Keep Your Enemies Close: Frozen Synapse CQB Tips

by Indiana… on Wednesday, 8 June 2011

With many of you lovely people reading the positive reviews of indie hit Frozen Synapse, we have seen a gigantic upsurge in the numbers of people playing. As such this is the first of a series of guides to get you new players up to speed with tactics that people who have been playing since the beta regularly employ.

Frozen Synapse is a game about combat, and with the terrain generator as it is this combat will be in and around buildings, doorways and cover; so the first thing for a new player is to acquaint themselves with how to properly turn a corner or enter building. A superficially simple task but one you will do time and time again, so it pays to get it right.

Many players simply pop their vatforms around the corner, this is a very bad idea for a few reasons: if there are multiple enemies around the corner you engage them all simultaneously and you may not be aiming directly at the enemy etc.

In most cases your poor vatform is now a splat on the floor, so it is time for a new approach. For this we turn to those who make combat a living, if only for the sake that they are still living unlike that vatform. A common approach to moving around corners, in their parlance, is to slice the pie.

Slicing the pie involves treating every corner as a circle, or a pie as an analogy. The idea is to carefully maneuver around the corner so that you sweep the area around the corner a slice at a time, making the risk much more manageable.

Slice the pie evenly, or you will be left with none at all

By moving slowly through the numerical positions around the corner, you sweep the corner incrementally, a slice of “pie” at a time. This way you use the corner as a pivot point and the wall as cover, keeping the least amount of your unit exposed, while being ready to effectively engage anyone around that corner.

N.B: For a plethora of real world reasons, combat operative tend to stay a reasonable distance away from the corner as they pivot around it— luckily for most of you; you are not combat operatives so when you are moving your units into a room you will want to keep shotguns as close as possible to the wall to minimise combat range and thus maximise effectiveness and speed. Conversely machine gun units facing holed up shotguns will want to maximise the distance.

This element of cover makes slicing the pie an excellent tactic against multiple opponents, as show in the diagram below—enemy positions indicated in red.

Walk, don't run

By slicing the pie, you could take out an enemy at position 2, while the other 2 can’t see or hit you due to the wall. You could then take out another enemy at position 4, while the other remaining enemy can’t see or hit you. Lastly, you could take out the final enemy at position 7. Instead of leaping out into a 3-vs-1 battle, you engage in a series of 3 1-vs-1 battles. This has the secondary benefit of ensuring you are aiming at each opponent when you engage.

Thus a lone shotgunner can take out a room full of MG units with no casualties, a marked improvement on not being able to get through the door. This is the best way to turn a corner, however you will notice that in the case of defended rooms this doesn't help you against units positioned in the closest corners to your entrance; you can only engage them once you are fully in the building and thus you are fully engaged and even worse they will either see you at the same time as you see them or have the drop on you—depending on which direction you sweep from and the corner they are in.

Thus at best you have a 50% chance to be on a even footing when sweeping a building with one unit, this illustrates the great difficulty in taking rooms however the upside is that you know the best way to defend a room; place your unit in the closest corners to the entrance.

You can partially avert this problem by sending multiple units to sweep the room, as if they come from different directions there is no chance that units in the corner can get the drop on you. However even two shotgunners cannot clear a room defended by two shotgunners, in the corners closest to the entrance, you would need 4 shotgunners to possibly clear such a room which is clearly infeasible. The ideal solution to this is to use grenades or rockets to assist; fire explosives into the corners of rooms to clear intractable defenders. Not only may this kill some defending units but it also creates a new entrance to advance through that the defender will have most likely not adequately defended.

If you do not have explosives or back up and fear there are units holed up in the corners of the and must enter, sweep only as far as you can with out your unit crossing the threshold of the doorway; you cannot win every situation, preserve your units—vatforms are expensive.


N.B: A room with cover requires more advance tactics to clear and is thus best dealt with by your own intuition and extensive simulation, don't worry these crop up infrequently and are often fairly simple to deal with

Even these tactics won't change the finality of unit strengths, so remember to use your SGs at close range against MGs and vice versa etc.

The Six Tactics of Highly Effective Room Clearers:

Slice the pie

Pivot your units around corners, using the corner as a pivot point and the wall as cover, thus engaging potential enemies one a time.

Respect corners
Be wary of the closest corner to your entry point, a unit there is likely to get the drop on a single sweeping unit and two in opposite corners can provide intractable opposition. Use this to your advantage.

Enter dynamically

If at all possible enter through entrances you have created, this is especially effective when combined with coordinated units attacking from multiple vectors.

Enter in force

If you can use multiple units to clear, do. It greatly increase the chance of success, though more than two is generally a waste.

Enter with support

Fire explosives into the corners of rooms to clear intractable defenders. Not only may this kill some defending units but it also creates a new entrance to advance through that the defender will have most likely not adequately defended.

Remember your unit match ups
It doesn't matter how cunningly your machinegunner comes round the corner if he going to face a shotgunner at close range; he will die.

To come:

Discussion of medium-long range and map tactics

Many thanks to grey ops for the diagrams.

If you have any particular stand out videos, or just before and after comparisons, we'd be glad to receive them; it would be nice to be able to showcase the difference these articles have made and also show new players what they should be aiming for. The contact link is available in our 'about us' section.


Good thoughts here. Makes me think a wiki collecting lots of information wouldn't be such a bad thing. I know I've sort of mentally compiled a list of techniques for dealing with situations over many games.

by Mark on 8 June 2011 at 14:43. #

Well if you ever feel like starting one, or contributing to this series just drop me a line—the link is on the "about us" page—I'd be glad to hear from you :)

by Indiana… on 8 June 2011 at 15:29. #

Some people already started

by Simon on 9 June 2011 at 18:43. #

Nice article, I hope to put these tips into action soon. Always a tense moment when you enter the room.

by Lillithi on 16 June 2011 at 22:08. #

Just picked this up last night...stayed up till 2:30 in the morning playing. Excellent article, sure explains why I was losing so much. :) Looking forward to reading more.

by PezHead on 17 June 2011 at 19:48. #

Very good tips here. This definitely improved my game. I'm looking forward to the next tactics post.

by Andy Graham on 25 June 2011 at 08:56. #

Many thanks for positive comments, I'm glad to have been of help.

The second article is now live :) hopefully you will find it of equal use.

by Indiana… on 25 June 2011 at 12:06. #

I was curious. There seems to be a definite disadvantage of moving and then trying to shoot a target... if your enemy is stationary in defensive posture and you are moving around a corner, the enemy seems to have the advantage? Am I just not getting it?

by lasmith on 10 July 2011 at 08:40. #

You are perfectly correct that moving and shooting is a disadvantage, but it is not necessarily an insurmountable one—in non identical unit match ups.

Much of Frozen Synapse is about map control as such movement is a necessary evil, thus this guide is not a panacea but rather damage mitigation strategy. Indeed on a more tangible note, due to the power of explosive units you will 'need' to move—or start to die, in most games.

Apologies for the delayed reply :)

by Indiana… on 14 July 2011 at 11:11. #

Nice article. Sums up what I know about MOUT. Check out this replay, feel free to use it as an example. :-)

by partemit on 15 August 2011 at 20:56. #


Thanks, I am sure I'll manage to work in it somewhere :) I just need to get back into the habit of actually writing articles :D

by Indiana… on 15 August 2011 at 21:05. #

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