Red herrings

Frostpunk screen 1024x576 - Red herrings

Red herring is a design term for creating the illusion of choice by having suboptimal options. Basically, having options that you shouldn't pick, regardless of the situation. While initially it does create a good, difficult gameplay experience, once you do the maths and find a way more optimal choice, in all future replays you'll always skip the red herrings, which takes away replay ability. Let's meet a few of them, and what could be done to balance out the game, so that these options might still be interesting picks down the line.

Generator range upgrade. I think this might be a bug, because the description even doesn't match what it does. So the range upgrade provides +1 "tile" depth to your generator range, while doing +15% coal usage. (desc says double, that should be +100%) Now it's still vastly inferior to steamhubs, that have a fix 3 coal / hour cost, and can do a perfect 4 building depth ring with them with merely 6 of them. So on Steam Level 4, it's range of 1 (generator) + 4 (steamhubs) for 18 extra coal, vs range of 2 for 19 extra coal. (not to mention further range upgrades…) A quick solution would be to either at least double the range upgrade's zone, make the steamhub consume more coal as the generator is cranked to a higher setting, or bring down the coal cost to 5% / range.

Hothouse insulation II. It allows you to keep the building at an operation chilly temperature, even at the storm's 120°C. However, you don't technically need this upgrade as long as you have a single steamhub next to your hothouses paired with heaters. Plus the storm's forced scripting prevents utilisation of this upgrade, since it will block the hothouse regardless. It might be (still a suboptimal choice on level 4 tech) if you're extremely low on coal income. Maybe swap it's tier with Hothouse selection, and make it so that it allows you to make food during the storm.


Coal Thumpers in general require way too many people, it takes 30 people to utilise 560 coal / day, while steam coal thumper pushes that number up to 50. While a coal mine only yields half as much, it only takes 10 people, and which is far more important, provides a constant indoor environment. I think running gathering posts still exposes people to coal when they are outside, which makes this option even worse. (let me know if that's not the case!) If you have automatons, there's literally no reason not to run mines + charcoal setup. The only time this comes as a viable option, if you're moving extremely slow ahead with scouts, and don't have steamcores to spare.

About the new home scenario: winterhome I think only provides 100 wood / day, which is only interesting if you don't know what other options are available. (800 coal from the mines, hundreds of food from the fishing village…) Scouting is critical on boosting your surviving efficiency, so as long as you recognise that, and invest early in a second scout team + sleds.

Alright, I'm going back now to play a new game on hard difficulty, to see how these options might be interesting once again.

Also, devs: add an achievement for not crossing the line. 🙂

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© Post "Red herrings" for game Frostpunk.

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