So, as in the title, I just completed New Home on hard, deathless, and without crossing the line (693 pop cap this time), and a solid 1.5 week surplus on both coal and food going into the storm.
I wanted to share a few observations if it might help someone else – any of these might help if you're struggling (and, to be fair, they should help in Easy and Normal too). Obviously, lots of folks have different ways to play the game, but this was just based on mine:
- The early game crunch time requiring active pause lasts a lot longer than in normal. In normal, I was usually able to breathe just before the day 4 temperature drop. Hard mode, I found I needed to micromanage until day 8, with my first real feelings of stability coming into place around day 11-12. From there, I only active-paused if I wanted to queue up a bunch of builds all at once.
- I've read a bit recently that there's a trick where you can use 24hr shift on resource piles instead of buildings, and your workers will go to town with no fear of dying. This is not necessary on hard if you're careful – I chose instead to use my 24hr shift on the workshop to get a beacon immediately.
- I found that, for the first time ever, I needed more than 1 cookhouse to keep people from going hungry – by max-pop, I needed 3, even if I had over 10k in rations. This was likely because of extended shifts popping before they could queue through to get food. People not running extended shifts might not need 3 for a ~700 person population.
- I also found I needed 4 medical posts early game, and REALLY struggled with people getting sick. I had to push out a care home fast too, because early on 3 of my folks got gravely ill and were useless for about 7 days afterwards, until I got an infirmary.
- This is the first time I've sent the automaton from the steel bridge back to my base instead of dismantling it. This is helpful, but not necessary. You may not have enough people to staff two Steel Mills, but with the automaton, you can keep one grinding away until you tech up to Engineer Automatons. I did find that it took way longer than I expected to reach New London though, so if you're starving for steel, but have factories researched, it might be more worth dismantling it for 2 steam cores and a bunch of steel, and bring it back with the faster scouts, giving you a factory, AND an automaton. You should still have plenty of time to find Winterhome before it finds you, especially if you have 2 scout teams.
- It is still possible to research the entire tech tree if you have enough Automatons (I did 9 workshops, with 6 of them automated, and child shelters), but holy is it slower than Normal. I found I had everything except generator range researched shortly after the storm is enroute, and you can choose to research the lens. At that point, I chose to just dismantle the workshops instead of going for flair and researching something I'd never use.
- I've seen a lot of advice to skip bunkhouses, and go straight to optimized houses. Since I had so many issues with people getting sick early game, I didn't, and pushed out bunkhouses as soon as the temp drops would make things chilly in the tents.
- Also, important point – I found it was better to have my outpost depots on Steel (so research never stopped) and Tesla cores as soon as I could get them. The storm always comes from that direction, and if you have the movement speed upgrades for outpost teams, it's actually really easy to have them outrun the storm and reach the Coal and Wood locations on the other side of the map, and then stockpile that for another 3 days before bringing them home.
- The Londoners' arc resolved even easier on Hard than it did on lower difficulties, because my discontent was high-ish (about 33% due to extended shifts). This repeatedly triggered the demonstrations, where I let them speak, and then in the final one, wipe most of them out by choosing the 'I let you speak, my turn' option.
- This may be a bug, but in Easy and Normal, during the 'stealing food' arc, if I sent a faith keeper to reclaim the food 3 times in a row, you get an event where he's beaten to death. In Easy and Normal though, you don't actually lose a person – the graveyard remains empty. On Hard though, it does kill someone, requiring disposal of the body, and screwing the 'deathless' aspect of the run.
- If you don't use the dismantling trick on the outposts, you should have sufficient steam cores to run 12 infirmaries, 12 automatons, and 2 advanced wall drills during the storm if you rush Tesla city as soon as able. With extra rations and full research, I generally was able to boot people out of the Infirmaries long before the next wave came in – at worst, I had 130 sick, and the 10 I couldn't treat were usually waiting in a care home. This leads to point 9.
- I see a lot of people doing videos on youtube where they have big rings of hunters' hangers around the outside of their base, and those rings sit idle during the storm. Usually they send people home. The problem I had with that, was that 'home' often got colder than a workplace would. So, day 1 of the storm, as soon as your hot-houses and hunters' huts freeze up, dismantle them while the core's on overdrive. Replace them with Charcoal Kilns (which take up the same space), and even if you run dry on wood, 5 of your people are at least sitting in a warm ish) building. That cuts down drastically on your sick pop.
- Same with the above, shortly after the storm starts, you get a warning about your coal mines. If you keep running them, you have to make a choice to either abandon the lower levels, or sacrifice people to keep em open. I just dismantle them, and the arc ends. Usually in the days leading up to the storm, I've built 4-5 coal thumpers and lots of gathering posts, because again, they're warmer than peoples' homes, after things get really bad.
- Dismantling the hot houses and Mines also gives you 3-15 steam cores back (depending on what all you had) and lets your factory machine out automatons with them (except for 1 – I keep that as a fall back for if I overload the generator stupidly.) Those automatons can run infirmaries (I usually do, for the final -150 push), but until then, they pick up additional coal from the thumpers, and run the wall drills so the kilns have something to burn. Doing it this way, everyone has a warm job to go to.
- Extended shifts save lives, and piss people off – I put everyone on an extended shift during the storm once their workplaces are warmer than their homes, even with a short overdrive burst overnight, and that easily puts me at 130%+ for discontent, and threatening to overthrow me. Asking the faith keepers to calm people down buys you a day, and then after that, you can beg for two more. After that, you lose. But to survive, all you have to do is turn off your extended shifts just before the timer runs out, which is usually when everyone's due to panic and stay home for the -150 burst anyways.
- I found it helpful to keep an eye on my stockpiles during the storm, and change over your resource depots once production either stops on a resource, or you can't free up enough depot space to keep it going. For instance, if you have 2 big depots for raw food, changing them over to coal doesn't make all but 300 of your raw food units go away, it just prevents you from getting more. Which, during the storm, you can't anyways. Same with rations – if you convert all your raw food to rations, just re-task the storage for Rations to Coal, Wood, or Steel. Steel also wasn't really a big draw either once research stopped, but I still wanted to keep producing a little so I could crank out my coal-mine-replacement-automatons. This could be helpful in endless.
- Final Observation – Extreme mode is not for me, because good LORD the crunch at the beginning of Hard was stressful, and from, the videos I've seen, that crunch lasts well into the Londoners arc.
- I'm still gonna have to try it on for size, aren't I.
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