When picking a starting area, remember the resources shown are just for the yellow square; the larger highlighted area will be your map. Try looking in a more general area, understanding that trees and animals tend to increase together while minerals are found more often in foothills and mountains.
Don’t forget defenses when choosing a starting area. Monsters can’t climb down sheer cliffs or swim (…yet?) so you can use lakes, foothills, and horseshoe-shaped mesas to limit the angles they can approach from. This makes it easier to defend than a spot out in the middle of nowhere.
When picking your starting Hearthlings, think about what you want to do. Craftsmen benefit from a high Mind, while you want your soldiers to have high Body and Spirit. This lets Craftsmen level up fast, while soldiers are going to be better in combat and stick around in fights.
Spirit’s also useful for Shepherds, Herbalists and Clerics, while Body also affects movement speed which means any craftsmen or Workers who’ll be doing a lot of running around will benefit there. Don’t just think about right now, think about down the line, too- a middling Mind might be alright for a Weaver who’ll be working on lots of Thread and Cloth without focusing on high level items, while your Herbalist will want a high Body when you upgrade them to a Cleric and they’re in the thick of the fighting.
Don’t be afraid to take it easy at first (at least in Normal); a Footman or two will be able to keep you safe from random encounters for a bit while you get your Craftsmen settled in and ready to make better gear. Storylines are at least partially predicated upon Net Worth, so building a communal palace out of the gate could get you in over your head fast, while sleeping (and dining) under the stars can let your Hearthlings level up before it gets rough.
The right number of Workers can make or break you- too many and you’re not crafting (or defending) enough. Too few and the place will be reduced to a crawl. I try to keep about five Workers running around, as that seems to be enough to keep up with your average settlement.
Pace yourself on large projects. Tell your Hearthlings you want to flatten a 120x120x8 hill and you’ll quickly discover your settlement has ground to a halt while your Workers diligently mine away. Don’t be afraid to break up big mines into sections you can pause, or tell a couple Workers to ignore Build and Mine orders to keep the goods flowing.
Rayya’s Children love their market stalls. Setting up several of these can be key- particularly in the desert. Buy all the wood you can every day so that when you need 100 logs to build lots of scaffolding, you can.
Maintain is your friend. Pay attention to what you want stockpiled and put Maintain orders on those things, then use more for trade goods. Here’s a list of my typical Maintain orders:
Weaver - 10 Thread, 10 Cloth, 10 Leather
Potter - 10 Clay Bricks, 10 Decorative Pitchers
Herbalist - 10 Minor Healing Potions, 10 Coarse Bandages
Blacksmith - 10 Copper Ingots, 10 Tin Ingots, 10 Bronze Ingots, 10 Iron Ingots, 10 Steel Ingots
Cook - 10 Vegetable Stew, 10 Meat Stew, 10 Corn Flour, 10 Wheat Flour, 3 Poyo Feed, 3 Sheep Feed, 3 Rabbit Feed, 10 Peasant Bread or 10 Corn Bread
Mason - 10 Bird Baths, 10 Stone Chests
I’ll often set up a Maintain on a craftsman I want to level up and then sell whatever they’re producing to traders, regardless of the value. It keeps the craftsman busy grinding XP even when they’re not actively helping the settlement.
When you head into combat, a good tactic is to locate a position your combat team can reach before the monsters do, then tell them to protect that spot. This keeps the Footman from running off ahead of the rest and ensures you’re facing them as a group. The AI also seems to do better with moving to a stationary point than trying to reach a moving target.
Also keep in mind that when they have nothing else going on, your soldiers will patrol your fields and stockpiles; if these are away from where the monsters come from you’ll have a delay in your response time. Using the Protect order to keep them at entry points will help.