Frostpunk starter guide
Frostpunk is an unforgiving game in every sense. In its tone and themes, in its bitter omnipresent cold… and most importantly, in its mechanics that govern the survival of your people.
From the very start, Frostpunk pulls no punches and demands that you create a self-sufficient society almost immediately. Doing so is made even more difficult by the game’s unspecific, procedural tutorials, which are often too little and too late. It’s essential to prepare your city for the game’s first major event if you want to avoid total anarchy, but you have a pretty limited window to do it - so here are some spoiler-free steps to build a healthy home early on.
1. Keep your friends close (to the generator)
Your people need warm places to rest after each cold day of grueling labor, so you’re going to have to build homes for them. Tents are the only homes available at the start of the game, and one crucial thing that Frostpunk barely mentions is building insulation. Homes have lower insulation and can’t be individually heated, while workplaces have higher insulation and can install heaters later. With that it mind, you should be reserving the warm area around the generator for homes - enough for four full rings of homes surrounding it. That may seem like a lot of empty space at this point in the game, but that’s the max range of the generator; you’ll need it once your population really begins to grow. It’ll save you a lot of remodeling work and your citizens will thank you later.
2. Plan out districts in advance
As you pitch your tents closely around the generator, you should also be thinking of where to put your workplaces. Most workers will be gathering resources at this time in the game, but it’s a good idea to place your first workplace of each category at one of the four cardinal directions. For example: build your cookhouse and hunter’s huts out to the east, your medical posts to the west, and your workshops to the north. This will give each “district” plenty of space to expand as you develop them while still leaving room for resource gathering.
3. A functional healthcare system
Speaking of medical posts, some of your people will get sick. It’s simply unavoidable in the early part of the game. The important thing is to provide enough sickbeds to care for them so they can return to their jobs. Each medical post can only hold five people, which is almost never enough to cure them at a reasonable rate. Set up more than one of them so the sick won’t be left out in the cold - untreated illness is the fastest way for your people to die at this point in the game.
Depending on what legislation you pass in the Book of Laws, you’ll also want to build a care house to hold the gravely ill (it’s useful even if you’re just planning to cut off their frostbitten limbs and send them back to work).
4. Work all day, hunt all night
Each one of your citizens should be assigned to do something during the day, but you won’t have enough people to do every possible job for a little while yet. Your only source of food at the beginning of the game will be hunting, and hunting can only take place at night. A hunter’s hut can employ 15 workers who will head out as soon as the day shift ends, so be ready to immediately transfer workers from other jobs to hunter’s huts at 18:00. This will ensure that they can finish the hunt and be back in time for the next day’s shift. Also, don’t forget to transfer them back to other workplaces once they arrive home every time.
5. We need the technology
The game will prompt you to construct a workshop fairly early, and that’s not an issue. The issue is that the first thing it tells you to research is the beacon, which isn’t the best thing you could be spending your engineer’s efforts on at that point. Don’t get me wrong - establishing the beacon and sending out scout teams to find survivors and resources will become very necessary very quickly, but other upgrades like heaters and hunter’s gear should take priority. Both of these will help you build productivity and safety, and you should always take the time to stabilize your city before making it bigger. If you can afford it, you might want to attach another workshop or two to your first one to increase research speed. Steam hubs will also be essential later in the game, but it’s up to you whether you want to research them before or after the beacon.
After you’ve put down your beacon and started pulling in a few refugees and resources from the frozen wasteland outside the city, it’s time to start building factories. You should be running low on gatherable resources in your crater if you haven’t already used them all, and factories will be needed to solve that problem. The slightly larger workforce will be able to operate coal thumpers, sawmills, and steelworks, which should be the next three things you research. These will supply your city with a steady stream of resources, and you can also research the second tier of the technology tree to unlock coal mines and wall drills.
7. Be prepared for newcomers
While your scouts are out exploring the vast Frostlands, they’ll come across more and more survivors in desperate situations. Even if you don’t rescue them all on principle, you're still going to need some of them if you want your city to develop at all. Taking them in usually raises the hope level of the populace, and accepting survivors is the only way to increase your workforce. However, they have needs just like everyone else - housing, food, and sometimes medical attention. That’s why you should construct the requisite buildings before your scouts return with a group of refugees in tow. You can check the number of people in a group after your scouts encounter them, so take note of that number and build what they’ll need to maintain peak efficiency.
8. Turn down the heat while you’re out all day
This one is incredibly simple, but so easy to forget: turn down the generator’s heat level during the day. Nobody should be in their houses during work hours, so nobody should suffer the effects of lowered temperatures in those houses surrounding the generator. It may result in a little bit of discontent, but you’ll save a lot of coal for the lean times and the discontent level will almost always go back down once the heat comes back on at night. Oh, but never shut down the generator completely - it tends to make people freak out.
9. Always be micromanaging
There are a ton of minutiae that you should always pay attention to in Frostpunk. What’s the temperature like in all the city’s zones? What does the forecast say? Are all your workplaces fully staffed, and how many sick absences are there? Do all your scouts have a mission? Can you pass a new law yet? Keeping all this (and more, as the game goes on) in the front of your mind will do wonders in the long term, and helps develop the mindset you need to make it through to the end.
With these leadership tips, you and your people should be able to brace yourselves for what lies ahead. Times will get harder and harder, but you now have the means to maintain stability, peace, and hope for the future in a cold and dead world. Above all else, the city must survive. Good luck, Captain.