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Sid Meier's Colonization (abbreviated as "Col" on this wiki) is a computer game by Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier released by MicroProse in 1994. It is a turn-based strategy game themed on the early European colonization of the New World, starting in 1492 and lasting until 1850. It was originally released for DOS, then in 1995 ported to Windows, the Amiga, and Macintosh.


Colonization has many similarities to Sid Meier's previous title, Sid Meier's Civilization. Both games pit the player as a godlike leader of an embattled civilization, the objective being to gain supremacy over rival civilizations, primarily through military means and discovery, transformation, and utilization of the land.

Franciso Coronado

The Colonization experience begins in 1492. The player is asked to select one of the four world powers (England, France, The Netherlands, or Spain). The journey begins with two units traveling on a ship; as the ship moves westward into the unknown, the map is revealed. Subsequently, the new world is discovered, land exploration may start, the natives are met, a coastal colony is built, colonists begin to change the land to be more productive, the ship is sent back to Europe to collect more colonists and maybe horses, Trade goods, and/or weapons, surplus items are sold (either in Europe or by haggling with the natives), and the exploration of the world begins in earnest.

The game revolves around harvesting Food and other raw materials and manufacturing and trading goods. Resources gleaned from the land may be sold or converted into other goods, which may be either used or sold. The European prices of goods fluctuate somewhat randomly but theoretically depending upon supply and demand. The more of a commodity you and the other three colonial powers sell, the less the markets will be willing to pay for them. With money, a player is able to buy goods, horses, ships, or artillery, speed up production, and recruit or train new colonists.

While maintaining an income, the player is also required to protect his colonies from potential invasion through employing soldiers and/or artillery. Moreover, the player is required to manage his citizens effectively, educating the populace in various skills to increase their productivity in areas such as farming, gathering of resources, or manufacturing. There are three areas of employment in the Colonization world: primary resource gatherers, secondary resource manufacturers, and the more specialized units: soldiers, statesmen, pioneers, missionaries, teachers, and preachers. The geography of the land determines the productivity of a colony. For instance, some squares produce great amounts of food, while others may produce greater amounts of ore, cotton, or silver. Thus it becomes necessary to link various colonies together via roads (for the increased mobility of units) or sea trade routes, to transport goods from colonies where there is excess to those where there is demand.

Specialist buildings and special squares, as in Civilization, have greater output. Specialists, who produce more per turn, can be trained or recruited. Indentured servants and criminals are as good as ordinary colonists in primary production but not so good at manufacturing or statesmanship; but they can be transformed into improved unit types by education or by being sent on military expeditions and winning. Missions established in Indian villages eventually encourage converts to join a colony; they are better than ordinary colonists at most outdoor pursuits, but much less effective indoors.

Horses can be bought and sold, but they also multiply in any colony that has two or more of them and a food surplus. They help any colonist move further in a turn, add to military strength, and allow Scouts (specialists or ordinary colonists) to meet with native settlements or foreign colonies.

Ships of several types (Caravel, Merchantman, Galleon, Privateer, Frigate and Man-O-War) can be purchased or built (though Man-O-War can be built only during the War of Independence). They move goods, horses, and colonists around, and some can attack. Wagon trains (which are built in colonies) move goods and horses on land (travelling faster along roads and rivers).

Relationships must be carefully maintained with Indians and other colonial powers. Waging war, maintaining defenses or recruiting peacemakers (Benjamin Franklin and Pocahontas). Destroying native settlements yields a quick profit and makes land available, but prevents the substantial long-term gains to be made by friendly bargaining and trading. Destruction of native settlements also counts against your final score.

The king of your home country meddles in your affairs from time to time, mostly by raising the tax rate. Occasionally they might force you into wars with your rivals, giving you two or more free veteran soldiers whom you have to transport from Europe; you can try to make peace immediately if you don't want a war.

The player must also pay attention to political developments and the recruitment of Founding Fathers (roughly corresponding to the Civilization Advances of Civilization), to ensure the best possible chance of success.

On the easiest level, the action essentially takes place at the speed in which you want it to. You are left to your own devices, learning the mechanics of the game. With each increase in difficulty level, the restrictions that bound successful endeavors become more pronounced. The game is eventually won by seceding from the motherland, signing a declaration of independence, and defeating the armies which are sent to usurp your ‘unalienable rights’. Successful navigation through the game requires the player to strategize and to effectively make use of what resources are provided, to explore and cultivate the land, and to negotiate with rivals.

While the military aspect of the game is important, it is less so than in the Civilization series, focusing more heavily on aspects of trade and the inter-relationships between peoples and colonies, which make up the new-world community. In doing all these things the player is required to develop certain fundamental notions which influence both the game world and the real world, such as: infrastructure restrictions and requirements, methods for increasing productivity, the importance of economic and civic growth, the centrality of trade, that some resources are more useful and more valuable than others, the importance of education, that newspapers and diplomats influence public opinion, that religion can affect people's allegiances, even that it's sensible to use as soldiers those members of your population who aren't proficient in a trade or profession, the influence of historical figures on colonial New World societies, and so on.

Resource production[]

European powers[]

There are four European powers available. The player may pick to play as a colonial leader of any one of these powers, and the remaining three will be the computer-controlled competitors. Each power has certain bonuses.





Founding Fathers[]

Native tribes[]

Map of America[]


Map of America


While popular, the game received criticism for avoiding the issue of slavery, a major component of the European colonization of the Americas. Players can bring in and even purchase indentured servants or petty criminals from their European ports; Native Americans whose settlements have Christian missions may join the players as converts either freely or out of fear of attack; but the African slave trade and the Spanish hacienda system (involving forced labor by Native American tribes) are not directly represented. It has been speculated that this is the reason why Colonization, unlike Civilization, took so long (14 years) to be re-released.

Other concerns include:

  • Players are forced into armed conflict in order to secure independence, the only way to win the game (yet the computer players always achieve independence without fighting). Although most European colonies achieved independence following revolutionary struggle, some (like the British dominions of Canada and Australia) departed peaceably and some (like French Guiana) remain attached to their Mother Country. Moreover, warfare is not equally enjoyable by all players of strategy games. The Civ series offers at least a few other options to the player. Players may want a more diplomatic or trade-based game but Col forces them into dealing with a wide-ranging battle in the end. The set of fan-made tools addresses this issue.
  • The in-game treatment of the Native Americans has given some critics cause for concern. The game tries to represent them humanely, welcoming the player at first but resenting large-scale European settlement in the New World. The national mechanics of the game push the Spanish, however, into their historic behavior of converting or attacking them, while only the French are able to easily trade and ally with them.
  • Restriction on founding of colonies is limited to a maximum of 38. While possibly more historically "accurate", this causes "empire builder" player types to become disenchanted when the computer players start to erode their previously huge lead as the computer player adds more and more colonies, while the builder is limited to fiddling with their existing colonies. There is another limit (as in early Civ games): the total number of units. Once this is reached, new units simply vanish. During the war of independence, converting a soldier to a dragoon can cause the unit to vanish, so you are left with neither soldier nor horses.
  • Inflexibility in salvaging colonies needing relocation to more profitable terrain once the consequences of the previous limitation are realized. It is so cumbersome that it is generally far easier to simply start the game over, but the loss of time and effort is discouraging and undoubtedly contributed greatly to the lack of popularity of the game, which is otherwise quite a pleasant Civ variant. The only way to delete a colony once a stockade is built is to starve the inhabitants to death, since the game will not allow you to reduce the population of a town with a stockade to below 3. You cannot destroy buildings.
  • Many players (particularly in Portugal and Brazil) resented the omission of the Portuguese among the European colonial powers. The manual addresses the issue, claiming that Portugal was under Spanish control for most of the period of the game; moreover, the Dutch conquered most of Brazil for several decades and include Brazilian towns in their settlement list. Critics, however, note that the Netherlands did not even exist in 1492; the personal union of the Iberian crowns never united Portugal's colonies with Spain's; and Brazil is now in many ways the world center of Lusophone culture, an importance greatly exceeding the direct Dutch legacy in the Americas. It should be noted that the existing nations can be switched to others by editing some text files in the game folder, but historical figures and civilizational strengths/weaknesses are not customizable. That, and there being only 4 countries to choose from, also limits the game's replayability. FreeCol and "The Authentic Colonization" mod for Civilization IV: Colonization addressed this issue by adding more countries: Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, and Russia.


Developer(s) Microprose
Publisher(s) Microprose
Designer(s) Brian Reynolds, Sid Meier
Release date(s) 1994, 1995
Genre(s) Turn-based strategy
Mode(s) Single player
Platform(s) Amiga, DOS, Windows, Macintosh


Amiga version[]

Release date: May 31, 1995
Media: 3.5" floppy disk
System requirements: 1 MB RAM (also AGA)
Input: Keyboard, mouse

DOS version[]

Release date: 1994
Media: 3.5" Floppy (x2) and CD-ROM
System requirements: 80286 CPU, DOS 4.0-7.0, 640KB RAM, major soundcard
Input: Keyboard, mouse

Macintosh version[]

Release date: 1995
Media: CD-ROM
System requirements: Mac OS, 5MB free RAM
Input: Keyboard, mouse

Windows version[]

Release date: May 24, 1995
Media: CD-ROM
System requirements: Windows 3.1 or higher
Input: Keyboard, mouse


Play online[]

Play Colonization online here

See also[]

External links[]

Colonization games [edit]
Original version of Sid Meier's Colonization (1994)
Remake Civilization IV: Colonization (2008)
Fan Created version FreeCol (2003-Present)
Civilization Series
Game Expansion packs
  • None
Civ II
Civ IV
Civ V
Beyond Earth
Civ VI
Official Spinoffs
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