What Stonehearth can learn from Timber and Stone

Hey everyone, I bit the bullet and purchased Timber and Stone last week when it came out on Steam, and I wanted to talk about some of its gameplay/mechanics compared to Stonehearth.

Before I begin, I want to clarify that I really enjoy both games, and that I want Stonehearth to succeed in the most epic way possible. That being said, most of my points revolve around Timber and Stone (henceforth referred to as T&S), so please forgive me if it seems like I am trying to sell you guys on getting into T&S. Like I stated above in the topic title, I want Stonehearth to be awesome, and I’ve noticed a few things Stonehearth could definitely adopt and mold to fit its formula. With that all done, I will get into my points:

  1. Difficulty, Dwarf Fortress “Fun”, and Frustration

T&S is hard. I’m going to share a screenshot of my 1st town on T&S.

That’s Rickeman, one of my former townies; he was a lvl 8 (out of 20) infantry, armed with a club because I hadn’t spent any time really making weapons yet. He died to two skeletons, even though he had the help of two other infantry fighting alongside him. The town Rickeman lived consisted of 8 people to start; after this encounter I want to say it was down to 5. I had to abandon all of the crops, quit cutting wood, and dedicate all of my town members to digging a trench to keep out invaders. I’ve stopped playing on that town for fear of the inevitable; they are all going to die and I already know this so I decided to start a new town.

The difficulty in T&S is pretty steep; it’s not Dwarf Fortress but it certainly will challenge you. There is a real sense of challenge, and achievement when you finally make it. It took me almost 30 hours to build this and I’m very proud of it. That’s my 4th town, the one where had the sense to build a moat, had decent settlers, and was lucky enough to not get slaughtered by a pack of wolves on the 4th day.

While I really liked the difficulty of T&S I did not like the frustration of not knowing anything. T&S has complicated production loops, and while the mechanics seem similar to Stonehearth it included a mechanic I had no idea was present in the game; your early-game stone tools break.

No big deal you say, you can just make more! Yes, you are entirely right. I can make more tools. Oh wait, you need wood to make tools? You haven’t got any wood? Well that’s great, you can cut down another tree. Oh wait, your woodcutter doesn’t have an axe because it broke? That’s okay you can just…uh wait several days for a trader to come by…in the mean time all of your workers can uh…

This is precisely what happened to my 2nd and 3rd towns, within an hour the stone axes I was generously provided with while settling had been broken, and all my wood had been spent making pickaxes and hammers. I had no axes, in the only period of the game where you can freely explore the map gathering wood before the literal wolves come. As you can imagine, this completely crippled both of those towns; I had managed by blind luck to overcome this the first time by naively telling my crafter to make 5 of each type of tool, only to be defeated by monsters because I did not use my resources wisely. On my 2nd town when I tried to start building an army immediately, I quickly became trapped in production loops where I needed both a resource to make a tool, and to get the resource I needed the tool. Run out of both, or accidentally let your crafters use all of the resource to make other things and you are pretty much doomed. My 3rd town failed because I lost my stonecutter to a pack of wolves, and without someone to keep up my tool supply, I quickly ran out of tools. The new stonecutter immediately went to work, but because I had already queued up a large amount of bricks, he used up all of the stone, and my miners had broken their picks in the meantime.

This was incredibly frustrating, and what bothers me was that stone tools broke with use not immediately obvious. I’m sure it was meant to make T&S more difficult by making the player pay attention to his resources, but all it did was create a situation where I had to micro-manage any important resource. When I’m building a castle or fort to fend off wolves, goblins, and a fire-wielding necromancer, I do not want to check up how many stone hammers I have in comparison to how much stone I have. I want to build thick walls, dig a deep moat, and train men to man said walls. Stone hammers usually aren’t of concern when there are undead spirits roaming the woods that can catch people on fire, but I’ve lost two towns to stone hammers, and only one to a necromancer.

What Stonehearth can learn from T&S, is that there’s a happy middle ground between difficulty, fun, and frustration; combat. Make the combat hard, give the player a goal to work towards that is actually difficult, but under no circumstances allow the player to miss a relatively small detail that ends up killing their town. I know that some people may find losing a town to something seemingly insignificant might be fun, but I think the vast majority of Stonehearth players want a challenge, but that challenge needs to be legitimate in the form of monsters, environment, or even random encounters. If you have it to where the player can fail because of their ignorance of a minor game mechanic, you can very easily frustrate and isolate the player.

  1. Progression, Pacing and the Blacksmiths

T&S is not only hard, it’s painfully slow. That picture of the half-completed fort? Took about 30 hours of in-game time. An in-game day takes an hour of real time on the normal speed. Add in pauses for monster encounters, any planning you might want to do as far as resources or construction on pause, and a productive day might take an hour and a half to two hours. One of the very cool things about T&S’s pacing is how its very much a build up to a massive leap forward. You will spend 4 days collecting enough stone for a castle wall, another 2 days converting the stone into bricks, but only one day to put the wall up.

Compared to Stonehearth though, it makes sense. I got on Alpha 12 today, and in one sitting of about an hour and a half (granted, I played mostly at double time) had a town of 14 hearthlings, a blacksmith at level 5, had unlocked every profession, defeated the goblin chief and was building for pure aesthetics.

Remember that half-completed fort I showed off above in T&S? Compare that to this castle I made during Alpha 11.

I really like this castle, but I’m much more proud of my T&S fort. Why? Because it took a lot more time and effort to build a moat and half of a wall in T&S than an entire walled fortress in Stonehearth. However, I don’t think that slowing everything in Stonehearth down or making it more of a grind is a good idea; there’s a better solution.

One thing I’ve learned in strategy games is that you are often give short-term gain versus long term gain dilemmas. In Civ games, you can spend your limited resources (production and time) to build troops to conquer your neighbors, or you can build an economy which allows you to increase production. Spend too much on troops, and you are crippled when your enemies can raise an army twice as fast as you; spend too much on production and infrastructure and you have no army when the barbarians come. Stonehearth and T&S are both strategy games at their heart, and while they are not turned based, they can add dilemmas by allowing players to tweak game pacing. Tweaking pacing in key places, such as food production can create interesting dilemmas and mechanics. In T&S it takes a while to grow crops, so I had a few fishermen I would convert to farmers during harvest/planting time to get the work done faster, and I would turn most of my farmers into other crafters during growing times. There is also a dilemma in T&S about training your citizens for combat; any time spent training for either the archer or infantry skill means they aren’t being productive elsewhere in your town. If you are desperate for a crafter or job immediately, you can forgo training but they be absolutely worthless whenever they get in a fight.

The only somewhat slow pacing in Stonehearth and its only real strategic dilemma so far is building up your blacksmith to where they can make steel. It takes time to mine enough copper and tin to get your blacksmith to an appropriate level to where they can make iron, but if you are like me, many players want to save their iron for making steel further down the road. This is an interesting dilemma; you can either save your iron for superior steel down the road and wait longer to get there, or you can use your iron to boost your blacksmith faster, wasting precious steel. However right now, you can kind of have your cake and eat it too by turning your bronze into weapons/armor that boost your blacksmith’s experience relatively quickly and do not take away from your future steel supply.

The pacing and progression of the blacksmith in Stonehearth is similar to T&S blacksmith; you can either bide your time and save the most important resources, or you can blow through precious goods to get something inferior much faster. T&S takes this a step further by actually allowing you to refine copper (their lowest ingots) into bronze/iron level, then from there into a steel level by adding refining ores. Basically you can use 2 copper to make a low ingot, and from there upgrade it to a medium ingot by adding tin. Once its a medium ingot, it can become high quality ingot by adding coal.

T&S attempts to prevent you from having your cake and eating it too resource wise by making the lowest ingots a possible prerequisite to high level ingots (similar to the iron/steel dilemma in Stonehearth but extended all the way down) but also drops the ball by having their blacksmith level up fairly quickly even just making ingots. An interesting way to force players to make the choice between having to level their crafter or save their resources would be to actually minimize experience gain on ingots or other semi-finished goods; basically forcing the player to take a very long time to level their crafters if they want to save their resources for the higher-end gear or forcing them to make sub-optimal gear with their resources to level their crafters faster. Dilemmas like these create differing strategies, and can create situations where if the player makes the right or wrong choice, it can help or hinder their next moves.

Speaking of semi-finished goods; I know that Team Radiant isn’t a huge fan of them (specifically bricks.) But they really do a great job of making players consider their resources better. It’s much easier to make the dilemmas I’m talking about when there are bricks, timber, and ingots that are useful in multiple recipes and scarce versus just giving the player almost unlimited resources. Scarcity drives the world’s entire economic model; let it drive your video game economy and the player’s choices.

TL;DR for this section, slow down the progression, but allow players to make strategic decisions that allow them to influence pacing for better or worse.

  1. The T&S Storage Mechanic

T&S and Stonehearth approach item storage in two very different ways; in T&S you have specialized storage containers for different products; weapon racks hold only weapons, tool crates only contain tools, and hay stacks hold only wheat. You have a town-wide storage need for the categories based on how many of those resources you have, but the inventory is shared across each of the same storage containers. While you can fill up across the whole town, you can’t have a particular container fill up.

What this effectively means is you can have a masonry storage area in a mine, and your miners can deposit stone into this mason storage piece that can hold stone, dirt, and bricks. Across the map at your stone mason’s crafting bench, your mason can walk two feet over to a 2nd masonry storage and pick up the same stone your miners just threw into the masonry storage in the mine; the inventory is collective to that type of storage, which prevents your workers from hauling things around all day.

This is both awesome and overpowered when compared to Stonehearth’s system. I have a group of miners in my mine that have a tool chest, food crate, metal storage, and masonry storage. If I sealed those miners in the mine, and sealed off my town to outside contact via a moat without a drawbridge, my miners could still teleport materials via these storage containers. If you think that’s a bit OP for a game that otherwise has been extremely unforgiving, I completely agree with you.

But, Stonehearth’s system is frustrating. You can put a crate down in a mine, and let your miners fill it up, and even better tell them to move the full crate into town for your blacksmith to use, preventing countless trips back and forth. But do you as a player actually want to do that? That requires micro-management, and while it certainly works, I’m personally of the mindset that unless your mine is very far away, its not worth paying attention to.

So, there must be a middle ground right? My idea is to have some sort of bulk hauling device, like a cart or pack mules or whatever Tom and Tony decide would be cool. A priority storage system (a thing I’ve seen people mention a few times on the discourse) where storage crates can be designated as having priority over others could be used to encourage trips back and forth by this cart, and allow the player to focus on more pressing issues. If you want an example from another brilliant game, Prison Architect’s logistics system where you can designate which kitchens serve which canteens would be a good guideline. Having some crates feed into others via a hauling service would be very cool and encourage the player to make roads, bridges, and wider tunnels for carts to travel more efficiently. Having something like this would eliminate the OP item-teleportation, while making taking very little micro-management and adds mechanics to the game that could be interesting.

*Side note on T&S’s storage; I thought having specialized storage objects, such as the weapon rack that only served one type of item was very cool for aesthetics and design reasons. I had weapon racks on top of my fort walls so my soldiers could refill their arrows during an attack without leaving their posts, and my farm looked way cooler with giant hay stacks next to my barn. What’s even better is that these storage have a legitimate purpose, as opposed to just decoration.

  1. User Interface

This is my final point, and the one where Stonehearth really takes T&S to town. The UI in T&S isn’t bad. But it’s minimal, and there’s no master commands. If a necromancer came knocking on my door, I can’t mass draft my citizens into my army. I can’t tell my settlers to wear armor across the board, so I have to find them and pick them out individually and tell them what to wear. I like that I can do that, but I don’t like doing it twenty times. I especially did not like the fact there was no master list of my settlers; I was unaware I had acquired so many settlers until it displayed the amount on my save file. Until I saw this, I legitimately thought I had around 30 settlers in Orsina, my most recent save.

Stonehearth features like the upcoming Hearthling Therapy, tools like the town defense mode, and the crafting menus really make the game much more user friendly. I am absolutely fascinated by Dwarf Fortress, but I never got into it due to the UI; I think Stonehearth’s UI is great, and I really want to commend Team Radiant for what they have so far and what they have hinted is coming in the future.

T&S’s lack of master control menus, places where I could quickly figure out which of the 40+ settlers I had trained for combat when the wolves growled at the door really frustrated me, and really took me out of the moment. If there was a town defense button where all of my citizens immediately turned into either archers or infantry based on which skill was higher, fights would be a lot more fun and fast paced. Manually clicking on the 5 closest settlers to turn them into soldiers, and watching in horror as my woodcutter decided the perfect time to go cut wood was when a pack of 12 wolves sat on the drawbridge was not fun, and I was pretty upset when I had to bury that woodcutter because of a lack of good UI.

I’m not going to give any suggestions besides what you guys are already doing; keep giving the players the power to easily make master, town-level decisions, while keeping the features to allow us to fine tweak our individual settlers.

It’s pretty late here (3AM) and I have an interview tomorrow, so I think I’m going to end it here. I really would like to hear from everyone what they think. If anyone else has tried T&S, I’d especially like to hear your thoughts, since you might have gotten entirely different views out of your experiences playing both Stonehearth and T&S.


Despite I’ve stopped playing T&S when they change the look (a total failure to me), the game had some very valid mechanisms. I remember a very nice castle burned down by necromancers because the external design wasn’t all stone. Epic!
Now Stonehearth to me isn’t yet totally on tracks, some basic mechanisms (like a task manager) are just seing the light now and some more are missing (ranged combat, water management, weather, etc). So until ALL mechanisms won’t be here it’s hard to compare things but I think Stonehearth has the potential to be a real hit simply because it already have something rare, a great art direction.

That said I quite agree with your comment.


Liked because of the effort put in to post.

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Because it’s alpha, Radiant is putting most of their effort into infrastructure rather than content. So we don’t have many enemies yet.

In the long run, the plan is to have a progression from goblins, through orcs and up to the “titan” class monsters (giant Ents, Cthulu, etc.) that is determined by how nice your town is (based on gold value so far, but probably more elements later). Together with that, they want to add some scenarios to the world where very tough monsters are spawned and if you attack and defeat them, then it will trigger some harder monster attacks.

Having said that, I don’t believe they want Stonehearth to be a super hardcore game experience. It’s more of a family-friendly level of difficulty with the option to make things harder on yourself if you like… And with the strong modding support, it will be relatively easy to create harder challenges for players if they prefer that.


as an original backer for T&S (and a huge fan of Robert’s work), as well as a big SH fanboy, I really enjoyed this post… thanks for sharing your feedback @mCharger! :+1:


Yes, really great to read something about another very good yet quite different game here on the forum. I can sign all of the points given in the original post. And I still hope that the current difficulty level of SH will turn out to be the “easy” mode in the final release, with higher difficulties adding things like breaking tools, scarce ressources and tougher enemies and all that.

@mCharger When I play T&S, I rename my initial settlers and any new guys by giving them lastnames that tell me one or two professions that I’d like to use on them (e.g. Paul Tradesmith who is a Blacksmith but turns into a trader when needed). Sure, I still have to find them when there is need, but at least a mouseover does the job rather than opening their skills window.

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Btw, to all you people: buy both games!! Whenever I feel like micromanaging and really earning my success, I play T&S, and whenever I feel like sandbox building in a more relaxed way, SH is my choice.

Thumbs up for both of them!!


I am wondering about the end game currently. I hope its going to be hard enough or we that we are going to have a “hardcore” mode next to “normal” and “peacefull” when starting the game.

I’m assuming this will be the case. I see the use of a “difficulty” variable in use in some campaign files that could possibly be used to change stats and numbers of enemies.


If playing aggrassivly you should meet more and more advanced combat events ^.^

This game is real early stages comparatively to the combat in that other game.
The mods can make a huge impact.I made 1 for myself where u have 8bitcrabs on the shore and u kill 8 of them a 64bit giant crab comes out!He rocks my socks off though…You need 4 footmen and 1 will die for sure.Considering what I could mod you or someone else could you will be doomed and
in over your head.Try to mod yourself something.It’s easy and can be custom built to you.
(my crab kills)


Thanks for your very thoughtful post! Lots of good stuff here… we’ll chew on it.


Doesn’t sound too tasty though… :confounded:

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I agree on your storage point. I think it would be really nice if we could have minecarts, “horse trailer” (dc what they are called in english) or something similar for often used routes.
I love the crates for aesthetics and storage room, but not for transporting goods.

About the balancing of the game, i’ll just wait and see, i have faith in TR that they will balance the game as we approach beta/release :slight_smile:

I somewhat agree and somewhat disagree. I agree with your suggestions towards usability, like the storage thing.
But i somewhat disagree with you on the part of difficulty. From what i gathered from the streams, Tom and co. are aiming to make this game a more relaxed experience. Just a fun time building a town with cute graphics. Still somewhat challenging but mostly relaxed and fun.
I really don’t think that they are even trying to provide the somewhat more hardcore experience that T&S provides.
And quite frankly, why would they. There are tons of these games out there. T&S, Dwarf Fortress, Gnomoria, Rimworld and many many more. All are somewhat hardcode gaming experiences and i think it’s actually quite good that Stonehearth focuses on a more relaxed experience. It sets it apart form the crowd,

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Exactly, that’s what makes Stonehearth special for me. I’m just saying that it would be quite easy to achieve different difficulties by simply modifying a few variables. I am NOT saying make Stonehearth more difficult, I’m saying a little variety can’t hurt. Why switch between games when you can have all in one?

Steph said in a stream (can’t remember which one) that the more difficult experience will be there for those who seek it. This would be done by having monster “bosses” on the map that will only attack when provoked, and which would trigger a new (stronger) monster boss to spawn once it is defeated.

Alternatively/additionally, they want to make the game smart enough to counter how you’re building your town: i.e. if you’re building a lot of soldiers and walls then they’ll send more monsters to raid you; if you’re cutting down a lot of trees then the Ents will be mad and come and attack you.

I don’t think any of these ideas have been solidified, though.

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I don’t believe you know Dwarf Fortress level difficulty. At least in both T&S and Stonehearth, you don’t deal with tantrums for not having stone beds (fixed) or the fact that you just ran out of alcohol wherein everyone can’t work and starts to kill each other with random furniture. Or dealing with the nobility who makes various demands and prohibitions which are crippling at times.

Or remember the currency version? At least in T&S and Stonehearth, beds were communal (though I hope this will change) where when currency was a thing, people had homeless dwarves all over the place -> Fortress of the Homeless dwarves (who can’t feed themselves either).

But otherwise, I feel that your analysis of the two games are pretty good.

Thanks for all the replies everyone! Good to see everyone made it through the wall of text and had good opinions to share! I took the time to try and respond to everyone.

I agree, the necromancer is one of the more fun enemies I’ve encountered in a strategy game.

I also really agree with your point about TR’s art direction. Despite my best efforts, my girlfriend really isn’t into strategy games, but she backed Stonehearth during its kickstarter based purely on its art style, and has really enjoyed the game so far. Stonehearth’s art will definitely help bring new people into the genre, which makes me excited because strategy/simulation/city building is one of the more creative types of video games and its a shame they often take a backdoor in the industry to action/shooter games.

Thank you!

Yes, I definitely have taken the fact that Stonehearth is still deep in Alpha into consideration during all of my points. I think if they follow through with their plans and add progressively harder enemies, they definitely could make Stonehearth quite challenging. I know Stonehearth has a wealth mechanism, and if they use that when determining monster spawns, they can tailor experiences to remain challenging at all levels.

Haha, yes I saw one of your posts while lurking on the T&S forums, I had to do a double take and make sure it was the same Steve.

Yes, I completely agree that the audience of both games is very similar and a lot of Stonehearth players would probably like T&S too. Also, thanks for the tip on naming your settlers based on their profession!

I hope they have a hardcore mode! That’d be awesome.

Yeah, I’ve heard on some the streams people mention that eventually difficulty will be a variable. Good to see they already have a baseline for that in the code.

Mods certainly can make games more difficult, but in all honesty I generally like the developer to set the “tone” for difficulty; while certain mods have gone to lengths to increase game difficulty (Better than Wolves mod for MC is the best example I can think of), most modders seem to like to balance the game around the same level as the developers, and many actually will go the opposite and make the game easier.

Great to see you guys reading community feedback!

I agree about waiting and seeing about the balance of the game. I think at this point TR will probably lean towards the more relaxed/simple gameplay.

I support that decision, but would definitely like to see them expand upon the more complicated and difficult aspects of the game. I remember a long time ago, either prior to Alpha 1 or right after, TR mentioned that most mechanics would be simple to learn, difficult to master. The example they gave was irrigation for crops; you can just lay down some irrigation and farmland to get your crops growing, but if you want the most efficient way to grow crops, you need to lay down really efficient irrigation that takes into account the terrain, water sources, and what type of crop you are growing. Those kinds of systems may bore some people to sleep, but that’s the kind of thing I’d love to see.

The thing about difficulty is that it adds challenges. I know some people like games to be easy, but I’d wager most people like to be challenged when they play games. I’m not saying Stonehearth needs to be incredibly difficult, with a super steep learning curve and hard to understand mechanics; I’m saying right now the progression of your town is a bit fast paced, and there are very few challenges you face as a player in the early game.

AI being able to react intelligently to your defenses (sending a fire titan if your town is mostly made of wood) would be very cool. I think I remember her saying something along those lines, and I really hope they follow through with that idea.

Exactly, I stated that I’ve never played DF because of the ridiculous UI. I don’t want Stonehearth to be DF hard; the tantrum mechanics and nobility are something I really don’t care to see in Stonehearth, but TR definitely could up the challenge with building an economy.


I’ve tried to tackle, mentally, the problems with implementing a working economy. As much as I hate to say it, unless the minimum requirements for Stonehearth are dramtically increased, I don’t see it happening.

If you can flesh out a working skeleton economy model for a game like Stonehearth in the forum, tag me and I’ll be glad to read it.