A quick guide on how to choose the right weapon for the job.
Damage types and taking out enemies
1. Destroy the upper body
2. Knock out the pilot
3. Make the enemy pilot eject
Kinetic damage is what allows you to damage enemy vehicles, every weapon has a kinetic damage value, it’s the “base” damage of the weapon, it will allow you to destroy body parts on enemy mechs. Destroying the upper body will destroy every other part. It may lead to a quick kill, but lackluster salvage. Alternatively, check the weapons on enemy mechs. If they have a primary weapon, destroy the right arm, a secondary weapon (except a shield) destroy the left arm, destroy both if they have both, and the enemy pilot will eject.
When trying to knock out enemy pilots, only concussion damage matters. It allows you to leave the mech undamaged for more salvage.
Impact damage helps you by stripping cover and destroying pesty alarm towers, but it only works on manmade objects, you cannot flatten a hill between you and your foes.
Stagger damage will let you crash enemies at a distance, and works as excellent crowd control.
Thermal damage raises enemy heat. The incendiary guns are fun, do play around with them, but I haven’t found much use for them.
Every weapon haing a kinetic damage value doesn’t make them equal, plasma weapons have rather low kinetic values compared to other weapons of the same level, for example.
Out of these different damage types, I find concussion and stagger damage to be the most useful, but it heavily depends on the actual weapons you will be using.
Weapon types (Assault Rifles to Machine Guns)
As a weapon class, Assault Rifles are middle of the road weapons, they’re the average other ballistic weapons are compared to.
There are only two assault rifles in the game, the AR1 Astra and AR2 Burst, and the exemplify the dichotomy of most weapons inside a single weapon class.
The AR1 has a longer activation sequence, generates slightly more heat, has slightly longer range, and deals no concussion damage while dealing the same impact damage as the AR2, which is the most common kind of tradeoffs you see inside a weapon class. Neither AR loses precision over shooting while moving.
Unless you’re specifically staying away from concussion damage, the AR2 is the superior option. 17 concussion damage for a sub 1 second activation duration and little heat is an excellent deal.
There is only one cannon in this class, the DC1 Impact, which you cannot craft. The DC1 fires explosive rounds, with huge scatter and a rather finicky optimal range radius. If possible, position yourself so there is a building directly behind the enemy you’re shooting at, allowing you to still deal damage if you miss. A direct hit on a mech is often enough to knock out the enemy pilot outright. If you find a rare DC1 with the Stabilized perk, you can bring the scatter down to marksman rifle levels and it works exceedingly well. The DC1 shoots once at the start of the activation period, and once more towards the end, letting you move for half a second in-between without losing accuracy.
Handguns are light weapons that can be used as secondary guns, keeping you in the fight even if your right arm gets blasted off without adding too much weight to your mech. Most handguns also enjoy sub 1 second activation duration. Coupled with their low heat on average, it lets you shoot them often.
The SGC Blast is a mini-shotgun, very short minimal and maximum range, high scatter, and low heat. If you can keep most pellets on the target, you’ll get a lot of kinetic damage for the weight and heat. It offers no other type of damage.
The HG1 Granite has excellent range, comparable to assault rifles, as well as a low scatter value. It does very low kinetic damage, but good concussion damage with a 1 second activation duration and low heat. If your primary weapon deals no concussion damage or does a lot of collateral damage, the HG1 can prove useful to dispatch an enemy with already low pilot health, or without risking the destruction of civilian buildings.
The HGS Stand has a much longer activation duration of 1.8 seconds, deals about the same concussion damage as the HG1, but over twice as much kinetic damage. With a lower range. Do note that lower range is not a bad thing per se, your minimum range will bother you as much as your maximum range. The HGS does have a narrower sweet spot range compared the the HG1 though.
The HGA Spark is probably your best option for damage. It has about the same kinetic value as the HGS, but half the activation duration, with similar range and scatter values. It is also the only handgun with impact damage, about half as much as an assault rifle.
I very rarely use handguns, but if I have to use one, it would be the HG1 Granite on the off-chance my missile mech cannot carpet bomb a zone, or I don’t want to ruin good salvage.
There are two heavy weapons, the UHMG Vulcan which I managed to use, and the UHB Solarburst which I couldn’t fit in a build without cooking my pilot alive. Heavy weapons require both arms to use, have very long 4 seconds activation durations, and the UHMG at least is a thing of beauty.
The UHMG Vulcan will punch through any structure, and kill off any level appropriate mech. Putting an expanded magazine mod on one is actually a trap, you will give an enemy pilot a concussion and keep shooting until you destroy the entire mech in the same action. If you keep using the same UHMG for a long time and it ends up not dealing much damage due to being underleveled, the expanded magazines may become an attractive option. You will be introduced to UHMGs by enemies wrecking your day with one, and they will teach you just how good these guns are. I always keep a heavy weapons mech ready, even with an underlevelled UHMG and it never disappoints.
A quick note on the UHMG heat. Common and uncommon UHMGs have the worst heat requirement since they cannot be customized. With rare UHMGs you can slap a tier 3 Liquid Cooling on it and make the heat a lot more manageable.
Otherwise, you need 4 rare Capacitors, and the mod slots to equip them. This means an Asgard upper body, a high level (9+?) rare Elbrus lower body, and Vidar arms. Slap a R1 Charger reactor on the mech and you’ve got all the heat capacity you need. Your speed will be as low as the game allows so you will have to move by Dash actions, but it is a worthy sacrifice.
The IR Tracer is the only weapon in its class. It suffers in that I didn’t find thermal damage useful, but it’s still a guided marksman rifle sort of weapon, with a long 1.8 second activation duration, low-ish heat and excellent speed when it comes to guided projectiles. Its kinetic damage is similar to an AR1 Astra, which is very respectable.
Again, the IS Dragon is the only gun in this category, and boy is it a visual spectacle. 3 shots of 20 incendiary pellets will actively carpet bomb a large cone area in front of your mech. The IS is most similar to the SG4 Semi shotgun, with similar kinetic damage, heat, and activation duration. The SG4 is useful at closer ranges, and only deals kinetic damage, while the IS boasts good thermal damage and excellent impact damage. If you’re enjoying shotguns, give the IS Dragon a whirl.
Compared to Assault Rifles, machine guns have higher scatter, lower range, longer activation durations, and generate more heat.
The MG1 Typhoon is your concussion damage variant, its 2.5 seconds activation duration is a middle ground between the MG2 and MG3, its kinetic damage is comparable to an AR1, and has the shortest range.
The MG2 has the longest activation duration at a full 3 seconds, the Impact damage of an AR1 and the worst scatter.
The MG3 only does kinetic damage, has the shortest activation duration at 1.9 seconds, and deals excellent kinetic damage.
My three loves in this game are a short activation duration, low scatter, and concussion damage, so I don’t end up using machine guns a whole lot. That being said, short range weapons like machine guns are great since a lot of enemies love getting right in your face. The problem is that you end up having to face tank a lot of damage whenever you attack, and closing the gap when enemies roll out two or three UHMGs or MLs is exceedingly painful.
Weapon types (Marksman Rifles to Plasma Repeaters)
Marksman rifles are a middle ground between assault rifles and sniper rifles, and they have become the longest range ballistic weapons I take on missions. Like assault rifles, there are only two marksman rifles.
The MR1 Baseline is similar to the AR1, dealing high kinetic and impact damage. The MR1 is slightly superior in terms of damage with better kinetic and impact damage, a shorter activation duration, and barely increased heat generation. The main differences are in the scatter and the range. The MR1 has slightly better scatter, but it requires you to remain idle, and while it has an increased range, the AR1 has a larger sweet spot range.
The MR2 Sharp deals a lot less kinetic damage over the MR1, deals no impact damage unlike the AR2, and has a huge activation duration of 1.7 seconds, and generates a surprising amount of heat.
Objectively speaking, the MR1 is probably the better weapon, but having access to a concussion damage is a huge boon that is hard to overstate. High range is often just as much of a curse than an advantage, and compared to the size of the maps, I usually find ARs slightly too short ranged, while MRs hit the sweet spot, leading me to use the MR2 a lot.
Missile Launchers are extremely finicky. Their travel distance is very long, which will mess with your turn predictions. Each ML is its own weird beast. Also, don’t trust the game when it tells you a missile is unguided. At least in the case of the ML10, it isn’t.
The ML1 Slug is the concussion damage specialized ML, and is hamstrung by its horrible spread, angle, speed, and range. When I used it I resorted to manually aiming at the ground where enemy troops would end their movement. Having over 100 meters of minimum range makes the weapon unusable in may situations. Still, technically it has a relatively short activation duration and a high concussion rating.
The ML3 Snail has the lowest arc, and is tied for the best projectile speed in the ML category. I personally got this weapon quite late, and never used it.
The ML6 Hornet has the second highest arc, and the best theoritical kinetic damage.
The ML10 Hornet is absolutely guided and the second lowest arc, though there is a huge difference between the ML10’s 18° and the ML3 6°.
The ML10 is the only one I really used, and the differences between MLs seems mostly academic. The ML10 only has 140 meters max range, while the ML3’s max range is in the two hundreds, but 140 meters is more range than you will probably ever need. Besides the ML1, MLs basically do not have minimum ranges either, so they’re significantly easier to use.
There are two kinds of missions in Phantom Brigade, the ones where you have all the time in the world, and ones with no time limit. Missile Launchers shine in the later situation, when you can just carpet bomb the entire area. When you need to quickly kill enemies to avoid waves of reinforcements, use more direct weapons.
Missile Launchers, but Smol
Handgun sized missile launchers. The MLS class of weapons deals weak kinetic damage, but don’t underestimate their concussion damage, especially when facing them. For secondary weapons, they’re pretty heavy, heavier than some shields.
The MLS1 Oneshot has the highest arc, shortest range, even though it’s still 150 meters, and shortest activation duration and does almost no impact damage.
The MLS5 Direct doesn’t shoot 5 missiles but 3, so it should probably be the MLS3 Direct, and I’ll be calling it the MLS3 to avoid confusion with the MLS5 Rapid. The MLS3 has the flattest trajectory and still a rather short activation duration, and it’s the MLS I use. The flat trajectory doesn’t stop the missiles from trying their best to avoid enemy targets and miss even stationary ones.
The MLS5 Rapid shoots 6 missiles, not 5, has the longest activation duration, and has slower missiles than the MLS3. I will be calling it the MLS6, and I have no idea what’s “rapid” about it, but it’s usable.
The MLS8 Cluster has a 20° angle and the least heat generation.
The advantage of the MLS class of weapons is that, besides the MLS1, all missiles have 200+ range, and they can be used as secondary weapons. So if your primary cannot be used right at the start of combat, you can shoot the MLS as both you and the enemies come closer.
Every missile launcher, smol or not, deals kinetic, impact and concussion damage.
All in all, missile launchers are much more powerful in the hands of your enemies, but do check the mission objectives, sometimes hiding behind a hill and carpet bombing the area over the span of 12 turns is the best way to come out of a battle unscathed.
Plasma weapons have a very quick damage drop-off once you leave their sweet spot range, they deal low kinetic damage, and most of them deal low damage in general. They’re specialized weapons that work great together to knock out enemies. If you lean heavily into plasma, you will find that turrets and alarm towers become a bigger problem.
The PLA Charge is the only plasma launcher, it fires very slow moving plasma orbs slowly going towards the enemy and exploding with a decent damage radius when nearing enemies. It works great when enemies are charging towards you, or are immobilized. While the kinetic damage looks good, it’s a lot of squeeze for not a whole lot of juice, especially since it’s spread amongst multiple body parts. The concussion damage however is enough to K.O most pilots in one action or two at most.
The PLS Curve shoots three arcing pellets at once. While the pellets are guided, I cannot for the life of me find ways to have most pellets hit their target consistently. Same problem as the missiles, even when the target is immobilized one or two pellets will miss. That being said, the PLS deals no impact damage, so if you’re in a map that requires limiting collateral damage, you can swap the PLR for this one.
The PLR Pulse shoots like a ballistic weapon, with scatter similar to a machine gun, but does not require you to remain idle. Both plasma repeaters deal stagger damage, and don’t be fooled by the 5 value, two actions are enough to crash any enemy at range
Quick note on stagger, if you keep shooting an enemy that is actively crashing, it will still get up as normal without extending the crash duration. Instead, check when an enemy will stop crashing, and time your attack to immediately crash it again with a shot.
With two mechs using PLR Pulses shooting the same target once together, then the next target, you can immediately crash the first target, then the second target, leaving them both open for a PLA hit each, most likely knocking out the pilot while barely damaging the mech. You can take out a couple of mechs in one turn like this, then knocking out one per turn while keeping another enemy locked down as your heat dissipates. This tactic is extremely safe when you’re not staring down the barrel of eight enemies and gives excellent salvage.
All in all, plasma weapons are extremely strong at locking down enemies and dealling huge concussion damage respectively, and works extremely well. I have been using a team of one UHMG mech, two PLR mechs and one PLA mech recently, and they have yet to let me down.
Weapon types (Railguns to Beam Weapons)
I never got around to trying them out besides the RA2 Lancer. I have been singing the high praises of concussion damage all this time, but it is a lot less useful against reserves and their tank spam. The RA2 Lancer has the weakest kinetic damage of the bunch and lackluster impact damage, but it shoots quickly, has the most penetration charges, excellent range, and is laser accurate as long as you remain idle. The combination of low impact damage and high penetration charges is a good thing, since you’re not shooting out your cover too quickly. The game expects you to shoot through multiple enemies to make using the RA2 worthwile, so if you can help it, avoid shooting at a singular target. The RS Barrage looks like some sort of machine railgun and boasts crazy damage numbers on top of some concussion damage, while the RF Flux does no impact damage (but can still penetrate walls) and looks like a railgun shotgun.
Instead of feeling like a single weapon class, railguns are a collection of high-tech marksman rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and sniper rifles, you can field 4 mechs with railguns and end up with a balanced team.
It’s all a question of mass, integrity and barrier. Grab the one you can get away with without compromising too much mobility. If you’re running a heavy mech with a PLA Charge that is already down to 4 movement, it can’t get any lower so you might as well grab an S1 Svalinn. Likewise, if your build has issues dissipating heat (usually from using an MLS or SG3 shotgun) you might as well grab a shield and follow up your attacks with shield actions. Be careful however, as this will quickly damage your shield, an S4 Tower won’t handle that kind of pressure for long unless only a single enemy is shooting at you.
Short range, high scatter and high damage, shotguns are about what you expect them to be. Instead of focusing on one enemy you may want to put as many foes in your attack cone to avoid losing too much damage to scatter.
Due to their short ranged nature, shotguns are a great way to take out the arms of your opponents and forcing pilots to eject.
The SG1 Auto has a huge activation duration of 2.5 seconds, the highest damage per action, and only deals kinetic damage. The SG1 is surprisingly finicky, you want to shoot at a couple of enemies if possible, while remaining idle, which leaves you extremely exposed if you do it at the wrong moment.
The SG2 Shred boasts incredible impact damage, low concussion damage, and great kinetic damage, but with a big scatter value. The SG2 will shred buildings, but you will have to strongly invest in precision mods to avoid wasting most of your damage left and right of your opponents. On the plus side, its very manageable heat value will let you shoot it often.
The SG3 Heavy has a short activation duration, due to only firing once. It has enormous scatter, and will generate an extreme amount of heat. It also has the most mass of all shotguns by a mile. This shotgun greatly benefits from being rare, since you need to adress both scatter and heat as problems. Also, for some reason there is a huge gap in kinetic damage from one SG3 to the next, even accounting for mods, and the math seems straight up wrong. SG3s with the same amount of pellets doing the same damage value will have different total damage values, SG3s with the same amount of pellets but more damage per pellet will somehow do a lot less damage. I don’t know what’s going on there.
The SG4 Semi causes more heat than the SG3 but will dissipate it more quickly. It has a 2 second activation. Compared to the SG1, you trade heat and scatter for a shorter activation duration and no accuracy penaltry due to movement, leaving you less exposed. Looking at the numbers, I’d probably go for the SG1, but going from a 2.5 seconds activation duration to a 2.0 duration is still an important leap, letting you dash and shoot twice in a single round as long as you can handle the heat.
I consider sniper rifles a trap. 90 odd meters of minimum range is just too much. Many enemies will underrun you, you’ll need to run from the fight and away from your own mechs to try to get back into your optimal range, and you’ll need to climb the most exposed hill you can find to get a clear shot. Unlike railguns you can’t shoot through walls with this. There is such a thing as too much range and this is it. Sometimes, the mission, the enemies, and the map come together to make snipers excellent, but none of that is within your control.
The SR1 Midway has a lot going for it, short activation of 0.7 seconds, concussion damage, decent kinetic damage, and fires two shots instead of one. Heat is going to be a problem for this rifle, and range is a problem for all sniper rifles, so keep looking for a rare SR1 with adjustable or dispersing.
The SR2 Lock deals impact damage, has a long activation of 2 seconds and shoots five times at huge range. Could be useful before you get railguns and enemies start spamming missiles, but even then you need some luck with the map and the opposition to get the most out of this.
The SR3 Dice truly fires a single shot, but with its low damage it seems outclassed by the SR1, which does twice the kinetic and concussion damage in the same amount of time, just without the impact damage.
Beam weapons eschew ballistics and guidance systems to introduce the turn rate limit. Their hefty heat requirements, except for the BM3 Alpenglow, have made me avoid them, and the few times I tried them I haven’t been impressed by their performance. If I find a Dispersing III UHB Solarburst and get to try it out I may change my opinion, but for now other weapons seem more appealing.
Melee weapons (and just crashing into enemies)
You will find three variants of every kind of melee weapon, Medium is the average primary weapon version, Heavy has enhanced damage and heat generation, Small has reduced damage and heat, but can be equipped as secondary.
Axes deal kinetic and concussion damage. Sabers deal kinetic and thermal damage across multiple body parts. Blades deal only kinetic damage and to a single body part. Cutters deal some stagger damage.
Melee weapons present their own unique challenges. Hitting this them is a skill shot, and there is a big gap between hitting your target most of the time and hitting it every time. Hitting your target without crashing into it is also rather difficult, which changes the requirements for your build.
A melee mech needs a weight of 82 to qualify as a heavy mech, which will make your life so much easier. You also want good speed, both walking speed and dash distance to close in, and I’m pretty sure the game lies with the melee weapon optimal ranges and factors in your dash length instead. Thankfully most melee weapons don’t generate much heat, so you won’t need as many offensive mods. The exception to that are sabers, which generate tons of heat and now you need to handle that too. My recommendation is to use a mix of medium and heavy mech parts to squeeze as many mobility mods as possible into the build while still reaching the desired total weight, or going full medium mech parts and a heavy melee weapon. Another advantage of heavy parts is that they will help you soak the damage your melee mech will have to take, and the Vidar set has excellent heat dissipation, allowing you to spam your melee attacks and ping pong between enemy mechs.
Your melee mech may need a wingman with a plasma repeater (or use one and a light melee weapon) to drop enemy weight classes if there are too many heavy mechs on the opposite side. At worst, crashing both your mech and an enemy heavy mech may be a worthwile trade. Just be careful to never send a medium melee mech against a heavy enemy mech. Technically you can hit with your melee attack without crashing, but it is quite finicky.
Running into enemies isn’t a bad strategy. Kick a tank like a ball down the street while you walk up to shoot an enemy mech. Crashing enemies deals damage and interrupts their turn, do not be afraid to employ it often. Sometimes you need to crash your own heavy mech into an enemy heavy shotgun mech to interrupt its turn before it plunges into the heart of your formation, where your long ranged mechs will have issues hitting and damaging it. Stopping this kind of agressor or berserker mech at a good distance gives you room to deal with it, for exemple by sending one of your mechs to the side and destroying its right arm.
Runnnig into enemies only has two cons. One, it hampers your prediction ability. An enemy you run into at 2.5 seconds into the turn stops here. So when one of your mechs shoots it at 4.5 seconds into the turn, you need to remember that the enemy vehicle isn’t where the game is telling you, it is where you stopped it. This can change some angles of attack and lead you to shooting one of your guys in the back. Secondly, you need to move away from the vehicle you’re running into if you want to shoot it. Even shotguns have a minimum range of a dozen meters at least, shooting a target without respecting that minimum range will strongly lower your damage output.
Your squad of mechs starts on one edge of the map, enemies can start on the opposite edge, or much closer. In both cases, you don’t have a lot of ground to give, so using weapons with a high minimum range becomes tricky. Most maps also have extensive cover, even if you have the range you may not have the right angle at that distance to engage your opponents, usually forcing you to waste actions destroying buildings to get to your targets. A low maximum range causes less issues as long as your mechs can take a couple hits, and being at knife-fighting distance lets you easily rotate to the side of your enemies and destroy their weapons. Still, sometimes a long maximum range will save you a headache, so keep a marksman rifle or equivalent handy.
UHMGs and missile launchers are the priority
The UHMG Vulcan is a godsent to your enemies as much as it is to you, and missile launchers work better for your enemies than they do for you. Both will very easily knock your pilots out. Missiles especially are difficult to track and estimate when they’ll hit your mechs, and with what angle. Taking out mechs with those kinds of weapons should be high on your priority list.
Concussion damage is insane
Early game is when concussion makes defeating your enemies a breeze, mid game is when concussion means your mechs fold like paper. While concussion resistance exists and enemy pilots will get harder to knock out as the game progresses, concussion remains extremely powerful. It is efficient during combat, and after.
The UHMG Vulcan is a beast
Fielding one might take some finagling or some luck, but the weapon is well worth it. Don’t forget that the mech using it will have to facetank a lot, so don’t skimp out on the armor.
Crashing is excellent crowd control
And crashing at range is even better. Stunlocking targets through crashing is the safest way to approach a fight, and the PLR Pulse lets you do it at range, making it even safer. Having your mechs reach 82 weight and qualifying as heavy mechs will give you options. Walking incurs no heat and can be done while shooting, so crashing and/or killing enemies by walking will be key when facing the reserves and their multiple tanks on top of mechs.
Don’t rush yourself when the game doesn’t rush you
Is a single attack going to be enough to take the enemy mech out, or do I need two? Maybe three? If you need to kill the enemy mech now or reinforcements are going to drop next turn, then exterminating it with extreme prejudics is a good idea, but otherwise, just try to kill it with the minimum amount of force. If it doesn’t work, you need more. If you used more but you overkilled it, you need less. Get a feel for things, practice things out. Losing an arm or a leg isn’t the end of the world, and especially when trying out melee, if you miss your hit but still crash into the enemy, you just get to try again.
Do not waste actions
Attacking enemies when they’re in your sweet spot range is actually pretty important. Not doing that loses you both damage and accuracy; Do not be content to shoot an enemy mech at 40%. You’re wasting actions and wasting heat, and leaving you in a worse position for the next turn. The quicker enemies die, the safer your pilots and mechs are. You are already outgunned in most fights, wasting actions will make things worse, not better. Sometimes there is nothing else to do, but sometimes you just need to think about it.
[EDIT] This guide was written before the update dropped, expect a few changes.
- Phantom Brigade: Protector Mid-game Build Recommended
- Phantom Brigade General FAQ: UI, Tactics, Mechanics, Strategy, and etc
- Phantom Brigade: How to Edit Your Save Game
- Phantom Brigade: Superior Salvaging Guide
- Phantom Brigade: Save File Location (New V1.0)