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Sid Meier's Colonization FAQ
Colonization is a turn based top-down view square-grid map strategy game where the player controls the colonization of the Americas, starting in 1492. It's basically Civilization I set in America.
The player plays one of the four colonizing powers (England, Spain, France or Holland) while the computer plays the remaining powers. The game begins with each power possessing one ship and two colonist units. The aim of the game is to declare independence from the parent power. What makes this tricky is that when independence is declared, the parent power sends a whacking great big army over to sort you out. Accordingly, in between the start of the game and declaring independence, the player has to develop colonies and an economy such that an indigenous army can be created which is powerful enough to defeat the expeditionary force sent over by the parent power.
- Main article: FAQ on overall strategy (Col)
When all is said and done, the final goal of your colonies is to resist the attacks of the Expeditionary Force. Accordingly, the ultimate purpose of your economy is to produce liberty bells, fortifications and cannon, for these and only these items meaningfully contribute to military victory.
There are of course a million different ways to play the game, but in my experience, there are are a small set of particular strategies which pay off and the more of those strategies you can concurrently pursue during a game, the better you'll do.
These strategies are;
- Maximize early money production
- Optimal Rumour exploitation
- Early military conquest of other Colonial Powers
- Minimal number of Colonies with optimal placement
- Cannon and Liberty Bell production
Some of these depends on chance. Optimal Rumour exploitation requires de Soto and Brewster and if you've not been offered them, then you can only poorly follow that strategy. Similarly, if you start in a position well away from other colonial powers, it is hard to engage them. In these unlucky situations, you will not be able to pursue all strategies and your game will be accordingly weaker.
Maximize Early Money Production
To grow quickly, both economically and militarily, you need a good supply of money. What this amounts to in the opening game is establishing a few single colonist colonies next to bonus squares and trying to obtain the appropriate specialist skills.
Remember to check European prices right at the start of the game so you immediately have an idea what's worth looking for. Furs are the very best choice, because their price in Europe falls much more slowly than anything else and because fur trappers produce large numbers of furs.
Maximal Rumour Exploitation
The most powerful Rumour is "The Fountain of Youth". This provides eight free colonists. Hernando de Soto is crucial to this sub-strategy, since his presence in Congress means all Rumours produce a positive outcome, which in my experience approximately doubles or triples the number of Fountains you will uncover.
Of crucial importance is the presence of William Brewster in Congress; he ensures no criminals or indentured servants are produced in Europe. This has a huge uplifting effect on the quality of immigrants, for it appears to me that if the random generation of immigrants would have led to a criminal or indentured servant, rather than merely promoting that immigrant to a free man, what actually happens is that the game has another try at determining the type of the immigrant, and keeps trying until an immigrant which is not a criminal and not an indentured servant is produced. If the game promoted, you would find with Brewster a large number of unspecialised immigrants; what you actually find, in my experience, is a large number of specialised immigrants.
I hold that Brewster is in fact the most powerful Father.
Early Military Conquest of Other Colonial Powers
In the very early stages of the game (e.g. first cargo being delivered to Europe), the other colonial powers are defenceless. It is trivially easy to buy 50 horses, create a Dragoon, and capture other powers' towns, since they are defended by civilians.
The key issue is to conquer settlements before a stockade is built. A stockaded town cannot be disbanded and so it extremely likely to leave you with a settlement which you really don't want in a really awkward place. This is more of an issue than it seems, because when a settlement is captured by a hostile European power, you will lose a lot of money from your Treasury - the amount you lose doesn't seem to be in proportion to the size of the settlement, but rather in relation to the number of settlements you have. This problem also occurs when Indians make a Raid, and the raid captures money.
Other European powers don't particularly set out to build stockades, however. For example, the Spanish often end up with a size 7 or so colony without a stockade. However, if a power is at war, it will try to build a stockade quickly. Also, if you attack a settlement and fail to capture it that turn, it will immediately switch to a stockade and of course it had plenty of hammers, it will instantly build.
Furthermore, having established military superiority on land, you will then find the other powers continue to land individual colonists in much the same area, where they are easily captured. Essentially, you obtain the other powers European supply of colonists.
After a little while, however, the other powers will try to colonise in other locations. But by this time, you should be in a position to pursue them, for example with a Privateer shipping a cannon and a dragoon.
Minimal Number of Colonies With Optimal Placement
The more colonies you have, the longer you will tend to take to be ready for Revolution, for there is more work to be done to make a larger number of colonies ready than a smaller number.
The minimal number is, in my experience, four or five.
If the Port town can effectively produce cannon, then four towns are needed, otherwise five.
There is no need for a University town. Four or five Statesmen and two or three Preachers can be trained in Europe and there is in fact no need for Dragoons, come the Revolution; only Cannon are necessary.
Colony placement is simple; the port is on the coast and the other towns are well away from the coast, so that the Expeditionary Force does not attack them.
Cannon and Liberty Bell production
The port town needs a fortress, 100% liberty and about a dozen cannon. Once you have these assets, call the Revolution.
- Main article: FAQ on colony placement (Col)
The computer AI is not smart. It will attack a port colony and simply keep attacking that port colony. The simplest solution is to build a single port and have the other colonies inland from there, so they are not attacked; build a fortress in the port and stack it with cannon.
If you want to build up a considerable number of colonies, then there are deeper tactics to consider.
Cannon, the mainstay of defence, can move three tiles over road in one turn. When the Expeditionary Force arrives and attacks, you will find the east coast colonies come under considerable pressure and may well need reinforcements and replacements - sometimes urgently. At this point, having colonies behind the front line which are exactly two squares away from an attack colony (e.g. a cannon can move from colony B to colony A in one turn) is very advantageous.
The strongest formation of colonies is a square of four colonies. Each colony can move cannon in one turn to every other colony. Given the EF attacks from the east coast, there is quite a lot to be said for laying out a set of colonies in this formation (or a similarly strong formation - more on this later) with the sole aim of being well placed to resist the EF attack. Colonies further west can be laid out according to the tiles that are available, with a view to economic productivity.
Any colony placement scheme where colonies are more than two square apart (e.g. unable to move cannon between themselves in one turn) is fundamentally weak. Any colony which cannot receive reinforcements or replacements by the next turn is at risk. Consider; the EF arrive at say turn 200. Large numbers of cannon and cavalry land next to a colony which cannot receive next-turn reinforcements. They proceed to attack. At the end of the turn, you can see that colony is in danger - it has suffered losses and is still surrounded by hostiles forces. At this point, you now know reinforcements are needed. You could not know before this point. If the colony was within range of a neighbouring colony, you could move in reinforcements this turn and so save the day. However, since the colony is in fact say four squares from a neighbour, you can do nothing to support the colony until the turn after next - giving the EF one more turn to finish off your colony.
Weak colony placement is fine for inland colonies which will never be reached by the EF.
- Main article: FAQ on economics (Col)
The economy passes through four stages;
- Production of raw goods to sell at home
- Development of tool production
- Manufactured goods production
- Military production
Initially, the most profitable produce of the economy are raw, un-manufactured goods, such as furs, ore, sugar and cotton. This is because in the early stages of the game, home market prices are high and because it only takes one colonist in one colony to produce a lot of raw goods, if the colonist is an expert and is working a prime tile.
In the early stages of the game, before the first church is built, there are only a few colonists available, so two-man colonies producing plenty of raw goods is an excellent way of obtaining lots of money.
However, once a few colonies have been reasonably established, the flow of raw goods is likely to be of such size that prices in the home country begin to drop to the point that it isn't really worth selling these raw goods any more (taxes will also have been rising during this time). Accordingly, the flow of cash from home will dry up, while at the same time, there now exist enough colonies that the demand for tools is strong (and the home market buying prices for tools will have been rising).
The second stage of economic development is therefore the achievement of indigenous tool production. This requires the creation of an ore colony and a blacksmith colony.
Once tool production has been secured, it becomes possible for the economy to develop the capacity to produce manufactured goods, which become the staple source of cash; although in a minimalist game, this supply of cash isn't really needed and the effort to develop it actually distracts and slows progress towards Revolution.
Finally, it is necessary to enter into large scale military production - cannons - so that the attack of the Expeditionary Force can be resisted.
Stage One: Raw Goods
At the very start of the game, it is important to check the prices for goods at the home country, so that the choice of which raw goods to begin producing is correctly made.
Note however that Furs are particularly resistant to price drops and as such are almost always the preferred choice. Sugar is probably the next best choice, since productivity is high and many Tribes offer Sugar Planter as their skill.
It is occasionally possible to produce Silver early on in the game. Silver is extremely valuable but the price drops extremely rapidly. Note that the number of trades performed, rather than the quantity of goods traded, is the determining factor of when home country prices fall. Accordingly, only ever send back full cargos; never sell less than 100 units at a time.
Remember, though, when placing your early colonies, either they are money colonies, which will be disbanded, or they are permanent colonies which you will keep. For those you will keep, remember their locations with regard to cannon movement so they are mutually self-supporting.
Stage Two: Tool Production
Tool production can sometimes be started very early by establishing a blacksmith in an ore producing colony. However, for bulk production of tools, as will be required for ships, forts and cannon, it is necessary to have separate ore colonies and blacksmith colonies.
An ore colony has, ideally, five mountain or hill tiles around it, which leaves three other tiles; two should be for food, one for wood. A blacksmith colony isn't so restricted, since it merely needs to support three blacksmiths.
When Adam Smith is present in Congress, such that factory level buildings can be produced, one full ore colony produces exactly or nearly exactly the amount of ore that can be turned into tools in one turn by a blacksmith colony with three blacksmiths.
A combination colony can be useful if established early in the game, but this colony should really be for a different purpose, as its tool producing capacity will sooner or later be superseded by the ore and blacksmith colonies.
Stage Three: Manufactured Goods
In the same way that bulk tool production requires an ore colony and a blacksmith colony, bulk production of manufactured goods requires raw goods colony and a processing colony.
The raw goods colony should produce as much of the good in question as possible. So for example a sugar colony should have, ideally, of its eight surrounding tiles, two prime sugar tiles, three normal sugar tiles, two food tiles and one wood tile. Even better is if a river passes through the sugar tiles.
The sugar produced here is sent, by wagon train, to a processing town which produces rum. This town merely needs to support three distillers. This town in turn ships the rum into the Custom House colony, where it is finally sold.
There is only ever really a need to build a single Custom House. The colony with this building should be central, to optimise transportation of goods. It needs the largest warehouse, so that wagon trains can normally unload.
It is not really possible to have the three processing colonists in the same colony that produces the raw goods. There are two reasons for this; firstly that such a colony has a large population and needs many liberty bells, to an extent that only comes to pass towards the end of the game, secondly that the food supply from only two tiles can be insufficient, even irrigated and with farmers.
Stage Four: Military Production
Only cannon and fortifications are really worth the effort of making, with regard to defending against the Expeditionary Force. Dragoons are useful however against Indians and in the earlier stages of the game before cannons are produced.
Almost all of these goods depend, directly or indirectly, on two things; production of hammers and tools.
- Main article: FAQ on land combat (Col)
There are three possible opponents; fellow Europeans, Indians and the Expeditionary Force.
The computer AI is pretty dumb. A sound tactic is to move a combat unit into a high defensive bonus square next to an enemy; the next turn, the AI is likely to attack that unit.
With regard to the Expeditionary Force, there are SO many hostile units that attacking them becomes amazingly tedious. I find it's best simply to have a Fortress with 100% Liberty Bells and plenty of cannon; the computer launches attacks far more quickly than you can and rapidly gets through all their attacking units. It's much less hassle than trying to do your own attacks - and it saves you having to build up Dragoon forces. Just build cannon.
Normal colonists are captured when they lose in combat. There are three exceptions to this; scouts, missionaries and pioneers (expert or not) all die when they lose in combat. It's best to leave the pioneers to set up a colony and then attack them.
- Main article: FAQ on naval combat (Col)
Long experience playing Colonization indicates that there is a weighing factor in naval combat which is based on how heavily your navy outnumbers your opponents navy. The bigger your navy is, the greater the chance your ships will lose in combat. What's more, ships don't just lose more, they lose harder - your ships are much more likely to be sunk.
Interestingly, though, this weighing factor only seems to be applied when your ships attack other ships. If other ships attack you, combat proceeds as normal.
The only real solution to this is to keep your navy reasonably small; two or three privateers and one or two frigates.
- Main article: FAQ on tactics (Col)
Disbanding a Stockaded Colony
Some version(s?) of Colonization have a bug which permits a stockaded colony to be disbanded.
Empty the colony so that there remain only three colonists and 50 muskets. Starve the colony so one colonist dies (a quick way to do this is to build a wagon train and move all the food into the train). Then, make one of the two remaining colonists a soldier or a dragoon (but not a pioneer; that doesn't work). You will then find you can move the final colonist out of the colony and the "do you wish to disband this colony?" question will be presented. Answering yes then disbands the colony.
Note this solution does not work if Sieur De La Salle (stockades on all colonies size three or greater) is in Congress.
Prime Tiles are, unexpectedly, not always the most productive tile of their type. Some prime tiles double production - and they always are the best - but some only add a fixed number of units of production and these prime tiles can in fact be equalled or even beaten by tiles which hold major rivers or game (although a prime tile with a major river is of course best of all).
So, for example, a prime fur tile with a road, worked by an expert in a colony with no Sons of Liberty production bonuses, without Henry Hudson (no double fur production), produces 16 furs per turn.
A normal mixed forest tile with a major river and a road, worked by an expert in a colony with no Sons of Liberty production, without Henry Hudson (no double fur production) produces 18 furs per turn.
The key factor is the presence of a Major River. These count as two Minor Rivers, and a Minor River is equal to a Road.
Conversely, Prime Tobacco gives a 2x multiplier (rather than +3 like Fur). A plowed Prime Tobacco tile worked by an expert produces 16 tobacco per turn. A plowed grassland tile with a major river worked by an expert produces only 12 tobacco.
Fur is a +3 prime tile and can be beaten.
Ore is a +3 prime tiles and so I believe can be beaten but I have not verified this.
Finally, note that if a minerals deposit exists on a rain-forest tile and that square is cleared, the mineral deposit is lost. Note however when a rain-forest tile is cleared, a mineral deposit can be revealed. I have seen it happen that clearing a rain-forest tile reveals a tile below which itself also has a mineral deposit.
Learning From Experience
Colonists working a tile can spontaneously learn the expert skill for that tile. This seems to only happen on prime tiles. I have only seen it happen for furs, cotton and tobacco. Having a road in the tile seems to help. Prisoners, servants and normals can learn; I don't know if skilled colonists can convert.
For a long time, I thought this functionality was bugged, because it just never seemed to happen, or only worked for fur trappers.
When a tax hike is presented, the good chosen which can be boycotted is generally either a good in a ship which is just about to arrive in Europe or the most valuable cargo you have in a colony at the time.
The most important good not to have boycotted early in the game is Tools. You can't yet make them, and you need to them to get to the point where you can make them. The way to avoid a Tool boycott is never to have any tools stored in a colony. You never sell Tools to Europe early in the game, so they're never chosen by that route, and if you have no Tools stockpiled, they can never be a most valuable stockpiled cargo.
If necessary, store Tools in a wagon train.
Offers From Europe
When certain situations arise, the home country will offer you certain services.
If you move a treasure chest into a colony and you have no galleon, the home country will offer to transport the treasure. You will be charged a percentage of the value of the treasure as a fee. On the hardest level the fee is 70%. I believe this goes down by 5% per difficulty level.
If you have no military shipping and a pirate attacks one of your ships, the home country will offer you a frigate. Accepting causes a large rise in the tax rate - 7 or 8 percent - which can be useful if you're working towards an effective and early Thomas Paine.
Finally, when you have a fair amount of gold in the bank, European countries may offer you military forces (Dragoons and cannon) for gold. They invariable ask sky-high prices and I've never felt the need to accept.
Every time you buy cannon from your home country, the price rises by 100 gold. Note however if when buying a cannon at the "are you sure yes/no?" question you select "no", the price will STILL rise by 100 gold.
When a new Founding Father joins, the liberty bell count is reset to zero; any excess bells generated for the turn where the Father joins are thrown away. So if you need 10 bells to get the next Father, you have 9 and you generate 5 in the next turn, 4 bells are thrown away.
In the Foreign Affairs report, the population scores for foreign powers includes people on the docks in their home countries.
A unit on an automatic GOTO will travel through and reveal Rumours on its path.
- Main article: FAQ on Indians (Col)
If you decide to attack the Indians, make sure you have a mission in the first colony or two you attack (there's no point in more, since the Indians will burn them all reasonably soon after you begin wiping out their settlements). The reason for this is because when an Indian settlement containing a mission is attacked, converts are generated.
Expert missions are much more likely to cause natives to convert. This can be a useful way to obtain additional colonists early in the game.
There also appears to be some relationship between the distance between a colony and a native settlement containing a mission; the nearer, the more often converts occur.
Once a mission has been established, it cannot be superseded; it is not possible to replace a normal mission with an expert mission. If the expert missionary attempts to enter the village, he will only receive the options to incite the Indians or the cancel his action.
Missionaries are how you communicate with Indians to get them to do things, like attack other foreign powers. Contacting Indians does not expend the missionary.
If a foreign power destroys a settlement which holds one of your missions, your missionary is destroyed. If you destroy a settlement containing one of your missions, your missionary returns to you (e.g. appears on the tile where the settlement was).
Learning From The Natives
The Capital of a tribe can train up an infinite number of colonists, unlike the normal settlements, which only train a single colonist.
This can vary from useful to amazingly useful, depending on the skill offered by the capital. If the skill is Farmer, you've hit a gold-mine. An endless supply of instant Farmers, just by sending colonists to the capital. A second example of this I recently came across was the Inca capital offering the Ore Miner skill - wonderful! there are three locations near there were a single colony can support five miners; the perfect mining colony. Having an instant supply of Miners for this is incredibly useful.
A colonist who is a scout who enters a native village has a chance of being converted to an expert. Note that this conversion will occur even if the colonist already possess a skill.
City-like settlements (Aztec) own the land for a radius of three squares around the settlement (but not on the diagonals - it's a star pattern, not a square, so the four corner tiles are not owned). Hut-like settlements (Tupi) own the land of a radius of one square.
Indians don't mind you irrigating their tiles; they only object to roads, forest clearing or a colonist in a colony working the tile.
Trading With The Natives
Capitals offer about three times the price for goods than normal settlements.
Remember that you pay no tax on goods you sell to Indians.
All settlements will accept trade goods the first time they are offered. This is particularly important with the Aztecs, since you can buy silver in return; and if they like you, at 50 gold for 100 silver - which at the start of the game is selling at 19/unit.
A ship inside a colony can trade with settlements adjacent to that colony; by this method, it is possible to trade with "inland" native settlements.
Some Indian settlements will sell horses.
The number of a good delivered by Indians as a gift depends on the price of the item in your home country. So for example, at the start of the game, Aztec gifts might be a few pieces of silver. Once the silver price has dropped to 1, their gifts are 50 pieces of silver.
Destroying an Indian Capital generates quite a lot of peace - the Indians basically surrender.
- Main article: FAQ on Founding Fathers (Col)
Hernando de Soto is IMO the second most powerful Father if he joins Congress while there remain a reasonable number of Rumours. With de Soto, a few of these Rumours will turn out to be Fountains of Youth, and getting 24 or 32 colonists for free reasonably early in the game puts you so far ahead you can't lose. Note that although de Soto makes all Rumour outcomes positive, you can still have the outcome where you trepass on burial grounds and a local Indian tribe goes to war with you.
If you go for de Soto, try to get William Brewster in Congress first. His presence (no more criminals or indentured servants) greatly improves the quality of colonists you receive via Fountains of Youth.
Peter Stuyvesant is important since trading through Custom Houses greatly reduces the rate at which trade good prices drop in the mother country, since one of the triggers for a tax hike is an ship with cargo arriving in Europe.
Pocahontas is useful for getting missions in Indian Capitals. Normally, when a mission is placed in a Capital, the Indians become very unhappy. The solution is to move missionaries up to all the local Capitals and then, the turn before Pocahontas enters Congress, place missions in each Capital. The Indians will be very unhappy, but then Pocahontas arrives and all Indian alarm is reset to zero. This technique can also be used to eliminate awkwardly placed Indian settlements.
Thomas Paine increases Liberty Bell production by the tax rate on the turn that he joins Congress. I originally misunderstood this to mean that the number of liberty bells produced would be increase by a number of liberty bells equal to the current tax rate. What it actually means is that the tax rate (on the turn he joins Congress) becomes a multiplier added to liberty bell production, in the same way a printing press and newspaper work. So if the tax rate is 35% when Thomas Paine joins Congress, a 35% bonus is thereafter applied to liberty bell production. This bonus does not rise as the tax rate thereafter rises; it is fixed at the tax rate in force on the turn Thomas Paine joined Congress. So, for example, a colony producing 50 liberty bells when the tax rate is 72% will then produce 86 liberty bells (50 * 1.72). Best advice for Paine is only have him join when the tax rate is over 50% - that way he's the same as a free Printing Press or Newspaper in every colony, and you get him early enough that he has enough time to produce really significant effects.
Henry Hudson is useful if he joins Congress while fur prices are still high. Fur prices drop based the number of times furs are sold, so increasing the production of furs increases the rate at which prices drop. Accordingly, having Henry Hudson does not increase the total amount of money which is made from furs (well, apart from in the long term, once prices have dropped to one; but the money involved at such a low sell price is small and comes after the critical opening game when money is most useful), but it does enable that money to be obtained in a much shorter period of time.
William Brewster is the most important member of Congress. His presence, by eliminating indentured servants and criminals from Europe, greatly increases the quality of colonists. In my opinion, Brewster is the single most important Father.
Francisco Coronado reveals the map for a certain distance around all existing colonies and also for any new colonies founded after he arrives in Congress. Extremely useful for attacking foreign powers in the early stages of the game.
- Main article: FAQ: outstanding questions (Col)
- Expert scouts receive a bonus when on Rumour outcomes. When de Soto is in Congress and Rumour outcomes are all positive, do expert scouts still receive their bonus?
- Is there a difference between convict, servant and normal colonists when they are missionaries?
- What happens if Indians attack a tile with two or more treasures? do they get them all, or just one?
- Veteran soldiers appearing at the docks sometimes have horses, sometimes not. Why, and how often do they come with horses?
- Do the computer foreign powers pay tax on what they sell at home?
- Can a missionary in a Church train expert missionaries?
- Does a Cathedral produce expert missionaries?
- Can a skilled colonist spontaneously learn a land-working skill?
- Do Hardy Pioneers harvest more wood than normal Pioneers when clearing a forest tile?