When you first begin your game, you will not have much of a chance when going up against gangs wandering the desert. Before you engage any opponent either with your single beginning character or with your own group, you will need to rely on other friendly groups to assist you in battle. Use these tips and methods to your advantage and quickly advance in the vast world of Kenshi.
Specialized Roles Edit
If players plan on maintaining a large group of player characters, they should consider giving some characters a specific role during combat.
The "Secret Medic" Edit
Get a few men in your squad, and send them all into an impossible battle, keeping one man back a safe distance in "Passive" mode. Once your team gets beaten unconscious, wait for the enemy to leave, and then move your medic in to recover your squad before they bleed to death. As an added measure of safety, it helps to train this character in sneak and equip them with stealth boosting gear.
The "Tank" Edit
In order to ensure that all player characters aren't being attacked by multiple hostile characters, players should make one character a "Tank". This character should be equipped with Heavy Armour and should have a weapon which prioritizes Melee Defense over Attack. Note that, with a plus +8 to Melee Defense, Foreign Sabres are excellent for this role. The player should switch this character into "Taunt" and "Block" mode so that this character not only lures more attackers into combat, but also focuses mainly on avoiding hits. "Block" mode gives this character a +20 bonus to Defense. This unit works well when backed by hard-hitting, highly offensive units.
The "Glass Cannon" Edit
A defensive Tank is great for drawing attacks, but not for fighting back; that's where your "Cannon" comes in. Their main role is to provide a highly aggressive, offensive force to fight alongside your Tanks and other squaddies in melee combat. Use these units to down your enemies swiftly, while they are otherwise engaged with your tanks. Use these specialists to break up enemy groups into smaller units, making them easier to take down.
These units should be equipped with either Light Armour or Medium Armour (or some combination of the two), as well as highly offensive weapons. The ideal Cannon is equipped with stat-boosting, high-coverage armor, as well as stat-boosted weapons; this allows the Cannon to take full advantage of the distraction the Tanks provide, hitting the enemy hard and fast. While they do not have to be abysmally armoured, keep in mind that their focus will be on keeping the Dexterity and Melee Attack/Melee Defense stats high. This is best done with lighter armours, as they offer more stat boosts and less penalties. With it's high coverage, stat boosts, and respectable protection, the Dustcoat is a prime armour for this, particularly when combined with Samurai Clothpants and Plated Longboots. Final note, weapons like the Staff, with its plus +8 to attack, and the Combat Cleaver, with its 30% armour penetration, are excellent weapons for this role. However, if you have the skill, the best weapon is arguably the Falling Sun. It is relatively light for a Heavy Weapon, and does incredible blunt/cutting damage simultaneously, making it effective against all types of protection.
The "Bowman" Edit
As anyone who's fought the Dust Bandits should know, a few support units with Crossbows can be a deadly nuisance for the enemy. The "Bowman" is support unit that can be used to wear down the enemy at a safe distance, or act as a reinforcement as needed. This unit should be equipped with Light Armour, Medium Armour, or some mix of the two that provides decent protection without hindering the crossbow skill. Their weapons should consist of both a crossbow and a sidearm of your choice; whether that sidearm is something more offensive or defensive, is up to you. That said, it is recommended to go with a more defensive blade (such as the Longsword to account for their lighter armor and their (likely) greater focus on crossbows as opposed to melee combat.
In the early stages of training, it's recommended that your Bowmen each be given a Tooth Pick for squad v. squad combat, as shots will still stagger enemies, but won't be as dangerous for your other fighters should they accidentally shoot them. In later stages you may choose to equip them with more powerful bows like the Oldworld Bow MkII. Keep in mind, however, that even with fairly high Precision Shooting skill, there is still some risk that your Bowmen will shoot your other units.
A firing line of these units can significantly soften up an enemy unit/squad, sometimes taking down opponents with a single shot. Use them to bombard approaching enemies, and to pick off remaining enemies once engaged.
General Combat Edit
The "Retreat to Safety" Method Edit
All Major Towns aside from The Hub have town guards. Town guards will defend the town against any groups of characters from Hostile Factions. Players should make use of this by retreating back to the nearest town every time a group begins to attack them. Once all of the town guards are engaged with the hostile group, players should join in the fight. Fighting alongside the town guards is a safe way to train combat skills, primarily Melee Attack and Defense. Players with very inexperienced characters should also employ a character as a "Secret Medic" to ensure that if all characters are badly injured in the fight, someone is there to heal them after the town guards have secured victory.
The "Safety in Numbers" Method Edit
Players should recruit every Playable Character they can find. This method is expensive due to hiring fees and the cost to keep characters well equipped and fed. This method should be very effective against groups from factions such as Starving Bandits or Rebel Farmers. Players should continue with the "Retreat to Safety" method every time that a much stronger hostile group initiates combat, however.
The "Hit and Run" Method Edit
This method requires relatively high athletics. Take one fighter and engage an enemy group. When sighted, allow the bandits to get close. Try to move around to make them form a line while they run toward you and attack the closest bandit once. Regardless if you hit or miss, run away, create some distance between your fighters and bandits and repeat. If the bandit is the first one to strike you, dodge the blow by running away a few steps and try again. As the bandits slowly start to die off you might try to take on some of the last ones for a bit longer and get some defense training. If done properly, you can kill entire groups with just one quick fighter regardless of skill and equipment. This is a good, but time consuming way of training individual fighters and is often more efficient than training dummies. Using a good, fast cutting weapon will wear out the bandits quicker through bloodloss though.
This method might be possible with several quick fighters, but obviously, the risks for injury increase with the number of fighters when using this method alone.
The "Smashing Groups" Method Edit
This tactic is good whenever you find different groups of enemies close to each other. For instance, a group of dust bandits could be close to a group of hungry bandits. If this occurs, run towards one group and then circle back towards the other. At first, both will be trying to engage you, but if your athletics skill is high, which it should be, you will distance yourself from the two groups. They will then begin to attack each other until one group is left. At this point the group left standing will surely be injured from the battle. Simply take the rest out with your guys. From doing this, you have the loot of two full groups of bandits.
The "Buy an Army" Method Edit
If you have the cats, it is easy to assemble a large, experienced army very quickly by hiring bodyguards/cannibal hunters/mercenaries at a few local bars, then lead them as cannon fodder into a strong fight. For the price (generally 2,000 per day for four characters), these disposable soldiers are valuable fighters and distractions.
The "Action RPG Micromanagement" Method
Early on combat tends to have a certain rhythm. A person gets staggered when hit by damage beyond their toughness capacity threshold, and when staggered they suffer a stun of a few seconds to several seconds. During this time, their ability to block dramatically goes down and they can be continuously "comboed" by several enemies in a row. An enemy will also usually strike once, and then wait to block the counter attack. These timings allow the player to watch which person is being attacked, toggle on block using a keybind (A is close enough on ESDF key setups), wait to block the offensive from a single enemy in a duel or multiple enemies, and then toggle off the block to counter attack. If your attack hits and staggers an enemy, continue the offensive. If the enemy blocks, toggle your own block back on to get the bonus defense. Doing this can dramatically increase the survival rate of your light skirmishers and tanks, while still allowing them to punch back. Even against larger animals with high attack, they may still be able to block. This makes Kenshi more like an Action RPG, where you semi actively use your defense and block skills. Combined with a normal kiting strategy, this can make combat less repetitive as the combat animations are quite good in this game.
Clearing Ancient Locations Edit
Ancient Locations such as Lost Armouries and Ancient Labs often contain Security Spiders. Security Spiders can be dangerous to take out with large groups because they can hit multiple characters at once with a single attack.
The "Lure Outside" Method: Edit
Security Spiders will attack any characters entering their location due to the job "Home-Territory Aggression." Characters can walk into these locations and trigger this job and then run outside of the building. The Spiders will be lured outside as well. Have your character continue retreating into the wilderness until the Spider loses them or until the Spider runs into some wildlife to initiate combat with. Unless characters walk too close to the Spider, it will sit in place until it finds a combatant.
A good way to do this with a single character is to lure all spiders outside a distance and then backtrack to the building. As long as they have a good lead on the Spiders, this character should be able to close the door to the building behind them and loot the Ancient Location without issue.
The "Crossbow Coward" Method: Edit
The buildings which house an Ancient Lab are designed especially for this method. Crossbow-wielding characters should enter an Ancient Lab in Stealth Mode and stop walking as soon as their eye turns from blue to yellow. Security Spiders cannot be snuck past, so you will always be caught. In about a second the eye will turn from yellow to red, and the Spider will initiate combat. Entering in Stealth Mode this way is crucial to ensure that the character only baits a couple Spiders into combat, not the entire Lab worth of Spiders.
After luring the alerted Spider out into the circular porch of the Ancient Lab, keep a safe distance from the Spider at all time. Constantly be changing camera angles and running from the Spider in a circle around the building. Security Spiders run at 11mph, so most characters should be able to always keep a lead on them. In order to attack, characters should stop running for a while so that they can reload their Crossbow and shoot. Spiders slow their walking down just before attacking, so watch them and run as soon as they are getting too close.