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Colonization the Original: Introduction


  • Colonization the Original: Introduction

    Sid Meier's Colonization is a computer game designed by Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier released by game developer and publisher MicroPROSE in 1994. It is a turn-based strategy game focusing on early European colonization of the New World, starting in 1492 ("when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue") and ending in 1850. Choose to play as the Dutch, English, French or Spanish -- the four colonial periods of the period. You are dispatched by your country's King to establish colonies in the newly-discovered Americas that lie to the west. You must balance potential risks and rewards of trade, exploration, arms, religion and politics to lay a solid foundation upon which to build a successful network of settlements to one day forge a nation of its own.


    You start out with a single caravel carrying a small group of colonists in search of trade and land to call their own. With no maps to guide you, you sail off into the unknown exploring vast expanses of ocean in search of a suitable location for your first colony. More and more colonies follow as you explore further up and down coasts and inland.

    You face many of the same challenges that faced colonial organizers of the time. Competition from the other three primary so-called 'Old World' European powers, native cultures that seem alien to you and your compatriots, the difficult logistics of establishing profitable trade programs, and the problems of organizing an army strong in number and skill from a small band of colonists whose lives revolve around family farms and community churches.

    As leader, skillful diplomacy will also be required on your part to keep your competitors, native and non-native, at bay. You must quickly decide on a strategy to pursue, but be flexible enough to adjust to changing conditions. Ultimately, you and your fellow colonists will foster a greater attachment to your new home than your old. As you continue to establish your own presence and identity, you start to separate yourselves from your mother country by more than just thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean. Only then can your instigating revolution and declaring independence have a chance of succeeding.

    By now you're engaged in a true trial by fire -- and somebody's going to get burned.


    Colonization is what is known as a Turn-Based Strategy (TBS) game, meaning it is played in a series of game turns each following a strict sequence of actions. Each one of your European and Native opponents have a segment of the turn in which to move units and manage affairs. During your segment, you direct the movement of colonists, ships, and wagons, make decisions about the jobs each of your people is doing, attack enemy units, make naval attacks, and so on. As such, at the beginning of each term the in-game date advances.

    During each player turn, events in Europe are assessed first; for example, changes in market prices and the tax rate or the arrival of new immigrants to the docks. Next, events and issues in each of the nation’s colonies are assessed and reported if necessary; these include food shortages and spoilage, lack of this or that resource to complete this or that project, and completion of construction projects. Finally, each unit may now move and attack according to the rules of movement and combat. Each unit is activated one after the next, until all have had the opportunity to move.


    Colonization was originally released for the Personal Computer (PC) in the DOS (Disk Operating System) environment, but was ported ported and re-released in 1995 for Microsoft Corporation's Windows OS also for the PC. A port for the Amiga console and the Macintosh platform followed later that same year.

    To play Colonization for the PC (DOS), your computer must have: a 386SX processor or better, 565KB+ memory, VGA+ graphics, DOS version 5.0+ and keyboard. A full 386 processor with system speed of 33Mhz or better and mouse are recommended for optimal performance. To play Colonization for the PC (Windows), your computer must meet the requirements for DOS and also have a mouse and Windows 3.1 or higher installed. To play Colonization for the Amiga, it must have at least 1MB RAM installed.

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    • Colonization: Colonization of America
      by Martin Gühmann

      The four European powers available for play in Colonization are the ones that had the greatest and longest-lasting influence on the New World: England, France, Holland, and Spain. Says the game's developer/publisher MicroPROSE (MPS), [i]f we had included a fifth nation, we probably would have chosen Portugal. Although Portugal's influence was larger than the Netherland’s, Portugal fell under Spanish rule for much of the time covered by the game and its policies and circumstances were very similar to Spain's.

      These four major powers first looked across the Atlantic Ocean for a passage to Asia that would allow direct trade for spices, silk, and other valuable items, and avoid Arab middlemen. On the eve of the discovery and colonization of the New World, Portuguese explorers had rounded the Cape of Good Hope and opened just such a sea route through the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese fought to defend their monopoly over this route because it offered tremendous trade advantages over other European nations. The have-not nations, led by Christopher Columbus and Spain, eagerly sought an alternative route that would break Portuguese domination.

      As we know, Columbus's voyage of 1492 did not discover islands on the eastern fringe of Asia, as he believed, but found instead a tremendous new land mass, unknown to Europe, stretching nearly from pole to pole. As disappointment over failing to find an easy passage to Asia subsided, there arose a corresponding curiosity about what Columbus had found. The early explorers returned to Europe with tales of gold, silver, furs, virgin forests, farmland without end, new foodstuffs, tobacco, and new races of people. The visionaries of Europe saw a wide range of opportunities in the form of quick wealth, fiefdoms, homesteads, religious freedom, raw materials, trading profits, and souls to save.

      The following is a summary of the "real life" history of England, France, Holland, and Spain's activities in the New World as described by MPS in the game's manual.

      September 27, 2012, 16:43
    • Colonization: Independence: Founding Fathers
      by Martin Gühmann

      One uncredited player recommends that [i]f you have started your first colony near one of the other powers (especially the Dutch), turn your first colonist into a statesman. The reasoning is two-fold: first, you acquire your first Founding Father quickly and second, you will reach the critical 50% Sons of Liberty number very quickly. As this same player notes, [t]his will immediately eliminate the weakest colonial power from the new world. Early in the game the odds are decent that you will eliminate the Dutch (assuming you're not playing them). Because of their economic advantage they are seldom the power to be eliminated if you wait until later to reach 50%. [..] [I]n any event you will now only have to deal with [two] rival powers rather than [three].

      The order in which you work towards gaining the following Founder Fathers and in what order is open to much debate. One strategy offered is by the uncredited player first quoted above: Minuit, Cortez, De Soto, Franklin and Drake. His or her reasoning is simple: money. For more on why this is so, watch for his notes (highlighted in this colour) that appear in each of their entries.

      The following is a list of all the Founding Fathers that can be in your Continental Congress. A short biographical sketch and summary of the effects of each is also included.


      Francisco de Coronado (1510-1554): A Spanish Conquistador, he led the first European expedition into the American southwest. He was the first “white man” to observe the Grand Canyon, and the Pueblos of New Mexico.

      Coronado was a great and careful organizer and scout so when he joins your Congress, all colonies currently on the map are exposed, including the area immediately surrounding them.

      September 27, 2012, 16:41
    • Colonization: Independence: Tensions and Winning
      by Martin Gühmann

      The goal of Colonization is independence from the Crown. This is not an easy task. All the growth, planning, building, manufacturing, and exploration you’ve engaged in throughout the game will be tested by fire. You must withstand the onslaught of the Crown, and defeat his forces in war before your nation has the right to call itself sovereign.


      As your colonial government improves and becomes responsive to the needs of its citizenry, the mother country begins to be perceived as the source of problems. The Crown is continually raising taxes -- for what appear to be whimsical purposes -- so that trade with the mother country is no longer as profitable for the colonies. The King’s share increases while the colonial share decreases.

      The growth and development of your government aids in your cause. As your colonies grow and your people work on creating government institutions, leaders emerge to help in the struggle. These “Founding Fathers” join the Continental Congress. A growing sense of independence and community in the colonists themselves aids the cause, making the people more productive and able. When half (50%) of your people feel a sense of urgency about severing the ties to the mother country, you may declare your independence!

      At the beginning of the game, the King of your home country is happy to support your efforts at colonization free of charge, but as time goes by, he’ll want a larger and larger cut of the profits. The primary method by which the King exacts payment is through the implementation of taxes. After all, he granted you the right to settle the New World, he supplied the initial funding and materials, and when you need naval support... who offers you the use of frigates and galleons?

      The King announces all tax increases and tells you the reason for imposing each new tax. The King always seems to have a reason for tax increases, but you may tire of them. Whenever he increases your tax rate, some of your people may rise up, expressing opposition to taxation without representation. You are given a choice of submitting to the new tax, or demonstrating against the Crown. If you demonstrate, by throwing some of your cargo into the sea and refusing to pay the new tax, rebel sentiment will increase but you will no longer be able to buy or sell that item in your home port until you pay all back taxes accumulated during the boycott.

      Once Jakob Fugger joins your Continental Congress, the Crown no longer remembers the anti-taxation “parties” you had, regardless of how many commodities you threw into the sea. You may once again trade the boycotted items, even if you never paid your back taxes.

      September 27, 2012, 16:37
    • Colonization: Natives and Foreign Powers: Foreign Powers
      by Martin Gühmann

      Aside from the details of growing your economy and expanding your population, you also have to contend with other European colonists and with natives. The cultures that the European invasion of the Americas forced into contact couldn’t have been more different.

      The competing Europeans have, for the most part, interests in common with your own. Like you, they want to establish profitable trade arrangements, expand their colonial empires, and build a viable society in the New World. Conflicts often develop over valuable resource deposits like silver mines, prime commodity lands, or ore deposits. In some cases too, there are conflicting land grants and charters. In addition to these issues, there are a host of purely European conflicts that date back through the generations and occasionally erupt into warfare that spills from Old World to New. In short, the behavior of both natives and Europeans can, at times, seem chaotic due to the complex societies from which it springs.

      All four European powers depicted in Colonization can be controlled by a human player. To help distinguish them from more than just name alone, each has their ows advantages and characteristics that they bring to the Imperial Age within the game. Each of these advantages and characteristics have basis in fact which is considered historically accurate.


      The Dutch, English, French and Spanish competed for New World dominance, When the dust settled, only the British and Spanish remained. There are still French-speaking peoples in North America today, notably Louisian the Canadian province of Quebec which is home to the world's greatest concentration of Frenchmen outside of France. Colonization gives you the opportunity to change all of this.

      Every one of your European rivals will attempt to dominate the Americas, to establish a monopoly on the valuable trade coming in and out of American waters. As you operate your colonial concerns, you will encounter foreign vessels on the high seas and sometimes even in waters you consider your own. Rival Europeans aggressively attempt to colonize the entire area of the New World through whatever means available. If they sense weakness in your attitude or deployment, they are likely to take advantage of that and attack your forces. They attempt to capture your colonies and force allegiance to their rule upon the population.

      To achieve dominance in the New World, your rivals will use their naval and ground forces in a variety of ways to interrupt the smooth flow of your commerce.

      September 27, 2012, 16:35
    • Colonization: Natives and Foreign Powers: Natives
      by Martin Gühmann

      Aside from the details of growing your economy and expanding your population, you also have to contend with other European colonists and with natives. The cultures that the European invasion of the Americas forced into contact couldn’t have been more different.

      Generally speaking, the Amerindians had a long-standing, deeply-rooted respect for nature and viewed themselves as an integral part of the ecosystem. Some of the concepts that Europeans found basic to society such as “ownership” and “progress” meant little or were interpreted in totally different ways by these American natives. The vast differences which separated Amerindians from Europeans created misunderstandings that would flash into violent confrontations. Looking back, the friction seems inevitable— everything the European needed to grow and prosper (in his way of thinking), the aboriginal needed to maintain. Europeans were consumers, the natives, conservers.


      None of the aboriginal tribes are human player controlable. They are all controlled by the game's Artifical Intelligence (AI). They are three different categories of native tribes: nomadic (Apache, Sioux, Tupi), woods-dwellers (Arawak, Cherokee, Iroquois) and city-dwellers (Aztec and Inca). They are represented by teepees, long-houses and pyramids or terraced stone buildings respectively.

      Each tribe consists of several settlements scattered over an area of the map. A settlement is the dwelling place of several braves that patrol the map nearby. Cities are much better defended than the other native settlements because of the large populations that dwell there. In addition, cities are wealthier than other settlement types -- according to European standards -- and are therefore much more likely to yield large treasures if captured. Villages are not as populated as cities, but are still quite well defended. Camps are poorly defended.

      September 27, 2012, 16:33
    • Colonization: The Old World
      by Martin Gühmann

      Regardless of what nationality you represent and how ‘independence minded’ you are, the bonds that bind you to your home country are strong and enduring. Your home country supplies you with people to populate the New World, ships to get them there, goods to trade with the aboriginals as well as muskets, tools, and other provisions that allow your colonies to exist in the early years. However, this relationship is not without price.

      The King wants to profit from your endeavors. He will charge exorbitant prices for seemingly indispensable skills and military equipment. He will tax your colonies in order to gain revenue for the Crown, and he’ll get you into unwanted wars with your rivals.


      The prices of goods and commodities in Europe fluctuate throughout the game. The forces that drive the economy are many and varied. Each nation’s economy responds to the trade it is receiving from its colonies, but it also responds to the economies of other nations. The primary factor is the amount of trade in each commodity. In other words, the more of a particular item sold in Europe, the lower the price drops. If there is little trading activity in a particular good or commodity, then the price rises. The economy is strictly supply driven.

      To some extent, the prices in your home country are affected by trading activity in other ports of Europe. Therefore, if you can corner the market on an item that other powers are not trading, you can get rich fast. But since you cannot count on chance, it is to your advantage to remain flexible in your production capability, so you can switch from one item to another as easily as possible.

      September 27, 2012, 16:32