1) Build a walled village
2) Build a village underground
3) Build a fort/castle
I play with a walled village, and this guide works in that framework, but most of the advice will be applicable to the other two options as well.
The main priorities to keep in mind are to keep your village compact, and to prioritize food and defense over other things.
1) At least 10 points in marksman, because your only food source at the start in winter is to hunt. Animal handling is also helpful in hunting.
2) At least one star in construction. High points in construction are preferable as well.
After that, the most important skill to have stars in is intellectual, since research is very important in the early-mid game. Every other starting skill is useful except for speechcraft. Melee will also not be important for your main character since (s)he will be using a bow.
If you are planning on an above-ground village you should generally go hill-side. It has more early-game defensive potential and more iron and limestone than valley, while still having enough open space to build a base without having to landscape much. If you are going underground, any map type will do the trick.
Early game survival (winter)
The very first thing you should do after equipping your bow, is look for mushrooms and redcurrants and harvest them. All vegetation will disappear quickly (if you’re on the hardest difficulty it can disappear almost immediatley), so you need to be quick and gather whatever you can.
Once food is secured you’ll want to build a bedroom. Your room should be a 2×2 or 2×3 floor, with wooden walls and a wicker roof, and a brazier for warmth. Do not use a thatched roof, you will be short on grass during the winter which you need for beds. Speaking of which, try to cut down any tall grass near you and store it, because it will all disappear during the winter and will not regrow for a long time, and you’ll need to have a reserve of hay.
Once you have a basic compact shelter and food in your outdoor storage pile, you’ll want to build a campfire and a butchering table. These do not need to be indoors, but you can use wooden floor tiles to build a little roof over your butchering table to avoid loss of efficiency.
Once all this is done, you’ll want to start hunting. You can simply hit the M key at a corner of the map, and drag to include the entire map in the hunting zone. If your hunter starts to head towards a wolf, deselect it so that they’ll only hunt deer and hares. You won’t be able to safely hunt wolves at this time.
Your next priority is to build two more buildings. There will be a settler coming soon, so you’ll need to build a room to house them. You will also want to build a quite large storage room so that your food doesn’t decompose outside. Again, you should use wood walls and floors and a wicker roof.
After you get your second settler, you’ll get attacked. Your first settler should be using a bow, and your next settler a melee weapon. Try to find defensible terrain so that you don’t get injured. Enemies will be slowed after being hit with a projectile, so it’s possible to hit and run in some situations.
Now that you have two settlers you can start to hunt wolves instead of just deer and rabbits. The game won’t let you hunt without a ranged weapon, but you can draft your settlers and just manually attack the wolves. Get a shot in with your ranged settler, then run while your melee settler engages it. Once your melee settler gets the wolfs attention, start shooting again. You should be able to safely hunt wolves without serious injury this way.
Once you have large enough food stockpiles you can start building other buildings. Research table and shrines should all have separate, dedicated rooms. Backgammon tables can just be placed outside in walkways. Try to be as compact as possible, putting buildings right next to each-other. You also can and should prefer to build larger buildings with multiple rooms inside whenever possible.
Spring and Onwards
Your main priorities now are defense. You’ll need someone doing research most of the time. If you have two settlers with high intellectual you can make two research tables at some point.
As soon as possible you need to 1) research weapons to build bows and 2) build a decent limestone wall around your entire settlement. If you want you can make it very big so that it will cover your growth for the rest of the game. Otherwise you can make a smaller wall and expand it later. Most, if not all of your settlers should use bows early game, so they can defend from the wall. Every entrance should have two gated doors. You should have some wall built outwards from the outer door so that your archers will have a good vantage point against anyone attacking it. You can build some traps if you want but they’re not very strong.
At this point your village should be growing, and there won’t be as many animals to rely on hunting a lot. You should zone a lot of farms. You can have a very small wheat farm for hay (a 2×2 farm was actually all I needed all game.) Otherwise I usually just farm cabbages and redcurrants. Everyone in this society is a ravenous alcoholic and needs lots of booze every day. You should actually build around 3 brewing stations as soon as your defenses are ready. This number will actually increase late game. I had 5 brewing stations and 3 stills before I was able to satisfy everyone’s alcohol requirements.
Settlers also get a good morale bonus from eating at a table, so at some point you want to build a large dining room. You can eventually upgrade this to a great hall and get an even bigger morale bonus.
Once you’ve met your basic food and defensive needs, make sure to research decorative structures so that you can turn all your workstations into specialized rooms for the production bonus. Remember that every single building should be as small as possible. Unnecessary space wastes time and resources, and makes it take longer for villagers to get around.
After that, you should research longbows and food preservation. You will also want to expand the size of your wall and put merlons on the outer layer, so that you’ll have an advantage against ranged attackers.
The biggest remaining threat that you will have is that raiding groups can come with trebuchets later on, so you will need to sally out of the walls to aggro the attackers. You will want a couple melee settlers at that point to cover your archer squad.
Some attackers may also come with crossbows, which outrange longbows. You will want a couple of your own crossbowmen to address this. If you don’t have any crossbowmen, you can run along the wall away from enemy crossbows to get them to follow you, and then move back in range to shoot them.
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