Get Food. Get Heat. Make Money. Grow Wheat.


This guide is intended to teach the core concepts of how to play FreeHolder so that you can freely experiment in your own style, once these basics are mastered. Matters of controls are handled in a separate guide - generally clicking selects and right-clicking backs up as you would expect, though sometimes buttons close certain windows. There’s a small quick start guide in the program reached by clicking the question mark next to the date and weather display, if you want to dive right in.

1. GET FOOD Edit


To survive from round to round in FreeHolder, you will always need food to eat, except before the very first month of the game.

The Nutrition Icon near the upper right corner of the screen tracks how many nutrition points you have available. This is the sum total nutrition of all edible foodstuffs you currently possess. So, how do you get food in FreeHolder?


There are many different ways. Simple but not without risk are fishing and hunting. With proper tools, these become more reliable, but a character can spend one action on an appropriate tile to do either of these things. You may fish in lakes and marshes, and you may hunt in forests, mountains, and unfenced meadows, heathlands, and ash plains. You may return with nature’s bounty, or empty handed. Most actions in FreeHolder are “rolled,” and there are many ways this roll is affected both by you the player and game events. A critical success is indicated by a sound and a cyan border around the action icon for the action.


More reliable but time-consuming nutrition comes from growing crops. You will have to get comfortable with farming in FreeHolder because supplying wheat is how you continue from year to year, but you can’t eat wheat without a bakery, so you’ll want to grow one of the other crops for food, at least early on.

Sowing seeds for harvest requires a number of things - an open farmland tile, a small amount of money to pay for the seeds, and at least two actions available. Plowing and sowing consumes two actions and should be planned for accordingly. Usually, planting includes the watering of the seeds on the turn they are planted, but during droughts you must water the seeds even after planting. Be warned.

The crop counter on the tile will show how many months must pass before the crop can be harvested. Unless there is rain or storms, you must water each crop once per month, or twice during droughts. Crops that are not watered will have their final yields reduced dramatically. Crops that are able to grow through winter, such as the parsnip and winter wheat, do not need to be watered during cold months, and the water effect will turn to frost to indicate this.

Once the crop counter reaches 0, you may perform harvest them, which also costs two actions, or you may wait one extra month and allow them to “overgrow,” which increases their yield significantly.

Crop yields decrease over time as nutrients are depleted - they can regenerate naturally by being left fallow - a slow process - or can be sped along by cover cropping or growing beans. There are more subtleties to farming including soil types and favored seasons, but that’s enough for now.


If you start the game as a Rancher, you also start with a Goat in the pasture where your Mule is staying. For one action, you can attempt to milk all goats in your pasture. Your success is determined by a separate husbandry roll for each goat, though in this case, there is only one. If you succeed, the goat will like you a bit better and you will receive 1 Cheese. If you fail marginally, you may be able to try again. If you fail completely, the goat will be annoyed, like you less, and you will not be able to get any Cheese from it this turn. Though one action for 6 nutrition, even guaranteed, may not seem like a lot, with a few goats you can have ready access to a large amount of food. Goats are expensive, though, and animal pregnancy is not yet implemented. To buy a goat or any animal, you must first have an empty pasture in a tile, created by taking the “Fence Pasture” Husbandry action and spending five timber.


On the map screen, visiting the market with a “Ship Goods” action allows you to buy available foods there. “Ship goods” is only one action under normal conditions, but during very inclement weather (storms, droughts, extreme cold) it costs two, and during a blizzard it is not possible.

The market is an important place with many facets, but for our purposes we will take only a consideration of basic shipping. You always start with a single mule in FreeHolder, who lives in the pasture in the meadow below your villa. This mule, once per turn, can be used for a ship goods action before becoming tired until next turn. This mule, as part of your ship goods action, can bring five heavy goods to the market and bring back five heavy goods from it. An unlimited number of small goods can also be bought and sold.

Most food is a “heavy good” and must have shipping allocated to it to bring it back. Bread is the only exception right now, and can be brought back in any quantity desired.

Buying food at the market is costly and should be used as a last measure most of the time. Occasionally a market event will allow you to take advantage of cheap food and stock up.


There are many additional ways to get food in FreeHolder. Influence actions in town may occasionally result in stealing food. Rangers with Foraging can receive wild food from tiles when claiming them. The Taverna may have visitors willing to sell or even give away food from time to time. Towns where you are highly famed may even send you seasonal shipments of food. The important thing, though, is to master the basics. If you are never going hungry, you’ve mastered 25% of the vital skills needed to be a FreeHolder.


Your characters can consume varying levels of food each turn, with accompanying changes in health. Characters require 3 Nutrition for a meager meal, 5 for a normal meal, and 8 for a hearty meal. Your character’s health level remains unchanged if eating normally, but you will lose and gain one level respectively if eating meager or hearty meals. Robust, the highest health level, can be reached by eating a hearty meal at Excellent health, but it will automatically return to Excellent next month.

An aside on health - it is not hit points but rather a rating of the overall physical health of the character. The character receives bonuses to action rolls when extra healthy and minuses when unhealthy. Their health level also determines how likely they are to die of starvation in the event that you can’t feed them. Keep your characters as healthy as possible - not only will they do actions better, but you will also have the possibility of overworking, where you sacrifice health levels for more actions. At the same time, don’t be afraid to eat meager meals if it will help you last longer.

If you don’t have enough food for some or all of the characters, you will have to choose the starvation option. Very healthy characters have a decent chance of surviving this - weakened characters will generally die immediately.

You can also have a character take an edible herb with their meal - this bestows a medicinal effect for the duration of the turn, with the exception of the mandragora, which heals the character immediately upon consumption. The effects are described when the herb is selected.

Food is subject to spoilage, and early on in the game you won’t have many ways of preventing perishables from rotting away. Beans and wheat are never subject to spoilage as they have been dried. Fresh meat and fish spoils very quickly, fresh vegetables less so, and things like cheese and root vegetables fairly slowly. Cooking is very much about saving extra food from one month to the next, but it doesn’t permanently preserve food like pickling or smoking.

2. GET HEAT Edit


The warmer months in FreeHolder, specifically Martius through Novembribus, never get cold enough for your very existence to depend on burning wood for heat. This is not true in winter. Normal conditions in winter necessitate burning two firewood per character, or six total, to totally prevent a nasty effect called frostbite. If you don’t have enough, the characters have a chance to get frostbite based on how much heat you did have and any special clothing they might be wearing. During blizzards, you will need 50% more heat, and during subzero weather, twice as much. Obviously, it helps to prepare for winter.


Firewood is obtained from forests in two ways. The simplest way is to take a “Gather Firewood” action. Firewood is a partially depletable resource that restores more quickly during inclement weather and winter months. You will always be able to find a little firewood, but not necessarily enough to be worth it. The second way to get firewood is to chop timbers of trees, and then chop those down into firewood in your Villa’s factorium. You can chop wood there from the very beginning of the game - nothing else is needed. You get 6 firewood for every 3 timbers chopped in this way. Firewood might also be available at the market, and is inexpensive.


Normally, you’d want to save charcoal for smithing projects, but it can be used for character heat in an emergency. It is worth twice as much heat as firewood for this purpose.


The rare forest reagent Blood Moss can be burned for four times as much heat as firewood. It can be found by taking “Gather Reagents” action in forests during the fall months.


The Heavy Furs clothing item (crafted from 2 Hides) reduces the heat need of the wearing character by 1 per month, and helps resist frostbite. There are several other items that have this and similar effects. Additionally, an Initiate who casts Wintersun can heat the villa automatically for as long as the enchantment lasts.



There are many different ways to make money in FreeHolder, but the most reliable and common is to make heavy use of the Market, with the “Ship Goods” action. You can then sell up to 5 (generally) heavy goods to the market and as many small goods as you wish. How much money you make is subject to some basic rules that we’ll go into later, but first we’ll take a look at how you can find this valuable stuff before you sell it.


If you’re having an unlucky game, you may not be sitting on marble or rare reagents to make easy money. If this is so, don’t neglect selling things like stone, clay, and reed in a pinch. If you visit the market consistently it is still possible to make a denarius or two even on relatively easy-to-get goods, so don’t neglect this source of income if you need money.


Reagents, found by using “Gather Reagents” in various tiles, are small goods that can be easily sold in any quantity and are worth a fair amount of money. Also, rare reagents, found by taking a “Gather Reagents” action in a terrain during its favored season (Spring for Heathlands, Summer for Meadows, Fall for Forests, Winter for Ash Plains), are worth a lot of money.


You can acquire marble by improving an existing stone pit into a quarry where marble is available (you will be able to see if it is because of the stone pit). This costs 20 Timber on top of the original 10 for the Stone Pit. Marble is very valuable and is a great source of income. Make sure to craft a Rock Hammer to get the marble as efficiently as possible.

Willow saplings will occasionally spawn on the map in various tiles. They can be watered to increase their survival and growth rate, though this is not mandatory. If they reach maturity, they become a “Woods,” and allow the “Gather Willow” action as long as they remain healthy (taking willow depletes this health). Willow is very valuable and can be a great source of income, but its availability is more or less random.


Agents with the “Sticky Fingers” skill will always make a small amount of money whenever they take an “Influence” action in any town. Influence actions may also occasionally result in some stolen cash, or trigger special events where a theft or extortion is possible. These things might cause the town to think less of you, and they will restrict or totally prevent their goods from coming to market where you can buy them.

Additionally, fulfilling item contracts at the black market can be very lucrative, but requires having a small cache of items handy to fulfill the seasonally-changing orders. Smuggling is risky, though, and may result in the imprisonment of the character for a few months, where they can’t do anything but lose health slowly.


Battle-oriented types will find fighting bandits to be fairly lucrative, provided they actually win. You may scavenge equipment from your fallen foes and sell it at the market for a bit of money. You also take whatever petty cash the ruffians had on them. Finding mercenaries for a good price is key when trying to keep combat costs low - get cheap mercs when they come up at the taverna, and remember it costs half as much to keep them each turn as it did to hire them initially.


This is one of the best ways to make money in the game. When you enter the market screen, you’ll see three special orders to the left of the ledger. Each of these is a request by a town for a quantity of a specific good. You can click on the market order to sell that good to that town rather than the general market, and it will track your progress towards the total on the order. Goods sold in this manner are sold for double price and do not suffer from price decay as in the normal market (covered in the next section). When the order is completely filled, the grateful town pays the cash bonus listed on the order and the player also gains 1 Reputation with the town, which can have a number of benefits, though we won’t go into them now. Take a look at the market orders in Martius and try to figure out how many you might be able to fill over the year, and remember you can only ship out 5 heavy goods per month with one mule.


When you bring valuable stuff to the market, how you sell it is just as important as what you sell. You will always get full price for the first good you sell of a certain type, but each additional time you sell it on the same turn, it is worth less, until you’ve sold four (normally you can’t sell a fifth good of the same type). This encourages a strategy of letting valuable goods trickle into the market one or two at a time, rather than dumping them off in quantity where you won’t get the same return. However, desperation or huge amount of goods may offset these concerns. Remember filling market orders with goods gives you double the price and there is no decay, so fill those orders when selling even if you don’t intend to finish the order - it’s still worth it.

Buying goods is not subject to these rules. The price for bought goods (barring special effects) is fixed at double the selling price. Remember that available shipping is necessary for all heavy goods (marked with an H), but small goods can be sold and bought in any quantity, though they are subject to price decay effects including maximum of four sold.



Marius, the corrupt census taker, will assess the amount of wheat for you quota based on the amount of “arable” land you have, meaning that crops can grow there (regardless of whether the soil is fertile or not). You owe 4 Wheat for every tile of arable land you have claimed. You start the game with two farmlands, a forest, and a meadow claimed, plus two unclaimed tiles to the left. Thus, you are assessed at 16 Wheat for next year.

You are only assessed at the beginning of each year, so it is useful to scout out what tiles you want to claim before the new year, and then claim them after your quota has been assessed for the new year. Not all tiles are “arable” however, and if you clearly can’t farm there, it won’t be part of your quota - this includes all mountains, lakes, and marshes. Everything else will count towards your quota.


Of course, forests are in theory arable land but there seems to be this, um, forest in the way. An ancient technique of clearing land and fertilizing the soil is slashing and burning, where the area is cut-down and burned and then the ash is turned into the soil to fertilize it. This rather cumbersome task takes two actions, and of course makes the land unavailable while the burning is going on. The need for fire makes this action unavailable during rain, storms, and blizzards.

This can be done on any “arable” tile - forests, meadows, heathlands, and ash plains. It will be converted next turn into a Farmland tile with the same soil type as the original tile. However, the amount of vegetation determines whether the soil will get a nutrient boost and whether you will receive any charcoal from the fires.


Planting a crop in its favored soil type is an easy way to increase yield. This information is available when choosing which crop to plant from the ring menu. Loam is always treated as favored soil when something is planted in it, and as for Wheat, it has no other favored soil type, so plant Wheat in Loam whenever you can.


Watering is a chore at the best of times. The Initiate spell Secret Upwelling can auto-water a tile for as long as it lasts, or you can fashion a watering rig which gives the character a free watering action every turn. Wet years are better for farming than dry years because of the frequent rain and storms, which removes the need to water  Conversely, the frequent drought in dry years can make a crop-heavy strategy dangerous as two actions per crop must be spent to keep them healthy.


Generally, letting crops overgrow is preferable because you get the most out of the time spent and nutrients in the plot, but the situation is often such (oncoming frost, hunger, market orders) that this is not possible. After harvesting, the soil nutrient level in a plot will drop, unless the crop was beans in which case it is accelerated slightly towards recovery instead.


Farmlands will lose more and more nutrient levels as crops are planted and harvested. Generally it takes a year of lying fallow (unused) for a farmland to regain one nutrient level. Planting and harvest beans will accelerate this count by 3 months. Additionally, you can grow crops not for harvest, but as fertilizer. Performing a “cover crop” action on an existing plot will accelerate the nutrient regain by an amount based on how much the cover crop had grown. The longer you wait to cover crop, the greater the nutrient recovery. Beans provide twice the nutrient recovery of other crops when used in this way.


Without the Gardener skill Soil Management, farmlands can only regenerate naturally up to Rich soil quality. With this skill they can reach Elysian, an even better quality. Occasionally Elysian farmland tiles can also be found.


You’ll be growing plenty of wheat, and it might make sense for you to trade a bit of it for some nutrition, at least in a pinch. This can be done if you build the Bakery add-on for your Culina. This unlocks the ability to bake bread and pies. Wheat can be baked into bread which must be eaten immediately or it spoils. It can also be combined with another good into a pie for extra nutrition. Don’t eat too much of your supply though.


Occasionally you may be lucky enough to have an agricultural town that sends wheat to the market for you to buy. It’s cheap, and can help fill gaps in your wheat quota made by bad weather, missed waterings, or poor management.



If the four principles above are the heart of FreeHolder, then the classes are its soul. Each character class receives a bonus action each turn of a particular type and can choose from a wide variety of skills that enhance their performance in specific areas, or unlock new actions. Their number and choice of skills and their bonus at actions of their type increase as they level. Your customized main character always starts as level one of the class of your choice. Your two friends, however, are only farmhands and must change into a class by gaining experience. The two most common action types the farmhand takes will determine what classes he or she may change into, so pay attention to who does what in order to get the class you want.


Each class receives a roll bonus to all actions of its type. For example, a Ranger, the Survival class, will receive a +5 bonus per level to all Survival rolls. This includes hunting, fishing, chopping timber, and any other actions under the Survival heading. Obviously, therefore, you will want to have that character do those actions whenever possible.

When changing into a class or leveling up, the character can gain one new skill or upgrade an existing skill to a higher level.

Each class also has a passive skill that provides a useful effect or benefit. It is shown at the bottom of the skill list when choosing your first skill for a class. For example, Gardeners have a skill which allows you to see exactly when a farmland will recover nutrients when mousing over them.


The character receives a bonus action of their class’ action type. Sometimes, this is just what you need, but often enough you will have, say, a Gardener with a leftover Agriculture action and nothing apparently to be done with it. Don’t worry. There’s still lots you can do.

First of all, claiming any tile can be done with any action type, so if you have no reason for a particular character to claim a tile (a Ranger with Foraging, for example) save your typed actions for claiming tiles.

Also, most actions taken inside the Villa (except for crafting items) can also be done with any action type. This includes cooking, processing goods (like chopping timber or tanning hides), crafting components, and good old resting.

Making sure you can efficiently use every action at your disposal is key to surviving a long time.


Equipment of various types can be bought directly from the black market, if you want to take the risk of a smuggling action. You may also occasionally find equipment as a tile claim bonus or steal it with an influence action. Otherwise, you will have to craft it yourself, which requires a bit of knowledge.

You start with a Simple Workshop, where you may craft non-metal items of all sorts. This basic workshop has 1 Crafting Point, or CP, which means you are limited to making one actual item per turn. Making Components (or Art Objects, if you have an Artisan with Aesthetics) does not require nor consume CP.

Upgrading to the Basic Smithy for a steep 20 Stone and 20 Clay unlocks a large number of new crafting recipes including metal items, and adds 1 CP so that two items may be crafted per month.

Keeping this in mind, you should schedule in monthly time to craft items if you plan on crafting a lot of them, because you cannot simply craft them all at once due to the limitations of your workshop.

Most tools and weapons require components to be crafted. Handles and Poles are crafted from Timber but Hilts require Copper and Firewood.

Equipment, when obtained, can be equipped by clicking again on a selected character in the main screen. From the equip screen, you can click on the appropriate equipment slot to see a list of available equipment for that slot (nothing happens if you have no equipment of that type). At this point, equipment can be switched around however you like so you can pass the same tool between three characters on the same turn if necessary.

To unequip an item, click on the equipment slot and then the unequip item icon from the ring.

Equipment should become a part of your general strategy. The increase in efficiency of gathering actions of all types with the proper tool can save you many actions over the year. Clothes, cloaks, and accessories have many benefits including reducing need for heat, protecting from weather effects, reducing fatigue from actions, or providing bonuses. There are also many different weapons, armors, and battle accessories that are useful for combat, which will be covered right now.



Combat is of special interest to many players, particularly those of a tactical mind and a taste for high risk, high reward scenarios. Though combat is just a small part of FreeHolder, and isn’t necessary to progress in the game, it can be an exciting and lucrative activity with a bit of strategy and luck. The most risk-free way of trying some combat is to hire a few mercenaries, and let them do the fighting when you patrol. That is what they’re paid for, after all. If you’re intent on training up a character to be a warrior, try to get them some armor and keep them in the back row with a ranged weapon, behind a melee fighter. As long as they participate in the combat, they will receive the bonus combat experience points when you win. If you win.


Your characters and mercs and your enemies all have toughness points. It’s essentially like hit points but there are very few of them, and they represent more of a temporary combat toughness than genuine character health. Armor and special abilities can add toughness to a character and help them to last longer. The toughness points are represented by blue diamonds for 3 points and green for 1.

Taking a major hit inflicts 2 damage, costing 2 toughness. Minor hits cost 1. Bleeding, if suffered, may also cost toughness. When a character hits zero toughness, they are knocked out and cannot battle anymore. Whether a player character is wounded or critical after a battle is determined by a separate roll after the battle is won or lost, though this roll is partially based on how much damage was suffered by the character. A character may get beaten up badly in combat but walk away without major wounds, or he may take a small but nasty cut right away and end up wounded afterwards. Character health and abilities have an effect on this roll.


Each character in combat, whether one of yours or an enemy, makes an initiative roll at the start of each round of combat. Character level, equipment, and special abilities can affect this roll. The characters will then act in order of initiative. These rolls are made again at the start of the next round. Keeping in mind who is going when (the order is displayed at the top of the screen) can help you plan your attacks more efficiently.


Each character may perform some kind of action on their turn, unless they have been stunned or something. They can adjust their position or switch to a different weapon, but you have to attack your enemy if you want to win.

Attacking in melee is a risky proposition. Every character also has 1 Reaction per combat round, which can be used to make a simultaneous melee attack on a character that attacks them. It is best to have a tougher character make an opening attack on an enemy, then send weak characters to flank attack without risk of counterattack. Ranged attacks do not carry this risk of retaliation.

Attacking involves a number of hidden dice rolls that boil down to whether you land a decent hit or not. Glancing blows do not wound directly but can cause status ailments like bleed or stun. Parrying allows the character to defend against attacks with their weapon, increasing their ability to avoid getting hit on the defensive. Shields also affect these rolls.


Ranged attacks have either close, short, or long range. Close ranged attacks can only be done on melee-ranged targets but they cannot be retaliated against. This is true for weapons like throwing knives and throwing axes. Short range can skip one row, for example the back row being able to fire at the enemy front row. Long range can skip two rows, meaning a back row character could target a back row enemy.


Characters that have a thrown weapon as a battle accessory need to equip it in battle to use it. Just press “switch weapon” to equip it and ranged attacks become available. If the character is using a thrown weapon, they will automatically switch back to their melee in order to react if attacked in melee themselves.

A character who has run out of ammunition may wish to move to the front. They can choose a new location with “Change Position” but this will use up their turn.


Characters do not fight on endlessly and can be downed with one or two decent hits. Combat is designed to be fun, fast, and decisive and not drag on endlessly, though a long exchange of misses does seem to happen occasionally.

If all enemies are downed, even at the same time as your characters, it counts as a victory. They may be critical and wounded, but you walked away...sort of. If any enemies are still alive when your last character goes down, it counts as a loss. With a victory, you get money and the possibility of looted items. Every character that participated gets bonus combat experience (this is irrelevant for mercs). If you lose, none of these things are true. Hopefully, you got away without too much damage.