Back in my bachelor days and early career, my friends and I liked to celebrate July 4th by playing the traditional British lawn games of croquet and badminton. As history buffs, geeks, and professionals, we appreciated the irony. Now, my recent personal tradition is to celebrate Independence Day with a week or so of Sid Meier’s Colonization. I first played this game when it was released in 1994 and have revisited it at least once in every year since. This well designed and implemented title will appeal to anyone familiar with Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise (currently in its fifth edition). Unfortunately, the original Colonization itself was never remade or updated, unless you count the woefully lacking and underdeveloped Civilization IV: Colonization. This year, my two boys joined in on the tradition as we aspire to foment and implement treasonous rebellion!
Without a doubt, Colonization’s graphics are hopelessly out-dated. But quite frankly, for people of my generation, that is part of its charm today. Of course, that was if you could even get the game to run. Previously, the greater issue for gamers wishing to brave a new world was three-fold. One, if you were fortunate (like me) to own the original discs (3.5” floppies!), then good luck finding a modern computer with a floppy drive! Second, barring that, the game was nigh impossible to buy, so you would have to download the files from an abandonware site (I’ll not link to any, as some people have ethical concerns with them). And finally, even with the original discs or files, today’s operating systems will not run Colonization. It is a DOS program. This is easily remedied by downloading the free program DOSBox, which creates a virtual DOS environment in which to run those old games and programs. With some reading up and practice, you should be able to navigate DOSBox and its functions fairly effortlessly. You’ll brush up on your command line typing in short order. Today, though, you can bypass all that, if you wish. For a small price, the fine, old-school, gaming aficionados at gog.com offer the original Colonization, Windows compatible, in all its charming, VGA glory.
|It begins with Columbus. Deal with it.|
|The early map.|
|The colony screen.|
Aside from developing your economy and infrastructure, you’ll need to devote time, planning, and resources to protecting your colonies. Some of your colonists will need to serve in the militia, and good luck getting through an entire game without at least some conflict with the natives or other Europeans. Indeed, true to historical form, another means to riches and expansion is at the expense of other peoples. Trading with the indigenous tribes and staying away from their settlements will reduce tensions, but sooner rather than later, just your growing size will begin to alarm them and strain relations. They will raid your colonies to varying degrees, but can also be helpful from time to time. Aside from that, you can actively campaign against them, taking the fight to their doorstep and wipe out whole settlements at a time. Depending on the tribe, it can even be quite lucrative, something to consider while struggling with your conscience. Less objectionable is taking out encroaching Europeans spread too close to your lands. An expedition or two against a rival colony is a nice way to quick riches, while weakening your opposition at the same time. Yet, be prepared for a similar strategy from them!
|Converting the natives?|
|The fickle market.|
|Feels like you're kissing something else on him...|
Epic, turn-based, civilization management games are rare these days. It seems that the first-person, adventure story games are by far the most wildly popular. Titles such as Halo and Call to Arms are quick, down-and-dirty, and action-packed. Disposable is the word I would subjectively apply. Colonization emerged from the 1990s, the hey-day of the 4X genre. It was one of the more critically acclaimed and commercially successful titles of the genus. It is complex and sophisticated. It also covers a fascinating period of history that has always been under-represented across all styles of gaming. If you pine for the glorious days of DOS gaming, or if you have always enjoyed franchises like Civilization, Master of Orion, or Europa Universalis, I highly recommend getting Colonization from gog.com or finding a download online (with DOSBox) and start channeling your inner Jefferson!