Kenshi – How to Start a Settlement Properly

Maybe you want to start a new settlement, but you’re not sure if you’re ready. Maybe you’ve already started a settlement, but you feel like you’re getting crushed by all the raids. When do you start on a settlement? 

Honestly, it’s a matter of comfort zone, and different people approach settlements differently. Some people like the heavy challenge of immediately jumping into building it, while others like to play it very safe by doing it late-game when they have a combat-capable squad or two. Then there’s the wide range of comfort levels in between these two extremes, and each person falls on a unique point along the spectrum. 

Personally, I never have a combat-capable force before when I start a settlement (I tried it once, got bored as soon as settlement was done, and quit the game). However, I do engage in a bit of prep work before I start on my own settlement, and get some basic necessities out of the way, though I try to do less and less on each playthrough. In this guide, I just explain how I go about things, but it’s by no means the “correct” way to play the game, because there simply isn’t one. Still, if you’re struggling, maybe you can take a couple of tips from here and apply it to your game to lighten the load.

First Days

Note: Credit goes to Tactical Goldfish

As I mentioned, this guide is just a set of steps that I go through to make myself feel stable in the world before I tackle the task of building a settlement. However, no matter how/where you start the game, you will always face the same task: make money. You need money to get those initial few cats that you’ll use to kick-start yourself. This is to get food, recruits, backpacks, construction materials, housing, research, etc. 

Simply put, you’ll need some amount of money to kick-start yourself before starting a settlement, no matter what your comfort zone may be. You probably already know the drill. Mine copper and/or scavenge loot from the corpses of hungry bandits that decided to attack the city guards. 

First, buy food. Second, hire a few recruits. Third, go explore a bit and look for interesting things to do. Get a bit of bank before tackling the rest of what I have to say, say… 20-50k cats should do the job. Then come back here and move onto the next section.

Securing a Revenue Stream

Money? Yeah, I know I need it

Cats. So useful. You can use it to bail you out of almost any situation. Most of your squad is down? Buy some bandages to patch them up. Rent some beds to help them heal. Buy some food to keep them full. 

You get it – money is good, money is great, money is key. 

What’s your point?

Money also one of the absolute requirements that you need in order to actually build a settlement. Not just money, but a constant revenue stream that’s low-maintenance to keep the money flowing in and supplying your settlers with food, bandages, and other resources needed to keep them going. I’ll explain in more detail later, but your settlers will be running away from dangers, getting hungry and hurt while building your settlement. You will rely on having decent savings to keep them supplied, and if those savings aren’t getting replenished, you run the risk of starving your settlers, or being unable to stabilize their injuries, and that can result in deaths.

If you can free yourself from that worry, you’ll have a much easier and happier time working on your settlement.

What’s a good way to do that?

There’s loads of ways to set up revenue streams that are almost completely hands-off. My favorite is the following, and you just need a few things to get it going:

  • Two characters. One of these should ideally be a scorchlander, which will be your crafter. The other one can be anything, and he’ll serve as the errand boy. Keep in mind that these two will be spending the rest of their natural lives in this city, so it’s best to pick non-combatants for these roles. 
  • A small bank of cats to get you started, preferably about 20-50k depending on a couple of factors
  • A crafting recipe for a bandana (any colour). You can usually find this in Empire cities (north-eastern deserts on the map), in clothing or helmet shops. You can also get away with a recipe for Turban, Cargopants (sneaky chain), or Tagelmust, but the bandana recipe is about 3x better than any other recipe out there.

Ok, now what?

Here’s what you do:

  • 1) Identify a city to buy property in – this city doesn’t have to be near your settlement, but there are a couple of requirements that you do need to look for. It needs to have a trade goods shop and a construction shop. It needs to have a population that won’t attack your people (i.e. non-humans get attacked in the holy nation cities, and humans can get harassed/attacked in shek cities).
  • 2) Buy a house, preferably close to the shops mentioned above and preferably one that costs 16k or more so that you can expand your revenue stream later if needed.
  • 3) Set up a clothing bench in the house that you bought, along with fabrics storage and several boxes of clothing storage (research whatever is needed to get to this point), and one food storage. Note: if you can’t do this, then first set up a research bench and work on unlocking everything that you need to set up the aforementioned.
  • 4) Start crafting bandanas on repeat in your clothing bench, and set it as your crafter’s job. When he starts crafting it at level 1 crafting, you’ll get the crappiest (prototype) quality results, but even so you’ll be breaking even with the expenses. As soon as your character starts making the second-worst quality version of it, you’ll start seeing profit – it doesn’t take long to get there, just a couple of days of non-stop crafting. I mentioned that you can use this approach with other recipes, but those will require you to craft higher quality before you start to get a profit, so bandana is king.
  • 5) Once per day, check on the city, and have the designated errand boy go and sell the bandanas, buy more fabric, and buy more food to sustain himself and the crafter.

That’s it for the cat income. You can scale the operation up or down (add more crafters and crafting benches, expand to other cities, and so on), but the more you scale up, the more micro-management you’ll need to deal with.

Training People

Ok… What skills do I focus on training?

Before starting a settlement, I strongly urge you to train up your settlers. Combat training takes a long time, and combat is usually not what you want to do when building a settlement anyways, because it can result in your entire group getting wiped out and dying unless the defenses are impeccable.

No, what you need to train are the three skills that are easiest to train. You need Strength, Athletics, and a couple of your colonists should probably have sneak. The goal is to help your colonists easily escape any incoming raiders without taking any damage.

Why those skills?

Athletics allows them to run faster, so they can escape raiders and other dangers with more ease. Strength allows them to carry more before they become encumbered (and slowed down), so you can have your settlers carry all the important stuff on them instead of it getting looted by raiders when they invade your under-construction settlement.
One or two of your settlers should have sneak, so they can be more effective as logistics runners, carrying supplies from a city to your settlement. 

In case you’re not aware, here’s how you train those skills:

  • Athletics by having your colonists simply run around. As they run, their athletics will train. 
  • Strength can be trained by over-encumbering them with heavy loot. The more you encumber them, the faster strength is trained, but the slower the Athletics is trained. I recommend equipping traders backpacks on all your lemmings, and filling those up with iron ore, which is extremely heavy, and will keep their strength training multiplier high for a long time.
  • Sneak is trained by having your guys run around while in sneak mode. 

As you can tell, all 3 of these can be trained at the same time. Even if they are encumbered, Athletics is still trained, just at a slightly slower rate, and that’s just fine.

What’s the training regimen

Now, onto the methods of actually getting your guys to run around. You have several options:

  • You can send them across the map, but they are encumbered and slow. Very easy pickings for anything that wants them dead (i.e. 95% of all living things). If they run into trouble, you have to catch it in time, have them drop everything so they can have a chance to run away. Not ideal.
  • You can have them follow patrols of city guards and such. It’s safer, but it’s not great. The patrols are slow, so your guys might not be moving 100% of the time, and they’re still in danger of getting attacked if a fight breaks out. Also, you need to ferry food out to them or they’ll starve. Once again, not ideal.
  • You can select them all, and manually right click around the city so that they’re always on the move. It’s safe, food is readily available at a nearby bar, but it’s very tedious, so also not ideal.

Get to the point

Before you pick your poison, there is a better way. As it turns out, you can exploit the AI pathfinding to get your guys to run back and forth inside the relative safety of one of the cities. I’m referring to one of the cities under the empire called Sho-Battai. It’s in the desert on the north-east section of the map. 

Once you get your colonists there, get them inside the city (see circle 1 in screenshot). Then get familiarized with the city’s layout. It’s a long city, with a single gate along its walls (see circle 2 in screenshot), at one end of it. On the opposite end, you’ll see that there’s a gap in the wall which is filled in with a building (see circle 3 in screenshot):

If you pan the view to the right according to the screenshot (i.e. south), past the building marked 3, you’ll see a copper resource (see circle 4 in screenshot):

When you select your colonist, and right-click this resource node, it’ll add a job to the colonist’s job section – they’ll now be tasked with continuously mining it. What happens next is magical. The colonists will run all the way to the gate on the left, then change his mind and run back into the city towards the building labeled 3. Once they get 2/3 of the way to the building they’ll realize “oh, there’s a building there”, turn around, and run back to the gate. This will keep repeating, and they’ll keep running:

Getting Food

When do I farm food?

When you start building your settlement, you’ll likely be inclined to set up a food farm of some sort so that you can feed your settlers. Logic is sound – you no longer have to waste cats on buying overpriced food at the bar, you no longer need to transport the food from the city to your settlers, and you’d be one step closer to self-sufficiency, right?

Well, usually no. Not if your chosen settlement location has herbivore wildlife roaming around.

Herbivores seem harmless enough

One of the problems that you’ll likely encounter when you start your first settlement is wildlife. Along with the humanoid raids, wildlife will make your settlement-building process a nightmare. Depending on your biome, wildlife will potentially get attracted to your crops, walk right into your settlement like they own the place and start going ham on your crops. If you set up walls and a gate, they’ll break through that gate to get at those crops, forcing you to repair it. Sometimes aggression can occur if your settlers get too close to them while they eat or while they’re breaking down the gate, and injuries will occur, which puts your settler out of commission, and leaves them vulnerable if they have to run away from a subsequent raid. 

You can leave the gate open and ignore the wildlife as it noms on your crops, but then what’s the point of having them to begin with? Might as well just leave farming alone until you have enough defenses in place to fight the wildlife off.

So what do I do?

Instead, dedicate one of your settlers to the role of logistics. Use the revenue stream in the “Securing a revenue stream” section to buy food at the bar, and have your dedicated logistics runner run that food back to your settlement. When there’s enough food, you can have the runner go to town and get building materials or iron sheets to help expedite the settlement’s construction.

Once you’ve fully built your settlement and you feel like you can defend it against wildlife, then you can transition to farming and cooking food. 

What food do I buy?

Cooked meat is the most cost-efficient, but it also gets depleted very quickly. After a certain head count, you simply won’t have enough of it despite depleting all of the bar’s stocks. However, that’s what that revenue stream is for – by the time that you’ve got enough recruits to deplete your rations, your bandana crafter should already be high enough in crafting level to churn some serious profits. At this point you should be able to afford some of the more expensive foods, such as food cubes, gohan, etc. Go ham on that ham and give your colonists some dietary diversity.

Mindset needed when building a settlement

You feel like you’re ready to start

No matter what your preparations are, whether you followed the above advice or did your own thing, eventually it’ll be time to start your settlement (i mean, isn’t that why you’re reading this?). You’re building it, and It’s difficult. It feels impossible.

Why is it difficult?

The biggest and only challenge that you’ll face when you start building a settlement are the raids. You’re probably reading this guide because you know this to be true. You will always have a massive force of faction X or outlaws Y invading your settlement, sometimes twice in the same day. The general despair that I hear is “the enemies are too tough, my guys keep getting wiped out”. This comes from a certain incorrect mindset that new players have – one that needs to be kicked to the curb the moment you launch a new game, and replaced with the correct mindset of “it’s ok to run”

As you build up your settlement, you will be forced to flee it dozens (even hundreds) of times before it becomes even remotely defensible. Yeah, the bandits or ninjas have invaded it, but that’s fine because they’ll eventually leave.

Always remind yourself that “it’s ok to run” no matter what you’re doing in this game. You’re free, and you are not obligated to prove anything to anyone.

You’ll hear this advice from all players, but most of them have forgotten the feeling of the problems that come after. Which brings me to the next point:

Death by a thousand cuts

Every time you flee, you build up a certain… mental attrition. Food, money, resources, all seem to be slipping away, as injuries and other problems seem to pile up, and it feels like you’re slowly regressing back to that moment when you first launched a new game with the solo naked level-1 scrub that can’t fight a goat. Eventually it feels like you have to give up, close the game and never play it again. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. 

You have two options: 

Option one, you fight this feeling. Fight it because it’s false. It’s untrue You are in fact making progress. Every time you come back to your settlement, you add a little bit more, and you get closer to having it become self-sufficient. 

If you no longer have the money to afford food and bandages, you can fall back to option two. Leave your settlement alone for a while and go back to the basics – your settlement will be there when you come back. Go scavenging, go looting, go stealing, go mining, and when you’ve gotten some more funding, go back to your settlement and invest more time and resources into it.

Final Tips

What do I build first?

I’ve been asked if it’s better to focus on resources or defenses first. Honestly, it’s entirely up to you, but keep in mind that if you focus on building defenses first, there’s no way that you’ll have enough of them up in time for the first raiders that come to attack you.

The moment that you place the first building down, you’ll trigger a new settlement, and the countdown to the first raid will begin. You will have to run away from the first group of raiders, and wait for them to leave your settlement alone before going back to it. You’ll do this multiple times before you set up enough defensive firepower to defend yourself against them.

I really want to farm food

As I mentioned in the food section, be patient. Take it slow and easy, and don’t hesitate to spend money on food, and don’t rush farming unless you’re sure that there won’t be any herbivore presence around you. Your revenue stream is there to make the burden of hunger easier, so make use of it and put your mind at ease. 

“Your money isn’t worth anything if you don’t use it” – Marcus from Borderlands

My choice of outpost is making my life hell

Do you think that you can make it work if you train your guys up a bit or got some more research? If so, leave it alone and come back to it later – it’ll still be there. If it’s a challenge that you really don’t want to keep dealing with, then salvage what you can, and relocate. You’re still way better off than you were when you first started, and your guys are still alive.

I’m stuck in a specific city or area, can’t get out without my guys dying

Can you sneak one or all of your guys into a city with a bar? If so, try looking around that bar for mercenaries that you can hire. They’re expensive, sure, but you can use them for their combat skills to fight your battles for you. Even if they are weaker than the enemy, you can use them as a distraction and have your guys escape.

Helena Stamatina
About Helena Stamatina 3203 Articles
I love two things in life, games and sports. Although sports were my earliest interest, it was video games that got me completely addicted (in a good way). My first game was Crash Bandicoot (PS1) from the legendary studio Naughty Dog back in 1996. I turned my passion for gaming into a job back in 2019 when I transformed my geek blog (Re-actor) into the gaming website it is today.

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