How to Build and Manage a Squad in Kenshi

Building a squad of your own and developing each member's skills is a long and complicated process. Learn the ins and outs of being a good squad leader in our handy guide.

Kenshi does tell you within its first few minutes that you can hire helpers to join you in the wastes, but it doesn't explicitly clarify how essential building a squad really is. Long story short, you'll want to make some friends sooner than later.

Squad members are a huge boon, but they require a lot of upkeep, too. Be sure you know what you're getting into before you sign on the dotted line.

Your Employees are an Investment

Shockingly, nobody in Kenshi is willing to follow you all over a ludicrously dangerous desert for free. If you want strangers to risk their lives for you, be ready to pony up a fair bit of cash.

It costs somewhere around 10,000 Cats to hire a 0-level worker and train them to the point of being halfway competent in a handful of skills. I use the following rule of thumb: if I can't comfortably spare 10k, I'm not ready to hire a new person. They need gear, time and equipment for training, and they need to eat. They'll also soak up piles upon piles of medical supplies when they inevitably get their faces smashed in by enemies.

Fortunately, you can use this guide to teach them to be better at that whole fighting thing. As for scrounging up enough cash to pay their salary in the first place, check out our money-making guide.

Division of Labor

Kenshi becomes a radically different game as soon as you hire your first squadmate. Unless you want to sustain yourselves with crime (which is viable, but difficult), you'll need to build a settlement and gradually turn it into a self-sustaining town.

There are six broad categories of activities in the game: combat, crime, farming, crafting, labor, and engineering. (These are my labels, not Kenshi's.)

  • Fighters hit things until one or both of them dies (obviously)
  • Thieves sneak around, pick locks, steal stuff, and ambush unsuspecting targets
  • Farmers grow various plants for food and for raw crafting materials
  • Crafters turn raw materials into food, weapons, armor, or clothing
  • Laborers dig up ore and operate simple machinery
  • Engineers build and maintain structures and research new technology

As you might suspect, a strong squad is a well-balanced one. Crime is always optional (and you'd better be ready for the very long-term consequences if you go down that road), but every other sort of job is required if you want to be successful within the law.

Once your squad grows to about a half-dozen members, you'll spend most of your time managing their activities and making sure everyone's pulling their weight in an efficient and productive manner.

Give Everyone a Routine

If you had to manually order every squad member to do every little action, Kenshi would be unplayable. Fortunately, it has a crisp and efficient A.I. system that handles a big chunk of the busywork for you, but the game doesn't do a great job of explaining how to use it.

When you right-click on a machine or resource with a squad member selected, he'll go do that thing until you tell him to stop or until he fills his inventory—but after that he'll just sit around like a lump. However, if you hold Shift while right-clicking to give the order, you'll assign that task to that person as a permanent job. This means they'll do that activity forever as long as their "Jobs" tick box is set to "on."

As you can see in the screenshot above, squad leader "Peace" is my designated Iron Guy. He's actually got multiple jobs—four, at the moment. Assign multiple jobs to a squad member, and they will carry them out in priority order.

In this example, Peace is to use the Iron Refinery to create iron plates if he can. If the raw iron ore runs out, he's then to jog up the hill to the right and mine some more. He'll bring it back to the iron ore storage container before finally taking any finished iron plates out of the Refinery and storing them in their appropriate container. Once he's made all those checks, he goes back to the top of the list and starts working the Refinery again.

It's important to note that if a permanent job involves gathering large quantities of something, you also have to tell that person where to put their stuff. If you don't, they'll just stand around with a full inventory. Each resource has its own type of storage container, and assigning a permanent job to it will generate a task that starts with the prefix "Haul." Hauling orders can't be linked to general storage containers (copper has to go in copper storage, water in water tanks, and so on).

In this squad, "Heft" is in charge of both farming and cooking, while "Gecko" is my engineer and backup laborer. As long as bandit raids aren't rolling in to wreck my face, it all runs like clockwork and saves me a ton of clicking.

These routines can get pretty complicated. If you decide to have one person cover tasks spanning different categories, I recommend grouping related tasks together within their job list (e.g. have all the iron smelting activities happen before any farming checks are made).

For best results, consider more concentrated supply chains once you have enough people to make them feasible (for example, rather than having one guy do the entire iron process from mining to smelting, have him just focus on bringing ore to guy #2, who spends all his time smelting).

Bear in mind that squad members will always try to do their jobs if their job selector box is ticked. If you're trying to issue them a manual order and they keep running away, they're probably going back to work. Just tick their job box "off" to make them stop and listen.

Final Thoughts and Tips

Here are a few things to keep in mind as your posse starts to grow and become more successful (that is, as they start to become more tempting targets for criminals):

  • At any time, you can left-click and drag to select multiple squad members within a rectangle.
  • Make liberal use of the pause function (space bar). You can issue orders while the game is paused to have them carried out once you unpause. This is especially helpful once you're trying to guide fifteen people through a complex semi-automated production line.
  • If you need to send someone to town for a supply run, send someone who can fight well and run fast (and make sure they're as unencumbered as possible)
  • Never leave workers undefended at your settlement. If you can't spare a fighter or some hired mercenaries to protect them, consider having everyone travel together when you need to leave. Even if a bandit raid steals all your stuff while you're gone, that's better than having them kill your whole party and steal your stuff. People are much harder to replace than supplies.
  • Don't work at night. Most production activities incur major penalties in the dark. Build enough beds for everyone to get a solid 8 hours, especially if they're injured.

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There you have it! Just as in real life, if you want to make money and be successful, treat your employees well. Keep their bellies full and protect them from bandits, and they'll give you their best effort in return. Be sure to keep an eye out for our other Kenshi guides here on GameSkinny.

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Gamer since 1989. Freelance writer, editor, writing coach, and English tutor since 2007. Writing about games is rad.

Games Kenshi Genres RPGSimulationStrategy Platforms PC Tags kenshi guide
Published Dec. 11th 2018

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