Phantom Doctrine – Combat Guide (Tactics and Strategy)

Struggling with combat and evacs, always reloading your game to get the perfect run? Break your addiction to obsessive stealth tactics, learn the unique game mechanics, and take greater risks!


What are my objectives, and why am I in combat right now?

Always ask yourself these two questions. The answers will determine how you handle the combat gameplay.

As much as we love XCOM and similar titles that work off the standard it has set for tactical games, this is not XCOM. Your first step to not raging in combat is to totally shift your mindset and handle the encounters differently. You are not going to kill every enemy. You do not need to kill every enemy. Full cover is important, but it is not a safe zone for you to blast the bad guys until they die. More enemies will come and you have nothing to gain from killing them, except a little experience. They are not going to drop alien fragments for you to research or sick guns for you to loot. There is no point to all this.

There is no point to any of this.

Combat gameplay is a vehicle for you to accomplish your objective and escape, not an end in itself.

Stop being motivated by winning fights and start being motivated by your core objectives.

So what are your core objectives?

  • Get the person or the thing.
  • Kill an enemy agent(s).
  • Call your Magic Van.
  • Get in the Magic Van and get as few of your dudes killed as possible.

That’s it. That’s all you’re supposed to be doing. Focus heavily on these things and you will go far. Your goal in combat is to create the space to allow these things to happen.

B-but what about my loot? The game says there are 10 collectibles!

Dude, f*** the loot. On your stealth runs you will get a ton. On your not-so-stealthy runs, if you complete your objectives and snag even a little bit, while getting out with your dudes alive, consider it a huge bonus. If you play the game long enough you realize this is a game about long-term thinking, and these little wins add up hugely over time. You might not feel overpowered, but you will be ahead of the game’s curve. Trust me, you’re still playing it right.

B-but my guys have uber headshots and beastly guns and abilities and I should be able to kill all the guys!

Your characters’ stats, abilities and frag grenades are what they can do under ideal conditions. They are not your primary tools. Think of them more as your Oh Sh!t buttons. Focus more on your objectives and less on your DPS potential with focus fire. The game is about your long-term goals and your agency’s health over time, not making sure your characters can perform like mech troopers.

So why are you in combat right now?

I just started the mission and have barely knocked out any guards.

Get the f*** out of there. Fail the mission, your agency will be fine.

I’ve knocked out a few guards but the agent or objective is kinda far and inconvenient, or if I got it, evac could take a while.

Get the f*** out of there. Fail the mission, your agency will be fine. If you’re feeling ballsy, snag the nearest loot and get the f*** out of there.

I may or may not have killed some guards, but the agent’s pretty close and I’ve got some frags.

Frag that b!tch and get the f*** out of there. Your agency will be fine and you’ll get some Precious Feels which is why you play video games in the first place.

I’m in combat now but I’ve done really well on this mission but oh no things are hairy, it’s going to take so many turns that my evac is going to be compromised! I should just restart the mission!

No you shouldn’t! That just means you are going to gain some danger when you are done! The Magic Van will not explode. Your agents will not all die in a mushroom cloud. Fight for your wins, agent! Stop reloading your saves, stand and fight for the Motherland!

Key Points

  • Understand the purpose of combat, and why you are in it in a given moment. Make your decisions from that place. 
  • Don’t be so attached to your characters and loots. Be attached to your long-term objectives. 
  • You can take losses and fail missions and still be winning the game overall. 
  • You can bounce back from getting decimated. The game will tell better stories this way and you will get bigger Feels. 
  • This is not a Tom Clancy novel. In real life, operations are messy. If you can be comfortable with making a mess, and still accomplish objectives, yes, you are still playing the game right.

Tactics and Strategy

But how do I do all those things?

Here are some practical tips, friend.

The Nitty Gritty

You don’t have power armor in this game, as some of you may have noticed. Your agents are squishy, organic meatbags. Don’t move your agents in such a way that they can take great shots and get kills. Move them in such a way that they will not get shot up while getting to the Magic Van. I mean this in as firm a sense as I can possibly state it. This governs everything you do tactically.

Everyone’s asking about line of sight and shooting through walls. People want more indicators. People want to see vision cones. People are hosting tedious debates about sidesteps and flanking. People complain about enemy fire range. CFG will be addressing this in some way soon, but here’s all you need to know:

If you can shoot them, they can shoot you. If you can see them, they can shoot you. Unless they have a shorter range gun, like an smg or a pistol.

Just because there is a spot in full cover at the edge of a wall, it is not a reason to put your stealthy, squishy agent there if it opens into an alleyway with 3 guards and an agent. They will fire on him, decimate his awareness, and kill him.

The fewer enemies you see as you take your turns, the easier it will be for you to survive til the Magic Van arrives.

“This is a stealth game!” Yes it is. So use some stealth on your combat runs!

Be elusive, malleable, adaptable, flexible. Speedy sometimes, but not too speedy. Cautiously speedy. This is how you want to use your movement skills. Not dig in, kill the guys, move, dig in again. And also not run, run as fast as you can, everyone run to the Magic Van! Remember, getting your evac compromised is OK! You can still get in and leave with your team intact!


This is your best friend. Position your guys in cover, and leave their awareness high. Don’t be afraid to spend a turn withdrawing them a few more tiles behind the wall where they can’t see any enemies, and using Focus or a similar ability to regenerate their awareness. While you do this, swap them out for another agent with higher health and awareness to fire on the enemies from the Cover position, if you want to, or if an enemy in that particular lane can be killed.

Awareness is what lets you get grazed by bullets, or dodge them outright. Learning how to gain control over your awareness is how you move through tough zones and into the evac. Focus less on getting kills, and more on managing your awareness bar. Do this and you will go far.

Practical Tactical Tips

  • Move to the evac zone using stealth and defensive movement. A spot 2 tiles behind a wall where you can see no enemies may be better than a spot in full cover at the edge of a wall where you can see 3. Sure, you can fire on one, but will it do any good if you will take 3 shots on the enemy turn? 
  • If you’re in a room facing 3 enemies out a window and you can kill 1 or even 2, a better move may be to simply run out the door and shut it behind you, ending all line of sight. What will likely happen after you kill 2 guys is the 2 enemy agents who are currently out of sight in the back line will move into view during the enemy turn and full-auto you with LMGs. Or the AK-toting soldier you didn’t know about will burst into the room from the lefthand door and you won’t have any fire points left for overwatch to kill him when he enters. Stealth and movement over kills! 
  • Don’t use both of your movement points simultaneously. If there is fog of war or unrevealed tiles between you and the evac zone, a cautious, 1-movement-point peek into the next room or alley way may save your life, instead of sending your agent(s) dead in. Sure, you might see some good cover over there, but how flanked is the position? You can’t always know for sure. 
  • Get yourself some tactical spotters! The more visual intel you have, the better, and the safer! 
  • If you started the mission without doing tactical recon, you will have unrevealed tiles all over the map. During your infiltration phase, spend some time going around the building and into the parking lots so that more of the map is revealed. This will lessen the amount that you have do these environment-sensing peeks during the combat phase, should it happen. 
  • Key: Spend fewer fire points taking shots at people and more fire points on overwatch. Instead of leaving yourself at a vulnerable corner, even if it has full cover, it’s often better to move to that spot further down where you see no enemies, and declare a long range overwatch around the corner. If they wanna see you, they’ve got to eat a bullet to do so. When firing on an enemy, you can fire once. Using the same fire point for overwatch, you may be able to fire on as many as 5 enemies that choose to move into your line of sight. Now tell me, which is the better option? 
  • Key: Enemies using full auto attacks are your worst nightmare. A full auto attack will usually destroy your agent’s awareness bar, and suppress them, preventing it from regenerating. Remember, awareness is how you reduce or nullify damage. If you get suppressed, and you can see 5 enemies, get the f*** out of there! 
  • Due to the above tip, your target prioritization should be: Soldier/Agent with automatic weapon -> guard with a pistol. Pistol guards will single-shot you. You can dodge this for little cost if you have enough awareness. Automatic weapons are the true foe! Seriously, ignore the pistol guards sometimes if they’re not going to cause too many problems for you. If you keep well ahead of them, you’ll often be out of their range anyway.

Team Composition and Agent Specialization

This is key. Here are some ways I build my teams so that I don’t get caught off guard, or stand a better chance of surviving an ambush.

Agent Teams for Map Missions

Even if your base isn’t compromised and your agents’ identities are safe, there is always the chance of an ambush. These can be very hard missions, especially if you are unprepared.

Try to send your agents around the map in teams of 2.

This way if they get ambushed, they stand a fighting chance, instead of just a running chance. I realize during the early game this will probably not be convenient. When your agency is smaller and the game is in its early stages, 1 is ok. You still might get ambushed but what can you do.

If you are going to send lone agents out, and they are top agents, make sure they are well equipped. Try not to be too in the habit of swapping out everyone’s gear during every assault mission. The less you do this, the more you can keep your agents straight in your head and the better you will get at using their specialized roles.

A safe build for a lone agent would be body armor of some kind, a rifle (longer range than smgs), a first aid kit, and a frag, smokebomb, or movement booster.

If you are using a team of 2 as I recommend, one agent with a build like that above is good. At least one of them should have a medkit, and hopefully a frag in there somewhere as well.

Get in the habit of making these teams of 2 permanent combinations. This way you won’t be pairing up a disguising agent with no gear with another squishy agent with a short range gun, and get screwed in an ambush.

Sample 6-Man Team For Combat-Ready Assault Mission

Team 1: Stealth Squad

3 agents.

All team members have at least one suppressed weapon. The most men I’ve ever needed for a room breach is 3. Also if you haven’t gotten familiar with it, start using the breach mechanic. It’s amazing, and can be really helpful. Don’t be afraid to shoot civilians if you need to.

One agent with a disguise.

These agents will probably use smgs for room clearing, as they will probably not need the range of a rifle or LMG during their evacuation. They will probably be in a building if you get caught, so smgs are fine.

Items include lockpicks, movement boosters, medkits, flashbangs, or smoke bombs.

Team 2: Combat Squad

3 agents.

2 agents with rifles, one with an LMG.

Specialize your agents! If you get a guy who started with high hit points, then gets the masochist perk (higher damage threshold), survivor perk (higher hp), and either of the perks that confer bonuses to cover, this is your soldier! Use him as such! I cannot overstate this.

1 rifleman with suppressor and no body armor. This agent will be able to support the stealth squad if needed.

2nd rifleman with body armor, LMG agent with body armor.

These dudes can either chill on the perimeter as their armor makes them openly hostile, or if you need them to mop up, they can go in and do some body disposal or looting. Just be careful with them and don’t get them positioned so far away that they can’t support your stealth squad if needed.

The combat squad is your true Oh Sh!t button. Remember that full cover corner I keep telling you not to use in a firefight? This is where you put your Big Nasties. Body armor allows them to do this. You don’t put a squishy there during a huge firefight if you don’t have to.

Volodymyr Azimoff
About Volodymyr Azimoff 13310 Articles
I love games and I live games. Video games are my passion, my hobby and my job. My experience with games started back in 1994 with the Metal Mutant game on ZX Spectrum computer. And since then, I’ve been playing on anything from consoles, to mobile devices. My first official job in the game industry started back in 2005, and I'm still doing what I love to do.

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