WINNING AT COLONIZATION
ECONOMIC WARFARE FOR FUN AND PROFIT
"Colonization" is the latest strategic simulation from Sid Meier and MicroProse. It
follows in the footsteps of the immensely popular "Civilization" and players of
Civilization will find themselves right at home with "Colonization."
In "Colonization," the player takes the part of the English, Spanish, French or Dutch as
a colonial power. A colonial empire is developed in the New World that must be
protected from encroachments by the other European powers (and they will because
it's their job). These colonies must become as self-sufficient as possible in order to win
the War of Independence which must be fought to win the game.
In this discussion of strategies and tips, I give particular emphasis to maximizing the
player's score. I will pay very little attention to the moral dilemmas posed by particular
courses of action (this ain't an "Ethics of Empire" course). Before going further, the
player needs to be aware that "Colonization" is fundamentally a game of economic
strategy. Thus, everything the player does should be aimed at increasing his own
economic power and decreasing the economic power of the computer players. This
economic basis is reflected in the method of final scoring. Additional points are given
for having money in the bank (1 point per 1000 coins). Additional points are awarded
for specialists who are about two to three times as productive as the run-of-the-mill
colonists (consequently more bucks for faster and greater production capacity). More
points are awarded for having more Founding Fathers in the congress (a measure of
the productive capability of your statesmen colonists). Points are awarded for
declaring independence early and there are bonuses for being first (both are measure-
ments of your economic independence and the speed with which you attain it). In
short, there is an economic basis to almost everything in the game. Thus, these
strategies and hints focus on the development of the player's economic power base,
though there are a goodly number of game playing tips.
Economics in "Colonization" is pretty much a zero-sum proposition. Basically, when a
player gets something, he deprives the other players of it. For example, a Privateer
has just attacked your caravel and seized a cargo of tools. You have lost not only the
cost of the tools and the use of your caravel (at least for the number of turns it will take
to repair it), you have also lost whatever those tools were going to be used for as well
as the delay imposed in replacing the tools.
So, with these assumptions in mind, let's go colonize a new world.
The first critical choice the player is faced with is which of the colonial powers to play.
Each of the powers has its own advantage which can be exploited to the player's
benefit, but which can also be somewhat compensated for in the play of the game
should the player choose another power. For example, the French generate alarm
among the Indians at only half the rate of the other powers. Once the player gains
Pocahantas in the Congress, the player is on an equal footing with France. The easier
immigration of the English can be compensated for by an emphasis on building
churches and cathedrals in your colonies and obtaining William Penn as quickly as
possible. One can somewhat simulate the 50% attack bonus of the Spanish by
obtaining George Washington and receiving the automatic promotion on winning a
combat. There really is no method to compensate for the economic stability of the
Dutch. Doing lots of trading with the Indians and the other colonial powers will allow
you to partially simulate this stability, though.
Because this is a game of economic warfare, I have a preference for playing the Dutch.
Though the prices in Amsterdam will eventually deflate to the same levels as the other
powers' home ports, I find that the greatest advantage to playing the Dutch is not
having to face them in the New World. Because of their economic advantage they are
a truly formidable foe. Most new players, though, will undoubtedly prefer the English or
The second decision faced by the player is where to put the first colony. There really is
no hard and fast rule on where to put it. There are some hard and fast rules on where
not to put it, though.
First, DO NOT put your colonies immediately adjacent to an Indian village. If you do,
several things will happen. You will immediately trigger Indian alarm which will almost
certainly result in attacks unless you start trading with them very quickly and continually
trade with them throughout the game. You will also be faced with a lot of your territory
showing up as Indian lands. This problem will disappear as soon as Peter Minuit is in
the Congress, but is a major drawback early in the game. Unless you open your colony
display often or right-click on the village, you will not be able to accurately judge the
state of alarm in that village because you will always see a brave standing there. This
could easily result in a lot of surprise raids by the Indians of that village because you
didn't know how alarmed they really were.
Second, DO NOT locate your first colony on any kind of terrain which will not generate
at least 2 food units (i.e. desert, scrub forest, etc) in the town common. You will need
to leave the initial colonist to do his thing for a while and you will need to make sure he
doesn't starve while he's doing it.
Third, DO NOT locate your colonies anywhere near the Arawaks if you can possibly
avoid it. These Indians make raids at a moment's notice and are the most difficult tribe
to deal with. You will spend an inordinate amount of time and resources keeping the
Arawaks pacified only to have them go on the warpath against you during your War of
Independence. The best rule for the Arawaks is avoid them or wipe them out.
OK. Now for a few DO's. DO try to keep your colonies at least 2 squares away from
any Indian villages. DO try to make sure that your first colony (at least) has access to
decent quantities of BOTH lumber and ore. DO try to get a silver deposit into either
your first or second colony or find the Incas and Aztecs as quickly as possible and
settle near them. (This is especially true if you're playing the Dutch. Remember the
zero-sum aspect. If you are the one to deflate the price of silver you can deprive the
other players of the higher prices.) DO use your soldier unit to build your first colony.
The only thing the soldier unit can do at the start is wander around and alarm the
Once you have created your first colony, you are faced with a decision: what will you
have your first colonist do? Normally you would turn him into a lumberjack and then
turn him into a carpenter and start building stuff. If you have started your first colony
near one of the other powers (especially the Dutch), turn your first colonist into a
statesman. This will accomplish two things quickly.
First, you will gain your first Founding Father quickly (more on which one you should be
building toward in a bit). Second (and most importantly), you are going to reach the
magic 50% Sons of Liberty number very quickly. This 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%. Remember, the Dutch are pretty tough. Get rid of them if you can. But
in any event you will now only have to deal with 2 rival powers rather than 3.
The Founding Father you should be building toward is going to be the subject of much
argument. My recommended strategy is this: get Minuit, Cortez, De Soto, Franklin and
Drake as quickly as possible and in approximately that order. My reasoning is simple.
Money. Minuit keeps the Indians from charging you for their territory. De Soto insures
that all Lost City rumors are positive (only if you go investigate them with a Scout,
though). Cortez gets the king's galleons to transport for free (remember all those
treasure trains you're going to get because you have De Soto?). Drake gets you the
50% attack bonus for your Privateers (the only thing better than being able to buy 100
muskets is being able to steal them) and Franklin insures that you'll get a peace treaty
without any conditions.
How, you may well ask, do I get these guys in the correct order? The answer to this
question leads to the only method of cheating I've been able to find: Save your game
often and reload the saved game if things don't go the way you want them to. For
example, on the turn you found your initial colony, save the game. If the Founding
Father you want doesn't come up on the list at the start of the next turn, you can reload
your saved game and try again.
There is a bit of a trick to doing it this way, though. Theoretically the outcome of each
event is determined by a random number. This is a true statement, but reloading a
game does not reseed the random number generator (unless you exit "Colonization"
entirely and reload it from the opening screen). Thus, if you save a game just before
your soldier unit attacks a rival colony, the outcome of that attack will be the same if
you reload the game and attack again. The trick is to do something to engage the
random number generator before making the attack. Going back to the example of the
soldier attacking the rival colony, if he lost the first time, he would probably lose the
encounter no matter how many times you reload the game unless you do something a
little differently after you reload. Possibilities might include sending a Scout in to talk to
an Indian village and then having the soldier attack the colony or attacking the colony
with a different soldier unit. It really doesn't matter what you do differently as long as
you do something to engage the random number generator before you attack again.
This leads rather nicely into my next topic of how to build an effective military machine
as quickly and cheaply as possible. There are really two workable methods. For the
sake of the truly bloodthirsty in the audience, I will go over the more aggressive of the
In order to make this work you need to have several things done before you start. First,
you absolutely MUST have Franklin in the Congress. It would be very nice to have
Washington in there, also, but you can get by without him. Second, you must have a
Scout (preferably Seasoned) within one turn's movement of a rival colony. With regard
to this, I just usually make it a practice to keep a Scout somewhere near a major colony
of each of the rival powers, especially after Franklin joins the Congress. I usually park
him on a hill or a mountain about 2 squares away from the colony. This is close
enough to keep an eye on things, and he's as well protected as he can be without
dedicating a military unit to protecting him, but he's still one jump ahead of the posse if
things go down the toilet. Third, you will need a couple or three Dragoon units (non-veteran).
Lastly, you will need a target. A good one would be an inland colony with no
stockade and a population of 3 or 4.
Once everything is in position, SAVE YOUR GAME! Remember, you can always
reload. Step one is to have your Scout delay his move until the end of the turn. Then,
as their turns come up, attack the colony with the Dragoons. If Washington is in the
Congress they will be promoted when they win the encounter. If Washington is not in
the Congress you have to take your chances on their promotion. A good rule to follow
is to use your veteran units (or at least free colonist Dragoons) to make the initial attack
and then use your non-veteran (or criminal/servant) units to clean up. After you have
captured the colony or achieved the promotion of your units, send your Scout in to
make peace with the rival power.
An interesting side note on using Scouts in this manner: Experienced "Civilization"
players will recall that peace treaties are about worthless. Maybe you get a turn or two,
but it's iffy. In "Colonization", treaties will buy you at least a few turns of guaranteed
peace. I've never been attacked within 5 or 6 turns of making the treaty and usually get
10 or so. Apparently treaties are binding for at least a few turns. So take advantage of
this: attack your enemies unmercifully, plunder and pillage, make peace and break it
with impunity. Just keep a Scout handy to make peace at the end of the turn.
OK, for the less bloodthirsty in the audience: building a military machine in a manner
which is more or less conducive to peaceful coexistence. For this you do not need any
particular Founding Fathers, although Jefferson and Bolivar are handy. What you do
need is a colony which is firmly established at 100% Sons of Liberty membership and
which has a College or University. Clear out all indentured servants and petty criminals
from the colony and replace them with free colonists. Put two soldiers into the college
as teachers (3 if you have a university). Then start shipping free colonists to the colony
to be trained. If the colony is at 100% SOL membership, it should take 3 turns to turn
out as many soldiers as you have teachers, 6 turns if you are at less than 100%. (A
caveat at this point: rumor has it that the faster education feature will be removed in
later versions of the game, so don't count on this working in every case.) The only
remaining problem is equipping your new veterans with muskets and horses.
What follows here is what I like to call the old "Tool Switcheroo". Eventually you will
boycott tools and be unable to buy them in Europe or the price will climb up high
enough that it's not worth the expense. There is still a way which you can buy them,
though. It requires building some building which requires tools to complete and having
a fair supply of coins in your treasury, but no tools in the colony. When you get the
message that the project requires a certain number of tools to complete, but you don't
have enough, open the colony display and click the "buy" button to complete the
project. You will notice that the requisite number of tools have appeared in your
warehouse. You can then equip someone outside the colony as a pioneer or put them
in the cargo bay of a wagon train or ship and purchase the tools again. Add them to
the pioneer or cargo and buy them again. It's expensive (about 1000 for 100 tools if
you have not boycotted tools and about 2000 if you have), especially early in the game,
but it's quick and it gets the job done.
As you approach the end of your War of Independence, you need to start concentrating
on maximizing your score. Believe it or not, genocide can be one way of doing this.
You need to have Cortez in the Congress (and this works especially well for the
Spanish player who gets the 50% attack bonus against Indian villages) and be relatively
unbothered by the REF. Go wipe out the Aztecs and Incas. For those of you
recoiling in horror at the thought of this, let me point out a few things to you. First, you
get 1 point for every 1000 coins in your treasury. Second, you are penalized for
destroyed Indian villages (a sliding scale depending on the difficulty level). But with
Cortez in the Congress, you are going to get a tremendous amount of treasure out of
burned Aztec and Inca cities. If you get 12000 coins (12 points on your final score) and
are penalized 5 points for the destroyed city, you are still 7 points to the good. Don't do
this with the agrarian or nomadic tribes, though. You won't get enough treasure to
offset the penalty unless you're playing at the lowest difficulty levels.
Another technique for putting money in your treasury toward the end of the game is to
have your Customs Houses sell everything in the colonies. Have your carpenters stop
making hammers so your lumber starts to pile up (hey, it's money), but keep muskets,
tools and horses in case you have any last-minute problems. Strip your soldiers,
pioneers and scouts a couple of turns before you win the war and sell everything. The
first time I tried this I watched my treasury jump from about 25,000 to well over 75,000
in three turns.
To keep the REF off your back while you engage in creative genocide and product
dumping, here's a great trick. Just before declaring independence build a costal colony
on a little island somewhere. Don't put any more colonists into it and do not defend it.
The REF is about 90% likely to attack that little undefended colony first and then
concentrate on your main colonies. After you have wiped out the rest of the REF
forces, you can go do your genocide thing, sell off everything, educate any remaining
non-specialists and work really hard at jacking up your score. After this, you can go
take back the little colony (maybe it will have a stockade around it by this time, but
probably not--the REF is not very concerned about improving any colonies it takes).
You will have to fight 1 cavalry, 1 artillery, and 5 soldiers, so take enough forces to do
the job and remember that you will get the bombardment bonus (assuming that foreign
intervention has come) as long as you have a Frigate, Privateer or Man O' War, but no
As a general rule, the REF will try to occupy the best (in their eyes) terrain when it
comes to attack you. If there is a mountain adjacent to your colony, they will try to
occupy it. Let them. If you attack them with units outside the colony, you get the 150%
ambush bonus. One method to help make sure they wind up on the terrain with the
best ambush bonus is to put units on every other piece of terrain EXCEPT the one you
want them on. Be sure to leave them one square to occupy, though. If you have every
square occupied and they really want to attack a colony, they will just capture your
pieces in order to make room for themselves.
OK, a few hints on attacking Indian villages. This can be a very good method of getting
new colonists. First, establish a mission in the village you want to burn. This mission
should preferably be with a Jesuit Missionary, but any kind of missionary will do if you
have Brebeuf in the Congress. Second, after you have Sepulveda in the Congress, but
before you add de Las Casas, attack the village. You will get several converts out of
this. If you try to coordinate your attacks with attacks on other villages in the same tribe
which also have missions, you can get a bunch of converts in just a few turns. Be
careful not to destroy any of the villages, though. As soon as the first one is destroyed,
all other missions in that tribe are burned and the natives go on the warpath. If you are
careful not to destroy the villages, this strategy can be repeated later on with limited
success. You will need to do a lot of sucking up to the natives in the interim, though.
Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid attacking and destroying the capitol of any
tribe as long as possible. If you manage to provoke the natives to the point where they
go on the warpath against you, there are only three ways to calm them down. First, you
can do a massive amount of sucking up. Give them everything, pay exorbitant prices
for their goods, and don't provoke them further. They will calm down eventually.
Second, you can get Pocahantas into the Congress. This will immediately reduce all
tensions to content. The problem with this is that it's a one-shot deal. Your third option
is to attack and destroy the capitol. When the capitol is destroyed the tribe will
surrender and go back to being content. This can only be done once per tribe, though.
After their capitol is gone, there is no quick solution to a tribe on the warpath.
During your War of Independence, but before foreign intervention occurs, you will find
that your Frigates are frequently a fair match for a Man O' War. After intervention, not
so. I don't know if this is a glitch in the program, a specific feature, or just something
that will be fixed in later versions. But after intervention occurs, try not to use your
Frigates to attack the REF Men O' War unless you're truly desperate (not an uncommon state of
mind during the war).
You can build up your navy fairly quickly if you can build a colony or two which will be
your lumber suppliers. By placing 3 Master carpenters to work in a colony which has a
shipyard, a lumber mill, and 100% Sons of Liberty membership, you can crank out a
Frigate in just a few turns as long as you can keep those carpenters supplied with
lumber. Often you can find terrain with two lumber resources within the area of one
colony. Build a colony and put two lumberjacks to work on those resources. You will
find that they are cranking out enough lumber to supply the 3 Carpenters and then
some. This is also a good way to beef up your artillery in your coastal cities before the
war of independence. Remember, artillery only takes 40 tools, but it takes almost 200
hammers. 3 carpenters in a 100% colony with a lumber mill crank out 48 hammers a
One last thought on Lost City rumors. Don't be afraid to build a colony at the start of a
turn and abandon it at the end of the turn. If you have Cortez and de Soto in the
Congress, you're sitting pretty. If your Scout stumbles across a treasure train while
investigating a Lost City rumor, get him and the train to the coast as quickly as possible.
Use the scout to build a colony, move the treasure train into the colony (the king's
galleons will pick up the treasure for free [well, less the tax rate, but who's keeping
track of that?]), and then abandon the colony.
I am a firm believer in temporary colonies. I'll build them to mine a silver deposit and
then abandon them when the silver runs out. I'll build them to get a treasure train out of
harm's way (the Indians will attack them if you don't get rid of them pretty quick). I'll
build them for a variety of reasons and abandon them just as quickly. This is one
reason I do not like to be La Salle in my Congress. Once that stockade goes up, you
cannot abandon the colony. For this reason I am very choosy about which of my rival's
colonies I attack. Once you've got the colony, you're often stuck with it.
Until you get William Brewster into your Congress, you are going to be plagued with
indentured servants and petty criminals, especially at the higher levels of difficulty. The
only thing I can suggest is to keep an eye on what's happening with the recruitment
pool. Once the passage fee gets close to 100 coins, you're about to get a new
immigrant. It can often be better to spend the 100 coins or so to take your pick than to
get stuck with a colonist who won't be much help. Petty criminals make great Dragoons
early in the game (you'll find that's what the rival powers are doing with theirs) and
great missionaries if you can get Brebeuf in, but are about useless for anything other
than outdoor jobs. Indentured servants should be dropped off at the nearest Indian
village and trained. Even if you have absolutely no use for the skill, you've at least
brought them up equal to a free colonist.
Towards the end of the game you should be concentrating on educating any colonist
who is not a specialist of some sort. You get more points for specialists. You should
also be saving de Las Casas until the end of the game so you can get as many
converts converted as possible.
With these hints and tips in mind, you should be able to maximize your score and have
a thoroughly enjoyable time playing a wonderful game. Please feel free to pass these
tips on to others. If anyone from MicroProse gets this, you guys made a wonderful
product and I'm available to play test your next game <G>.