Sigma Theory: Global Cold War is a very enjoyable little game, but a lot of its elements and concepts are poorly explained, which can be rather unforgiving for a game that essentially always has Ironman Mode on. This prompted me to write this little guide to, hopefully, let new or inexperienced players know what to expect and how things work.
- The Game, and How to Win (and Not Lose)
- Gameplay Elements
- Gameplay Elements (Cont’d)
- Gameplay Elements (Cont’d)
- Let Us Start the Game
- Covert Operations: With a Smile and a Stab
- Diplomacy: The Gentle Art of Making Frenemies
- Science and How to Blind Them with It
- How to Be a Winner and Not Radioactive Ash
- Notable Agents and How to Unlock Them
Before we start recruiting Agents and assigning scientists, first we’ll need to explain some gameplay basics, so you can recruit with some more confidence. I’ll suggest some Agents that work very well for me, but the more you know about the game, the more you’ll be able to pick Agents that best suit your playstyle.
This guide is tailored to Story Mode, but nearly all information still applies to regular mode.
The Game, and How to Win (and Not Lose)
Sigma Theory revolves around two main elements: Sigma Research and the Doomsday Clock. You attain victory by completing all Sigma Research, and suffer defeat by allowing another nation to do so, or by allowing the Doomsday Clock to reach midnight, which plunges the world into a cataclysm of nuclear fire.
Beating the other nations is actually not all that difficult in Sigma Theory, at least compared to not suffering defeat. The other nations aren’t the greatest threat, at least not directly. However, they do have an influence over your greatest enemy, the Doomsday Clock. Almost all defeats players will suffer in this game will be because of Doomsday. It is vital to keep the counter as low as you possibly can, because it can shoot up very, very quickly once enemy nations start discovering the more devastating technologies.
In order to keep the counter low, try to make as many decisions as possible that involve world peace, stability, and transparency. Bear in mind though, that other relations may suffer as a result, and it’s impossible to keep everyone always happy, and having the approval of your own government, i.e., your employer, drop to zero will also means you are out of the game. However, there are means of keeping rival nations and your own employer satisfied without making Armageddon-encouraging decisions, I’ll explain those below.
Of course, even with the Doomsday Clock being your biggest threat, you should not lose sight of Sigma Research. Before the ultimate technology can be unlocked, you will need to research smaller, specialized techs that can give you – or the enemy! – enormous advantages if discovered first. Bear in mind that, especially in the beginning of the game, rival nations will discover more techs than you, and you will be fighting to mitigate the consequences of this throughout the early game. Only after you’ve weathered the initial storm and gotten some scientists to defect, can you really begin actively pursuing advantages.
Thankfully, the game does more than just throw obstacles in your way, and once you’ve secured some breathing room, you can start achieving your goals. There are many ways to go about this, and no one method will win you the game on its own, you’ll need to manage several aspects. Depending on your Agent set-up and your own preferences, however, you’ll find yourself focusing on some areas more, and leaving other areas less cultivated. There are several key gameplay elements you will be able to explore to reach your ultimate goal.
You will not win the game without researching things yourself. There are other ways to get a hold of Sigma technology, and you should definitely exploit those as well, but you will have to do your own researching and do it well, or you’ll be lagging behind forever. Research is performed by assigning Scientists to specific research fields. They will accumulate research points every turn, and when they reach a new technology, they will unlock its use for your nation (if you’re the first to unlock it, which is not likely in the beginning) and add points to your Sigma counter, which contributes to, hopefully, your victory.
The rival nations aren’t hermits sitting in their walled gardens. They, like you, have a diplomat in charge of their Sigma projects. Through negotiation with these diplomats, you’ll be able to gain better relations, secure monetary advantages, ease up alert levels, exchange Sigma research, negotiate the release of captured agents, and even work together to take down terrorist cells that are giving you grief – and grief, they will give you. It is always in your best interests, though not always possible, to keep diplomatic relations relaxed and friendly, since this eases diplomatic agreements and staves off war, which can do a number on the Doomsday Clock, and thus, on you.
This is the bulk of the game, which allows you to take an active part and enables you to truly progress towards victory. You cannot win through diplomacy and research alone – at least, not to my knowledge. Covert Operations is a bulk term I use to indicate all actions performed by your Agents, international spies and enforcers, even though their operations might not always be that covert. Covert Ops encompass reconnaissance, investigations, identifications, conversions of enemy scientists, exfiltrations, counter-espionage, hacking, and others. This is where you can – and must – really make the difference.
Every once in a while, Events will occur. Some are triggered, but most just happen when they feel like it. The manner in which you respond will determine the outcome, and diplomatic relations may shift, as well as the Doomsday Counter or even the allegiance of your personnel, as you do so. Your spouse, too, will sometimes contact you for aid or advice, and (s)he too will respond accordingly to the solutions you present.
That’s about it for introductions of game elements, now let’s go over how you actually play without feeling lost or confused, and how you can turn those early game black-eyes into victory.
Setting Up a Game
I generally play Story Mode, since I’m a sucker for stories, but if you don’t, then the first thing you should do is decide on the nation you wish to work for. Some choices are better than others. In Story Mode – which I recommend – you’re automatically assigned the United States, which has an easier time persuading rival scientists to defect, but in regular mode, you get to choose. Some interesting choices include:
Russia – the first scientist you get is better than average – this allows you to get an immediate boost in tech research, giving you a better chance of securing those early technologies, which can make the early game less of a ‘man the bilge pumps’ scenario for you.
I would generally avoid countries that give your Agents special traits. Traits are useful, but it’s far better to select Agents that already come with useful traits instead of wasting your country bonus on them, since Agents tend to come and go, for the most part. Select a bonus that sticks with you for the entire game.
Next is selecting your Spouse. This has very little effect on the actual game, apart from the fact that your Spouse will give you a diplomatic bonus for his/her home country at some point, and of course, the fact that your enemies (or yourself) will never be able to recruit this particular Agent. Since the AI has access to all possible Agents, even locked ones, this effect is minor so you should really just pick an Agent you won’t use, with the face or personality you like best. So don’t feel bad about picking Kim Joo-Sun every time.
Gameplay Elements (Cont’d)
The next step is actually recruiting those Agents I’ve been mentioning. Since the best and most reliable way of playing the game is by keeping diplomatic relations high and the Doomsday Clock low, we’ll be mostly focusing on covert operations and ‘soft’ interventions, persuading scientists to work for us of their own accord and exfiltrating them quietly and quickly. With this in mind, an ideal set-up, along with some suitable candidates for the job, would be something like this:
Elite: I always choose a commando-style Agent to fill the Elite role. This will be your go-to operative to perform the exfiltrations. They need to be clever enough to avoid most dangers, but also strong enough to neutralize threats if required. Some off-the-bat candidates:
Maestro: The James Bond of operatives, Maestro is extremely versatile, highly capable and unflaggingly loyal. He’s a great choice for exfiltrations, his Wheelman and Firearms Expert traits being very useful if operations turn sour, and his Seducer trait paired with his high Strength means every androphile Scientist will go weak at the knees for him. He alone can usually operate just fine in any country, especially if supported by a good hacker who can sniff out Scientists while he performs recon. His only ‘negative’ trait, Honest, isn’t that much of a problem since he is much better off using Seduction over Bribery anyway. If you’re lucky enough to unlock the LIGHTNING Implant, definitely give it to him so he can non-lethally neutralize patrols even more easily, making exfiltration ops almost a sure thing, especially with a Surveillance Drone.
Convince him to join by telling him his skills are wasted standing on the frontline waiting to get shot.
Espoir: Though not as physically intimidating as Maestro, Espoir is geared almost exclusively towards sneaky exfiltrations, which is what we want to be doing for the most part. Her Black Belt Trait, combined with her decent Strength, will make neutralizing patrols easier, and this is always the best way to go if you’re forced to encounter them. The fact that she is a Pacifist shouldn’t be much of a problem, since our focus will be non-lethal ops anyway, though she also has the Honest trait, which is a slightly bigger handicap compared to Maestro since she does not have Seducer. Still, she’s a solid choice.
Convince her to join by telling her you wish to build a better world.
Magician: The most gentle choice of Elites, Magician is very well-geared towards cerebral operations, and can perform nearly every aspect of the job on his own, his high Intelligence combined with Seducer and Exfiltration Expert giving him the tools he needs to recruit scientists and get them out quietly. Unfortunately, he has very little at his disposal in case an operation gets out of hand, although his Jailbreaker and Omerta traits will give him a good chance of escaping without revealing any secrets. Or the enemy could just interrogate him to death. At any rate, if you go for Magician as Elite, be sure to add some more muscle to the rest of your team.
Hacker: If you choose your hacker right, they will be capable enough to sit quietly in your base and create all sorts of opportunities for you while they are safe and untouchable. Even though their job is rather narrow, the effects they can cause are extremely versatile and useful. You can send your hackers abroad, but then they’ll be either at risk of capture (if operating inside the target country) or be forced to work with inferior hardware (if operating inside a third country). Neither are particularly interesting, so a home-based hacker is best. Mind you, poor hackers will not only raise alert levels by bungling jobs, but they will also cause diplomatic fallout as their efforts are traced back to you. Some worthwhile hackers:
Gamera: He’s not much to look at, but he’s pretty much the only useful dedicated hacker at the beginning of the game. His traits aren’t special (apart from Hacker) and while they give him no real advantages, they also don’t impede him from doing his job.
Convince him to join by impressing him with all the drones and robots you’ve got.
Slavik: While Slavik looks useful, his Hasty trait really is a big handicap. While it does make him faster, it also ensures that he will be traced rather often and will cause diplomatic incidents. If you’re willing to put up with this, Slavik is the fastest Hacker in the game. He has good Intelligence and the Hacker trait, but think twice.
Mystery: While not a dedicated hacker, Mystery can do the job quite well, and unlike Gamera, she can also be used for other operations if need requires. Her Intelligence is higher than Gamera’s, but in terms of pure hacking, Gamera has the edge because of his Hacker trait. It’s up to you which Agent you prefer, I tend to go for Mystery because she’s more versatile.
Trojan: Trojan is pretty much the ultimate hacker. Don’t believe the wiki, Double K is a script kiddie compared to her (plus, she does not have the Elite handicap). She can spend the entire game sitting at home in her pyjamas, drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos while she reduces enemy computers to smouldering heaps of metal. While she isn’t available at start, she’s worth mentioning because once you unlock her, you’ll never have need of another hacker ever again. Not only is she best at her job, she’s also untraceable which means you’ll never get diplomatic problems from her tampering. Her high Intelligence also means she can easily identify enemy Agents and either counter them herself or expose them to your other operatives for easy capture. She’s pretty worthless at everything else, but who cares about that.
Gameplay Elements (Cont’d)
Soft Operative: While your Elites may be able to somewhat reliably influence rival Scientists, an Agent dedicated to the gentler arts of persuasion will do so with much more success, and much fewer raised alarms. This Agent, with high Intelligence, can also sniff out and identify Sigma Scientists if your Hacker is busy elsewhere. In addition to the Intelligence score, you’ll also want some useful persuasion traits. Notable first-game candidates:
Mystery: If you haven’t picked her as a Hacker already, you can consider doing so now. Her Traits aren’t particularly special, but her Intelligence is baller. However, since she has both Weak-Willed and Loner, she cannot use Convert or Seduce with reliable results. She’s best used to identify Scientists and Diplomats with Maestro in tow, who will be able to then Seduce most Scientists. In my third game, Mystery and Maestro, with the two of them, created a harem which was a sight to behold. Her high Intelligence also means she can perform the occasional Hack if she’s bored, if she isn’t your dedicated Hacker already.
88888888: Versatile, fiercely Loyal and a good Seducer, 88888888 (64?) is worth adding to your team, especially if you’ve picked someone Elite other than Maestro. He has the Stubborn trait, which makes him less pliable during exfiltrations, but you probably shouldn’t be using him for that anyway, but rather your Elite. That said, his high Strength and Intelligence will allow him to perform these operations well in a pinch, if you can tolerate his occasional independent streak.
Convince him to join by telling him he’ll get lots of money to do dangerous stuff.
Aphrodite: If you want versatility in Persuasion techniques, you could always go for Aphrodite, although her Traits are a bit bizarre, with High Profile and Master of Disguise actively working against each other, and Seducer being useful, but not as much as in the case of 88888888 and Maestro, due to her lower Strength and Intelligence. While gynophile Scientists probably can’t resist her charms, you’re better off picking 88888888 instead. Besides, we all know you’ve already picked her as your Spouse anyway.
Spy Hunter: Your last Agent should be another commando-style operative, specializing in Spy Hunting. This does not mean they absolutely must have the Spy Hunter trait (no Agent available at start does anyway), or that they’ll constantly be engaging in counter-espionage, but they need to be adept at capturing enemy spies. This means high Strength primarily. Decent Intelligence is a plus, to identify hostile spies if your home-based Hacker has priority missions, but generally, you’ll be relying on the latter to identify them so your Spy Hunter can do the dirty work.
Catch: Catch has very high Strength, and his Black Belt trait will allow you to very easily capture enemy operatives. Once identified, Catch will eat enemy spies for proverbial breakfast. However, if there are no enemy spies operating, Catch’s usefulness is somewhat diminished, but he can still be used for non-lethal exfiltrations. Be sure, however, to pick the Strength options as often as possible, and be advised that his Pacifist trait prohibits him from carrying a firearm, or using lethal force. You usually don’t want to do this, but there might come a time when it’s kill or be killed. Don’t send him on high-alert operations if you can help it.
Liberty: Liberty’s Strength is comparable to Catch, and her Firearms Expert trait aids her in capturing enemy spies, same as Black Belt. She’ll capture every spy you throw her at, same as Catch, but she’s arguably less useful outside of this specialty, since her Firearms Expert is not preferable to Black Belt – you’ll want to go for non-lethal options as much as possible – and she possessed the Jinxed trait, meaning that people she’s protecting will sometimes meet unfortunate ends. This is, clearly, to be avoided.
My starting team: From the agents immediately available, I pick Maestro as Elite, Mystery as Hacker, 88888888 as Soft Operative, and Catch as Spy Hunter. Other combinations are possible, but I find that this one gives the best chance of successfully completing missions quickly and quietly. Later on, I’ll still be using Maestro, or possibly Wolf as Elite, Trojan as Hacker, Green Crescent as Soft Operative and possibly 9413 as Spy Hunter until I can replace her with a second Elite (preferably Red Sword if she’s available).
I will list notable unlocked Agents and how to recruit them below.
Once you’ve picked your team, you’re good to go. Give your setup one last look before you head out, crack your knuckles if you wish, and take up office as the Director of Sigma Division.
Let Us Start the Game
At start, all your Agents will be in the home base, ready to be sent on missions. Before you do anything, let’s take a look at the game board. You’ll see your own country, as well as rival nations. You’ll notice that the rival nations have a blue meter and a red meter around their icons. I’ll explain these below, but first, please direct your attention to your biggest enemy, the Doomsday Clock. It’s currently at -15. Global instability, paranoia, hostility and outright war will push it further towards zero. When it reaches this level, tensions rise to a catastrophic level and someone, somewhere, pushes an itchy and sweaty finger down on a big red button, beginning a chain reaction of globally assured nuclear destruction. This is generally seen by most people as a slightly undesirable outcome.
Fret not, however, as there are means of keeping the clock from advancing and even pushing it back.
Now let’s take a look at the rival nations. The blue and red meters around their icons are relationship and alert levels, respectively. The blue meter denotes how favourably the rival nation regards you. This will usually start out at 50%. You’ll want to get this as high as possible, since better relations will mean more successful negotiations, and less danger of going to war and advancing the Doomsday Clock. The most viable way to do this is through diplomacy, although some events and missions can also help. The red level denotes the nation’s alert meter. The higher this is, the more the rival nation is aware, and dedicated to stopping you. As you botch missions, bungle hacks, and allow exfiltrations to descend into chaos, this will increase. However, you can lower this meter by engaging in diplomacy and hacking enemy security. Definitely get this as low as possible, 0% if you can, before beginning exfiltration missions.
You’ll also notice that you have a crosshair icon and an eye icon available at your home base. These are your combat drone and surveillance drone. Should you lose favour with your government, they will rescind your permission to use these, so beware, since they are quite valuable. In our ghost playstyle, we’ll be using the Surveillance Drone mostly for assisting Agents in missions, particularly exfil ones, while the Combat Drone will primarily be used as diplomatic leverage.
Above, there are menus you can peruse to see your progress regarding projects. The first is the Sigma Research menu, where you can reassign scientists to priority techs or according to their specialty. The game automatically assigns scientists to their specialty fields, so you don’t need to worry about that too much initially. There is also a menu that overviews all your staff and relations, and one that recalls notifications you’ve closed. Last is the settings menu, you know how these function. Also above, there’s a ∑ symbol, with 0/15 next to it. As you research technologies, you will accrue Sigma scores, as follows:
- Technology researched first and kept secret or published: 3∑
- Technology researched first and given to a global concern: 2∑
- Technology researched which other nation owns already: 1∑
Once you attain ∑15, you can start researching the ultimate Sigma technology, which requires points in all five Science fields. I will explain in more detail below.
All nations start at ∑0, but some will get a head start, like Russia for instance, and it’s often a good idea to focus your covert operations on them first, to steal their Genius scientist. Unless you are Russia, in that case we disavow any knowledge of alleged agents operating on your territory.
Regardless of which country you select to operate in first, definitely send your drones there once ops truly begin. Have the Surveillance Drone remain at home for a few turns though, to assist your Hacker as he performs his first, critical job by giving him a Hardware bonus. After that, the Surveillance Drone will assist your agents, and the Combat Drone will hover menacingly over their cities so their diplomats well be more… receptive to our suggestions. Strangely, having Combat Drones hovering over rival territory does not degrade relations, so always have them in position.
Then, it’s time to send your Agents. I’d suggest sending your Soft Operative there in Fast Travel mode. This way, she will reach the territory faster. This means she will have to discard her firearm, but she won’t need it anyway. Send your Commando right after, but this time in Infiltration mode, so his firearm remains available, just in case.
Your Hacker, meanwhile, should begin reducing the Alert Level of the rival country. A lot depends on the success of this first hack, so let’s hope it succeeds. The Surveillance Drone will help, by increasing the Hardware Level from two stars to three – extremely useful during early Hacking ops. I would suggest sending your Spy Hunter to the same rival country, so she can glean info about the rival diplomat, making negotiations easier. At the same time, make a diplomatic appointment right away, it’ll take a few days for the meeting to occur.
With all this underway, let’s look at all the things your agents can do when they’re on-site. This is so extensive it requires a new chapter.
Covert Operations: With a Smile and a Stab
Again, we will classify all your Agent operations as Covert Ops even though they will sometimes be less so. Your Agents can perform all manner of Operations, and I will explain them all individually.
Recon: Usually the first operation you will perform, this makes the Agent unavailable for three days as she reconnoiters the area of operations. This bestows a permanent bonus to all future ops in this country, even if the operative leaves and returns. Unless you are very hard pressed for time, your Soft Operative and Commando should always Recon. Reconnaissance always succeeds and carries no risks.
Acquire Firearm: If your Agent has… misplaced his weapon, he can attempt to reacquire one on the black market. Be advised that this is dependent on Strength, so don’t even think about letting your Soft Operative carry out this mission, and that failure will increase the nation’s alert level. You should never need to perform this operation since you’re much better off Infiltrating rather than Fast Travelling where your Commandos are concerned. Infiltrating takes longer, but Fast Travelling means leaving the Agent’s firearm behind. Soft Operatives can usually Fast Travel, Commandos should Infiltrate, since the Soft Operative usually needs a few turns to get the field ready anyway.
Hack: This is explained in detail later on, and if you’ve got a good Hacker at home, your field Agents shouldn’t be doing this anyway unless they’re sitting around with nothing else to do.
Locate Scientists: Rival governments won’t just let their Scientists perform their research in a big neon-lit building at the centre of the capital city. Your Agents will need to uncover the location of the enemy labs. This will often be the first thing your Soft Operative does, after Recon. This mission does carry a certain risk – if it fails, the nation’s Alert level will rise. Get the Alert Level lower before you attempt this unless your Agent is highly Intelligent and covered by a Surveillance Drone. If successful, your Agent will discover the location of one or more Sigma Scientists working for the rival nation. Be advised that mission success does not mean all of the Scientists have been located – there may be more you don’t yet know about. Also, this operation can also be performed by a skilled Hacker, and usually your Hacker will get much more information upon success, and even identify the Scientists individually, so if your Hacker is available and Alert Level is suitably low, delegate this job to him instead while your Soft Operative establishes a Recon network or investigates the diplomat.
Investigate Diplomat: Rival diplomats have their own personalities, and some may be more receptive to certain approaches than others. Addressing the diplomat in a way she relates to will increase your chances of proposals succeeding. Your operatives can get to know these personality traits by investigating the rival Diplomats. This carries no risk, so any Agent can do it, although high Intelligence will increase the odds of effective investigation. If you’re especially lucky, you can even uncover an incriminating dossier to pressure the diplomat into finding your proposal more attractive.
Identify Scientist: Another job for your Soft Operative if your Hacker hasn’t done this already, this orders the Agent to investigate individual scientists, establishing their identity, exact location, and personality. This is dependent on Intelligence. Upon success, you will learn everything there is to learn about the Scientist and can determine the best way to approach them. Upon failure, your Agent will increase the Alert level.
Approach Scientist: This is where you can finally start getting concrete results. If a Scientist is identified, your Agent can secure their allegiance by several means. All methods are viable, but your Agent make-up, as well as the identity of their target, will make some more efficient and less risky than others. The four methods are:
- Abduct: This only takes a single day and is guaranteed to work. However, this automatically requires an exfiltration (see below) and bestows the Prisoner trait on the Scientist, making them only half as effective. This also does not render them a Double Agent. If you can avoid using Abduction, do so, since it also impacts your score at the end of the game.
- Seduce: Through charm, wiles, batted eyelashes, and perhaps a few surreptitious kissy faces, your Agent causes the Scientist to fall in love (or lust) with him, and convinces them to defect to your cause. This is dependent on Strength or Intelligence, whichever is higher, making it a good method for Commando Agents, especially if they also have Seducer, though the Loner trait will handicap this tactic. Bear in mind compatibility. Male agents trying to Seduce gynophile Scientists will likely find themselves barking up the wrong tree, and vice versa. Scientists who are Chaste might also cause embarrassment for your charmer, on the other hand, Flighty Scientists will drop their undies like they were on fire.
- Bribe: The Agent offers a gift of hard currency to make the Scientist decide it’s more attractive to work for you than for the cheap tinpot country they used to work for. This requires high Intelligence. Incorruptible Scientists will be much less susceptible to this approach, but Corruptible ones quickly get dollar-sign pupils. Honest Agents are flat-out unable to use this tactic.
- Convert: Through rational and emotional persuasion, the Agent convinces the Scientist that working for you is simply better, more fulfilling, safer, more interesting, more fun. This also requires high Intelligence. Loyal Scientists may tell your Agent to talk to the hand, but those Without Ties will gladly listen. Weak-Willed Agents cannot Convert Scientists, although Agents with the Puppet Master trait will certainly be very effective at doing so.
Upon success, Scientists influenced through all methods apart from Abduction will become a Double Agent for your country, sharing some of the rival research with you. If your Agent occasionally visits, they will remain so and provide you with free research without risk. However, it does not have to end there. You can go the extra mile (and you often really should) and perform the final step in the Agent’s operations chain, which is an Exfiltration. I will explain more in-depth below, but every Agent can perform the Exfiltration, regardless of which Agent actually converted the Scientist. This makes it possible to have Scientists converted by your Soft Operative to be extracted by your Commando, leaving your Soft Operative free of arrest warrants (see below) and able to remain in the country and work another target for the Commando to extract upon return.
Hacking: Never, Ever Cut a Deal with a Dragon
While you can probably win the game without Hacking, you really shouldn’t make the attempt lightly, and certainly not on your first try. Hacking is extremely powerful and useful and, if the right operator is selected, very low-risk. Your Hacker can work from three locations:
Hacking from Home. This is generally preferable since your Hacker will benefit from improved hardware and all the technology she needs to perform her duties. Failed Hack attempts may be traced back to you, however, and you will incur a relations hit.
Hacking On-Site. Hacking inside the rival nation’s borders will make some things easier due to proximity, but the risk is rather high: if your Hacker fails, she may get captured, and this will cause an additional relations hit, as well as costing you an Agent, obviously. Not recommended.
Hacking from a Third Country. This offers the great advantage that your operative remains untraceable, even in the case of a failed or detected hack, so you can go to town and not worry about detection, but on the other hand, your Hacker needs to work with little more than two cans connected with twine, so expect to waste many turns on failed operations, turns you do not have.
When you’ve decided where you’ll be hacking from, you can initiate the operation. There are some things to consider. Your Hacker will have some benefits, and will need to overcome obstacles. What determines success is your Hacker’s skill, obviously, plus the hardware at her disposal, overcoming the target country’s security. In the home country, the Hacker’s hardware is high (maxed if a Surveillance Drone is present), but discretion is low. In a third country, hardware is low, but discretion is high. The target’s security is determined almost entirely by Alert Level.
Alert level between 0% and 33% gives the target only a single point. 33% – 66% gives a second point, and security is maxed on 66% and up. This means that Hacking is a positive feedback loop: Hacking to reduce the Alert Level will also reduce security, and make future hacks easier. This is why this first Alert-lowering Hack is so important.
Your Hacker can perform more operations than this, and should never, ever be idle. The full complement of Hacking actions is as follows. Failures will always increase the rival Alert Level.
Steal Sigma Data. The Hacker funnels research results to your labs. This steals a portion of their Sigma tech and adds it to yours in case of a complete success. If the Hacker achieves a partial success, she will create chaos in the target’s systems and deal a significant setback to their research attempts, though you will gain nothing directly.
Lower the Alert Level. Always a useful operation to undertake, unless Alert is already at minimum, of course. As already described above, and further explained below, low Alert Level is critical to all operations’ success, and Hacking, along with Diplomacy, offers the best way to reduce this.
Install Ransomware. The Hacker corrupts the target’s system with blocking software that requires a key to unlock. This gives you diplomatic leverage to secure more favourable diplomacy deals, see below.
Delete an Arrest Warrant. Only available if the target nation has in fact issued a warrant for one of your Agents’ arrest. Some Agents start the game with a warrant here and there, but most of the time, they are ‘earned’ after completing Exfiltrations, see below. Agents with outstanding Arrest Warrants may be captured upon entering the nation’s territory, though once they are in, they may move about freely.
Locate Sigma Scientists. This operation will often expose and identify all the rival nation’s Sigma Scientists. It is the most efficient way to locate targets. This option may also be used to locate your abducted or captured staff.
Once you’re a few days underway, your first diplomatic meeting will occur, if you’ve scheduled one – and you have scheduled one, right? Let’s go over how Diplomacy works.
Diplomacy: The Gentle Art of Making Frenemies
As mentioned earlier, friendly relations with diplomats is a good thing for you, and for the world. We want to keep them that way. Good relations will also help us reduce alert levels, negotiate trade deals, and even gain research or Scientists. If you’re engaging in diplomacy and are trying to complete ops peacefully and non-lethally, always have your Combat Drone hovering over the rival you’re negotiating with. This makes for a very powerful bargaining chip. Perhaps if you’re lucky, your Agents will have uncovered an incriminating dossier, or your Hacker will have installed Ransomware on their systems and you’ll have an even more favourable position.
You can meet with diplomats around once a week, and there is no limit to how many diplomats you can negotiate with, though you can only meet with one each day and overlapping schedules means you’ll have to make a choice.
First, address the rival diplomat, preferably not with “Sup ♥♥♥”. If you know which traits they possess, greet them accordingly. Praise narcissists, intimidate cowards, be conspiratorial with tin-foil-hatters, etcetera. If you don’t know the diplomat’s traits and prefer not to guess, you can always greet them with a neutral “how are things on your end?”, but if not, go ahead and try your luck, a faux-pas does not permanently damage relations, it just reduces the chances of this particular negotiation. This is also the point where you can throw incriminating dossiers in their face, but don’t be too quick to do so, since you only get one chance to use your leverage, and if the diplomat refuses your suggestion, the dossier is lost, so keep it for times you really need it – usually the correct form of address can already give you a decent advantage as is.
Then, you will need to tell them what you require of them. Some requests will be more palatable than others. Asking a diplomat to improve relations will go over rather well, especially if they are already friendly, while demanding them to hand over scientists will be met with much more stubbornness. Bear in mind that not reaching an agreement will never damage relations, and diplomats will forget insults as soon as the talks are over, so be as bold as you want to be. Things you can ask include:
Improve relations: always a good idea if you have nothing concrete to ask, improving relations can often even succeed without a counter-offer, but will of course benefit from one. A critical proposal to make if you’re at war, since you absolutely must stop the Doomsday Counter from degrading at all costs, and this is the only way to secure a truce. If you’re at this point, throw all your dossiers and ransomware into the fray, since failure will mean waiting another week for new negotiations, and another 7 ticks on the clock.
Reduce the Alert Level: you’ll often want to do this, especially if your Hacker has botched a few attempts. This might require a counter-offer, and sending away your Combat Drone (for a few turns at least, heh) will usually help in making them see things your way.
Secure Economic Advantage: this is a good way to improve relations with your own government, i.e. your employer, by getting the rival government to provide your government with an economically favourable agreement. This is the quickest and easiest way to improve relations with your own government. Waiting for events is unreliable and inefficient.
Release Captured Agent: if one of your Agents has been captured, you can negotiate their release. This is best done quick, since rival governments are more than capable of torturing your Agents to death to get them to reveal information. Of course, since the rival government knows you’ll just use your freed Agent against them anyway, they tend to demand considerable recompense for their release.
Request Sigma Research: if successful, the rival nation provides you with a one-time portion of their Sigma research. They are usually not very enthusiastic about this, so make sure you have some kind of leverage if you’re determined to do this. Then again, your means of applying diplomatic pressure are much better used in other requests, so you might wish to think twice before attempting this, since the advantage isn’t that great and your hacker will be able to do this for free after alert levels are reduced.
Request Sigma Scientist: this asks the rival Sigma Division to transfer a Scientist to your laboratories peacefully, instantly, and permanently. Governments will usually not welcome this request with champagne and confetti, so if you wish to stand any chance at all of this succeeding, make sure relations are very friendly, and you have some means of persuading your ‘friend’ to give you one of their keys to winning the game. Be advised that you cannot ask for the transfer of unidentified Scientists, so some wetwork will be necessary, either locally, or at a distance through hacking.
Once you’ve made your request, the diplomat will ask you what you’re offering in return. You can provide several commodities in return.
Future Considerations. This is really nothing more than a hand-written ‘thank you’-note without even a box of chocolates, you cheap bastard, and will make the diplomat less inclined to agree with your proposal. You can still succeed, however, and if you’re just asking for better relations or a lower alert level with a rival that you’re already on good standing with, you can get away with this response. You can ‘offer’ this in return in negotiations where you have nothing to lose.
Financial Compensation. You offer economical incentives to the rival nation. This is rarely a good idea, since your government will not be pleased that you’re giving away its money and will lose faith in you accordingly. I would suggest against using this, since your employer is already a fickle enough element on its own, and did I mention that being fired means game over? I probably did.
Offer Sigma Research. You transfer a portion of your research to the rival government. I would also suggest against offering this since research will be hard-fought enough to begin with, without actually handing it over to rivals as well. Still, it can be a means of convincing a rival who no longer has much hope of pioneering technologies, but who does have interesting things to offer regardless, or if you absolutely must secure a truce and have no other means. Still, don’t.
Offer a Scientist. Unless you’re laughably comfortable in your position as leader of the game, don’t do this. Your rivals will do enough damage to your Scientist contingent on their own without you actually giving them away as well. And if you’re so ludicrously in the lead, then why even conduct any more negotiations? Just… never do this. Ever.
Recall Combat Drone. This is where you can exploit the diplomacy system with glee and pleasure. By offering to recall your Combat Drone to your own territory, you will get a considerable edge in negotiations, and this alone is often enough to make the less bold requests succeed. The kicker is that you are not promising to keep your Combat Drones away in the future, so you can just recall your drone, then send it back, over and over again, using this as leverage every time. In fact, using this to consistently reduce Alert Levels or Improve Relations is a key strategy. To make this even more fun, if your rival refuses, your Combat Drone will stay put, allowing it to be used as leverage again right away during the next negotiations. This is also why you should never let relations with your employer degrade to the point that they revoke your drone licence.
Recall Surveillance Drone. Identical to the previous offer, except it’s your espionage device you’re sending back home. Your Surveillance Drone is more valuable than your Combat Drone in a low-violence playstyle, and you shouldn’t offer to recall it lightly, but if you can comfortably do so, why not. It’ll be back in a few days anyway.
Ransomware Decryption Key. If your Hacker’s been chummy enough to install some Ransomware on the opponent’s systems, you can offer to decrypt this ransomware for him. Most governments don’t function well with crippled IT systems, so this provides a substantial bonus. Like recalling the drone, it can be done over and over, installing new Ransomware every time, and the Ransomware will not disappear if the rival refuses the offer.
Release Captured Agent. If you’ve got one or more of their underhanded backstabbers behind bars, you can release them to encourage a more favourable outcome. You should think twice about this, since a released enemy Agent will usually come back for more naughtiness, plus interrogations can reveal many secrets and give you many interesting advantages, like reduced rival security and dirt on diplomats.
Once more, it is important to keep diplomatic relations relaxed and friendly. The more the rivals like your winning smile and jovial banter, the more agreements you’ll be able to make. The less they can stand the ugly sight of you, the more you’ll need to pay through the nose for precious little, and the greater the chance the other nation will go to war with you. This does not mean the game is over, but unless you can very quickly mend the broken pieces, it might as well be.
So, the rival nation’s alert level is suitably low, they think you’re the bee’s knees and one or more of their Scientists is just dying to work for you. You can keep them as a Double Agent, but a much more profitable course of action is to get them out of the rival country and into one of your laboratories. You can just stick a G36 in Maestro’s hands, direct him at the nearest police patrol and hope he won’t get too much blood on his suit, but other nations tend not to be amused by foreign agents stealing their scientists, shooting their lawmen and causing havoc in the streets, so let’s try and keep things quiet, so no one will be the wiser and you’ll still be invited to champagne and caviar at the embassy.
Exfiltration: Getting to the Choppa
If Alert Levels are suitably low, your Surveillance Drone is in place, and your Scientist is bouncing off the walls in excitement to work for you, it’s time to get them out. As said numerous times, stealth is vastly preferable to combat, so hush-hush.
To perform a quiet exfiltration, a few elements are highly encouraged to ensure success. If at all possible, have the following in place:
A capable Agent with high Strength. High Intelligence is certainly useful if possible, but good Strength is the only way to successfully neutralize patrols in a non-lethal fashion. Great traits to have are Exfiltration Expert, Black Belt, LIGHTNING Implant, and Wheelman. Other circumstantially useful traits are Firearms Expert and Knife Fighter. Traits to avoid are Temperamental, Stubborn, Bloodlust, Nag, Anvil and Reckless, as well as Jinxed. You should always avoid hiring Agents in a Commando role with these traits. These will not serve you, even if it all snowballs into a colossal firefight.
A low Alert Level, as low as you can get it. Low Alert levels means the Exfiltration will start with enemy Awareness low, and will mean the distance to be travelled is far lower. The difference in travelled distance between 0% and 100% alert is vast, 1.20 km against 3.60 km. This makes the operation three times as long, and makes it begin at max awareness, meaning all hostile patrols will result in enemy contact, even with a Surveillance Drone in place.
A Surveillance Drone. Unless you absolutely need it elsewhere, have it in place. The Drone can occasionally (rarely) come in handy during encounters, but its main use is to alert your Agent to enemy patrols blocking the way. If Awareness is suitably low, your Agent can simply bypass the enemy patrols entirely, reducing the risk of capture or death by an enormous amount.
When the Exfiltration begins, the camera will pan across the city, from the destination towards your Agent, and the operation commences. You can see the distance towards the evac in the top right. If this is 1.20 km, great. If it’s 3.60 km, not so great. It can still be done, but will almost certainly result in bloodshed, relations hits, high alerts and reduced trust from your government.
At the top centre is the Awareness Level. As this increases, encounters become more violent and patrols become more alert. When it reaches around half, it will no longer be possible for your Surveillance Drone to let your Agent bypass patrols. Awareness level increases by failed encounters and open hostilities. It decreases with successful encounters and nonlethal subdual of patrols. This is why Black Belt is so useful. If it’s all the way in the red, there is no avoiding violence and the operation will become a shoot-out unless your Agent surrenders.
Your Agent will be able to move a small distance between every encounter, putting him closer to the evac vehicle. If he reaches it, the exfiltration is a success. As he moves, however, encounters will trigger, and you will need to give the Agent orders on how to deal with them. These encounters are not always very clear, and responses aren’t very predictable, often blowing up in your Agent’s face because the game decides to test against an unintuitive score.
Never count on encounters to lower an already extreme Awareness level, and always expect them to increase enemy Awareness rather than reducing it. Awareness reduction should be seen as a bonus, not a necessity. That said, seize opportunities to turn them into an advantage. If your Wheelman can take possession of a vehicle, let him do so. If your Agent sees a diplomatic vehicle from your embassy and you have a good relation with your government, let him hide in it. If your Agent has a Black Belt and asks if she should knock out a patrolling cop, let her do so. If your 1-Intelligence Agent asks if he should try to outsmart a security guard asking for his press ID, for the love of God tell him not to ask stupid questions. Be smart, and consider your strengths and the ones of your Agent.
Enemy patrols, represented by an armed police icon, will also provide obstacles, and will need to be dealt with. A Surveillance Drone can simply render them non-existent if Awareness is suitably low, or a Wheelman in a vehicle can avoid them entirely. A Combat Drone can be ordered to perform an airstrike, resulting in downed tangos but also in civilian casualties. If the threat cannot be avoided or completely neutralized by a drone strike, enemy contact will ensue and your Agent will need to resort to one of four responses:
Flee. This is usually the least risky, and failure ‘only’ results in capture, but even if successful, the enemy patrol remains on the map and actively pursues, often creating additional enemy contact as they catch up. Low-strength Agents will often have very little choice but to Flee.
Neutralize. Your Agent subdues the enemy in a stealthy and non-lethal manner. Failure results in capture. Absolutely the preferable option, since it removes the enemy patrol from the map, reduces Awareness, and does not cause any casualties. High Strength is a must, and traits like Black Belt and Lightning Implant will significantly increase your Agent’s chances of success.
Eliminate. The Agent either opens fire or openly engages in melee with his knife. All hope of a stealth operation will be lost, but this might be the only reliable way to secure your Agent’s survival and the success of the operation. If this response fails, the Agent will be injured (and enemy contact will continue) or killed. Avoid this unless you have no other viable option. Firearms Expert or Knife Fighter will go a long way towards ensuring your Agent’s survival.
Surrender. This spares your Agent’s life and that of any bystanders, but causes the mission to fail. Sometimes this is the better response as it will reduce civilian casualties, diplomacy hits and Doomsday advancement. Know, however, that when you select this response, your Agent and all his knowledge will be in the hands of the enemy.
If the response is listed as Risky, there’s actually a rather good chance of success. Everything listed as Very Risky and up should be carefully considered.
A successful Ghost Operation will exfiltrate the Scientist, cause no damage to diplomatic relations, keep your Agent out of the hospital or the morgue, leave the Doomsday Clock where it is, and provide you with a hefty +20% bonus to approval from your own government. It will leave you with no negative consequences apart from the minor inconvenience of an arrest warrant for your Agent, and even that apparently is a bug and will be addressed in the next patch.
A good Agent operating at 0% Alert Level, supported by a Surveillance Drone, and guided by a competent Director ensures that Exfiltrations are as good as a sure bet. We like sure bets over here at Sigma.
Science and How to Blind Them with It
The last big chunk of the game that needs to be discussed is Science, or Sigma Research as this game calls it. Researching a technology awards ∑ points, as mentioned before. Reaching 15∑ will unlock the ultimate technology, discussed below. The amount gained depends on when the tech is researched and what you do with it.
- If you are the first to research a technology and decide to keep it for yourself, you earn 3∑ and the benefits the technology bestows.
- If you are the first to research a technology and decide to share it with the world, you receive 3∑, a Doomsday reduction and a worldwide boost to relations, but you do not receive the technology’s direct benefits.
- If you are the first to research the technology, but you decide to hand it over to a lobby (see below), you will receive 2∑, along with some miscellaneous benefits. The lobby may also contact you later to give you a specific bonus advantage.
- If you reverse-engineer a technology, i.e., research it after another nation has already discovered it, you will gain 1∑ and not much else.
If another nation researches the tech first, and they often will, they will always turn the effects against you, and they’re never pleasant, though some are less threatening than others. A few technologies can give the Doomsday Clock a firm kick in the backside, sending it forward by a full ten minutes. If two of those techs get discovered in rapid succession, you may suddenly find yourself faced with instant defeat.
Science is divided into five fields:
Neuroscience is the science that influences mental states. Its technologies tend to affect their targets’ minds, either boosting mental power or reducing their resistance. The five technologies are as follows.
Boosts the target’s intellectual capacity. Bestows the Super-Intelligence trait on one or more of your Agents if kept for yourself. Rival nations will make it much harder for you to mentally influence their scientists.
Can facilitate the persuasion and suggestion capacities. Makes it easier for you to Convert scientists. If used against you, expect a number of your scientists to suddenly defect.
Inspires fierce loyalty in individuals. Grants one or more Agents the Loyal trait. Rival nations will be able to cause one of your Agents to instantly defect.
This technology can instantly inspire an entire nation to revolt, plunging it into anarchy and eliminating it from the game. Rival nations will eliminate a random rival. Regardless if it’s you or a rival, the Doomsday Clock will advance by 10 minutes, so if you discover this tech, by all means share it with the world so the Clock is pushed back ten minutes rather than forward, unless you absolutely must annihilate a rival who is about to win.
Control can instantly and completely dominate another individual mentally and can reduce all people to mind-controlled puppets.
Health is the field that focuses on physical integrity and healing of the body. It goes beyond this, but improving its subjects’ health is its prime focus. Technologies are as follows.
A universal cure with myriad applications, but primarily the cure for cancer.
A technology that allows people to change their appearance and even bone structure, the applications of which should be obvious in the game of espionage. The rival nation discovering this technology will have nigh-undetectable Agents.
A healing aid that can be applied to wounds to heal them almost instantly, including battlefield injuries. If operations against a rival nation with this technology become violent, expect opposition to be almost unconquerable.
Enables the transfer of a mind into a new, different body. Rival nations who discover this will have, in essence, immortal Agents.
A process that effectively halts aging forever, which is for all intents and purposes immortality.
Robotics concerns itself primarily with the invention and construction of autonomous machines, mainly as applied to warfare. Its technologies are the following.
Enhances reflexes, strength and speed through nano-technology, granting soldiers superhuman close combat ability. If you choose to keep its benefits, you may apply the lightning implant to one or more Agents, rendering them all but invincible in hand-to-hand encounters. If a rival researches this tech first, they will do the same.
An autonomous AI that can make battlefield decisions faster, smarter, and more reliably, allowing it to direct troops better than any human tactician could.
An exoskeleton that, when worn, turns the user into what amounts to a walking tank.
The replacement of human soldiers, these combat robots can deploy autonomously to any battlesite, reducing human casualties to zero.
A self-replicating, ultra-resistant drone capable of multiplying into a swarm of thousands in a few days.
The field of Finance occupies itself with improving economic gain, minimizing bureaucracy and creating profitable trade systems.
A program that can predict markets and stock trading with infallible accuracy.
All financial administration and management can be left to this AI, eliminating the need for bureaucracy and accountancy.
Equalizing the footing of all nations when it comes to trade, this technology gives developing countries the ability to participate in the global economy.
Abolishing national currencies, this project replaces all these with a single tender, creating total transparency and eliminating income inequality, as well as financial privacy.
This system instantly balances demand with supply and thus creates a counter to all local scarcity of goods. Effectively, this system eliminates all poverty and economical inequality and eliminates the need for currency.
Astrophysics, finally, works to improve humanity’s understanding of physics, more specifically ways of travel and transfer across great distances.
Satisfying the Earth’s energy needs and eliminating pollution and economical consequences of non-renewable energy, the country researching this tech can provide the world with limitless energy. If a rival nation discovers this, they will put you at the very last in the queue to be upgraded, slowing your research efforts significantly.
This technology reveals all valuable resources beneath the Earth’s surface, ensuring vast wealth and materials for the nation that can harness it.
More than just an aircraft, this vessel can ensure extremely quick transport across the globe by low-orbit space flight. The first nation to discover this, will have Agents with greatly reduced travel times.
Eliminating the need for all transportation vehicles, these devices allow instant transportation of all matter across vast distances, to anywhere on the planet.
Going even beyond the Earth, these machines can teleport anything across any conceivable distance, and mark the beginning of humanity’s colonization of the galaxy.
Once you’ve earned your 15 Sigma points, you will be able to begin research on the final technology, the discovery that will forever change humanity. This requires five meters to be filled to 100%, each representing one of the fields of science. Having the scientist with the correct specialization in every field will speed up research immensely, so much in fact, that going all-out on the Sigma technology will often allow you to overtake rival nations that started far earlier. So don’t panic once you see a rival’s % meter fill, they’ll still have a long way to go and you can still catch up to them, especially with some creative diplomacy and not-so-overt operations.
How to Be a Winner and Not Radioactive Ash
This chapter covers some general hints and tips. Some have been mentioned already, but I’ll list them again here for the sake of completeness. They’re just loosely organized thoughts and insights I had during play, so don’t expect much structure, just a collection of small helpful things.
New Agents are unlocked all the time, by your own actions. Go ahead and experiment and try new things, whether you win the game or not, the Agents remain unlocked permanently. The starting Agents are… fair, but the unlocked ones are the ones that’ll win you the game. At the very end of this chapter, I’ll tell you how to unlock some key Agents.
Don’t panic when a rival reaches 15∑ and starts accruing percentiles towards victory. They’ll take a long time to do so, and in the meantime, you might be able to catch up or even overtake them on your own, and sabotaging them and stealing their scientists will make it even easier. Losing the game almost never happens due to rivals winning, so don’t be alarmed when they’re ahead. That said…
… watch the Doomsday Clock. This cannot be stressed enough. Nearly all games that are lost, are undone by the Doomsday Clock reaching zero. This is your greatest enemy in the game, and unless it is treated with extreme care, it will vomit nuclear Armageddon all over you. To keep it low, always choose options that promote world peace, transparency, and stability. Share techs with the world if it helps, the Doomsday reduction is more important than gaining on your rivals. The only justified reasons to allow the Doomsday Clock to advance (apart from staving off an immediate Game Over) is if one of your Agents or your Spouse is in serious trouble and you need to silence someone… permanently. Even then, only do so if you have a comfortable margin, -20 or less. Some techs can advance the Clock by a whopping 10, and if those are discovered by rivals in quick succession, well… Good l_ck, yo_’re f_cked.
Never let Agents sit idle unless you absolutely need them to be available the next turn (for instance, if they’re waiting for another Agent to identify a spy so they can capture them). Turns wasted are just that, wasted, while your rivals can advance. Let them dig up dirt on a diplomat if they’re bored, or simply recon another nation. You can also let them make a quick jaunt to the country your Double Agents are working from, to keep them loyal.
Fulfill Agents’ requests when/if possible. If an Agent requests a few days off for personal reasons, go ahead and allow it if you can, unless your game hinges on this particular Agent at this particular moment. If you refuse their requests, they might resign or gain unfavourable traits, while allowing them the time to conduct their personal business may give you rewards like increased relations with a nation, or good traits, or the like.
Your Spouse brings only marginal benefits to the table, and mostly functions as a bit of a nag, but keeping her alive and happy will give you the best ending. At some point, she will be captured. If this happens, the rival nation that abducted her will make itself known. Best thing to do is to comply with their first demand, to give them all your Sigma research (they’re usually not in danger of winning the game anyway), and then to launch a rescue operation once you know where to look. These function the same way as a scientist exfiltration, except that you only need to locate your spouse and exfiltrate them. She’ll usually be pretty receptive towards the idea of coming with you, so no conversion is necessary.
Don’t give your scientists stimulants if they ask for it. Sending them to rehab might make them unable to work for a bit, and give them a negative trait, but every time I allowed them to snort, it resulted in a heart attack.
Scientists that have the Heartbroken trait will work at 50%, but can lose this trait if successfully Seduced. Scientists that have the Prisoner trait will likewise work more slowly, but they will lose this trait if Abducted back to the home country, or converted by any country through peaceful means. It’s a bit strange that they are prisoners but can still defect through persuasion, but there you go. Scientists that have the Charlatan trait cannot be cured of their incompetence.
You will lose favour with your own government rather often since you need to make many decisions that place world peace above national interests, but if you conduct enough Ghost operations, you’ll win it back very easily, since every silent operation rewards a whopping +20% favour with your government. Diplomacy can also help, you can offer things you can spare to nations that don’t really have much hope of winning in return for financial advantages. You can even offer nothing and nag all the nations every chance you get, even if you only succeed 10% of the time, you’ll still lose nothing but your time, but this might get tedious.
Combat drones make for excellent diplomatic leverage, and offering to recall them in exchange for diplomatic relations is often faster than sending them to hover over a conflict zone for days on end.
If your Spouse or Government ask for a Drone or an Agent, best to let them borrow it. They’ll be out of commission for a few days, but favour will rise and you’ll often get rewards. If your team make-up is solid and you’re playing the right way, your other assets will usually be able to fill the gap for a short time.
Terrorist groups are extremely annoying. They will make demands of you without offering anything in return, but threaten you with extreme measures if you don’t comply. There are three ways to deal with them. Firstly, you can play their game. This is not recommended, since armed groups as exfil assets are useless for your playstyle, plus you’ll darken relations and advance the Doomsday Clock. You can also take it to the chin and simply refuse to negotiate with them flat-out as soon as they contact you. They will make good on their threat, and you’ll be hobbled during the early game with nothing to show for it apart from some small favour with your government and a small Doomsday reduction. The third option is usually the most beneficial: accept their initial proposal and execute their mission, it’s usually something harmless, like planting ransomware or the like. A little later, another nation will contact you, telling you they know you’re entangled with terrorists. Admit you’re being strong-armed and say you want out. They will offer a mission chain of their own, take it. This will end with the capture of the terrorist leader, giving you bonus relations with the assisting nation, plus reducing the Doomsday Clock – which you want. The terrorists will still execute their threat, but at least this way you’ll get something out of it.
Lobbies are far less annoying than terrorist groups, thankfully, but they can also impose sanctions if neglected. Usually, they’re rather benign and simply offer you incentives to hand technology over to them. Don’t worry, they won’t use it for anything evil… that we know of. When discovering a technology, you can hand it over to them and receive immediate benefits, usually in terms of international relations and employer trust, but they will also call back later and offer you something nice as gratitude as well. If you don’t really need a technology’s benefits and aren’t too far behind in Sigma research, consider turning it over to the lobby.
If a rival nation drops out of the Sigma race, fly one or two Agents over there immediately if you can. The scientists the nation had working for them will be free for the taking, and will join your voluntarily, flying to your labs with your Agent in only a single turn. Hurry before rivals snatch them up, they tend to do so within a turn or three, four.
Notable Agents and How to Unlock Them
Red Sword packs a whopping 7/7 score and no drawbacks apart from her Elite status. Her Knife Fighter and Spy Hunter traits make her the single best Spy Hunter in the game, and she has the versatility, stats-wise, to be able to handle all other missions.
She can be unlocked by discovering a Finance technology, but sharing it with the world instead of keeping it for yourself. To recruit her, just mention income inequality.
Green Crescent is likely to be the best Agent for Soft Operations. Her 7 Intelligence is further enhanced by her Seducer and Negotiator skills, and her only drawback is High Profile, which shouldn’t be a problem since she won’t be accruing arrest warrants anyway.
She can be unlocked by simply performing a diplomatic negotiation with Turkey.
Durak is a good choice as Commando or Spy Hunter, with his Black Belt and Firearms Expert giving him an additional bonus to his 6 Strength. He has no drawbacks, since Methodical won’t slow exfiltrations or spy hunting down. Master of Disguise lets him slip back into countries where he’s got an outstanding arrest warrant.
To unlock him, simply have an Agent obtain a weapon in another country.
Double K is one of the game’s best Hackers, but he is hobbled by the Elite trait. Methodical increases time spent hacking, but does ensure a successful outcome, and his Anonymous trait means his work can never be traced back to you. Pacifist and Loner are irrelevant drawbacks since he’ll be sitting at home hacking anyway.
To unlock him, fly your hacker to a rival nation and successfully locate that country’s Sigma scientists from there.
Domingo has an impressive 6/6, and the Hacker and Knife Fighter trait, which makes him a double-whammy of Hacking and Spy Hunting.
However, he is not Anonymous and his Methodical trait makes his work better, but slower. He’s a very good choice if you can tolerate having a Twitch streamer on your team.
Unlocking him requires an exfiltration to be performed successfully on France’s territory.
Trojan is the Miss Universe of Hackers, a staggering 9 Intelligence, combined with Hacker and Anonymous means she is hands-down the best specialized Hacker in the game. She will succeed at almost all of the hack attempts you order her to do, and her 9 Intelligence means she can easily expose enemy spies, and Counter them if necessary. Her Firearms Expert is a bit irrelevant, and she’s pretty worthless at most other tasks though, due to her Loner and Weak-Willed traits, but what does that even matter?
Unlocking her requires playing Story Mode, locating Daedalus, and completing the questline. Always side with her and make sure to rescue the President of the United States by keeping him safe from the Vice President and his own security detail. When this is done, Trojan will join your team and your handler will be dismissed, replaced by someone… a bit higher-up.
Wolf/Laika has a ball-bouncing 8/8 in stats, plus the Loyal and Knife Fighter traits, giving him/her unmatched versatility and letting him/her excel in nearly all roles. The Weak-Willed and Honest traits do diminish his use for conversion, but he/she can still Seduce like a good boy or girl. The implications are… best not pondered for too long. The Elite status is somewhat bothersome, but it’s only fair.
Wolf can be unlocked when one of your scientists requests assistance in animal research. Give that scientist all the time and resources he or she needs and accept that you will have one less scientist. Ten days later, the scientist will return, his or her brain transferred, somehow, into a dog’s body. You can then recruit him or her as Wolf.