- 1 Setup
- 2 Getting off on the right foot
- 3 Moving forward
- 4 Other tips moving forward
- 5 Other guides to improve your gameplay
Choosing a scenario
The first thing you'll be able to pick is picking a story scenario, there are 3 prebuilt scenarios to choose from. This guide assumes that you're choosing the classic "three crashlanded survivors" scenario.
Choosing a storyteller
You can pick a storyteller and a difficulty level. The AI Storytellers only determine the random events that occur during your game. You can do your own research in the previous link if you wish, but it is recommended to choose Cassandra Classic on Rough to get a feel for how the game is designed to play out.
Creating a world
You can play with the seed and map size of the world, but it isn't anything that will make a big difference to you yet. The default dimensions is a good size that won't cause too much lag. You should pick a temperate forest biome to start. You want a map with a growing season that lasts from at least spring to fall, if not all year. You will also want to pay attention to the terrain type. Flat terrain lack ores to mine and is difficult to defend. Small hills have more ores but the hills still do not provide much protection. Large hills have plenty of ores and hills to build against. A mountain base is also a good option, it's easy to defend and will give you plenty of stone chunks, but takes longer to dig in the beginning and tend to suffer from bug infestations later on.
Choosing your characters
You can click randomize on your colonists as many times as you want. You want a good mix of skills. Remember, your characters can only do one thing at a time and they need time to eat and sleep. Stay away from colonists incapable of many tasks, especially dumb labour. Rolling for passion (two flames) is just as important as rolling for a high skill, because they will level up faster.
The most important skills to have in the beginning are: medicine, growing, and shooting. Try to have at least one colonist covering those skills. It also helps to have someone at least halfway decent at cooking, research, social, construction, and mining (if you have a mountain base).
Traits do not matter too much, you can try to roll for good traits, but that could be very tedious. The traits that you should avoid are ones that give a permanent mood penalty or speed penalty: Lazy, Slothful, Slowpoke, Pessimist, and Depressive. Also try not to roll characters who have a lot of health ailments such as cataracts and bad back.
Getting off on the right foot
- PAUSE THE GAME! - wait for the colonists to emerge from their pods, then press spacebar.
- Arm Yourselves: You'll start with a Survival Rifle, a Pistol, and a Plasteel Knife. Select the pawn with the best Shooting skill and then right-click the Survival Rifle and select Equip. Equip the next best shooter with a pistol, then equip the knife on the last pawn.
- Prioritize: Go into your "Work" tab, and turn on manual priorities. Firefight, Patient, and Flick should be set to priority 1 on everyone. Set doctoring, warden, growing, and cooking to 1 on the colonist with the highest skill and disable them for everyone else. Set priority 2 on anything else they're passionate or interested in, set 4 on everything else.
- Recon: Take a look around and get a feel for the terrain. Where are the steam geysers for potential geothermal power later? Where are natural choke points to create kill zones? Where are there veins of steel, silver, and gold? Where are standing structures that you can make use of? You should also unforbid any of your starting resources lying around by selecting them, double clicking to select all nearby items. and hitting the F key.
- Prepare: Decide on a site for your initial base camp. You need to get a single building up ASAP so your colonists can sleep under a roof, and you can haul materials inside to stop them from deteriorating. Even if you plan on digging a mountain base, throwing up some walls is much faster to get settled in quickly. Find a spot on the map relatively close to the landing site where you feel you can set up in a reasonably short period of time. If there are abandoned buildings or a hill nearby, consider taking advantage of them by building against them.
Go into the Architect menu to start to get familiar with it. You can change the material of a building by right clicking on it in the menu and selecting the desired material. Wood will be a sufficient building material for now. Construct a decent sized room 9 by 9 or larger, and place 3 wooden beds inside. Walls and doors are in the "Structure" submenu, and beds are in "Furniture". Remember to unforbid the wood lying on the ground, or your colonists will not use them to build.
- Unpause the game: Enjoy watching your colonists working on the building. Remember you can always pause or change the speed.
Your first day
- Stocking Up: Materials (except for metals) will deteriorate when left outside, so you need to put them under a roof. In the architect menu, select "Zone/Area", "Stockpile zone", and make a stockpile that covers the entire floor of your building. You can specify exactly what is allowed in the stockpile by selecting it and then clicking "Storage", but for now this is not necessary. Selecting a character and then right-clicking on something that needs going will make them prioritize the task.
- Farming: You now need to start farming. If there is rich soil nearby (darker colour, and is labeled "rich soil" on the bottom left corner of your screen when you mouse over it), use that. If rich soil is too far away, then just plant on regular soil. Use "Architect -> Zone/Area -> Farming zone" and create two or three plots at least 5 by 7 each. Potatoes are planted by default, but you can change the crop by clicking on the plot, then "Growing". Potatoes and corn are good starting crops, you can also plant healroot (if you have a colonist with a growing skill of 8 or higher) in one of the plots.
- Sowing/Hauling: Your colonists will go about the business of planting and hauling things on their own, seeds are in infinite supply in this game. Take a moment to observe them so you get a feel for how fast they move around. For now you want to keep everything fairly close by, so your colonists don't waste a whole day walking across the entire map and back again because they got hungry.
- Food: Your characters will need to eat, but for now they can survive on packaged survival meals.
Your first night
Not much happens at night time, so you can pass the time by letting the game fast forward while you familiarize yourself with the controls and check up on your colonists.
- Reviewing colonists: You can check out a colonist's mood in their Needs tab. There's nothing you can do about the "Shared bedroom" mode debuff for now, but see if there are any easily addressable debuffs, like a nudist wearing clothes or a brawler with a ranged weapon. Try not to give them commands right now or they will get the "disturbed sleep" debuff. Allow them to wake up naturally.
- Reviewing schedules: By default, your characters are all set to go to bed at the same time every evening. You can change it under the Restrictions tab, but you don't need to change it for now unless you have a character with the Night Owl trait. If you have a colonist with the Abrasive trait you may also consider putting them on a night shift so they don't interact with other colonists as much. You don't need to schedule their joy and work hours, they will engage in joy when they need to.
The next few days
- Getting more supplies: Gather some more wood by going to "Orders -> Chop wood" and selecting some nearby trees to chop. Gather steel with "Orders -> Mine" and selecting some veins of compacted steel. Be sure that your colonists have plant cut and mining turned on in the Work tab.
- Getting more food: Your packaged survival meals will likely run low before your crops are ready to harvest. You can tide yourself over by hunting and gathering in the meantime. If you see raspberry bushes ready to harvest, you can use "Order -> Harvest" to gather them.
- Manual hunting: You can select animals and mark them for hunting, and any colonists with hunting enabled will go and hunt them. Do NOT hunt boomrats, boomalopes, or predators! It is a bad idea, don't do it. However, hunting has some flaws because your hunter tends to stand too far away from the animal, decreasing their accuracy and making them waste a whole day trying to shoot a turtle. Sometimes they might even accidentally shoot another colonist walking in front of them. If you're willing to micromanage a little, you can hunt manually. Select the colonist with the rifle, draft them, then right click on a spot nearby the prey to make them walk there. Click their weapon, then the animal to make them start shooting. Walk closer to the animal if it moves away. If the animal is downed but not dead (twitching on the ground with exclamation mark), keep shooting at it. When the animal is dead, unforbid the corpse so that a hauler can take it back to the base. Remember to undraft your hunter when you're done, or they'll just stand there.
- Set up electricity: Packaged survival meals can sit forever but other food will spoil if not frozen. You will need a freezer to preserve your food, but before that, you must set up a power supply. Build a small 5x5 room, then build a battery inside. Build a solar panel nearby, then build power conduits connecting the battery to the solar panel. Conduits can be put inside constructed walls, but not through natural mountain stone. All of this is the the Power submenu under Architect. One solar panel and one or two batteries will suffice for now, if you need more electricity later, you can build more solar panels, but for now you want to conserve your supply of components.
- Build a freezer: Build a room about 7x7 with a single gap in the wall. If it's too big, a single cooler will have problems keeping it cold. Under Architect->Temperature, build a cooler in the gap, make sure the cold side points into the room (rotate with Q and E keys), then connect the cooler to your power grid with conduits. Set the temperature to 0°C/32°F. Make another stockpile inside, set it to allow food and animal corpses, and set the stockpile's priority to "important". Your cooler will also eat less electricity if you build an airlock - just build a second door and a tiny room in front of the entrance. Note: If you're digging a mountain base, make sure the hot side of the cooler points either outside or into a very large room. Otherwise it may overheat and even start a fire.
- Get cooking: Eating raw food (except for berries) will give a mood penalty, so you want to build a butcher table and fueled stove (under Production) - switch to wooden to save on steel. It's a good idea to build a separate kitchen close to the freezer so your cook does not have to walk as far. Your cook will not do anything until you add a bill, so click on the butcher table, click Bills -> Add Bill -> Butcher creature, then click Do X Times and change it to Do forever. Add a Cook simple meal bill to the stove, and change it to Do until you have X. 10 to 20 is a decent number. Forget about nutrient paste dispensers, they are not worth the components, electricity, and mood cost.
- Start research: Build a research bench under Production. You can put this in your main room for now. The first research item you want to rush ASAP is Stonecutting(for tribal runs), this will finally allow you to stop building with flammable wood or valuable steel. It does not take very long, so turn up the researching priority on your researcher. After this, you can research at a more leisurely place. Microelectronics basics should be the next thing you research. Now you can probably afford to put a standing lamp (under Furniture) inside your main room, so your colonists don't get the "in darkness" mood debuff when they're inside.
- New colonist: Cassandra may decide to gift you with a wanderer who randomly joins your colony. Remember to set their work priorities and build another bed for them. A sleeping spot will also do in a pinch.
Your first battle
Hopefully, everything has been uneventful so far, but inevitably the first threat will arrive. It will either be a local animal gone mad or a single raider with a crappy shiv or club - it will not be very dangerous and easily handled by your starting weapons.
- Combat basics: Draft your colonists and make them stand in an open area with a clear view of the direction your enemy seems to be coming from. Your melee colonist is more likely to be injured by friendly fire than by the enemy, so make sure they're not standing in the line of fire. When the enemy approaches, start shooting. If the enemy has made it all the way close up to your shooters, engage with your melee colonist, and move the shooters back.
Alternatively, if your shooters suck but you have an amazing melee pawn, just go ahead and stab 'em.
- Tending to wounds: If a colonist gets injured in the fight, you want to make them go rest. If they're not resting, then increase their Bed Rest priority. You can check the colonist's injuries in the health tab. If there are just a few bruises and scratches, you don't have to waste precious medicine on them, so select no medicine in the Overview tab. If there are worse injuries and/or moderate blood loss, then you can allow medicine. You don't have to set a medical bed, they can rest in their own beds just fine. Cleaning up any blood and dirt in the room will decrease the chance of infection. The colonist should heal without any complications.
- Taking a prisoner: If the enemy was a raider, they may not have been killed in the fight, only downed. You can capture them and either try to recruit them, or release them for faction relationship points. You can make a prison by putting a bed/sleeping spot inside a room and setting the bed for prisoners. Prisoners cannot sleep outside or in the same room with colonists, you may have to put them inside your kitchen temporarily while you build a prison cell. Don't worry about prisons being very nice, but if you want to be nice to them, you can put a bed, table, and chair in the cell. In their prisoner tab you can examine their recruitment difficulty: ~30 is easy, ~70 might take a while, and ~99 is extremely difficult. If you think they are worth recruiting, select "Chat and Recruit". Make sure you have a colonist with Wardening enabled, and they will regularly deliver food and try to recruit them.
If you think the prisoner's not worth recruiting (e.g. too difficult, chronic conditions (e.g. Frail or Cataracts), drug addictions etc.), there are several options. The kindest is to wait until they're fully healed, then release them. This will slightly improve your relationship with their faction - unless they're pirates. Otherwise you can euthanise them (gives less of a mood penalty than execution, and also medical experience,) or sell them to traders, but this will give every colonist a mood penalty that lasts several days. If you did not capture them you could simply kill them or let them die on their own - preferably the latter as killing them means a higher risk of 'Witnessed Outsider's Death' mood penalty (although you can do the former if you feel you really need to, as it's humane).
- Burying corpses: You can butcher a mad animal's corpse without worry, they do not have a contagious disease. However, colonists get a mood penalty if they see a human corpse. Construct a grave somewhere out of the way under Architect -> Misc and bury the corpse in it. Strip the corpse first if you want its clothes. Don't put the grave too far away, because colonists will occasionally visit graves as a joy activity, and you do not want them to waste the whole day walking there.
- Stone walls: Once you finish the stonecutting research(for tribal runs) , build a stonecutting bench, set a bill, and start churning out stone blocks made from chunks. The Crafting skill affects stonecutting speed, but not quality. You should begin to replace your wooden walls with stone walls.
Your first winter
Food - By the beginning of winter you should try to have at least a thousand units of food stored. As winter progresses, your outside crops will die (hydroponics can be used to farm indoors but it is more difficult to sustain a colony this way) and, depending on the local climate, most plants on the map will die. Hunting is still a viable option.
Warmth - Make sure your living areas are heated to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). If they are colder than this, your colonists may complain about the cold. Significantly colder, and they will contract hypothermia and/or frostbite if they are exposed for too long. Parkas and tuques will help keep colonists warm in cold weather, but heaters are still necessary for indoor areas.
Joy - When it snows, colonists can build snowmen, providing a joy bonus.
Other tips moving forward
- Wild and Tamed animals will eat your crops and food if you let them. Kill the wild animals and restrict your animals in a zone that only contains hay or kibble.
- Visitors will get into your freezer and drink your beer regardless if you forbid doors.
- The notification when a hungry predator attacks a colonist is easily missed, only manhunters trigger the red flashing envelope notification. Be wary if there's a wild predator hanging around your base.
- If a person crash lands in an escape pod and you want to recruit them, you must capture them and then recruit them like any other prisoner, even if they're a colonist's family member. If you choose rescue, they will simply be released when they're healed.
Other guides to improve your gameplay
Continuing guided play
- Intermediate Midgame Guide: Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate
- Advanced Endgame Guide: Ending your colony on YOUR terms
Guides for extreme environments: