While Frozen Synapse offers a variety of different units (based on the weapon they carry) there isn’t any difference between them when it comes to movement. All units follow the same mechanics, so it’s not difficult to determine how movement impacts your chances to win an encounter.
Any unit that is moving in Frozen Synapse is less likely to win an encounter than one that is standing still. Let’s say that you have a unit that is in a doorway, and an opponent is in an open area outside. It’s more advantageous to order your unit to move just in LOS, stop, and fire than to move further.
By default, units in Frozen Synapse will take advantage of this principle by stopping to engage an opponent who comes across their LOS. This sometimes will leave you at a significant disadvantage, however - your unit might stop while out of cover, for instance. To change this behavior, you’ll want to use the Continue on Sight command.
It’s particularly important to use this command in situations where a unit might be encouraged to engage in a sub-optimal situation. For example, a machine gunner might need to move quickly between pieces of cover to approach and eliminate a sniper. If not given the Continue on Sight command, the machine gunner will stop and fire at a range which isn’t to his advantage.
Another pair of important commands to utilize are the Stand and Duck commands. A unit can Duck behind cover to hide from opponents. It won’t be able to see or fire upon opponents across from the cover, but opponents won’t be able to see or fire on him. This is excellent for ambushes or approaching opponents with superior range, but beware that units changing stance are given a disadvantage in combat, which may result in the demise of your men.
Giving a unit the order to aim in a particular direction is important in Frozen Synapse. A unit that is aiming in the direction of an opponent is given an advantage in combat, and even greater advantage is given to a unit that is aiming directly at a particular opponent.
Placing an aim command in the correct direction can give your units a big advantage in combat and effectively cover an area. For example, a shotgunner aiming down a hallway is almost guaranteed to win against any unit that enters the hallway, unless he’s somehow outranged.
Whenever choosing you unit’s aim you should make use of the Visibility Tester, which shows your unit’s line of sight. You can call on it by pressing the “v” key. This important information is in the manual, but not the tutorial!
Another important matter to keep in mind when aiming is the movement penalty is applies to your units. An aiming unit moves much more slowly than one which is not aiming. While aiming is a combat advantage, it is sometimes more effective to not aim if you can beat an opponent to cover. You can also move without aiming and then set an aim command at the final waypoint in your unit’s path.
Shotgunners, machine gunners and snipers all take a certain amount of time to draw a bead on an enemy and fire. Shotgunners are the quickest, and snipers the slowest. This is why shotgunners always win in close combat encounters – they take aim and fire more quickly than the other unit types.
Half-height cover, represented by light-blue patches on the map, provides a major advantage to any unit behind it. This is the most important combat advantage in the game. Units in cover almost always defeat those that are exposed.
In other words, you always want to be behind cover if possible. And if you are not behind cover, you do not want to engage opponents who are. Fortunately, you can use the Continue on Sight command listed above to out-flank opponents, or you can use Ignore Enemy to disregard a particular opponent behind cover.
There is no cover provided by corners or doorways in Frozen Synapse. While it may seem clever to have a unit step around a doorway to fire at an opponent, you’re not receiving an advantage for doing so.
One thing to keep in mind is that cover can be hit by rocket units that are ducking. This is an important tip that will help you win many multiplayer matches.
Although you don’t start with explosive units in the Frozen Synapse campaign, they end up playing a major role as you move further in. You’ll also be using them right off the bat in most multiplayer matches.
There are two explosive units, the rocketer and the grenadier. Rockets are straight-trajectory projectiles that move along the plane they were fired, as mentioned above. Rockets fired while ducking hit cover, rockets fired while standing do not.
When they hit, rockets explode and take out any terrain nearby including both walls and cover. This makes them excellent for destroying terrain that the enemy is using to his advantage. Because rockets have to hit terrain or a unit to explode, they are not great at killing units via direct fire.
Grenadiers are the opposite. They fire explosives that do not destroy terrain, but bounce off it instead. This makes it possible to fire into a room without exposing the grenadier to attack. In addition, grenades explode at a pre-determined spot. These units are excellent at clearing rooms, but their slow firing rate still leaves them at a disadvantage in direct combat.
Get Out There and Kill Vatforms!
Hopefully, these tips will help you start winning some matches in Frozen Synapse. This is a game that fits the mold of “easy to learn, hard to master” extremely well. You only have a few units to choose from, but the way you use them depends greatly on the particular situation, so you’ll need to learn how to adapt. So go out there and start winning!
All images are from Mode 7 press materials