Fallout Shelter came as a pleasant surprise when Bethesda announced it alongside Fallout 4 at its recent E3 conference. Although a casual, mobile, resource management sim is a major departure for the studio best known for sprawling RPGs like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 3, people have clearly responded positively as the game quickly rose to be the #1 game in the app store for 48 countries, surpassing Candy Crush in revenue. We've been playing quite a bit for the last couple of weeks, and here are a few pointers that we've learned in order to help you get off on a good start and build a thriving vault that will be the envy of the post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Build for the future
In the beginning it is easy to haphazardly build new rooms as they become available. Scroll down and see how deep your vault can run, however, to see how much room there is to expand as your population booms. Larger, connected rooms are more efficient than an equal total of smaller rooms of the same type. Because rooms max out at three across, always leave space for them to expand. Extending the initial elevator directly down leaves you room for three-wide rooms on either side. It may be a little more expensive to build elevators down instead of using more of the horizontal space, but the long-term efficiency of this simple, two-column structure can't be beat.
All of your dwellers have the main Fallout games' SPECIAL stats, standing for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. These abilities correspond to how effective the dweller will be in a particular room, so let them guide where you assign them to work. Strength helps in power plants, Perception in the water refinery, endurance helps them last longer in the wasteland, charisma helps them breed more quickly in the living quarters, intelligence aids in producing StimPaks and RadAway, and Agility aids in the diner. Luck helps dwellers in any job be more likely to succeed when you rush production, and also increases the odds of your wanderers finding good loot. Once you gain access to the training rooms, buff up dwellers' strongest stat to maximize their efficacy in a given job. Luck is a good second stat to focus on for anyone, followed by Charisma to make repopulating faster for everyone.
You can sort the list of your vault dwellers by different columns, including their current job. Anyone on "Coffee Break" isn't taking a breather from the power plant -- it's just a euphemism for unemployment. Without a job your dwellers are just soaking up food and water, so be sure to periodically check and make sure everyone is busy either working or training. They are happier when they are busy, so you have no reason not to strive for full employment.
Second Amendment lover's paradise
After your wanderers start bringing in weapons, the best thing place to store them is in the hands of every adult citizen you have. Your biggest and most powerful guns, such as alien blasters and the Fat Man, are best saved for those wanderers to stay safe out in the wasteland. Most of the guns you find will be less powerful, like rusty sawed-off shotguns and pistols. You can sell these for a few caps, or build a storage room to keep them, but it's best first to arm every one of your citizens. Having guns at least some guns in every single room ensures that they will remain safe in case of a radroach infestation or if raiders break through your defenses. It really does embody the NRA's policy position that a populace armed to the teeth is safer than not.
Dress for success
Just like with guns, the best place to store the outfits your wanderers bring back is on the backs of your vault dwellers. Outfits boost particular combinations of SPECIAL stats, so try and give everyone an outfit that boosts their strongest stat, corresponding with their job. Endurance and Strength boosting outfits are best saved for your wanderers to keep them safe out there. The nightwear's Charisma boost is an easy way to help anyone breed more quickly in the living quarters. For lack of anything better, the formal wear's Luck boost is useful for rushing any room.
Raiders will occasionally harry your vault, but a little preparedness goes a long way. You can assign two vault dwellers to your entrance in order to guard against attacks, but this is often unnecessary, since they are otherwise not producing anything or improving at all. Put two of your more powerful weapons with dwellers who work in the room nearest the entrance on the first floor and then upgrade the vault door's health early on. When raiders come knocking, simple pick up your two designated guards from the nearby room and drop them in the entrance to fend off the attack. Your upgraded vault door will buy you plenty of time for them to scramble over before the enemy breaches. You don't even have to drag them back afterwards -- once the raiders are put down, your guards will run back to their previous job unprompted.
Accidents happen, and sometimes your dwellers will take a beating from raiders, radroaches, or fires. They will gradually heal back up to full if left alone after the problem is resolved, but sometimes a series of unfortunate events or a poorly-armed room means that a few may be gravely wounded in the course of duty. Rather than paying caps to revive them after the fact (since no one ever dies permanently), it is much more effective to select dwellers that you see running low on health and immediately apply Stimpaks, which restore a substantial portion of their health instantaneously.
Go for the lunchboxes
The rotating three objectives you have at any given time are a great way to supplement your income. They will never run out, so if there is a low-value objective you won't be easily completing any time, feel free to give up on it in the hope of a better option, Objectives that reward Lunchboxes are far and away the most valuable, since they will often include more caps in addition to other resources, weapons, and occasionally rare dwellers with exceptionally high SPECIAL stats. By no means do you need to buy additional lunchboxes in order to play successfully, but an injection early on of supplies and special dwellers can do wonders for setting you on the right path. Given that the game is otherwise free, I didn't have any qualms about kicking the developers a few dollars for such a delightful little game.
Keeping it in the family
New dwellers are a rare commodity if you just wait for them to show up at your door. That means you will need to encourage the population you do have to grow from within. SPECIAL stats of the parents effect the resulting children, so you will generally want to breed your very best for a stronger next generation. The rare dwellers that show up from lunchboxes, with their naturally high stats, make for the best breeders then. Since the vast majority of unique characters are (problematically) men, the easiest way to do this is bring one to a living quarters, and fill the rest of the available slots with women for them to successively knock up. The game won't let parents make babies with their own children, so you'll have to rotate studs a bit when you end up with too many direct relatives. Your dwellers are not especially picky beyond that, however, so don't think too closely about the relationships you're creating.
Out in the morning, in at night
No dwellers can survive forever out in the wasteland, but you will want to push them as far as they can go to get the most out of every trip. Endurance is the most important stat for survival, but any other high SPECIAL seems to help. Higher level characters also tend to stay alive for longer. Load them up with Stimpaks and RadAways to help them stay alive as long as possible, but periodically check in to make sure they aren't near death. Once their healing supply runs out, bring them back home to collect their findings. I found that no matter how efficiently they were using their healing items over the course of an entire day, they innevitably seemed to die if I left them out overnight while I slept. A good rhythm I found then is to send them out first thing in the morning, checking on them occassionally throughout the day, then call them back before going to sleep at night. They do not take on additional damage or radiation while returning home, and will probably be back just in time in the morning for you to collect what they found and send them back out again for another day of hunting.