I’ve been playing Frozen Synapse – a superb simultaneous-turn based small-squad combat strategy indie game – for a few weeks now and would like to share a few tips with you all.
These aren’t going to be some grand strategies, guaranteed manoeuvres or power plays, but merely quite simple ways in which you can – and should – be manipulating the game mechanics in every game you play to help your guys not be shot as much. Specifically, they are recurring things that I have seen new players, myself included in my earliest matches, fail to be aware of.
Stuff you should know
Changing stance incurs a temporary penalty
When a unit changes stance – between crouching and standing or vice-versa – there is a short time penalty in which they cannot fire.
Units will only target one enemy at a time
A unit will “lock on” to the first valid target it sees and will stick to that target until they are dead, out of sight or the unit is ordered to continue.
Weapon fire is always visible
Even on dark mode, all gunfire, grenades and rockets are visible to both teams all the time, so whenever you fire a weapon the enemy knows where you are.
Kills are always visible
When you kill an enemy you are always notified, even if they are out of sight in a dark match.
Shooting people takes a fixed amount of time
When a unit spots a valid target the time it will take to shoot and kill that target will always be the same. Also note that this timer completely resets whenever the unit loses sight of their target. If two units see each other at the same time they each get their own calculation – whoever is quickest will always win, there is no luck or chance in this game.
How long this takes is based on a combinations of factors such as range, stance, weapon, movement, cover, etc. I doubt anyone except the developers know exactly how this works, but this doesn’t matter because you can always simulate a turn to death to make sure you’re getting it right.
What to do with the knowledge
The first lesson of not being shot? Don’t stand up.
I’ve seen, on numerous occasions, newbies that have a unit ducked in cover will get this unit to stand up expecting to be able to get the drop on an enemy unit. Unfortunately, because the unit in cover has just stood up, it has a time penalty for a short while and so enemy units will often be able to shoot and kill this unit, even if they are out of cover.
So, standing up from behind cover in to the line of sight of the enemy is very dangerous, be cautious.
If you must stand up, don’t stay stood up or at least take a break immediately afterwards
You can usually stand up from behind cover, wait a moment and duck again without fear of death. This means your pinned units can jump up, scan the field and spot enemies and then hide again. Make this really quick and you can do the stand-up and duck cycle several times in a turn (although duck dancing does make you look a bit daft). Oh, and make sure “Continue on Sight” is set.
More useful still, is to stand up a split second before then end of the turn – then you’ll get the benefits of seeing exactly what is going on when you’re planning the next turn, as well as the the opportunity to either duck down again at the start of the next turn if you’re going to receive fire or stay stood and provide cover if you’re not.
Just remember that standing up gives your location away, so if you hide again they won’t be able to directly see or should you, but you’ll still be behind a very obvious piece of cover – expect to be flanked and be very wary if the enemy has explosives.
If they can’t see you, they’ll quickly lose focus
Take advantage of the fact that the time-to-kill resets as soon as the enemy loses sight of your unit, even if they spot you again a moment later. So, if you’re getting shot at and simulations indicate you’ll get shot first, hide. Set “Continue on Sight”, then duck behind cover or get behind a wall. Then the kill timer of the guy shooting at you resets, meaning you have some time available to try and run across some open space to some safer cover. Always simulate and check it make sure you’ve got enough time.
By running to and ducking behind a piece cover, then standing up and running to the next bit of cover you can proceed across threatened areas. Obviously, make sure you simulate to get the timings and distances right and have “Continue on Sight” set, but I have managed to charge down Sniper Rifle with a Shotgun from mid-distance using this technique on at least one occasion.
Before stepping in to the line of fire, push one of your squad mates out
If an enemy is stood in cover and your units are positioned to only be able to fire from within their line of sight, then it is virtually impossible for you to remove them safely – any unit that steps out will lose on the grounds of timing, because they’ll have been moving and probably won’t be in cover while the enemy was still and covered.
You could take advantage of the fact the enemy can only target one of your guys at a time and jump out with two attackers at the same time, but then you’ll lose a unit in the process. Instead, have one unit move in to the enemy’s sight, wait a moment, then hide again (before they are shot, obviously). In the time while the enemy is distracted by targeting your decoy, have another unit step out and start firing on them. If you time it right your decoy will live and by the time the enemy has stopped targeting them (because the decoy has moved back in to cover) your attacking unit will already have a shorter timer left for the kill and will take them down.
You can try and scale this to more enemies in cover – but you will need at least one more unit than them – one unit as a decoy and the same number of shooters, each told to focus on a specific enemy.
As promised none of these are going to win a match for you and I won’t promise that it’s entirely comprehensive, but these will hopefully help you avoid some of the more fundamental pitfalls of the game and be just that little bit more competitive.