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Smack down the Locust menace with our Gears Tactics tips

Brain, meet chainsaw
Written by Rick Lane
5 min readPublished on
Gears Tactics is an unexpected segue for a series about furious homunculi carving up giant lizardmen with guns that are also chainsaws, but it’s one that proves highly successful. Gears’ iconic cover-based shooting slips effortlessly into an XCOM-style mould, while developers The Coalition have layered an impressive amount of mechanical depth into the experience without compromising on Gears’ reputation for ferocious, blood-soaked action.
Indeed, the range of ideas and systems in Gears Tactics may well take you by surprise, and making the wrong move at the wrong time can be costly for your squad. So to help, we’ve put together a few pointers for getting the most out of your soldiers. Prepare to scratch some grubs!

1. Action, action, action!

The Cole Train cometh
The Cole Train cometh
Gears Tactics is designed to be a more aggressive and fast-paced tactical experience than counterparts like X-COM or Phantom Doctrine, and this is represented by how it approaches action points. Action points govern your soldiers’ ability use, and they'll also have to burn them to move, shoot, and perform special skills. By default, Gears Tactics gives each of your soldiers three action points. This might seem generous at first, but when your Gears are outnumbered three-to-one, suddenly it feels less so.
Hence, you should look to increase the number of actions you can perform in a turn at any given opportunity. Whenever you upgrade a character, for example, look through their tech tree for any abilities that either increase available actions, provide free actions, or let you move actions around between soldiers. Some key examples include the Vanguard’s ‘Freee Bayonet’, the Scout’s “Anticipate” and the Sniper’s “Chain-Shot”. This additional flexibility is crucial to evening the odds against the Horde.

2. Execute with care

Some vital, life-saving, surgery is taking place
Some vital, life-saving, surgery is taking place
One of the simplest ways of gaining additional actions is through executions. Often your attacks won’t kill an enemy directly, but incapacitate them, dropping them to one knee while their health bar glows red. At this point, they’re vulnerable to being executed by your squad in a dramatic and messy cutscene. Satisfying as these are, executions aren’t purely theatrical. A squaddie who performs an execution inspires his teammates, providing each of them with an extra action point.
This is obviously a huge boon in the midst of a fight. But the most important thing to know about executions, is that the character performing them doesn’t receive that bonus. Consequently, you need to be careful about when you perform them. It’s no good rushing one soldier right across the battlefield if it’s going to leave them exposed, or spend more actions than you ultimately gain from the execution. Most incapacitated enemies will hang around for several turns before finally dying, so make sure you squad can provide support to the squaddie getting their hands dirty.

3. Overwatch

Overwatch is crucial if you want to avoid getting jumped by waves of mobs
Overwatch is crucial if you want to avoid getting jumped by waves of mobs
Overwatch is a common mechanic in tactics games. Rather than shooting an enemy directly, Overwatch lets soldiers establish an ambush zone across a cone-shaped sector of the battlefield, shooting at any enemy stupid enough to run into it. It’s useful when enemies are too far away to target directly, in heavy cover that minimises your hit percentage, or when you want to dissuade enemies from moving to a particular position.
Gears Tactics’ version of Overwatch has some specific tweaks that are important to know about. Firstly, Overwatch will utilise any actions a soldier has left at the end of their turn. If they still have three actions, for example, they’ll be able to shoot three times before ducking back into cover. This means you can create some truly messy kill-boxes to funnel the Locust into.
Secondly, each class uses a different weapon that has a unique vision cone. Snipers’ vision cones are extremely long but also thin, useful for pinning down a distant enemy or putting a deadly line between you and the locust from a flanking position. The Scout’s shotgun cone, on the other hand, is wide-but short, better used for providing covering fire to friendlies.

4. Counterwatch

Countering enemy Overwatch is going to make your life much easier
Countering enemy Overwatch is going to make your life much easier
Overwatch is a fantastic ability, but your Gears aren’t the only ones who can use it. The Locust can too. In fact, they absolutely love it. Their favourite tactic to use against you is to create a complex nest of Overwatch cones, pinning down several of your squaddies in a crosshatch of potential death. Any attempt to move, shoot, or use (most) skills while inside one of those red cones will result in your squaddie receiving some surprise armour ventilation.
These natty Overwatch puzzles are the meat and potatoes of Gears. The game provides basic instruction on how to remove them using Disabling Shot, an ability for your squaddies pistols that interrupts enemy abilities, including Overwatch. But there are many other ways to deal with Overwatch. Grenades can blast enemies out of Overwatch, even if it doesn’t kill them. Certain soldier abilities are also purpose-built for countering Overwatch, such as the Vanguard’s “Intimidate”, which interrupts their current stance and also shunts them out of cover. Lastly, if you can relocate a Vanguard or Support to an enemy flank, using the Bayonet Charge or Chainsaw ability will also deal with enemy Overwatch by carving the Locust up like a giant, scaly ham.

5. Squad Management

The squad, going on another mission
The squad, going on another mission
Gears Tactics doesn’t have a broader strategy layer like X-COM does. Instead, the main story is broken up with side missions. These side missions won’t register much in the game’s first act. In the second and third act, however, you’ll often have to complete two or even three side-missions in a row before moving on to the next chapter. These missions often have specific parameters, such as a limit on the number of squaddies you can deploy, or specific buffs for enemies like increased movement or damage. Also, if you send Gears on one mission, they cannot then be sent on another.
Consequently, you need to plan how you’ll approach these mission clusters carefully. It’s no good sending all your star players on one fairly easy mission, then sending the new kid off on a solo rescue mission against impossible odds. Look through each mission carefully, check the soldiers limits and mission modifiers, and then assign your squads accordingly.