Hard Mode Survival Tips?

So I’ve been taking a few cracks at the hard mode game and I’m finding it to be exactly as advertised. My best settlements tend to last about a week of game days before something like a giant stone golem shows up and wipes the floor with my settlers. Last session I had a settler die on the very first night of the game though! So I know my usual strategy needs to be updated. I’ve been trying a new strategy where the very first thing I build is some sort of fort with the plan to build the settlement inside of it but I guess my fort is too grandiose as it never gets far enough completed to do much good before the settlement is wiped out. So my new plan is:

  1. Build a ‘Blockhouse’ style fortification first; just large enough to serve as a safehouse for the initial settlers, and something my Hearthlings can build in a day or two.
  2. Concentrate on early mining; wooden swords and shields aren’t going to cut it. I need a blacksmith ASAP.

Does anyone have any advice on what else I could be doing, what works, and what NOT to do in hard mode?


This is what I do and I find hard mode pretty easy.
Assuming you start on the plains, with the ascendancy, which is the easiest you can get hard mode to be.

so don’t bother with a fort, you need your hearthlings that are gathered next to the town banner to assist in the combat so they need to be able to get to where your footman is.
The way the worker hearthlings behave when in town alert mode is really convenient as none of them take more than one hit whenever they go to attack as they always hit and run. Therefore you can view the mob of hearthlings as a single unit with a massive HP sink.

Next you want to start with a trappers knife, you need this for food and for fur that you will use to make armour from the weaver.

Days 1-3 -
promote a carpenter and the trapper, lay out 6-8, 50 by 50 trapping zones so the trapper is never idle, I think ~15 by 50 is the most space efficient trapping zone size.
Get the carpenter to level 2-3 and craft a wooden sword and shield (shield is very important, difference between killing and being killed by early varanaus), herbalist staff, masons chissle and weavers loom.
Also craft beds and place them on the floor next to your storage pile.

Whilst the carpenter and trapper are doing this all your other hearthlings need to go out and collect all the berry bushes (~15-20), wild silkweed plants (~30) and brightbells (~15) you can get. Wood and stone also need to be harvested.

Once the carpenter has made each of the promotion items, promote one hearthling to a footman, weaver herbalist and mason.

The weaver needs to be set to maintain one of all the armour items, this way there will always be armour in storage for when a footman levels up or a new footman is promoted.
The mason needs to be rushed to level 1 to make stone mauls and then to level 2 to produce chests. Once a couple of chests have been placed, you can deselect food from your storage area to stop it going mouldy.
The herbalist needs to immediately start producing health tonics, keep an eye on there level and promote them to a cleric ASAP, once you have a cleric promote a second hearthling to be a herbalist and do the same.

Once you have set all the crafters going with there jobs and have ample resources you can start with the first building.

Days 4-7 - first building has finished or is nearly there and mason is getting up to level 3, get a blacksmith ASAP and get bronze maces.
Build another building preferably the smallest building possible that will give you enough wealth to knock you over 1100 to get a 9th hearthling.

Promote a second hearthling to a footman.

once you have a blacksmith level 2 get a knights shield and promote a footman to a knight (preferably your second footman as your first is going for level 6 footman to get the damage necessary to kill them golems).

From then on in make sure you have over 40% of your hearthlings as combatants and you should be fine.

Also archers with spiky arrows are invaluable.

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No need to rush a blacksmith. As mentioned, one or two footmen are enough early on. Rush a cleric and you’re golden there. The key is utilizing the town defense and moving your footment to fight at the same time as your rallied hearthlings. Two footmen would get destroyed by a wolf, but two footmen and 7 hearthlings can take it.

@Freedom - Excellent and specific advice, thank you! Will try to put it into practice tonight!


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I’m playing hard mode for the experience in the lategame with 20+ hearthlings and dislike the spawnfrequency at the beginning. If you’re okay with avoiding fights early on, try starting on a smaller hill with enough space for farming and crafting. Mining is never a problem so you’d have to place a ladder only to get wood(it could also be bought from traders).
Result: No hostile spawns until you want action. You can train future soldiers first in other jobs to give them a buff in health. Downside is that you can’t start later on with only one footman because the spawns are more difficult than on the first days.

GREAT SUCCESS!! So I generally followed the above advice; To start the game I aggressively pillaged the countryside of every useful plant and moved them closer to my starting location, and began to exterminate the local wildlife via traps. I rushed a mason, a herbalist and a weaver, promoted the herbalist to a cleric as soon as I was able. Between a decently kitted out footman (Stone Maul, wooden shield, leather armor and helmet) I was able to hold off the early enemies much more effectively. I assigned a second Footman as soon as I hit 9 Hearthlings. I’m somewhat behind the above schedule, it being day 8 and I’m nearly done with the first building (which is a custom blockhouse design that I plan to stick everything in for now. After that I’ll do some mining to start a Blacksmith and start upgrading the footman’s kit and try to balance that with a little building and maybe some farming to attract more settlers. But I feel like I’m past the initial hurdle and on my way to prosperity. I might even revive my idea for a walled settlement…

Lessons Learned:

  1. Early Clerics are hugely helpful, badly wounded footmen and settlers that took forever to heal are a thing of the past. One Cleric + 2 Footmen have taken out everything I’ve fought so far with ease, except the large stone golem where they needed some additional help from the rest of the settlers.
  2. I used to skip the leather/cloth armor and the stone weapon to get straight to the ‘good stuff’ in the Blacksmith’s bag of tricks. But now I see how vital these early pieces of gear are. Kudos to Radiant for the balance in this part of the game.
  3. The trappers’ knife is still absolutely the best starting choice, one good trapper will keep the settlement in food and leather long enough that farming and herding can definitely be delayed. Farming used to be one of the first things I did but now I think I’ll always delay it.


Glad the advice was helpful. I probably haven’t got the timings down correctly, was doing it from memory so you’re probably doing just as well :smile:

I find the trapper’s knife to be the better choice logistically (first, get food to survive and begin stockpiling leather for the several vital pieces that need it; second, it takes a (relatively) long time to get the crafter skill to make it on-site; and third, the L4 hunter upgrade makes for a nice generic hauler, too). However, going for the earliest population expansion, starting with a Farmer is a lot more likely to get you hearthling 8 on Day 2 in my experience.

Absolutely agree about getting an early cleric - they are incredible, both for in-combat healing and for post-combat recovery (even compared to a herbalist).

I’d add that a strong perimeter is essential. Once your carpenter has made all the essential class items, focus them on fences, gates, reinforced doors, etc.

Pause often to ensure everyone is kept maximally busy in the early couple of days.

if you can, give yourself enough protected real estate for at least one or two mature trees, and plant a few saplings so you can be self-sufficient inside your perimeter. From there, you can decide exactly when and where you put your hearthlings in danger.

So just played a quick run though on hard. This is how far I’ve got in 8 days (well I paused it at 12:29am on the morning of the ninth day but that’s about 8 days :smile:)

9 hearthlings and my military is at 2, level 2 footmen and 2 clerics, one level 1 and one level 2.

Just started work on the 4th house.

What I did is mine a trench around my town’s area. Then construct a bridge/wall combination leading to the outside. It bottlenecks combat to one area, and allows you to mine, farm, and craft without…interruptions.

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I think the idea is to have a strong military force without building too fast. I find that having an early herbalist (around 8~10 population) to promote into a cleric is really beneficial towards battles. Late game, you want to have a handful of archers and tanks. Also don’t be afraid to assign your town folks as part of the militia at any time.

Or, instead of building a house, you can just dig a fancy moat and sleep under the stars. :slight_smile:

Enemies are much less threatening while you’re surrounded by a fancy ditch.

forget about fighting fair.

principle strategy: infantry/knight kiting + clerics/archer support.
I didn’t need a lot of “bait” other than to ensure that the damage gets distributed enough. just scale clerics/archers number to adjust balance between survivability and damage.

I just had this idea I want to try: wonder how will an all-cleric squad (say around 10-20) perform… new theme : fighting/healing monks in an isolated monastery… where every citizen will eventually become a level 6 cleric…