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Frozen Synapse Guide to Basic Mechanics for Multiplayer

You'll learn: common misconceptions - the concept and how it’s played - all keyboard controls and HUDs detailed - nature of levels - different unit classes - different game modes - each game type with its goal, rules and score - each order / command explained in relation to others.

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This guide is the first part on four of the Guide to Advanced Mechanics & Tactics for Multiplayer, the only difference being that it doesn't contain any of the explanatory schematics. (last updated: 2011-11-2)


For ease of understanding you won't find most of these abbreviation in the guide, however some of them are commonly used in the forums and in the chat, so memorise them.
pt: point (Elo, Score) tl: tile px: pixel s: second WP: waypoint CoS: Continue on Sight EoS: Engage on Sight OoS: Out of Sight OoSR: Out of Sight Range OoWR: Out of Weapon Range FoV: Field of Vision (angle + range) FoF: Field of Fire LoF: Line of Fire LoS: Line of Sight AoV: Angle of Vision MHW: mid-height wall HHW: high-height wall DFU: Direct Fire Unit IFU: Indirect Fire Unit NFU: No Fire Unit MG: Machine gun SG: Shotgun SR: Sniper Rifle GL: Grenade Launcher RL: Rocket Launcher H: Hostage LVL: Level VS: versus FS: Frozen Synapse


Some of them belong to Advanced Mechanics but because of their importance and popularity I put them all in Basic Mechanics.


It is a strategy game → Strategy is long-term global plans taken upstream of tactics which are short-terms local plans. FS games being micro and nano-management, FS is mostly a tactics game but has a part of strategy associated with rankings. It is a simultaneous turn-based game → A turn is a chance that each players of a game have, one after another, to make their move. Furthermore, turns are by definition sequential. Therefore turns cannot be simultaneous and FS is instead a round-based, asynchronous decision, simultaneous execution game. The time of a round is 5s → The time of a round (decision) is limited to 2 weeks, however the time of the outcome and simulation (execution) of a round is by default 5s. Outcome of even combats are determined by luck (dice roll/coin flip) → It is predetermined by the seed given by the server and calculated the same by each clients. Dark, Light, as well as Extermination, Secure etc are all game modes → Dark and Light are modes, while Extermination, Secure etc are types. To avoid confusion think that shotgun is a unite type, it couldn't be a unit mode.

Walls & Cover

Light blue walls are “low” walls → They must be called mid-height walls because that is their height when compared to the units' height. Also, “low” should be reserved for a true low-height wall that would hide crawling units. The dark blue walls are called high-height walls. Corners of high-height walls provide cover → Only mid-height walls give can a time advantage (so-called cover) and their corners do not give that advantage. High-height walls don't provide cover → Cover is anything that offers protection including walls and friendly units (that prevent or transpose encounters). They break encounters, reduce rockets blast and block grenades blast. Mid-height walls are cover. You're behind cover when you're behind a mid wall → Cover is the consequence of the position of 3 elements in regard to each others: your unit, the cover and the enemy unit. You're only behind cover, or something is a cover only when you actually do benefit from its cover. Ducked units cannot fire above mid-height walls → The Grenade Launcher can always, the Rocket Launcher can never, other units can if far away enough. Rockets can hit units → They can kill units with their blast but can only hit (detonate on) walls.

Units & Orders

Snipers have infinite range → Their range is limited & greater than the one of the Machine gun. Units can be stacked up (piled up) → Stacking implies the notion of verticality, however in FS units can exclusively be positioned horizontally. Additionally stacking doesn't mean occupying the same space. When units overlap it's more correct to use the term blending. Stacking could at best be used for 3 or more units behind a wall, following each others, waiting to take a corner. There is a 5th combat rule known as global aim counter → It is not global anymore, it only applies to the same unit that triggered it. Sniper Rifle never misses → Except if a Machine gun is firing a death shot when a Sniper Rifle is firing one at him, the Machine gun will be shielded (very rare). Scouting is done by popping out out of corners to spot enemies → Scouts are sent toward enemy line to do recognition, otherwise use another term. There is first sight on unit or area at corners → There is first sight only when one unit was not looking at the other unit when the other unit was looking at it - the rest of the time sight is simultaneous. This or that increases accuracy → In FS bullets' path is predetermined. If the 5th bullet is determined to be the death shot, others will be miss. Accuracy translates into aiming & firing timespans for the death shot. There is an advantage into being ducked. Being ducked increases accuracy → There is a disadvantage because to be ducked you have to duck and this does give a disadvantage - after that it's only an advantage for the Sniper Rifle. (Note that ducking ≠ being ducked) The angle that a unit has to rotate toward a unit matters → No, what matters is if the enemy unit is in the Field of Fire or not.

Round, Planning, Simulation & Outcome

[schematic] Each game is limited by a number of round that can be taken asynchronously by both sides. The round is the player's round and is equivalent to decision (planning) + execution (outcome). The planning is limited to 2 weeks, after this delay, whoever hasn't submitted a round is declared loser. What is simultaneous is not the planning but the outcome. Units movement is not limited by distance or position (it is free movement) but by the duration of the outcome which by default is of 5s. Therefore the outcome of each round lasts 5sec and that is the duration that can be simulated during planning. However orders extend beyond the duration of the outcome, in other word you can plan for round 2 in round 1. Rounds are only period separators, like hours on a watch, they don't cancel or reset anything. Concept: play by email, simulate for the opponent, free movement, no time limit. Unfolding of a game: 1) You challenge a player or his does or it's done automatically. 2) You plan the first round by a) bidding or b) moving and ordering around your units your opponent's units. 3) a) if you bid earlier now you do 2) b) and position your units, if not you do 3) b) simulate the plans for both teams and make changes so that your units win. 4) repeat 2) b) until the last round or one of you win the game.


Keyboard & Mouse Controls

[schematic] Labels: keysAZ09 buttonsleft right scroll
` open console 1 to 9 select units tab cycle units space play/pause ←↑→↓ scroll map W replay K zoom in M zoom out O orders menu E engage on sight, rewind T add zone S stand D duck X aim C continue on sight V line of direct fire, weapon range delete selected waypoint/order delete last waypoint/order = delete last 10 waypoints, rewind ctrl line of indirect fire ctrl left click check shift double left click manual waypoint T hold left click draw zone left click select, rewind double left click automatic waypoint hold left click drag unit/order/wayline scroll zoom/cycle units right click drag map/orders menu ctrl right click aim ctrl double right click cancel aim

On-Screen Controls

[schematic] Adding orders: orders can be added on the unit, on waypoints, on the way line and on the timer’s line. They can either be added next to each others or stacked on top of each others. Tip: to make a precise order on the wait line, drag the timer not further than when the value changes, then click on the handle to add an order or drop one onto it. Moving orders: orders can be dragged from any place to any other place except back onto the unit. Deleting orders: A selected (via a left click) order can be deleted by pressing delete. Same for waypoints. The timer needs to be pushed back to 0. Cancelling orders: for orders' behaviours to be stopped, Cancel or Opposite or Cancelling orders must be given. Multiple orders per position: orders stacked might cancel each others, for example Aim here, AIm there and Cancel Aim will result in not aiming at all, Ducking, Standing and Ducking will result in only Ducking and only once. To avoid this, orders must be given at different times, on the timer line or the way line. The unit number changes when another unit exits the game zone.
General Interface
Orders Toolkit Panel
When you are giving many orders in a small area it can become difficult to to see or to click on the right element. By showing only certain elements and hiding others, complex planning becomes easier.
Focus & Ignore Lines


A level is where you actually play the game. Each level is made of several parts and how they are set defines the particularity of each level.


AKA map, includes the high dark blue walls, the mid light blue walls and the light sources. High walls hide stood up units at all distance. Mid walls hide ducked units up to 2tl away and give the advantage of cover in certain circumstances. Light sources have a cosmetic purpose but can also give indication on FoV.


AKA triggers, zones are defined areas of the level that have certain use or properties. Most zones are placed on the terrain. Game : where units are automatically spawned or manually positioned and can be ordered around. Move : where units can be positioned in the preliminary round. Exit : where units can exit the level, Hostages and any unit in Disputed. Hostage : where Hostages units are protected in the beginning of a Hostage game type. Box : where units can walk to collect a box in Disputed game type. Key fact: a unit is inside a zone when its centre is. Get the full Frozen Synapse Guide.


Direct Fire Units
These units carry light, bullet based weapons and automatically fire at enemy units in their Field of Fire. They do not harm friendly Units. • Shotgun: fast movement, short weapon range, medium sight range, fast fire rate, medium advantages, active attack unit. • Machine Gun: medium movement speed, medium weapon and sight range, high fire rate, medium advantages, all purpose unit (active attack, passive defence). • Sniper Rifle: slow movement, long weapon and sight range, slow fire rate, high advantages, passive attack unit.
Indirect FIre Units
These units carry heavy, explosive based weapons and cannot fire automatically at enemy units. They can kill friendly units or themselves. • Grenade Launcher: mid movement speed, short weapon range, low sight range, slow fire rate, low advantages, active attack/defence unit. • Rocket Launcher: slow movement, long range, slow fire rate, low advantages, active attack unit. Grenades can be launched above mid-height wall even from right next to them and can bounce off of walls several times. Both have a reload timespan that makes them able to be launched only once per 5s.
No Fire Units
This unit is unarmed. Hostage: medium movement speed, medium sight range, low Angle of Vision, to protect unit


State orders (do not end by themselves, they need to be ended); Aim, Continue on Sight, Engage on Sight, Focus, Ignore, Duck, Stand Action orders: Move, Wait, Check, Fire
Each waypoint is a move (go there) order. A unit will move toward the last waypoint along the route created by the succession of waypoint and will pause if an enemy is in its Field of Fire, or is fired at by an enemy within fire range or is ordered to Check or Wait or is blocked by a wall.
A unit can be made to pause moving by setting a timer on itself or on waypoints. The timer is paused for Direct Fire Unit during combat. The maximum value the timer can be set to depends on how far the interface lets you extend the timer (it's above 60 seconds). Nothing can cancel the Wait order, it must be set back to 0 or deleted.
A unit can be made to face a particular direction either by moving or Checking or Aiming/Firing toward that direction.
Aim Cancel Aim
Only Direct Fire Unit can Aim, it makes them face a given direction until they engage in combat. Moving while Aiming is slower. Aim is canceled by Cancel Aim or by Continue on Sight and is replaced by another Aim order.
The unit slows down moving while looking in the given direction - this as soon as it can see the Check spot on the ground, therefore the action of this order could be delayed in the future or never happen. Check is only useful in Dark mode where you want to spot enemy units while on the move. Nothing can cancel the Check order. Key fact: Hostages cannot Check !
Duck Stand
Being Ducked lets a unit hide behind a mid-height wall and offers total protection against grenade explosions on the other side. Moving Ducked is slower. Starting a certain distance away from the wall it is possible for the Ducked unit to see and fire (and thus be seen and fired at) above a mid-height wall. Duck and Stand orders cancel each others and are instantaneous.
Direct Fire
Engage on Sight Continue on Sight
Engage on Sight is the default state of units, this order will make Direct Fire Unit engage on Field of Fire any enemy. It is only cancelled by Continue on Sight that prevents a unit to engage other units at all time. Continue on Sight is cancelled by Engage on Sight, Aim and Focus. Warning: these orders are labeled in a misleading way as the trigger is not solely Sight range but also Weapon range (which is implied).
Focus on Enemy Ignore Enemy Clear Focus/Ignore
With Focus on Enemy Direct Fire Units can be made to engage only focused-on units. Inversely with Ignore Enemy, Direct Fire Units can be made to engage only ignored units. Focus on Enemy and Ignore Enemy are canceled by each others and by Clear Focus/Ignore. Focus on Enemy does cancel Continue on Sight. Ignore Enemy breaks and prevent engagement while Focus on Enemy doesn't.
Focus on Zone Ignore Zone Clear Focus/Ignore
With Focus on Zone Direct Fire Units can be made to engage only units when they are inside the focused zones. Inversely with Ignore Zone, Direct Fire Unit can be made to engage only enemy units when they are outside the ignored zones or disengage when they enter one. Focus on Zone and Ignore Zone are canceled by each others and by Clear Focus/Ignore.
Indirect Fire
Indirect Fire Unit do not Aim, instead they face a direction and Fire an explosive projectile as soon as possible. Indirect Fire cannot be canceled. Get the full Frozen Synapse Guide.

Game Modes


In this mode, players see enemy units at all time.


In this mode, players only see enemy units when their own units see them. The enemy units that were not seen at the end of the outcome are show as “ghosts” that can be repositioned at will. Projectiles are visible and allow units' location to be deduced.

Game Types

The winner of a game is determined by the score, the score is determined by the rules. The loser’s score is always the opposite value of the winner’s. For example winner 50 pts / loser -50 pts. Your units and zones are always of your colour (green by default) whether you’re player 1 or player 2. I some cases if one side has 0 units before the end of the game, the other side is declared winner.


Default settings
Zones: game Units type: all except Sniper Rifle and H Teams size: 3, 4 - symmetrical Map size: 803x846, 676x861, 1051x810, 810x816, 652x857 - symmetrical in advanced setup Rounds: 8 [schematic]
Kill as many enemy units as possible and save as many of your units as possible.
No other rule than the score. First side to eliminate the other wins even if it itself is eliminated later int eh round.
+10pts per enemy unit death (killed by you or by friendly fire) -10pts per own unit death +20pts if the number of enemy unit equals zero (if all dead or started game with 0 units) -20pts if the number of your unit equals zero +1pts for each extra unit that your opponent has -1pts for each extra unit that you have Key facts: It is not the one who has most units at the end of the game that determines the winner, it is the one with the highest score. If one of the players starts a game with 0 units and his opponent starts it with less than 20, then he will win. On the contrary if his opponent starts with more than 20 units, his opponent will win.


Default settings
Zones: game, bid, move Units type: all except Hostage Teams size: 2, 3, 4 Map size: 845x845 Rounds: 6 (Light), 12 (Dark) [schematic]
The attacker must reach the winning bid zone while the defender must prevent him to.
Before the first round, players must bid on zones they think they can defend. The player who makes the biggest bid wins it and must prevent the bid loser to have a unit in the winning bid zone for 3 seconds or more from round 3 to last round. In round 1 both players can place their units anywhere they wish inside their respective move zones. The bid winner’s move zone is the winning bid zone and by default the bid loser’s move zone is either on the border(s) of the map or inside rooms. In case where both players make equal bids, the winner is predetermined. If the attacker's team has 0 units, the defender is declared winner. If the defender's team has 0 units during the last round, the attacker must still be present in the winning bid zone to be declared winner.
The score is a maximum of 200pts and is determined by the percentage that the surface of the winning bid zone represents compared to the surface of the maximum bid. For example If the surface of the winning bid zone equals 100% of the surface of all bid zones then the score will be of 200pts. However the formula is so that the points increase slower after some point. For example it might require 50% of the surface to get 150pts but the remaining 50pts will require the other 50%.


Default settings
Zones: game, bid, move Units type: all except Hostage Teams size: 3, 4 Map size: 1095x539, 1110x467, 1095x625, 1110x553 Rounds: 6 [schematic]
The attacker must reach the winning bid zone while the defender must prevent him to.
Similarly to Secure mode, before the first round, players must bid on zones they think they can reach. The player who makes the bid the furthest from his side wins (defender) it and must prevent the bid loser (attacker) to have a unit in or beyond the winning bid zone for 3 seconds in the last round. The game can end before the last round if the attacker team has zero units. If the defender team has 0 units before the last round, the attacker is not automatically declared winner.
The score is a maximum of 200pts and is determined by the position of the winning bid in relation to the total number of bid zones. By default there are 26 bid zones so the nearest to you is 1/26th of 200pts (≈8pts), the one at equidistance between you and your opponent is 13/26th of 200pts (50pts) and the furthest one is 26/26th of 200pts (200pts).


Default settings
Zones: game, box, exit Units type: all except Hostage Teams size: 3, 4, 5 Map size: 1094x977, 1082x1020, 1095x873, 1085x1085, 1100x970 Rounds: 16 [schematic]
Each side must collect more boxes than the opponent and stay alive or exit the game zone.
At round 5, 5 boxes appear on the game zone. "Boxes" (red squares) are picked up by walking on them. Exit zones are green zones by default on the sides, they can be used by both sides. Units entering exit zones do exit the game zone. Boxes carried by killed units are lost for both sides. If one side has 0 units before the boxes appear, the other side is declared winner. If one side has 0 units after the boxes appear, the other side is declared winner and is attributed all remaining boxes. Warning: units that exit the game zone will make the shortcut number of his remaining teammates change e.g 5 -> 4 etc
Max score of 150pts. +30pts per box you exit with or are attributed to. -30pts per box your opponent exits with or is attributed to. +140pts for one side if the other side has 0 units before round 5.


Default settings
Zones: game, move, exit, hostage Units type: all Teams size: 3, 4 (uneven: defender has 1 extra unit, attacker has 2 H) Map size: 1077x1020, 1092x972, 837x863, 1090x982, 1107x843 Rounds: 8 [schematic]
The hostages keeper (defender) must prevent the hostages from exiting the game zone while the hostages rescuer (attacker) must help the hostages to exit.
In the first round, units can be positioned in their move zones. By default : the hostages zone is in the centre and inside the defender zone, its exits zones are green and on the sides, the attacker's zones are also on the sides. The hostages cannot be moved or given orders (thus cannot leave their zone) in the first round and after they leave their zone they cannot be moved or given new or different orders (their plan cannot be changed thus it must be planned all at once). Hostages cannot be fired at by bullets while in their zones. If the defender has 0 unit, the attacker is declared winner.
+/-25 per hostage that leave its zone before the defender team has 0 units or that exits. +/-40 if none hostage exit. Get the full Frozen Synapse Guide.