‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’: How to Master the Circle

Joab Gilroy
Games Xbox
Games Xbox PC Gaming

One minute and fifty seconds into every match of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, everyone looks at the map to see which area will be highlighted. You’re safe if you’re on the right side of the line, and the zone is ever shrinking. It’s always a circle, but each match will take a different shape.

One of the amazing things about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is that everyone gets to set their own measurements for success. If you’re in the mood for high action, you might just want to jump out with 20 other lunatics at the Military Base on Erangel or Hacienda Del Patron on Miramar. If you’re up for some exploration you might see what you can find in the far reaches of Zharki, or Campo Militar.

But if you’re playing to get that chicken dinner, you need to land in a location that manages the circle best, no matter what. We’ve spoken to one of the best players in the OC region to tell you how.

Circle Behaviour — Is It Random?

If PUBG is a game about odds management, then the Circle is the greatest dice roll of all. It’s what keeps the game fresh after hundreds of hours — why no two games play the same. Each time it closes in, it determines what you do next. Do you stay put? Do you have to move? Better yet — do you need a vehicle, or can you make the shift on foot?

“I could write a whole book on circle management,” explained Team Immunity’s Linksy. He’s one of Oceania’s best players, currently the top ranked player for First Person Squads. If anyone knows about getting Chicken Dinners, he does. “I’d probably say the most important thing for circle management is time management. The last thing you want to do is move into a new circle after all the strongest areas have been claimed.”

Time management isn’t an easy skill to master in a game like PUBG, where you’re often juggling a million little things at once. But you can make it easier on yourself by eliminating some of those priorities.

The easiest one to eliminate in terms of time management is the circle itself. If you can land inside the circle, you have more time to loot and to determine your next course of action as the circle closes.

Unfortunately, the circle is random.

PUBG circles heatmap Erangel map
A heatmap of circle occurrences over one play session

The above was recorded in one game session over a series of games, and you can see that the circle can start basically anywhere. The area around School and Rozhok is the only spot repeatedly appearing in the circle — and it’s generally high traffic locations full of other people except when they are 1.5 grid squares or more away from the plane.

Heading to the School — which is in the circle more than any other major location in the above GIF — might seem like a good idea, right? But if four other squads land there with you, that’s a lot of people stealing your loot… and trying to rob your chicken dinner opportunity.

It’s not much good having extra time to loot while inside the initial circle if another player happens to land and grab a shotgun just before you do. And it’s even worse if you somehow manage to make it out alive only to find that the circle hasn’t landed on the School after all — which as you can see, does happen.

Undisturbed looting is far easier in terms of time management than circle prediction.

Predicting vs Mastering the Circle

Instead of trying to predict the location of the circle, you’re better off managing your time in other ways. One of the best things you can do to give yourself a leg up in PUBG is to land as far away from the plane as you can. Instead of picking a destination close to the Plane’s route of the the map, select somewhere at least a kilometre (each grid square on the map is 1 square kilometre) away with good loot opportunities.

While you float to your distant objective, do your best to spot a vehicle. If the plane is taking you up the eastern side of the map, over Yasnaya Polyana, and you float over to Gatka, see if there’s a Uaz or Dacia on the roads or nearby somewhere. Vehicles are the great time management equaliser, able to move faster than the circle closes (until the end of the game) to afford you extra opportunities to loot. After the first two circles close, your position in the circle becomes extremely important.

“Having vehicles is probably one of the most important things in the game,” Linksy said. “If you are in a compound and it goes out of the circle, being able to drive out quickly and move to a new position is much better than running out and getting sprayed down with bullets. Keeping your cars hidden is good as well, otherwise your wheels are gonna be taken out.”

Conversely, taking out an enemies wheels as you leave an area is a good idea — provided you can get away with it. It’s not worth putting yourself or your squad at risk, but if you can put free damage on a vehicle while an enemy squad is far outside the circle, it’s worth taking 10 seconds to do it.

Taking a compound near the edge of the circle can be preferable.

When you’re heading towards the later circles, you want to pick somewhere defensible. Somewhere you can control, that gives you options if — and usually when — you need to leave.

PUBG Circle Secret: Be Edgy

“Compound selection is really important,” Linksy told us. “Way too many people frenzy over the most perfectly centred compounds, but a compound that is more defendable yet slightly out of the centre is less likely to get attacked and easier to fight in if it is.”

A cluster of houses right in the centre of the circle will invariably draw other people to it — those looking for the best possible position as the game progresses. But as Linksy points out, there’s a degree of disadvantage to that positioning. Because the central compound is most attractive, it will draw other people to it. It might have already lured them in — you might be getting to it a little late.

The centre-holding team needs to be wary of attack from 360 degrees around them as well — if you’re off centre, you can de-prioritise watching deeper parts of the circle in favour of only covering the edges, where attackers are likely to come from.

Once the circle no longer contains compounds, circle management is really just a matter of map knowledge and keeping track of where your enemies are. Sometimes the best route into the circle isn’t the direct one. If you can loop around someone from the edge of the circle, you might be able to catch them unawares.

Mastering the circle in PUBG is one of the quickest ways to see improvement in your game – although it might not always be the way you want to play. The good news is, if you’re just in it to get as many kills as you can, mastering the circle will help you do that too. PUBG is a game where knowledge rules, and knowing where other players are likely to be will help you however you choose to play.

Joab Gilroy
Joab is a games critic from Australia with over 10 years of experience and a PUBG tragic.
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