RimWorld beginner's guide

Learn your way around the interface to give orders and ensure your colonists are happy.

Care and maintenance of colonists

  • Remember, if you don’t know what something is or what it does, you can almost always click the 'i' button somewhere on its panel to get more information. This is also how you get detailed information.
  • If you click on a Colonist, you can get various bits of information about them by using the tabs above their panel, but the most useful ones are Character and Needs. Character gives their skills and unique traits. Needs will tell you their mental state. At first, you can’t do much to alleviate needs like a personal bedroom (always at least 5 by 5 in size!) or a desire for robot limbs, but it’s easy to make a Nudist happy by going to the Assign menu and giving them permission to never wear clothes.
  • Using the Power section in the Architect menu, build Wind Turbines and Solar Panels, then connect them to batteries to store up energy. Make sure to keep your batteries indoors—they get disastrous when wet. Once you’ve done that, Wall off or dig out a good size room near your common area and install Coolers, under Temperature with their blue side facing inwards. Make sure the red side points outdoors. Set their target temperature to 0 Celsius, make the inside of the room a Stockpile for raw food, to-be-butchered animal bodies, and prepared meals. Voila, you have a freezer. Now you won’t starve when winter comes.
  • Prepare for your first winter by ensuring that you’ve made a tailoring bench and a few Parkas and Tuques—unless you’re in the tropics or the desert, where you should be focusing on Dusters and Cowboy Hats to keep off the heat.
  • You’ll want to build a Research bench early on so you can get Stonecutting and start putting up strong stone walls. From there, your priorities are going to depend on what you need most—but Microelectronics is going to be key, allowing you to trade with passing space ships, communicate with other factions, and research faster.
  • Don’t make doors out of stone. They’re heavy and take forever to open.
  • Colonists with traits like Night Owl or Annoying Voice can be given an alternative schedule using the Restrict menu. Night Owls so they sleep during the day and get a happiness buff. Annoying Voice, Belligerent, and the like can benefit from sleeping during the day, too—it keeps them from pissing off everyone else and starting fights. I also like to use Restrict to keep Colonists with traits like slowpoke, or those who lost a leg in a fight, limited to the Home area. That way they’re not caught out too far in the event of a sudden pirate raid or echoing psychic scream that drives every squirrel on the map into a man-eating frenzy.

Building a wall after a raid.
  • Sooner or later you’re going to get raided. By clicking on a Colonist and pressing 'R', or the crossed swords button, to draft them you get manual control of their position. Get them into cover, as a group, and let the enemy come to you. Build sandbags, under the Security heading of Architect, for easy cover. If you have time, make sure you’re cutting down trees and moving stone chunks to give yourself a clear field of fire in the direction enemies will approach from. Position melee weapon using colonists in ambush behind doors or as a second line if the enemy charges you.
  • RimWorld’s character economy is driven entirely by beds. To take prisoners from those who crash nearby or only get disabled when attacking you, and thereby get new converts to your settlement, you’ll need to put beds or sleeping spots in an enclosed room and mark them as prisoner beds along the bottom. Then, under each prisoner’s unique tab, tell your Wardens to recruit them. Take care not to crowd too much or you’ll end up with the same kinds of problems that crowding your Colonists gives! Oh, and, if their recruitment difficulty is too high go to the Health tab and harvest their organs for sale on the black market. Or let them go to gain goodwill with their tribe. Or just execute them if they’re filthy pirates. (Or, psst, sell them into slavery on the first passing ship.)
  • Got a good Animals skill among your crew? Tame some of the local beasts like alpaca or muffalo for a source of wool and milk that your Colonists will automatically harvest. If you’re feeling particularly daring you can try to tame wolves or lions. Under the Animals tab you can set restrictions on where your creatures are allowed to go. (Keep them out of your food stores. They’ll eat your food and drink your beer.) You can also set specific animals to be trained in specific ways—camels as hauling creatures and huskies as companion and rescue dogs, for example.

Dabble in the Steam Workshop

 Once you have a solid foundation of how to play RimWorld, you can use mods to make the interface more friendly and, of course, deepen the game. There are about 1200 mods on Steam Workshop as of this writing.

Colony Manager streamlines the process of building things from resource to finished product. Work Tab lets you sort and customize with far more depth on the Work tab. Those are just two examples of Fluffy's mods, which all focus on making the management side of RimWorld easier. Here's a handy collection of all of them.

And there are plenty of silly cosmetic mods, too. Why not give your colonists a wider variety of hair?

Wrapping up

The best way to learn RimWorld is to play and find the fun in failure. Maybe your whole colony will burn to the ground, but something funny will probably happen in the process.

You can also learn by watching. Check out Idle Thumbs' RimWorld videos of colony Video Jamestown or Northernlion's RimWorld LP. There are tons more out there, too, from veterans and beginners alike.

Don’t forget to get creative! Some of the best moments in games like this are because you used something in a way it wasn’t intended to be used. Make a death trap using steam vents! Build an empire based on raising and selling dogs to passing trade ships! Build stasis capsules and use them to keep prisoners in suspended animation until you can sell them off!

These are all things I have done. You will do them all, and more. And then your colony will die, and you will start over, and soon you'll realize you know how to play RimWorld.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.