Phantom Doctrine – Tips for Hard Ironman Mode

A short guide for those who have balls of steel.

Other Phantom Doctrine Guides:

World on Your Shoulders: Strategic Layer

Some general tips:

  • Don’t send the main hero on a strategic-layer missions. Sometimes they end up in ambushes and these ones are pretty random. You can lose the game due to couple of unfortunate events. 
  • Make sure your agents are spread around the globe and travelling in pairs. 
  • You don’t need that fancy 8000$ hideout ever, stick to 2500$ or 4000$. 
  • Always go on “rescue the informer” missions. This is the most OP sh*t in the game – enemy agents are highlited, reward (free agent with decent stats) is terribly high. It’s a low risk high reward opportunity in a nutshell. 
  • Avoid bomb defusal, try to interrupt if possible. 
  • You won’t need a “Tail agent” option. You can discover the cells via stealing the documents or solving the cases in the analytic centre. However, you could try this if your heat growth is too fast. 
  • You also won’t ever need to trace the enemy agents on global map. You don’t have enough agents to waste their time on it at the early and midgame stages, and in the lategame the flow of intel is just overwhelming, so you don’t need this option. 

Early game:

Your main goal is to avoid early game bancruptcy loop.

  • Buld tactical recon ASAP. You need this disguised agent and the spotter. Build the forgery and crew quarters afterwards. Now the income is your main priotiry, the second priority is the crew cap. 
  • Go on every mission and grind the loot and documents. You need to discover trading contracts to sell the loot in case you run out of money. 
  • Use analytic board manually. You REALLY need the intel at this stage of the game. 
  • You must find schematics and trade contract for the same piece of equipment. Once you’ve found both, start producing sh*t and sell it on a black market. 
  • The faster you hit the crew cap, the better. Every informer mission gives you an agent free of charge and you can easily exceed the existing agent limit. 


  • Money first, continue developing the money-related stuff and craft items for the black market. 
  • Spread your agents around the globe. Keep someone in the Hong Kong on constant basis if possible, this is the most annoying location cause it’s too far away from the others. 
  • Capture the enemy agents and turn them into suicide bombers, you don’t need to worry about the enemy cells anymore. Mission accomplished. More on that in MK Ultra section of this guide 


There is no lategame strategy, at this point you’re just kicking butts left and right. 6xLeviathan heavy machinegun assault, why not? Full melee atack on the enemy cell without equipment and armor? I do it everyday!

Men with the Golden Guns: Tactical Encounters and Equipment

Infiltration Phase

Call evac on your first turn

… unless it’s a beholder cell. You won’t get additional heat in the stealth phase, the van will just stand there and wait for you. If you are on the cell assault mission, call evac on the first turn of combat. You should be able to clean the level in the next 2-3 turns and then get to the evac point without additional heat.


At least 3 (three) of your agents should have silenced weapons. There will be the cases when you don’t have enough HP to knockdown the enemy agent or when the patrol routes won’t allow you to stealth your way through. That’s where the breach mechanics comes in. Use it with the silencers when you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherf**ker in the room without making noise.

Disguised agent

Let’s talk about your workhorse – the guy who is always in disguise. To use an agent in disguise most effectively you should find someone with these perks:

  • Survivor: Increase max hit points (+20).
  • Faster Movement: Increases Movement Range.
  • Martial Artist: Decrease Awareness cost of takedowns.
  • Perk that incriases awareness and awareness passive regeneration.
  • Actor: Decrease the viewcone of enemy agent.

The Survivor perk is mandatory, others are optional (yes, even the Actor unless you’re going for Tai Pen achievement) but if you found this particular build then GG EZ, this build is extreemely imbalanced (especially if you have a heartbeat sensor which allows you to see through walls). Pump the agent with drugs to 4APx2FP and you can go on the missions with him alone.

I don’t need to tell you that he should be trained in pistols.


Don’t knockout anyone except mission targets. If the mission objective is to kill everyone, use the disguised guy to knockout enemy agents first. In case you trigger the alarm, your agents should be spread across the map so you can kill or knock out 5-6 targets on the same turn you screwed up.

Doors and full cover

Use spotter before opening the door. Apparently, the tooltip that says that peeking the door from full cover is a safe way to recon the room is just a carefully crafted Beholder’s lies. Lines of sight are messy and the enemies can spot you from the specific angles even when you are hiding behind the full cover. Open the doors at your own risk.

Never use combat armor…

…unless you’re going all guns blazing. It’s been said before, but the game is a technical mess. You can easily be spawned in front of the policeman or civilian. In this case your infiltration goes to sh*t and your disguised agent is all alone somewhere behind enemy lines.

Combat Phase

Rule #1

If you get spotted, GTFO ASAP. In most cases you’re not able to kill everything on the map, so abort the mission. As I said before, if it’s an assault mission, you should be able to clean the map in the next 2-3 turns ater triggering the alarm. If an enemy reinforcement arrives and you feel that you have a tactical advantage, feel free to kill them all.

Combat Build:

You need these dudes to support you in the Beholder cells. Perk priorities:

  • Awareness-related perks.
  • Dancer.
  • Cover-related perks. 
  • Best Pitcher, Expert Marksman.

3APx2FP (you don’t need 4 AP for combat because of the movement penalties).

Oh boy, it’s XCOM again!

At first it may seem that the combat mechanics is all about exhausting gunfights and careful planning. In fact it’s absolutely the opposite. The actual META is very similar to XCOM2 – kill everything you see on the same turn you’ve encountered it. Thus, we have three pillars of combat: grenades, headshots, unarmed combat, point blank shots.

  • Grenades. Every agent should be equipped with a frag grenade (or cluster grenade in the endgame). With grenades you can kill your foes on an industrial scale – just blow them up and kill those who survived with some lazy shots.
  • Headshots. Headshot from the sniper rifle is basically a one-click kill of anyone except the enemy agents. In the lategame there are some regular dudes who can dodge your shots but it’s not a big problem. To one-shot enemy agent you should zero his awareness with a concussion grenade or suppressing fire and then perform a headshot with another agent. Do not underestimate pistols: they can do insane amount of damage because you can headshot twice (or even three times) if you have enough FP. Keep a couple of machineguns with you. Full auto dramatically decreases enemy awareness.
  • Unarmed combat. Extremely broken game mechanic that could’ve easilly been fixed. Your kung-fu is (almost) always stronger so you can just run out of cover with all you agents and punch everyone in the face. Yeah, nothing serves a thick, tense atmosphere of conspiracy thriller more than a sudden banzai charge. Yes, the downside, of course, is that after this selfless act of bravery you are left in the open but you won’t believe how well it works.
  • Pointblank shots. They can not be dodged, it’s that simple.

Always use cover

A bit contradictionary with the unarmed combat point but even if you have Leviathan armor equipped, 3-4 bursts is enough to kill your agent

Heavy armor and movement penalties

The movement penalty applies to every AP you have, so be careful when you equip heavy armor on that 4AP dude. One of my 4AP-agents only could walk 1 square per AP in the Leviathan armor. 4AP is not a good spec for a frontline assault trooper unless you have a Faster Movement perk.

Long encounters

If you’ve lost momentum and stuck in the long engagement then it’s time to retreat. The most important rule in this case is: Retreat+Overwatch > Direct attack. In this game characters can overwatch multiple times depends on the weapon, so use this mechanics to your advantage.

Ambush Missions

You are f***ed, comrade. These missions are kinda random. General rules are: stay out of fight, stick to full covers, hide from lines of sight, restore awareness if possible. You’re here to survive, not to kill anyone.

Jacob’s Ladder: MK Ultra


Meh. Used it only once when my dude turned out to be a sleeper agent (the informer gave me a direct clue). Look for hidden perks of the agent that you rescued from captivity and do not use him for a while. Brainwash him if you’re afraid of betrayal.

Locator beacon

Also meh. Used it a couple of times but it was not very helpful. The whole tracking mechanics in this game works very badly. It’s inconsistent and don’t have much depth in it.

Interrogation and execution

In the early game MK Ultra lab is a liability and can be used only for paid interrogations and executions. You must now pay for the stuff the game were giving you for free. If you have stable income, feel free to capture and interrogate enemy agents, information is crucial at this point. If you have financial problems, grind the maps without capturing the agents, just kill them. In the late mid-game you have constant stream of documents thanks to your radio tower and the the sh*tloads of informers, so you don’t need to interrogate anyone.

Code phrase and Mason Gambit

Do not inject a code phrase and Mason Gambit simultaniously. Not sure if it is a bug or a feature but Mason Gambit is activated even if sleeper agent is already on your side: if you used a codephrase in the infiltration phase, then as soon as the gunfight starts the codephrased agent will switch sides due to a Mason Gambit. Double betrayal. If this is intended then kudos to the devs, it was a thrilling moment.

The choise between the code phrase and the Mason Gambit is fully determined by your playstile. If you’re leaning towards the full stealth then use the code phrase, it gives you a free disguised agent (and additional firepower in case of something). If you like to go loud then Gambit will probably be more useful. The main downside of the Gambit is that you don’t have the full control of an enemy agent immediately. For some reason he stands dull for one turn like an idiot.


Very useful. You can start spamming saboteurs in the late mid-game to destroy enemy cells the second they appear. It’s basically a GG


Never used it once. There are much better ways to acquire agents e.g. informer missions or direct hiring.

Written by Mrazish

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