Colonization is a computer game made by Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier, and released through MicroProse. The idea is to choose the European country you want to represent and then head to the New World, to conquer and to explore.
At the beginning of the game the player chooses whether they want to start the game in America (the New World is then the shape of America) or in a New World (a random map). If choosing New World, the player also gets to choose some characteristics for the new world. For example, if there is lot of land, many rivers, if it arid, if it mostly forest, etc. Then the player chooses their mother country, which can be France, England, The Netherlands or Portugal. Each nation has its pros and cons, some like to conquer and some like to trade. Then the player chooses the difficulty level, and gives their explorer a name. The default name is each nation’s most famous conquistador, but can be changed to anything the player wants.
The gameplay starts with a little animation telling the story of the ships sailing from their home port to explore the new world. After that the actual game screen opens, and a little icon of your ship is blinking on the right side. As the ship moves, more of the map is revealed. Soon land appears, and you can send units to the land. Units can explore on their own, and make friends with the natives and other Europeans, or build colonies. Europeans can form alliances with each other, but beware: if you are under alliance with some nation, it automatically means that you are also at war with their enemies.
Trading, conquering and building a strong nation are the most important things in this game. When you build a colony, the colonists in there will settle in the nearby areas to do whatever is to be done there: if there is forest, they will provide you with lumber, if there is ore, they will miners, if there are wild animals, they will hunt, or then they can settle at the colony and do things there. All the buildings can have experts working on them, and the experts will turn the raw material gathered from the surrounding fields into tradable goods. For example, if you have a colonist farming tobacco, you will need a tobacconist shop and a tobacconist there to make cigars out of the tobacco. Same thing, if you have a farm of sugar, you will need a building and an expert to make rum. Actually, the person working on the field or in the building doesn’t have to be an expert, but it speeds up the process. Also, the raw materials can be traded as they are, but they are not worth so much. The colony itself also needs some things, most importantly lumber and ore in order to build and food for the colonists, and if those can’t be provided in the colony itself, they have to be traded from somewhere else. You can buy all the things from Europe, but they cost valuable gold. So, if you have a colony with large amounts of something, it’s a great idea to trade it to another colony. Best thing to do is to form trade routes (either on sea or at land) where the goods are traded from colony to another automatically
Trading can be also done with Indian villages. You can also send a free colonist to the villages to learn new skills. Also, if you have missionaries, they can go to live with the Indians and convert them into your own religion. Being friends with the natives is profitable, especially with the all the other tribes, besides the Aztecs and Incas. Not that they couldn’t trade or educate, but simply because when burning their village, you will finds lots of gold. That’s the other thing you can do with Indian villages: burn them to get gold. But like said, all the other tribes are pretty “poor” in terms of gold, but the Incas and Aztecs have lot of gold in their cities. Personally, I start attacking them as soon as I get the first artillery shipped from Europe. Because even though it may not be fair, gold is very much needed in order to survive in the new world, and the best and easiest way of getting it is by burning villages. Keep in mind though, that after burning a village, the gold appears on the map as a big carriage, which you have to transport to a galleon or to a coastal colony. That’s because you can’t immediately use the gold, you have to ship it to Europe to your king, and he will let you use a certain percentage of it. If you don’t have galleons, take it to the colony, and the king will offer to transport it for you, but with a very high price. After Hernán Cortés joins your continental congress, the treasures will be shipped for free. (More about continental congress later on).
Also, while in the topic of Indians, let me tell you about Rumors of the Lost Cities. They appear on the map as you explore, and they look like a wood carving of a face. You can enter them by sending a unit there. What happens then is a surprise. Sometimes your unit just disappears; sometimes you come back with other units. If you are very, very lucky, you might find one of the two ‘big’ treasures: the seven golden cities of Cibola, or the fountain of youth. The seven golden cities give you lots of gold on the spot, which you need to transfer back to Europe to actually use it. Fountain of youth gives the player several new units, which appear on the docks in Europe, waiting to get transported to the new world. There are several of these Rumors on the map, and even if you or some other nation have already found the fountain of youth, it doesn’t mean that there can’t be another.
One important goal in the game is to build a strong nation with a dream of freedom. The colonies will gradually grow into bigger ones, with different buildings, where colonists can manufacture goods from resources, but there are also buildings with benefit the common good, like churches, schools, warehouses and most importantly News press and Liberty house. Those buildings raise the awareness of independence in the colony, and when enough of the colonists are behind the idea, you can sign the declaration of independence. But that means you really need to be independent, you can’t count on your motherland for anything, all trading and recruiting has stopped. Instead, your former king will send troops after you, and will try to conquer your colonies back to the motherland.
The colonial pride of the colonists generates Liberty bells, and when enough is generated, a founding father will join the continental congress, which I mentioned earlier. Social and industrial advances are achieved by these people, who are named after real historical figures. Your congress will be joined by such names as Benjamin Franklin, Pocahontas, Ferdinand Magellan, Adam Smith and Henry Hudson, among others. The game has an in-built Colonizopedia, where there is an article of each of the fathers. It explains their impact on the game, but also what’s the story behind the real historical figure.
The game has some charming little details to it. For example, every time something special happens for the first time (first encounter with the natives, finding the pacific ocean, first trade back home to Europe) a detailed wood carving is displayed to the player. Also, when the game is over, and the final score is being calculated, there is also a story about how big of an impact the player had to the people under his rule, and shows a picture of a thing that has been named after the player. If you haven’t done very well, the people will name a venomous plant, snake or a plague after you, but if the game goes well, you might get, for example, a school named after you. The game music also deserves a special note: some of the tunes are patriotic, some sound very Indian and some just sigh the missing back to the motherland.
The player can also customize the game themselves by editing a .txt –file, but if you feel like doing that, I suggest you first take backups of your files and then find the instructions on how to do that from somewhere else online. I’m not going to take responsibility for that :D Also, if you feel adventurous, there is an open source remake of this game. You can find it here: http://www.freecol.org/ I still haven’t tried it myself, but it’s definitely on my “to-do” list.
Judging from this amount of text it’s safe to say I love this game. I have played it so much, and never got tired of it. I wanted to review this game mainly because the Civilization-series has gained so much attention throughout the years, and they also made remake of this game Civilization IV: Colonization. I just wanted to remind you that the orginal version was released already in the nineties, and was awesome already back then. I probably won’t get the new version of this game, simply because I don’t want to ruin this awesome, nineties looking, nostalgic gem.