RimWorld: 5 Tips for Getting Started in the Best Game on Steam

Yeah, I’m calling RimWorld the best game on Steam. (And there are thousands of people on the service who would fervently back me up on that statement.) You seriously need to check it out if you’re…

…fond of building colonies, towns, farms, cities, or what have you. (Did you like Banished?)

…not as concerned about “beating” a game as you are about enjoying it.

…willing to sacrifice hours upon hours of your real life to better the lives of little blob people who are just trying to survive.

…a fan of Civilization, The Sims, or the Stronghold series.

If any of the above applies to you, then you should not hesitate to play RimWorld. Stop reading this for a minute and go buy it. Then come back for the newb tips while it’s downloading.

Better Late Than Never

As usual, I’m late to the party. While Steam was wasting my time by recommending games like Kingdom, thousands of gamers were already enjoying the masterpiece that is RimWorld. Why this game didn’t immediately shoot to the top of my queries regarding kingdom simulations and “games like Banished,” I’ll never know. This is, simply put, one of the most enjoyable, compelling, addictive, and challenging games I’ve ever had the joy of playing. I was waiting eagerly for No Man’s Sky to launch, and now I’m so wrapped up in trying to colonize this stupid planet that my anticipation for the newer game has subsided quite a bit.

Because I’m behind on the game — and none of my colonies have survived longer than a few hours — I decided that writing a review would be pointless. Instead, I’m going to offer a few very beginner tips to help you get started with your own survival efforts.

(Note: If you want to see some of the funniest feedback ever, read the hundreds of positive user reviews on Steam. Games in RimWorld play out like little stories with twists and turns, ups and downs, and everyone is happy to share what stories developed in their game world. Some are quite hilarious.)

5 Spoiler-Free RimWorld Tips

One of the joys of the game is discovery. For that reason, I’m not going to spoil anything significant. I’m just going to give you a couple of tips that will hopefully help your fledgling colony to thrive for longer than an hour. Bear in mind that this is a game that’s not meant to be “won,” rather you’re just hoping to extend the miserable lives of your survivors for as long as possible. The world is harsh, and it gets exponentially harsher the longer you manage to keep your little people alive.

1. Build a freezer.

Once you’ve read a couple of reviews, you’ll notice that a lot of people talk about building refrigerators in the game. I’ve found it to be one of the most crucial early steps, so it makes sense that it’s heavily discussed. Food is scarce, naturally, and being able to keep it stored and fresh for as long as possible is critical to your survival throughout the game. By building a room and equipping it with a cooler — essentially an A/C unit — you can crank the temperature down below freezing and keep your food fresh indefinitely. It’s not only a clever bit of game design, it’s smart colony management.

2. Make sure you have firefighters.

It’s sad how many of my colonies were completely wiped out by a fire. I would venture to say that it’s one of the most terrible threats in the game (at least during the first few hours.) Lightning storms will start fires randomly on the map. Raiders will charge into your colony and set things ablaze. Your own colonists can have mental breakdowns that send them on arson sprees. Oh, and since you built a freezer right away, there’s a 100% chance that your shoddy electrical system will explode into a ball of flame at some point. That’s just the cost of doing business.

At any given time, you may only have a few colonists alive, conscious, or otherwise useful. For this reason, I try to make sure that every colonist I start with can put out fires. At one point, I had a thriving colony with excellent defenses and eight members. An exploding conduit started a fire and I realized too late that only one of those colonists was willing to fight fires…a stroke of really bad luck. He died in a heroic attempt to stomp out the raging inferno while everyone else slept and bitched about how hot it was in their room. That was the end of that game.

3. Be careful what you hunt.

Yesterday, I was operating my most successful colony to date. My defenses were flawless, and any raiders stupid enough to attack were chewed up by precision gunfire from bunkers built into my impenetrable slate walls. Food was plentiful. Marriages were happening left and right. Everyone was happy.

Then I made the mistake of sending five of my most seasoned fighters to hunt down a giant, rare beast that had appeared on the map. I’d actually killed one of them in a previous game using only two hunters, so I figured my crack team of commandos would slaughter the thing in no time.


The beast managed to gore three of my most useful colonists to death in seconds. I had time to send the other two running back to the colony, but as they were fleeing, a swarm of raiders took the advantage. By the time my wounded fighters were back within the walls, the raiders were helping themselves to everything we’d worked so hard to build. The only good turn was that the enraged beast actually turned on the raiders and killed them, but not before slaughtering all but one of my colonists. Because she’d lost her husband and all of her friends, her mood was completely devastated. Apparently, having to walk through a field of corpses and blood just to get to the cemetery so you can bury everyone you’ve ever loved is not good on your mental state. That was the end of that game.

Moral of the story: be very, very careful about what fights you pick. And be cautious about hunting animals that are traveling in a herd. You’ve been warned.

4. Fire & maneuver

For as simple as the combat is in RimWorld, it’s really fun and exciting. (I love how the little blob men actually lean out from behind cover to take their shots.) The first few times I played the game, I would just make a line of sandbags at the outskirts of my colony. When raiders attacked, I’d line up my fighters behind the sandbags and wait passively as they tried to hold the line.

It took me a few games before realizing that fire and maneuver actually helps. For one, you want to keep an eye out for attackers with frag grenades. When they toss them at your colonists, there is usually enough time to run them away from the blast before they’re shredded in a terrible insta-kill. Second, flanking and catching the enemy in a crossfire is an extremely effective tactic. Even when I had my fortified walls, I realized that hiding one crazy joker with a rifle outside of the colony was a smart bet. Once the shooting started at our defensive line, I’d have him run out from cover and start popping the raiders in the back. It worked very well, and also made it very hard for them to survive a cowardly retreat.

Finally, be aware that most colonists are terrible with friendly fire. If one of your colonists or trained animals gets within melee range of a target and others are still shooting, you’ll be treating them for multiple gunshot wounds (if they survive the encounter.) Also, keeping your fighters in a line formation will have them all shooting each other if an enemy gets in an enfilade position (along their line.) Keep clear lines of sight at all times!

5. Research!

Don’t neglect the research. I’ve been playing for a while, and I’ve still only managed to unlock five or six technologies. Even still, some of the tech that I’ve opened up is incredibly useful (hint: gun turrets). I’m sure there are tons of other cool inventions just waiting for me to discover, should one of my colonies ever survive long enough to unlock them.

The best advice I can give in this regard is to start researching early and don’t fall behind. As threats scale up over time, you’ll need your technology to scale up as well. At one point, my colonists were still struggling with hammering out crappy swords at a wood-fueled forge when some sort of robot with a murder-cannon attacked us. Needless to say, we were fairly unprepared, and all died clutching the rusty pistols and rifles we’d salvaged off of dead raiders.

Some games are about winning, and some are about playing. This game is revolutionary in the sense that it actually blends both ideals perfectly. While I don’t feel like RimWorld is a game that I can ever really win, every day that my colonists survive feels like a victory. Every happy marriage is an achievement, and every winter that doesn’t result in my people losing extremities to frostbite feels like a major accomplishment.

If you haven’t played it, do so. You’ll totally see what I mean.

All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!

J. Paul

I'm a professional writer and amateur filmmaker from Miami, Florida. Huge fan of the Dark Tower Cycle, strategy games, photography, and food trucks.

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