Age Of Wonders: Planetfall Beginner Guide - The Best Early Game Military Tech For Vanguard

Here we weigh the possible Tier I and II options for the Vanguard faction, as well as what works best for engaging enemy forces early in the game.
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Check out this guide for starting military tech for the Vanguard faction in Age of Wonders: Planetfall.
Check out this guide for starting military tech for the Vanguard faction in Age of Wonders: Planetfall. Paradox Interactive

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is finally available now across all platforms, and the initial consensus for this 4X turn-based strategy game has been very positive, with players noting Planetfall’s incredible depth and its interesting and unique factions. In my review for Planetfall, I noted how its successful integration of various mechanics along with the gripping sci-fi narrative was a big success for developer Triumph Studios, as this is their first foray into the setting.

It’s also notably easier to get into than other 4X strategy games, despite the vastness and particularly deep mechanics involved. That said, some players may find some aspects a bit daunting at first, in particular the very expansive tech tree, which allows you to cater your gameplay and strategy to how you see fit.

For this guide, we’re taking a look at one of the starting factions in Planetfall – the Vanguard. A group of nomadic soldiers who are comprised of the dregs of society, this faction was sent out by the Star Union to set up a hyperspace portal. Awaking from cryosleep 200 years later, they find the Star Union gone, and only its strange remnants now squabbling over its remains.

The Vanguard on the outset may seem like your basic space marines, which makes sense if you’ve played human space soldiers in other games before. However, the Vanguard is a bit more than that thanks to the expansive military tech tree, which gives the Vanguard units some very powerful and technologically weird upgrades to help them get an edge in turn-based combat.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at some of the best first military tech upgrades to get for Vanguard during the starting phases of the game. If you want a guide on some of the best society tech upgrades for starters, check it out here.

Tier 1

Starting out, the Vanguard has access to four tabs in the military tech tree: General, Laser, Firearms and VoidTech. For your first turn, a beginner will get the best results from Nanite Support, under the General tab. Nanite Support has one tactical mod, and two operations:

  • Nanite Injectors (mod) – this mod can be applied to any unit, and it’s pretty straightforward. This mod heals the modded unit by 15, and will increase its resistances to all damage channels by three for two turns. The only downside is that it can only be used once per battle, so be sure to use it wisely.
  • Nanite Support Station (op) – a operation that requires priming beforehand. It lets you drop a Nanite Support Station which obscures all nearby adjacent units, making them harder to hit. It also heals all adjacent units by 10 at the start of each turn.
  • Combat Assist System (op) – sends a CAS drone to assist your targeted unit, which removes any negative status effect and provides some bonuses while it is active in three turns.

The relatively low cost of Nanite Support (100 Research) makes it a great starting military tech upgrade, especially if you’re going to be picking small skirmishes early on. The Trooper units benefit from the Injectors a lot, given their resilience under cover; using the Injectors as a clutch skill makes it great to have on all of them very early on.

You can also opt into the Firearms tab, which has Subjugation Ordnance. This is for players who are a bit more aggressive and can spare Production resources at the start. The Flechette ammo is a bit of a hit-or-miss (literally) with the Trooper units, which are the only units besides heroes that can equip the mod during the early phases of the game. The Shredder Bomb is a bit better to have, but utilizing scorched earth tactics may not be a smart move if you’re facing melee units, who will almost always be near your units.

Under VoidTech you’ll find Phase Manipulation which, while overall better than Subjugation Ordnance, is still situational. The Reactive Phase Manipulation op can be useful in situations where you know your units will take a beating from melee attackers, since it will displace your attacked units two hexes from their original positions randomly – if luck is in your favor, you may get a flank next turn.

Tier 2

By now you should already have a settlement in place, as well as established some of your units. If you’ve got some Covert Ops in place, use them to figure out unit compositions in nearby enemy bases, just so you know which military tech upgrade to invest next.

If you got Nanite Support as the first upgrade, then you can go with two different paths: the Engineering Corps or the Smart Defense Modules. While both can be useful, the Engineering Corps is amazing if you can utilize proper unit placement early on.

  • Engineer (Tier II Unit) – a Vanguard specialist that can place a gun turret on a hex in the battlefield. The Engineer is exceptional early on because of this, as the turret can use the Overwatch skill. Combined with the high accuracy from the Targeting Calibration skill, the turret is easily one of the most overpowered units in the early stages of the game.
  • Shotgun (Hero mod) – equips any Hero unit of yours with a shotgun, a deadly mid-ranged weapon.

A stack with two Engineers flanked by the hero and some Troopers is one of the best starting combat troops you can have in the game. You can easily turtle thanks to the turret’s incredibly powerful Overwatch skill, and flank with a Trooper unit or two just to draw other enemies out to the turret’s line of sight.

As useful as the Smart Defense Modules are, they can be neglected for the benefits of the Engineering Corps. You can pick this up right after though, as the Improved Combat Sensors are essential to the strategic map. Equip this on any fast air unit for better map scouting. Interlocking Armor can be useful against melee units, but you can easily neglect that with the benefits of having turrets with Overwatch.

Heavy Laser Applications is the first tech upgrade in the Laser tab, but their usefulness extends in the same manner as Subjugation Ordnance. The Laser Strike op is pretty cool-looking though, and its Burning effects can really cut through enemy lines fast.

For the VoidTech tab, we have the Echo Walker Program. Early on the Echo Walkers are a bit of a mixed bag; the unlocked Echo Walkers are pretty powerful, but kind of glass cannons in that regard as well. I’d only get this once you get more mods to fortify light and infantry units, seeing as you’d get more use from them flanking if they have the health to back it up.

Stay tuned here for more guides on Age of Wonders: Planetfall.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall
Age Of Wonders: Planetfall Review - Creative Space Empire Building Limited Only By Your Imagination
It might be too expansive for its own good, but for players who can look past that and place themselves in the shoes as a commander leading a space-faring faction to salvation there's no better 4X title out there. Age Of Wonders: Planetfall is a success for Triumph Studios, proving the developer can deliver on proper world-building to take their acclaimed series to the vast reaches of space.
  • Expansive turn-based and 4X elements, with tons of freedom of choice.
  • Diverse races, with lots of distinctions between each one.
  • Strategic gameplay rewarded and limited by your own creativity and imagination.
  • In-depth tech tree with a ton of branching paths to go through.
  • Easy to get into for casual players of the genre.
  • A bit daunting at first, which may put off and overwhelm some players.
  • Lacking in sound design and the music department.
  • Not very intuitive at times, with some tedium setting in once your empire gets bigger.
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