Combat is the heart and soul of Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire. The better you are at combat, the more successful you will be in the game as a whole.
In this two-part article, we are going to explain exactly how combat works, how to protect your hero and your empire, and how to effectively attack others. Part 1 covers defense considerations because those are the most important to maintaining progress in the game. If you are attacked successfully, you lose troops and resources, so the first step is protecting yourself. Offense will be covered in Part 2: Combat Attack Guide.
The very first thing you have to understand to win in combat, whether on attack or defense, is the way combat itself works mechanically.
Rock, Paper, Scissors, Siege
There are four types of troop in the game: warriors, cavalry, mages, and siege. Each of the first three troop is weak against another kind of troop and strong against another type of troop, which means troop types are a game of rock-paper-scissors. Siege is weak against everything except traps.
Remember these basic principles:
You can see the troop strengths illustrated here:
This is also called the Attack Triangle, aka "Siege has a bad day at work".
And the weaknesses illustrated here:
It's okay siege, I still love you.
This has major implications for both attack and defense. If you stock your empire with nothing but cavalry and an opponent marches on you with warriors, not only are you likely going to suffer horrendous casualties but your cavalry are going to hit the warriors with half the force they normally would.
You can and should use this knowledge to your advantage when choosing targets to attack, as well. We’ll cover that in the next part of this series.
Attack, Armor, and HP
The three boost types to combat effectiveness are Attack, Armor, and HP. Let’s take a look at each one.
Attack boosts the attack strength of your troops. It is useful offensively and defensively for winning battles, but will not minimize troop loss like armor and HP. It is entirely offensive.
Armor reduces the damage that your troops will receive from an opposing army. It works best for higher-tier troops fighting same or lower.
HP boosts the health of your troops. It is good all-around but particularly when defending against higher-tier troops.
HP and Armor look similar, so it is worth a closer look at what each of those do. Armor reduces incoming damage. If that damage is low enough, armor boosts can eliminate it completely. But if the damage is very high comparable to your armor bonus, damage will spill over.
This is where HP comes in. HP makes your troops able to withstand more damage. Unlike Armor it cannot prevent damage completely, but HP is generally better the higher the incoming damage is. This is also why HP buffs are rarer than armor except for the various research boosts that only affect traps, which are intended to take hits from stronger enemies.
Attack increases the damage that your troops deal, which increases the opponent’s casualties. Since this is a big part of what wins you battles, attack is a pretty important stat. But it doesn’t do anything to mitigate casualties on your side in terms of defense, only cause more casualties when an opponent attacks you. Which, to be fair, might make them attack somebody else.
Some attack, defense, and armor boosts only apply to some troop types, or when your troops are defending, or in other specific circumstances. The most notable example of this is the City Defense boosts from the Defense Research Tree and the Hospital Ward HP boosts. All of those city boosts only apply to troops defending your empire. Troops in a march won’t get those bonuses.
Likewise, attack or armor boosts in the Combat Research tree or from certain gear only apply to those troop types. You can see your complete list of boosts by going to your profile and clicking the “boost” button.
Boosts from your Hero’s skills will only apply to marches that your Hero is part of. This includes boosts from any gear that your hero is wearing. If your hero is in your empire, defending troops get all of the boosts as long as the hero is at home.
Before we get to the defense strategies, there is one last crucial piece of information: how combat is resolved.
How Combat Works
This is possibly the most important part of this article in terms of you winning and losing battles on both attack and defense.
The exact mechanics of combat resolution are not fully known yet, but the following is observable in tests and battle reports:
If the opponent’s lowest tier, or yours, would take more damage than it can sustain (i.e. it is totally wiped out), excess damage will “spill over” into the next highest tier.
Traps count as one tier lower for purposes of damage resolution, except that there is no tier 0. So reinforced walls, t1 traps and t2 traps all take damage with your t1 troops. T3 traps take damage with t2 troops, and so on.
In practice, this means that your lowest tier and your opponent’s lowest tier will be damaged first in an attack. If that tier is wiped out, any excess damage spills over into the next highest tier.
This makes it especially important to select for troop type against your opponents’ troop types, and to try and have either a broad mix of troops on defense to cover all scenarios, or a specific mix to minimize what your opponent throws at you. We discuss these points further below.
Basic Defense Strategies
Defending your empire and your troops is critical in the game. Troops cost rss and time that are lost when they die, and rss themselves can be taken from you when you are attacked. Let’s go over some basic defense considerations and strategies to minimize or eliminate losses. The most important of them don't even directly involve combat.
Join a Guild
Guilds serve a lot of purposes, including having people to talk to in game, share resources with, and get loyalty from by helping speed up other peoples’ timers.
One of the most important things that a guild can do for you is provide mutual protection. Every active guild member is another set of eyes and ears to help watch and listen for incoming trouble. Guild members can also provide reinforcements to boost your defense against a stronger enemy.
Most guilds have a “hive” or series of hives, which are collections of empires right next to each other. This reduces the distance that reinforcements and rallies have to travel, but it is also a major defensive benefit: if you are surrounded by other empires, enemies will have to march through those squares to get to you. If an attacker is simply looking for resources or kills rather than trying to attack you specifically, they will usually start with unprotected edges and work their way inward. This can give you a few seconds to shield or ghost rally your hero or expensive troops. We cover the ghost rally trick farther down in this article.
Protect Your Resources
The quickest way to get resources in the game aside from buying packs is to take them from other people. Having too many resources unprotected shows up on scout reports and paints a big target on your back.
Keep your rss as protected as possible with the Resource Vault. If you are saving for a big building project, prioritize the protection of that resource on the Vault screen. If you can’t, save loyalty and use anti-scout so that enemies won’t be able to tell what you have. It’s cheaper than a shield but many enemies won’t attack at all if they can’t scout you.
If someone stronger keeps farming your Citadel for resources and is parked nearby raiding you constantly, move to a different part of the map using an advanced or random port. Sitting in an alliance hive that does not have high level players to protect you can be very risky and result in your entire team getting farmed on a regular basis.
And when you buy packs, only open the resources you need since they are safe as long as they are still in item form. You also might want to pop a shield while working on a big building project with pack resources; it is faster to crack a bunch of them open and speed through research and buildings, but that is a bad time to be attacked. Even an 8 hour shield can be plenty for speeding through an entire pack of resources.
Build Hospital Wards
Hospital wards are doubly useful for defense. They increase the number of troops that your hospital can save, and starting at level 10 they provide an HP boost for your defending troops. Both effects stack together the more hospital wards that you build.
The Ghost Rally is a trick that protects your expensive troops and your hero while you are offline. It takes advantage of the fact that troops cannot be attacked or killed while they are waiting on a rally to start.
To execute a ghost rally, pick a target empire and set a rally on it. It’s recommended to use one of your farms for this, or one of the abandoned level 6 empires that litter the average realm so that someone else doesn’t think you are actually attacking them.
Set the time delay on the rally for however long you are going to be out of the game, pick your troops to rally, and hit “march”. While that rally is waiting to launch, those troops are effectively out of the game, and cannot attack or be attacked by anything.
The max delay time is 8 hours. If you are going to be gone for more than 8 hours or are afraid you might be, pick a target a long way away, or even on the opposite side of the Crystal from your base. When the rally goes off, your troops will have to march to the target and back, which can give you a several extra hours. This is especially true if you pick a spot on the other side of the Crystal, since the terrain slows marches to a crawl.
Pro-Tip: Bookmark some empires beforehand that are several hours away or on the other side of the Crystal as ghost rally targets.
You can cancel the rally at any time to get your hero and/or troops back instantly. If you weren’t able to log back on before they marched towards the target, they will have to walk back.
Limitations of the ghost rally: it takes up a march slot and those troops can’t be used for anything else while they are ghost rallied. Furthermore, you cannot shield with a march out. But given the expense of training new troops and the threat of losing your hero after Citadel 15, the ghost rally is an incredibly important strategy to utilize frequently.
In an emergency where you only have a few seconds to respond, or when you already have a ghost rally out and need to protect more troops from an imminent attack, you can also send your troops or hero on a march to a tile somewhere. Be aware that a particularly persistent enemy might wait for them to get back, and that you cannot shield while your march is out.
Protect Your Hero
Your hero is invincible as long as your Citadel is level 14 or less. You can do things like send your hero out to gather on tiles with your troops or send all of your forces out to attack somebody and leave your hero unattended in the empire. You can send your hero out with a whole march that gets completely wiped out in an attack on an enemy empire without worry.
As soon as you upgrade to Citadel level 15, your hero can be captured by an enemy who is also at level 15 Citadel or above. Additionally, you will be able to capture enemy heroes as well, and store them in your Prison for a period of time determined by the level of the Prison.
Not having a hero because it got captured is incredibly annoying. You cannot attack monsters, which cripples your ability to get loyalty. Nor can you get boosts from gear or hero’s skills, which is a very important part of winning combats. Thankfully, if your Citadel is level 15-19 and your hero is captured, your hero will automatically escape after a few days.
The kid gloves come off at level 20, when your captured hero can be banished, which means that your hero is effectively dead. The only way to bring back a banished hero is to hire a new one who starts with less experience, or with an item in the Guild Store or packs called a Rescue Stone which costs 260,000 loyalty.
Don’t be this guy.
Heroes are captured when they are part of a group of troops that is completely wiped out by a group containing an opposing hero. This can happen on attack or defense. So if you leave your hero with a stack of t1 siege on a resource tile and someone swoops in with a march of t3s including their hero, you lose your hero. If you send a march or rally against a stronger opponent with your hero included and every troop in your march is wiped out, you lose your hero. If an attacker or a group of attackers “zeros” you by reducing you to no troops and includes their hero in the march that finishes you, you lose your hero.
If you are at level 15 Citadel or above, follow these tips to avoid having your hero captured or worse:
ALWAYS ghost rally your hero or shield when you are not online. Since shields are expensive, you will be using the ghost rally more often. Do not leave your hero unattended when you are offline, ever.
SCOUT BEFORE ATTACKING. Do not include your hero in a march that could be completely wiped out by a stronger enemy. That means don’t send your hero with the siege march meant to tear down traps, and don’t include your hero in a march of t2 troops attacking a defender with t3 troops. Scout first so you are not attacking blind.
If you are attacked by a very strong enemy or multiple enemies who port in around you, use a shield or a teleport immediately. If you have neither, quickly send your hero out to some faraway tile you have bookmarked or ghost rally. You will usually only have seconds to act, so have a plan in place before this happens.
Use anti-scout to dissuade hero hunters. Many players specifically look for heroes to capture, both for fun and to gain temporary boosts by banishing them. Anti-scout is cheaper than shields in the Guild Store, and if players don’t know if you have your hero at home or what your defenders are, they will often look elsewhere unless they are sure they can beat you.
Do not leave your hero with a skeleton crew of defenders in your base while you are paying attention to something else on the map. Invest in a meat shield and some high-tier bodyguards. This is especially true if you have marches out, because you cannot shield and the enemy can see that you have fewer troops than normal defending.
Level 20 Citadel is the most dangerous point of progression in the game. Your hero can be banished, but you don’t have t3 troops until you do the research. Be very careful with your hero at level 20.
Use a Meat shield
A “meat shield” is a large number of low-tier troops in your empire that are specifically trained to eat incoming attacks and protect your more expensive higher-tier troops, as well as your hero. They are usually tier 1 or tier 2 troops that you can cheaply and quickly revive in the hospital.
In fact, if you have good enough defense and enough Hospital Wards that your casualties are lower than your hospital capacity, you can potentially spam the hospital buttons to get your meat shield back between marches. The enemy may still zero you, but make them pay dearly for it and they’ll think twice next time.
Invest in Defense Research
For superiority on defense, nothing matches the Defense Research tree. The City Defense boosts are worth every bit of rss in terms of saving your troops during attacks, and if you are using traps the trap-specific boosts will benefit you as well. For a breakdown of specific Defense Research skills, refer to our Research Guide.
You can purchase and install 3000 traps at Wall level 1, and every Wall level after that allows you to install another 500 traps.
Reinforced walls, lovingly referred to as “bricks", are the first traps you have access to. They seem useless as they have no attack stats, but they will soak up damage meant for your troops by helping to spread the damage out. And they can be buffed by your defense research the same as any other troop or trap, and are not weak against anything except siege. They’re also very quick and very cheap to replace.
Regarding higher-tier traps, which are much slower and important to build, remember that traps will take damage at the same time as one tier lower than them, to a minimum of tier 1.
So tier 1 traps, tier 2 traps, and t1 troops will all be damaged at the same time. And an opponent will have to wipe all of those out before damage happens to t2 troops. T3 traps, if you have any, will be damaged at the same time as t2 troops.
The reason you should consider tiered traps is because t2 traps and up are more powerful than the troops they are being damaged with.
Imagine this scenario: you have a bunch of t1 troops and a row of t2 traps and t2 troops. If an opponent attacks you, all of his initial damage will be spread between the t1 troops and the t2 traps. But his damage will be less effective against your traps unless he has siege. And if he sends siege, his damage will be less effective against your troops.
Meanwhile, as long as your traps and t1 troops survive, your t2s will be causing damage to him and not getting hurt. Those traps might extend the number of marches required for him to get through your meat wall, which means more time for you to recall marches and shield.
Tiered traps can also cause an enormous amount of damage when boosted by Trap Attack research in the Hero and Defense trees. This is because they are strong against their target troop type and do normal damage rather than weak damage to everything else except siege.
To maximize trap damage as well as keep your traps alive longer, it is recommended that you keep all of your tiered traps to one tier, and make sure you have troops at the same damage tier to help them soak siege damage. So you want to make sure you have some t1 troops with t1 traps/ t2 traps, and some t2 troops if you have t3 traps, etc. This reduces the effectiveness of siege damage against the traps.
Pro-Tip: Traps are NOT weak against anything except siege. A lot of players think that if a trap is strong against against cavalry for instance, it must be weak against either warriors or mages. This is not true. Every troop type except siege is weak against traps, and traps are not weak against anything except siege.
Choose Your Attack Targets Carefully
One of the most important defense decisions you can make is who not to attack. If you antagonize someone with a Citadel ten levels above yours by tile hitting them or stealing their monster kills, expect retaliation. If you attack the smaller members of a very powerful guild, you may end up with a high-level Citadel full of t4 shock troops porting in next to you. Take these things into consideration when picking targets.
Be aware that Scouting is seen as an act of aggression by many players, some of whom will respond to your totally innocent attempt to view their defenses and unprotected resources by leveling your empire. Don’t scout someone if you aren’t prepared to fight them.
If you want to win long-term, focus on your defense first. This will allow you to save more resources and troops over the long haul, and also keep your hero from being stolen from you and banished.
Defense is only half of the equation though. The other half, and the most fun for most people, is attacking people. In the next part of this series, we are going to help you to do just that.
Beginner Guides Series One