Welcome to the post-apocalyptic wastelands of America. The world has been ravaged by a zombie virus, and your rag-tag band of survivors are trying to eke out a living in an incredibly hostile world. To ensure your success as the Commander of your forces, we’ve put together a comprehensive Puzzles & Survival Guide for all levels of players.
While the game does provide a rudimentary tutorial of its mechanics, a lot of finer details remain murky and unclear, even to veteran players.
We hope that our complete guide will shed some light on these questions and help you jump-start your foray into this inhospitable world. With knowledge and persistence, you will conquer the wastelands and reclaim a home for humanity.
Let’s get started.
Mastering Puzzles & Survivals: Guides by Topic
Due to the length and thoroughness of this guide, we’ve split it into mini-guides for you to easily navigate to. We recommend that you use this table of contents to jump to a topic as you encounter it in game and have questions come up. It’s hard to discuss certain things without making reference to another aspect of the game, but you should learn rather quickly.
This list includes independent articles as well as topics featured later on this page.
👇ALL Puzzles & Survival Topics👇
|What to Do First↗
|Start here before you dive deeper into the game.
|Learn about the game’s main Resources that are used to build, research and train.
|Our Heroes guide is a must-read to improving your overall game performance.
|Read about the four types of Troops in Puzzles & Survival and how to use them effectively.
|Puzzle Battles are the first thing you’ll do in game, learn the system in our section below.
|Exploring the World↗
|Explore the map and discover the important aspects of the Puzzles & Survival World.
|Find out why you should join an Alliance and what you gain access to by doing so.
|You’re the Commander in this game- learn how to become the best version of yourself with talents and skills.
|Building & Research Lab Guide↗
|Learn about all of the Buildings you can add to your Sanctuary, and how to use Nova and the Research Lab.
|Nova & The Research Lab↗
|Figure out what you need to know about Nova, and how unlocking her can help you in the game.
|Gear, Chips, Modules & More↗
|Learn about what you can create in the Gear Factory; including Gear, Chips, Modules, Nano Weapons, etc.
|The Pit & Rare Earth Guide↗
|Learn about the Pit and the importance of gathering Rare Earth.
|Jump to our section on the Campaign mode in the game.
|Jump to our section on the Arena, where you fight other player’s heroes in the ultimate Puzzles & Survival battle.
|Learn what you should do daily in Puzzles & Survival in order to make the most of the game regularly.
|Learn how to quickly increase your might in Puzzles & Survival.
|Intro to Events↗
|Get the basics about the recurring Events in Puzzles & Survival.
|Ace Commander Event Guide↗
|This guide goes over everything you need to know about the Ace Commander Event including how to rank as high as possible.
|Alliance Showdown Guide↗
|Learn how to maximize your Alliance’s points in this event and claim all the reward tiers.
|All Break Lose Events Guide↗
|Make the most of your resources and unlock and strengthen Leah quickly.
What To Do First
After the game’s initial introduction to Puzzle Battles (and its incredibly lackluster story), you’ll be dropped in the middle of your sanctuary.
Your Sanctuary is effectively your base/city in the world. Here you’ll construct facilities to survive, research new improvements, and train troops to fight off human and zombie foes alike.
At the beginning of the game, it’ll be rather sparse with many features locked until you reach a higher level. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to do so, and we’ll go into depth about those features below.
The game will prompt you to start completing the quests near the bottom left of the screen. This effectively serves as the tutorial to the game, introducing you to all the main features such as joining alliances and exploring the world map (and unlocking them, so it’s critical to do it).
However, as is the nature of mobile games, the tutorial is rather sparse on details, so we’ll be doing our best to fix that with our guides.
Figure Out the Daily Reset in Your Time Zone
The game operates on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and undergoes a daily reset at 00:00 UTC. This resets daily activities and many alliances schedule events around reset time. Simply go to Google and convert 00:00 UTC time to your time zone, so you’ll know when to expect the reset.
You can also check in-game what the current UTC time is by going to the settings (tap the + sign in the bottom right corner). The time will be displayed at the bottom of the setting screen.
Change Your Name/Avatar/Model
By default, the game assigns a string of letters and numbers to you as your name. You’ll want to change this immediately, so other players won’t think you’re a bot and will be able to refer to you by an actual name.
Thankfully, the game gives you two free Name Changer items right off the start. While you’re at it, you can also change your avatar picture and commander’s model to better reflect yourself. Just do the following:
- Tap your profile picture in the top left corner.
- Tap on the gibberish string of letters and numbers to be prompted to use one of your Name Changers (you can easily get more later) and type in whatever you want to go by.
- Tap the picture with a green recycle symbol. You’ll be able to choose between a male or female commander model (there are two other options, but those have unlocking requirements).
- Hit “Change Avatar” at the top of the menu. Your avatar will represent you when you’re chatting with other players. Any Hero you unlock will be added as an option, and you can update your avatar for free whenever you want.
Bind Your Account
To ensure that you don’t lose access to your account and all your progress, you’ll need to bind your account. If you ever need to reinstall the game or want to play on a different device, you’ll be able to.
- Tap the + sign in the bottom right corner.
- Select ‘Account’ and then ‘User Center’
- Tap ‘Bind Account’ and then choose to attach your account to either your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or VK account.
To login into your account, head back to the User Center and select ‘Switch Account’ to choose whatever service you bound your account to.
Puzzle Battles (Match-3)
Despite being the first feature of the game you experience and half of the game’s namesake, Puzzle Battles really make up about only 30% of the game. However, you’ll need to fully understand how the system works if you want to make progress in the game, especially on some of the challenge stages.
Your goal in most battles is to deplete all of the enemies’ health bars to 0, before they can do the same to you. Occasionally, you’ll be in a fight against an unkillable enemy where the goal is to deal as much damage as possible within a set amount of turns.
Your enemies will only attack when the counter by the little gun symbol reaches 0 (the counter decreases by 1 each turn) or if their rage bar is filled up and they can use their ability.
Matching tiles will cause them to fly upwards to hit any enemy in their path. Only tiles that actually connect with an enemy will deal damage. Naturally, this makes horizontal matches less effective for dealing damage if some of those tiles don’t hit your intended target.
Damage, Combos, and Other Tricks
The damage done from matching tiles is dependent on the combined ATK stat of the corresponding color heroes in your team.
For example, if you have two blue heroes on your team, matching a set of blue tiles will deal damage equal to the combined ATK of your blue heroes. Conversely, if you have no yellow heroes on your team, yellow tiles will do next to no damage.
Getting a combo of multiple matches will increase the effectiveness of your tiles, dealing more damage and providing more rage generation (more on that below). Since tiles fall upwards, it’s easier to trigger additional combos by matching tiles near the top of the screen.
Frag & Flashbang Grenades
Matching 4 of the same colored tiles will spawn a frag grenade. You can either tap on the frag grenade or match it normally to detonate it, clearing any adjacent tiles. Try to use the frag grenade when it’s fully surrounded by tiles to maximize clearage.
Matching 5 of the same colored tiles will spawn a flash grenade. Either tapping or matching this flash grenade will clear all tiles of the same color. Keep an eye out for opportunities to get a 5-tile match. Flash grenades are incredibly powerful and can set up huge combos if used when the board is full of its corresponding color.
Buffs & Debuffs
Any status effects will also be displayed above a target’s health bar. If you’re ever confused about what it does or want to know its remaining duration, simply press and hold down on the target to pull up a detailed status window.
Another crucial (but obscure) rule is that only one instance of a buff or debuff can impact each of a target’s stats at any given time. To make this more clear, imagine a team with both Meyers and Mars.
Meyers enhances allies’ ATK by 80%, while Mars boosts adjacent allies’ ATK by 35%. Unlike some games where buffs can stack, only the most recent buff or debuff takes effect in Puzzles & Survival.
For instance, if you activate Meyers’ ability first, providing an 80% ATK buff, and then use Mars’ ability, the adjacent heroes will only have a 35% ATK buff from Mars. The 80% buff from Meyers won’t accumulate, as only the latest buff holds sway.
Conversely, should an enemy debuff your team’s ATK, using Meyers’ ability afterward will entirely replace the ATK debuff. The newest buff or debuff always supersedes any previous effects, so you can use certain abilities to effectively negate previous effects.
Puzzles & Survival Color Guide
Every hero and enemy is assigned 1 of 5 colors, indicated by the colored circle beneath them. Each color is strong against one other color, dealing double damage to them and taking half the damage from them.
- Red beats Green, Green beats Blue, and Blue beats Red. (Red > Green > Blue > Red)
- Purple and Yellow beat each other respectively and resist themselves.
- All other interactions are just normal damage.
- IMPORTANT: This color advantage only applies to tile damage and normal enemy attacks. Abilities do not factor in color advantage.
On more challenging fights, it may be ideal to bring a team consisting of only heroes that have the color advantage to maximize your damage and survivability. Of course, this is assuming that said heroes are sufficiently leveled up enough.
Rage Bar & Abilities
Every hero and some elite zombies have a rage bar underneath their health bar. When this bar is fully filled up, that character can use their special ability by tapping on them (this does not end your turn). Your heroes’ rage bars will fill up when you match tiles that correspond with their color, uses an ability that restores rage, or takes a hit from the enemy
Each hero has a different speed for how fast their rage bar fills up. The more corresponding color tiles you match, the faster the bar fills (especially if you can combo matches together).
Tiles that don’t hit any target (either due to the space being empty or the previously occupying target being dead) provide double rage generation.
Puzzles & Survival: Tips for Puzzle Battles
If you’re desperately trying to recharge a specific hero’s ability, you might want to focus on matching tiles that hit nothing to gain rage more quickly. This is especially useful on challenging stages where you want to recharge all of your heroes’ abilities before proceeding to the next round (especially if the next round has a boss enemy). Simply leave one enemy alive (preferably to the side) and keep matching tiles in the empty space to quickly generate rage.
Some abilities only affect a handful of targets, so you can tap on a specific enemy to place a crosshair on them to target them specifically with your abilities. This is especially important when dealing with problematic enemies that you want to remove from the fight as quickly as possible.
Sometimes it’s best to hold off on using a hero’s ability immediately. Instead try to charge up multiple heroes and use their abilities in succession on a single turn. Some abilities will provide a buff to your team, so pay attention to the order that you use them in.
As for your enemies, their rage bars fill up a bit each turn and whenever a tile hits them. The more tiles that hit them, the faster their rage bar fills up. This can be problematic, as enemies will immediately use their ability on their turn if their rage bar is full. Plan accordingly if you’re going to trigger a lot of tiles.
Also note that you cannot rely on the appearance of zombie enemies to know what their ability will do. Two identical looking elite zombies can have different abilities, so we suggest pressing and holding down on them to pull up their status window and see what their ability does. Knowing which target you should prioritize is key to winning harder stages.
Puzzles and Survival Campaign Guide
The Campaign is where you’ll be doing the bulk of your Puzzle Battles and obtain materials to increase your heroes’ level cap. There are 3 major features: the Campaign itself, the Ultimate Challenge, and the Prison Trial.
The Main Campaign
The Campaign is broken up into 24 sections, each with a varying number of stages in them. You can challenge these stages by spending 20 AP per attempt (indicated by the lightning bolt bar in the top left corner).
Most stages will contain 3 back-to-back fights with generic zombies and 1-2 boss zombies in the last fight. Typically, only the boss zombies will have rage bars/abilities, but you’ll occasionally encounter grunts with them as well in the later sections.
You can repeat any stage you’ve cleared for additional rewards upon victory. There will inevitably be a point where you get stuck on a stage, so you’ll want to spend your AP on the previous stage to continue accumulating rewards while you build up your strength to continue progressing.
If you don’t have the time to manually re-clear a previous stage (or barely managed to due to difficulty), you can use a Blitz Token to instantly re-clear a completed stage and get rewards. Using one will still consume 20 AP. You can get Blitz Tokens from events and your daily quest boxes. If you consistently play, you’ll have plenty of Blitz Tokens on standby.
Once you beat all 24 sections of the campaign, you’ll unlock a harder version of the campaign. This difficulty increase will be repeated a third and final time when you clear the campaign again.
All enemies in the harder campaign will have higher stats and new passive abilities. However, clearing each stage will also provide you new rewards to level up your heroes even further.
The main reward you’re looking for in the campaign is Combat Manuals. These books are necessary to evolve your heroes and increase their level cap. There are multiple tiers of Combat Manuals, with higher ones available from later stages in the campaign.
Additionally, you can get various speed ups and antiserum from clearing stages. Notably, clearing section 18 will unlock faster Puzzle Battle speed options for free. Just hit the x1 speed button in the top right corner after you unlock the feature.
Stages from the second campaign will reward you with the Combat Manuals needed to upgrade your 5-star heroes to red-star rarity. Stages in the third campaign will reward you with Combat Manuals to increase your heroes’ level cap from 350 to 400.
Typically, you’ll always want to run the highest stage you can clear, as it will drop the most and highest tier books available to you. However, this changes a bit once you unlock the second and third campaign.
The stages from the second and third campaign can only drop their new respective Combat Manuals, but most players mainly need more of the basic ones from the first campaign. As such, it’s usually best to spend your AP on the highest stage from the first campaign if they’re stuck on progressing later on. Plus, only stages from the first campaign can grant Recruit Coins for some reason.
How to Get More AP
AP regenerates at a rate of 1 every 6 minutes, capping out at 120. This regeneration rate cannot be improved. You can also instantly get 10 AP from claiming each of the first three daily quest boxes.
However, AP restoration items exist and can occasionally be obtained from events and tavern recruitment. We recommend using these only during AP-related events, as they’re rather rare/expensive.
This item will give 120 AP and can overflow beyond the 120 limit, so don’t worry about wasting any. Just make sure to use up some AP, so you can continue naturally regenerating more.
Once you clear section 12 of the campaign, a giant blue vortex will appear in the center of the campaign map. This is the Ultimate Challenge (UC), a series of progressively more difficult fights against various heroes and zombies.
Each stage can only be completed once, but will give you substantial rewards. However, some stages will restrict what color heroes you can use. You’ll need to level up multiple teams that can meet the restrictions to make substantial progress in the UC.
Your teams will pretty much have to consist of 5-star heroes (and the occasional 4-star hero to fill in gaps) to clear most levels. This can be rather problematic if you’re lacking heroes of a certain color, so try to evenly fill up your hero roster as much as you can.
Additionally, we strongly suggest only clearing UC levels only when an event focused on obtaining Gear/Module/Chip material is active. Pretty much every UC level awards a substantial chunk of said materials and can contribute greatly to your event score. The 6th Day of Ace Commander is the best, as all materials count towards the event.
This feature is unlocked once you clear the campaign once. The prison is effectively a mini-gauntlet that resets every 3 days. You can only run one level every reset period and clearing it will earn you various materials to level up Nova’s Bioenhancers and unlock the next level once the prison resets.
There are a total of 10 levels, and the goal is to reach the point where you can regularly clear the 10th level completely, as it will provide the most Prison exchange points and provide you with Apex-tier Bioenhancer shards.
Upon entering a level in the prison, you’ll see various rows of hexagon tiles. You can only move forward to a connecting tile, with the goal being to reach the end of the second floor. Each tile contains either a team of random enemy heroes or some beneficial effect to aid you.
- Enemy Team – Broken into three tiers. The higher the tier, the more currency you get for beating them. You can always tap on an enemy team to see what awaits you.
- Yellow – Easy
- Blue – Medium
- Red – Hard (only the final boss of each floor)
- Syringe – Gives you a permanent buff for the rest of your run.
- Medical Kit – Heals all living heroes by 50%
- Defibrillator – Revives one random downed hero, or heals your lowest health hero if none are downed.
- Walkie-talkie – Recruit a temporary high level hero to help you with your run.
- Bard’s Shop – Lets you buy various bioenhancer related items with diamonds.
If you’re not struggling to beat enemy teams, we strongly suggest taking a route that lets you fight as many strong teams as you can to earn as many points as possible.
Important Tips & Info
- You can abandon a fight and run away without penalty 5 times per tile. Make sure to flee and try a fight again if it’s goes extremely poorly or if you lose a crucial hero.
- If you’ve fully completed a Prison level, you can redo it and spend Blitz Tokens to automatically complete any fight except for the boss (red) challenge on each floor.
- You can swap out your heroes before every fight.
- Your heroes’ health carries over between each fight.
- Status effects and rage bars are reset after every fight, so use all abilities before ending a fight (especially healing ones).
- Buffs from syringes only last for one run.
- Prioritize enemy healers and problematic heroes like Agent X to avoid any losses.
After each run, you can take the points/currency you’ve earned and tap on the Exchange in the top right corner of the Prison menu to buy Bioenhancer fragments. We recommend saving your Prison currency solely for Bioenhance Schemes and maybe Organ Stimulants.
Also depending on what time of the week it is, you may want to hold off on doing your prison run for the reset period, until you can verify that there is no event for obtaining Bioenhancer materials. It’d be a shame to do your Prison run and then have a Bioenhancer event start up the next day.
Currently, the following event days are related to Bioenhancers:
- Week 1: Ace Commander Day 5 (Friday), potentially Break Loose (Thurs – Sat)
- Week 2: Glory & Bioenhancer (Friday), potentially Break Loose (Thurs – Sat)
Puzzles & Survival Arena Guide
This is where you come to pit your team of heroes against another player’s team in a Puzzle Battle to the death! There are typically two modes available, with the occasional third mode.
Hero Duel Survival
The first one is ‘Hero Duel Survival’ and is your standard Puzzle Battle against another player’s pre-arranged team of heroes. Most battles come down to a case of who can outlast the other, so it’s important to bring heroes that can heal and nuke down priority targets.
You’ll also have to arrange your own AI-controlled defensive team for when others challenge you. We recommend putting your sturdiest hero in the center of your defensive team and your squishier ones on the side, since most tile matches occur near the center.
Hero Bans & Buffs
Every few days an Emergency broadcast will occur. Certain heroes will be banned from usage, both offensively and defensively. Additionally, some heroes will be buffed with extra stats. Pay attention as some strategies will not work without certain heroes and others become more viable due to the buff.
You can tap on a player’s name from the challenge list to see what their team set up is like. If you really hate all your available options, feel free to hit the “Refresh” button to get a new selection. The refresh is unlimited, so go nuts until you find an ideal matchup. We recommend fighting opponents with a similar or weaker Might score.
You have 3 free daily challenge attempts. Afterwards, you’ll have to use arena challenge tickets to keep fighting. You earn those from your daily quest boxes. We recommend stockpiling them until you’re strong enough to actually contend for a top 1000 ranking.
As for rewards, you earn Arena Surprise Boxes in your bag for each match that contains random speed ups and the occasional 3-star hero Flint fragments. Additionally, you earn medals that can be exchanged in the shop for various useful items. You can claim a daily chunk of medals from the reward tab, based on your ranking.
Hero Duel Glory
The second mode is ‘Hero Duel Glory’. This mode is only available to the top 1000 ranked players in Hero Duel Survival. Here, you’ll have to form 3 teams and fight to win best-of-3 matches. Naturally, you’ll need a lot of really good leveled up heroes to win, but by the time you even qualify for this, you’ll probably know what you’re doing.
The incentive for reaching this point is access to the coveted Troop-type chip for your Gear Factory and plenty of Nova EXP/skill points in the exclusive Glory exchange shop.
Finally, on occasion there’s a week-long ‘Commander Duel’ mode where you engage in troop battles against other players. We suggest switching to your Military talent set before doing this.
You’ll want to set up your strongest specialized formation. In this mode, it’s imperative that you check the other player’s stats before challenging them if you don’t want to go on a losing streak.
The number that indicates their strength only reflects the number of troops they’ve deployed. Battles will mostly come down to who has the higher stat totals in regards to the relevant troop types. If you’re about neck and neck in terms of strength, check if your troop type beats theirs (Shooter > Rider > Fighter > Shooter).
If you do well, you can cash in the reward currency for Diamonds, 5-star Hero Choice Cards, and other valuable resources. However, it’s rather easy to get stuck at a rating where you can’t really beat anyone, so don’t worry too much about this event.
Puzzles & Survival Ruins Challenge
The Ruins can effectively be summed up as a progress meter for how far you’ve progressed in developing your strength in different aspects.
Each day a different challenge will be available. Only the stat boosts from said category will apply to the pre-selected troops you command. For example, if it’s Tuesday, only the stat boosts from your buildings’ glory levels will apply to your troops.
The more you progress in each category, the stronger your troops will become, and the more likely you can clear a floor. You’ll also be able to skip the battle animation once you clear floor 10 of each category.
The game will remember your progress in each category, and on the next day you’ll be able to claim a chest from that category. The higher your progress, the more Ruin points you obtain from the chest.
These points can be used to exchange for a bunch of useful items, primarily chip-related materials, a couple hero frags, and other supplies. Most notably, you can obtain the 5-star hero Eve once you hit certain progression milestones.
While we normally suggest focusing your efforts/resources on upgrading things that boost the stats of your troop specialization, it may be worth investing in your other troop types as well to progress further in the Ruins.
Eventually you’ll reach the point where you earn enough points on a daily basis that you can clear out large chunks of the Ruins Exchange shop on a regular basis.
What You Should Be Doing Daily
Now that we’ve gone over all the other stuff, you should hopefully have an inkling of what everything does. Here are a few more things you should be getting done daily to gain an advantage in the game.
The most important thing to do each day is to get enough daily quests done to claim all 5 daily boxes. These boxes provide a lot of useful supplies such as recruitment coins, speed ups, Blitz Tokens, and sanctuary shields.
The first three reward boxes notably provide 10 AP/Stamina each when you claim them. You may want to hold off on doing so until you need them, such as when a high level player is running back-to-back rallies.
While you won’t be able to get every task done when you first start off, due to some quests requiring certain Sanctuary upgrades, you’ll quickly reach the point where you’re able to obtain every reward box without any issue.
Note: You only need to reach 150 daily quest points in order to claim all the rewards. Occasionally, you’ll have events that offer additional rewards for reach 160 and 180 points respectively. However, you can only reach 175 points max without spending real money.
Use Your Stamina/AP
We can’t stress enough how important it is that you use up these two resources. Besides not wasting any regeneration time, you want to stockpile antiserum and chests from defeating Zombie Lairs (stamina) and constantly obtain Combat Manuals to evolve your heroes (AP).
While you can’t really speed up completing lairs, unless folks are running multiple of them at the same time, you can easily burn through all your AP by using Blitz Tokens to instantly clear stages.
Events are time limited, and some activities can be easily done to claim rewards. Even if you don’t qualify for all of the reward tiers, something is better than nothing.
Normal events are set on an alternating schedule between each week, while holiday events occur at less regular intervals. Holiday events also tend to offer more unique and limited rewards, so make sure to check regularly.
Participate in Alliance Events
There are regularly occurring events that require your Alliance to participate as a group and need to be manually started by an officer.
Typically, most active alliances will send out an in-game message detailing the start times for these events. If you can, try to participate in them, as these events always give some generous rewards.
The main ones that require you to be online at certain scheduled times and actively participating include:
- Defense of the Alliance (DoA)
- Sonic Decoy
- Reservoir War / Alliance Clash
- Alliance Party
Claim Your Free Daily Rewards
In the top right corner, you can tap on both the Mall and Gift Center to claim some free daily rewards.
In the Mall (gift box), tap on Limited Offer and claim your free daily box. It’ll count towards the Purchase Progress Reward and you can claim an additional reward at the 5 and 10 day mark (all for free).
As for the Gift Center (supply chest), tap on it and there will be two free rewards at the top and bottom of the menu. The first one is the Login Gift, which gives you 1 free Timed Recruit Coin each week. The second one is daily Login Box at the bottom of the menu that gives you some resources.
Additionally, if the Wasteland Conquest event has recently ended and the victors declared, you can tap on it to go view the top players. There you can click the thumbs up icon next to the two top players’ names to get a couple small but nice rewards.