Jagged Alliance 3 - Turn Based and Looking Good!

No. You want to assault it. It progresses the main story. The rest of the map you can do what you want though there are easier areas. The Ernie fort is a tutorial style encounter. You need to learn how you are going to approach taking them since you have to take a number as you progress the map. After that I would head to Fleatown and take it in whatever order you want, the Mine first if you are worried about money. So this is where you want to make sure you have enough or the right mercs to do the job. If you are having problems consider hiring Barry, the cheapest explosives expert and disarm the minefield and stealth into the main building and set up an assault from there. There is a broken machine gun you can also repair here that can give you some breathing room as the AI typically won’t run into it’s field of fire. You can also use wirecutters on the rightmost fence to stealth in, though it’s a little more open to getting caught. You will get some money here, not enough to support your entire squad but enough to give you a little breathing room to take the first mine. If your current squad can’t take it consider adding more mercs or attempting to give yourself an advantage with stealth or explosives. Another helpful tip is usually there is at least 1 Rocketman and he can really fuck up your squad so having someone with a long range rifle take him out can make advancing easier. Also, don’t worry about the boss as much as taking care of the numerical advantage they have.

You know what Yoda says about trying!

As zenblack says, before you hit the fortress you want somebody on your first/main squad who is good with Explosives to deal with mines, and someone who is good at Repair to help with all kinds of stuff. (If you take Livewire you’ll also frequently learn where enemies are located, in addition to getting someone with outstanding Repair skills.) And you always want at least one decent sniper on a squad. Meaning you probably want a full squad of 6.

I sent Barry + 2 mercs through the minefield and around the back, while meanwhile Livewire + 2 mercs cut the wire on the left and took the tower with the machine gun on it.

If you recover the MG42 machine gun from the bunker in H3, you can give it to one of the locals in Ernie and it adds a fixed gun emplacement to the map. Then let the enemy build up an assault squad in the fort and attack the town, and you can put one of your mercs on the gun at the start of the fight and the overwatch cone on it should greatly swing things in your favor. At this point, the fort will have the lowest number of defenders possible, so counterattack it. If you have a good explosives expert (like Barry), disarm the mines in the ravine along the side and sneak up the ladder. You can also get to the broken machine gun from here. I’d recommend sneaking a sniper up onto the roof of the main building via the ladders at the back which are conveniently out of sight of most patrols (unless the enemy population is high enough). A great cheap option for this is Kalyna, as her special ability lets her take a shot that ignores armor, which is super duper helpful for the big bad of sector, who is armored up the gills. Also she comes with a good starter rifle which you should modify to add a makeshift suppressor at the earliest opportunity.

Position the rest of your squad to repel enemies charging up the ramp, and you should be set.

How did you clear the rest of the island and leave 3 shields at the base? Dealing successfully with the rest of the island’s problems reduces the base’s strength. But yeah, you generally have to defeat threats instead of going around them and this one in particular is mandatory.

Note by the way that “assault” is virtually never the best choice in this game. If you don’t want to painfully sneak around assassinating enemy troops, just start the battle from some long distance away, perhaps at night, and hang back in cover until they a) kill themselves wandering toward you or b) all collect in a sad little clump you can hit with grenades or other explosives. Both are a bit cheesy, but it’s better than charging towards enemies with guns that work the same way yours do.

Do I have to manually walk my guys around every ‘captured’ sector to locate stuff? See below.

I think maybe I hit (or caused) a bug. I’ve played through several times, trying new things and then quitting. I encountered Bastien in The Rust (in H3) and tried some tactics. Later I reloaded, recruited another merc and then did not find Bastien in H3. In fact, I didn’t find him in any sector and wondered if something went wrong with the game & I captured H3 and I3 without any combat.

IIRC if you leave the sector it will autoloot all the corpses.

Containers and hidden loot need to be manually found. I think you can hold down alt or some key to highlight containers. I thought there was a mod to toggle this but I can’t find it now.

H3 has an exit to a bunker at the back of the camp area adjacent to the graveyard. You need to have one of your mercs interact with it in order to enter, and it will take you to an entirely new (underground) map.

You probably need to encounter him on the arrival sector of Flag Hill to start his questline. If you just run up the hill to talk to the President’s daughter after taking care of the initial enemies, you can miss him because he’s found along a different, if adjacent, area nearby.

I3 has a few quest-related NPCs to interact with, and if you’re just passing through on the world-map you may not realize that there are actually enemies in the sector. IIRC, you can convince one of the NPCs to pull their support for the fort in H4 to reduce it’s defenders.

While I believe every sector has at least one loot item in it somewhere, you can skip searching some of them on the later islands that have nothing more than a container and some medicinal herbs.

But if merc says “hey there’s something here” on first entering, then you should search it carefully for whatever the thing is as it may be some valuable quest thing. The intel you sometimes get from hacking a phone or laptop also reveals everything of interest when you go to the map. And all the sectors on the starting island have points of interest.

I’m not sure if you are aware but those shields mark how difficult the fort will be (how many enemies). Many of the forts have quests or interactions that will allow you to lower them making the fort easier. Forts will also generate patrols that will attack nearby sectors you own, that patrol is worth 1 shield. I don’t think this applies to Ernie Island but you can also lower the shield by getting the intel either from a laptop or a scouting mission in nearby sectors. I have rarely seen there be 0 shields, but I wouldn’t work towards that as 1 shield is doable. In the spoiler tag I’ll detail how to drop the shields for Ernie if you don’t want to spoil yourself so you can check to see if you have done those interactions. You can also mouse hover over shields and sometimes it will give you a clue on how to remove them.

Patrol from the Fort that attacks Ernie that you receive an Email begging to return and defend it. Convincing DeeDee to stop helping the Legion in I3.

That’s what is weird - I have encountered him.

Restored a save with my original 4 mercs:
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Restored an earlier save, hired Grunty and then I capture H3 without incident.

I think I need to restart. First playthroughs are always a learning experience.

I don’t want to affect your playstyle but I do want to say when I saw you had Fidel, Raven and Dr. Q that seems like a pretty high merc upkeep for Ernie Island.

I also want to mention that you don’t have any mercs with the Negotiator or Scoundrel perk. These perks are not only used for their effect but also for NPC conversation benefits. I wouldn’t say they are necessary but it might be a good idea to try to have at least 1 of the 2 for your first play.

Thank you for both replies. I took the 4 mercs based on what the game recommended & I’m going to restart (or mess around with my current game, shooting innocents and each other).

No problem. I’d personally recommend taking Livewire, Barry, at least 1 merc (or your IMP) with Stealth and a Medic. This gives you all the critical skills (Mech, Explosives, Medic) and allows you to have a scout/infiltrator for reasonably cheap then whoever else you’d like. If you didn’t see it the IMP is on the tabs at the top when you are hiring your initial team, make sure to disable the Merc Editor mod before you start the game, you get to completely customize them including a conversation perk and 2 others and no upkeep cost.

Edit: I also said this earlier in the thread but just to help you get your feet under you. You can change the difficulty of the game at any time. One of the effects of the difficulty is your starting cash to hire your first team. So, something you can do to give yourself a boost at the beginning is start on the easiest difficulty, then change it to the normal one after you’ve landed on Ernie. I’m pretty sure this gives you $40,000 to start which will allow you to take 2 week contracts on some of your core without having money anxiety until you hit a main island and go after a mine.

I went with my ridiculously high-statted IMO merc, MD, Livewire, Barry, Grizzly and Buns so as to save money early on. Of those only the IMP guy and Buns had good accuracy to start. By the time I had enough cash to hire high-ranked mercs I didn’t need to because my one squad could defeat all the opposition anyway even though half of them didn’t have great agility or accuracy.

But it doesn’t matter how slow and clumsy you are, you can still do enormous damage with a grenade launcher on your active turn and with reaction fire at close range. So I always bought all the plastique there was so as to make as many grenades as possible.

My weapons were almost exclusively sniper rifles and assault rifles with underslung grenade launchers, with as many as possible fitted with that prism scope that gives a free 3-level aim for the first shot.

I found Fox, Grizzly, Livewire and Barry and Kalyna (weird Ukrainian woman) as my starting lineup for Tutorial Ernie Island. Over time, Fox, Grizzly and Barry stay. They’re great mercs and fit into A and B teams. If money is tight, depending on difficulty, I’d skip Kalyna and Livewire. Much as I like Livewire’s skill for her maphacks, she annoys me and is pretty much delegated to repair duties if anything on C team. Kalyna has potential as a sniper, but again, annoys me, and is relegated to C team.

As far as bang for buck goes, it has to be Ice. Ice can shoot, he can move, he has what it takes to be on some sort of Alpha strike team.

I used Livewire, MD, Barry, Buns and my IMP merc for my initial squad. They are all cheap and have high wisdom which I consider important for the first squad since wisdom affects how fast other stats grow.
My IMP merc had high stats + high leadership and marksmanship and nothing else which made her an awesome stealth sniper.

My second squad was just Fox and Wolf with the sole purpose of training militia and moving items around.

My third squad was Scope, Magic, Scully, Dr Q, Ice and Red for when I had more money than I knew what to do with.

Thanks for all the advice. I restarted (and wasn’t aware of the IMP merc, I guess maybe the email about that shows up a little later) and it’s been far easier with different mercs AND I didn’t run into whatever bug stopped me from finding the MG (and Bastien).

So, I got Marvel’s Midnight Suns for free and I still can’t get into it. Just too campy, guess I’m part of the group of people totally fatigued by Marvel.

So I opened up JA3 and it felt good. Then I was browsing reddit and found this post some of you might find interesting:

Try the modifiers they added in the latest patch on your next game. I got the Ironman achievement and the game still felt way too easy. I started a new hard mode run and turned on the bigger enemy patrols, bad weather and debilitating wounds and the game is absolutely intense.
There have been so many times that I just barely was able to keep my squad together due to lack of funds from constant punishing legion attacks. Had to fire/hire mercs strategically and so many missions are do or die because I’m barely holding on by a thread. I’m forced to enter encounters with broken gear, low ammo and wounded/tired mercs. Have so many missed shots and graze damage. My weapons jam all the time. I’m having a blast.
If you think the game is way too easy on the highest settings definitely give the new game tweaks that the developers added like a month ago a try.