For Tactics Ogre: Reborn players, this guide will provide some advice for those who just getted started, especially aimed at those struggling with unfamiliar mechanics or worried about newbie traps.
This is a short guide aimed at helping newer players avoid a few things that are less than intuitive, as opposed to a walkthrough or strategy guide. The goal is to help get you off to a good start, not hold your hand.
TO:R is a deceptive game due to how many mechanics aren’t explained unless you probe through its menus, so it’s easy to find your damage dropping off even though you bought expensive gear, or struggling with fights that seem improbably slanted against you. Let’s get you caught up on some things under the hood, so you can get into building the company you want to play.
Beware the old blood (and obsolete guides)
1. You can’t carry learned abilities and skills from one class to another, aside from weapon skill levels. So no learning Rampart Aura or Concentration and using it on Warrior.
2. Archers are not as OP as they used to be, due to some changes on armor and the class’s stats. Archers remain quite good, but are no longer The Best Answer To Everything most of the time.
3. Heal spells are dramatically stronger here. Heal 1 used to do about 25 to 30, as I recall, as opposed to 100+. As a result, very old guides often emphasized healing items (which had the same values as now) much more heavily, as opposed to a cleric.
4. Rune Fencers and other hybrid classes seem much improved. I can’t say exactly how good they are as I haven’t gotten into Coda and such yet in TO:R, but they certainly aren’t garbage, at least early on.
Early Game Classes and Their Roles
Warrior, Knight, Berserker, Cleric, Wizard/Enchantress, Archer, and Rune Fencer/Valkyrie. I say mostly, because there are three others you’ll see before long: Priest, Vartan, and Beastmaster. Two of these are tied to specific characters (at least, early on), while Beastmaster is the first new class you’ll get access to. However, due to that limited availability, we’ll focus on the basic seven first.
When looking at classes, we tend to have preconceptions about what they are good for. However, especially in the somewhat limited early game, most of these classes have only one role, so be wary of coming into the game with assumptions about what they do.
ARCHER is one of the strongest offensive classes you’ll have in Chapter 1 for a number of reasons. Not only do they have the most range, but it grows even further when you realize bows (not crossbows) can shoot outside their listed range, and that altitude adds to that range. Even without high ground, archers can often shoot targets one or two squares outside their listed range. This is compounded by their lack of a need to move, meaning their turns come around more quickly as they don’t sacrifice WT to reposition for every attack. When they do move, their options are less limited to specific squares for adjacency, so they can pick up cards easily. You can do worse than having a couple of archers early (although there’s a similar option here in Vartan).
BERSERKER should be a damage dealer, but early on you’ll find them rather underwhelming. Most of their relevant skills won’t come online for a few levels, and they lack good weapon availability early on. Having one on the field to level up their weapon skills for later is a good idea, but committing heavily into Berserker may not bring the results you want. Barbarian suffers from a lack of things to do when they can’t get stuck into melee as well, something Knights and Rune Fencers are unbothered by.
CLERIC is your healer. That is all they do early on, aside from casting Exorcism on undead occasionally. Healing is extremely important, as the AI likes to focus on weaker units, and you won’t have good tools for protecting them early on, so healing it is. Otherwise you’re reliant on healing items, and those can get pricey quick, as well as eating up WT with all the extra moving.
ENCHANTRESS/WIZARD is your designated debuffer. If you were hoping wizards did AoE damage, you’re in the wrong game. Or more accurately, you’re too early in the game for real damage dealing of any sort from your wizards. While they get elemental damage spells, the numbers will feel very underwhelming compared to weapon users. Charm, Sleep, and even Poison can be very strong early on, but you’ll note the terrible accuracy; this is where the Spellstrike from the Concentration passive kicks in. In terms of action economy, landing a Charm or Sleep can win you a fight, while poison can add up if you stick it on a low priority enemy like a knight and let it soften them up over time while you focus their allies.
KNIGHT is your tank, sort of. Like in many games, the AI will go after the most vulnerable units or those that will take the most damage, ignoring your beefy tank. To discourage this, your Knight gets Rampart Aura, an ability that forces any enemy moving past him to stop. This is a limited degree of control, but can be quite useful in narrower areas. To make this more helpful, the Knight can also cast Heal, so even if their damage is lacking you essentially have a crunchier cleric with some area denial. Their downside is being slow; movement of 3 plus a generally poor WT mean they’ll be going less often than other units. Having one to limit enemy movement while dropping a few heals and add in some damage isn’t a bad idea. And PINCER is always a thing.
RUNE FENCER/VALKYRIE is the hybrid, and a very strong one in the early game. You get an underwhelming damage spell that’s still useful for a bit of extra damage at range, the ability to heal, a passive that can boost your melee damage, and usually the use of a spear that can hit two squares, all on a reasonably durable unit. The Rune Fencer only does everything, and the main tradeoff here is you’ll never get quite the damage an archer or warrior is doing. Still, given their mobility, attack range (two for spear, more for spells), and utility, they’re extremely useful to have around.
WARRIOR is your very basic unit for hitting people. Sitting between the Barbarian and the Knight as far as defense and offense are concerned, the Warrior does get a very strong damage buff that uses MP to allow them to hit extremely hard when needed (Mighty Impact). It’s also faster than the Knight. Access to 2H swords is also extremely handy, as there’s little need for a shield on a Warrior as the AI usually prefers softer targets.
These seven will make up the bulk of your forces early, but a quick mention of the other three.
PRIEST is Catiua’s specific class, and is basically Cleric with a little extra offense in the form of light element damage spells. My advice is to unequip her Spiritsurge early on, as having an attack spell makes her AI more aggressive. I prefer her hiding in the back casting Heal for 100 on my troops, as opposed to rushing in with Vyce and trying to get value out of randomly targeted 50 damage Spiritsurges. While having her (or Vyce) “die” in most fights doesn’t really matter, I’d still rather have the healing.
VARTAN is Canopus’s specific class, only available to the hawkmen. It’s set up like a melee-ranged hybrid, and you can use him that way, or switch him to a 2H crossbow. The main appeal here is not the weapon choices, though, but the 5 movement coupled with flight (infinite jump height). As an archer, he can use 2H bows, but loses 2 movement. The ability to hoover up lootbags and cards alone would be worth it, but the freedom for positioning him is great too. You can recruit other hawkmen to make Vartans, but be warned that Canopus has better stats than a generic. They’ll be good, but not Canopus good.
BEASTMASTER is a really neat class with some strong utility. It’s also nearly irrelevant in Chapter 1. If you want to run one just to get their weapon skills leveled up in blow gun, sure, but there isn’t much of anything to recruit or field for monsters until Chapter 2, so you can safely skip training one up for now. The Lobber skill can also be mildly useful, although less so than older versions of the game.
Strategy and Teambuilding
Platitudes aside, you can make battles a lot easier (or harder, if you’re after that) by how you prepare for them. We’ll be diving preparations into three categories: party composition, equipment, and training.
Party composition is your mixture of the above classes. You’ll have Priest Catiua following you around (remove her Spiritsurge if you want her to focus on healing) and Warrior Vyce trying to die, but you can’t control them so don’t rely on AI allies too much. Or at all, in the case of Vyce.
Healing: You’re going to want at least two, possibly three healers, on the field at all times. Fortunately, that’s not three clerics, since Rune Fencers and Knights also get the heal spell. You do want at least one cleric; they get Meditation to keep their MP up, after all, and a Knight with no MP isn’t healing anyone. Also Exorcism may be handy.
Damage: Archers (and Canopus) are extremely good at putting damage anywhere you want it, but will suffer a noticeable dropoff against armored targets due to their piercing damage, so don’t rely on them exclusively. You’re going to want at least one solid hitter for melee, probably Warrior. (Berserker is a good class, but needs to get into the level 14 range before it really takes off.)
Utility: A Knight for Rampart Aura is handy, and while their damage may seem weak, they can trigger Pincer for other melee attackers. (Pincer is an ability most melee characters get that allows them to join in on friendly melee attacks.) Also, while the enemy won’t focus your tank, they are still a valid target, so the AI will target them occasionally just to have something to do. Meanwhile, Wizards also suffer from underwhelming damage and awkward firing arcs, but as mentioned before, access to Charm and Sleep is very, very useful. When it works.
If this were XCOM, and you had four units, there would be some hard choices here. You get 8 or 9 units in most early battles, so try things out. That being said, I highly recommend using Canopus in his Vartan class, and fielding at least one cleric at all times. A balanced mix of everything is certainly doable, but you have enough bodies you can mess around with doubling or even tripling down on a unit, especially flexible ones like Rune Fencer.
A note on our man Denam himself: you can make him any class you want. If you’re new to the game, do NOT make him a full caster or archer. I’d recommend Warrior or maybe Rune Fencer. You will be fielding him every battle, he is not allowed to die, and sometimes he will be deployed in very, very compromising situations. Your life will be much simpler if you keep him in a sturdy class with some melee potential, with a lineup of self-healing items for emergencies.
Most gear in this game is pretty self-explanatory, so this is more about concepts than calling out specific weapons.
Armor influences more than just defensive stats.
Archers and ranged troops want Dexterity for damage. That means not just weapon choice, but their armor as well needs to be chosen to maximize dexterity, as opposed to defense.
This matters for other classes as well, but the starting armor has Dexterity on it, while the upgrades do not. So if you buy new fancy armor for your archer, their damage will go down, and you’ll be wondering what happened.
Next, different armor types have differing defense against damage types. This mainly matters with Piercing and Crushing damage. Bows and 1H crossbows do piercing; 2H crossbows do Crushing. That means against classically heavily armored enemies, bow damage will drop off sharply while 2H crossbows will perform better. This also comes up for spells; some do element+crushing damage.
While later on you’ll have a wealth of options as well as more rigorous challenges, early in the game you mostly just want to avoid shoehorning yourself into all piercing damage. If your archer has a 2H longbow, give Canopus a 2H crossbow so you have options for range damage. Two spear-wielding Rune Fencers might want a hammer berserker to crush things occasionally. A wizard might want both of their favored element’s damage spells in case an enemy has particular resistance to crushing damage.
Consumable items can be pricey, but powerful. The healing leaf +1 gives more HP than the heal spell. You need Blessing Stones equipped on a variety of people ahead of time, because who the AI decides to dogpile isn’t predictable.
You don’t have a way to farm money in Chapter 1, but you also don’t need everyone equipped with all the most expensive items all the time, either. Focus your money first on weapons for your damage dealers, then armor for your frontline. Other than that, you want to keep 5-10k in reserve for replacing healing and recovery items, then gradually upgrade everything else. Enemies will often drop gear appropriate for where you are in the game, which can save you quite a bit over buying right from the shop. For extra income, you can sell off old gear, but I prefer to hold off on that unless I desperately need cash for revival items or top tier weapons for my main damage dealer.
You have a union level, essentially the level cap for your units at any point in the game. This prohibits overlevelling to trivialize the game’s difficulty, but also provides an indicator at where the next story battle is set for difficulty. Training battles, while they do not provide cash or loot, do provide lots of XP.
If you’re a new player, you want your core troops to be at the XP cap whenever possible. This has a variety of effects: extra stats from the level up give an advantage to both accuracy and damage, not to mention HP and defenses. Skills also unlock on level, so those can make a much larger difference than a couple of HP or stat points.
Also, training battles will increase weapon skills, another important thing to raise, especially if you’ve been changing classes and weapons occasionally.
Aside from that, there are a few nuances to the XP system to bear in mind here, however.
1. XP is not based on individual actions, but just a massive pool spread between all units.
2. Units at the level cap don’t get XP, meaning lower level units will then get more and level up faster.
3. XP over a certain amount turns into XP charms, that can be used to level up units later.
These add up to a couple of nifty tricks. First, you can level up underleveled units to the cap EXTREMELY quickly if the rest of the team is already at the cap. Next, while guest units do not fight in training battles, if you go into story battles with the rest of your team at the cap, the massive brick of XP will usually get them capped as well. And XP charms are best saved for guest units, since getting your own units to the XP cap is as easy as letting the AI run a training battle for you.
Action Economy: The God of TRPGs
Sure, if you’re playing checkers or something. Here, we don’t have that luxury, because the enemy’s units are often better than ours. We do want to make the best use of our actions, but we also want to have more of them than the enemy. We can do this both by getting more actions for ourselves, and taking some away from the enemy.
In TO, we have a lot of options for optimizing our action economy that may not be readily apparent, and a few for crippling ourselves. Let’s start with the positive side of that: getting ourselves more actions.
You may notice that certain units in your army always seem to go first, or even go more often. While many games feature a system where units alternate turns between faction, or based on some sort of initiative score, Tactics Ogre features a very structured turn order system.
To abbreviate it and leave out some details, it works like this:
Every unit has a value called Wait Time (WT). Everyone’s WT counts down one point at a time until someone hits zero, then they get a turn, and their WT resets back to its base value. A slow unit, like a generic knight, is going to have a very high WT, while a unique character in a fast class is going to have a much lower WT. Since a lower number counts down to 0 quicker, they get more turns.
In a nutshell: the lower the WT, the more turns.
Wait time is the product of a number of factors:
- Class – Every class has a base WT, with some notably slow (knight at 36) and others much faster (ninja at 22).
- Race – The bulk of characters are human, but obviously monsters bring in some variety here.
- Unique Character Modifier – This is part of why unique characters are simply better than generic. Every unique character, with a very few exceptions, defaults to being faster than a generic in the same class.
- Equipment – Heavier armor and weapons raise WT.
You do not need to know all these modifiers to beat the game, but it does help to understand how the system works for this next part.
The easiest way to lower your WT is to not do anything. Remember when I said that their WT reset after their turn? That’s only if you both moved and used an action. If you only do one of those two things, your WT is reset to only 3/4 of its normal value. If you do neither, and just end turn immediately, WT is reset to 1/2 of its normal value.
So a unit doing nothing can do nothing twice as fast as one doing something!
This is part of why archers (who can reliably attack without moving) used to be extremely powerful, as they’d get roughly a third more actions than units of comparable WT who had to move.
To make the most of this mechanic:
- Avoid moving if you don’t have to. Even one square of movement still counts. For finishing a damaged enemy off, a Rune Fencer might be better off using a spell and not moving than going in for a spear poke.
- Don’t attack or use a spell if it’s unlikely to achieve much.
- If you need MP or an auto ability to proc, pass your turn without doing anything so your next turn comes up sooner (with more MP and another chance for your auto to proc).
- When retreating a damaged unit, reconsider if you want to make an attack first, so they’ll hopefully get another chance to move out of range before more enemies.
- 75% of a Big Number is more than 75% of a small number. The faster a unit is, the less this sort of thing matters. Maybe have your Rune Fencer or Cleric cast that Heal, so your slowpoke Knight can focus on just moving up and passing his action to get turns quicker.
Aside from the gribbly details of Ravness making Knight the same speed as Ninja (almost), there are some more tactical ways to work the action economy. We discussed passing actions or movement, but what can you actively do to tilt things in your favor?
Some magic, even in Chapter 1. This is what Wizards are for, by the way, as opposed to their rather wimpy damage spells. Stun, Sleep, Slow, and Charm are impair the enemy’s ability to act. Most notably, Charm turns their actions against them, making it a very handy status effect indeed. Bear in mind that these have dubious accuracy, and should only be used by a caster who has Spellstrike up for the accuracy boost. Even then, bear in mind that any NPC with the “Leader” status (usually the guy you need to kill in a “kill this guy to win” battle) will be immune to Stun, Sleep, Poison, and Petrify, and possibly other things as well. So generally, don’t go for the boss guy, even if it shows a chance of success.
So in our 8v8 example, if we charm an enemy. for a turn or two it’s a 9v7, which is pretty nice. But not nice enough.
You may have noticed that enemies often attack and do damage. The debuffs I mentioned before may make the enemy attack less often, and others may reduce their accuracy or damage as well. However, dead enemies do very little damage in this game. Two berserkers at 1 HP each do a lot more damage than one beserker at full health and one at 0.
This is a complicated way of saying to focus your attacks on killing enemies, rather than spreading damage around. Yes, your archer probably does more damage to that wizard in the back than to an armored fighter in the front, but if nobody else can hit that wizard, it is better to focus suboptimal attacks on a target you can take off the board quickly.
So we charm one guy, focus all our attacks on another, and manage to get a 9v6. That’s 50% more actions, meaning we can be 33% less effective with out actions and still come out even! Or something.
Doing something may be better than doing nothing, but if that something is close enough to nothing, it’s basically the same thing. You want to set the AI up to waste the actions you let it have, and this is where those slow knights we’ve been mocking all this time come in. On tight, crowded maps, a knight can block any area up to three wide with their Rampart Aura, all while backing up one square a turn and still casting Heal elsewhere. (You back up one square a turn because the aura is triggered by moving into it; units that start in it, i.e. adjacent to the knight, can move out of it just fine.)
Another easy way to get the AI to waste an action is giving them a convenient target. If my beastmaster is in range but my damage mage is not, they’ll go for the beastmaster, even though at full HP she’s a relatively sturdy target and can eat 2 or 3 attacks before I need to worry about healing her. It’s the opposite of you wanting to focus fire; you want the AI to spread damage around. Let them hit your full health units. If your healer is beat up, pull him back and advance a full health but squishy mage as a bait target.
A situational example of this is bodyblocking a low damage enemy like a knight into a corner and just ignoring them, while your blocker units use spells or ranged weapons to attack elsewhere. Sure, he’ll be slapping your archers for 20% of their HP a round, but in the mean time you don’t have to worry about his rampart aura stopping your berserker’s rampage or him putting even more damage on your poor healer after all the enemy archers shot him.
Don’t expect bodyblocking to hold for long, as critical hit knockback is a thing, and they’ll move away afterwards. The AI moves pretty much every turn, even if it’s disadvantageous for them.
All Tactics, No Ogre: Battlefield Tactics
Sometimes that is defeating all enemies, sometimes there’s only one enemy you need to kill. If a fight seems unfair, it probably is, so focus on the objective instead of just trying to kill everything.
A few general tips, before I get into specific tactics.
- Loot bags dropped by enemies are picked up at the end of the fight. If they are taken by enemies that you haven’t killed, you lose the items. If they are picked up, and you kill that enemy, the loot is dropped again.
- Cards are significant power boosts if you get them on the right units. MP Up cards are often more useful on melee characters for their powerful finishers than on casters, who already regenerate lots of MP via Meditate.
- Critical hits and shield attacks knock the target back. This is occasionally useful for triggering fall damage, but more likely to be helpful for either clearing space to maneuver or pushing an enemy off a cliff where they’ll lose turns moving back into position.
- Flying is crazy powerful in this game, so having a unit or two with flight is highly recommended.
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