User:Magic9mushroom/Guide to UFO

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Since everyone and their mother seems to have a guide to UFO: Enemy Unknown, I figured I'd make my own. This will be a rather-detailed guide to playing UFO: Enemy Unknown and winning. I'll try not to micromanage the guide user except when necessary; there's more than one way to win, and a lot of these guides forget that. When I give an unequivocal direction in bold, it's because I'm convinced that choice is massively better than any other option.

Starting out

The first thing the game asks you to do, when you click "New Game", is to select a difficulty. If this is your first time playing a turn-based tactics game, Beginner is probably your best bet; in this mode, alien Firing Accuracy is halved, so the game is much more forgiving. Otherwise, pick Superhuman; there's not a huge spread of difficulty between the modes above Beginner.

The second thing it asks you to do is place your initial base. Anywhere on land is permissible, but you want to put it in central Europe (southeastern Germany, Austria, northeastern Italy, that kind of region). There are several reasons for this:

  • Priority. Europe is the second-highest-priority zone for alien attacks (after North America). Moreover, once you get long-range radars, a base in this position will also get coverage over the North Africa zone and parts of the Central Asia and Arctic zones. When you tally it up, you'll be able to see more UFO activity from here, on average, than anywhere else in the world.
  • Cost. Your first base is free, no matter where you put it. Later bases, though, have a cost that varies based on their location. Europe has the highest cost for a new base of any zone, at a full million dollars, and you'll want a base here sooner or later, so you'll save money by making this your first base.
  • Easy pickings in the first month. Wherever you decide to build your first base, the game will send a few UFOs there in the first month so that you have something to do. However, for most of that first month, you'll be relying on the short-range Small Radar System. Europe is quite a small zone, so you'll be able to see almost all of it right from the start and catch nearly everything the aliens do. This is not the case for the much larger North America zone.
  • Globe access. While your troop transport, the Skyranger, has enough fuel to reach anywhere on the globe, your interceptor (named... the Interceptor) does not. With a base in Europe, you can send an Interceptor to most land on the globe (Australia and Antarctica are the only significant exceptions) to search for UFOs. However, the Orient and the Americas are separated by the enormous Pacific Ocean; a base in either won't be able to send an Interceptor to the other. Africa is even better for this purpose, but doesn't have the benefits mentioned above.

Once you've placed your base, the game starts: the clock starts running.

Spend your money

The first thing you want to do is stop the clock by going into your Bases tab. You will notice immediately that you have a little over 4 million dollars burning a hole in your pocket. Unfortunately, you immediately have a number of very pressing things to spend it on. In no particular order, here are some things you probably want:

  • A Large Radar System, to extend your radar detection range and double your chances of detecting UFOs ($800,000)
  • A second base (ideally in either East Asia or North America) with its own radar, to provide coverage over more of the likely areas for UFO activity ($1,550,000-$1,600,000, or $1,900,000-$1,950,000 if you also build a General Stores and Hangar in order to base an Interceptor there)
  • A tank, to soak up enemy fire and reduce your losses on missions ($426,000 for a Tank/Cannon, or $504,000 for a Tank/Rocket Launcher)
  • A new Living Quarters, to allow you to fill up your starting Workshop and Laboratory ($400,000)
  • Soldiers, Engineers and Scientists to the limit of your current Living Quarters ($1,130,000-$1,280,000)
  • Alien Containment, in order to capture aliens and unlock the lucrative Hyper-Wave Decoder and Psionic Laboratory research topics ($400,000)
  • A rearrangement of the starter base, to get a single chokepoint ($800,000, or $600,000 if you build a second base with a Hangar and transfer one of the Interceptors there)
  • Enough Avalanche launchers and missiles to equip both your Interceptors ($69,000, although you'll actually recover more than this by selling off the Stingrays and Cannons so this doesn't really put a hole in your wallet)

You may have noticed that these things add up to significantly more than $4,000,000. That's right; you don't have enough money for everything you'd like to buy. You'll have to decide which of these are most important to you. I do suggest that you purchase at least enough soldiers to fill up your Skyranger (6 additional soldiers, or 2 if you bought a tank, for a total of 14 or 10 respectively when counting your 8 starting soldiers). Having more soldiers gives you both more flexibility and more margin for error in your missions.

Equip your craft

stuff goes here

Set your research

The "Manufacture" tab in the Bases screen is useless to you at the moment - there's nothing you can manufacture - but the "Research" tab already has a few things available. You want to research Laser Weapons (and the followups Laser Pistol and Laser Rifle). Lasers (at least the first two) are an extreme improvement over the conventional equipment you start with; they're lighter, they don't need ammo, they do about twice as much damage as the Pistol and Rifle, they fire faster and (in the Laser Rifle's case) more accurately in Auto mode, and the notorious Cyberdiscs resist AP and HE but not Laser damage.

Cash Flow

I'll digress for a second and discuss money. Money is the main limiter on how fast you can expand your operations in the early-to-midgame, so it's worthwhile to cover the three ways you get it. I'm not sure how much use it'll be, since you'll want as much as you can get by any means, but it might help with strategic priorities.

Council funding

Obviously, you get about $6 million from the Council every month. This goes up slightly when you're doing well (high score), but it takes a long time to react since the funding the Council awards you each month is actually received the next month (i.e. your score for January only affects how much money you get at the start of March). It's easy to underestimate how important this funding is, but it's certainly not sufficient to fund a large operation; after the first few months, your wages and craft rental alone can exceed this amount (forcing you to keep a couple of million in reserve at the end of the month).

Arms manufacture

Whenever your Engineers aren't doing something more important, they should be making stuff that's profitable to sell. How much money this makes you is dependent on what you have available to manufacture, but with the most profitable item in the game - Laser Cannons - this can generate around $2 million per workshop per month after all costs are factored in. This is certainly a viable way of funding yourself, and the most reliable way, but it's not as essential as some make out.

For the record, the order of profitability for the most easily-available items goes Laser Pistol < Laser Rifle < Heavy Plasma < Medi-kit < Motion Scanner < Laser Cannon. There are other profitable items, but it's highly unlikely you'll get any of them before getting something better from that list.


Every successful mission, you get a bunch of stuff in your stores - UFO parts, and also the guns that the aliens wielded against you. While you'll want to keep some of this for your own use, the rest can be sold - and sold very profitably. Every month on Superhuman difficulty, the aliens send somewhere between about $26 million and about $162 million worth of alien technology to Earth, and while you can't reclaim all of that (some UFOs don't land, which means you have to shoot them down and damage them in order to recover them) you can nab the majority of it with sufficiently-wide radar coverage. This is generally going to be your biggest source of income for most of the game.