Version 1.8, © 2007, 2008, 2009 by Bill Pringle, all rights reserved.
If you like this FAQ, check out my enemy / item / location cross-reference at http://billpringle.com/games/ffxii_enemies.html
The Gambit System for Final Fantasy XII allows a player to configure their characters to behave in a sophisticated manner. Behavior can be customized to match a player's personal style (mostly fighting, mostly magic, stealing, etc.) When configured properly, the player can spend time watching the fight rather than mashing buttons, while the characters do pretty much the same thing as when the player is controlling that character. Each character will perform according to their gambit settings, which can be changed during fights, if necessary.
It is important to realize that the gambit system is optional. You can play the entire game by controlling each character manually, if you want. (Of course, if that were the case, you probably wouldn't be reading this document. ;^) Also, even while using the gambit system, you can manually control any (or all) character and have them do things different than what they would have done through the gambit system.
This document describes the Gambit System for Final Fantasy XII. In addition to how it works, some tips and suggestions are given to help the reader configure the AI of their parties to match the player's fighting style.
This page can be found in two forms: an HTML (web) page at http://BillPringle.com/games/ffxii_gambits.html, and as a text file on GameFAQS. The HTML page will probably be updated more often, and tend to be the latest version. The HTML web page will include hyperlinks, so you can click on a link to find the appropriate section. The text file was created by the FireFox browser, which inserts hyper-links inside angle brackets (<like-this>). To find that location with a text editor, use the search feature to find the target name in square brackets ([like-this]). The link inside angle brackets will always start with a pound sign (#), indicating that the target is on the current page. The square brackets won't have that pound sign. For example, to find the target of link <#intro>, search for [intro].
If you find any problems and/or have any questions, you can e-mail me at email@example.com. Make sure you have "Final Fantasy Gambits" in the subject. I get a lot of spam, and will delete things without looking at them if I don't recognize the sender and the subject line doesn't stand out as legit (for example, a message with a subject of "a question" will probably get deleted without me looking at it.)
You might also find my FAQ on what items can be obtained from enemies at what locations useful. This can be found in HTML format at http://billpringle.com/games/ffxii_enemies.html as well as a text file on GameFAQs.
You can have up to three characters in your active party, and possibly a guest who you can't control. One of the characters must be the party leader. If you press the Triangle button to bring up the menu, then select "Party", you can move characters into (left) or out of (right) the party. If you move the party leader out of the party, then the top character that is still in the party will be the new leader. You can also switch party leaders when walking around by pressing up or down on the D-pad, then moving up or down to select a new leader.
If you press the X button, the battle/field menu for the party leader appears. By pressing left or right on the D-pad you can select a different character to control. Your options are:
If the character is in the process of performing an operation and you select a different option for that character, they will either finish the current operation and queue the action you selected, or will interrupt the current operation and begin the action you selected instead. (It depends on how far along in the cycle they are, but if you select the same operation they are performing, the new action will always be queued.)
Each character has a number of gambit slots that can be programmed as desired. Each slot has a target (and possibly a condition), and an action. The target could be an ally or a foe. The condition for a target can refer to various aspects of the target, and the action can be a magic spell, a technique, or an item. For example, one possible target is: "Foe: flying", that will only be performed if one of the foes is a flying enemy. Another target is "Ally: status=slow", which is true only if one of the characters in the active party have been afflicted with "slow."
If the target of a gambit exists (including any conditional), and the action "makes sense", then the gambit can be performed. For example, if the action heals a condition, then the gambit only makes sense if the target has the condition.
Each character loops through the gambit steps until it finds one that can be performed. After the gambit action is performed, the character begins at the top of the gambit steps again. If no gambit condition is met, then the character does nothing, and it starts back at the top of the list again. Each character continues to loop through their gambits until you enter a town.
Here is a sample gambit setup:
|2||Ally: Any||Phoenix Down|
|3||Ally: HP < 40%||Curaga|
|4||Foe: Party leader's target||Attack|
And here is an explanation of the setup:
No more than one gambit is performed for each cycle, so the order of the gambits is very important. For example, if the attack gambit was at the top of the list, then even if the rest of the party was dead, this character would keep attacking the same enemy. Only after the current target is dead would the other gambits even get looked at. (If everyone else is dead, then this character would be the party leader, which means it would keep attacking the current target. Once that foe was dead, the party leader wouldn't be targeting any foe, so the other gambits would be considered.)
The License System is another innovation in FF XII. The Sphere Grid in FF X allowed characters to learn new skills or enhance their stats, but it was fairly linear. Except for Khimari, most characters had a specific set of skills that they would learn in a specific order. It would be silly to skip activating any node, since it would be hard to come back later and activate it. Later in the game, you could break some locks and allow a character to wander into another area, but for the most part, you simply enabled all the nodes you encountered.
The License Board allows the player to pretty much customize each character in whatever way they want. Each time you defeat an enemy, you gain license points. Each square on the license board has a cost; if you have enough license points, you can purchase that cell, which gives you to skill, spell, stat enhancement, etc. associated with that square. You can only purchase squares adjacent to squares you have already purchased, so there is some amount of control, but since similar skills, spells, etc. are grouped together, you can progress in a fairly normal way (e.g., Shields 1, Shields 2, etc.)
Early in the game, you need to be careful and make sure you buy the licenses that you need the most. All characters have the same license board, although there are a few cells that, when one character enables the cell, it is removed from the boards of all the other characters. One such type of cell are the mist cells, and the other are the espers.
While only the active party gains experience points, all characters earn license points. The more time you spend wandering around and fighting enemies, the more experience and license points you gain. The experience points vary among different types of foes, but the number of license points for most enemies is about the same, regardless of the enemy. Early in the game, almost all foes will be one license point, but later on you will encounter some with two license points. Bosses and espers are more. So, if you want to gain license points, you can wander around some easy areas, take out monsters with one or two swings, and rack up license points fairly quickly. When you get a Golden Amulet, then the character who has it equipped with get double the number of license points. I would have Golden Amulets on my inactive characters, and Embroidered Tippets (which doubles experience) on the active characters.
There are a number of different kinds of license cells. Which ones you want depend on what kind of strategy you tend to use, and how you plan on using each character. If you plan to use magic for a character, then you want to purchase mist charges, even if you never plan on using any quickenings. Each mist charge allows you to increase your MP by your max MP. If you have one mist charge, you double your MP; if you have two charges, you triple your MP. You can have up to three charges, which means you would quadruple your max MP.
If you like to level up like I do, and if you keep your parties evenly balanced (contrary to the official guide), you will want to eventually purchase all the licenses. It doesn't make sense to purchase a license for items that you don't have yet. If you want a license but don't have enough points, you can go back to the early sections of the game and wander around taking out enemies with one or two hits. Once you have racked up enough license points, you can buy the license and go back to where you left off.
Decide which licenses you want to purchase early in the game, and then buy the other ones later. By the end of the game, you will have purchased all the licenses available on the board for all characters.
Each gambit consists of a target, possibly with a conditional, and an action. This section identifies the various gambit targets.
Ally gambit targets apply to the current party.
These gambits allow a character to perform actions upon him/her self under certain conditions.
These gambits can target various foes under certain conditions.
The actions associated with any gambit can be using an item, casting a spell, or performing a technique. The first time you obtain an item, it will be added to the list of possible gambit actions. Likewise, once a character purchases a magic spell, the use of that spell gets added to the list of possible actions. Finally, once you have a technique available, it is available as a gambit action.
Since I first posted this FAQ, I have been getting a fair amount of e-mail asking when and where gambits become available. Where is an easy question to answer - once a gambit is available, it is available at all shops. This section explains the earliest you should be able to get a gambit. It is possible that you can find some gambits earlier than I have listed, since you can sometimes find gambits inside treasure chests. (What you find in a chest can be one of several possibilities.)
When setting up gambits, try to envision what you want the various characters to do in given situations, and then set up the gambits to mimic your strategy. Next, you should get into a number of easy fights and pay attention to what each character does. Are they doing what you think they should be doing? If not, then find out why and adjust the gambits.
Once you think you have your gambits in good shape, you are ready to try some harder battles. If you are using a good strategy, you should be able to sit back and watch a boss fight, and only need to pick up the controller when things get too far out of hand. I was able to beat a number of bosses without ever touching the controller. Some people might think that takes all the fun out of the game, but the characters were doing the same thing I would have commanded them to do if I weren't using gambits. This way, I'm able to keep an eye out for the big picture. Often when I'm in the middle of a fight, I'm looking around to see where I want to go after this fight is over.
When setting up gambits, divide them into the following segments:
The high priority gambits should be at the top of your list, followed by the battle actions, and finally the post-battle recovery actions. It is important to remember that each character cycles through the gambits. The first one it finds that matches the current situation, it will excecute that gambit and start the next cycle at the top of the list. So the order of the gambits should reflect your priorities. Anything above the attack gambits should be super-high priority.
For your fighters, the only gambits that should be above the attack gambits would be gambits to revive falled allies (probably with a Phoenix Down if you have plenty), and maybe a high cure (like Curaja) if any ally is HP Critical. For your support characters, you probably want to have more spells to heal or fix status ailments. What I usually do is have two support characters, but one with primary responsibility for healing, and the other to normally fight, but heal whenver HP drops too far. My main healer would cast Cure around HP<70%, and the backup would cast a Curaga at around HP<40%. Further in the game, you will want to change these to Curaga for the main healer and Curaja for the backup healer. (The reasoning being that if the HP of a character dropped well below the threshold for the main healer, you probably want to take more drastic actions.
This approach causes the enemies to concentrate on the party leader, while the other members provide backup and only attack when the targetted character is in good condition.
The gambits for the party leader could be:
|3||Foe: Party Leader's target||Attack|
|4||Foe: Nearest visible||Attack|
The other characters could have the following gambits:
|5||Foe: Party Leader's target||Attack|
Notice that both sets of gambits start the same way: to raise any fallen allies.
The party leader puts him/herself into decoy status and then attacks the enemy. If one of the other characters die, then he/she will revive them, but otherwise he/she will continue to attack.
The back-up characters make sure that everyone (especially the party leader) is in good health. As long as the party leader is in decent health, the backup characters will attack. As soon as his/her health drops to 70%, they will resuming healing.
Notice that both backup characters have the same gambits, which mean they will often be doing the same thing. You can change this a bit by reversing gambits #3 and #4 so that if the party leader is both below 70% and has a status anomaly, each character will be working on a different problem. Another approach is to have each backup character heal different status ailments, and possibly use different HP levels for cure spells.
If both characters are casting "curaga" because the party leader is less than 40%, as soon as the first character casts their spell, the HP of the party leader will increase. If the new HP is above 40%, the second character will cancel their spell, since the gambit condition is no longer true.
After the fight is over, the characters will continue to cure everyone until everyone is at 100% HP.
This approach works best if you are attacking a single enemey, and the two backup characters are using long-range weapons. (Vaan, Balthier, and Fran with their default weapons are good examples) The party leader should have a melee weapon, and keep up close to the enemy. That way the backup characters stay out of harm's way.
If the party leader gets killed, you might have to pick a different leader (depending on how quickly he/she is raised). If that happens, as soon as the original party leader is revived, make him/her the party leader again. The party leader will cast Libra (which makes traps and extra targetting information visible) whenever it times out. If it times out during a fight, the character will wait until after the fight before it casts it again.
This approach is tricky, but can make difficult battles fairly easy if you can pull it off. The status of reverse does the opposite of what is normal: attacks heal the party member, and restorative items/spells give damage. Part of the problem is that the reverse status doesn't last that long, and so if you aren't paying attention, those hits can change from healing to killing the party member off before you notice it.
You probably want to cast both reverse and decoy on the party member. You also want to make sure that the healing gambits of the other members are turned off, or changed from Ally: HP<X% to Self: HP<X%. If you have enough money, use Phoenix Down instead of casting Raise, which will take less time.
If done correctly, the enemy will concentrate on the party member who has decoy and reverse, which means the other party members can attack without receiving damage. Each attack on the character with Reverse will actually heal the decoy, which means they will probably be at 100% HP during the entire battle (or until Reverse wears off.) You want to cast reverse (and decoy) as soon as they wear off. You can do that with a gambit for the specific character. For example, if you decide to try this with Vaan, the other party members can have gambits like: Ally: Vaan / Reverse and Ally: Vaan / Decoy, or add "Self / Reverse and Self / Decoy to the decoy's gambits.
The following set of gambits can maximize the amount of money you accumulate. Remember to equip Thief Cuffs if you have them to increase how much stuff you steal from enemies.
The party leader could have the following gambits:
|2||Foe: Party Leader's target (normally turned off)||Attack|
|3||Foe: Party Leader's target||Steal|
|4||Foe: Nearest visible||Steal|
I normally have gambit #2 turned off, which causes the party leader to steal instead of attack. For weaker enemies, this doesn't matter much because you will probably only get one chance to steal, since your other party members will finish the enemy off before you get a second chance to steal. For a harder boss, I will manually control the party leader by clicking the "X" button to perform attacks after they have stolen an item from the enemy, or turn on gambit #2. I generally only turn gambit #2 on for boss fights or really hard enemies, since it is easier to click "X" a few times than to turn a gambit on and off.
If you are more interested in money than experience, you can use the following gambits:
|2||Foe: HP Critical||Poach|
|3||Foe: Party Leader's target||Steal|
|4||Foe: Nearest visible||Steal|
The difference here is that when the HP of the foe becomes critical, the party leader will attempt to poach, which results in more money but at the cost of no experience.
Make sure at least one party members continues to attack instead of poaching. Some enemies are immune to poaching, and your party can get killed off if they continue to poach instead of attacking.
The following gambits can be used by one of the backup characters (probably your weakest fighter or your best magic caster). Their purpose will be to lower some stat of an enemy: either the defence, the magic defence, or the strength of the enemy. Which one you want to use depends on the nature of the enemy.
You probably want to limit this type of setup to a boss. For normal types of enemies, you would be better off having everyone participate in the attack.
|4||Foe: Party Leader's target||Expose, Shear, or Wither|
With the above gambits, the character will continue to hit the current enemy with whatever weakening technique was chosen. Remember that you can change gambits even during a fight, so you can let this character switch attacks at various times. For example, some bosses have times when they are impervious to physical or magic attacks. When this happens, you can switch the weakening attack as well as the actual attack from the other party members.
If you have extra gambit slots, you can set up three slots for Expose, Shear, and Wither. Turn off all but the type of attack you want. If you want to use a different attack, then turn off the one you were using and turn on the one you want.
You can use a "Foe:" gambit to control when to weaken and when to attack. For examaple:
|4||Foe: HP>50%||Expose, Shear, or Wither|
|5||Foe: Party Leader's target||Attack|
The above gambit setup assumes that there is only one enemy during the fight. If there were more than one enemy, you run the risk of the backup character weakening one foe, with the rest of the party attacking a different foe. You could get around this by making the caster your lead character, so that the others will attack whoever the leader is weakening.
There are times when you may want to fight two different sets of enemies at the same time. This often happens when you are trying to take out a boss who has a group of minions that keep getting in your face. Sometimes it is best to simply ignore them and concentrate on the boss, but if the minions keep being generated, they can eventually overwhelm your party
In times like this, you might want to divide your forces: two party members can concentrate on the boss, while the third member is responsible for the majority of the support (cure, esuna, etc.) and the minions. There should always be a way to determine within the gambits which foes a character should attack. Since all party members should have the first attack gambit defined as: Foe: Party leader's target, as soon as you target the boss with the main character, the second character will concentrate on the boss.
To have a third party member concentrate on a different foe, determine how best to distinguish the other foe. If this is a boss fight with minions, then probably the easiest gambit would be: Foe: Lowest HP, which would almost never be the boss (unless the fight is almost over.) Notice that if there are no minions around, the third character will attack the boss, since it would have the lowest HP, but as soon as a new minion is generated, they would attack the minion. If the HP of the boss is lower than the HP of the minion, you probably want to finish off the boss instead of messing around with the minion.
If you have Libra turned on, you can target the different foes and come up with distinguishing features, such as flying, weak against some elemental, lowest Max HP/MP, etc. This can be useful if there are different types of minions, and you want to take them out in a specific order. Don't forget to reset your gambits after the battle. If you notice that the party isn't functioning the same any more, check out the gambits and see if there are any are left over changes you forgot about. Also remember that you can change gambits on the fly during a battle. This means that if one approach isn't working, or if conditions have changed, you can tweak the settings to have to party perform the way you intended.
A good example of the advantages of this approach is when you are hunting Roblon. He is surrounded by a number of Dead Bones that keep getting regenerated on a regular basis. If you ignore the Dead Bones, you will quickly get overwhelmed. For this fight, I found that it was best to have the leader of the party with Foe: Lowest HP / Attack and have the rest of the party with Foe: Party leader's target. Although this means you are often not fighting Roblon, it works out pretty well since you keep the distractions down, and you will get a pretty good chain going, and end up healing the party fairly often. An alternative approach is to have one of your backup characters with a Foe: Lowest HP / Attack followed by Foe: Party leader's target / Attack. This means your backup character will attack any small minions that get created, and then attack the boss. Notice that when the boss gets very weak, the backup character will concentrate on the boss instead of the minnions if they are stronger than the boss.
Remember that you can always override any character's actions by clicking on "X", navigating to the character, and then inputting a command directly. Usually this will cancel whatever the character was doing, but if you wait too long, it might queue it up for the next command.
This section contains a collection of suggestions on how to get the most out of your game.
Your party consists of three people. While you can combine characters in any way, and let any character be the party leader, if you keep changing party configurations you will have to keep switching gambits. Depending on how long it takes you to configure a new set of gambits, it might be best to have more stable party configurations.
I had two groups that I pretty much always kept together. The first party was Vaan, Balthier, and Fran. The second party was Basch, Ashe, and Penelo. Vaan and Penelo were the two leaders, and both were configured for stealing instead of attacking:
|1||Foe: Party leader's target||Steal|
|2||Foe: Nearest visible||Steal|
|3||Ally: HP < 100%||Cure|
Vaan and Penelo use a sword and a shield, and once they steal something, I take over and keep hitting "X" to attack instead of steal. (I only have to do that for the stronger foes, since the weaker ones are usually taken out before the leaders can make a second attack.) I also use the leaders to perform anything out of the ordinary, like casting dispel on the enemy. Most of the time, I just let the gambits control the actions of the group. It is only for bosses or if I'm in a hurry that I will take over the leader. For bosses, I will usually go in and change the gambit from steal to attack and then let the gambits take over again.
Balthier uses a gun, and Fran uses a bow, and both have a number of support gambits to heal and cure status problems before actually fighting. Ashe uses a one-handed weapon and a shield, while Basch uses a two-handed weapon and is normally in beserk mode.
The advantage of the first party is that Fran and Balthier tend to stay out of harm's way, even if Vaan doesn't use decoy. This party has taken out bosses without me needing to even touch the controller (except for changing steal to attack). The second party, however, tends to clear out enemies quicker, especially if they are set up to also cast haste on Basch (or hastega for everyone). I keep switching between the two parties to make sure they both stay at about the same level. Once the first party gets two levels ahead of the other, I will switch parties until they are all the same level, and then switch back to the first party again. The official strategy advises against this: it claims once you get to a high level, you should abandon one of the parties and concentrate on one. I don't care for that approach, but if you are in a hurry to finish the game, then that might be the way for you.
Once you get Golden Amulets, make sure they are at least on the inactive party members. This is because the inactive members gain licence points, but don't gain experience points. If you have Embroidered Tippets, then equip them on the active party, which will cause them to level up much faster (twice as fast, to be exact). I generally let one party gain one or two levels and then swap them out for the other party. I swap the embroidered tippets and golden amulets between the active and inactive party. (After they learn all the licenses, I just keep the embroidered tippets on them.) This way, all characters are within a level or two of the others.
The advantage of having two parties at about the same level is that if your party gets wiped out, you can switch to the other party and continue the fight. When that happens, I have one party member cast raise (or arise if available) on the inactive party members and maybe give them ethers. Using this approach, if the backup party also gets taken out, I can keep swapping parties until I either win or escape.
Since my two parties use different fighting strategies, I have found that certain parties work better for some bosses than the other. It isn't simply that one party is stronger or better than the other, but rather that one approach works better for certain enemies than the other. This is the advantage of keeping both parties at about the same level – you can swap them out whenever you need to. If one party isn't making much progress, try the other party.
You might be tempted to have everyone using the strongest weapons that are available, but that isn't always the best approach. It is important to understand how the various weapons behave in order to make an intelligent decision about what mix to use. For example, some heavy weapons like axes and hammers have a very high attack power, but they tend to be slower, frequently miss, and tend not to combo very often. A weapon with less attack power may get multiple hits, which means the total damage per turn is more than the other weapon. Some weapons have a wide variation in the amount of damage. For example, hand bombs might do a lot of damage or almost no damage; you never know for sure. Watch how much damage each character inflicts and then try changing weapons and see what changes to the amount of damage appear.
For distance weapons, I tend to have Balthier and Fran use guns and bows. Guns tend to be weaker than bows, but guns ignore the defense of the enemy, which means that for enemies with high defense, a gun will do more damage than a bow. Both weapons keep the character away from the enemy, so the amount of damage those characters take tends to be lower.
The other thing you want to pay attention to is the elemental effect of any weapons. For example, if you have a weapon with a fire elemental, and if the enemy absorbs fire, you might have one of your characters actually healing the enemy each time while the others are inflicting damage. For that reason, I tend to use weapons and ammo that either have no elemental effect, or inflict things like poison, slow, etc. Pay attention to how much damage each character is doing. If a character isn't doing much damage, try changing to another type of weapon, or one with a different elemental attribute. (Again, this is why the gambit system is so nice - you have time to watch what is going on instead of mashing buttons.)
Every character should have licenses for at least one distance weapon. When you encounter flying foes, short-ranged weapons don't do much good until you get telekenisis, which is quite late in the game. When you upgrade Fran or Balthier, don't sell their older weapons, so that they will be available for the other party members.
You can hit the triangle button during a battle and get into the menu system. At that point, you can change the equipment and/or the gambits for any character. You can also go into the License board and purchase any squares that are needed to equip a particular weapon or accessory, or to perform a magic spell or technique.
The gambits system allows you to take more time looking at the battles, since you aren't mashing buttons all the time. Keep an eye out for signs of problems. For example, if you notice the enemy gets healed every so often during a battle, check to make sure that one of your characters doesn't have a weapon with an elemental that the enemy absorbs. If one character seems to be doing very little damage, consider changing what type of weapon they are using, or switch them to casting expose or shear to help increase the damage caused by the other characters. The weaker of the two backup characters should have the primary responsibility for healing, but that might change depending on the foe. For example, I normally have Ashe doing most of the healing since Basche is such a good fighter. However, if I am fighting a flying enemy, I give Ashe a bow and let her fight, and have Bashe doing most of the healing. This is because Bashe is slow and will often miss a flying foe. (The way you change healing assignments is to change the healing thresholds. If one character has Ally: HP<70% / Cure and another has Ally: HP<50% / Cure, then the first one will do most of the healing. To switch them, swap the two thresholds.)
If you have Libra turned on, then take manual control of the party leader and target the current enemy. See if it has some kind of weakeness; if so, then change the attack of your high magic characters to match the weakness, or equip a weapon with the matching elemental affect for your fighters.
If you have all characters with the "Foe: Party Leader's target" gambit, you can easily change the focus of the fight by manually taking control of the party leader and attacking whatever enemy you want to target next. As soon as the party leader targets a foe, the rest of the party will concentrate on that enemy.
Another trick is to change accessories at the last minute. During a hard battle, you should equip accessories that counter whatever status effects the enemy casts. Just before you defeat the enemy, switch out their accessories for either Golden Amulet or Embroidered Tippet, which doubles the LP or EXP gained.
One of the nice features of this game is that the game isn't over until all of your characters have been killed. Not just your active party, but all characters. If your entire active party is killed, you will be asked to change your party configuration.
If your active party dies, switch to your other party. As soon as the fight resumes, take control of one the party members and cast "Raise" or "Arise" for each of the original party members. (Press R1 to target the backup party.) If you use your party leader, make sure they target an enemy before doing this so that the other members will attack, and then keep away from the enemies so that your party leader doesn't take damage. Basically, you want the other characters to keep the enemy busy while you are reviving the original party.
Once the other party is alive again, you can either continue to attack with your current party, or switch back to your original party. I tend to stay with the other party, since the two have different fighting styles sometimes one group will tend to do better than the other for a given situation.
Once you get the arise spell, things get extremely easy, since your other party will be totally restored with all their HP and MP.
The order in which you arrange the gambits is very important. It is very easy to arrange gambits so that some of them will never be selected. It is also possible that you can end up getting killed off because you arranged the gambits in the wrong order.
For example, suppose you want to keep your party healthy, and decide to cast "Cure" when a character gets below 90% HP. However, if a character takes a lot of damage, you might instead want to cast "Curaga" if the character is below 30%. Suppose you set up the following gambits:
The wrong order:
|1||Ally: HP < 90%||Cure|
|2||Ally: HP < 30%||Curaga|
There is a serious problem with the above arrangement: the second gambit will never be selected. Remember that the first gambit with a valid condition will be executed, and then starts at the top of the list again. Suppose a character is at 70% HP. Since 70% is less than 90%, gambit 1 will be executed. However, if the character is at 20% HP, that is still less than 90%, so gambit 1 will be executed again. Gambit #2 will never be executed, and your character will probably die, since this character will only cast "Cure" even when you want them to cast "Curaga".
The correct order:
|1||Ally: HP < 30%||Curaga|
|2||Ally: HP < 90%||Cure|
Now, if a character is at 70% HP, the condition for gambit #1 is false, so gambit #2 is executed. Since 70% is less than 90%, gambit #2 is executed. However, if the character is down to 20% HP, the condition for gambit 1 is true, so the character will cast "Curaga."
Here is another example:
The above arrangement will help you save MP. If another member of the party is Silenced, this character will cast Vox to cure them. Likewise, if a character is poisoned, this character will cast Poisona to cure them. The Esuna spell will cure a wide variety of status ailments, including silence and poison, but it also costs a lot more than the more specific spells. This means that you can save MP by casting Vox instead of Esuna to cure Silence.
Notice, however, if you had the above gambits in a different order, things wouldn't work quite right. If Vox or Poisona appeared after Esuna, it will never get cast, since the character would cast Esuna instead. However, if you are fighting a foe that casts something like bad breath, which has a large variety of status ailments, then you probably want to move Esuna to the front of the list (or temporarily turn off the Vox and Poisona gambits) so that your backup characters don't spend a lot of time casting individual corrective spells. Just remember to restore the gambits to their original configuration when that fight is over.
A more subtle problem appears below. Suppose you want to make a lot of money, so you try to poach whenever possible. (You can poach a foe who is down to critical HP. You finish off the foe and get some loot, even if you have stolen loot from the enemy earlier.) Before doing this, you should remember that when you poach a foe, you don't get any experience or license points.
This gambit setup has problems:
|1||Foe: HP Critical||Poach|
|2||Foe: Party Leader's target||Attack|
There are two problems with the above setup: (a) some enemies are immune to poach, and (b) stronger foes can be in HP Critical, but still have too much HP to poach.
If either of the above conditions are true, then this character will never kill such an enemy. They will continue to try to poach the foe, and continue to fail. My party got killed once while fighting a mark when I was distracted and doing something else (not related to the game). I looked up and was surprised to find the entire party dead! Fortunately, after I swapped in the second party, I realized what was wrong and corrected it. Make sure that at least one of your characters keeps attacking.
A similar problem appears in the gambits below:
|1||Foe: HP < 10%||Attack|
|4||Ally: HP < 50%||Curaga|
|5||Foe: Party Leader's target||Attack|
The idea with the above gambit setup is that if a foe is almost dead, have everyone pile on until it is dead, and then go back to the normal routine of heal and attack. The reason is that if you hurry up and kill a weakened enemy, you reduce the amount of damage your party will receive, since you have one less enemy attacking. (It has never seemed fair to me that an enemy that is on its last breath will still hit you with the same damage as when they are at 100%.)
The above gambit works great most of the time. The problem, however, comes when you are up against a boss, or any other foe with a huge amount of HP. For normal foes, it doesn't take long to do away with 10% of their HP. However, you can have the boss below 10% HP, and it could still be a long time before you defeat it. During that time, other party members could easily get killed off if you aren't paying attention.
An easy solution to the above situation is that, when facing a boss, simply go into the Gambit systems for your characters and turn gambit #1 off. After the boss fight is over, go back in and turn it on again.
While most of the time you will be controlling the party leader and the other party members will follow, there are times when you want to control a different character other than the party leader. For example, if your party is working on a given enemy, and a minor foe wanders into the battle. Many times you can ignore them and concentrate on the main foe, but sometimes you want to get rid of the distraction. If you attack the other foe with the party leader, then everyone else will follow suit, and that might give the boss a chance to regenerate or perform a strong attack. Instead, you can take control of one of the back-up characters (press the X button, then move left or right on the D-pad to select the character.) and have them attack the other enemy. This will allow the other characters to continue to fight the main enemy.
Another situation when you might want to take control of the other party members is when you are fighting a boss that does a lot of status effects. If you aren't careful, your party might spend most (if not all) of its time healing and curing status ailments, but not spend much (if at all) time actually attacking the boss. One possibility is to change the gambits by turning off the status cures, and dropping the HP thresholds for healing, or you might want to simply control each character for that fight. This is quite similar to previous FF games that didn't have the gambit system.
This section describes how I used gambits to take down certain bosses. In most cases, the gambits completely controlled the characters. The only manual intervention involved performing the Nihopalaoa and Remedy trick, and stealing an item from the boss. My actual gambits also included healing and restoring gambits like "Ally: Any / Esuna" and "Ally: HP<60% / Cura."
At the start of most battles, I would use the Nihopalaoa / remedy trick, steal whatever was available, and then let the gambits take over. I would monitor the battle, looking for signs of trouble. For example, if an enemy getting healed every so often - does somebody have a weapon with an elemental that the enemy absorbs? If somebody doesn't seem to be doing much damage, experiment by equipping a different weapon and seeing the results.
On rare occassions, I will swap out characters. Normally, I keep the two teams separate, but for example when fighting Giglamesh, I happened to have a team made up of my lowest characters at the time: Vaan, Basch, and Ashe. Basch wasn't doing much damage and of course was as slow as usual, so I swapped him out for Penelo. The result was a very powerful team of hard hitters: Ashe had the Zodiac Spear, Vaan had Save the Queen, and Penelo had Defender. I manually used the remedy trick and stole during each stage of the second fight with Giglamesh in Site 7. When he was immune to physical fights, I changed the gambits to cast something like Darkra or Expose until he could be hit with physical damage. During most of the fight, the controller sat on my lap while reading the battle log to see what was going on.
This boss spawns small undead minions (Shambling Corpses) periodically. They aren't that strong, but if you ignore them for too long, they can become a serious problem. The approach I used was to have the party leader concentrate on the boss, and have the backup characters take care of any minnions if they appeared. You can use this approach for many similar situations.
The gambits for the party leader:
|2||Foe: Party Leader's target||Attack|
While the backup characters have these gambits:
|2||Foe: lowest maximum HP||Attack|
|3||Foe: Party Leader's target||Attack|
The backup characters attack minnions as they appear. When there are no minnions, they will attack the boss.
I also used this set up for Zeromus with the twist of having to use items, since magic was sealed. In the case of Zeromus, I kept using Quickenings, and because of all the fighting, was able to build up a big chain and restore all my magic for several rounds of Quickenings. I set up the party leader with an extra gambit to attack the lowest HP enemy. I'm not sure that was necessary, but it helped clear out the minnions.
This boss if a twist on the previous one. You have a strict time limit, and the boss is invulnerable while any minnions are present. In this case, all three party members had the same gambits:
|2||Foe: lowest maximum HP||Attack|
With this set up, everyone attacks the boss until a minnion is spawned. Once that happens, the characters finish their current attack on the boss and attacks a minnion. If somebody else took it out they continue to attack the boss. Depending on how the game matches gambits with enemies, it is possible that each character might be attacking a different enemy, which is probably better and would probably take less time than everyone piling onto each minnion and moving on to the next.
This is a long fight, but except for the last part of the battle, your normal gambits will work pretty well. It frequently casts Blind, so using Eye Drops helps save on Remedy and Esuna. Make sure all three characters use Phoenix Down when an ally falls. We had Penelope, Ashe, and Basch as the main party. Ashe was set up for magic and did most of the healing. Penelope and Basch were set up for fighting.
Zodiark casts Darkja often, and it frequently takes out one or more characters. For this reason, buffs don't help, since they go away the next time the character is killed. We had Ashe casting Bravery, but took that off because she was spending too much time doing that and missed healing in time to save a character.
At the last part of the battle, Zodiark is immune to physical attacks, and has Reflect. The official guide suggests using Dispel, but Split Infinity says not to, so I listened to him. What I did was put an Opal Ring on and changed the gambit from attack to Scathe. The Opal Ring causes spells to ignore the Reflect status. Scathe does significant damage, which shortens the last part of the battle.
The fighters would have the following gambits.
|1||Ally: Any||Phoenix Down|
|4||Foe: Party Leader's target||Attack|
|5||Foe: Party Leader's target||Scathe|
When Zodiark is immune to physical damage, turn off gambit 4 (Attack) so that gambit 5 (Scathe) will be used instead. Since the fighters would likely miss an attack when blind, it makes sense to have them heal themselves. That way, the healer can concentrate on keeping the party alive and healthy.
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