Tag Archives: strategy

A Game: Colonization

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For a game that now claims membership of the Civilization family, Colonization lacks the breadth, depth, variety and sheer richness of its more famous cousins and is the poorer game for it. For one thing, it covers only a narrow slice of history, from 1492 to 1792 to be exact and despite its generic name, it covers only the colonization of the Americas. Folks who might have wanted a game that covers the colonization of Africa or Asia for example will have to walk away disappointed. For another thing, while there are many paths to prosperity, there is only one route to victory: successfully declaring independence from your mother nation and defeating their forces on the battlefield.

You start the game with a motley group of colonists out to make a new life in the New World. Unlike the Civilization games, you get a naval unit as part of your initial force, so you’re expected to spend some time exploring to find the best spot for your first settlement. Again, unlike Civilization, you’ll inevitably find that while the New World is indeed a vast land filled with riches, the best spots are already occupied by the native indians, so there is potential from conflict right from the beginning.

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Massacring natives for fun and profit (redux)

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Colonization is another one of the games that 2K Games sent me a while back but I’ve only just gotten around to checking it out. Its complete title is Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization which is quite a mouthful. This is because it is a remake of the original Colonization from 1994 using the Civilization IV engine. The original game is considered one of the great classics published by Microprose back in the day and one of the rare few that I missed out on playing. As such I’m particularly glad to have to have the chance to play this updated version.

In this game, the player takes control of settlers from one of four European nations who must found a colony in the New World. There you have to contend with not only the native population, but also the colonies of the other European powers. The object of the game is to grow the colony into a powerful nation in its own right and eventually become strong enough to declare independence from your mother nation and defeat its forces. Contrary to expectations however, Colonization is not a 4X game in the traditional sense, but an economics and logistics management game.

As such, gameplay in Colonization feels more similar to a city builder like The Settlers than any game in the Civilization series. Your colonists, each of whom can be individually named, can be tasked with various jobs, including gathering raw resources, processing them, preaching in churches to attract more colonists from Europe or constructing buildings. Colonists outside of a settlement can be assigned a job as a pioneer capable of building roads or tile improvements by equipping them with tools. Similarly, any colonist can be turned into a soldier by giving them guns.

While any colonist can be assigned to any job, some have skills that make them dramatically better at some jobs, so a big part of the game is shuffling colonists around to places where they can do the most good. Furthermore, since it is far more lucrative to export processed goods, like cigars and cloth, instead of the tobacco and cotton raw materials, it’s in your interest to build up the infrastructure to support these higher value industries. This raises the cash necessary to buy the weapons, ships and most importantly, skilled colonists, that you’ll need to win.

My initial impressions on this game are, frankly, not that good. For one thing, it’s an extremely micro-management intensive game. Most of your time is spent checking on the inventories of different materials in each of your settlements and transporting them around in wagon trains. There’s also not much combat in this game until the endgame phase as it’s usually easier to achieve your aims through peaceful trade. Finally, I have doubts about the game’s longevity since there are only four different European nations to choose from and I suspect that most games will turn out more or less the same. There aren’t even any scenarios to spice things up a little. Anyway, I still haven’t managed to win a game yet, so I’ll hold off on my conclusions until then.

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Drab and uninspiring city builder

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I received Civcity: Rome for free from a PR representative of 2K Games so I feel obliged to write something about it. Unfortunately, it’s a very dull game that I have no desire to really play. For one thing, despite the fact that it was first released in 2006, its graphics and general polish are so drab that it looks like more of a 2003 game. Its gameplay mechanics are also rather dodgy and uninspiring.

This is rather disappointing as it has been a while since I last played a good city builder game. In fact, I don’t recall a game of this genre really grabbing my attention since the closure of Impressions Games who were responsible for such titles as Caesar and Pharaoh in the 1990s. As its name implies, Civcity: Rome uses the same Roman theme. You’re a governor who is instructed to construct various cities in different bits of the empire and each level of the campaign game presents different challenges and geography.

One immediate disappointment is that new buildings are plonked down whole onto the map. Contrast this with the fantastic Settlers 2, where you order your workers to construct a building and they progressively move the required materials to the chosen site and you can watch them build it almost brick by brick. Most buildings only cost money, but better versions of residences can’t be built but must instead be upgraded by the people themselves once various goods and services become available in the city.

One interesting aspect of the game is that one type of upgraded residence lets you put them above shops, which helps save space in your city, but you eventually need to upgrade them again into extensive villa style buildings which take up lots of space. The odd aspect of this is that you can move around these residences anytime you wish, which I suppose make the game easier but really detracts from the feel that you’re building a real city.

Overall a solid thumbs down. It’s sad that practically no one is making this kind of games these days but if you really feel nostalgic you’re better off going back to one of the older games than making do with this one.

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A Game: Sword of the Stars (Ultimate) + Argos Naval Yards

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There’s no denying that Kerberos Productions has their priorities right: in a space-based 4X game, the big draw are the ships and Sword of the Stars, with all of its expansions added in, delivers that in spades. Want to build a missile boat with launch tubes dotting its entire surface? You can do that. How about an impactor ship that can fire powerful long-range rail cannons but whose arc of fire is limited to enemies directly in front of it? You can do that too. As of the A Murder of Crows expansion, you can even build drone carriers if fielding a swarm of carrier-based fighters is your thing.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Sword of the Stars is best understood as a space-based version of the Total War games. While the turn-based strategic layer is present, it’s extremely streamlined and designed to be able to be played quickly in order to facilitate multi-player sessions. A campaign game takes place in a randomly generated galaxy and you’re given a huge variety of options on what your galaxy looks like, including total number of stars, average distance between stars and the overall shape of the galaxy. The galaxy itself is in true 3D, which can be hard to make sense of since you’re going to have to constantly pan and rotate the galactic map. If that’s a problem, simply choose a disc-shaped flat galaxy to make things more or less 2D.

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Total War in space!

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Sword of the Stars is a game that was first released way back in 2006. Despite its promising premise and a design that initially appealed to me, I held back from buying it due to the poor reviews it received. Then there was the matter of the minor controversy it generated on QT3. One of the game’s designers had the unfortunate tendency to take criticisms against the game rather poorly and had a habit of getting into flame wars with potential customers.

But it was when the designer decided to pick a fight with QT3 owner Tom Chick that the consensus on the forum turned against it. Tom Chick, a freelance game reviewer, had delivered a less than flattering review of the game. The designer responded by accusing Chick of being biased since he was involved in writing the manual for Galactic Civilizations 2, which can be seen as a direct competitor to Sword of the Stars. You can still read Chick’s reply to that accusation here.

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A CCG on Facebook?!


Barely two weeks ago I wrote a post bemoaning the low quality of the hugely popular games on Facebook. So coming across Warstorm is kind of funny. To be fair, it’s not actually on Facebook itself, though it does offer the option of signing in through that social network and using it to connect with your existing contacts. It’s basically a simplified collectible card game with a focus on building and tweaking decks. The mechanics are streamlined and simple enough that the duels play out automatically and you only get to watch what happens. All of the decision-making takes place only while constructing decks.

The game itself is free to sign up for and to play, and there are single-player missions to do that will earn you packs of cards as rewards. But if you want the really good cards you’ll have to pony some real, hard cash. It’s pretty obvious that this is an absolute necessity if you want to have any hope at all at competing against other players. For example, two cards can have the exact same statistics, but the good one will have a drastically lower playing cost than the bad one. No prizes for guessing that the good cards only come from the packs that you have to pay cash for, as opposed to the free “Novice” packs that you get for completing in-game objectives.

It’s not a bad little game but it won’t win any prizes against the real CCGs. I notice that Magic: The Gathering is enjoying a bit of a revival recently, probably due to the release of the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game with pre-made decks. So you want to have a small taste of what CCGs are like without needing to pay any money upfront or are just feeling a little bit nostalgic about your Magic playing days, checking Warstorm out won’t be a bad idea at all.


A Quick Guide to the Grigori


It’s been a while since the first of these strategy guides, but as I’ve said, I expect Fall from Heaven 2 to be a game that stays permanently on my hard drive and that I’ll come back to again and again, so here finally is my guide for playing as the Grigori. In many ways, this faction is considered the easiest for newcomers to the game to pick up and play as even the manual uses it in its introductory walkthrough. They’re certainly the most vanilla of the various factions available.

The reason for this is that in the lore, the Grigori are plain, unmodified humans who have rejected the Gods. They don’t have any special powers or abilities and most importantly, they can’t adopt a state religion. In game terms, this is a huge disadvantage as having a state religion opens the door to special buildings, units and even civics. To make up for this, the Grigori are the only faction who can access the special Adventurer units, which have the potential to become some of the most powerful units on Erebor.

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