XCOM: Enemy Unknown Classic Ironman Strategy Guide

Classic Ironman mode in XCOM is not for the faint of heart. You will lose troops, regardless of how amazing you might think you are at the game. Sooner or later all your units will spectacularly miss their shots and an alien will critically hit one of your soldiers in full cover. You will most likely see a number of countries withdraw from the council and you’ll feel like you’re fighting an absolutely hopeless cause, especially early in the game.

But quite frankly, this is by far the most enjoyable way to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and many of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are a wide range of things you can do to even the odds in your favor and to ensure you have a much better chance at succeeding against the ever increasing alien menace. After beating the game on normal with virtually no losses I’ve been playing Classic Ironman exclusively and the game has taught me a thing or two in the process. The very first game I played was completely hopeless, my Memorial was 3 pages long and no soldier would last to Lieutenant.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Classic Ironman

A game for real men.

A few games further and I’ve largely perfected my strategies. Soldiers reach Colonel rank consistently and I only lose soldiers in the most dire of circumstances. I’ve also managed to keep the number of countries who withdraw from the council to an absolute minimum. For example, in my current Classic Ironman game I have world wide satellite cover in Month 3 with the only exceptions of China and Australia.

So let’s go through some of the strategies I found highly successful. I do recommend you play through and finish the game at least once on normal non-ironman. This way, you are familiar with the research, the story and can read through this without spoiling things for yourself.


Your first decision will be whether or not to play the Tutorial. I would recommend that you don’t. You do get a free satellite, but the timing of other aspects is poor at best, and you might find yourself unable to order another satellite before you run out of time. Since they take 20 days to build, you need to be able to order another one by the 10th.


Early Game

  • I’d recommend you start in Africa or North America. Africa will probably be your best bet – as you get the bonus to 30% income instantly, and you can swap fully to North America after. If you decide to start in North America, you will need to focus on acquiring Africa at the earliest possible convenience. Overall Africa is a better start as you can sacrifice the lower income members there without losing your bonus.
  • Play a ‘perfect’ opening mission. You are so early in that if you screw this mission up restarting is your only option. You have nothing to lose at this point.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown Cashflow

    A healthy financial situation is crucial.

    Upon finishing the mission, check your base layout/facilities. In particular, where your Steam vents are located. You need at least one, ideally two of these to manage your power needs efficiently. Please refer to base layout for more information as I go in more depth about this in that section. If your Steam vents are in totally terrible locations (they’ll prevent you from getting a good base layout, especially in regards to satellites) – consider restarting. You have enough challenge to worry about without an impossible to manage power situation.

  • Start researching Alien Materials – you want armor as soon as possible and 1-2 vests to protect your ‘better’ soldiers early on can be invaluable.
  • Your highest priority is to order 2 satellites and ensure they will finish before the council report.
  • Your second priority is to create a foundation which will allow you to build a satellite up-link next month. This means ensuring that there is enough power in your base. You probably have to open with a conventional generator, but you want to aim at your second generator being a Thermal Generator. This means tunneling towards a Steam vent.
  • Ignore the storyline for now, the Alien Containment can wait until your economy is stable and you are not at peril of council members withdrawing constantly. Your resources are limited right now, so don’t waste them.


Satellite Cover

You should aim for the following satellite cover by the end of each month as an absolute minimum (assuming an Africa start):

  • Month 1: Buy 1 Sats. Total Countries: 2 – USA.
  • Month 2: Buy 3 Sats + 1 Uplink. Total Countries: 5 – Finish USA. Start working on Europe, or finish South America in 1 go if they have high panic levels.
  • Month 3: Buy 3 Sats + 1 Uplink. Total Countries: 8 – Finish your continents as much as possible, but focus on high panic levels now.
  • Month 4: Buy 6 Sats + 1 Nexus. Total Countries: 14 – Finish all other countries.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Satellite Cover

This is an excellent situation to be in at this difficulty.

A much more ideal scenario (depending on your mission success / available resources) is to bring forward the 1st Uplink into Month 1 or buy 2 Uplinks in Month 2. This is very possible – but you’ll have to plan accordingly and manage your funds extremely carefully. If you’re lucky on what missions you get, go for it. Sell some UFO Power Sources if you need to, it’s worth it in the long run and you’ll acquire more anyway. They bring in enough cash to fund your uplinks. Don’t get rid of the Navigation Computers, you’ll need them for research and construction of the Satellite Nexus.

Note that you will need Workshops in order to pull this off – as there will be an ever-increasing requirement of Engineers in order to place new satellite up-links. This means you will need to anticipate this by building generators and workshops accordingly.

Managing Panic

If you are at serious risk of losing a council member, you can drop the panic level in said country by 2 by placing a satellite right before the council report. Don’t do this any sooner as a late month mission might change everything. Generally speaking once you are nearing the end of the first and second months you might have to plan to sacrifice specific countries. If you started in Africa, you can safely sacrifice the two other countries there without too much impact. The best other choice for sacrifice would be the lower paying countries in Asia. The bonus Asia gives is completely not required by the time you heavily invest in the Foundry and Officer School, as you will have a satellite network paying you in excess of 1500 per month. Bear this in mind when you choose Abduction missions as well – take note of the reward and the effect not doing them will have on the rest of the continent. Russia might be fine, but if Germany is on 4 panic, you might want to do the Russia mission just to prevent Germany from withdrawing from the council. With 9 workshops planned in this strategy, Europe provides a huge bonus which you don’t really want to lose if you can avoid it. (Though not as vital as Africa and North America are!)

Please note that countries with Satellite cover are not subject to Abductions. Since abductions are the biggest risk to your panic levels, full cover effectively means you have a very stable and much easier time managing your panic levels across the globe. It is worth keeping a spare satellite around – in case you fail to shoot down a UFO and it decides to take out one of your Satellites. Launch a new one ASAP, to prevent triggering an abduction!

Still with us? Great! There’s much more below and I strongly recommend you take a look. In the meantime, we’ve sourced a great heart bingo sign up promo code if you fancy your hands at some online bingo instead. And if not? No problem – just read on.


Tips & Tricks

  • Don’t buy anything unless you have to. Swap gear on your units every mission so you only need as many items as you have soldiers.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown 2 of each

    Be as efficient with your items as possible and only ever have as many as you use in any given mission.

    You only ever need 2 medikits, 2 arc throwers and a handful of protective vests or chitin plating. You might wish to use scopes on a few soldiers later.

  • Don’t buy anything until you need to. (I can’t stress this enough) Remember you can go back to briefing / buy weapons and armor when a mission has already been triggered. Take the chance that no mission is triggered and you can use the money elsewhere.
  • Don’t rush the storyline unless you are ready. I’ve had the most success not even doing the initial live capture until I had full satellite cover and an experienced squad equipped with a mixture of different armor and laser weapons.
  • Once you unlock the ability to research Plasma Cannon for your Interceptors, do so immediately and start retrofitting at least 1 per continent where you have satellite cover. This allows you to take on large UFOs.
  • Don’t build any Research Labs. No seriously, you don’t need them.
  • Always time Satellite Uplink facilities so that they finish by the end of the month. There is no point buying them if they wont finish before the end of the month, wait until next month in that case. The Satellite Uplink takes 14 days to build and the Satellite Nexus takes 21 days to build.
  • Once you have a small bit of cash ‘spare’ – put up an Officer School and buy extra squad slots. This is the single most important investment you make to your squad early on.
  • The Foundry can quite frankly wait until you have spare resources for it. The bonuses are not vital early on. Put it up once you have made your investments in Sats for the month and the Officer School is already up and running. A couple of workshops first is more important to be honest.
  • Capturing live aliens grants a research bonus to a specific field. Most of these, you’ll already have completed before you gain access to the bonus. However, once your sat cover is in place and you’ve put up an Alien Containment, try capturing a Muton alive. This will help your Plasma research, which you probably wont have completed yet at this point.
  • Once you get to the Alien Base Assault – if possible, capture the Commander alive. Don’t take any risks though – you will have other chances and your soldiers are far more valuable than the little boost to psi research.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Gray Market

Sell anything you don’t need – it will give you a much needed cash injection. Don’t ever sell Alien Alloys or Elerium though.

  • Rotate soldiers. This goes for missions, psi testing, everything. Have at least 1, ideally 2 soldiers of each class more than you take on missions. This way, if you lose a soldier, you have a reasonably suitable replacement available.
  • The only exception to the rotation rule is pushing specific classes towards key perks. Once they have these perks, ensure you take those soldiers on the harder missions. E.g. the ability to use a medikit 3 times on a Support, Lightning Reflexes on an Assault, etc.
  • When presented with the choice for Abduction missions, when panic levels are equal prioritise as follows: Engineers, Money, Soldiers, Scientists. The exception to this is if you have the required engineers (or workshops finishing in time to give you more engineers) to expand your satellite network, but lack funds.


XCOM Base Layout

When planning your base, consider the following:

  • 0 Research Labs.
  • A 2×2 grid of Satellite Uplink / Satellite Nexus facilities. Placement for this is not optional as the first is already sitting next to your lift. There are 16 countries to cover and 2x Uplink and 2x Nexus will cover them all. Realistically speaking you should be fine with 3x Uplink and 1x Nexus which will cover 14 as you are very likely to lose two countries.
  • A 3×3 grid of Workshops. Trust me, it will pay off due to the giant rebate you will receive. I generally put these to the right of the access lifts, starting on the 2nd row from the top and working down.
  • Top row on the right side: 1x Officer Training School, 1x Foundry, 1x Alien Containment.
  • Depending on placement of Steam Vents, a 2×2 grid for Power Facilities. Work with Steam/Conventional at first. You can always replace your conventional ones later if you have to. I often place a temporary conventional generator at the top row next to the Sat Uplinks and delete it at endgame to make room for one of the ‘special buildings’. By that time I have spare power from more advanced facilities.
  • Anything else will fit in the remaining 3 slots: Psionic Lab, Hyperwave Relay and Gollop Chamber.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Base Layout

As you can see, there’s room for the Hyperwave Relay and Gollop Chamber facilities with plenty of power spare.


Your Squad

One of the biggest questions I get asked is what soldiers to take on missions – and what perks they should have. There isn’t really a single good answer to this, but I’ll tell you what worked extremely well for me, and provide comments where I am able.

First in terms of set-up for the Squad itself. Obviously, you will rely on the availability of your soldiers, but in my experience you will mainly come down to a fairly consistent set-up. I had a huge section written out until I realised that quite frankly, there’s little variation in what you should take. The ‘core’ would definitely be;

2 Supports
1 Sniper
1 Assault

You then add a Heavy for any mission which isn’t a UFO. For those, honestly – besides for the few pulls away from the UFO, you want to minimise collateral damage. On Terror Missions, I am torn. If you have a fantastic Heavy, go ahead but otherwise consider an additional Assault or Sniper. Your last slot once you have 6 can be anything: Shiv, experienced soldier or better: rotate less experienced soldiers in to bring your reserves up to snuff. Personally I’ve had a lot of success with experienced Assaults and love running with 2x Support, 2x Assault, 1x Sniper and 1x Heavy/Shiv. On Council missions, provided I have a very experienced one spare, I might bring an additional sniper as those can make a huge difference on the smaller maps when the reinforcements spawn. Thin men are very easily dispatched with double tapping squadsight snipers.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Memorial

No matter how fantastic you are doing, you will still lose experienced soldiers. Plan accordingly.


Support Perk Choices

Rank Ability
Squaddie Smoke Grenade
Deploy a smoke grenade once per mission. The smoke confers +20 defense to all units, not just allies, and lasts during the enemy turn.
Corporal Sprinter
Allows the support to move 3 additional tiles.
Covering Fire
Allows reaction shot to trigger on enemy attacks, not just movement.
Sergeant Field Medic
Allows medikits to be used 3 times per battle instead of once.
Smoke and Mirrors
Allows 1 additional use of Smoke Grenade each mission.
Lieutenant Revive
Allows Medikits to revive critically wounded Soldiers at 33% of maximum health instead of just stabilizing them.
Rifle Suppression
Fires a barrage that pins down a target, granting reaction fire against it and imposing a 30 penalty to aim.
Captain Dense Smoke
Smoke Grenades have increased area of effect and further increase units’ Defense by 20.
Combat Drugs
Smoke Grenades now contain powerful stimulants that grant +20 Will and +10% Critical Chance for all units in the cloud.
Major Deep Pockets
Confers an additional item slot in inventory.
Colonel Savior
Medikits restore 4 more health per use.
Allows two reaction shots during Overwatch, instead of only one.

Corporal: Covering Fire – at this difficulty you’re not sprinting across the map with a support, you are turtling and covering your squad at every opportunity with overwatch. Covering Fire is absolutely amazing for this as it means your Support will fire at aliens which don’t leave their cover. This combines very well with Sentinel later on.

Sergeant: Field Medic – there simply isn’t another choice here. Medikits are vital if you wish to see your soldiers survive beyond a few missions. Having a veteran unit bleed to death because you were stupid enough not to bring enough medikit uses is nothing short of heartbreaking.

Lieutenant: Revive - bring soldiers back into the fight? Yes please. No medic should go without this. Rifle Suppression is situational, ideally enemies should be dead, or you go in Overwatch if they’re not.

Captain: Dense Smoke – this is a personal choice and you could easily go with Combat Drugs for those tougher situations when not panicking is key. I quite like being able to make smoke grenades more effective, as I primarily use them in situations where additional defense is key.

Major: Deep Pockets – all Supports get this but I wanted to highlight how crucial this perk is. This enables your Support to take an Arc Thrower, or if live aliens is no longer a concern, Chitin Plating. A huge benefit.

Colonel: Sentinel - this might be an odd choice as additional healing is obviously a great perk. Personally, I use my supports exactly as the name implies: to cover and support my other soldiers. My supports are among the soldiers with the highest number of kills and I have them on overwatch almost permanently – unless they’re busy actively killing something or healing another soldier. Sentinel is outright amazing and has literally saved me during some tough terror missions later in the game.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Support Build

Experienced Supports are utterly invaluable in difficult missions.

Assault Perk Choices

Rank Ability
Squaddie Run & Gun
Allows firing or Overwatch after Dashing on the turn Run & Gun is activated. 2 turn cooldown.
Corporal Tactical Sense
Confers +5 Defense per enemy in sight (max +20).
Confers +10% critical chance per enemy in sight (max +30%).
Sergeant Lightning Reflexes
Forces the first reaction shot against this unit each turn to miss.
Close & Personal
Confers +30% critical chance against adjacent targets. The bonus declines with distance from the target.
Lieutenant Flush
Fire a shot that causes enemies to run out of cover. The shot is easy to hit with, but does reduced damage.
Rapid Fire
Take two shots against a single target in quick succession. Each shot carries a -15 penalty to Aim.
Captain Close Combat Specialist
Confers a reaction shot against any enemy who closes to within 4 tiles. Does not require Overwatch.
Bring ‘Em On
Adds 1 damage on critical hits for each enemy the squad can see (up to 5).
Major Extra Conditioning
Confers bonus health based on which type of armor is equipped. Heavier armor increases the bonus.
Colonel Resilience
Confers immunity to critical hits.
Killer Instinct
Activating Run & Gun now also grants +50% critical damage for the rest of the turn.

Squaddie: Run & Gun – all Assaults get this but oh my god this skill is so damned useful. It allows you to flank enemies and make a real difference.

Corporal: Tactical Sense – this is a personal choice and the other perk is great too. However, when there are enemies in sight and all else fails (which it often will) I’d like my soldier to have every chance to survive the alien turn. Aggression could work well too – but later on you really have plenty of crit chance already and I never felt it made a huge difference.

Sergeant: Lightning Reflexes – this is hands-down the winner here. You can now use Run & Gun not only to flank the enemy but to force that enemy to waste its Overwatch reaction shot, allowing the rest of your squad to move freely. Vital.

Lieutenant: Rapid Fire - quite frankly, flush is useless and doesn’t work half the time. Rapid fire is amazing as it allows you to Run & Gun close to an alien and then blast it full in the face with 2 shots. As you’re so close by, the -15 to aim isn’t that big of a deal.

Captain: Close Combat Specialist – this gives a free attack against any enemy who comes within 4 tiles. This attack has a great chance of hitting as the enemy is so close to the assault. The amount of times this will save you against cryssalids, or on top of a ladder cannot be underestimated. This talent is huge and always works. Vital.

Colonel: I tend to go with Killer Instinct, which provides an excellent synergy with Ghost Armor. Using Run & Gun and shooting someone twice with the additional crit damage and 100% crit chance on your first shot due to stealth can lead to a tremendous amount of damage. Resilience however makes it far more likely that your Assault will survive several hits during combat, which can prove vital in Classic Ironman. Either is a solid choice, I’d make an assault with each and use one of them to make banzai style attacks and the other as clean-up crew.


Heavy Perk Choices

Rank Required Ability
Squaddie Fire Rocket
Fire a rocket using an equipped launcher. This ability can not be used after moving, nor more than once per mission.
Corporal Bullet Swarm
Firing the primary weapon as the first action no longer ends the turn.
Shooting at or suppressing enemies also confers a +10 Aim to any allies’ attacks on those enemies.
Sergeant Shredder Rocket
Fire a rocket that causes all enemies hit to take +33% damage from all sources for the next 4 turns. The rocket’s blast is weaker than a standard rocket’s.
Can fire a special shot that grants reaction fire at a single target. The target also suffers a -30 Aim penalty.
Lieutenant HEAT Ammo
+100% to damage against robotic enemies.
Rapid Reaction
Confers a second reaction shot, if on Overwatch and the first reaction shot is a hit.
Captain Grenadier
Allows to carry 2 grenades in a single inventory slot.
Danger Zone
Increases hit area of rockets and suppression by 2 tiles.
Major Will to Survive
Reduces all normal damage taken by 2 if in cover and not flanked.
Colonel Rocketeer
Allows 1 additional standard rocket to be fired per battle.
Confers additional damage based on weapon tech level to Suppression and all area-effect abilities.

Corporal: Bullet Swarm – this gives your Heavy the ability to fire and then either move or shoot again. As useful as Holo-Targeting might be, Bullet Swarm is the clear choice here.

Sergeant: Shredder Rocket – I’ve found this rocket invaluable both for taking out groups of weaker enemies early in the game, as well as softening up the stronger enemies later, such as Cyberdiscs or worse. Suppression uses a huge amount of ammo and pretty much forces you to lose another turn later while you reload.

Lieutenant: HEAT Ammo – very nice against Cyberdiscs and Sectopods, which are among the hardest enemies in the game. Rapid Reaction relies on the Heavy firing and hitting a reaction shot and given that this class has the poorest aim of all, the chance of this actually happening is quite small.

Captain: Danger Zone – unless you consistently equip grenades on your heavy (which I don’t, I prefer a S.C.O.P.E. as their aim is poor) you are better off increasing the area of effect of your rockets.

Colonel: Rocketeer - whilst additional damage is nice, I prefer to carry an additional rocket. Especially as my Heavies don’t use grenades, otherwise I would run with a Grenadier/Mayhem combo.


Sniper Perk Choices

Rank Ability
Squaddie Headshot
Fire a shot with +30% critical chance and extra damage on critical hits based on the tech level of the sniper rifle. 2 turn cooldown.
Corporal Snap Shot
Removes the sniper rifle’s restriction on firing and Overwatch after moving. Any shots taken suffer a -20 Aim penalty.
Squad Sight
Allows firing at targets in any ally’s sight radius.
Sergeant Gunslinger
Confers 2 bonus damage with pistols.
Damn Good Ground
+10 Aim and +10 Defense against enemies at lower elevation in addition to the usual elevation bonuses.
Lieutenant Disabling Shot
Allows the Sniper to fire a shot that causes the target’s main weapon to malfunction. The target may use Reload to fix the weapon. The shot cannot inflict a critical hit. 2 turn cooldown. -10 Aim penalty
Battle Scanner
Scanning device, when thrown creates a new source of vision for 2 turns. Can only be used 2 times per battle.
Captain Executioner
+10% Aim against targets with less than 50% Health.
Eliminates the Aim penalty on reaction shots, and allows reaction shots to cause critical hits.
Major Low Profile
Makes partial cover count as full.
Colonel In The Zone
Killing a flanked or uncovered target with the sniper rifle does not cost an action.
Double Tap
Allows both actions to be used for Standard Shot, Headshot, or Disable Shot, provided no moves were made. 1 turn cooldown.

Corporal: Squad Sight – This is miles better than Snap Shot, I guarantee you. Without squad sight, you spend far too much time finding good vantage points for your Sniper. With Squad Sight, this is not needed. Just ensure you are in a good position overseeing a large part of the map and you can shoot anything your other soldiers see as long as there are no walls or obstacles between you and the target. Once you have Archangel armor, you simply float to max elevation in the corner of a map, far away from the aliens and shoot them in complete safety.

Sergeant: Gunslinger - You will use your pistol a lot if you play the sniper right, especially early on while you level towards the better perks. You might not be able to use your sniper rifle after you move, but you can use your pistol and it does a surprisingly decent amount of damage with this perk. With better pistols, you will instantly kill most weaker enemies and your pistol is always available.

Lieutenant: Battle Scanner – To be honest, this depends on your play style. I use Battle Scanners a lot to reveal areas of the map and allow for Squad Sight kills but you could use Disabling shot if you want to disarm an opponent. That said, it doesn’t work on the enemies which cause you the most problems so I’ve never seen too much point in it.

Captain: Opportunist - This is awesome and makes Overwatch incredibly dangerous on your Sniper. My sniper has made an insane amount of kills in Overwatch because of this skill with huge critical hits against stronger opponents.

Colonel: Double Tap – A lot of people love In The Zone, but I prefer Double Tap. Being able to shoot twice with your sniper rifle against any enemy in sight is just too good to pass up. There are specific situations where In The Zone is better, but Double Tap is invaluable against some of the stronger opponents later in the game when one shot just isn’t enough.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Sniper Build

Colonel rank Snipers are amazing with a good build. Even more so if they’re gifted.


Combat Tactics

Classic Ironman is often brutal, and completely unforgiving. You will not get a second chance if you make a huge tactical error, and therefore your stategy should involve not making any errors. If you play with caution, your soldiers will live longer and each subsequent mission will become a lot easier as a result. Alternatively, if you play poorly and lose a lot of soldiers, this problem will cascade and things will become harder up to the point where you can no longer achieve your missions successfully. Below are some tips and strategies that will help you reduce unneeded losses.

  • Have your soldiers cover one another by slowly moving them forward. Always have at least 1 soldier covering another before you move into unrevealed tiles.
  • Always think to yourself: “If I do this and my soldier fails to hit this shot, will something really bad happen?” If the answer is yes, don’t do it. You can and will miss even at 95% chance.
  • Never reveal additional tiles if you are already fighting aliens. Trust me, the worst possible moments occur when you inadvertently invite another 7 aliens to your party. They won’t bring booze or snacks, but will nom on your face instead.
  • Having a sniper in Overwatch prior to revealing new tiles often leads to at least 1 dead alien when you do happen to come across a pull.
  • Never open a door unless you have a soldier on either side of it. Don’t jump through it like your soldier is Chuck Norris. Open it quietly and don’t alert the aliens.
  • Never dash into unrevealed tiles, ever. Dashing is only to catch up with other units which are already providing cover.
  • If you do encounter aliens, check all your units before making the first shots. One of your soldiers might only be able to fire on a few of the aliens and you want to leave the ones with multiple options until last.
  • Take sure kills first. It’s better to fight 1 extremely strong alien than 3 weaker ones – as the weak ones will kill you just fine. There are exceptions to this rule, you don’t want to get hit by a Cryssalid, period.
  • Stay away from melee enemies. They’re actually among the easier opponents with this play style as your units should rarely be very close to them when they appear.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown Environmental Damage

    Alternatively, just blow up the entire building. That works too.

    Use grenades and rockets to blow up the opponents cover if they’re behind cover and hard to hit.

  • Similarly, use grenades and rockets to level up rookies. They’re terrible shots but they throw a grenade into a group of sectoids just fine. As bonus, they’ll gain a rank.
  • Give your sniper a decent pistol as soon as they become available, it will prove invaluable.
  • On that note, don’t forget about your pistols. They do decent damage later in the game. You can also use them to soften up a target before you use an Arc Thrower.
  • Stay in cover at all time. Move from cover to cover and never stand in the open unless absolutely required. Never do this when there are aliens around as you will most likely lose that soldier.
  • Full cover doesn’t guarantee protection. A lot of the time you can and will still be shot. If you want a soldier to be completely safe, he needs to be out of line of sight, which involves at least full cover on both sides of him. Standing behind full cover means he leans towards the most appropriate edge with half or no cover and is still in line of sight.
  • Focus your fire. An injured alien hurts just as much as any other. Only dead or unconscious aliens are harmless.
  • Always have a back-up plan. If you’re going to charge in to capture an alien, ensure you have one covering him with a decent chance to kill the alien outright if the first fails.
  • Ignore Dr. Vahlen. 1. She is French. 2. She’s constantly complaining about explosives and how you’re reducing the amount of salvage. Quite frankly, tell her to stop whinging as your soldiers lives are far more valuable than some weapon fragments. Just tell her if she doesn’t stop her complaints that she can share a night in the Alien Containment facility with a Berserker.
  • Listen to the type of noise aliens make during their turn. Learn to notice the different sounds each alien makes. Does it sound like insects skittering? That’s a sectoid. Big stomping? Mutons coming your way.
  • Once you have Ghost armor, use stealth. You can scout without exposing your soldier to danger, do so.
  • Exploit the destructible environment. Want to flank an enemy but have no way into a building or UFO? Make a door yourself – that’s what explosives are for.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Interceptor

I never even noticed the game kept track of kills for individual interceptors until I made this screen shot.

And so concludes an insanely long article. I hope you found it useful and that it will help you find your own success in Classic Ironman mode. Most of these tips will apply in normal difficulty as well, but you’ll go through that without feeling the sensation of despair and terror that the harder difficulties bring. Don’t worry though, once you’re through the early difficulty, have your satellite network online and have some experienced and well-equipped soldiers, things aren’t actually that bad in this mode. Just be careful, as any mistake could be your last.

Give them hell, soldier!

the author

Managing Editor of ManaPool, Peter lives in York, UK and is a great fan and master of turn-based strategy games. If he isn't playing one of those, you'll probably find him in a role-playing game instead. He's definitely not afraid to provide a straight up opinion on any game and has a strong like for indie developers. We all start small, after all.

  • Loz

    Awesome guide, ET. I can’t stress how awesome and thorough this is just like the Civ5 guide. I appreciate such a detailed breakdown and will be sure to have this one bookmarked as well for future use. Thanks again and hope to see more in the future!

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    You’re most welcome Loz. Appreciate the feedback and support!

  • Mike

    Well done, have been playing on normal and sort of having trouble keeping countries in, but I didn’t realize the importance of getting early sats.

    Anyway, thanks. This needs more views.

  • KempoMan

    Awesome guide, thanks!!!

  • eg

    Thanks for the helpful post.

    One other thing that I would mention is the need for month-appropriate weapon technology. I’ve had a few games that looked good go quickly south due because I had to concentrate too much conventional fire on Mutons or even laser rifles, but conventional snipers, on cyber disks. It works fine until you have an unfortunate double spawn and some below average luck on shots. Lasers are cheap, stunning can be dangerous, troops are expensive,and experience is priceless. Don’t be afraid to buy equipment, even if you can get better weapons for free with just a few more days of research and a couple more stuns.

    It’s also worth sacrificing satellites and countries to make sure your tech is good enough to keep soldiers alive. No amount of money or low panic levels will keep you in the game without good enough soldiers.

    I like to have the following for missions:
    Month 2) Carapace or Laser rifles. Carapace is helpful for getting stuns as you can take a few more risks in early months.
    Month 3) Carapace, laser rifles. Maybe an increase to squad size too.
    Month 4) Light plasma rifles, laser snipers, perhaps a laser machine gun/laser shotgun, if you like them.

    At this point, you can keep up with most enemies (don’t think this would fare so well against sectopods) in small enough doses. The plasma weapons, improved armor, and upgraded rocket launcher will be gravy on the side and easy enough to get.

  • Andrew

    Great guide! One thing I have to mention is your comment about the Colonel skill (Killer Instinct) for Assault. You mention that it’s not useful with Ghost Armor, but I think you read the skill wrong. It’s actually 50% crit *damage*. So it synergizes with ghost armor really really well. You have a 100% chance to get a crit, and your crit does 50% more damage. Combine that with Run & Gun and Rapid Fire and you can kill pretty much anything in one shot (30+ damage with an alloy cannon).

    I almost always take Killer Instinct, but if you’re running ironman, it’s probably better to go with Resilience for the damage reduction. Otherwise you can just reload if you get an unlucky crit against you.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @Mike – Thanks! Spread the word :)

    @KempoMan – Thank you for the feedback!

    @eg – Largely speaking research (even without any labs/focus) goes quickly enough to keep up. I certainly didn’t have problems. Generally speaking I go for Carapace first, followed by Laser weapons. I wont ever buy more than 2 of each laser weapon, but they’re definitely a lot better than the basic weaponry you are issued.

    Increase in squad size should be the first thing that is purchased once an officer school is up, but *nothing* should get in the way of sorting out your satellite cover. Once that is sorted you have an excellent foundation for a victory. Your early soldiers are expendable, later soldiers are by default more powerful due to the Iron Will talent & the desire to find more ‘gifted’ soldiers.

    @Andrew – You’re absolutely 100% correct. I will rectify this in the guide, thank you very much for your attention to detail :)

  • mortimer667

    I’ve just started playing on classic ironman looking for good guide but this… Great job, man, great job! Greetings from Poland!
    “Ignore Dr. Vahlen. 1. She is French.” If she could, she would probably declare Paris an open city:)

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Thanks mortimer, I’m glad it was time well invested and people are finding it useful. Hope you’re enjoying the game!

  • BUda

    great guide, helped a lot, but Dr. Vahlen is german… or at least she speak german in tense moments…

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @BUda – She speaks German in the Tutorial mission but with such an utterly atrocious accent that I just can’t picture her actually being German. (Or perhaps she is meant to be German and the voice actor just didn’t get that scene quite right?)

    She makes sulky faces which kind of made me class her as French for some reason. (That and the fact she can be quite annoying). I dunno, it’s worked for me immersion wise. If she’s actually meant to be from somewhere else, fair enough.

    I believe there’s a forum topic debating this on the official 2k forums as well. It’ll be interesting to see Firaxis confirm where Dr. Vahlen is actually meant to be from :)

  • eg

    Some people have an easier time with different aspects of the game than others. Perhaps, I’m just not that good at the combat portion of the game. I’ve had a couple of ironman starts where I lost most of my squad at the beginning of the third month (probably a mix of not running away when I should have and not being armed well enough, because I prioritized satellites and saving countries). Satellites and money are rarely an issue for me, though most guides seem to focus on these and combat.

    Adding some more technology development tips (including building, deploying, and arming interceptors), would make this already great guide to classic ironman more complete. The normal game is so much more forgiving on base management, satellites, and air and land combat that you can afford to wing it as you go. I find that, if I screw up on any of these in classic ironman, I struggle in the third and fourth months.

    So long as my soldiers stay alive and can complete missions, however, I can bounce back from back luck and non-optimal decisions.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @eg – True, though the focus on sats and economy means you can afford ‘the good stuff’ when things start getting really tough.

    You make some good suggestions though – when I get a moment in the coming days I will make some additions in regards to technology focus and interceptors. The latter is fairly straight forward – I don’t bother with anything until Plasma Cannons as those always seemed to come soon enough. Interceptors aren’t very expensive and the Avalanche shoots down most UFOs up to that point without too much trouble.

    With the sole exception of month 1 and 2, when I might wing it a bit, I’ll station a minimum of 2 interceptors on any continent where I have at least 1 sat. Once Plasma Cannons come into play, I upgrade 1 interceptor at a time, to avoid a total lack of cover.

    Once I reach the point of Firestorms, I have so much money and resources that I slowly but steadily replace the entire fleet with Firestorms. I only use 2 of those on every continent: 1 with a Plasma Cannon, and 1 with an EMP for moments when I fancy taking a UFO intact for the resources. I’ve never needed more.

  • Eddie Guerrero

    THANK YOU! This is simply the best advice I’ve seen so far. I’ve been playing this thing all wrong!

  • baheeda

    great Guide !

    In my opinion one thing is missing -> SHIVS are insanely useful.
    Especially in the late missions they made the difference for me.

    I use them something loke this:

    1 (Hover) Shiv
    2 Assault
    1-2 Sniper
    1 Support
    maybe one Heavy

    First i move the Shiv. Especially the hover has as great field of view and much movement range. It is the only unit that reveals dark areas.
    If it comes in contact with aliens i go trough my options to kill as many aliens as possible with the rest of my squad. With good pre positioning it is possible to kill 3 aliens only with the 2 Assaults and the Sniper. If someone fails the Shiv is an good position to finish off.
    Then there are still 2 units left to heal or whatever.

    Most enemy fire will go on the SHIV because it is always the nearest unit to the enemy and uncovered. When it is hovering enemies will miss it from time to time.
    Often i wonder how long it takes the aliens to get SHIV´s down.
    Best thing is that it costs nearly to nothing to replace a destroyed shiv.

    And try a terror mission with 2 Kamikaze SHiVS and 2 Snipers. Never got such good results before

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @baheeda – I’m not entirely sure I agree completely with that. I do agree that SHIVs can be very useful in missions, as you can take a little more risk with them without the imminent danger of losing an experienced soldier. However – I find them more useful earlier in the game rather than later.

    If you consider taking a Heavy instead of that Shiv – you get at least as many hitpoints, or more if you equip the soldier that way than the SHIV has. In addition, the SHIV cannot take cover – whilst the soldier will be much harder to hit. Combine that with special attacks and the ability to shoot twice a turn and the soldier is starting to look a lot more viable at endgame than the SHIV.

    Not saying taking a SHIV permanently isn’t a viable strategy, it certainly is. But late game I would personally rate an additional soldier higher than a SHIV. Which is unfortunately as I love using vehicles in these games, a little balance tweaking by the developers to ensure SHIVs remain competitive would go a long way.

    Personally I’d like to see a skill tree for the SHIVs which resembles work/patching of the Engineers. A vehicle which has been with a squad for a long time would have sentimental value and they surely would patch it up with some additional armor or other tweaks they could think of? It would make the SHIVs more fun to use anyway.

    I’m thinking things like additional plating, a secondary weapon, an overcharged engine, etc. Perhaps even an ‘explode massively on death’ type upgrade which let’s you run Kamikaze units :)

  • Eternal Lament

    How come you don’t want to create labratories? Just asking. your guide is great and im following it but my research is taking forever right now. what am i missing, more scientists?

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @Eternal Lament – Focus on the things you need/want the most. Research speeds up enormously after a few months regardless of whether or not you have labs. You get additional scientists every month from the council and you wont actually be able to afford all the things you’ve unlocked early on anyway.

    Once you have South America, all your interrogations and autopsies (which I rarely bother with earlier on) are instant – which saves a huge amount of time as well. The first live specimen of each type you interrogate, increases the research speed in a field by 50% as well.

    For example, a live floater will increase armor research by 50% and a live muton helps with Plasma research. This, combined with the additional scientists which come even if you have 0 focus on them gives you enough research speed not to waste any resources on labs. The workshops in turn, give you a massive rebate of resources and credits – which ensures you can buy things as you please in the mid to late game.

  • Eternal Lament

    thx to you, I have the world covered with sats. never been this far in the game before. I even got the plasma sniper that i’ve always wanted. game 10 now.

  • KempoMan

    I used this guide for my latest non-ironman playthrough, and I’m having a great time this time. Got almost all my research and upgrades and getting ready for final missions.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @Eternal Lament – Brilliant! Keep it up, there’s some pretty awesome bits yet to come :)

    @KempoMan – Awesome, glad to hear you’re having a great time.

    Keep us posted on your progress, I’m really pleased to hear the guide is helping people enjoy the game!

  • Eternal Lament

    Hey i have 80% chance of succeeding to stun this psi guy and it’s not working, I tried three times. What is going on?

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    If you reload and try again, you will get the same result. If it’s three completely different attempts, then you’re having some really bad luck!

  • Eternal Lament

    I was reloading and getting the same result. i had to shoot him one more time and do it again. How come you get the same result? It’s already determined before i even make the move? I’m doing ironman but i was down to my last zapper so i was cheating =

    I guess i had to wait till next turn for it so the system resets or however you want to put that.

  • Eternal Lament


    After the overseer got away because my ships weren’t substatial enough, I decided to play it without Ironman so that I don’t get thrown anymore curve balls.

    At this point I should’ve had those UFO ships but I didn’t have enough emodium (sorry I know it’s now that but it’s the element you can only get from other UFO’s)

    This ironman playthrough was definitely the most fun, but I will probably pick it up where I left it off once I finish the game.

    Comments, concerns, questions?

  • Amok

    Great guide. I’m sure Vahlen is not French though (I speak French fluently). She has a German surname and a German accent in English. As for her atrocious German, I guess Firaxis didn’t want to hire a native German speaker voice actor.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @Eternal – The results are pre-generated for that turn, so reloading wont help you at all I’m afraid. You indeed need to wait until next turn for new results.

    As far as the Overseer is concerned, remember it wont pop up until you can actually see it. Don’t build the Hyperwave Relay until you’re ready for the Overseer. Having some interceptors with Plasma Cannon is pretty much a must. Having a Firestorm would be even better.

    Elerium is pretty easy to get, just ensure you don’t do too much damage to UFOs during crash sites and landed UFO missions. Combined with the vast number of workshops that you should have, you get such a lot of cash-back that you will swim in Elerium.

    Key to all of the above is to not trigger the next story bits until you feel you are ready – there’s not really a point in rushing them.

    @Amok – I am pretty sure you are correct, I just personally like thinking of her as French.

  • KempoMan

    Any tips for getting weapon fragments? This is the one thing that is holding me back from almost all the remaining tech I can’t get. Should I use more destructive means to shoot down UFOs?

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Weapon fragments are obtained when you kill aliens. Each time an alien is killed its weapon and grenade(s) explode into fragments, as Dr. Vahlen mentions when you first kill one. (We presume this is a way for aliens to protect their technology and game design wise a way to limit the number of weapons you obtain)

    Therefore, shooting down UFOs with the least possible amount of damage (EMP) should in theory be most effective, as you’ll fight a larger number of aliens in the mission itself.

    The best thing to do is to avoid spending weapon fragments on foundry projects and/or research projects which you don’t strictly need (yet). You can always grab them later if you want to complete everything for good measure. Especially foundry projects can be expensive and some of them don’t do much if you are not actively using the result.

    For example, there’s no point pushing the SHIV tech if you never take a SHIV along. Similarly, don’t waste tons of fragments on upgrading pistols if you never pull out a pistol. That said, you should be using pistols, they’re awesome and prevent you from having to constantly reload. I find them particularly amazing on Snipers.

  • kekomemo

    What a great guide, ET! I’m just starting my first run through on Classic Ironman, so I’m hoping it’ll put me in good stead. I’d previously played a Normal Ironman campaign right up to the first alien base mission, but all my vets got slaughtered.

    Anyway…fingers crossed that your guide and my previous experience will culminate in a fairly successful CI run!

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Good luck kekomemo – regardless of the outcome I am sure you’ll have a great time. Some of my early games ended in utter disaster but were among the most fun I’ve had in strategy games for quite some time. The feeling of dread and despair works quite well in this setting ;)

  • kekomemo

    Yup, you’re not wrong. Failing that campaign was actually exciting, gripping and filled with suspense. There are not many games out there which keep you on your toes and teetering on the edge of your seat like XCOM does!

  • kekomemo

    Oh one other thing that’s worth mentioning is grouping/bunching of soldiers. Massive no-no! Countless times did I bunch up 2 or 3 soldiers together, knowing instantly that I’d sentenced them to immediate attacks by grenades or Thin Man poisons!

    Makes for painful viewing!

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Nothing worse than a Muton chucking a grenade straight into a couple of soldiers. Rookie panics, shoots veteran in the face – and things spiral out of control from there.

    Good times. :)

  • Amok

    Yes, I recently lost a pretty advanced Classic ironman game like that. I ran into a bunch of Mutons (like 6) and a berserker, my squad missed a few critical shots and the Muton hit a few lucky ones. Panic and grenades ensued.

  • Slyst

    Worth noting that full sat coverage also removes those countries from selection for abduction missions. Useful to know since abductions present the catch 22 where the two areas you did not save increase in panic. This is the only mission where you are sure to increase panic somewhere.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @Slyst – Aye that is pretty much the reason for the satellite coverage. I thought I had explicitly mentioned that aspect, but evidently not :o

    I will rectify!

  • MadsK8000

    With full sat. coverage do abduction missions stop and will they convert into UFO landing missions instead? Upgraded rocket launcher any hints on getting that? I have completed the game in normal mode non-Ironman.

    I am playing Classic Ironman and have full sat cover with no loss of countries thanks to your great guide.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician


    Abduction missions just outright don’t happen, nothing replaces them as far as I know. If a UFO appears you have a decent chance of detecting it and shooting it down before it does anything at all :-)

    To get the Blaster Launcher you need a fusion core from a Battleship class UFO. You need a bit of luck, I’ve not seen one at all in my first few games.

    Glad to hear you’ve found the guide useful!

  • MadsK8000

    Okay this is why I flaming hate/love this game to bits! Three hours ago everything looked fine. Then a mission from the Council appeared. Escort the VIP Thomas Hutch to safety. So I Went in with full sat. coverage and four colonels, one captain and one sergeant.

    The mission started out great my sniper took down three thin man. Then out of nowhere I pulled six thin man. They got a couple of good shots and my col. heavy was down my sgt. sniper was low on health and poisoned, captain was also poisoned. Got two of them the following round with squadsight and doubletap and my col. support got one as well.
    Aliens moved in the shadows, my turn. Now focused on reviving my col. heavy the aliens blasted my col. support and my captain which now was on one health and poisoned…..
    Aliens moved again my sniper missed a 95% shot and the alien took overwatch. I revived my heavy and could only watch my captain stand too far away to far away to saved.
    My heavy was flanked and with no shot on any alien so I had to risk a move… Thin man on overwatch took my heavy out – killed, sgt sniper panicked and ran like a chicken out into the open. Aliens turn. Sgt sniper was killed. Captain knocked out from poison – dead.
    Down to three men and no means of healing I ran after the VIP. My sniper took down four thin men the next two turns and the VIP was on the move towards the skyranger. I thought to myself – I am going to make it. My sniper on overwatch missed the thin man which resulted in poison to the VIP and my col. support. The VIP was too far away from the exit zone to make it….. So I blasted the thin man and the VIP died on the steps up to the skyranger six squares from escape……… Mission result: colonel heavy, captain support and sergeant sniper dead, VIP dead and Brazili withdrew from the project……….Aaaaaaaaaaargghhhh :)

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Hehe, that’s exactly the kind of story which makes XCOM such a great game. I’ve had a similar one myself, except in my case one of my soldiers panicked after killing the last alien (got poisoned) and shot the VIP in the face. That’s the moment you wish you could demote people :P

  • Ace8807

    Fantastic guide! Best one out there for XCOM Enemy Unknown that I have found yet.

    I started out on Classic Ironman and was doing really well…until some catastrophic moment when things spiraled out of control. Six quick restarts and failures later I was so discouraged I ended up starting a Normal Ironman difficulty just so I can at least beat the game. Using the same early game strategy outlined here has turned this playthrough into child’s play. Fully plan on going back to Classic Ironman and utilizing this guide after I beat it once.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Awesome to hear that Ace8807 :-) Good call on finishing it once, it makes plotting a strategy without having to worry overly much about spoilers much easier for the ‘harder’ run. Besides, it’s worth it for the story alone.

    Let us know how your Classic Ironman run goes once you get to it!

  • Krumm

    Fantastic guide. This helped me pick up my game immensely. One small thing though, Dr. Vahlen isn’t French. She’s German.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @Krumm – thanks :)

    We had quite a discussion on Vahlen in the comments – I know she isn’t French, I just prefer her that way ;-)

  • MadsK8000

    This is it, just downed a battleship. Only seconds after I made the discovery of you-know-what…with research on the shard….the mother of all UFOs appeared. BOOM, my firestorm armed with EMP took it out – three shots. I am sending my new top notch team to invistigate.

    Colonel sniper
    Captain assult
    Colonel support
    Captain support
    Colonel heavy
    Captain heavy

    I am going in – wish me luck. And this is still of course on Classic Ironman…wuhu so excited!! :)

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Good luck! Keep those soldiers alive :)

  • Morness

    My first game was normal difficulty on Xbox. Then after completing it, I moved to Classic Ironman and completed it on Game 6. The first couple times, I tried it on my own, and then I started reading tips and saw the light with engineers and satellite ramp up.

    The game is incredibly forgiving once you survive the first 3 months and get most of the satellites up. After this point, you have surplus cash and I completed the game with about 6000 credits and bought everything I needed as it came available. My bigger issue was not having enough materials to research or construct stuff.

    I started in Asia — and focused on half priced training academy upgrades. I didn’t even bother to build a forge until I had lots of money.

    I focused on laser weapon research and that made a huge difference, before capturing live aliens.

    I launched 1 satellite in the first month, then 3 in the second and 3 in the 3rd… then 6 in the fourth.

    I avoided the main missions until I was financially secure — did not research the crystal until month 3 or 4. New guys are introduced strictly after progressing the main story. So get a foothold, then advance when ready.

    In tactical combat, I generally used 2 snipers, 2 heavys, 1 assault, and 1 support. I found that was a great allocation of resources. In Ironman, heavies are simply needed to get out of tough situations and blow cover on stronger guys so your other guys could pick them off effectively.
    Don’t expose fog and be patient positioning everyone leaving one action to attack or overwatch. I never overwatched until everyone did their first move, otherwise you waste important opportunities to retreat away from or attack new foes. Once you master that basic, you’ve really got most of the tactical combat down.

    I got nervous and a couple times I had two complete 6 man wipeouts and probably lost about 24 troops in total. Never built shivs.

    The first wipeout was approximately month 3. I was escorting a scientist to an extraction point and in the first turn moved too aggressively and exposed 3 thin men which I underestimated. One of my guys was in a bad position and used him to attack, but he missed. So then I chose to move two other guys up and in the process exposed 3 more. Next turn, 3 of my guys were hit and some poisoned. More guys spawned and I had about 7 guys on me. I spent the next turn retreating and just got whittled down via attrition. I had the scientist, a sniper, and a heavy back in the observatory room, when a guy showed up in the back and I was surrounded. Everyone died.

    The second wipeout was when I first encountered the elite mutons. In classic for whatever reason, they felt more accurate and harder to hit. They have a real knack for hitting guys behind full cover and getting critical hits. The 3 elite mutons managed to grenade and obliterate my 6 man squad with stunning efficiency. It was a combination of a terrible terrain map with lots of hills, nooks and crannys but little full cover and before titan armor and I got the short end of the rolls.

    But I rebuilt and was able to level up guys. I just had to be careful and conservative as I coddled them up. The gear makes that part much easier. Scopes were essential for rookies so they could connect the attacks. Grenades didn’t cut it anymore due to range limitations and lack of real damage.

    Another tactical error that is noteworthy and caused me to quit Game 5 (the previous game) was my first encounter with the chrysalis (spiders). It was a civilian rescue mission and I went upstairs with a squad. My squad was more spread out, so I only had 2 guys in range. At the top of the stairs, I uncovered 2 chrysalis and 1 zombie — only 1 chyrsalis was very close, so I blasted it at close range damaging him. I sprinted up an assault guy and hit him pointblank with a shotgun blast and he was left with a single hit point, and I had no way to hurt him. So next turn, he kills my assault guy in one hit. Next turn, I use the support guy to finish the chrysalis with 1 health, but forgot that the zombie would spawn next turn and be able to attack. The zombie killed my dude. I believe one of my other 4 guys was already dead from early in the mission, so I regrouped them towards the stairs, and systematically killed everyone on the top floor. But the biggest most painful lesson I learned was when my 2nd floor sniper spotted a chrysalis on the street level — on the next turn, the chrysalis was able to climb the walls and reach my sniper and gut him in a single attack. I had assumed it would have to go the long way around to the stairs. I don’t even think it climbed, it was like it just snapped to the 2nd floor. So everyone died and I quit the game and started over with a painful lesson learned.

    Once you get archangel squad sight snipers, the game gets ridiculously easy. The snipers can basically kill most things on the map by sitting at max altitude in the starting corner, then if a UFO mission — bring them up before you storm the inside and rely on their pistols with skill/forge upgrades.

    I think I took 7 months of game time to win. Before the final mission, I encountered a battleship UFO for the first and only time. I shot it down and there were a whopping 23 alien occupants. I killed them all and after that mission, I unlocked homing missle launchers… which was cool because I didn’t know about them. I completed the first game without unlocking it. Homing missiles are awesome and more damaging and a tribute to the original Xcom.

    Overall, the balance and progression is good… except for a few glaring problems:
    1. Research is basically useless and I never had to go out of my way to get more scientists or build research labs. The research was always able to keep up, save for the first couple months when you to wait for key tech. A game like this, research economy should require some planning.
    2. The game is all about getting early satellites up, and its unfortunately that you need to do this to get ahead of the curve. There is something very wrong about a base build that benefits most from 9 connected workshops and 0 labs. But that’s what works best.
    3. Research credits are useful and capturing live aliens is a good tactic — but later in the game, the live captures don’t really get good stuff. I’d like to see live captures unlocking new technologies rather than just research credits.

  • MadsK8000

    Battle-ship status………….

    6 troopers went in and 5 came out standing. One trooper went down, so I had finish the last four aliens in three rounds before she bled out. I succeded. 22 aliens got blasted! GOD I LOVE THIS GAME!!!!! :)

    Spoils of war:
    50 x weapon fragments
    120 x Elerium
    300 x Alien Alloys
    4 x UFO Flight Controls
    4 x UFO Power Sources
    2 x Fusion Cores

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @Morness – nice summary of your experiences. I agree with some of your sentiments on the ‘flaws’, something i hope they perfect for a sequel. Experienced soldiers make all the difference, especially snipers. :)

    @MadsK8000 – Awesome, well done :) Sounds like that was a mission you wont quickly forget.

  • IronMAn32

    Great guide! I am 2/3rd of the way through now and running with 2 assult, 1 Sniper, 2 Support, and 1 Heavy. All Colonels with a decent reserve squad. Seems to be a good mix for me. Slow and steady is key. Battles take about twice as long as they did for me on normal mode, but for good reason. Love playing this way.

    My question though is around endgame. Any strategy for taking out final fight? If I got all the way there and then wiped I think I would be depressed for a week…

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    If you wipe on the final fight, it let’s you retry it. That’s the one bit that doesn’t follow proper Ironman rules. At least, that’s what I’ve read from people who wiped on it.

    I wouldn’t be overly concerned anyway. If you made it that far, you should be fine beating it. Especially with a squad like that, kudos :)

  • James

    In the hyperwave cutscene Dr. Vahlen clearly says ‘Nein!’ so i’m going to have to disagree on the frenchieness… Her ruthless attitude seems stereotypical of a more aggressive and easterly French neighbor :D

  • Reis

    Great guide! On game 18 I gave up on Ironman Classic, and went for Ironman Normal. The difficulty gap is very HUGE! I’ll try Classic again with your guide when I’m done on Normal. Great info and a good read :)

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @James – She does indeed say Nein, but her accent is sooooo bad in the tutorial mission. I’m guessing that’s just the fact that the voice actor isn’t a native speaker.

    @Reis – Yup, the difficulty difference is enormous, yet the differences between the difficulties are fairly subtle. They have a huge effect though, as losing a point of health on your soldiers and having a tiny accuracy boost on aliens makes for an much less forgiving experience.
    The starting panic levels can also be a little harsh, so the initial difficulty curve is much higher. This settles after a few months though, and as your technology improves there’s not that much difference later on. Still a bit harder, but not nearly as big as the initial difficulty. Getting that experienced squad up and running is so rewarding in the long term.

  • Sparky

    Man, this guide was great except for one thing: No matter how well I’m doing, no matter how perfect my opening missions are and my base management is – at the start of the second month the first terror mission usually appears, and there’s no WAY I can be prepared for it. On my best play I had carapace armour for all my guys, but that meant no lasers. The Chrysallids rip through me. What do you do in event of very early terror missionn?

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @Sparky – The first Terror Mission you get in the game is by far the most difficult. As you say, you don’t have all that much yet in terms of weapons and armor and you somehow have to survive.

    It’s not too difficult, the Chrysalids are surprisingly squishy. You absolutely need some soldiers who are not rookies and make liberal use of heavy weapons. Take things easy and calmly, don’t storm forward ever. In this mission, civilian losses are a secondary priority – keeping your soldiers alive and ensuring you don’t lose the mission is your top priority.

    Don’t reveal more of map than you have to, always have soldiers in overwatch and focus fire on crysallids once you see them. Some gun & run assaults as well as one or two heavies with a rocket launcher are extremely valuable. Sacrifice civilians if you have to.

    Generally speaking I’ve not had that many problems with the Terror Missions, including the early ones. Give your guys some body armor in their item slot if needed, especially if they have low health. Carry at least 1 medpack, ideally with 3 uses but you might not have an advanced enough support yet.

  • Sunyata

    Wow… I like this article a lot! Quite inspiary. Though I’m playing Normal difficulty now, I hope I can try and overcome the terror of Ironman difficulty later.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Ironman really is a blast Sunyata, as you know that any move could be your soldier’s last one. It adds much needed feeling of despair to the game which the original did oh so well. (I do miss the nerve wrecking music from the original games. Veterans will know what I mean, the one which sounds like a heartbeat)

  • Caleb


    Thanks, great guide. I’ll try applying some of it on my next attempt. I’ve just recently started doing classic ironman for the first time, much better than normal! I also have just bought the slingshot expansion. I’m doing fine until the first slingshot mission. I generally have 3-4 squaddies, maybe one of slightly higher rank. I’ve done it a few times, and every time I get surrounded by thin men who dropped from the sky on overwatch. I can’t get lucky enough to kill them all from where I am standing when they drop; and if I move, they shoot me. The next turn, more drop down! So I don’t see how to make progress.

    Any tips before I go through the routine again of the first few missions? It seems they almost always drop down in the same spots every iteration, so maybe I can just place my soldiers with that foreknowledge, but that seems like “cheating”.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    A couple of more experienced soldiers on overwatch should sort you right out. A support with the Covering Fire trait, Assault with gun & run and the other recommended traits, a squadsight sniper or two, etc. You’ll have no problems and half the thin men will be dead before it’s even your turn again :)

    Don’t forget they’re really easy to kill.

  • KillyTheBit

    Hey Dr. Vahlen is german – still keep ignoring her. Good tips – Thank you. Hopefully I will have the guts to go through with a classic ironman and then go on with impossible. But until now I was too demoralized to go on after one or two month …

  • hpcbroome

    Great article and i hear what you’re saying about the originals music.

    I’m nearing the end of my ironman classic play through. I use a squad of 4 heavies and 2 snipers though, which is quite a difference. They’re all colonels now and fully kitted out. Got a spare couple of majors and a hover shiv just in case too. Find the massive firepower extremely useful to be honest. I tend to have to edge forward especially with no support on board but I can pretty much kill anything easily enough now. I avoided assault because although in non iron man games they’re totally awesome the danger of revealing more enemies was, in my opinion, not worth the potential to lose some soldiers.

    My reasoning for not using support is that I find their attack attributes are slightly lacking in comparison to heavies and sniper and essentially a dead alien is unable to inflict any damage so no need to heal anyone. I played A LOT of the original though so I am massively cautious in moving my soldiers about.

    On terror missions I ignore the civilians almost completely and tend to blow quite a few up with my heavies. Not very sporting I know but it really is all about keeping your squad alive.

    Anyway, I’m now at the point where i must tackle the overseer ship. I have firestorms with lances but no boost. I don’t seem to be getting any missions with cyberdiscs anymore in order to be able to buy a boost. Do I need to double up my firestorm fleet or just keep doing missions and hoping for a cyberdisc?

    I’m also wondering how much panic would be generated if I were to ignore a contact or mission in order to speed up the end of my game? Waiting round for a boost when I’m ready to tackle the end game is a bit frustrating to be honest.

  • Sunyata

    I’m heavly inspired by this article, and finally I completed a Classic Ironman game :D Thank you Evil Tactitian! I’m preparing an article about my journy, and it is not completed but there are a few pictures of my squad:
    I used 3 snipers, 1 assualt, 2 support. It could have been 4 snipers, 1 assualt, 1 support.

    And for hpcbroome’s comment above, I admire your courage to face enemies in close range with your 4 heavy soldiers. Wow, is it even possible to keep them alive? You must have mastered your tactics. I might try your squad configuration for a change, but I think it will not be easy. My damage dealers were 3 snipers, and they were always far away from the enemies. And even every one dies, I could keeping 1 or 2 veteran snipers alive.

    And for panic level, I guess panic level is not very important but the Dooms day level is important. As long as the Dooms day level is not maxed out, which is shown on top of the screen in the situation room, I guess you can keep ignore alien activities.

    And for the boost, I didn’t have it either. I’m not sure why you need a boost but I had no problem without a boost.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @hpcbroome: Tbh I used 1 Firestorm with an EMP Cannon and it shot down anything it came across with great ease.

    Your squad config sounds interesting but I freaking love the Assault’s – and really like having at least 1 support around. I had one mission where I stepped out of the Skyranger and -immediately- had 3 elite mutons, 2 thin men and 3 heavy floaters in sight. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    The smoke grenade was absolutely invaluable there and provided the cover to survive the first turn and lay down some serious hurt on the aliens.

    @Sunyata – Great to hear that the article inspired you and you managed to complete classic ironman! Well done :)

  • hpcbroome

    nice one, not entirely sure why not but I’ve never even bothered with the EMP. I’ve now managed to shoot the overseer down by sending in an interceptor with plasma to soften it up before sending in my firestorm with the lance. worked a treat.

    My squad has it’s issues I can’t deny it and I totally agree, the assaults are awesome, I used them heavily in my impossible play-through but I got stung a couple of times early on in this ironman mode especially when using the run and gun and revealing more enemies so decided to drop them. I guess I must just have a different tactical style. whatever works for you I guess.

    so close to completion now, praying I can keep my squad together till the last mission.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Good luck man, sounds like you’re having a total blast :) Let us know what happens!

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    On a different note, has anyone played the DLC? I haven’t bothered buying it yet as I thought it was quite pricy for a few missions and a static soldier. Not overly keen on the direction they took there. I’d rather have seen some more technologies, another interceptor, more tank style units, another dropship, etc. etc.

    Or to continue the story which left plenty of options open…

  • hpcbroome

    no, not got the DLC yet either, I’ll probably get it at some point though.

    I made a MASSIVE mistake on my game.

    I am waiting for the guided rocket laucher to be researched before attempting the final mission so I accepted a bomb disposal mission and set down. Then I thought, there’s little point in actually doing this mission as I have no panic and the research is a matter of days away so I went to abandon the mission. I’ve not actually done that before and didn’t realise I needed to put my guys back in the ship, for some reason. I didn’t read the warning message and killed my entire squad. I’m totally gutted. I’m not sure I can actually train up new guys this far through the game. I’m going to have to try though obviously.

    I’ve left myself with 1 colonol and a tonne of squaddies. going to be using a hover shiv and praying I can upgrade them from here before attempting the final mission.

    it’s a nightmare!

  • Sunyata

    hpcbroome, wow, it was catastrophic. I’m sorry for your big loss.
    To help growing your new men, one way is to use 4 hover SHIV’s and they scout and take damage in frontline and give your new men to kill enemies. It takes a lot of resources to make many, like 20 ~ 30 SHIV’s, but I guess you would have big income at the time.

    One problem is that, even 4 hover SHIV’s may not be enough to complete a difficult mission, because SHIV’s primary purpose is not to kill enemies but to support your new men. If your SHIV’s are all down, you need to pull your human soldiers back to evacuation zone and give up the mission.

    One other way can be that you use 6 squaddie Heavy. Squaddie’s are not good at shooting SMG, but guided rockets guarentee 100% hit, correct? (I’m not sure of it). They are armed all with guided rockets, and they can shoot a lot of rockets (may be total 18 rockets?).

    Anyway, I believe you can overcome the crisis because you seem to be much stronger commander then me. Good luck!

  • Sunyata

    By the way, I also had an experience of total loss of my 5 veterans in a mission where I made one mistake and then several following mistakes to cover up the original mistake. What I could do at that time was just turn off the computer and cry in my bed ^^. However, the next day, I realised that I still have Laser technolgy and gears and money, so I could keep going and finlly complete the game in a few days.

  • hpcbroome

    Hadn’t really thought about using multiple shivs Sunyata. I might have a go at that today. I’ll made this play through so difficult but now that I’ve accepted my mistake I’m quite looking forward to the new challenge.

    I’m quite tempted to just take on the last mission with squaddies, see how it goes ;-)

    Not got anything to lose.

  • Sunyata

    hpcbroome, last mission with only squaddies? Hehe, you are bold. That mission is harder than the biggest alien shipreck mission. 5 SHIVs would be better then squaddies, but I can’t win the game with them. For exemple, there a place with two sectopods.

    Well, if you are thinking to start over the game, you can try the last mission. Good luck!

  • fire

    Pretty nice article, a few things I personally would change as it’s my preference, but overall very helpful. One thing I DO have to say though, I roll with 2 assault 1 sniper 2 support 1 heavy (though since a muton decided to 15 crit my ranked up support from halfway cross the map behind full cover… still kinda sore about that… I now roll 2 heavy 1 support since I can’t land a rookie support for some reason.) I use rifle assault and a shotgun assault, with the shotgunner I have flush and it works like a charm, if I can’t get a good shot on a particular enemy I just have my sniper go overwatch (maybe a nearby soldier too) get my shotgun close, flush him out and watch my sniper nail the now out of cover beasty. I believe between flush and the other one they both have their situations where they can be handy. and I also made the mistake of habing my heavy have holo and suppresion, thankfully danger zone gave him a bit of utility though VERY specific utility but nice when it works. When I make the massive mistake or just get really unlucky and trigger a double spawn or triple spawn and the enemy groups up behind cover the three abilites work amazing, suppressing multiple (at one time 4 of em were being suppresed since they were next to each other and lined up) enemies and giving accuracy while I set up my troops to finish them off. Happened twice in a total of 29 missions so it takes some luck for them to work lol.

  • Sparky

    I’m back after a dozen or so tries – and I wish I was having as much fun as you guys, but I’m not. I can’t go back to playing a game with saving enabled because it feels like cheating, and I blitzkreiged Ironman Normal without a scratch. The difficulty difference on Ironman Classic is phenomenal, and I’m sick of being ruined by what now feel like constant glitches: where a Thin Man can inexplicably shoot me from out of sight range, or a group of elite mutons pops into existence right in the middle of my squad when i’m already fighting a group of aliens. Sometimes I’ll reveal a group with a battle scanner, and then while I’m smiling and setting up my guys, the aliens mysteriously teleport away somewhere else on the map. Sometimes Shivs spawn without a weapon. Sometimes I’ll move a soldier in the blue movement box, ready to fire, but it’ll count as a dash move and I lose his turn.

    Also, I don’t trust the numbers anymore. A 50% chance on normal seems to hit all the time, a 50% chance on classic never does. 50% should be 50%.

    I can never just lose on soldier, it’s always squadwipe. New soldiers seem to get promoted so slowly that losing your elite soldiers is game over.

    I used to love this game – adore it to pieces, but now I just can’t play it anymore. Ironman Classic excited me so much with the prospect of fighting a real alien invasion, with real consequences for all actions made and not-made, to sustain losses and keep fighting on. But it’s not like that. You have to nail everything everything always, one tiny mistake and it’s not just losing a soldier- you lose the entire game. The snowball effect is unavoidable, and when you can lose to something that’s completely out of your control (I once missed a 100% chance to hit with an Assault with a shotgun at point blank), it doesn’t feel like a game anymore.

    Sorry to have a big pessimistic rant like this, but I just really miss enjoying this game, and I’m not sure how you guys do it anymore.

  • IronMAn32

    Just had my own disastrous encounter with Chrysalids! Was early on and the first terror mission, as luck would have it my 2 best troops were healing. Was going ok until a wave of zombies started coming after me, was focused on taking them down when a group of 3 Chrysalids rushed in. They were more than I could handle, took out my assault guy, panic ensued and that was all she wrote. Total wipe. Never had much of a problem with them before this, but if under equipped they can make for a bad day. Perhaps extra heavies could compensate for a weak squad in this scenario.

  • Firefox11f

    In my experience, if you get Xeno-biology quickly, then get the arc thrower and alien containment ASAP, you can stun a sectoid, thin man and floater at around the second UFO mission. You then get a bonus to beam weapons from the sectoid, basic armor from the floater and UFO tech from the thin man. With these bonuses, i have been able to get both carapace armor and laser rifles in time for the first terror mission. Note This only works if you either choose South America as your base, or get 2 satelites there ASAP in order to get instantanious interogations. Might also consider temporarily getting a few labs to make sure you get this done on time. Its risky and loses out on some other useful stuff but it can save your early veterans’ lives. If they die, your pretty screwed for the rest of the game.

  • IronMAn32

    On a run through now and managed to get a satellite over every country with no withdraws. Focused on countries that were the most critical, less any that I had satellites prepared for launch just prior to council. Engineers first until I had enough to make arrays, cash second with all that out the window if a key country was in jeopardy. All cash went to satellites, arrays, officer school (increase in squad size is really underrated IMO), and laser weapons. Had a near wipe on terror mission but hung on with my two snipers able to complete it. The rest DOA. Also suggest “New Guy” Officer School perk as if like me, you will be rotating in new recruits and the automatic upgrade really pays off (bid difference in a rookie and a squaddie with a rocket launcher!)

    On another note, had a really bad bug that almost cost me. Was on a downed ship mission, fighting muttons and Elite Floaters when all of the sudden 3 Elite Muttons just appeared right in the middle of my squad. No fog of war, no movement by me, just spawned out of thin air. Not cool… managed to get out of it with 1 loss and a few injuries. Luckily had Titan armor for most key people.

  • Damaddok

    Dr. Vahlen is German not French.

  • lawnio

    great guide but why is north america’s bonus so important?

  • Dr. Vahlen

    Outstanding article!
    PS I’m German.

  • Dr. Vahlen

    One question – your base layout is quite funky. How do you ever get the money to build those level-3 power generators at the start?

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    When you’re initial economy has been started, you literally swim in monies.

  • Dr. Vahlen

    I’m trying to do the math as to how one could “bring forward the 1st Uplink into Month 1 or buy 2 Uplinks in Month 2″. To build the 1st uplink, you need 10 engineers. You start with 5. A workshop gives 4, as does the typical engineer reward for a mission. And workshop doesn’t get unlocked until you get to 6 engineers. So it seems like you either (a) get two engineer-reward missions in the first month and then build the uplink (cost: $150 and 5 power), or (b) get one engineer-reward mission, then build a workshop (cost: $150 and 3 power), then build the uplink (cost: $150 and 5 power). This will use up exactly the 8 surplus power you start with, and cost $280.

    am I on the right track here? Seems like it has a lot less to do with money-management than accomplishing early engineer-rewarding missions.

  • Ashbjorn

    Would really like to see a YoutubeHD video of this strategy in action for the first month or so, since a lot of things simply don’t click yet :-(

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @Vahlen: You do need to get Engineers – but when doing missions you always prioritise those unless you have a dire need to do a specific other mission due to critical panic levels.

    @Ashbjorn: It would take quite a few videos/hours to get that done – not sure if that is practical in the short term but I’ll consider it in the near future.

  • Sparky

    Finally finished my first Classic Ironman game!!! I realised while you’ve given excellent advice here, my life was made much easier by deviating from you in two major ways:

    1. Asia start: Africa’s 30% extra funding may sound good on paper, but starting in Asia gives you instant access to the 50% Foundry projects and Officer Training upgrades. The foundry isn’t important til later, but building an Officer Training School the second you get your first sergeant makes your team much more effective on the battlefield. Squad Size I for $25 is loose change, and while Wet Work is hard to justify for $125, it only costs $62 with an Asia start and makes a huge difference to getting those promotions.

    This method put my satelite network a month behind your schedule, but I saved so much money from those upgrades and had them on my squad so much earlier it was way worth it – rather then setting up your economy and getting them later, while having to do all the missions with a brittle squad.

    2. First abduction mission: I always pick scientists. You’re right in that Engineers>Money>Soldiers>Scientists – and that’s what I tried to follow for the rest of the game, but the difference between having 4 scientists on staff and 8 scientists on staff means you can grab WAY more research before the first terror mission (what I consider a critical make-or-break point in the campaign) Later on scientists don’t count for squat but here it makes a massive difference.

    And I guess a third point why not it helped 3: Flush: Totally underrated. I know that Rapid Fire is all about dealing damage and that’s cool and all, but sometimes an assault can’t get into position or going forward with Run and Gun would put him at danger if there are other aliens about. I use Flush in tandem with a couple of other soldiers on overwatch, and an alien giving you a rough time in full cover is suddenly exposed and has heaps of fire on him. Flush also presents an excellent opportunity to finish off a nasty tough alien you’ve used your whole team to chip down, as the aim bonus on Flush can often bump a 70 or 80% shot up to 90 – 100%. I ran the game with two assaults, one with Rapid Fire and one with Flush, I loved the way it played out.

    Thanks for the excellent playguide though, helped me get the achievement, you’re a bouse.

  • Ashbjoron

    @Evil Tactician, Even just a screenshot blog of the first hour would be fine, I just can’t seem to find out how to start properly.

    So perhaps a sum of what I am doing, and then please feel free to scrutinize it:

    1) Doing first mission, no one dead, everyone has at least 1 kill, depends on the first scenario on how much aliens you have, but usually end up with everyone having 2-3 kills, otherwise I start over.

    2) Go into my base and check the layout, and here is where it gets confusing, most guides and what not show you the base how it turned out after making some crucial decisions, but I would like to know from a starting base, what’s good and bad, ie. where should my vent(s) be, should I restart if I don’t have 2 vents? What if those 2 vents are on akward places, what exactly makes them akward? How fast do I tunnel towards them, considering resources and time in the first month, issit important at all to start tunneling?

    3) Satelite management, since I skip the tutorial, we are down 1 satelite, is this really that bad? How do you get your first sat + uplink ready before council report?

    4) Research order, think I am clear on that one but wouldn’t mind to know if *CRITICAL* research can be put onhold till later without council repercusions.

    5) Engineering work-orders, what should I build right away, what should I queue for later, but most importantly how does it intertwine with the rest of all the things you optimally want to have done in the first month, where does one get the money to even do it?

    A video would just be nicer since I could just play it along on my laptop while playing the game on the desktop to also get some comments on what’s happening and why, as I go along. I really don’t mind learning things trial-by-error since it’s quite enjoyable, but having a +1 at the start by doing earlier decisions right can’t hurt right? ;-)

    Also would love to see some action video’s of the starts you guys turn out to be promoting, about flush and what not, would just love to see a mission from start to finish with audio commentary about why you were doing certain things and how certain upgrades made the difference between an excellent mission and an utter failure ;-)

    But most of all: I LOVE THIS GAME!

  • Dustonio

    I rented this game a few days ago and have enjoyed it greatly. Ill admit i started over after i got the lay of the land.. ( i had almost twenty injured soldiers and six countries withdraw) mostly learning that dashing forward is not the best move. I wish i would have seen this guide before i started would have saved me some pain and suffering!

  • IronMAn32


    Can’t help with the video but will try to address your questions!

    1) Good

    2) Vents in bad locations in my opinion are 3rd and 4th level especially farther away from center. Ideally you want at least one quickly accessible and one medium term accessible. Think of it in terms of cost and time to reach. Digging to the 4th level is time consuming and expensive and not practical early on. The deeper you go the more money excavation costs.
    I do not prioritize digging vents in month one. I am more focused on excavating the minimum amount required to build a future satellite array, a workshop, and a normal power generator if vent is not close. Followed by an Officer Training school. Keep in mind I do not normally build a satellite array in month 1.

    3) I only typically have 2 satellites up in month one. By beginning of month two I start array and construction of 3 more. Be sure to build array adjacent to starting one to get the bonus.

    4) There are no council repercussions for research. Avoid at all costs story line research until well equipped. I start immediately down the armor path until I get first armor. Then I research weapons until beam. After that you are pretty well equipped and can be more flexible. This strategy will almost always ensure you have armor by the first terror mission which is key. Also my goal is also to at lest have Squad Size I by terror mission, II if possible.

    5) I don’t engineer much the first month as money is too tight and options are limited. Mostly spend money on Satellite, generator, Workshop, Officer Training School. All I really manufacture is a med kid and scope when available. Sell anything you have to get these minimums.

  • Dr. Vahlen

    just a comment on the race to get good armor – I just finished watching a great youtube impossible/ironman walkthrough by ‘costinHd’ (XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Second Wave Walkthrough), and he succeeds despite being way ‘behind the curve’ on armor, he’s even rather disdainful of cover. His key seems to be that ‘they can’t hit you if they’re dead’ – he keeps the troops quite closely packed, and goes for offense over defense. Most rounds, at the end of his move there are no live enemies in sight.

    Interesting, shows the range of approaches that can work in this game.
    Thanks again for the great page – I just won at Classic (non-Ironman), your tips helped a lot, especially the PERK choices.

  • SirWill

    I had a question about your method of putting the storyline off.

    You have to capture a sectoid alive in order to be able to research plasma pistols.

    Do you recommend capturing a sectoid early and then waiting to capture the outsider?

    Or will there still be sectoids available in month 4 if you build up your economy first?

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    I’ve tried both approaches (putting it off and doing it immediately) and both work fine. Capturing live aliens gives quite a decent research benefit so it’s definitely not a bad idea. You can capture the outsider in the same mission if you feel brave, just don’t research the shard until you’re ready for the mission that follows as a result. It’s one of the tougher things early game and you want to have a decent squad for it.

  • infrasonic

    What if you took with you 2 snipers instead of a sniper and a support (ie substitute one support with an extra sniper) but give this second sniper squad sight. This gives you one sniper way in the back with squad sight and another with 2 turns and great aim. Thoughts?

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    I’ve taken 2 snipers and it went pretty well to be honest – many strategies will work and it depends largely on your playstyle and how your soldiers evolve.

  • Matty

    Great guide with lots of excellent tips. I’m new to XCom games but enjoying this one loads. Would you suggest playing through the game on easy or normal before attempting Iron Man mode?

  • Ralph

    This is by far the best tips sheet I have read so far. I was laughing half the time because about half of these things I realized on my own now after playing classic mode for 2 days and getting nowhere. Especially the Dr. Vahlen part. I can’t wait to re-group and focus on satellites more. I think I’m trying to do too many things at once in the geoscape strategy.

    Got this faved on my facebook! Thanks.

  • Swift_

    Awesome tips, thanks for taking the time to do this.

    Dr. Vahlen is German, by the way!

  • francesco

    Great guide.

    Btw, you realize that this game is a drug whenever you sit in a bench smoking a cigar, looking at a car and thinking about what kind of cover it could give you!!!

  • Cyrus

    Wow amazing guide. I have tried Normal and Classic before and the Gap in difficulty is HUGE! For example, in normal ironman thin man are just ignoring and always spit at you. But in classic they never miss! They have 4 health and damn they are good at flanking! Now I know why the alien freaks don’t use snipers when they have thin man :D

  • Filip

    I played original Xcom back to the days, and now I played a new one. Played on classic difficulty first time, finished a game in a year, with 50 50 countries left. Never lost one soldier though :). Never. My memorial is empty ;)

  • Ravender

    Hey evil :p I was looking for some tips for my xcom classic ironman and I just stumbled in your guide :D

    • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

      Awesome, Rav :) Small world :o

  • Christian

    Vahlen is a German name. How did you ever think that was a French accent she was speaking with?

  • jefe2061

    Evil Tactician, thank you very much for sharing this information. I’ve made it a goal to complete classic ironman before the expansion comes out, but have been dogged by blunders for at least a dozen games (maybe 2 dozen). I’ve read everything you wrote and am about to employ your knowledge now!

  • Michael T

    I am grateful for your guide. This is the first level where there is no officer’s training school available for free, so having priorities helps.

    One question though – I’ve never been able to get the ‘Covering Fire’ ability to work. Any tips there? I tend to rely on heavy more – especially when aliens bunch themselves up. I am disappointed that the game doesn’t lower accuracy for injured units. I don’t know about you, but I think it would be hard to fire straight with a banged up shoulder, for instance.

    Excellent article. I’m going to jump in now. I’ve played Iron on normal, but not classic yet.

  • Rob

    I absolutely love this article, and agree with absolutely everything, except for one point: the flush ability of the assault class. Since it has higher accuracy/hit probability than a standard shot, I’ve killed many a weak/weakened alien by simply “flushing” him to death. It works like a charm. Having said that, I usually roll with 2 assault troops per mission, and I do love the two pump-chump as well. Great article!

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      Thanks, Rob!

      I’ve been meaning to update it for Enemy Within, or do a stand-alone guide for that, but time has not yet permitted me to do so.

  • Charlie

    Should i cover all countries with satellites or leave the nations of your continent-base uncovered to make some abduction missions? (mostly to get soldiers-rewards)
    What do you think? The abduction-uncovered-nation-on-one-continent tactic seems quite nice.

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      Personally, if you have the chance to cover it (though you can leave it until last if you wish) I would do so. By the time you reach that point, getting soldiers up really isn’t an issue anymore.

      The benefit of security and income is just too large to pass on – once the whole world is covered in satellites you can pretty much coast unless you make a huge mistake in one of the missions and get one of your best soldiers killed. But even then you should be able to recover. Money is power!

      • Charlie

        The fact is that later in the game, they give you directly Majors!
        I mean… with them you should have a good reserve when things go wrong. Also credits are not a a concern and leaving uncovered just Canada and Mexico (if you have base in North America for example), leave you behind of only 150 credits each month, that can be easily covered with opportune selling of items.
        Again i don’t know if Major-rewards are to pass on, especially when you play Iron-mode.
        Just something to think about anyway, worth mention in your guide maybe :P
        Thanks for the answer, C U.

        • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

          That’s certainly true – but I like the security a stable world provides.

          It’s a viable tactic though, and not one I considered. I don’t normally have issues with soldiers and keeping them alive at that stage of the game.

          • Charlie

            Just to add an answer to the “stable world” thing… :P
            Take back the same example, you leave Canada and Mexico without satellites, the abduction will only appear there in those two nations, so as long as you win the abduction missions, there will be no increasing in panic, since there aren’t “collateral nations” panicking in other continents.
            Example : your mission is in Canada, Mexico panic 1, but you delete 1 panic from the continent, that does mean non increase in panic at all.
            If you wish to have more choices (3) in the event abduction selection, you can leave 3 nations in a bigger continent like Europe.

          • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

            It is a viable tactic, but personally I still prefer being able to focus on the other missions. It all depends how big your soldier turnover is. If you lose quite a few, then it could be worth it.

            Bearing in mind that the missions to gain additional soldiers could easily cost you some soldiers too. I tend to get missions for entirely the wrong soldier type as well :)

          • Charlie

            Sorry for the spam, ah ah ah… :D
            Also take in count that the first month, you can spend your credits elsewhere instead of on the last satellites and facilites that need them to be constructed.
            That does mean you are in advantage somewhere else using those resources.

          • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

            The very first month I definitely had most success focusing on getting the sat network running. This ensured the following months were vastly easier.

            Due to the enemies etc. ramping up in difficulty, I found this a lot easier than spending the resources elsewhere in the first month. Granted, you have a slightly harder time in the early missions, but it pays off significantly further down the line.

  • Kevin Manrique

    I just started playing xcom again and will do it on Classic Ironman. I just finished the first mission with no casualties and everyone ranked up. But the map layout only has 1 steam vent on the 3rd row. Should I just start all over, or this is fine?

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      You should be able to manage – but having 2 vents is slightly more ideal. Long term it doesn’t matter too much, since you can use other forms of power instead. It may just make power a bit more of a challenge mid-game.

      Honestly, I’d roll with it, especially if the steam vent is relatively close to the lift.

  • Ion Rex Griffis

    thanks for your team makeup is exactely the same as mine more or less for big ships then I am quite fond of Heavy x3

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      Glad it has been helpful!

  • Lendenmeister

    She is german speaking, might be Austrian or Swiss as well.

    • Doombeard

      The voice actor is not, though. Just listen to how she pronounces “koennen Sie mich hoeren” in the tutorial.

  • http://peopleforbikes.org/ Michael Andersen

    Good strategy tips, bad rape jokes.