Before you play the Prison Architect game, you will definitely want to know these simple but useful tips and tricks. If you have any tips feel free to share with us!
Things to Know Before Playing
Some advice if you go straight into sandbox and don't mess with the campaign a bunch which is how I usually play management games.
- You can't just build walls and put stuff inside, you have to build foundations for it to count as indoors, that button is on the extreme bottom left. Once you designate what the interior is the game will tell you what objects have to be in there to function as that kind of room.
- You build a fence round the prison at the start for the area to count as enclosed but you should also build a second fence inside the first. You do this because the prisoners contact people on the outside and they chuck stuff over the fence that then gets picked up. They can only throw 15 blocks I think so if your second fence is 16 all the contraband stays outside. Well there are other ways for contraband to come in but if you mess up and build too close to the road that's one unlimited source. I found it useful to build a corridor from the delivery area to prison area so then you can really lockdown who has access to all the shit getting delivered to the front of the prison.
- At the very start you have 30 grand or so but you can get a bunch of money through grants for stuff you are going to do anyway. Hit the button with money on it which brings up a bunch of menus. Hit the grants one and hit the one for cellblock a and the one for building some office space, hiring a warden and an accountant. Easy money and it helps a lot with the startup a lot.
- On the top left you've got an old white dude icon and when you hover on it says bureaucracy. That's your tech tree. Some of it is kind of pointless and some of it is get it asap.
- Maintenance is pretty important because it unlocks the cleaners. If your prison gets real shabby the inmates rage out a lot. The gardener seems to matter less but he's still pretty important.
Prison labour is a big deal. You want to reduce the amount of prisoner aggro and giving them shit to do seems to help with that a lot. You can assign them to jobs by clicking areas. That's in logistics which is a blue button on the bottom. If you make a workshop or assign some of them to the kitchen though you will want some metal detectors at the door because the prisoners are going to always be trying to steal weapons or tools. Even the minimum security ones. The laundry is a pretty important because the prisoners want clean clothes. You can get away with less cleaning staff with cleaning closets. These last two rooms will have prisoners roaming all over the place so keep that in mind.
Dogs are amazing. They find the non metallic contraband and find tunnels. All of the tunnels get dug under toilets in the cells. So if you assign the dog guards to walk around your cellblacks you have a pretty good chance of finding the tunnels. When they find one you get a shovel icon and a yellow flag on the ground on the suspected tunnel area. Then you can search the nearby cellblocks.
The education grant takes a long time to pay off but setting up the classroom is cheap. You also need prisoners to pass it to have prisoners capable of running the library. The church room is also really popular with the inmates. 60 days in no one has passed the carpentry program and not a single bed has been made. Since you have a limited amount of grant slots take this one later.
The cctv cameras remove fog of war but i've never seen an actual major advantage. I have them in cellblock but they dont seem to pick up on people tunnelling so it doesn't seem that useful.
- One major mistake I made was making a shower building. I just had a big room for showering and I let all the cellblocks funnel into it and it went bedlam every morning and was a consistent riot maker. Make a small shower area for each cell block so you get less congestion.
- The day scheduler is pretty important. What I found useful is after the prisoners wake up I have them shower and then I give them an hour of free time. The way I did it at first was shower and then eat and it turned into a scat apocalypse because no one had gone to the bathroom. So yeah. Give them an hour to take care of essential functions after or before showers. Lock-up probably works too because they are all in their cells.
- The day schedule thing is also hand to have prisoners of different threat categories doing things at different times. I don't bother separating the regular prisoners from the minimum security ones but when those guys are working the maximum security guys get their yard time, free time and food. The yard is another congestion area where a bunch of shankings can go down so I don't like having the max guys in with the norms. Yard space is free so make a decent sized one.
- The way I build cellblocks is 12*23 and from the back I put in 2*3 cell areas, 6 on each side. The remaining space at the front is shower space. That leaves a double space walkway down the middle. Then there are metal detectors at the from entrance and I pick up most of the weapons that way. I encourage you to experiment with cellblocks but like don't just draw a big box or you'll end up with a lot of dead space.
- The first grant wants you to build a holding cell which is a regular cell for a bunch of inmates. That's fine for the easy money but you don't want to try holding a lot of inmates in there regularly because they care about privacy. Or build a lot of holding cells and cram them in like hyper aggressive sardines. Shit will start to kick of real fast. Cellblocks though even if the rooms are kind of shitty will keep them from killing all your guards.
- The canteens tend to be another congestion area for obvious reasons. You don't want the prisoners to have easy access to the kitchens so a staff door and a wall between the two is easy so then you can have a bunch of regular doors on the canteen so a lot of mooks can run in and out quickly.
- Its not super obvious but you can only build I think 16 capacitors around your powersupply. Extras are just wasted so after that you need a new power supply. However if their wires cross each other they short out so keep that in mind when placing a new one.
- Oh and showers leak water everywhere so build drains outside the entrance of the shower area so it doesn't spread into cells. Having drains under the actual showers seems like less of a big deal.
- I got very little out of the armed guards. If I had built in a way to kick off more mayhem they might have been useful but right now they are just pricy.