Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Game designers:||Brian Reynolds, Sid Meier|
|Game modes:||Single player|
|ESRB rating:||n/a (released before ratings)|
|Platforms:||Amiga, DOS, Windows, Macintosh|
Colonization is a computer game by Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier released by Microprose in 1994. It is a turn-based strategy game themed on the early European colonization of the New World, starting in 1492 and lasting until the age of independence in 1800. It was originally released for DOS, but later ported to Windows, the Amiga and Macintosh (1995).
The player can choose one of four European powers, each having different advantages: the French are good at cooperating with the natives, while the Spanish are better at conquering them; English ships visiting London find more volunteer emigrants because of religious unrest; while the Dutch just get on with being the best traders.
The game revolves around managing a large number of colonist units representing various colonial professions (statesmen, carpenters, gunsmiths, sugar planters, missionaries, pioneers, preachers, weavers, etc.), which the player must put to effective use to grow crops and generate income selling goods to the natives or back in Europe (where taxes may be imposed).
Specialist buildings and special squares, as in Civilization, have greater output.
Specialists, who produce more per turn, can be trained or recruited. Indentured servants and criminals are as good as ordinary colonists in primary production but not so good at manufacturing or statesmanship; but they can be transformed into improved types by education. Missions established in Indian villages eventually encourage converts to join a colony; they are better than ordinary colonists at most outdoor pursuits, but not industrial ones.
Horses can be bought and sold, but they also multiply in any colony that has two or more of them and a food surplus. They help any colonist move further in a turn, add to military strength, and allow Scouts to do profitable things in native settlements or foreign colonies.
Ships of several types (Caravel, Merchantman, Galleon, Privateer, Frigate and Man-O-War; which can be purchased or eventually built) move goods, horses, and colonists around and can attack, while wagon trains (which can be built) move goods and horses.
Investigating Lost City Rumors can be extremely profitable, which is a very good reason to try to get Hernando de Soto working for you as soon as possible.
Relationships must be carefully maintained with Indians and other colonial powers, including waging war if necessary, having strong defensive units and fortifications, or recruiting the peacemakers Benjamin Franklin and Pocahontas. Destroying native settlements yields a quick profit and makes their land available but prevents the substantial long-term gains to be made by friendly bargaining and trading. It also counts against your final score.
The King of your home country (which you must ultimately declare independence from) meddles in your affairs from time to time, mostly by raising the tax rate but occasionally by forcing you into wars with your rivals.
All the while, the player must pay attention to political development and recruiting Founding Fathers (roughly corresponding to the scientific discoveries of Civilization), to ensure a successful independence revolution, which is the climax of the game, the only path to victory.
The mechanics of the game are unique in the turn-based strategy genre, although players of Civilization will be familiar with some aspects, such as "move 3 spaces along a road" and "eat 2 units of food per turn".
Maps and terrain
Maps include a standard North and South America (quite good as a representation except that Great Salt Lake is too far north), but, as in Civilization, there are any number of possible alternatives, somewhat randomly generated according to criteria set by the player.
The 3,920 terrain squares can be any one of nearly 20 categories (most of which can have "specials" at random locations), including eight types of forest, each of which can be cleared to produce a one-off timber crop and result in a specific type of open ground (and then plowed for more productivity).
While popular, the game received resistance because it completely ignored the fact that slavery was a major component of the European colonization of the Americas. While it is possible for players to bring in indentured servants and petty criminals, these settlers can be educated into a free citizen and then specialists.
It has been speculated that this is the reason why Colonization, unlike Civilization, has never been re-released.
More practical reasons why this might be so include:
1. Inability of the player to adopt a different goal to "win" the game. Warfare is not equally enjoyable by all players of strategy games. The Civ series offers at least a few other options to the player.
2. Restriction of founding of colonies is limited to 38. While possibly more historically "accurate", this causes "empire builder" player types to become disenchanted when the computer players start to erode their previously huge lead as the computer player adds more and more colonies, while the builder is limited to only fiddling with their existing colonies.
3. Inflexibility in salvaging colonies needing relocation to more profitable terrain once the conseqences of this limitation is realized. It is far easier to simply start the game over, but the loss of time and effort is discouraging and undoubtedly contributed greatly to the lack of popularity of the game, which is otherwise quite a pleasant Civ variant.
- The Unofficial Microprose Colonization Home Page
- Moby Game's entry on Colonization
- Zeal's category of profiled sites
- FreeCol - An open source Colonization clone
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