Ingress startup guide

This is a page outlining some basic information and a noob’s strategy guide for Ingress, the Augmented Reality Game. You might be here because you have friends or coworkers playing, or because you got the game yourself and it’s a little overwhelming, or even because you’re creeped out by the groups of people hovering around statues, churches or other public places, eyes down in their smartphones, talking strange code about deploying and destroying. Rest assured, it’s all in good fun.

What is Ingress

The skinny is that Ingress is a massively multiplayer, Augmented Reality Game built by a subdivision of Google, Inc. called Niantic Labs. It is an Android app that can be downloaded off Google Play, and the game is played on smartphones and tablets (though phone use is much more frequent, which is why I will be referring only to phones from now on.) Some people say it is akin to Foursquare, or a sort of Capture the Flag game where players are supposed to be at certain places in the real world to do certain actions and earn points. Group play is encouraged, and while the game is global and active players exist all over the world, true global play is not possible at this point, and activity is more regional, with smaller groups that roughly represent cities, regions and countries at the most.

The game has a compelling science fiction back story and a thought-out, almost movie-like plot, beautifully represented through snippets of information, videos and media on the Niantic site 1) The basic story is summarized below, and gameplay is possible without knowing the full lore available on the niantic project site.

The game is available as a Play Store download here. Android only, as of February 2014, though rumors are it will be available for iOS at some point in the future.

The intel site is here.

The story

In 2012 a new type of matter was discovered, called Exotic Matter or XM. The properties of XM are not fully understood yet, but it is believed that it enhances sensibility, creativity and intelligence. It appears into the world in various places (called Portals), and it is believed the portals were seeded by alien beings called Shapers. Humans have not been able to detect it without the aid of technology so XM and the portals were largely unknown before now, though anecdotes and stories pointing to “special places” have led researchers to believe that some people have a special relationship to XM - increased sensitivity, an affinity that helps them recognize - even if unconsciously - that some places are places of power. Thus, it is not a coincidence that most portals are located on or near landmarks - statues, obelisks, tombs, churches and places of worship, places of culture, as people tended to build around the places that inspired them.

The discovery prompted the NIA (National Intelligence Agency) to spawn the Niantic Project secret operation, which aims to explore the new type of matter, its uses and implications for humankind. However, two factions formed - one that calls itself the Enlightened, and aims to harvest and use the new found XM, along with its intelligence affecting properties to further knowledge and advance our society, and one that calls itself the Resistance, and aims to stop the spread of XM around the world as they believe it is used by the Shapers to subtly influence people to their own, nefarious purposes.

Choose sides

Storyline aside, the sides you choose are identical as far as the game is concerned. The Enlightened are displayed in green on the map (portals that belong to them are green, the text is usually green, usernames are green as well), while Resistance portals are blue, and so are the usernames, text, links and fields. Choose wisely, for switching sides is difficult as only one change is permitted and depending on how much you’ve played before changing sides, your former faction might consider you a traitor, while the new one will view you with distrust. Oh, and you have to start from scratch.

Game mechanics

The app (known as the scanner, because it “detects” XM and portals) shows a dark map of the zone the agent is in, without street names. Everything in the game is done on the phone, in the app, except for strategy and planning. That can be done online, through the browser, from the comfort of your home.

The game revolves around three things:

- Portals, which are static “fountains” of XM, located near or on top of statues, theaters, churches, places of public interest usually. They come in three flavors: gray, if they are unclaimed, blue if they belong to the Resistance, and green if they belong to the Enlightened. They can be claimed for your faction, or destroyed if belonging to the enemy.

- Links, which are lines that connect portals from the same faction. Links cannot intersect, which poses some interesting problems related to the best way to link a zone of multiple portals, and which requires planning ahead. Links also strengthen a portal against attacks from the enemy faction.

- Fields, which are created when three portals are connected in a triangle. These fields generate Mind Units, or MU, which is a way of calculating how many people are influenced by the field, and constitute one of the purposes of the game. The faction that controls the most MU will win in the end, as it has swayed the most people to their cause. The agent uses the scanner in the field, as she has to be in physical proximity to the portal in order to take action. Portals can be claimed if gray, or attacked if they belong to the enemy. They can be upgraded if they belong to the player’s faction, and links can be made as long as there are other claimed portals within the originating portal’s reach, and the links don’t cross other links. Every action uses XM, and the scanner has a reserve that starts from 3000 XM and grows by 1000 XM for each new level. XM is replenished from the world, and it is most abundant near portals, though places exist that have XM even without a portal present. Also, most actions generate Action Points (AP) which are accumulated and used to calculate a player’s level.

Again, storyline aside, this game becomes addictive quite fast just because of its simple mechanics. Most players I’ve met try to level up as fast as possible, skipping the story after a while. There is a noob phase during which people care about individual portals, consider them “their own” and enjoy the wonderful feeling of walking around and rediscovering their city. Then the grind sets in, and former noobs start working towards a goal - leveling up. Building links and fields - and, conversely, destroying opposing fields and links generates the most AP, and after a while of grinding on their own, the game becomes social. Meetings take place, plans are formed, and there’s a feeling of communion, of partnership, of conspiracy. The physical part of the game is what keeps people coming out long after they’ve reached max level. It’s fun to play at your PC and talk to people via Teamspeak, but meeting them in real life and working in the actual streets, together, through parks and squares, brings a new dimension to playing what is basically just a computer game. And the whole “faction” with agents in the field employing tactics and working for a common purpose element brings a James Bond vibe to the game that enhances the experience.

General strategy

As outlined before, most people just want to level up quickly. The quickest on record has to be a 28 hour tour-de-force from level 1 to level 8, though it was planned in advance, resources were gathered beforehand and faction help was enlisted. Most people will not be so quick to earn that 8th level. The game experience varies a lot from city to city, from landscape to landscape, depending on portal density, number of players and their level, distribution by faction, etc. It’s difficult to grow in a smaller city, where there are few portals and few players, and even more difficult if the players are all on the same team. For this edition of the guide, a normal distribution is considered - enough portals, enough active players on both sides, and the usual, 9-5 work schedule for the player. More advanced, edge cases should be added to the next editions of the guide.

That being said, let’s start. You’re fresh off the tutorial missions, level 1 and ready for combat!

Level 1,2

Right now, your best bet is to get a high level friend to help you. It’s the easiest and fastest way to level up, and the most fun. But say you’re going solo or with friends that started at the same time as you, things are not that grim either. At this point, the best way to level is to build links and fields, and hack enemy portals (and your own, hacking does not damage the portals and does not deplete them for other players. You can burn a portal out, but just for yourself. And in 4 hours it’ll be good as new.) Also, try to find clusters of portals in a small area, wait until they belong to your faction and build links between them. You’ll need keys for this, and they come from hacking; sometimes you’ll need to hack a portal twice to get the keys, as they are destroyed when a link is created. This is why clustered portals work best as it’s easier to walk between them when you’ll need to get that second key. At the time of writing of this guide, there is a way to get two keys from the same portal, but you need to drop the key, hack (you’ll automatically get a new key) then pickup your old key off the ground. At the first levels, just go ahead and hack everything you see. Any and all portals are targets. You’ll get 100 AP for every hack on an enemy portal and it goes a long way at first, since L1 bursters are way too underpowered to do any real damage, so conquering enemy portals is not feasible unless they’re very weak. You should keep an eye out for gray portals, or enemy portals that have very little power left - less than 1k, or just a couple of resonators left, and those at 10% too. Yes, L1 bursters are that weak. So enjoy the scenery, get used to the game mechanics, talk to other players and hack away. Build links between portals, and try to get fields going as they bring the most AP, but try not to build links that are too long as it might hinder the faction’s plans. Usually, links between cities should not be made unless there’s a prior agreement between the faction players, as big links are targets for the enemy, and besides, you might ruin somebody else’s plans. Learn how to use the Comm, say Hi, and get to know the people. While not necessary at first, it’s a good way to get friends and help leveling up.

Level 3,4

Now you have a better chance of taking down a low level enemy portal, especially if you go out with friends. Hacking doesn’t cut it any more as far as AP is concerned, but you still need all the gear you can get, so keep at it. Links and fields still get the most points, but you can start working on offense as well. Use the Intel map and snipe portals - check for neutrals, they’re still the cheapest way to get AP, then check for portals that have low level resonators and a few links, maybe a field or two. Ideally they are isolated, because when you attack a cluster, all portals in your range of attack can attack you back and deplete your XM, so don’t go charging into a field of enemy portals. Ideally, your target portal doesn’t have mods on it - shields, power amps and turrets can really mess you up quickly. Take care in the field, mind the roads and hazards, but try to be on top of the resonator when you fire. This way most of the burster’s energy is used and you can do max damage. The XMP bursters have maximum power at the point of origin, and that destructive power goes down exponentially with distance so use that to your advantage. If you choose your targets wisely, and have enough inventory, you should do fine.

Level 5,6

This is where things get interesting. Attack becomes even more feasible, while hacking for AP is no longer useful (some might argue that happens after level 3 even). The game becomes more social, as two or three lvl 6 players can do heavy damage, and also build a lvl 5 farm, which you won’t be able to do on your own yet. Keep sniping portals, though now you can aim higher, for portals with more links, fields, and maybe the odd shield or two. The most efficient way to attack is still standing on the resonator, firing enough XMPs to destroy it, then moving on, but you can carpet bomb an area too, if the portals’ level is low. High level resonators will take ages to destroy, unless you stand right on top of them while firing, and even then it might take a high number of XMPs. Keep building links, and fields, and start enjoying your new found power - now you can harass your enemy by destroying their low level portals or higher ones that support big fields. Keep working with people, meet up and trade items, and work your area. You should know most of the portals on your commute by heart, and you can be useful to the faction just by knowing your turf. Join communities, talk about bigger projects, go farming with them and just have fun.

Level 7

This is where it’s at. It takes a while to get to level 8, so enjoy it. As long as you have enough inventory, you can destroy anything, though full lvl8 portals with shields still pose you some trouble (meaning you’ll lose a lot of XMPs and cubes). Now, things get interesting. You need inventory, high level items as well as low level resonators, because you still need them to fill up portals (remember, only one 7, two 6, two 5 go on a portal, leaving you with at least three slots to fill). You’ll need higher level stuff as well,l since a level 7 burster can bring the house down, so you’ll need high level portals to farm. That becomes a problem, because level 7 and 8 farms are sure targets for the opposition and whenever you’re out and about with your friends or faction players, building L7 or L8 farms, you can be sure the enemy will be there in a jiffy to ruin your plans. Add multi-hacks and heat sinks to portals to hack more times with less cooldown between hacks, and you should be fine. Now battles can be fought and terrain can be won in an hour, just to be lost again if the other faction retaliates. The play becomes more tactical, factions think in terms of farms and areas and less about individual portals unless they have strategic importance. Leveling up is still important but not that urgent since the already high level means there’s fun to be had and 200 000 AP in just a couple of hours’ play is readily attainable with the right gear, spare battery, and a portal-rich environment. So work with your team mates, deny the opposition their farms, and work to build fields that span cities, as right now everything goes.

Level 8

You’re there. That’s it, max level as this guide is being written. You’re one of the elders now, and your destructive power is awe-inspiring for the puny L1s and 2s. You know the game, you know the areas, you know the tricks. You’ve done the grind and now you look from on high and see the patterns emerging - country wide fields, high level farms, coordination. Some think the game ends when you reach L8, but the truth is the game is just beginning. There are low level players to help, and there is always something to be done, whether you’re at the forefront of your faction, leading them to build the biggest field your area has ever seen, or playing from the shadows and striking where the enemy least expects. In late January 2014 the game has changed to become more region-oriented and now, at the time of writing of this guide, single players can reach the top of the leaderboard just by building a big enough field.

In order to be as efficient an agent as possible, some tips and tricks are in order, both for attack and defense. Some of them are outlined below, though further changes in the game might make them obsolete at some point.


For the first few levels, if you must attack, try to fire the XMP while standing right on the (enemy) resonator. There’s a handy site ( that simulates attacks on portals and it has a neat heatmap where you can see for yourself the kind of damage distribution low level and high level XMPs have. You should use it when planning an attack on a special importance portal as it gives a pretty good idea about the number of XMPs needed to take the portal down and it takes into account the mitigation value from the portal’s shields and links.

For higher levels (level 6 and up), the XMP’s large damage radius makes it more efficient to fire when on top of the portal, as damage distribution is better than if standing on each resonator in turn. And taking the shields and other mods out first is better anyway.


Recharging goes a long way but only if you receive the notification in time. Higher level players attacking your portals won’t give you this chance, as XMPs can be fired quite quickly, and by the time your scanner beeps the portal might already have changed sides.

If you are near the portal when the attack begins, forget recharging. You can deploy resonators much faster than they can destroy them so use this to your advantage. If it’s just one portal they’re attacking, you’ll be safe. They’ll usually acknowledge your presence, say hi and agree to move on, since the only way they can win is either by being there in overwhelming numbers, or if you run out of resonators. Unless they’re level 8 and there’s five of them, in which case you’d better save your gear. If they’re carpet bombing an area, they’ll get some portals as you can’t possibly recharge them all in time, and deploying becomes difficult when you have a whole farm to defend. Resolve to regroup and come back another time.


When placing resonators try to be as far away from the portal as possible, otherwise they will end up grouped and vulnerable. Remember how XMPs have diminishing power as the distance from the firing position grows? If all eight resonators are bunched up in the middle next to the portal, one well placed XMP can wipe them all out. No portal configuration is invincible though, but spacing up the resonators makes for a more expensive target and besides, you might just get enough of a warning that you’re under attack to make a difference.

Tips and tricks

These are some things that have been compiled from frequently asked questions on forums and in the field, often overlooked or misunderstood tricks that range from cancelling the animations to speed things up to ways to increase attack power and hack yield. Also available as a standalone page for easy linking to new agents so they can get up to speed faster, the information in Ingress Tips is accurate at the time stated and will be updated as needed.

The latest update to this list was on April 09 2014.

  • Glyph hacking (the minigame you can enter to get bonus items while hacking portals) is accessed by long-pressing the “hack” button. Only works if you’re in range, and the portal is hackable (not in cooldown, not burned out).
  • Remotely charging a portal is available only if you have a key for it. Also, there’s a distance penalty (shown as a percentage and called Range efficiency).

  • Remotely recharging a portal works, but don’t expect very much. You can usually defend just the high level resonators, as the delay between the first burster is fired and you receiving the notification is more than enough for a high level player to destroy the lower level ones. And a committed adversary will destroy any portal regardless of recharge.
  • Portals have a high chance of giving you a key (probably > 90%) if you do not have another one in the inventory. Drop the key from the inventory before hacking if you want to acquire another.
  • How far you are from the portal when deploying resonators is how far the resonators will be from the portal. Stand on top of it - all the resonators are gathered at the base. This is called “campfiring” in some circles and is an easy way to make a non-defendable portal.
  • Holding the fire button when firing XMPs charges them, but the effect is timed. Let go too soon or too late and the effect is gone. You can add up to 20% more power to the attack if you do it right, though, and there’s an nifty animation that shows when the effect is highest. Try to let go when the energy gathers near you. You’ll figure it out!
  • You can skip the beginning (acquiring position) animation by pressing the “back” button on your phone. Also, you can skip the field and link animations the same way. Timesaver.
  • You can destroy an enemy portal, “campfire” the resonators on it (see above), then fill the mod slots with link amps (best done with a mate, so all 4 can be deployed), then use a virus to change it back to the original faction. This way, the original faction players can’t upgrade the mods and can’t destroy the portal to build it “right” again. The portal is useless as a link anchor (no shields, very vulnerable since it is “campfired”), it’s useless as a high yield couch farm (no multihacks, no heat sinks) and can’t be easily fixed. Best done to home portals as an insult or joke, or strategically on high importance remote portals that always seem to have fields on them. Also, link amps are a dime a dozen, and players seem to find a lot more viruses for the other team than for their own.

There are two “viruses” in the game.


  • Viruses give the portal they are used on invulnerability to another virus for the next hour, which makes sense in a way. Unfortunately there is no easy way to know if the portal has been flipped in the last hour, so be very careful because you lose the virus if you try to use it on an invulnerable portal. The best way to see if the portal has been flipped recently is to look at the “All” tab of the COMM, and check the logs there. It will show the portal being flipped; also a dead giveaway is the fact that all resonators should belong to the same person - if one player owns more than one level 7 or 8 on the portal, it has been flipped using a virus.
  • Virus use costs XM per portal level: 1000 x portal_level. So a level 8 portal will require 8000 XM to flip. However, players start having 8000 XM at level 6. The rule of thumb is you can use a virus on portals from level one to your level + 2 . A level 4 player can flip portals that are level 1 through 6.
  • Viruses are not lost if you don’t have enough XM on you when you try to use them.

Augmented Reality | Games


Always be safe. As this is a game played on a medium to high end device and as it requires your attention, some safety tips are in order. Watch your surroundings, watch the ground, and be especially careful around traffic. Watch out for cars and bikers, and pedestrians as well. Commitment is great, but getting that one portal might not be worth your health or your life. Don’t go places you might not be supposed to go, as people might take issue with trespassing.

Playing while driving is dangerous for both yourself and the other people on the street, so don’t do it! If you must, park the car, hack away then start again, and remember not to brake violently when you see that portal just begging to be taken over or you might be rear-ended.

Whenever you’re in unfamiliar territory, look around! Keep a close eye on your surroundings, especially at night, and be careful with using your (usually high end) smartphone in rundown areas. Usually you’ll have lots of gear on you that you might miss, so try to stay in well lit areas, and try to always know where you are in case you need to make a fast getaway.

Meet other people but be careful and don’t trust them just because they’re in the same faction as you are. Make sure to meet in public places first and get a feel for their personality and modus operandi. Everybody has their own notion of “fun” and everybody has their own level of aversion to risk, so what might be OK to do for them might go against your better judgement. You don’t want to be dragged along into doing something illegal - if you don’t feel comfortable just excuse yourself and leave.

All and all, Ingress is not a dangerous activity by itself, and you should be fine if you just use your judgement and remember you are an agent of a faction; they need you safe so you might fight another day.

That being said, go out there and have fun!

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