Your settlement is not a random collection of letters. It is an industrial-military complex aimed at kicking your opponents off your island. To make it work, there are a few things to keep track of:
Depending on scenario difficulty, you start with enough materials to construct about 20 buildings or so, and a handful of extra robots. You will need to start manufacturing your own supplies pretty quick to move past the opening stage. Here are the end-use consumable goods in the game:
The goods highlighted in gold are used for construction and maintenance, and are of strategic importance. You can see the consumption and production for each material in the time reports and on your balance sheet. The Inventory Control Panel power tab will tell you how far your current stocks will go, and identify which materials are holding you back. Knowing your consumption balance is important for knowing what letters to build next.
Your supplies need to make it into storage to be of use for construction and maintenance. Solid goods are stored in a (T) building, each of which has capacity for 100 lbs per item. Liquid goods are stored in a (H) building, each of which has capacity for 50 gallons per item.
If you do not have enough storage, finished goods will clog up your factories without being available for use. Make sure you build at least one (T) before you burn through your starting stack of construction materials, otherwise you will be stuck.
Your settlement runs on electricity, which is generated by the (S) and (G) letters.
Newly completed buildings are powered OFF by default (except solar panels). Click on a building to bring up its power switch and turn it ON. Do not power up buildings you do not need. If you have more demand than supply, some buildings will black out, undermining your industry. Moreover, your network voltage will drop, reducing your effectiveness in combat.
Use the filters to see which buildings are on, off, or in shortage. Use the reports to see your power balance. Use the electrify button to power groups of buildings and track the flow of materials. To set the power to a specific building, left-click on it and bring up its own power control pane.
Every finished good is at the end of a manufacturing chain made of different letters, and starting with a particular ore. Here are the most important manufacturing chains in the game (check out the materials reference for full detail).
One of your first orders of business is to build an efficient industrial base that makes you self-sufficient. For this, you need first to spot where the ore pits are, and then build your industry chains:
You do not need to have refiners (such as K) and factories (such as A) on the same word for a industry chain to work. You should however try to place them as close as possible to each other, because this would greatly increase their productivity. The relative placement of your letters can make the difference between victory or defeat.
Another challenge for maximizing productivity will become apparent as your settlement gets big - relative letter frequencies. Take parts for instance - one (K) can serve one to two (A) depending on how far they are. There is no point bringing extra (A) online if you do not have enough (K) and vice-versa. At any time, you can bring up the settlement circuit breakers to see if your supply chains are balanced.
You can find more on these fine points of game mastery in the strategy guide. For now, remember to power off the factories you do not need. You can do it individually by clicking on buildings, or in groups by using the industry control panel.
Robots are the prime mover in your settlement. In the beginning, you have just enough robots to get started. It is a good idea to make some more as soon as you set up your first industry production chains. Do not overdo it though... too many robots loafing around will not help you very much. Open the robot control panel to see what your little guys are doing.
In fact, there are two types of robots in the game: workers and fighters. Fighters are made and housed in an (N) building. They can be told apart from workers by the electronic pistol (zapper) they carry around. In most scenarios, you will not need them until later in the game. We will not talk about them until the Combat page. Just make sure your opponent does not get a leg up on you in military power...
Worker robots are made in a (R)obot factory. Click any (R), power it up, and once the necessary materials get delivered, a fully charged robot will pop out ready to go about its job. Specifically, your workers do the following
You do not micromanage what your workers do - they get dispatched automatically as needed. You can set overall priorities for the above jobs from the tasks control panel based on the current game situation. As long as you have enough robots, task priority settings do not matter that much. Earlier in the game, it is usually better to have a slight worker shortage, and make sure your priorities reflect your gaming strategy.
Idle workers just hang out, scratching their heads (or other body parts). If you are desperate for materials and have too many idle robots (as in economic stall), you can recycle some of them in a (Y) building
To keep working, every building and robot consumes some of the same finished goods it was made from, plus lubricants. Do not forget to leave some goods in storage for maintenance! If you are out of stock on even one of them, maintenance will not be done. Keep your buildings and robots out of shape long enough, and your economy will stall...
Building maintenance is performed by your worker robots. Click on any of your buildings and you will see a little repair indicator. Once it drops below a certain threshold, the building will call for maintenance. If you have enough workers and materials, a robot will be dispatched automatically to do the job.
Robot recharging/maintenance is performed in (I)nfirmary buildings for workers, and the home (N)ational guard for fighters. As you progress in the game, make sure you have enough (I)s.
In the early stages of the game, meeting maintenance needs is easy. As your settlement grows, you will notice that maintenance needs grow even faster. This is inflation. With more than 80 letters, inflation becomes very important. Coincidentally, this is about the smallest settlement size that will enable you to kick your opponent off the island.
Poorly maintained buildings and robots do not work well, and eventually become a drag. Keep an eye on your maintenance reports and on too many slouching idlers in the game view.
Even in the best of times, you may find yourself short on an essential material. Do not worry, your storage buildings have a quantum transmuter which allows you to turn one material into another. Simply click the trade/inventory button and you will be taken to the trade control panel.
There are two ways to trade - manual and automatic. Manual trade happens in three easy steps - (1) select what you want to trade in, (2) select what you need, and (3) press the Execute button. You can also select how much of the surplus resource stock you want to trade, using the slider in the lower right corner. The default is to trade 15% of the surplus stock. This is a good amount unless if you are in real hurry.
Automatic trade is OFF by default. If activated, automatic trade will periodically try to replenish what you need most from what you have in surplus.
Unfortunately, the quantum transmuter is not perfect - you get a pound out for every two pounds in. Because of this 50% loss, trading is no substitute for good economic planning. When inflation starts to kick in, too much reliance on trading can wipe out your entire economy. The risk is particularly high if you have automatic trade turned ON, and are not keeping an eye on your settlement expenses.
Over the fullness of a game, besting your opponent performance metrics is one of the surest paths to victory. Your performance can be seen on the reports, and has several dimensions:
Utility buildings (U,V,Y) play an important role in prepping up your performance metrics, especially as your settlement grows. Make sure you have enough materials for maintenance, enough (I)nfirmaries for robot charging, and you should be on your way to dominion.
Ok! We covered the knowledge needed to manage your economy. Now, what do you actually do with it in the game? This is explained on the operations page.