From Before I Play
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Super-Quick Points

  • Play the first scenario blind-ish on Medium for the full impact of highs, lows, huzzahs and oh craps. If you like that.
  • Good choices aren't always worse, mean choices aren't always better.
  • Being cold makes people sick.
  • Engineers can gather too.
  • Outbuildings like hunter lodges and beacons do not require heat, same as any other building that people don't spend a lot of time in, so put them on the outside.

Early Game Tips

  • In the early game, steam hubs are a more efficient use of coal than expanding the range of your generator. In the later game, the opposite is true.
  • Early on, you should try to build a Workshop so that you can start researching technologies, and a Cookhouse so that you can start making food.
  • Be careful what you promise the people. A single blip of cold when shifting gears on the generator can break your heating everything promise.
  • Gathering posts keep people warmer than just direct gathering.
  • Early on, your only real options for food are Hunter's Huts to gather raw food and Cookhouses to prepare rations from them. With the right tech choices you can create Hothouses, where a steam core allows plants to be grown and harvested. This is probably the least-effective way of using steam cores unless you're really dedicated to building a vegetarian steampunk society, but if you're short on workers then hothouses provide a good, steady stream of raw food and can also be permanently manned by automatons.
  • Scouts are cool, use them a lot.
  • Expeditions travel twice as fast when their destination is known, so travel to a distant known location before spurring off to explore. The direct path back is fine.
  • If Hope or Discontent get too bad, you get a limited time to fix it or game over.
  • If you hover your mouse over the Discontent and Hope bars, the game will show you the currently-active permanent and temporary modifiers to each so that you can course-correct. Some modifiers, like extended shifts, can be immediately fixed for a quick reduction in discontent; other modifiers will simply require time to pass (such as a recent death or an unpopular law)
  • Laws are all permanent effects that may also provide a temporary bonus or detriment. You cannot repeal a law, but sometimes the negative effect of an unpopular law will fade with time.
  • Some law choices unlock additional laws; Child Labor unlocks Even More Child Labor, whereas Child Shelters allow you to set up apprenticeships.

Building Trade-offs

  • For wood, Sawmills eventually run out of trees, Wall Drills don't run out of wall. Sawmill upgrade may be a trap choice.
  • For coal, Thumpers require more workers to gather the piles they make, Mines cost steam cores but less workers, and Charcoal Kilns require a high wood income. No 'right' choice depends on map and your circumstances.
  • For steel, the only production building is steelworks.

Discontent Tricks

  • If your discontent is too high, then you will become unable to pass certain laws that create temporary discontent until your discontent falls below some threshold. So sometimes you'll want to pass a law before ordering an Emergency shift rather than vice versa.
  • Some of your most important early laws are Emergency and Extended shifts. These are abilities attached to any workplace that either force them to operate for 24h (once) or add several hours to the start+end of its operational hours (can be toggled on/off). Emergency shifts create a lot of discontent all at once and may cause deaths from overwork or carelessness, extended shifts cause a slow buildup of discontent over time that can be wiped out by simply untoggling the extended shift in each building. Extended shifts are extremely good, emergency shifts should be used sparingly (personally I only ever use them 1-2 times per game, once early on to gain breathing room and maybe later in the event of a true emergency)

Additional Building Quirks

  • Some workplaces, such as Beacons and Hunter's Huts, do not require heating. Generally any workplace where the workers are leaving the city for their job do not require heat. You can place these on the outskirts of your city
  • Some workplaces, such as Cookhouses, must be chilly or warmer during working hours in order to function
  • Importantly, Cookhouses must also be staffed in order for people to eat there. Having a ton of rations is not enough; you need people in the Cookhouse serving them out
  • When people become sick, the workplace they work in loses a corresponding amount of efficiency. A workplace at 0% efficiency is not functioning. Importantly, sometimes people make the mistake of just putting 1 worker in a cookhouse. But if that worker becomes sick, then suddenly a bunch of people aren't able to eat. Usually 2-3 workers is good enough for the early game.

Longer stuff if you don't like reading the in-game help

  • Since sick workers don't work, it is essential to pay attention to your medical infrastructure. Sick people need medical beds in order to get better. Sick people without a bed don't get better and will quickly become gravely ill, and the gravely ill can't normally be treated in mere medical posts. So it's better to have enough beds for everyone in the first place. Overcrowding is a law that doubles the capacity of all medical infrastructure, which is ludicrously powerful for a relatively small discontent hit. The alternative, which lets you dole out extra rations to the sick, is nice but not nearly as strong. Red health icons are sick people not in bed, Grey health icons are sick people who are in bed and getting better.
  • Residences and medical infrastructure must be kept warm at all times. Do not let these places dip below Chilly; medical infrastructure will stop running, and people living in Cold or Freezing homes will become frostbitten and die.
  • Eventually you'll be offered new law trees between Order and Faith. There's not really a wrong choice here. Order is slightly better at reducing discontent, but its basic structures require workers to function. Faith is slightly better at increasing hope, and its basic structure (the church) does not require heat or workers. One or the other could be better for your particular game, depending on what's going on. Faith uniquely provides a type of medical building that functions like an infirmary but A) without costing a steam core and B) can be staffed by literally anyone, including children if you have child labor, so if you're finding yourself with a lot of sick people and not enough engineers to treat them then maybe consider that.
  • Eventually you'll gain the ability to build automatons, which cost some resources + 1 steam core and basically let you automate any 1 workplace per automaton. Automatons are less effective than people (60% efficiency before upgrades, vs 100% for a fully-staffed workplace) but they also operate 24 hours/day and don't require any heating, so they're great for harvesting coal out of a lonely mine in some out-of-the-way corner of the map with no heat infrastructure.
  • Each of the scenarios follows many of the same basic rules with some twist. A New Home, the first scenario that came with the game and which should be played first, is considered The Main Game. The other scenarios are some shorter variation on it. For instance The Arks provides you with only a handful of engineers, and you must keep certain mission-critical structures above some minimum temperature, so gameplay is focused on heavy use of automatons and worker-efficient structures. Refugees is the opposite of that; you have very many people, but not a lot of space or resources. Winterhome gives you a lot of people and resources but starts you off with a badly-designed, mostly-destroyed city; you need to figure out what parts are recoverable and what parts need to be scrapped entirely. The Last Autumn is actually about building a generator and take places before the cold, so it's more about rallying a scared, superstitious workforce into completing a monumental, dangerous task on a tight schedule
  • You do not need to buy any DLC in order to fully enjoy the game; DLC adds additional scenarios and does not alter the main game/scenarios