Short game description

Kenshi is a sandbox role-playing game, which is characterized by a comparatively high degree of realism and numerous degrees of freedom. For example, there is the possibility to work in mining or agriculture, to be a craftsman, to trade, to fight or even to build your own city. During the course of the game, the player can directly control up to 30 characters at the same time and let them cooperate.

Kenshi is time-consuming and difficult to learn, especially because of its realism and the sandbox character, where no game objectives are specified. In this respect it is primarily suitable for experienced and sufficiently frustration-tolerant gamers and is hardly recommended for use in professional lessons. Nevertheless, Kenshi is characterized by a high long-term motivation and is highly appreciated by players who overcome the initial difficulties, which is also reflected in very good ratings, for example in Steam. In addition, depending on the chosen objectives and playing style, it can certainly contribute to economic education.

Kenshi is available for PC, has higher hardware requirements and is offered at Steam with a regular price of 27€ (reduced 21,60€). It is a single player game that does not require an internet connection.



Areas of competence


A) Decision and rationality


B) Relationship and interaction


C) Order and system






Division of labour/cooperation


Efficiency/cost-benefit thinking




Oppurtunity costs






Conflict of aims





+ little    ++ medium    +++ much

General Learning objectives

Frustration tolerance


Specialization advantages, production chains, trade
Detailed game description

Kenshi is located in a post-apocalyptic-medieval world, in which simple technologies (e.g. swords) dominate, but also several newer technologies (e.g. wind turbines, semi-automated mining of raw materials) are available after appropriate research. In contrast to most other computer games, the environment and thus the level of difficulty does not change during the course of the game. This applies, for example, to the strength of potential opponents or equipment. Since the game characters are very weak at the beginning, the game start is quite difficult and fights should be avoided at first in favour of escape. Through appropriate activities the skills will improve. In addition to combat-oriented aspects such as strength, speed and various weapon skills, there are also numerous skills that aim for a peaceful play style, such as research, farming, blacksmithing, working or cooking.
This also corresponds to the extensive freedom of action in Kenshi, since no game objective is given and the course of the game is not even structured by quests. For most players, this will take some getting used to and will make it much more difficult to get started, because you start with a character that is positioned in a small town and at first you don't know what to do. After an initial orientation, many players will appreciate this freedom if they have set their own goals and can change them as the game goes on.
Another difference to most other games is the interesting combination of micro- and macro-perspective. Normally you control only one character in great detail (e.g. This Grand Life) or set general conditions within which non-steerable characters develop (e.g. Anno, Banished). In Kenshi, on the other hand, it is possible to add up to 30 characters to your group during the course of the game and control each of them in detail. On the one hand, this allows you to experience complex issues such as the design of synergy effects, specialization and cooperation based on the division of labor. On the other hand, taking on the perspective of individual characters and their targeted further development is accompanied by greater identification and easier transfer to one's own life situations as well as a higher degree of clarity. In addition, there is the experience of greater self-effectiveness, if one is not limited to the specification of the framework conditions, but can directly control the characters.

A possible course of play could be as follows:

  1. Due to the lack of money and the general weakness or incompetence of the starting character, he should initially earn money for a longer period of time, for which the mining of raw materials such as copper, which can be sold at a trader in a city, is a good idea. This is likely to take a few game days and is comparatively boring. However, care should be taken to avoid possible bandits.
  2. With money earned in this way, more characters can be gained in the bar of a city, who can also mine raw materials, which improves the profit situation. To a certain extent, game activities can be automized, making it easier to manage multiple characters.
  3. Then, very different gameplay focuses are possible, which could theoretically be pursued by different characters at the same time. In addition to the more typical role-playing activities such as fighting, hunting criminals for bounties, exploring the environment and going on treasure hunts, activities with a stronger economic focus are also possible. For example, goods can be traded or a house can be bought in an existing town, where goods can be produced and then sold.
  4. After sufficient resources have been generated and the number of qualified or differently specialised combatants has been increased, a town or base can be established. Here raw materials can be mined and processed, agriculture can be practiced, electricity for production can be generated or new technologies can be researched. Furthermore, it is necessary to purchase additional resources from other cities and sell your own products. The city must also be designed in such a way that it can be successfully defended against attacks.

kenshi-beschreibung-anleitung (PDF, 33,61 KB)
Learning potential

1 Life situations

Due to its fictional and battle-stressed environment, Kenshi mainly depicts non-economic life situations from the fields of combat, hunting, theft or exploration. From the spectrum of economic living situations, Kenshi primarily addresses the working population, since trade, agriculture, mining of raw materials and production of goods can be practiced.

2 Competencies

Since money, playable characters, and other resources are almost always scarce in Kenshi, rational decisions have to be made throughout, taking into account the respective framework and (self-defined) goals, for example regarding the following questions:

  • Which tasks should the individual game characters take on and how should they specialize accordingly?
  • Who should produce which goods in which quantity?
  • Which products are produced by the own group, which ones should be purchased?
  • Where should the own base or city be built? Factors such as security, distance to procurement and sales markets or suitability for agriculture and raw material extraction must be taken into account.

Kenshi can hardly acquire any skills from the area of competence 'relationship and interaction', as all members of the group are directly controlled by the player and have no further needs or individual interests apart from health and food.
The area of competence 'Order and System' is also hardly addressed, although aspects such as division of labour, specialisation advantages and trade at least sensitise to fundamental questions of an economic order.

3 Categories/thinking patterns

  • Scarcity: This basic problem of economics is well illustrated in Kenshi, since especially at the beginning of the game money, competitors and other resources are very scarce, which suggests that you should act economically or efficiently.
  • Division of labour: Since a character's competence and efficiency in a certain activity depends on their previous experience, it is obvious to specialize the characters differently and use them accordingly. For example, some characters should be used primarily for the mining of raw materials and others for the production of certain goods, since this way productivity is significantly higher than if they are used independently of their specific skills. However, this also means increased coordination tasks for the player. Interesting in this context is the design of the quite realistic and complex production chains.
    In addition to the division of labour within one's own character group, it is also necessary to decide which services are to be performed by the player himself and what is to be purchased, since not all relevant aspects of the game can be efficiently managed with a maximum of 30 characters.
  • Risk: A significant part of the risk in Kenshi is caused by enemy attacks on characters moving in the game world and on your own city. This makes it necessary to invest in security, either by recruiting mercenaries or by using your own combat-specialized characters. However, these are then not available for economic activities such as goods production, which also addresses the category of opportunity costs.
    Another aspect of risk arises if the player acts as a thief, as this entails the risk of being discovered and punished. However, since it is possible to save his score before a risky activity and, in case of failure, to restore the previous state, the associated risk is easily reduced. This makes the thieving strategy clearly too attractive and at the same time unrealistic. In this respect, players should either refrain from stealing as much as possible, which would also be appropriate for ethical reasons, or at least bear the consequences of failure instead of loading the previous state.
  • Growth: This category can be found in Kenshi, as the player starts out with only one character and almost no resources or money. Depending on the goal of the game, the player can then strive to get more money and more characters, and finally build a city, which in turn can be improved in many ways (e.g. defense strength, size, number of production facilities).

4 Contents
The economic content of the game lies primarily in the division of labour-related specialisation and the design and coordination of more complex production processes, from the mining of raw materials and their processing to the manufacture of goods and their sale.
Furthermore, elementary principles of long-distance trade can also be learned.

5 Technical errors
Kenshi is not allowed to promote technical misconceptions that are worth mentioning. Nevertheless, there are some simplifications that are out of touch with reality:

  • The own game characters have no other needs to satisfy than the desire for health and food and in this respect they appear robot-like.
  • As already mentioned, the possibility of saving makes the activity as a thief inappropriately attractive, as the risk can de facto be eliminated.
  • The demand and prices for certain goods are constant at the individual locations. Traders have a certain amount of money each day for which they buy any goods they wish. Fluctuating prices and saturation effects in demand would make the game more interesting and realistic.
Teaching assignment

Kenshi is time-consuming, has a steep learning curve and at the same time shows a manageable economic learning potential. In this respect, it is generally only attractive for experienced players with sufficient gaming literacy and at the same time has an unfavorable time-learning potential ratio, which is why it cannot be recommended for formal learning processes.

It can be used for semi-formal learning, for example in the form of voluntary work groups, whereby players should be provided with a more advanced game with several characters and at least a simple city. This eliminates the time-consuming start, allowing the players to concentrate on given goals. For example, players could be asked to develop a largely self-sufficient city, build certain production chains or earn a certain amount of money.

Kenshi is likely to develop the learning effects described above primarily in the context of implicit and informal learning, when players of the target group pursue certain professions or, in the later course of the game, finally want to found and develop their own city.

Further Links
  • Guides for beginners
  • Comprehensive English language Wiki

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