The Quest to Become Robust: Squad Leader

Being new to SS13 and Colonial Marines, I’ve learned a bit from playing the game the past few weeks. One of the things I’ve learned is some slang, particularly that there’s those who are “bald” and those who are “robust”.

I honestly think that is hilarious naming, but I thought I’d chronicle my quest to become robust. Specifically, I wanted to challenge myself to become good at the squad leader role, which is a role that I understand to be very influential during a game round, and one that interacts with almost every type of “mechanic(s)” (medical, engineering, command, supply, JTAC, combat, etc.) in the game.

I wont lie, I’m a bit nervous about being bald, because from what reading I’ve done It seems like there is (at least from some) an emphasis on reputation and ability, but nonetheless I think it’ll be fun to discuss and explore this role and my journey as a baldie through it.

Another reason for writing this is that from what reading I’ve done, the MAJORITY of the SL guides are rather old, and mostly from a single person. I wanted to also give my perspective and maybe see how I felt about my games versus the way Kesserline did.


I’ve decided that the way I’ll go about learning is just by, well, playing Squad Leader for some rounds and recording my thoughts on what happened during the round and what I learned.


My general thoughts on my first round SLing were that it was fun, a bit nervewracking, and definitely had some room for improvement. I was Alpha SL with ~11 marines at start, with one smartgunner, one pyrotechnician specialist, and no medics nor comtechs. The map was LV-426. The marines won and I lived to roundend (via nuke).

Some things I think I did well:

  • Communicating with command. I think that I was pretty good at routinely talking to command, though I wonder if the thinks I talked about were necessarily relevant all the time, especially given that when comms are down the CO can only speak to one person at a time through the CIC phone.

  • Interacting with characters. I think that I did a decent job at fostering some light RP from the characters at the start of the round, which helped me remember names and get familiar with who was in my squad and what they were carrying.

That’s about it, honestly for thing I think I did well. :sweat_smile:

The first pitfalls I fell into:

  • Get back you moron! I only survived maybe ten-ish minutes of xeno contact before getting jumped by a warrior and nearly dying. I was critically injured and lost my weapon which worked in an interesting way becuase while I couldn’t personally fight it forced me to step back and think about the ways I could contribute to the fight that weren’t shooting aliens, which I probably would have done less had I not had my weapon lost. – The lesson that I learned is to not be so close to the front. I’m a HVT for xenos, and even worse, a VIP for marines, so people will die trying to save me.

  • Fire Support, harder than it sounds. I realized quite quickly that while I knew mechanically how to do things like lase, relay coordinates, mark flares, etc. actually properly marking and timing those powerful abilities is very difficult. This was doubled by the issue that I was very injured and not able to effectively navigate the battlefield, and that the aliens were fighting from the cave entrances which to my understanding prevent air-based supporting fire.

  • Decision Making. Meaningful decisions like when to retreat or attack were things I only had a limited opportunity to do when the fight was fresh. I tried to convince command to feint a withdrawal to the table fort to bait the aliens into OB coordinates I lazed – which may have worked had I not gotten critically injured AGAIN by a warrior and left with brain damage, thus unable to coordinate the fire – but otherwise I think I did not make any particularly impactful decisions. Something to try for next round.

  • Squad Abilities. D’oh, the way your squad roles work is really important! I thought that I knew the basics of the squad: Comtechs can repair and build things, Medics heal, Smartgunners shoot boolets, Specialists carry heavy weapons; and that’s not necessarily wrong. However, I realized that I did not actually appreciate how to employ these people in a way that they were useful. For example, one of the main reasons I got jumped was because I was ignoring my smartgunner pointing at a resin door! The Smartgunner can see through fucking walls! He’s probably not just worried about the door silly! (Which is valid enough of a reason anyways even if he couldn’t.)

For Next Round

For my next round, I think what I will do is primarily focus on staying alive. I will err towards being too cautious (in regards to personal safety) than not cautious enough, and continue to adjust off from that. My goal is to survive the groundside deployment with only superficial injuries (no going back to the ship or going unconscious). Additionally, I am going to do more reading on the squad specialist roles, loadouts, and what kind of equipment and abilities they bring to the fight. On top of that, my experience with having my weapon removed has made me decide that next round I will try to fire 0 rounds unless my life is personally at risk. While this may be an extreme too far in the other direction from fighting as SL, I think until I learn that balance that erring on forcing myself to not fight with my personal weapons will encourage me to use the more impactful powers and abilities that the Squad Leader has.

If you’ve made it this far to the bottom of this post, please feel free to give your own input!


Pretty cool stuff! Look foward to seeing more of your thoughts and what conclusions you come to

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Sounds like you’ve already got the big grasp of how to be a half decent squad lead. Some unsolicited advice that I’ve gathered in my time playing the role:

Your job near 100% of the time is the nag the absolute sht out of overwatch and then tell your squad what they want you to do. If you are actively acting as the translator for command comms you’re doing a good job. People really tend to appreciate if you’re proactive about that.

I would play a few rounds as Overwatch to get an idea on what tools are available up there. They actually have some really strong abilities. In particular a lot of overwatch officers sleep on the messages. Call them up and tell them to use them.

Comms don’t need to be down to call overwatch. It’s a good way to make sure they’re actively listening.

Talk to your fireteam leaders. Some people play FTL for the slightly fun kit, some play to laze, some like the leadership. All are a good way to make your job easier. Figure out who is aSL if you get hit and if you’ve got someone willing to do all your fire support for you. Even if you’re not setting up fireteams they’re almost always among your most reliable players.

Squad lead is best role. Have fun with it and as long as you’re being loud and proactive people will appreciate you.


SL do’s/don’ts vary from squad to squad, but i thoroughly enjoyed reading your bit.


Fire Support, harder than it sounds.

JTAC is very, Very hit or miss most of the time. It’s dependent on a bunch of factors. Do you have a good PO? How many people are fighting over control of the next CAS run? How about someone on the mortar? What’s CAS taking for weapons?

Sometimes, you just get unlucky and get a bald PO or one who doesn’t listen. Sometimes, you have 6+ people screaming for firemissions over comms all at once, and how is the pilot gonna know you are the one who’s gonna get them that oh-so-satisfying run that wipes half the xeno force, instead of half the marine force? It’s difficult.

A lot of it, though, is gamesense. You need to understand how xeno players think and act (playing some xeno helps with this a lot, really), as well as the layouts of most maps. Sometimes CAS is nearly useless if the xenos are deciding to hug the caves all round, so its’ best not to waste your time trying to do firemissions then. You need to understand the flow of battle, recognize when the marines are going to be pushing/falling back, and how the enemy will probably react.

I find that CAS is best used in the open, during a FOB siege to stave off an assault or clear defenses to allow for a counterattack, or during a ‘stalemate’, where xeno defenses are holding strong and they’re staying put.

OFFSETS. USE THEM. Xenos will absolutely know if you’re going to strike them with the hammer of god if they see your CAS laser put down next to them. Usually they scatter pretty fast! Direct fire can’t do offsets, but firemissions can and they are arguably just flat-out better than directs unless you’ve got a pretty competent PO.
Say there’s xenos about 10 tiles north of the marine frontline. Look at a tile on the marine frontline, count up 10 tiles, and then lase from that tile if you like where you think it’s gonna land. Ask the PO to offset 12 north (max works, too) and tell them to fire when you’re ready.


Usually the PO won’t respond, but you’ll hear that run coming in.
But if it’s not, then the xenos will have very little to no warning before they get airstriked! Good hits for all.
Utilizing chokepoints against the enemy to force them to either rush into the marines or run backwards into a CAS run is very effective. Lasing for close air support behind the enemy works, provided you have a way to make them run back into it (I.E. the marines are slowly pushing them in, or they’re pushing and about to have to retreat to heal. Again, gamesense stuff, play enough and you’ll get the hang of it!)


Xenos will absolutely know if you’re going to strike them with the hammer of god if they see your CAS laser put down next to them. Usually they scatter pretty fast!

If you see a xeno in a place you don’t want them to be, Laze it and they’ll scatter. It’s instinct.


If you see a xeno in a place you don’t want them to be, Laze it and they’ll scatter. It’s instinct.

For added effect, you can also abuse THIS. Let the xenos get nice and comfy with your lases, thinking that you’re just some random corpsman who’s dropping them to scare them off and there’s not /actually/ anyone doing CAS. Then drop a nape on 'em when they least expect it!

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I admire your desire but honestly… dont be so afraid.

As long as you follow the orders and communicate. You should be okay.

But sorry to burst your bubble… SL doesnt matter a whole hell of a lot.

Things i think you should prepare yourself for:

  1. Marines not giving a fuck and ignoring you. Delta is going to unga whether you want them to or not. And people are not going to rally on you despite everyone saying so… because they are either dumb, confused, or dont care. It doesnt really matter. Other than serving as a beacon to be pointed at… its not like people will look for you.

  2. CAS pilots are … a mixed breed. Most likely you will die lasering and they never talk.

  3. You probably wont have an SO… so your orders might be vague or not get orders at all.

  4. Command might assign a aSL to get people to follow the arrow a different direction…you arent really that special.

Marine command is weird. The CO and XO matter. Then no one cares about the SOs or SLs, then everyone cares about the medics, sgs and specs.

Becoming a robust SL is going to mean becoming a Memorable and recognizable SL. Once you get a reputation more people will follow you, command will listen more, etc.

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So I’m an old loon who’s returning to the world of blastin xenos thirty-two pixels at a time, but I have some wisdom I think I can share on Not-Dying-Fu.

  1. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, DON’T GO IT ALONE. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across solo corpses or a single gun and its obvious a fight happened. The Buddy System is your friend.

  2. If you can’t see your allies, they can’t see you or very well might have you at their peripheral vision. Make sure you can see an ally at all times at least within two tiles of the outer edges of your view screen.

  3. You have a radio. Use it. Communicate frequently. Ask where people in your squad are. USE. THE. RADIO.

  4. Lights. Lights. Lights. LIGHTS. LIGHTS! You are not able to see the xenos in the dark, but they can see you. Turn on some damndable lights.

  5. Save your friends. If they are not corpses, save them; that’s less fooder for the enemy and potentially more bodies to return fire with. It only takes one hand to pull and trust me when I say I’ve pulled two people, one of whom was fully concious, and let THEM do the shooting while I dragged injured people.

  6. Watch your lines of fire. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve aciddently sent to the medbay because they get stupid, run out in front of you, and then bitch because THEY chose to run in front of a guy making A LOT OF GUN NOISES SHOOTING AT STUFF. So please, DON’T GET IN FRONT OF SOMEONE SHOOTING.

  7. And lastly before I go into rant mode, never be affraid to fall out of a position. I remember at least a few times playing SL and let me tell you, we were defending an FOB when some chargers came around the corner. After a hunter dropped our medic and I blew its green stuff out, I made the executive desicion to say to my squad “Fall Back to [I think it was another FOB turned base]” and radioed to the rest of the SLs the position was FUBAR. We lost a medic and came back with a lot more guns.

And with that, I leave you with the hope I’ve imparted a little bit of smarts on you. Good Day to you, sir and/or madam. GOOD. DAY. :cowboy_hat_face:

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Always nice to see new squad leaders, never enough SL players to go around these days. Looks like you got good intuition, and solid advice covering most of your bases can already be found in previous responses.

My biggest piece of advice is to learn the people around you. Know the roles and what they do is great, but knowing which specific people in your squad and in command can be relied upon is exceedingly important. Basically, if you say “medics get the fuck up to me!” you might eventually get somebody over. Instead, if you shout “Lance Corporal (name of medic you know to be competent”, you’re odds of success are much higher.

This is cyclical too, the more you know people the better you can gauge what they can do, and the more they know you, the more likely they are to actually follow those orders.

TLDR get out there and make some metabuddies lol! Friendship is one of the most valuable tools an SL can wield.

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Thank you all for your interest and replies!

I have played my second round as Squad Leader just now. MARINE MAJOR FUCKERS WE BLOW UP THE SHIP AND TAKe YOU ALL WITH US RAAAAGH!!

Er, excuse me.

So, some thoughts!

Basic Round Info: Big Red, Alpha SL, SADAR Spec. Ended in Marine SD.


  • I only went down twice!

  • Kept the SPEC, multiple comtechs, FTLs, and medics alive even through the EVAC and FOB being overrun! Though, I will say this is only partially because I was screaming and using my move orders to give them the speed to escape.

  • Called in a supply drop!

I think Alpha squad – our squad – managed to secure a decent chunk of kills, even if by the end and Hijack we were at 35+ xenos.

As for my challenge, I was not able to achieve it entirely, but I think I did a good job of adhering to its ideas. I did use my weapon to save a couple of downed marines, but I think that was a good reason to breach my rule.

Another thing was that it seemed I had a SADAR spec who was relatively new to the role. They didn’t do bad or anything, but some people were being rather rude about it – at one point someone told me “I wouldn’t rely on that SADAR if I were you” in the middle of a firefight – so I took it upon myself to be encouraging. I don’t know if it really made any difference, but I encouraged him to just keep trying to secure kills and not worry about the rockets he missed.

Some things to improve:

The one incident in the round that came to mind was the battle in the streets outside of the bar. To my understanding this is a pretty common place for the clash to happen, but I noticed aliens were to our North in dorms, and I had trouble gathering people to move North with me because they were focused so hard on the South.

I think what I needed to do was actually go down to the front and start being ridiculously obnoxious, and call out people by name to follow me. Charlie and Delta were already fighting in the choke, and there comes a point (in my opinion) when extra bodies are just being wasted standing around milling at the back.

I think if I was able to get my squad (or really just a servicable chunk of it) to the dorms, we could have easily secured ~4-5 xeno kills on relatively squishy xenos and cleared out that flank. Something to work on more next time.

Another thing to work on is being more useful with supports. I still feel like I could’ve done more with CAS or OBs had I not hesitated as much. Oh well. More for next time! Please continue giving your insight, I like reading other people’s opinions on leading.

Now, off to learn what its like to play spec…




My little spec detour gave me a nice perspective. I’ll make sure to consider it when SLing in the future.

If this is the round I’m thinking that’s from, FRAG that one in particular; we ran face first into the nest and it was baaaaad.

Very helpful. I’m tempted to try SL soon. This is pretty helpful stuff!

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There’s a lot of text so I might repeat somthing here.
As someone who has 130+ hours on SL the things I found most helpful where a gimic I use to use at the beginning of rounds and the big green pointy arrow.
The gimic - I use to shout at alpha about tofu and how it made you stronger when I woke up somthing along the lines of ‘Rember to eat your tofu to stay strong!’ While this seems dumb it makes you more interesting and unique people will Rember you as that tofu guy or that Russian guy or that guy that really likes bayonets wich helps you get your feet -kinda linked on you need to pick one squad to main as outher wise you won’t be know.
The big green arrow -
Kinda self explanatory but in the heart of combate where you don’t have the time to talk and the ungas don’t have the time to read the arrow pointing out where the squad should be going and what it should be doing is one of your most Invaluable assets.
Sl is an increadbly fun role to play as soon as you can wake up and people know who you are and will Interact with you.
(Sorry if the grammar and spelling is shoddy I did this on my phone hope you got somthing. Out of it :))

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Other nice bits as playing SL. You get fireman carrying skill, this is super nice in having little movement penalty compared to dragging. (Need to grab twice until aggressively holding and click-drag the body to you with grab stance.) Very helpful to bring downed bodies to a medic.

You have leadership skill that affects your order abilities of movement, hold, focus. I have them keybinded to shift+1, shift+2, shift+3 respectively. From what I read, the hold order can reduce stun time and grants a “painkiller” effect. Such that an SL can give a “tramadol” effect and CO “oxycodone” effect. Using it before queen screech/massed xeno attack can be useful.

Staying alive throughout the match can be useful as your other FLTs, Comtech, PFCs have zero leadership skill to make full use of the order system.

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