how to win ftl

FTL ships guide

About this guide

This guide contains all kinds of tips, from basic strategy to extremely advanced micro.

Some tips are tiny optimisations that rarely matter. You may want to ignore them, depending on your skill level and how you prefer to play.

My perspective here is wanting to win consistently on Hard, but most advice applies on lower difficulties too.

Thanks & acknowledgements

I don’t want to clutter the guide with attributions, so I’ll just mention the people I’ve learned most from, or had the most interesting conversations with.

In no particular order:

Twinge, mekloz, Thomas Pettersson, Billy Kirby, chewbacca77, lifesaburrito, Crowrevell, Farb, Masala, Threarah, Hexagon, Scott Onesie Wilson, DiscordDraconequus

No doubt I’ve missed some. The FTL community is amazing.

Play the early game well

To win consistently, you must play as “safely” as possible and get through the dangerous early game in good shape. To be “safe”, you need two things as soon as possible:

  • Two shields
  • Offence that works well against two-shield enemies

“Offence” at this stage usually means a weapon, but it could be hacking, mind control, teleporter, or a combat drone. Hacking is especially strong. When I say “look for a weapon”, that’s really shorthand for “look for a weapon, or hacking, or other offence”.

Ideally I like to start with a good weapon, then add hacking a bit later. Prefer 1- or 2-power weapons that you can get online quickly.

General early strategy

For most ships and most runs:

  • Spend your first 20 scrap on shields-3
  • Spend your next 30 scrap on shields-4
  • Then save for a weapon, or other offence

Shields-3 provides a damage buffer, so your shield will not go down from (say) a Leto. Most of the time, you can get away without this; but it only takes one nasty fight where you lose 20 hull to make you appreciate the value of shields-3.

Don’t wait on power before buying shields-4. Having two shields makes you much safer in sectors 1 and 2. Power can come later, after saving for a weapon.

This strategy has a downside: it may stop you buying a weapon or system in a sector 1 store. A bad layout in sector 2 could prevent you from finding any stores, or the stores might sell nothing useful.

For that reason, it’s sometimes worth delaying your shield upgrades. There are two possibilities:

  • Get shields-3 immediately, but delay shields-4
  • Delay both

You can also choose how long you delay them. You could delay just a few jumps, because you are circling around a store in the middle of the sector. Or you could wait for a store at the end of sector 1 or early sector 2.

In most circumstances — but not all, and it depends on the ship — I think it’s incorrect to delay shield upgrades more than a few jumps.

The shield hack drone is out there, waiting for you. It knows nothing of mercy, neither of fairness, nor yet charity; and in its lifeless eyes, the noble pursuit of win streaks is but a guttering candle, soon to be extinguished.

What factors influence this decision?

The biggest factor is what ship you are playing. Some ships have safer starts. Some ships are more desperate for additional offence. Some ships have more stuff to sell. These concerns often compete with each other.

When a ship starts with strong defence or offence, delaying shield upgrades is less risky. For example, Zoltan C is a lot safer because it starts with a Zoltan Shield and fast offence. Kestrel A and Rock A are a little safer, because they start with two-point weapons buffers for the Artemis. Federation C is not at all safe.

When a ship urgently needs extra offence, delaying shield upgrades is more worthwhile. Rock A needs to solve its missile problem fast.

When a ship has more stuff to sell, visiting early stores is more worthwhile and does not delay your shields as much. Rock A need only float 18 scrap to afford even a teleporter, but Kestrel A would need to float 80 for hacking or a full choice of weapons.

Beware greed. If you’re only in the market for top-tier weapons, it’s probably incorrect to delay shield upgrades. A good question to ask yourself might be, “if an early store had a Chain Laser, would I buy it?”

Other strategies

Weapons buffer

Consider Kestrel C, Federation A and B, and Slug C. These ships start with both shields and weapons-2. They also can have trouble with enemies getting away.

This presents a choice: do you spend 25 scrap upgrading weapons before shields?

It’s hard to be sure what is correct, but I think the shield upgrades are safer overall. I could easily be wrong about this!

Weapons-3 plays a similar role to shields-3, with a few differences. A weapons buffer helps stop enemies getting away, but a shields buffer makes run-ending disasters less likely.

The other big difference is what they prepare you for. Shields-3 leads directly into shields-4. Weapons-3 potentially lets you use another weapon, but only when you find or buy one.

In sectors 1 and 2, I generally want shields more than I want another weapon online. The weapon is mostly for sector 3. Opening with the weapons buffer leads me into a shields buffer, and then into shields-4. That’s 75 scrap spent on safety before I start saving for a weapon.

This evaluation could change if you find (or buy) a 1-power weapon early, because then you know that buying the buffer gets a weapon online immediately. For example, say Kestrel C finds an early Heavy Laser. In that case, upgrading weapons before shields probably makes sense.

Minor upgrades

Engines-2 and engines-3 are useful and cheap. Fit them in when you can, but do not let them delay shield upgrades or stop you buying an important weapon. At 15 scrap, engines-3 competes with shields-3, and I think shields-3 is almost strictly better.

Note that shields-4 is much better than early engine upgrades, because it also lets you farm crew skill against enemies that cannot hurt you. 10% free evade is about 90 scrap value!

Piloting-2 can be tempting when you’re visiting nebula beacons without a clone bay, for a chance of a free weapon. But this is very luck-dependent. That 20 scrap is better spent on shields-3.

Never waste early-game scrap on luxury purchases like medbay-2, doors-2, or Scrap Recovery Arm.


The Stealth cruisers have no shield system at all, and Zoltan B only has shields-1. Mantis B starts with shields-4.

The strategies for these ships are quite different, reflecting their special starting conditions.

An in-depth guide to strategy and early-game tactics for all ships in FTL, with tips ranging from basic to extremely advanced

How to win ftl

Hello everyone. I’ve played FTL for 35 hours now and I have learnt a lot about the game and it’s mechanics, and can reliably finish the game on Normal as long as I don’t make silly mistakes (like blowing up a ship with my boarding crew still on it).

I would like to share with you my strategies. This is intended for the player who has now grasped the fundamentals of the game, but need that extra edge to become a complete player.

Part 1: Item reviews
With so many weapons, mods, upgrades etc. in the game, it’s hard to know what to get first and second. This will be the most important thing to understand in the game – what to prioritize. Strategies vary a little from ship to ship, but the general principle is the same:

a) Upgrade priorities and power management

From the start of the game, priority will be to get a diverse crew ASAP and maximize ‘blue option’ dialogue options.
Important upgrades that give ‘blue-options’: Level 2 autopilot (high level weapon in nebula ion storms), Level 2 Medbay, and level 2 Scanners.
If I am able to find a nearby Store beacon surrounded by other beacons (i.e. I am confident that I can farm up 75 scrap before I get to the Store) then I will save up for Level 1 teleport and go ‘blue-option’ hunting for free crew from ‘Damaged Federation Ship’ events in Nebulae, then proceed to gain more scrap through combat with a boarding crew.
Starting weapons usually will suffice without any upgrades (to either system or weaponry) until Sector 3.

Special note regarding early Long-range scanner or the Stealth ship: Since you can pick hostiles every beacon, instead of going for blue options, you can gain more scrap by going for combat upgrades/early boarding crew. Read the section on Augmentations below for details.

Rules of thumb:
Level 4 shields before starting Sector 3
Level 6 shields before starting Sector 6
Level 8 shields during sector 8.

Upgrade engines to Level 5 (upgrade once every two sectors) and then leave it there. 45% evasion with max-exp pilot/engine operator, 105% evasion with cloak (can power down to level 4 engines for 100% evasion).

Calculating power requirements:
Your shields, weapons, and level 1 oxygen always require power
Engines, drones, med bay, cloak and teleporter have no charge-up time, so halve their power-requirement when calculating how much power bars you should have.

b) Weaponry Guide
– In general, more expensive weapons are NOT better than cheaper ones. Shield-penetration to Energy requirement ratio is the name of the game here.

God tier: Ion weapons – One ‘ion blast II’ or two ‘ion blast I’ can reliably tear down shields of any strength given enough time. Can only be soft-countered by high evasion/cloaking.
Avoid ‘Heavy ion’ weapon – it’s 13 second cooldown ruins the point of ion weapons (Ion weapons ‘refresh’ and stack ion damage to shields as long as you hit every 5 seconds. Staggering two ‘ion blast I’ to fire every 4 seconds will drain all shields as long as you don’t miss often.
Ion bomb/small bomb/breach bomb – Only soft-countered by high evasion, and can damage shields enough to allow penetration by other weapons. Extremely useful for ninja takedowns of enemy medbays for a succesful boarding attempt.

High tier: Laser weapons – Take your pick from Basic lasers, dual lasers, burst lasers II, and heavy laser I. Has generally good penetration for energy ratio. Avoid other lasers which are energy inefficient.
Make sure to wait until all lasers are charged before firing at the same time, to maximize shield penetration.

Mid tier: Beam weapons – Beam weapons are only good if you already have enough weaponry to penetrate the shield (even if briefly; i.e. with concentrated laser fire); but as long as you can do so, they are great weapons (due to instant projectile time, you can guarantee system/hull damage even if the enemy shields are down for 1 second).

Specific weapon notes:
Glaive beam needs too much power and you might run into trouble against higher shield enemies, where you lack the weaponry or power bars to break through the shield.

Do not underestimate the mini-beam, which the Stealth ship starts with. Against normal enemies (non-autobot ships), you can guarantee 3 rooms of damage by cutting through corners, even though the length of the beam is tiny. For one power, it is extremely efficient.

Lower tier: Missiles – Good in the early-game when one missile to fry shields is enough; but by mid/end-game enemy ships will have several counters (Defense Drone, High evasion, Cloaking) and the enormous ammo requirements will drain your Scrap fund too much. Try to replace your missile weapons with higher tier weaponry as you go along.

Other weaponry options are usually sub-optimal, as they either cost too much power or not have enough shield penetration, or lack versatility (e.g. firebombs against auto-ships are useless).

c) Drone Guide:
Only two drones worth mentioning, but boy are they great. You can get away with leaving drone system on 2/3 power all game, as drones can be activated/deactivated on demand as they have no ‘charge up’ time.

Anti-Ship Drone I – Deceivingly energy-efficient and high damage potential if enemy shields can be penetrated. Has no ‘charge up’ time like regular weapons, so you can simply leave it deactivated until the one second where enemy shields are down. You can then turn off power from Oxygen/Engines and let the Drone activate for a couple of shots before switching back O2/engines again.

Defense Drone I – Again, exceptionally energy efficient as you can simply turn it on whenever a missile fires, then turn it off again. For two power, you have essentially hard-countered missiles. Stupidly good.

Other drones have niches, but are usually better being sold for scrap to upgrade better things.

d) Augmentations guide

God tier
– Long range scanner – extremely great for picking what events/hostiles you want and avoiding hazards. Only 30 scrap price in stores.

If you can pick up this aug early (or have the stealth ship that starts with this), it actually changes your entire game strategy, since you can pick and choose hostile encounters every single beacon. Instead of upgrading for blue-options, just maximise your combat systems (teleporter, shields, weapons, engines) and pick hostiles every single jump if you can. This will give you a huge advantage in scrap generation; and you will have enough scrap to upgrade almost all systems to max; even on normal.

– Scrap recovery arm – worthy investment. Stackable and gives ‘blue option’.
– Unique racial augs: Engi medbots is a great aug, and you can sometimes get it through giving 40 scrap/2 missiles/2 fuel to engi ship in trouble.
Zoltan shield is great early game, but wears off in effectiveness as game progresses. Consider selling other racial augs (Rock plating, titanium plating, slug gel, pheromones) for a quick 50 scrap boost if there is something in the store worth buying (e.g. early teleporter for boarding potential)

Other mentions
– Automatic reloader and shield charger are okay if you have spare aug slots.
– Pre-igniter, drone recovery, and stealth weapons are useful in niche situations/strategies. Not as reliable for all ships as ones mentioned above.

e) End-game Crew Makeup
Max 8 crew.
One each stationed at Weapons, Shield, Engine, and Helm (preferably not Mantis)
Two personnel (either Mantis, Rock, or Crystal) dedicated to boarding
Two ‘roaming’ repairers (preferably not Mantis/Zoltan)

f) Sector guide:
Look for:
– Any homeworld planet, for special quests
– Nebulae, high chance of blue-option events, and slower rebel fleet allows better farming opportunities.

Friendly sectors/Hostile sectors – Depends on how much fuel/combat capability you have.

How to win ftl Hello everyone. I’ve played FTL for 35 hours now and I have learnt a lot about the game and it’s mechanics, and can reliably finish the game on Normal as long as I don’t make silly