Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Manifest Destiny

Ahhh... Civ is truly the game that keeps on giving.  Its latest official incarnation from Firaxis is a total conversion into ColonizationColonization was one of my beloved games when I was growing up... perhaps not as dear to my heart as Civilization, but then again, few things were.  The new game, called "Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization," is a blast.  It captures the fun of the original, corrects some of the old annoyances, provides a great shot of modern features, and remains quite distinct from (yet evocative of) Civ IV.

I'll run through a quick(ish) narrative of my first game while it's still fresh in my mind, then run through an analysis.  OK, go!

They kept the four colonial powers from the original: you can choose to play as the English, French, Dutch, or Spanish.  They largely have the same advantages as the original - English have better immigration, French have better relations with the natives, Dutch have some advantages in trade, and the Spanish are better prepared for combat.  They've added the idea of multiple leaders from Civ IV, though, so you have a choice of which leader to play as, which provides more modification.  I opted for the English, as I always did in the original.  My choices for leader were George Washington, who gave some combat benefits, and John Adams, who gave a 25% boost to liberty bell production.  I went for Adams, and renamed him Alexander Hamilton, because, come on, why wouldn't I?

You start off with a tiny ship, a few colonists, some tools and some muskets.  In my first game I was extremely unhappy with my starting position - no lumber at all - so I called a do-over after 10 turns and rerolled.  The next game was odd, but worth keeping.  I founded Jamestown on a spit of land that reached eastward into the Atlantic.  Not counting the city square, there were only three land tiles to work, as opposed to five sea tiles - typically an awful proposition for a city.  However, two of those sea tiles had bonus Fish resources, one of the land tiles had Corn, I had dense forest and some hills.  In other words, I wouldn't make any money at all off of this city, but it had the potential to support a giant population - think preachers, statesmen, etc. - and seemed like the perfect spot for a capital.

Colonization has many similarities to Civ.  It's turn-based; you move units around squares on a map; you found cities (here called "settlements"); you engage in diplomacy, trade, and (possibly) war with other civilizations.  It has many more differences, and the biggest one of all is the different aim.  Civ is famous for providing multiple paths to victory: I have won (and greatly enjoyed) games where I never fired a single shot.  Colonization only has one way to win: you must declare independence from your mother country and defeat the King's forces.  That doesn't at all mean that it is a military-only game, though.  Civ allows you to choose which axis of the game you want to focus on (science, production, combat, diplomacy); to succeed in Colonization, you need to become good at everything.  Sure, it comes down to a war, but to win that war you'll need soldiers, guns, and horses.  To get those things, you'll need a sufficiently large population and a strong economy.  Both of those require you to become good at trading: finding the best and most accessible resources, developing settlements to produce them, then investing by upgrading your manufacturing capabilities.  And since any shock can disrupt the flow of cash and crimp your growth, you'll need to manage relations with the natives, other European powers, and the insane demands of your king.

So, in a sense, there's less freedom here than there is in Civ, but that isn't a bad thing.  The game prompts you to work hard at everything, and keeps it interesting throughout.

After founding Jamestown, I spent some time exploring.  I was lucky enough to get a Seasoned Scout from Europe fairly early on, and with him I explored my continent.  I was very close to the Sioux, who as usual were very friendly and provided me with free goodies.  I eventually found the other Europeans, and allowed myself a smile.  The French and Spanish had landed right next to each other, in the other hemisphere from me.  I wouldn't need to worry at all about them crimping my expansion.  The continent was oddly shaped, reaching all the way from the north to the south pole, with a large vertical inland lake that divided the middle into two portions.  There was only one area where a settlement could offer a canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and the French soon built one there.

From the original game, Colonization keeps the idea of Founding Fathers.  These sort of replace both wonders and technologies from Civ.  There is only one of each Founder, so if I recruit, say, John Jay, then you can't take him as well.  Each Founder provides a specific benefit.  These are all over the map, from improved relations with the natives to combat promotions to free units to increased production of cotton, etc., etc.

The way you get founders has changed a lot, though.  Well, they're still mainly driven by Liberty Bell production.  In the original game, once you got a certain number of bells, you'd receive a pop-up.  You'd have a choice of five Fathers, and could select whichever one best matched your needs at the time.  It was a somewhat random process; you never knew which Fathers would be offered.  The new game is much closer to researching a technology or building a wonder.  Each Founder requires a certain number of liberty bells, and also a certain number of special "points".  There are different types of points, namely Exploration, Trade, Military, and Diplomacy.  You get Exploration points by revealing the map, contacting native tribes, and stuff; you get Military points by engaging in combat and building military buildings like stockades; and so on.  So, to pick an example, Eli Whitney might require 6000 Political Points (Liberty Bells) and 4000 Trade Points.  Once you have earned both the required political and trade points, you'll get a pop-up asking you if you want to recruit him.  If so, he'll join your Continental Congress (in this case, that means +50% Cotton in all settlements), the 6000 and 4000 points will be deducted, and no other power will be able to recruit him.

Because of this, some more strategy goes in to picking your Fathers.  I passed on the very first one offered me, which reduced the time to travel to Europe by 50%, because I had my eye on some later ones.  Simon Bolivar grabbed that one, but I was able to pick another Exploration Founder that provided more Treasure from ruins and burial grounds.

Oh, yeah.  The whole "goody hut" thing from Civ has changed.  In the original Colonization, there were special tiles that looked like a gold coin and were called "Rumors of Lost Cities."  Anything could happen there - attacks, maps, lost colonists who join you, one of the Seven Cities of Gold, or even the Fountain of Youth (causes an enormous explosion of immigration).  There were also Indian burial grounds; they could produce treasure, but would anger the natives into attacking.  The new Col loses the Rumors; there are now both Burial Grounds and Ruins.  In both cases, if you explore with a Scout (preferably a Seasoned one), you may get some treasure.  I like treasure way more in this game than I did in the old Col, mainly because Indians no longer automatically attack it like they did in the original game.  All that to say, getting this Father helped me more profitably exploit those ruins, which gave a great boost to my treasury in the crucial early part of the game.  But, if I'd been offered him later in the game, I would have passed, having already explored them all.

I eventually realized that I was in a weird position on a weird map.  There were open plains to the north of me, with some nice food but no resources or trees at all.  I had ocean to my south and east, so the only other option was westward.  I planted my second city at Plymouth, where the coast dropped 90 degrees from east-west to north-south.  Plymouth was never meant to be a large city - good thing, too, because there was almost no food there.  No, I built it just because it had a Prime Silver vein.  I reasoned that I could stick a silver miner there by himself and get a nice, steady income stream from it.  This worked out pretty well; later on I did add some extra folks (lumberjack, carpenter, native fisherman), but it was a pretty modest producer.

I eventually found a killer site: two Tobacco resources and one Cotton, some timber, light forest covering plains, and a river running through it all.  In both Cols, you can only work the 8 squares around the city, not 16 like in Civ, so location is even more important.  This city had the potential to drive my entire economy.  Just one hitch: it was super far away from my capital.  If you imagine Jamestown at being around the location of Atlanta, then Roanoke (as it would be named) was roughly located in a verdant Phoenix, Arizona.  (Plymouth was kind of like Houston.)  By this time I had grown enough for a couple of pioneers, so they began carving out a roadway westward.  I started my covered wagons moving between the two, early on driving food out to Roanoke (they would eventually cut down some light forest and set Expert Farmers for a nice surplus), and bringing back tobacco and cotton.  In the early days it could take 12 turns in each direction.  After the roads were built, I had a nice streamlined system down.  About 2 turns from Roanoke to Plymouth; the wagons would dump their cargo there, then turn around back to Roanoke.  Meanwhile, other wagons would make runs from Plymouth to Jamestown, where cargo would then be shipped to Europe.

Once this system was in place, I was finally producing reliable income (not just an occasional grand from a ruin).  I turned this money back around.  I bought experts in a few fields I was missing - as in the original Colonization, in Europe you can pay a lot of money for a highly-trained immigrant.  The ones I needed came relatively cheap: 1000 gold each for expert Carpenters, some Lumberjacks.  Back in the New World, I began sending colonists into native villages.  My seasoned scouts had spoken with every village chief, and, in a huge improvement from the original Col, you could now see from the main map what specialty each village could teach.  The colonists learned trades as expert fisherman, expert farmers, and (not even available in Europe) expert cotton planters and tobacco farmers, kicking Roanoke's economy into overdrive.  The cities were now regularly producing buildings and the flow of cash was increasing.  Roanoke now started to upgrade its facilities, eventually creating a textile mill and cigar factory.  Now it was producing finished goods which could be sold to Europe for an enormous profit.  It was now common for me to earn 5000 gold or more on a single Galleon run.

Around this same time, I planted my fourth settlement, Barbados, almost immediately west of Jamestown.  I had bypassed the site earlier because it didn't have any special resources.  On closer examination, though, I realized that the three peaks separating it from Jamestown could supply a great deal of ore, especially once they were mined and staffed with experts.  And, after playing too many of these games on the original Colonization, I also knew to look and check whether I had sufficient timber and agricultural capacity.  Yes on both counts.  Barbados was founded for much the same reason as Jamestown: it would probably not make me a dime, but would be a crucial tool of the Revolution.  Literally so.  Ore gets produced into Tools, which are essential for most important buildings, for creating cannons, for building warships, and for producing muskets. 

Soon after I started earning real money, I borrowed a favorite old Civ tactic and bought a Privateer.  This was a really fun unit, an attack ship with hidden nationality that you could use to harass your European rivals without declaring war.  I spent a few decades having fun with him, sinking their caravals, plundering their cargo and selling it to England, then returning and doing it again.  I found myself getting progressively more annoyed with the Spanish and French - they kept on taking Founding Fathers, occasionally ones who I actually wanted.  I decided that it was time to take them down a notch, and in the process get used to Col-style combat.

I bought some muskets and horses from Europe, picked up a Veteran Soldier through immigration and purchases another, then conscripted some low-producing colonists to join me.  With this small band, I first started gaining experience by attacking the Sioux.  Relations had sourced in recent years... they hadn't actually raided my settlements, but it seemed like a matter of time.  Most crassly, I was upset that they wanted over 5000 gold in order to build a fifth city in their territory.  (In the original Col, you could found a city near Indian land.  You couldn't work any tiles belonging to the Indians unless you paid for that tile, or you took it from them, which would harm your relations.  In the new Col, you basically need to pay for ALL the tiles when you found your city, or incur their wrath.)  As in the original Col, fighting the natives was fairly easy.  I'd actually earned a ton of money earlier in the game by selling muskets and horses to various Indian tribes, including the Sioux, but they only had enough for a handful of units.  I took a sort of blitzkrieg approach, declaring war on them and then taking out two of their villages within a few turns, then promoting and healing my units before combining the two forces and marching on their capital.  It was a little dicey for a while, especially when I left some unguarded pioneers nearby.  Units with the Ranger II promotion have double movement through forest squares, so unless you pay close attention to your opponent's promotions, you can easily be caught off guard.

It all worked, though, and eventually I had subdued the Sioux and earned both liebenschraum and promotions.  Even better, I had acquired a Great General.  This concept was important wholesale from Civ IV: Warlords.  You can attach a Great General to one of your units, providing a huge boost of 20 XP, and providing access to some wonderful promotions that are only available to Great General-led units (like +50% XP per combat, Ranger III [huge bonus to attack and defend in forest, which you can now do multiple times per turn], Healer III, Combat VI [+50% Strength], etc.).  Elated, I acquired some more military hardware, then put trade with Europe on hold for a while as my cargo ships ferried the army north into Spanish territory.

The Sioux war had been easy and rather long; the Spanish war was weird and rather short.  I think they just had three cities, and because I had not declared my intentions in advance, they had made absolutely no preparations for me.  Some cities didn't have any soldiers mustered outside.  Once I realized how puny their defenses were, I abandoned my initial plan (fortify in forested hills outside their settlements, bombard with cannons, then attack with the cannons and dragoons) for a lighting strike approach.  I sent my soldiers directly from the landing craft into their settlement.  Now, as in the original Colonization, citizens will automatically pick up arms if they are available and defend, but still, it was only a handful of attacks until their defenses were wiped out.  I razed the settlement to the ground, landed my cavalry, and swung farther north and east.

I did some guerilla fighting as I marched inland.  Rather than fortify his remaining units behind stockade walls, Bolivar rode out to meet me.  By this time I had picked up a few Ranger promotions, and had a good enough mix of units that I could pick him off at my pleasure (Dragoons against Artillery, Soldiers against Dragoons, etc.)  I faced unexpectedly fierce resistance once I reached Havana, which only had a few soldiers left, but still put up rather fierce resistance.  They too fell, and I was victorious.

Well, sort of.  Unlike in Civ (and possibly unlike the original Col, though I'm a bit fuzzy on that), a European power isn't destroyed when their last settlement goes away.  Bolivar still had a few land units left roaming around, and a few decades later he came back from Europe with a fresh ship and re-settled.  Still, I had dealt a mortal blow.  He would no longer be taking my Founding Fathers from me.

Flush with enthusiasm, I resolved to immediately continue the fight north.  New France was larger than New Spain, but I quickly realized that it was even less prepared for the onslaught.  By now I had all three ships hanging around, my Caraval, Merchantman and Galleon.  Each picked up a unit or two and swung out near a coast city, while my fast-moving dragoons lurked inland.  I diplomatically declared war, and on the very first turn half of their settlements burned.  As before, the final holdouts were a bit trickier, but the outcome was never in doubt.  Now my empire truly did extend from sea to shining sea.

A quick note on spoils: when you capture a European settlement, you automatically get some cash, and then can make the standard Civ decision of whether to keep it or burn it.  Colonization doesn't import the notion of corruption from Civ, so it can be tempting to hold on to it - it won't drag down production or commerce elsewhere.  In my case, I decides without much hesitation to burn.  Importing more citizens would drag down my Liberty rate; the cities were in locations that were just OK but not great; and, more importantly, they were so far away from my core that it would be impossible to unite them.  let alone work out a coherent defensive strategy once the Redcoats landed.  The one settlement I hesitated over was the French colony I thought of as "Panama", the one that connected the two oceans.  I eventually decided that it wasn't worth it, and in any case I wouldn't gain anything from accessing the Pacific.  So I burned them all.  It isn't a wash, though.  In addition to the cash, you also get a free wagon train.  I kind of wish I had known this in advance; I had built a few before, and would have held off if I'd known I'd be getting another half-dozen for free. 

Capturing a native village is different.  You automatically destroy it; there's no option to keep it.  You get a Treasure unit, which can be puny (the Sioux's were under 100 gold) or substantial (traditionally, the Aztec and Inca are loaded).  In addition, you get a free Converted Native.  These have been around since the original Col, but I never used to do much with them - you'd have to invest in  missionaries to get them, and my missions had a way of getting destroyed.  But they are quite useful.  They act as Experts (or close to it) for any sort of fieldwork - fishing, mining, planting, etc.  As a tradeoff, they are less effective than Colonists at city trades like Statesman, Cigar Maker, etc.  Additionally, I was disappointed to learn that they couldn't be turned into soldiers.  Hey, that's the reason I captured them: because they were fighting!  What, they forgot how to fire my muskets?

By now I was starting to think towards the endgame.  I had picked up some good promotions, gotten another Great General, and finally had my choice of the remaining Fathers.  I did some plotting.  Now that the Sioux were out of the picture, I could finally found Bermuda; a mere squares from the old Sioux capital, this coveted colony could access two prime Beavers and the best timber on the continent.  It would have been a nice cash cow if I'd founded it earlier, but I could already sense that it might never reach its full potential.  I reviewed the list of Fathers and picked out a few that I would definitely want for the war.  Specifically, there were several Military ones that provided free promotions to all units; some Political ones that would boost my Liberty Bell rate; Alexander Hamilton (that's me!) who is just awesome; and Roger McCormick, who provides extra food.  Basically, I wanted to get to the point where I was churning out new citizens and guns, combining them into trained soldiers, and repeating.

In order to get the remaining Military points I needed, and pick up some more Great Generals, I decided it was time for one last glorious Indian war.  My units sailed or marched all the way back down to Jamestown, then swung out west.  Everyone left pretty much liked me, but the Aztec were the last happy with me, and I lusted after their rich cities.  Interestingly enough, I was especially tempted by how strong and vast their army was.  This is the opposite of my usual attitude in Civ, where I only engage in war as swift surgical strikes against weak enemies.  Here, my aim was to fight as much as I could and destroy a ton of units, even if it meant delays of capturing cities.  Sure, they had numbers, but I was well promoted, and confident in my skills.  I divided my army into four, parked outside their cities, then attacked.  Cheered.  Pressed "End Turn".  Watched in slack-jawed amazement as they utterly destroyed my army and marched on Roanoke.

Clearly, a new strategy would be required.

I swallowed my pride and reloaded a save from a decade earlier.  I realized that I had made a few miscalculations.  First, the sheer number of units they had could easily wear me down.  Second, I hadn't paid attention to their promotions; as before, some were double-movement Ranger IIs who could swing out and attack my flank.  I cut back on my ambitious battle plans and created two massive columns, each a mix of horse, boot, and wheel.  As before, I parked my guys in well defended spots, then declared war.  This time the soldiers didn't participate; they could take advantage of the +50% or +75% terrain defense bonuses, and could hold down their squares.  I'd planned on using cannons to bombard, but realized that the Aztec didn't have any defenses to protect, so I attacked their city units instead.  Cannons are unstoppable when assaulting cities, so they led the way, followed by dragoons.  By now I had some medic promotions in both columns, and when someone got low enough, they could rest a few turns and then continue the assault.

Montezuma was none too pleased with me, and went on the war path.  To his credit, he didn't bother attacking my highly defensible positions; instead he sent out invaders into the forest, making their way (I presume) towards Roanoke and undefended units.  So, the rhythm I settled into was that my dragoons would chase down his braves while cannons pounded his settlements and the soldiers dug into the hillside.  It was all pretty effective.  Both villages fell, I sent the treasure and prisoners back into my colony, and the columns advanced towards their next target.

Throughout the entire game, the King had been steadily raising my tax rate.  The worst was a single jump from, I think, 5% to something like 16%.  As in the original Col, you can refuse a tax increase by holding a party, which means you can no longer trade that good with Europe.  I like the option, but he would pick things that I really needed, like (early on) guns and tools, or things that I absolutely needed to trade, like cigars and cloth.  Towards the end of the game, I finally began to refuse him, but was disappointed to see that he would come right back in a few turns with another tax increase.  He also will randomly ask you to give him large flat sums of money.  And the artists did a phenomenal job of making him look absolutely hateful.  I never did quite figure out what the consequences were of angering the King.  I would assume that it has some impact on how frequently he adds units to his Royal Expeditionary Force, but could be wrong.

I was steadily gaining Liberty Bells throughout the game.  This is kind of risky, since the King will grow alarmed as rebel sentiment increases and build up his forces, making the endgame harder.  Still, I really wanted those Founding Fathers, and it just seemed more fun to tweak him a little.  Plus, Liberty Bells have some nice extra benefits in the new Col.  In the original, you would get a production bonus in a colony that reached 50%, and another bonus if it reached 100%.  Here, every col gets a bonus equal to half their liberty bell rate - for example, if a fisherman usually would catch 10 fish, and you have a 60% rebel sentiment, then he will get a 30% bonus for a total of 13 fish.  Liberty bells also act like culture in Civ IV, so they expand the size of your borders - not hugely important, since you can't work anything outside your immediate radius, but it does protect against hostiles, and presumably would help you in land disputes with the Indians.  Finally, your rebel sentiment also provides a defensive bonus for your cities.  For all these reasons, I wanted to generate some bells throughout the game.  I figured that I would wrap up the Aztec War, then as the soldiers headed home and took up positions, I would import Elder Statesmen via my bloated treasury, deploy them throughout the colonies, and get a nice big boost towards the magic 50% for independence.  In preparation, all of my colonies (even puny little Plymouth) built printing presses and newspapers, most of which stood eerily vacant, waiting for a hand to inspire them.

The war with the Aztecs ended triumphantly.  I realized that I would need a little more time to get my economy absolutely in place, so I started cashing out all my gold, picking up a few final strategic pieces (an additional Expert Rancher and Expert Gunsmith for Jamestown, Carpenter and Lumberjack for Bermuda), and blowing the rest of the cash on cannons and veteran soldiers.  By the time everything was in place, Jamestown was churning out over 40 guns and 30 horses every turn - basically enough for a soldier every turn and a dragoon every two.  I wasn't ready to start drafting, so I deputized a few wagon trains to begin ferrying armaments throughout the empire.  I still wanted Dom Pedro, the last and best Military Father, so I had a final unplanned war against the puny native tribe immediately to my north.  The dragoons were burning their villages as my ships made their final return from Europe, carrying the Elder Statesmen who would show us the way towards freedom.

A few tense and quick turns followed.  All the military either fortified in an eastern city or took up temporary employment within the town.  Statesmen rushed out to the western cities, where rebel sentiment was still rather low.  The wagon trains were either pressed into military service, or else filled up on manufactured goods and headed overland towards the remaining native tribes.

After pressing Enter a few times and turning down an increasingly demanding King, I finally got the much looked-for message that I had passed 50% sentiment.  Now, in the original Col, I would have been tempted to keep driving this up towards 100% for the maximum benefits.  However, by this point the King was adding new units almost every turn, and his standing army already outnumbered mine by more than 6 to 1.  So, as soon as I had the chance, I declared independence.  A really cool little video followed - cool, except that it both shows and says "1776", which was clearly not the case.  I had declared my independence just a few years after 1700, and a helpful countdown timer reminded me that I had fewer than a hundred years in which to win the game.

Next up was a VERY cool part: when you declare independence, you get to draft a constitution.  You choose your nation's path on each of five axes, and they're all interesting decisions.  The first one is a real gut-wrencher: slavery.  My white liberal guilt led me to pick abolition, but still, I'm quite tempted... picking Slavery will provide a substantial boost to almost all resource production (food, lumber, hammers, tools, etc.) throughout your empire.  Emancipation, by contrast, will give you an extra 2 citizens in every city you control.  I wouldn't realize until later that those citizens are Indentured Servants - makes sense, of course, but still a bummer, since they aren't as good as Colonists at anything.  That is, anything but fighting.  I basically had just received 10 soldiers or dragoons who were just waiting for armaments, which I had in ample supply.

The other decisions are just as interesting, if less morally fraught.  Picking Monarchy will let you continue trade with Europe, while Elections will give you a boost to Liberty Bell production.  Neither seemed very useful to me - I wouldn't be able to get my ships past the King's Man-o-Wars anyways, and my most strategic cities were already near 100% Rebel Sentiment - so I opted for Elections.  In retrospect, I do wish I had chosen Monarchy.  First of all, playing as Alexander Hamilton, it just feels right.  More importantly, though, I realized a few turns later that I could no longer pay to rush construction, which meant that the close to 10,000 gold I had held in reserve for some critical final projects (fortress, arsenal) were useless.  After reading up in Civilopedia, I think I finally understand why: what you're paying for when you rush build is the cost of the rush, plus the cost in Europe of lumber and tools required by your project.  I bet that, if you can no longer buy lumber or tools from Europe (possibly even as the result of a Tool Party), you won't be able to rush.  So that was a bummer, but not a fatal one.

Anyways, as for the rest: I chose Native Rights for a boost to my relations with them; I wasn't going to be fighting any wars against them, and thought there might be a chance I could get them to fight the King with me.  (No such luck, but I think this might be because all the surviving Natives were too far away to even meet his units.)  Because crosses become useless once immigration ends, you can choose either Religious Freedom to turn them into liberty bells or Theocracy to turn them into hammers.  I picked Theocracy - as noted before, I was in pretty good shape for rebel sentiment.  Finally, you can choose the Right to Bear Arms for a strength boost or Gun Control (I think it's called something different) for more liberty bells.   On this day, I was all about the Second Amendment. 

The final thing I did this turn was flip through all my cities and turn them from a commerce footing to a war footing.  It would have taken too long to rearrange everyone manually, so instead I used the governors.  I really wish that I had used this earlier in the game: I'm used to the friendly AI being poor, but this aspect at least was really well done.  You can view a list of all possible production (tobacco, silver, tools, crosses, etc.) and for each pick "Emphasize", "Deemphasize", or "Neutral".  Then, automate all your citizens (which you can do in one click) and adjust as necessary.  Again, I was shocked at how well this worked.  It would have taken a long time to figure out what to do with Roanoke, which was entirely devoted to cash crops and manufacturing, but the AI did an even better job than I would, and so it was transformed overnight into a bread basket, capable of churning out a new citizen every few turns and exploding its low Rebel Sentiment standing.

Satisfied with all my cities, I did a final save, then pressed "Enter".  Repeated a few times.  I wished that the game would play ominous music to impress on me the seriousness of my situation, and I could imagine rows upon rows of redcoats braving the choppy Atlantic waters as they sailed westward.  I'd expected to catch sight of them soon, but they invaded the instant they appeared.  I was left gasping.  Which meant I was still alive.

I'm still unsure how I feel about the military AI.  It seemed like about a third of the King's Regulars directly invaded Jamestown from off their boats.  I noted later that some of the Regulars had the Amphibious promotion, so I guess this is somewhat logical - if they don't get that 25% penalty, then you might as well take advantage of it.  Still, it was pretty suicidal.  In the first wave, I fought off, I dunno, maybe eight attacking Regulars, and only lost a single defender (though the rest were badly wounded).  He also unloaded quite a few royal dragoons and artillery (like cannons, but worse), protected by a handful of additional Regulars for defense.  When my turn came, I counter-attacked with a vengeance.  None of my Dragoons had even gotten a chance to defend, so they were at full strength.  I led the charge with units that had extra withdrawal chances, softening up his strongest defenders while staying alive.  Then I struck hard with the highly combat-promoted general-led units, who crushed them.  I returned to playing rock-paper-scissors, sending in my dragoons against artillery, soldiers against dragoons.  I lost one or two more units, but at the end of my turn had wiped out all but a handful of units who were established in a forested hill.  There, I brought some defenders out of my city, and sat next to them, waiting for them to attack. 

There were so many enemies, I had figured that this was the entirety of the first wave, but I was wrong.  On the very next turn, a few more ships unloaded into Jamestown.  I lost some more units, including a Great General, but still held strong.  The landed forces struck against my outside defenses, and broke.  A few roads were pillaged, so I brought my pioneers back in for repairs.  He repeated the landings from before, but with fewer units this time.  I had kept some guys in reserve in Barbados, so these fresh dragoons swept in and annihilated his expedition.

Like I said before, I'm a bit skeptical about the AI.  If our positions were switched, I would have landed all my units in the one defensible position adjacent to Jamestown, a forest square.  Then everyone would have attacked in a single turn, not giving me time to recover from each blow.  By splitting his attacks across three turns, the king severely weakened his chances; a more coordinated assault could have been the death knell for liberty.

I was pleased to see that my tactical gamble had paid off.  Unlike the historic English colonies, which were arranged north-south along a coastline and all roughly convenient to England, I was arranged east-west along a coastline, with only Jamestown nearby and the bulk of my population farther inland.  Because of this, I had concentrated 95% of my forces in Jamestown and Barbados, with only token defenses in my other cities, including the port of Plymouth.  As a result, I was able to directly match the King's army.  I did get a little nervous when I noticed two Man-o-Wars heading westward - it didn't look like there were any units on board, but then again, I'd never been able to see any before they landed, and wondered if they were somehow hidden.  It turned out that they were empty, though.  The King spent a few turns bombarding the defenses of Plymouth and Jamestown, but didn't land any more units.  The ships finally broke off and sailed back east for reinforcements.  Jamestown finished its fortress at last.

Much like America after the Battle of Saratoga, I was now confident in my ultimate victory, even though it would take many more long years to appear.  There were four more waves of invasion, each a little weaker than the one before.  He never tried to land any farther west than Jamestown, and before very long I was successful in the war.  Hooray!

When you win the game, you get to see another cool little movie, though it isn't as cool as the intro or the one when you declare independence.  Then you can click through some screens showing the state of your empire, your achievements, and view your normalized score.  Oh, and a little popup window saying that you have won.  Hooray!  I felt great about the victory, but was a little let down by the very end.  One thing that I've loved about all the Civ games and its various siblings is the screen at the end that ranks you.  The classic Civ approach is to compare you with various historic leaders.  The original Colonization had a cool final screen that showed what was named after you - if you did a very poor job, it might be an infectious disease; if you did better, it could be a bridge or school; I never did well enough to see what was at the very top, but I assume it would be the capital or a state.  It would have been really nice to have brought that back, or even a typical "who you're better than" filled with revolutionary figures.  ("With a score of 3%, you're a better revolutionary than Daniel Shays!")

Overall, I was delighted with the game.  I think I'll try some more specialized strategies in future attempts, such as doing a French game where I build up a coalition of natives to help me fight the King, or a game where I try to declare independence as early as possible (while the REF is still small).

My least favorite things about the game:
  • That dastardly King of England!  Oooh, I hate him so much!
  • Education - it sounds cool, but takes forever to train a student, and you don't learn until the end that it also costs money.  Wasted opportunity.
  • Frustration with the Founding Fathers - specifically, if you pass one up, you'll never have the chance to recruit him/her again.  This really hurts the strategy aspect, since you're encouraged to take every one you even vaguely want as soon as they're offered.  Just the risk of losing them to another European power should be enough to make it an interesting choice, not losing them forever.

Biggest improvements from the original Colonization:
  • Trade with native villages is interesting and lucrative
  • Being able to see what each village wants in trade and can teach
  • Importing cool Civ IV features, most dramatically Great Generals and promotions

Steps backward from the original Colonization:
  • No more Fountain of Youth
  • No more special message when you reach the Pacific Ocean
  • Lost the final cool victory screen
  • Lame Europe screen

Favorite things about the game:
  • Really fun combat.  It's easier to keep straight than Civ, since you have a total of 3 units to learn, rather than over 30; at the same time, unlike the original Col, each has advantages and disadvantages over the others.
  • Awesome endgame.  The traditional knock against Civ is that it is fun and fast-paced early on, and becomes slow and plodding at the end (you're either trying to find and capture the last few cities on the globe, or pressing "Enter" several dozen times as you build space ship parts, culture, etc.).  Here, the endgame was the most entertaining part of an already really fun game.
  • Interesting choices.  This is a Civ staple, and I was constantly evaluating trade-offs.  Do I attack the Aztecs or maintain my happy peace?  Will the extra commerce from Penebscot be worth the delay in achieving high rebel sentiment?  Do I make peace with my defeated European allies or continue the fight?

Once again: well done, Firaxis!  Thanks for a nifty piece of entertainment.  Up next: I can has Alpha Centauri 2?

No comments:

Post a Comment