Frostpunk Keeps Kicking My Arse

Frostpunk Keeps Kicking My Arse

Frostpunk is an oppressive game where the world has been covered by snow and humans have to rely on ingenuity and sacrifice to survive. It’s difficult, and it’s kicking my arse so hard that I don’t want to play it anymore. But like the frostpunks themselves, I persevere.

Image: Jakub Kowalczyk

I’m not a strategy game quitter. I have the perseverance of spirit in me, and that means that even if I don’t think a strategy game is great, I will still stick around to complete (or fail) a game or two to see what’s going on. From turn-based to real-time, city-builder to unit-focused, I’m the kind of player who is willing to stick it out to see what happens across a broad range of strategy games.

However, I keep failing at Frostpunk, and it’s really making me question how well my broad set of strategy skills can adapt to this specific game.

Frostpunk demands a lot from a player. You have to know what jobs your citizens are doing, you have to keep tabs on your always dwindling resources, and you have to have your next goal in sight. You need to be paying attention to the weather (because all your people are definitely going to get sick and die), but you also need to keep tabs on how your colony is expanding.

Like all other strategy games, it’s a juggling act and Frostpunk is clear enough in how it presents what it is asking from you that I never feel completely lost.

Maybe it’s my confidence that’s causing my undoing. Things always start going really bad around the 20 day mark of the first scenario. People are getting cold, and they’re getting sick, and then they start dying. Frostpunk has a punishing death spiral that kicks in when your workers start dying; since there are fewer workers, there are less resources being gathered, which means that it’s harder to provide for your workers, which means they get sick more readily. Repeat until game is over.

Image: Jakub Kowalczyk

Like in most strategy games, I start over equipped with the knowledge that I died because of my own folly. This time no one gets sick. I build medical buildings and keep my citizens warm, shielding them from the awful frosty wind that chills them to their bones. But then I can’t feed anyone. My people become outraged with me, and then they kick me out of my own city. Afraid, I trudge out into the deadly wastes to freeze to death.

The next time I fail it’s because I run out of coal. The next time it’s because I went out into the world and recruited new citizens before I could properly feed or shelter them, turning them into an unruly mob. The next time it was because I just forgot to mine coal for an entire day, causing everyone in my crater city to ice up like Brendan Fraser in that one movie.

The thing is: I don’t know if this game is necessarily more difficult than other strategy games and city builders I enjoy. I love everything about the way it builds its different game systems (especially the hope and discomfort meters) and the setting is a lot more inspired and well-crafted than I initially thought it might be (Ethan nails it on the head when he writes that “Frostpunk is the kind of game where your hope meter actually rises when you build your first cemetery”).

Everything is working toward making me interested and invested in figuring out what makes this frosty nightmare simulation tick.

It’s a great experience, though, because my repeated failures are a kind of simulation for what’s happening in the game. After all, you find out in the first scenario that basically all of the other colonies of frostpunky survivors have died in the wastes. It’s difficult to manage each of the aspects of society that you want to create in the game, and my inability to do so means that I keep getting to these truly tragic fail states.

Frostpunk keeps kicking my arse, but I get up again, Frostpunk ain’t never gonna keep me down.


  • The meters are hope and discontent not discomfort.

    Yeah it is a brutal game and took me a few playthroughs to finally survive and that was mostly due to the giant robot thingies running the various plants day and night especially during the big one. So Steam cores are your friend and you want them coming in as fast as possible.

    Also I found being stingy with the heat helps, only raising the temp when the houses started to get cold, etc

  • One thing I kept doing on my successful playthrough was put the generator into overdrive wherever I could, particularly when I didn’t need to, and then drop the power a level or two until it was time to turn overdrive off. It helped a lot with managing to keep people warm without using too much coal, so I could keep building my stockpiles for later on.

  • I beat it in my second attempt. I found going religion was a lot easier. The other thing was getting the outpost for coal meant I could get all my other resources going. Also, 4 or more workshops to tech fast helped a lot.

    The other big thing that made it easy was coal thumpers, and nothing but hunter huts/upgraded version. I didn’t bother with hot houses at all.

    Once you’ve reached automatons, and you set up the steam core outpost, you can essentially just run most things via automation, with ongoing resources and coal coming in, research into energy and resource efficiency, and make sure everyone is well fed.

    Early game, child labour and extended shifts helps a lot as well. Also, overcrowding in medical bays makes it a lot easier.

    • Second attempt also, order tree, I found the gathering posts a wasted effort and the starting coal deposits enough to skip thumpers and get straight to coal mining. Flying hunters and normal hunters around the clock coming up to deep freeze, I’d reached a point of over 200 unemployed people and genuine no need to find them work so was just building an army of hunters. Had about 7 research joints and only ever bothered with the first found automation. Halfway into deep freeze started having coal supply issues but just spammed those charcoal klins because once you’ve the permafrost drills wood stops being a concern at all.

      Today I’m going to attempt a play through where I don’t do anything outside the adaption tree

      • The thumpers + gathering posts were pretty efficient. I don’t know if I would have survived without them, but i was really generous with heating, and just generated more coal and more automatons.

        Even then I had excess coal generation, even at max power with max range. But I otherwise would have unemployed if I weren’t using them, and might have had to be more stingy with my overall heating.

        I found that most things that use steam cores and isn’t for generating steel, coal or wood, was inefficient. Flying hunter huts are crazy good.

        I built a charcoal kiln towards the deep freeze because I was otherwise building more resource posts to hold excess wood, food and coal. I might play through again on a harder difficulty, and try go with the order tree.

        Although, I got about halfway on my first attempt going order, and I don’t think it’s hugely different, i was just massively inefficient on my first play through while i learnt how all the things worked.

  • Child labour is essential at the start. You also can’t waste too much time getting several workshops going. I failed numerous times but when I finally did I had heaps of everything, something like 6 automatons (4 on coal, 1 on steel and 1 on the wall drill (wood)), enough storage for 3600 rations food and 4000 coal. I also built a steam heat thing around my coal area (which was two steam mines, 1 steam thumper and 3 gathering posts) which kept a fair chunk of my workforce warm and really cut down on the number of sick. It also meant I could defer researching heaters and gathering post insulation. I let in all the refugees, healing houses were a cheap (infirmary’s use a steam core) way to hold all the sick. I think i had 6 or 7 flying food buildings at the end.

    I didn’t build hothouses at all, they dont produce much, take up a lot of space and use a steam core.

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