Age of Wonders: Planetfall Guide - The Best Early Military Tech For The Syndicate

The faction for those who want tension through covert warfare.
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Check out this guide for starting military tech for the Syndicate faction in Age of Wonders: Planetfall.
Check out this guide for starting military tech for the Syndicate 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 mentioned how its successful integration of various mechanics along with the gripping sci-fi narrative was a big success for developer Triumph Studios.

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 piece we’re taking a look at the Syndicate, the designated agile faction for Planetfall. The Syndicate began as descendants to explorers-turned-aristocrats, amassing enormous riches through their bargaining of their own settlement of various outer worlds within the Star Union. As their status affords them incredible wealth, they have amazing tech and body mods, as well as the finesse needed to keep their dirty business as free from mess as possible. Rather than employing brute strength, they prefer discretion and, should the opportunity present itself, backstabbing and sabotage. They’re the space socialites, and what I would imagine corporate hierarchs would be if we ever achieved widespread galaxy colonization.

Playing as the Syndicate is a bit more different than the other factions as there is a clearer need here to always try and think outside of the box. In a lot of respects, you always need to think ahead, even moreso than what you would expect from playing as the Vanguard, or even the D’Var. Early game, a lot of the Syndicate’s power comes from scouting the map effectively, as their Runners are invisible. Spotting other factions’ colonies is integral, as there are quite a few ops within the first few tiers in their tech tree that can be used to effectively disrupt enemy operations, as well as deal underhanded tactics in tandem with other factions.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at some of the best early military tech upgrades to get for the Syndicate during the starting phases of the game. You can also check out the best starting military tech upgrades to get for the Vanguard here, the Kir’Ko here, the D’Var here, and the Assembly here. If you want a guide on some of the best society tech upgrades for starters, check that out here.

Tier 1

The Syndicate has four tabs in their military tech tree: General, Psionics, Arc and Celestian. There aren’t many good choices for a first-tier pick besides Exploit Weakness under General, but in some special cases, taking Magnetic Energy Storage under Arc works. Exploit Weakness has a mod and an op.

  • Exploitative Targeting System (mod) – this offensive mod is bread and butter for Syndicate units, as it can be applied to anyone and anything. In a way, this highlights the actual need for the Syndicate to be crafty in turn-based combat, as this mod gives a unit 20 percent additional accuracy plus the Flanker skill, which increases their damage values by 25 percent more while flanking enemies. It’s one thing to flank for another faction, but for the Syndicate to be effective you should always look for opportunities to flank.
  • Diversion Projector (op) – this operation is primed during turn-based combat, and in a nutshell it debuffs all units in a one hex radius to have 12-strength chance to become Blinded. The effect last two turns, and also lowers those units’ resistances to flanking attacks for the same period. It may not be that useful early on, but once turn-based combat starts to drag on this op is amazing for one-off trades. Grab a Runner and throw some Bolas around to keep enemies rooted, then go crazy with the flanks to finish them off.

Exploit Weakness does what the name implies, which is to allow you more damage by severely exposing chinks in your enemies’ armors. The Exploitative Targeting System is an amazing mod that you should always have on your Indentured, as combined with the Overseer you can easily outflank several enemy units. Diversion Projector is pretty good, too, although you’ll start to feel its presence from mid-game onwards.

Magnetic Energy Storage under Arc is pretty decent as well, especially if you’re having trouble utilizing flanks. Almost all ranged units from the Syndicate utilize Arc weapons, and you’re basically stacking debuffs upon debuffs with the Static Buildup Module. Compared to the Exploitative Targeting System, which deals the additional damage outright, with this mod you’ll only feed the additional power in the upcoming turns. This should give a bit more leeway to beginners overall. The Arc Discharge op can be utilized to capitalize on debuffed enemies, especially when you consider that the blast can jump to up to three hexes of adjacent units.

Under Celestian you’ll find Light’s Embrace, which is suitable for a more defensive kind of playstyle, as well as if you’re planning on doing a diplomacy route with the Syndicate. The Tenets of Tranquility mod boosts the unit’s resistances to be immune to all negative morale effects, as well as giving one level of Stagger Resistance. It also gives out the Enlightened effect to that unit, which adds even more effects when you climb higher in the Celestial tree. It also has an op called Cleansing Light, which dispels all negative status effects for any targeted friendly unit and heals it for 10 hp. If the same unit healed was also Enlightened, it gets five more hp for healing.

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 in next.

Should you end up picking Exploit Weakness as your first-tier upgrade, you can now go two routes in General: Enforce Control or Employ Deception. Either of them is great, although you have to establish what kind of playthrough will you be going through with the Syndicate moving forward.

  • Enforce Control – as the name implies, this route is taken by those who would rather have more presence in turn-based combat through new units. Enforce Control comes with a new unit and equipment for your Hero.
    • Guild Assassin (unit) – this Tier 2 unit is an absolute terror on the battlefield, provided you’ve made great care into utilizing proper placement. These snipers can take on a very powerful role as specialized flankers, especially when you have actual enforcers to draw enemy attention away from them. They benefit greatly from either Exploitative Targeting System or Static Buildup Module, so if you want some good oomph packed into their high-caliber rifles, take care to always mod them out first.
    • Pulse Sniper (equipment) – a Tier 2 hero equipment that can stagger units with High Impact. This is a very good early-game weapon for your hero, allowing him to take on the role of the Guild Assassin for a fraction of the price, with some upgrades of his own of course. It will end up costing you all your action points per turn though, so keep in mind which hex you’re going to.
  • Employ Deception – this route is for players who want to feel like actual saboteurs and covert operatives. It’s also integral for planning out very nasty surprises for armies that don’t think Strategic Vision is useful. The upgrade holds two strategic operations.
    • Sensor Infiltration (op) – a strategic op that lets you gain vision of an enemy stack for five consecutive turns, so long as you’ve gained vision of them from the start. Under the right hands, this op is incredibly overpowered, as you can do quite a lot with this kind of information. You can basically create ambushes for enemies, know what they’re up to, and who they’re fighting at the moment, among other things. Priming this op also leads into the next op, which turns them into one of the most powerful early-game equalizers.
    • Emergency Cloaking Field (op) – it’s just as the name implies. Your targeted stack will be provided with Universal Camouflage for two turns, making them invisible to other factions without Strategic Vision. Imagine the ground you can cover in the span of two turns, and you’ll get a clearer picture of how powerful this op is. The most obvious answer is a flank on the strategic map; have another army draw the attention of the enemy, then flank from another side for a very sneaky entrance. For best results, use with Sensor Infiltration – you’ll suddenly find that you have your very own covert hit squad that can roam around the map for potential targets.

Whatever you end up picking, it’s worth noting that both upgrades are still useful to grab later after you’ve researched one of them. The Guild Assassin is very powerful early on thanks to its range, and if you always flank, every battle is pretty much won. Likewise, the two ops under Employ Deception are useful for what I call “Operation Out of Nowhere” Tag any enemy hero stack with Sensor Infiltration, and divert their attention by either trespassing or taking over a contended sector. Then, start priming the Emergency Cloaking Field – without upgrades, you should have more than enough time to still gain vision of that stack while under Universal Camouflage, after which you can now set up an ambush to eliminate hero stacks. The best time to do this is after an enemy hero’s fight with another group, so that you know you have an edge in terms of longevity.

Under Psionics you’ll find Dominion of Purification, but its usefulness over the other upgrades is debatable in the early game. You get a mod called Mantra of Clarity, which can only be used by Psionic units, as well as Focus: Flames, which gives all Psionic attacks additional Thermal damage that has a chance to apply Burning. Cleansing Pulse is the only one I’d consider taking it for, as the op dispels all negative Status Effects on every unit within a one hex radius.

Under Celestian, you’ll find Penance, which offers a decent defensive mod plus another op to boot. The Shield of Remorse defensive mod is great for melee Heroes, as you can easily discourage enemies from attacking you. Attacking units on this modded unit will get Remorse, a stacking debuff that applies -100 morale. Units equipped with this mod are now also Enlightened, giving them the benefits of various other upgrades higher up in the Celestia tree. Spirit Flash is an op that allows you to target any non-Mindless enemy unit, causing a small explosive flash that deals Soulburn and High Impact Stagger to itself and all enemy units within a two-hex radius.

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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