more grenades or other weaponry. Other players prefer to give all or most of their soldiers a medikit so they can split their soldiers up more. A third strategy is to give medikits to soldiers who will play a role more infrequently. This could mean giving medikits to close-quarters soldiers, since they are typically only needed towards the end of the mission, or giving them to soldiers with grenade launchers, since they never have to play defensive roles during the enemy turn.

Sidearms

Sidearms are often useful for soldiers who wield sniper rifles, machine guns or other high-cost TU weapons, so that they can be useful if the squad must enter buildings. However, their weight means you must often calculate whether it would be more useful to take grenades, a medikit or extra ammo instead of a sidearm.

Armour and Weight

Armour is often the heaviest component of a soldier's equipment. Typically, you'll want to equip your soldiers with the best armour you can at all times. But you may also want to consider whether your play style would make good use of fast, unarmoured Scouts. Scout-snipers in particular can be very effective, allowing your sniper to get off two shots in one turn.

If you're struggling to get all the equipment you need on your soldiers with the best armour, you might consider which soldiers will benefit most from armour. If you always keep your snipers and rocket launchers safe in the rear, maybe they don't need armour as much as everyone else. Late in the game, when you access the very heavy Power Armour, you might want to consider equipping a couple of your strongest soldiers with the armour and exposing them to soak up enemy fire that might otherwise go to more lightly armoured soldiers.

Considering the Map

The map matters, so you may need to swap soldiers out for different squad compositions. Large open maps will make good use of lots of snipers, so you might want to swap out your close-quarters soldiers for an extra sniper or two. Alternatively, you might want to leave your snipers at home on small indoor maps.

Recommended Loadouts

The following are some recommended soldier configurations.

  • Assault
    • Primary: Assault Rifle, Plasma Rifle, Laser Rifle
    • Equipment: 1 reload; frag, plasma, smoke, flashbang grenades
    • Armour: Medium
  • Heavy Assault
    • Primary: Machine Gun, Heavy Laser, Needler, Heavy Needler, Particle Beam Rifle/Cannon
    • Equipment: 2-3 reloads; frag, plasma, smoke, flashbang grenades
    • Armour: Medium/Heavy
  • Explosives
    • Primary: Grenade Launcher, Rocket Launcher
    • Equipment: Ammo; smoke grenades
    • Armour: Medium
  • Close-Quarter
    • Primary: SMG, Shotgun, Plasma Blaster
    • Equipment: 1-2 reloads; lots of frag, plasma, smoke, flashbang grenades
    • Armour: Medium/Heavy
  • Sniper
    • Primary: Sniper Rifle, Bolter, Coilgun
    • Equipment: 1-2 reloads; a few grenades
    • Armour: If weight allows it
  • Scout
    • Primary: Assault Rifle, Plasma Rifle, Laser Rifle
    • Equipment: 1-2 reloads; lots of frag, plasma, smoke, flashbang grenades
    • Armour: None
    • Note: The Scout must be light enough to reach the quick weight threshold. They will use their extra TUs to scout dangers and retreat to safety.
  • Scout Sniper
    • Primary: Sniper Rifle
    • Equipment: 1-2 reloads
    • Armour: None
    • Note: The Scout Sniper must be light enough to reach the quick weight threshold and be able fire twice in a turn. With a vet this may be possible with light armour or a more costly sniper weapon.

Recommended Squads

Firebird

The following squad is great for the early-to-mid game, when aliens are still lightly armoured and your tech is not very advanced.

  • 2 Assault
  • 2 Explosives
  • 1 Scout
  • 1 Close-Quarter
  • 1 Scout Sniper
  • 1 Sniper

Herakles

The following squad is useful late in the game, when you can take more soldiers and must pack a lot of damage into your encounters.

  • 2 Assault
  • 2 Heavy Assault
  • 2 Explosives
  • 2 Scout
  • 2 Close-Quarter
  • 1 Scout Sniper
  • 1 Sniper