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Beginner's Guide to "X-Com": UFO Defense Tips and Tricks

Len is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has had a fascination with games and media that has lasted a lifetime.

The classic turn-based strategy game X-Com: UFO Defense is still wildly popular after almost twenty years on the market.  It proved so popular, in fact, it was restored and patched so it could run on modern day computers.  Gamers can download a copy of X-ComFrom 2K Games on Steam.

Making a good start is essential if you want to make it very far.  Here are some X-Com tips and tricks to help new players find their way. 

X-Com Base Placement Tips

X-Com Base Placement Tips

Where to Put Your Starting Base In X-Com

Right away, you're faced with a big choice. One of the biggest X-Com tricks is to choose a good place for your initial base. As one of the most important things in this game is to keep all of the countries investing in your operation happy, you have to think about which nations are most important to your long term success.

The United States is your number one investor and provides the largest single sum out of all your investing nations. However, the highest concentration of countries donating to your cause are in Western Europe. Both are good options for starting bases. Another good place to put your first base in X-Com is in Western Russia. There, you should be able to handle a good portion of Europe and even keep some of your Asian investors happy.

Wherever you decide to place your base, remember not to let it be your only base for too long. Once you've got a decent economy established, place a second base in one of the three areas mentioned above to spread out your influence.

X-Com Laser: A huge moneymaker

X-Com Laser: A huge moneymaker

How to Make Money in X-Com

Early on in X-Com, money will be a concern. Tanks and soldier salaries are expensive! Unfortunately, it will take several months to build up a good cash flow and by then you might be facing terror invasions that require some significant hardware and manpower.

A great X-Com tip is to bolster your cash flow by becoming a wholesale gun dealer. You heard me right: sell weapons. The first thing you should do is hire some scientists and engineers. Quickly research laser weapons and get to the point where you are producing laser rifles. Once you are able to produce laser rifles, have your engineers pump them out as quickly as possible.

Laser rifles sell for 20,000 dollars a piece and take only a fraction of that cost to produce. Sell the rifles whenever you're not making anything else in your workshops and your alien fighting team will be awash in cash. Use this X-Com trick to ensure you've got plenty of cash to go around.

Keep Track of Your Characters

It might seem obvious, but it can be very difficult to know exactly what each of your squad members can do in X-Com. The game doesn't make it any easier, either: when entering a combat mission, the team is auto-equipped with whatever equipment is first in line and you can't view their stats from the armory screen.

The ideal way to make sure that isn't a problem is to keep hiring and firing soldiers until they all have excellent stats. Unfortunately, this isn't always economical and sometimes you need to rush into a terror site right away. To make sure you have your team equipped properly, change their names to specify where their talents lie.

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To do this, simply go to the soldier listing inside of a base and click on their names. I usually specify whether they're good with rifles, heavy weapons, both, or neither. Those who aren't good at either are still useful as fodder- send them out to the most dangerous areas of the field to draw fire or reveal the map so the more skilled soldiers can make a shot.

X-Com Battle SCene

X-Com Battle SCene

Carry a Variety of Weapon Types

An important X-Com tip is to always carry a variety of weapon types. Laser, Incendiary, Explosive, and Plasma weapons are all very useful throughout the entire game. Although it might seem that plasma weapons quickly replace laser weapons, X-Com is tricking you. Eventually you will discover that certain enemies will be strong against plasma fire but fall to lasers quickly.

Don't waste all your time carrying around huge amounts of each type, though. Just make sure there are one or two of each on your ship and use your main payload when you head out. You can usually make do.

If you're this close to a Chrysalid it is probably already too late.

If you're this close to a Chrysalid it is probably already too late.

How to Kill Chrysalids in X-Com

Literally the worst alien ever and probably what will ruin more games for unaware newbies to X-Com. Killing a Chrysalids in X-Com can be a real pain. These alien-inspired beasties move faster than your units and kill with a single touch. If that wasn't bad enough, they don't just kill: they turn your troops and innocent civilians into shambling zombies that will quickly turn into Chrysalids themselves.

If you're in a situation where you know Chrysalids are around (for instance, if you see Snakemen aliens, there is a good chance a Chrysalids is near) then never send troops off by themselves. Head out in groups of two or three and slowly canvass the area. When you see one, don't try to get closer for a better shot. Have your entire squad shoot at it as much as they can from a distance.

Surviving Chrysalids is one of the number one tricks in X-Com. Don't let them overwhelm you or its game over, man.

If a Chrysalids does manage to bite one of your troops, take a moment to kill the attacker and then quickly back away from the zombie. Once you have some distance, wait until the next turn. With all of your time units refilled, have all characters turn and blast the zombie until a Chrysalids emerges. You should have enough time and firepower left to take down the new alien before it gets a chance to move.


RedmanBrendan from Dallas, Texas on May 11, 2011:

Haha I'd never even heard of this game, but I am freaking addicted already! This is like final fantasy 7 meets my favorite subject of study (for entertainment purposes lol).

johndwilliams from Essex England on April 12, 2011:

Excellent some great advice here - I simply love the XCOM based games, such amazing gameplay and still relevant today. If only they made games like this now

Matt on November 15, 2010:

Thanks, btw are you using GuavaMoments lets play for pictures, I recognize the squads names

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