This guide will hit a little bit on every level, but it's really intended for new players who are still struggling to figure out this game. I'm not going to show you how to min/max anything, or give you tips on the hardest difficulty. The idea is to take a player from frustrated to elated on Medium, but hopefully everyone will learn something.
I'm going to talk about some topics more than once, because they come up in multiple categories. In this way, if you want to read a section on Laws but you're wondering how they effect children, you can get that info from the population section or the law section. Hopefully that makes the guide more helpful for people looking for a certain thing.
Tim over at Ctrl+Alt+Del described playing this game as trying to plug holes in a dam with your fingers. As soon as you plug a hole, another opens, until you have 11 or 12 to deal with. It's a funny analogy, but there's some truth to it. A lot of things are going to happen to you in this game, but everything is staggered just a little bit. Knowing what you will need, and especially when you will need it, is the difference between failure and a win.
First things first, then: Pause the game. Get a feel for where things are. Notice that there are some resource nodes nearby. We'll talk about them in a minute, but for right now you have two sets of triple piles, and three sets of double piles. They are:
Working on these piles is going to be the first phase of your economy. In this game, there are economic buildings and domestic ones. Economic buildings only run during the day, during work hours. Domestic ones need to run all the time. That's important to know for heating purposes later.
Next, click on a house as if you were going to build it, but drag it around the exterior crater wall. You will see some things light up that indicate you can build special buildings there in the future. Try to build toward those places with your industry buildings, and away from them with your domestic buildings. That way your economy and domestic areas don't overlap, and you can heat them separately.
Take a look at your roads. You only have 2 at the moment, but I would recommend being careful where you place new ones. Around your generator is a ring in which you can build your fist buildings. You can fit 8 tents and 2 healing houses there if you don't build any more roads that dive in toward the generator. So anything you want to connect by road, for now, try to connect it to the road behind your storehouse.
The only thing you need to worry about in these first few minutes is getting some resources coming in. You want them coming in as fast as possible, and you want to utilize your workforce as efficiently as you can.
You have 80 people. 15 are engineers which are just workers that can also do extra jobs. Don't be afraid to use them like ordinary workers. 45 are workers which equates to 3 crews of 15. The rest are kids, which are a little bit special. You have an option to either use kids to become workers, or to put them into a special school building that will keep them warm. If you go with the labor option, they become ordinary workers that can do most jobs, and any job once you open up hazardous work for them. If you go with the schools, they have a bit of a bonus feature.
Putting the kids in the schools and having enough room for all the kids will increase your hope permanently. This is nice, especially early in the game and during the Londoners. More importantly, though, you can then assign the kids to either assist with medical work, or assist with research. There are really no other ways to boost research in the game, so my preference is to use this route. The research boost is porportional to the number of kids that are safely housed in a school, so have enough facilities to house them all. You can click on any of these school buildings to see how many kids are in it, and how many don't have one to attend.
For the early parts of the game, your population is fixed. This means you will run into workforce problems early on, and it can be tempting to want to use the kids in workplaces. However, you will soon have plenty of extra people coming in, and after that you will be able to build automatons that can work almost anything. Labor won't be a problem at that point, and work-eligible kids become useless. This is the other reason I prefer to have them assist in the workshops (research).
This also means it's important to have your scouts out fast, so they can find more resources and population.
Pass a law for emergency shifts. Don't use it yet, you don't need deaths and it usually causes one.
Assign 15 workers onto Coal.
Assign 15 workers onto Steel.
Put 15 more onto Wood, and 15 engineers onto Wood.
As soon as you can afford it, build a gathering hut near the Wester pile of 3 resources. Once it's done, take your engineers and put them in the gathering hut instead of whatever they were on. You'll have 5 extra engineers now. Build a Workshop behind your depot and put those engineers in that. Start researching the Beacon as soon as you can.
As soon as practicable, build a second gathering hut near the other pile of 3 and then put more workers in it from one of the other piles. As the wood starts to come in, build 8 tents around your generator. Start up the generator just as the work shift is ending.
At this point, stop using workers to gather from the piles directly, and only use the gathering huts. The huts are warm, and warm workers rarely get sick. If you keep the huts warm and the homes warm too, you'll only have to worry about 1 or 2 sick people for the whole first section of the game. The next few things you need to build are these:
- Beacon – as soon as the research is done
- Cooking House
- Healing House
- Hunter Hut
- Workshop 2
- Healing House 2
Here's how you should divide up your population in all that:
- Workshop – 5 engineers
- Healing – 5 engineers
- Cooking – 5 workers
- Hunting – 15 workers
- Beacon – 5 workers (scout)
- Workshop 2 – 5 engineers
- Healing 2 – nobody
This leaves you with enough to keep running 2 gathering huts. When you can afford it, take the guys away from cooking, and create a second scout party. You can then reduce your gathering huts to 9 each and have the 2 extras cook. That'll be plenty for now.
Make sure at least one of your gathering huts is on coal. For now, this will do. The gathering huts will slowly finish up the piles they are near, and you can then dismantle the hut and move that crew to a new hut somewhere else.
Scout every location on the map except Winterhome. When you've gotten them all, have a scout sit next to winterhome until day 15, and another scout sitting somewhere up in the top right, waiting to look for Tesla City.
Ideally you want to get 2 scouting parties out there ASAP. When you find an automaton, send it to the city. That's a free work crew. When you find people, escort them home. You don't need deaths and have plenty of time before the Winterhome event starts. There are plenty of resources too, bring it all back, then send your scouts to their "sit" locations to wait for day 15.
Extra population and resources coming in
With the extra population, make sure you build extra homes for the folks, school for the kids, and keep it all warm. Keeping everything yellow or red prevents any significant number of sick. Research heaters and expand your generator area to 2 in order to keep everything warm as efficiently as possible. For now, power level 1 is fine, and use overdrive when the temp drops. You only have to use overdrive at night, to keep the tents warm. Stock up the resources, because you are about use them for the next step.
Your piles won't last forever. The first thing you will start to need is wood, and the best solution to that problem is a wall drill. As soon as you have basic heating and scouting taken care of, go straight for the wall drill techs. Build it asap. I usually assign the automaton to staff it, so that way I don't have to keep it warm. This will start to max out your wood storage, which is fine. Try to build depos to store more, but I know they are expensive at first. Maybe just build 1, and set it to wood. If the wood is full, have the automaton do something else for a little while, to keep him useful. He can cook, you know.
After the wall drill is built, head for steel. The wall mounted Ironworks are the best of the best, and you want to build those next. You will be struggling to staff them, but that's fine. It's another place you can put the automaton, and you can also just have 1 or 2 guys in them to trickle in some steel. In the mid game, steel will be where you starve the most.
Keep an eye on food. Constantly check food. Check your food again. You can select the charts button in the bottom right and look at your food production. 1 cookhouse will cook enough meals for just about as much as you can gather up, so your main concern is raw food. Make sure you built enough hunters, and when you can, keep researching hunter tech. I don't ever bother with hothouses. You will have enough population to hunt with, and hunters are efficient enough once you get some tech for them. Flying hunters are freaking great. By the end game, I have 15 or more of them. If you can't decide where to put workers, prioritize coal and food.
Coal is the primary resource of the game. Once you have your wall drill humming, you have to start looking for more coal. The best coal resource is the Thumper, and 2 gathering huts. The automaton can occasionally run the thumper, and make sure you keep those huts warm. No sick folks. This setup will last for a while, but you'll eventually want another thumper, then to upgrade them. You'll have 8 gathering huts running total, and that'll cover most of your coal needs for the game. It's important to remember that you can start to think you are good to go when you are in the green on coal, but the truth is you should vastly overproduce it. There will be times when you need to burn extra, and go into the red. Having stores is good for this. Also, your generator is going to eat up more and more of it, and every heat tech you research will blast your coal consumption. So always, always go to overproduce it. By a lot.
Also, store your resources. As you have wood and steel coming in comfortably, make sure you always have enough to research the next big tech you want, but also build storage depos. There's no shame at all in building a few dozen of them and storing 10k or more coal, several K wood and steel, and twice that in food rations. The endgame is a blizzard, and you have to have enough food to make it all the way through without producing any.
You'll have the option to pass a law right away, and a new one every day from then on. You should basically go something like this:
- Emergency shift
- Extended Shifts
- Child shelters
- Child workshop assistance
- Whatever else you need
The reason you do this is that you want to get a shift law in effect as soon as possible. The moment your workshop is done, staff it, and hit that extended shift. You should keep your research at maximum hours for as much of the game as possible. Once extended shifts is enacted, turn it on for your workshop and never look back. Use the emergency shift a few times whenever you need important tech, like heat, but know that it will probably kill 1 of your 5 engineers. It isn't really a good idea if you are short on population. Eventually you won't need it at all, so don't think that it's a priority move. It's exactly what it says it is, for an emergency.
Soup or saw dust? Soup every time. Sawdust makes people sick, and that's useless. Unhappiness you can manage, but sickness is an enemy all game long. Go with soup and keep people healthy. Note, if you are overproducing soup you can actually turn it off for a while in the cookhouse, which makes people happy.
As far as happiness laws go, I research all of them except dueling. I try not to let people kill each other, as a matter of course. Also, moonshine works beautifully with soup.
How to deal with the dead? Snow piles. Forget cemetaries, snow piles let you harvest organs which speeds up healing, even if you don't have any dead bodies lol. Worth it.
Keep them alive or Emergency medical procedures? Emergency procedures. It leaves you with amputees, but once you get a factory running it's no big deal to get those guys back to work. 1 Care House will hold onto them until then.
Overcrowding or extra rations? Late game, sickness will be a problem and rations won't, not if you plan well. Double rations every time, for me. It's a great ability that "cures" a lot of people very quickly, and frees up more beds and gets people back to work. I think it's more efficient in the long run than extra bedspace. Healing people and getting them back outside is useful, storing them in extra bedspace is not.
This is a big one. Here's some basic ideas, but after a certain point you have to pilot your own ship:
Firstly, Beacon is #1. As soon as you have it, get your scouts out and go find the automaton. The next thing you probably want to get are heaters so that you can keep your gathering huts and other workplaces warm. Heaters are more important than many people think. We all do well keeping our houses warm, but we get a lot of sick coming in because we don't heat the workplaces. The colder the place and the longer a person is in it, the more likely they are to get sick. Red/Yellow houses and Red/Yellow workplaces mean that you will have very few sick people. This is best because you can keep them working, and also don't have to waste staff in many sick houses to take care of them.
You will also want to go straight for your wall drill at an early point, then double back and pick up Steam Hubs. Those things… they are great. I never expand my core generator area past 2 (some people even stay at 1), because if I need more heat space I can always use a steam hub, which I find more efficient. Use a hub that's on 24/7 to put houses, healing, cooking, or research around. Use a hub that's only on during work hours to heat workplaces like thumpers, gathering huts, or factories. A hub and a heater can both heat the same building for combined effect, but 2 hubs cannot (they won't make any difference).
You want to bounce around from providing heat, to upgrading your ability to harvest resources, to upgrading hunters, back to heat.
Keep the shifts high on your workshop. Always have enough daycares for your kids, and check the daycare building periodically to make sure they are all cared for and doing their homework. When you can spare 5 more engineers, put in another workshop, sooner is always better. You'll eventually work your way up to 4 or even 5.
As soon as you can, you want to research the automaton tech that allows a 'tom to work in the workshop. It's very useful, and allows you to research 24/7. You'd be amazed how much faster the tech comes in, especially if you then boost the automaton efficiency to 70 or 80 percent. Once your 'toms can research, get at least 2 workshops with autos in them.
Time and Heat
Heat is your primary enemy in this game, followed by time. As in, time wouldn't be a problem except that the temperature keeps dropping. So you have to stay 1 step ahead in the heatin game, and be mindful of not getting caught with the cold dropping and no way to warm some houses.
The early heat techs are the best ones, heaters and steam hubs. Use them both to keep work places at least yellow for most of the game. There are some buildings that don't need heat at all, and knowing this is crucial to saving coal:
- Hunters. This is a big one because you have so many of them.
- Beacon. You only have 1, I just stick it with the hunters.
- Snow pile (corpse storage). In fact, this building fails if it's heated.
- Storage Depos. You can store your resources in the freezing cold.
- Anything staffed by an automaton. This means you can build workshops in the cold, and put an automaton in it. Any thumpers, gathering huts, factory, or wall-mounted resource nodes can all be frigid if you have an automaton working it.
Some things must be warm, or they stop working:
- Cooking house.
- Healing houses and infirmaries.
You also have to keep homes warm, but only if there are people in them. If everyone is working, homes only have to be warm at night. The best advice is that the central generator and/or a steam hub housing development will keep most of them warm using overdrive for the first chunk of the game. However, you want to make sure you research your generator's higher power levels, overdrive decoupling, and efficiency techs when you can. Note, you don't actually have to use the extra power if you don't need it right now, or if things suddenly warm up for a minute. But go ahead and get them anyway, in case it gets cold out.
A heater and a steam hub can both stack and warm the same location. Two steam hubs will not stack like this. Keep that in mind.
As for housing, skip the bunkhouses. Go straight for Homes, then efficient homes (the one that makes them cheaper to build). Once you do that, you can upgrade your entire housing operation for a very effective price, to nice warm homes. Later in the game as the storm approaches, you can opt to insulate them (or your scouts may find this tech). Eventually you will want all heating tech, even if you aren't using it.
Time is your other enemy. Every opportunity that comes up to make something faster or more efficient, do it. You are on the clock in this whole scenario, and time is key. Have 24/7 research going asap. Have your scouts running at all hours. Make sure your resources are being harvested constantly. Keep. Checking. Everything. Don't be afraid to pause the game and look around to see what's what.
This is an event that comes up on day 15, like it or not. Because the rest of the game is spaced off when this one triggers, go ahead and wait for day 15 and let it trigger itself. On day 15, send that scout that is waiting next to winterhold on toward the city, and then wait for a refugee to show up on your crater rim. When he does, the bad news is delivered that winterhome is destroyed. Your hope plummets, The Londoners event begins, and more scouting locations open up. When your scouts hit winterhome, go ahead and explore it, then send them toward the other scouts on the far side of the map.
Your second scouting party should be sitting patiently in the top right. Some new locations will have just opened up, start scouting them ASAP. You are looking for Tesla City, and as soon as you find it, send an outpost crew there (sort of like a permanent scouting party). Every day that your outpost is in Tesla, you will get a new steam core. Those things are solid gold, so you want as many as possible.
With the steam cores coming from tesla, you will be able to build automatons in your factory. These guys are so crucial. Each one is a full working crew, can operate completely unheated, and works 24/7. Sounds like a miracle? Yep.
Build as many as you can, all the time. Firstly, use them to staff your coldest and most remote resources gathering places, like the wall drills (you have both, right?) and the iron works. Later, as you research it, have 'toms in your workshops doing your actual research. Also use them to power thumpers and gathering huts. Eventually, you'll even want them in your infirmaries. If possible, you'll have them doing every economics function in the city. They can also cook, did you know?
However, having them in your workshop is probably the primary thing you want to really push for. Their 24/7 research will get techs coming in faster than you can manage, especially if you have 2 of them doing it and 70 or 80 percent efficiency. You can still have manned workshops for giggles, since you'll have so many engineers floating around by this point. Your research should be coming in hilariously quickly, and that's the idea. Remember what I said about time? Other than heat, it's the only enemy in the game.
Don't worry about these guys much. The way to beat it is to have high hope before it starts, which isn't too bad. Then you constantly raise hope until they all go away. It' s not that hard, even on my first attempt I got it.
New laws will open and you can choose Faith or Order. They are both very good, and I've had success with either. Faith takes longer to fix the londoners, becaues the hope bonuses are smaller, but there are more of them. Order is a bit sharper stick and will fix the londoners faster, but I think it damages your work force with prisoners and also risks "crossing the line" a bit more. Either way, keep using the abilities that the new trees unlock as soon as the cooldown is up. The only way to fix the londoner problem is to raise hope, and each law unlocks a little ability tucked away in a building that should raise it a little bit. They have a cooldown, so just keep looking around every so often. The cooldowns for each ability are not the same as the others, so you can't use them all at once at the same time every day. They also go in different buildings, but in all cases will be in the buildings unlocked by your new law tree.
If you want to fix londoners easy and fast, go with Order. If you want a bit softer approach, go with faith.
Crossing the line
There's a metric at the end of the game, if you win, about whether or not you have "crossed the line." This is simply trying to determine whether you were too harsh with morals in order to survive. Nobody has yet figured out the calculus here, but it seems to mostly stem from the laws you pick in Order or Faith.
The ultimate law, the one that kills people, will always cross the line. It's a powerful ability, but you don't really need it in either case.
It's possible that the little missions that come up from your population from time to time also contribute to crossing the line, but it's hard to say.
Basically, anything that has a risk of hurting or killing people is likely to push you toward crossing the line, so I try to avoid those and work with the more gentle approaches.
Survive, Thrive, and Arrive Alive!
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