LWOTC - Early Game Tactics (2024)

Note: This post is a heavily revised version of Long War 2 - Early Game Tactics, with changes/additions to reflect the new mechanics of LWOTC.

The early game can be a challenge. The biggest problem is that your best killers (shinobi, technical, and assault) need to get in close to be effective, and that often activates another pod of enemies, making things even worse. This is not the way to win. Consistent success requires tactics that do not risk activating multiple pods - the path to victory in XCOM is still fighting one pod at a time.

In this guide I am going to give a lot of tips, but pretty much all of them are in service to the simple goal of controlling how and when you activate enemy pods, and being able to fight effectively without activating more pods. To that end you should focus on good scouting, controlling enemies, using guaranteed damage and high probability shots, and fighting effectively at long range.

Changes from Long War 2

There are a lot of changes in LWOTC, but most of them won’t affect the early game much, or at all.

Unless you choose not to revert the overwatch rules.

Overwatching is completely different depending on whether or not you enable the “[WOTC] Revert Overwatch Rules Change” mod. You must subscribe to this mod in order to subscribe to LWOTC (at least that is how it works in the Steam Workshop), but you do not need to actually enable the mod. If you don’t enable it, there will be some very significant differences in overwatch mechanics:

  • Single tile movement will trigger overwatch fire.

  • Entering visibility of the overwatcher will trigger overwatch fire.

  • Cover is much less effective against overwatch fire, because the overwatcher will receive a +25 aim bonus against targets in cover.

I would suggest enabling “[WOTC] Revert Overwatch Rules Change” if you are a beginner to LWOTC.

While the early game mechanics haven’t changed much, there are a few new variants in the missions and map types that are worth mentioning:

  • Most of the new map variants (sewers, abandoned city, etc.) will make the stealth missions more difficult. The sewers, in particular, is extremely dangerous for your 2 man squads. It might be best on these maps to just abort the mission and get your squad out safe.

  • For the new “Extract Advent Supplies” mission, the timer will not start ticking until you break concealment, and so it is a good idea to move a little further into the map, and locate more than one pod before setting up an ambush. The idea is that after you ambush and kill the 1st pod, you want to immediately go after the 2nd pod, because you don’t have much time. After breaking concealment, there is a fixed number of turns before RNFs start dropping in every turn.

  • Retaliation missions are hard in LWOTC because they feature the Chosen. These missions won’t pop up for a couple months, so I won’t be discussing them in this post.

For a full list of changes in LWOTC - Ufopaedia - List of changes from Long War 2 / WOTC.

Leapfrog Movement

When I was a novice XCOM Commander, I focused too much on the combat, and too little on what led up to the combat. Before the battle, your squad will be trying to move as quickly as possible, but without activating enemies. These two goals are often in tension. However, there is a way to negate the risk of moving quickly, and that is with Leapfrog Movement. Leapfrog Movement is where you move a soldier who is in the back of the squad, into the lead, then move a different soldier from the back, into the lead, as shown below.

LWOTC - Early Game Tactics (1)

Typically this allows your soldiers to move their full single action range of 7-8 tiles, yet only expose 3-4 tiles of fog of war. This technique is crucial on 2 man stealth missions, but relevant on every mission where the clock is ticking. It maximizes speed without increasing risk.


Flashbangs are extremely useful in the early game. I usually take about 3 flashbangs on every mission for the first 2 months of the campaign. Flashbangs will break Mind Control, and dispel Psi Zombies - but you must target the Sectoid itself with the Flashbang, not the mind controlled soldier or Psi Zombie; both of which are immune to its effects. Flashbangs also prevent Stun Lancers from using melee attacks, and will lower the aim of other enemies, giving your squad a better chance of surviving.

Flashbangs can be thrown much further than Frag Grenades. This means that soldiers other than the Grenadier, can use them quite effectively. The Grenadier is unique in his ability to throw grenades a long distance, and so I equip them with mostly grenades.

A few attacks (Fleche, Run & Gun) will be far more likely to neutralize an enemy than Flashbangs - but those involve getting in close to the target, which risks activating another pod.

Squad Composition

After the Gatecrasher mission you should have one soldier of every XCOM class, minus one, plus a hero class soldier. You will need to group them into squads for the next 2 missions, which usually means taking 2-4 in each squad, and filling it out with rookies. You should make sure that the Grenadier and Technical are on separate squads, as these are the only classes that can throw explosives long range. Likewise the Assault and Shinobi should be separated; these are powerful killers that need to get in close, and having one on each squad is nice. Finally both teams will want a shooter (Ranger, Sharpshooter, Gunner). The Specialist should be reserved for missions with hack objectives. On Smash & Grab missions your squad is not concealed and thus the Shinobi is more valuable as he can scout. The Technical is less valuable on Smash & Grabs as he will be unable to ambush the first pod with his flamethrower.

Each of the hero classes are very powerful, and have unique strengths. Reapers can scout after breaking concealment. The Templar is a Tank, and can buy your squad some time. The Skirmisher is excellent at obtaining flanks and moving quickly.

Let’s say the first mission is a Hack objective. A good squad would be the Technical, Assault, Specialist, and 2 rookies. If the first mission is a Smash & Grab instead, a good squad would be the Shinobi, Grenadier, Gunner and 2 rookies. If there is enough time to infiltrate 6 soldiers, I would add a shooter (Ranger, Sharpshooter).

When your barracks is stronger you will want to continue filling out squads such that you always have soldiers who can perform essential tasks. Here are those tasks ranked loosely in order of importance during the early game:

  1. Throw explosives long range (Grenadier, Technical)

  2. Hack from range - only for hack missions (Specialist)

  3. Scout (Shinobi, Reaper)

  4. Control the enemy or tank (Technical, Gunner, Assault w/Electroshock, Templar)

  5. Guaranteed/high probability damage (Assault, Shinobi, Technical, Grenadier, Specialist w/Combat Protocol)

  6. Shoot’em up (Ranger, Sharpshooter, Gunner, Reaper)

The last 3 tasks may seem more important than I have ranked them - but these can be accomplished by any soldier, including rookies. Give any soldier a Flashbang, and they can control the enemy; give them a grenade and they can guarantee damage. Also any rookie can shoot at an uncovered enemy with only a slightly lower chance of hitting than your best shooters.


I highly recommend plating on every soldier. Without ablative armor your soldiers can be killed with a single lucky shot. I like to have about 3 flashbangs, 4 grenades, and 1-2 medikits on every 6 man squad.

Equipment for each Class:Rookie: Assault Rifle - Plating, Grenade, Grenade/Flashbang Assault: Shotgun - Plating, Medikit, Grenade/Empty Grenadier: SMG - Plating, Grenade, Grenade, Grenade Gunner: Cannon - Plating, Medikit, Empty Ranger: Assault Rifle - Plating, Grenade, Flashbang Sharpshooter: Sniper Rifle - Plating, Flashbang, Medikit/Empty Shinobi: SMG - Plating, Medikit, Flashbang/Empty Specialist: SMG - Plating, Grenade, Flashbang/Grenade Technical: SMG - Plating, Grenade, Flashbang/Grenade

It’s notable that I am using SMGs on many of my soldier classes, which adds +2 mobility. Those soldiers classes are effective fighters even with SMGs, but can be equipped with rifles if your class build justifies it.

Tactics for Specific Enemies:

Purifiers: These guys are immune to fire, so don't expect to control them with your flamethrower. Purifiers are extremely dangerous at close range, but mostly harmless from a distance. If you can slow them down with a Flashbang, it may be possible to ignore them for a turn. There is a chance they will explode when killed so don't use an adjacent Assault or Shinobi to finish them off.Sectoids: Bring Flashbangs. They can break Mind Control and dispel Psi Zombies. If you have Flashbangs the best strategy is to “Give a Sectoid a corpse” as this will allow the Sectoid to waste its turn creating a Psi Zombie. An Assault with Electroshock can often reach further than a Flashbang, and can guarantee disorient, with a chance for full Stun. A Shinobi is likely to kill a Sectoid with one Fleche. Drones: There are several ways of dealing with drones. Combat Protocol will kill them. Rangers with AP rounds make very effective Drone killers. From long range a Ranger with AP rounds can usually kill a drone with 1-2 rifle shots, and when the Drone gets close they have the sawed-off shotgun. A grenade followed by a shotgun blast from your Assault also works well. Hacking a Drone will often lead to an easy victory, and should be considered if you have a plan B should the hack fail. In LWOTC, drones will no longer shoot at flanked targets if they are able to stun instead.Stun Lancers: Bring Flashbangs, as they will disable all melee abilities. Stun Lancers are poor shooters with low damage; so mostly harmless when disoriented.Advent Troopers: Some varieties of Advent Troopers are quite nasty. But the most common types are easy to uncover and kill as they have low hit points. If you can’t kill them, Suppression or Flashbangs will make them mostly harmless.Vipers: Tongue grab can be a very dangerous ability because it exposes the grabbed and bound soldier. Other enemies will exclusively target that soldier often killing him. However, when the Viper lacks allies, its tongue grab is weak, and you may want to move a soldier next to the Viper to provoke that action.Sidewinders: These guys love a flank. Don’t let them flank you.Naja: These foes have Squadsight, high accuracy, and high damage. However, they need 2 actions to fire their Sniper Rifle. If you flank a Naja, it will not shoot at you, instead always choosing to relocate. If the Naja moves out of visible range, it can be quite deadly. Sometimes the best thing to do in this situation is to kill all its allies so that it can’t see you with Squadsight. Then the Naja must move forward instead of shooting. Stunned enemies are able to grant the Naja Squadsight vision of your soldiers.Advent MECs: AP Rounds on a Ranger are very powerful against MECs. With a Laser Rifle and AP Rounds, the Ranger becomes a MEC killer. Hacking MECs with low level Specialists is quite hard; I usually choose to just shut them down. With the Trojan ability this will disable the MEC for 2 full turns which is more than enough time.Turrets: If the Turret is on a roof, it can be destroyed by a well placed grenade that destroys the roof tile beneath it (this works better if you have Sapper). Otherwise Shooters with AP rounds can destroy it quickly, or Specialists can hack it.Faceless: Assaults and Rangers are great at dealing with Faceless and thus make good Haven Advisors in the early game. Both classes do high damage at close range, which is useful against melee enemies, that must charge at you. Assaults can stun Faceless, which is very helpful when there are two of them.Mutons: You can either uncover and then shoot a Muton, or put a Shinobi with Combatives right next to him. Mutons hit very hard. I do not recommend using soft control techniques such as Suppression or Flashbangs; but Suppression AND Flashbangs in tandem work very well.Most organic enemies will burn. The Flamethrower is the best way to control enemies in the early game; provided you can get close enough to use it.All organic enemies can be stunned. This is the second best way to control enemies in the early game; supposing you have an assault with decent aim or proximity.

Managing the RNF Timer

The RNF timer is mostly the same in LWOTC, with one exception: On larger maps, the RNF timer is prorated by map size to run slower, making those missions a bit easier.

If you are being overwhelmed by reinforcements it is likely that you are either moving too slow, or triggering the RNF Timer too early. The RNF Timer begins immediately on some missions (Rescue VIP, Jailbreak), but on other mission types (Hack, Destroy Relay) it activates when you break Concealment.

You should approach each mission differently depending on how the RNF Timer works on that mission.

I wrote a whole post about Dealing with Reinforcements (LW2). All of the information in that post is still relevant in LWOTC, and I would highly recommend reading it if you are struggling with RNFs.

Or you can read this quick summary: If the RNF timer is ticking, you should ambush the first pod you encounter; if the RNF timer is not yet ticking, you should try to get close to the objective before breaking Concealment.

The 5 Phases of a Mission

To help analyze tactics I have divided the standard mission into 5 separate Phases:

You should approach movement in Concealment and movement without Concealment as distinct and important. In the early game, you will typically be fighting 3 pods of enemies, not counting solo drones, and each of these encounters will usually require a different set of tactics and concerns.

Moving in Concealment

This may seem like the least dangerous and therefore the least important part of the mission. But Concealment is incredibly valuable; it enables your squad to easily eliminate a pod of bad guys. For this reason, moving quickly and carefully in Concealment is crucial.

Important considerations regarding moving in Concealment:

  • Hidden civilians are common at the drop zone. When the mission starts, note any nearby high cover objects and assume there is a civilian hiding behind it.

  • Move carefully around LOS obstructions. Give the corners of buildings a wide berth.

  • Your squad can move extremely fast while concealed, so take advantage of that when you are on a big map.

  • In Concealment, everyone with an SMG is a scout. You can spread them out a little bit to help spot the first pod of bad guys.

  • Use Leapfrog movement to evade solo Drones. Drones have a large detection radius, and it is easy to stumble into them. Using the Leapfrog Movement technique will lessen this risk.

  • If one of your soldiers gets trapped in a Drone’s detection radius it is possible for a Specialist to hack the Drone and disable it without breaking Concealment.

  • If you are trying to sneak past pods, it is usually best to go all the way around along the edge of the map that is furthest from the objective.

The Ambush (1st Pod)

This is often the easiest part of the mission. To make sure it goes well, here are some tips:

  • If the RNF Timer is ticking, do not stall while waiting for the perfect ambush. A decent ambush is good enough.

  • Sometimes there is a temptation to sneak past the first pod to reduce the total number of enemies you will need to fight. If the RNF Timer is active, this is usually a terrible idea that can easily backfire. This attempt will often get your squad caught between 2 pods, unable to move without activating both pods, and thus forced to fight more enemies in worse position. When the RNF Timer is active, I would only recommend avoiding pods if they are: A) far away from your squad and B) moving away from the objective.

  • If the RNF timer is not active, it is best to get close to the objective before breaking Concealment. This means sneaking all the way around the map, then ambushing the pod that is closest to the objective.

  • It is best not to use the Shinobi in the ambush. Having a scout will make the remainder of the mission much easier.

  • The best ambush is the Flamethrower. If the enemy is moving toward your squad, put your technical in their path and burn’em up.

  • Actually, the best ambush is often the Beaglerush maneuver. But it’s a cheesy exploit, and it’s better to play as though you don’t know it exists.

  • On timed missions, it is very common to initiate an ambush by just shooting. This is what I end up doing most of the time, saving my grenades to destroy the cover that the enemy hides behind, and following that up with more shooting or more grenades. Suppression or a Flashbang can then be used to keep my squad safe.

  • The grenade ambush can be effective, as it softens up the whole pod; but then they will move behind cover. Putting a few soldiers on overwatch is a good idea for this ambush; though it is better to follow up with more guaranteed damage from grenades or Combat Protocol.

  • The Arc Thrower is often a great opener against pods that have a Sectoid, Viper, Officer or other high HP enemy. Or when your squad cannot get close enough to use the Assault’s shotgun, perhaps because another enemy pod is nearby. The stunned enemy will remain out in the open while your squad kills his buddies, and then on the following turn he is easy to dispatch.

  • If you are breaking Concealment at the objective, it is time to throw the evac flare.

  • Do not worry about loot. The loot will come. Prioritize keeping your soldiers safe by using grenades to finish off wounded enemies when necessary.

Moving without Concealment

Once revealed your squad will not be able to move as quickly and safely toward the objective, and yet move they must. The best scenario is that your Shinobi is still concealed and can guide your squad forward.

Important considerations regarding the Shinobi/Reaper Scout:

  • Good scouting is hard, and requires real effort. If you are willing to spend minutes planning out each and every action during combat, you should be willing to spend more than a few seconds considering where to move your scout. Seriously. Slow it down and make good moves with your scout.

  • LOS obstructions are the bane of Shinobi scouts. Be careful moving around buildings and walls, and up to roofs. A Reaper in Shadows, has a much smaller detection radius, so has less of a problem going around corners.

  • Move fast… but not too fast. Don’t stumble into any pods. Bad scouting is worse than no scouting.

  • Enemies on Yellow Alert may shoot at your soldiers when they activate, so try not to let your team get flanked by an incoming pod that heard the noise of the ambush.

  • Scouts good at picking up loot after a battle while also checking to see if there is an enemy pod just outside of visibility range.

  • A scout can sometimes help your squad set up an overwatch trap. If you can manage this without wasting time, do it. It will make the next encounter much easier. But if the enemy doesn’t move into your trap immediately, forget about it and just attack. I believe that sometimes the AI cheats. They know where you are, and sometimes they seem to pause right at the edge of squad visibility, avoiding the trap.

  • Scout ahead of your squad, while also watching one of your flanks; this is done by positioning the scout on the forward corner of your path. If the map edge is on your other flank, you have a very safe path forward.

  • Rooftops are a great place to position a Shinobi scout during a battle. This usually provides good visibility and low risk of being revealed.

  • If the Reinforcement signal goes red, find a good place to hide your Shinobi while the rest of your team takes care of the drop-ins. Then you must move fast, or retreat. This isn’t necessary with a Reaper scout, who can regain concealment.

Perhaps you don’t have a concealed Shinobi/Reaper. So now this phase of the mission becomes a bit more dangerous. Here are some tips to mitigate the danger:

  • A Ranger with Ever Vigilant will be able to move quickly and stay on overwatch.

  • Sound cues will often give you the direction of the closest pod. If you don’t hear anything, there probably isn’t anything nearby; or there might be a stationary pod.

  • Overwatch creeping is too slow to do every turn. Use this tactic sparingly. It is better to move quickly and take a risk, than move slowly and guarantee disaster.

  • If your squad needs to double move, best to do so first with a low ranked soldier and into high cover.

  • Look for LOS breaking environment objects to allow for rapid movement with less risk. These can also enable your squad to get closer to the next pod, and thus have an advantage in that fight.

  • Move the units that need 2 actions to fight effectively (Sharpshooter, Technical w/Rocket) only after you know that your squad will not activate a pod.

Fighting at Long Range (2nd Pod)

This battle is likely to be the most difficult of the mission; you will not be able to set up an ambush as you did in the first encounter, and you will not be able to charge forward as you will in the last encounter. This often means fighting effectively from a distance, which is hard. Here are some tips for this situation:

  • The Technical’s rocket is ideal. If you don’t have a Technical on this mission, you better have a Grenadier. Those are the only 2 classes that can destroy cover at long range.

  • A Grenadier plus a Specialist with Combat Protocol can usually guarantee at least one kill from very long range. Often, they can do even better. If the Grenadier can hit 2 enemies, and uncover one of them, the shooters on your squad can usually kill the uncovered enemy, while the Specialist may be able to finish off the enemy that still has cover.

  • It is a bad idea to hoard your ordinance (grenades, rockets) for the next battle. Use them now.

  • An Assault with Electroshock can guarantee disorient, with a chance at stun, and that is usually a better move than running forward, potentially activating another pod.

  • It is a bad idea to get into a long firefight. Setting up flanks or moving in with grenades is often better because it is faster. Moving up to use grenades is best done after a scouting Shinobi has verified that it will not activate another pod.

  • It is okay for the Shinobi to join the fight if you need her, just don’t activate the 3rd pod in the process. Once you have eliminated the 2nd pod, scouting will not be as important.

Unchained Movement (3rd Pod)

Once you have activated the final pod there is nothing restricting your soldiers from moving forward aggressively. If you have an Assault, this is her time to shine. The Shinobi and Technical are also very capable at close range. Often the last pod is guarding the objective, and thus easier to isolate and activate at close proximity.

If things go to plan, this encounter should not be hard and you don’t need any tips. So let’s consider some worst case scenarios; Activating the last 2 pods at the same time; or all 3 pods at the same time; or fighting a pod, while RNFs drop on top of you. These situations can quickly escalate from crisis to nightmare. But it is usually survivable. Keep your head and consider each move very carefully. When things are going wrong, it is time to slow it down. Below is an excerpt from my post on Playing Slow.

When faced with likely defeat, my instinct is to play faster. To just get this over with. The stress and fear of losing prevent me from thinking clearly, and compel me to hasten the outcome. Panic play, has killed many of my campaigns; leaving me angry and frustrated at myself, for having played the worst when I needed to be at my best… Controlling my emotions, freeing my mind of anxiety, allows me to slowly consider each challenge as though it were just a puzzle. This mindset helps me win; more importantly, it helps me enjoy XCOM.

So don’t sabotage yourself. Give it your best shot by playing slow.

When you are facing 6+ enemies I find that there is usually a way to survive. Often this involves a Flashbang, or a Flamethrower, or Suppression, or all three. Prioritize killing or controlling the most dangerous enemies, and try not to give them any easy shots.

Good Luck, Commanders!

This post is followed by: LWOTC - Mid/Late Game Tactics.

LWOTC - Early Game Tactics (2024)
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