5 tips for getting started in the Jagged Alliance 3 campaign

It's been a long old wait for Jagged Alliance 3, but 24 years on from the last mainline entry in the series, your ragtag band of mercenaries for hire are back—80s action B-movie dialogue and all. I can say with some authority that it's a triumphant return for the tactical turn-based blaster, but that doesn't mean it's going to be an easy ride.

See, a key ingredient of that Jagged Alliance cocktail—the spice that somehow makes the whole thing feel even more potent—has always been its difficulty. It's tough but fair, like a drill sergeant making you do 50 burpies then rewarding you with a donut. 

Jagged Alliance 3 is not just a matter of keeping your troops alive on the battlefield as you wrest power back from a paramilitary organisation; you also need to manage finances, train the locals to defend themselves, and know when to give your troops a little R&R at the local bar.

There's a lot to think about, and if you don't want your mercs slipping through your fingers as your coffers run dry and the bad guys start clawing back all that territory you claimed, then these tips will help you find your feet in the campaign.

Don't go spending it all at once

Barry screen in Jagged Alliance 3

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)

You'll be kicking off your Jagged Alliance 3 campaign with a fair bit of money in your pocket and not a mercenary to your name. So get hiring, but don't go spending all your money at once, because for a while at least the only income you'll be getting is through valuables and sporadic treasures you find on the battlefield.

You may be tempted to hire Veteran or Elite Level mercenaries, but stick to the Recruits at first. They're cheap, cheerful, and some of them have great abilities (like Barry, who creates his own grenades every several days—perfect for turning clustered enemies into giblets).

The longer you hire a mercenary for, the better value for money you get. Some mercs even have deals where hiring them for two weeks costs only about 20% more than for a week. So keep an eye out for those bargains.

Move quickly (at first)

Ernie Village in Jagged Alliance 3

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)

With no steady income when you're starting out, the last thing you want is your mercenaries sitting on their hands while their contracts tick down to completion. With your first squad of mercs (3-4 is a good number), storm the town of Earnie quickly, which will give you access to various 'Operations' that you can assign your mercenaries to.

After capturing the town, get a mercenary with high Leadership to train some Militia to defend it, because sooner or later the Legion will send a small force to recapture it. Training militia costs a little money, but there's no maintenance cost, so a couple of militia squads are always worth keeping in key sectors.

Establish a source of income

diamond mine in jagged alliance 3

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)

Money doesn't grow on trees in Grand Chien, nor for that matter by simply owning territory. The only sectors on the map that earn you money are diamond mines (marked with a small diamond icon). Capturing one of these will instantly start generating $3000 a day. 

You can increase income from your mines by fighting Legion troops in the vicinity, and carrying out missions for locals. This will increase Loyalty, and with it your income from the mines. Beware though, the mines will eventually deplete, so don't splash out too much once you've captured one.

The Legion won't be happy about this however, and will intermittently send squads to retake the mines, so make sure to train up a couple of squads of militia on mine tiles as quickly as you can. 

Keep those mercenaries flowing

mercenary hiring screen in jagged alliance 3

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)

In the early going when you're likely to only have a single squad of mercenaries, you'll need to carefully plan around their contracts. For example, if a mercenary has picked up wounds in battle and you don't have a medic to patch them up, then if they're near the end of their contract it may be worth just letting it expire and bringing some fresh blood in (you can always rehire that merc later, and they'll return fully healed, with all the equipment and experience they gained up to that point).

On the other hand, when a mercenary's contract is up, check whether they're in the middle of an Operation. If they're training militia, scouting, repairing items, or engaged in other tasks, then it may be worth renewing their contract even for a short time just so they can complete their task.

When hiring new mercenaries, don't forget that they not only take a few days to get shipped in, but if you're on a separate island, they'll then need to travel over there as well. Capturing port sectors will ensure faster travel for your troops between different islands.

Explore 'empty' sectors

empty sector in jagged alliance 3

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)

There are many 'empty' territories in Grand Chien that you'll be able to capture without resistance, but not all is always as it seems out there in the wilderness. An empty sector may seem to have no value, but enter the 'tactical' view on these tiles (i.e. the view that lets you directly control your troops), and you may come across precious resources and side-quests.

Sometimes, moving through an 'empty' tile even reveals territory secretly held by enemies—like a hostage situation in a mansion, say, or a Legion hideout. When you stumble upon one of these encounters, you'll have the choice of whether to engage or not, so, as ever, plan your moves carefully.

And with that, our contract to get you started with the Jagged Alliance 3 campaign is fulfilled. Want more advice? Well, you're gonna need to pay up (or just wait a few days for our upcoming Jagged Alliance 3 combat guide).

Robert is a freelance writer and chronic game tinkerer who spends many hours modding games then not playing them, and hiding behind doors with a shotgun in Hunt: Showdown. Wishes to spend his dying moments on Earth scrolling through his games library on a TV-friendly frontend that unifies all PC game launchers.