A complete and up to date guide to the early game: from food production to technologies and base design.
New Game Settings
For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll be playing on a Custom Game, keeping all parameters to their default. This ensure you’ll start above ground on a relatively easy map (and since 0.7.4 with very competent settlers).
We’ll also assume that you’ve played through the tutorial and that you are comfortable with the user interface in general (how to build rooms, stations and so on).
Setup Your Initial Base
One might be tempted to build their base from scratch. This is not a good idea. ATC is balanced around the idea that you’ll be using existing structures initially. The more you can reuse existing buildings, the less resources and time you’ll spend erecting new walls and doors.
Ideally you want to use one or two buildings close to each other. Note that rooms with a dark red overlay contain hostile creatures. Don’t necessarily let that stop you if your ideal building has a couple infested rooms. Just be sure to bring your whole party in combat mode to clear it out.
You need enough room to setup:
- A barrack large enough to contain 8 to 12 beds
- A room that is at least 6×6 for your kitchen (I will explain why in the next chapter)
- A small dining room
- Enough room to place a couple more stations (crafting, research) and storage areas
Forges can be kept outside. Generally speaking follow the same pattern as in the tutorial, with one important exception, the kitchen, our next subject.
Contrary to games like Rimworld where you can compensate a bad base design by forcing settlers to overwork themselves to death, ATC is all about optimizing your base layout so your settlers can work as efficiently as possible on their own. In this regard, the kitchen and food production are ATC’s trial by fire.
So, without further delay, an efficient kitchen is supposed to look like this:
Ideally, one exit should lead directly to your dining room, and the other exit to your farms and water production facilities.
The 3 storage areas must have those specific settings:
- top left: Only accept Food Ingredients
- bottom left: Only accept Drinks (except Dirty water)
- middle right: Only accepts Food
IMPORTANT: None of your other storage areas should ever accept food ingredients, drinks (except dirty water) or food, until much later in the game, otherwise it would defeat the whole purpose of this room.
The 2 kitchens are setup to loop all relevant recipes like this:
One kitchen should be set on “high priority” (as in the screenshot), but not the other, unless you start lacking food.
The whole idea with that room is to make sure your cooks won’t spend more time moving stuff around than cooking. Plus, they don’t even need to store the food itself as it’s automatically moved from the kitchens to the container in between them. And finally, you can keep a close eye on your stocks.
By upgrading the containers to stone and the basic kitchens to electric ones, and using dedicated cooks when you have the population for that, this single room can easily keep up with your needs until you reach 20-25 survivors (you’ll likely need more kitchens after that).
Clean Water Production
Like the kitchen area, water production can be dramatically optimized. Better, it can be optimized over time as more water related features get unlocked by new technologies.
So, at the very beginning of the game, your water production area, which should be on the outside next to the kitchen, should look like this:
Two water collectors next to a storage area. The container should only accept Dirty Water and it should be your only storage doing so. The campfire nearby should be setup to Purify Water in loop until it reaches 20 or 30.
After unlocking the carpentry tech, the area should look like this:
With the newly added well producing dirty water in loop until there’s 20 (ish) in store. You’ll want to upgrade the well to the more efficient version whenever it’s available.
After unlocking the construction tech, you can replace the camp fire by a water purifier:
Of course, the water purifier should be setup to purify water in loop until you have a comfortable amount of water in store (40-50 bottles is a good start).
If water levels don’t seem to keep up, add a second purifier with the same order and put one of them in “High Priority”.
Before setting up your farms, ensure that only your 3-4 betters farmers have this job enabled (2’ish per farm). You can do that:
- Manually: Open the population menu. Sort your survivors by farming skill. Right click on people to toggle the job on/off.
- Automatically: Open the faction menu. Click on the job manager tab, and define settings for your farmers.
You start with 30 potato seeds which should be just enough to feed up to 15 settlers assuming your farmers are competent enough. You want two 3×5 farms (near the kitchen and water production) instead of a single large one. This is a more flexible setup and it’ll be built faster.
Potatoes are relatively robust, an healthy outdoor potato plant will generally survive an acid rain. They are easy to grow and don’t require much water. However as your base gets bigger, they might not scale very well.
Rice is way more effective, giving more and better food. It is, however, very fragile and requires more water. Due to its fragility, it is generally best grown indoor. As such you will need to unlock the Metallurgy technology first so you can build “grow lamps” next to the indoor field.
Tomatoes are interesting, while it’s definitely not recommended to use them as the main source of food (you need metal for the tomato can, which makes it prohibitively expensive), their ability to satisfy both hunger and thirst at the same time will occasionally make your settlers save some time.
Finally, keep an eye on your stocks. If the lack of water or bad weather kill some of your plants, you might want to build small 2×2 farms setup to harvest seeds, so you can replenish your stocks.
While there is no definitive way to go through the tech tree, there are some which are more beginner friendly than others.
- Carpentry: Always pick first. Unlocks all the basics for a self sustainable base. From the well to a way to entertain your settlers. It’s also the main tech branch.
- Masonry: Better well, larger containers, ability to build decent walls, stone furniture and unlock the ability to explore the underground.
- Medical: By now you should soon be raided (or have been already), an hospital could prove itself useful.
- Metallurgy: Access to next tier of techs
- Basic Armors: if you still have enough ammo otherwise pick Pipe Weapons or Basic Weapons first.
- Either Pipe Weapons, Basic Weapons, or Construction (for the water purifier)
After that you can pretty much go any way you want. Don’t wait too long before unlocking Exploration and Radio, as both of them unlocks important parts of the game.
Note that the speed at which you conduct research very heavily depends on the settler’s Science skill. As such, make sure that only your very best survivor works on such projects (it’s also probably for the best to disable military and scavenging on your tech guy, so you don’t send them to their death accidentally).
Jobs and Priorities
While ATC might superficially look like Rimworld, it’s much closer to Dwarf Fortress in the way it’s played. Outside of battle, you only have indirect ways to order your survivors around.
There are a few ways around that, but there are also rules to understand:
- ATC is about large bases, very large bases. As such, your limited amount of starting settlers can only do a limited amount of work before things start to pile up. Don’t tell them to simultaneously build the Great Wall Of China while asking them to recycle half the map.
- Food and water production will initially keep a large % of your settlers busy, especially in the early game. This is intended.
- Clicking the “High Priority” checkbox everywhere is much worse than not using it at all. High priority is powerful, but if you start having more high priority jobs than you even have settlers, you’ll make things worse for yourself. So until you know what you are doing, do yourself a favor only use it on a single kitchen and a single “purify water” station (be it a campfire or the water purifier).
- You will likely fail spectacularly on your first few games and it’s okay!
The best way to focus your survivors on a particular task is to use this menu:
This menu is your best friend. Use it. Use it often. Want that wall built yesterday? Put construction on top until you’re satisfied. Want that house razed to the ground? Put Disassembling on top. And when you’re done with your current project, remove them from the list. It’s simple and easy to use.
Here’s a few important tips:
- Setup a trading zone in the open as soon as possible. This will ensure that civilian traders can visit your base. Use a crafting station to produce wooden statues, they generally sell for a decent price.
- While waiting for your farms to grow, you might end up lacking in the food department. Don’t forget that you can recycle the content of nearby buildings. You’ll likely find some food and water in the kitchens and bars around you.
- People who are on an expedition do not require food and might bring back some. If your stocks are going down fast due to the bad weather or another issue, sending a few people to look for food at a nearby farm for a few days might be the difference between life and death.
- Do not buy cattle until you have a stable settlement. Animals tend to be a long term investment and require to be fed.
- Not all survivors are born equal, and those who survived the collapse are rarely in good shape. Pay attention to your survivors’ traits, skills and stats. Especially Work Ethics, as it determines how likely a settler is to take a break in between jobs (and for how long). Also pay attention to traits influencing how much they eat, sleep or need recreation. Sometimes, it’s just best to banish (or refuse entry to) a survivor who cannot do his part efficiently.
Finally, just have fun and experiment. It’s ok to lose or reset a game, you’ll do better the next time and there’s plenty of content to go around.