by Bill Cranston

Colonization is broad in scope and quite varied in its options, thus presenting quite a number of choices for the player. Getting the most of what you need from your settlements, when you need them, is quite a trick in this game. What follows is an aid for players who find themselves falling behind their European rivals in their quest for independence.


The first decision a player must make is where to first set your units on land at the beginning of the game. Sometimes it's a good idea to travel up the coast of a land mass for a bit to determine if you are about to set foot upon a tiny, barren island.

Land your units along a coast where there are some special resources (a pine tree, silver deposit, etc.). Chances are you'll bump into a native tribe the moment you land; needless to say, now would not be a good time to begin hostilities with them, no matter how small they are.

Survey the terrain near where you landed to determine if it is a good place to establish your first settlement. Your next big decision is whether to build two settlements or just one with a population of two. Unless you are playing at the lowest two levels of difficulty (Dis- coverer and Explorer), I recommend setting up two settlements. At the higher levels the computer players enjoy production bonuses and thus develop faster. You'll want to stake out as much territory as quickly as you can to keep up with the computer . Also, in the early stages of the game no one will be hostile with you unless you provoke them, so it is safe to have a number of small, weak settlements at the start.

It is also important to note that at Conquistador level and up, you don't have any money to start off with, so you cannot immediately return to Europe and buy colonists. Instead, you'll have to wait until one becomes available. Consequently it is better to have two settlements at the start because then you'll have two places from which to pick up raw materials to sell when you return to Europe. Note that if you have one settlement with two colonists, one of the colonists will have to harvest food in order to support himself and thus will not be able to produce anything for you to make money from.

Whatever you do, do NOT establish one of your first two settlements away from the coast. Doing so prevents your ship from picking up valuable cargo to cash in Europe. You do not want to be wasting time building a wagon train this early in the game (besides, you need roads for wagons to be effective). Also, don't worry about any possible overlap with existing native villages, as a Founding Father (Peter Minuit) will take care of this for you. No more annoying totem poles. Just make sure you select him early on, if you do have overlap.

You may find it profitable in the short term to establish a one-unit settlement dedicated to a particular resource. The best example is a colonist devoted to mining silver. In this way you can accumulate a fair amount of money early on. Replace your colonist with an Expert Silver Miner when you get the chance.


Okay, you've set up two villages and you've just returned to Europe with some fur pelts and sugar cane (for example). Selling these should give you enough to recruit a colonist, and hopefully there will be another waiting for you on the docks at no cost. At this stage of the game you cannot afford to be fussy - petty criminals are never more valuable than they are at this stage. Probably the most valuable unit that you can recruit early on, however, is the Seasoned Scout. Grab this guy over all others and many of your early problems will be solved. The second best choice varies, depending upon your situation. Second best pick is one of either the Hardy Pioneer, Farmer (Fisherman if you have a dock built already), or Lumberjack. Whatever you pick, you should NEVER pick a petty criminal, servant, or free colonist over a skilled colonist. Even if you don't think you have a need for a Jesuit Missionary now, grab him anyways. All skilled colonists func- tion as well as free colonists at their non-specialty, and when you have need to placate the local natives, you'll have the Missionary in hand to do your bidding. In addition, your point total will be higher with specialists.

So why choose a Seasoned Scout? First off, with these units you can begin to take advantage of the natives around you. Take your Seasoned Scout and move it to each and every native village you see. You'll either be told of surrounding lands, or be given some much needed gold. The bigger the native settlement, the more of either you are given. With a Seasoned Scout you'll be able to ring up 1000's of gold pieces in a hurry, and find new spots to expand into at the same time. This will help you out tremendously early on.

Ideally, you'll be able to get a Seasoned Scout on your first trip to Europe. If not, then bring back as many recruits as you can (four if you play the Dutch, two in all other cases). No matter what type of recruits they are, you will use them to establish new colonies in areas you have already explored. Don't bother expanding an existing colony beyond a population of two - use whichever recruits you have to build new settlements. The only exception to this is the Seasoned Scout, for reasons explained above. Remember, no one will provoke hostilities with you early on, so take advantage of their goodwill by expanding like mad. This is all the more crucial at the Governor and Viceroy levels. However, take care not to crowd in several native villages with a number of your own, otherwise they'll soon be deman- ding tributes from you. Skirmishes with native warriors is something to be avoided early on.

Hardy Pioneers, Farmers/Fishermen, and Lumberjacks are good second choices because they allow you to develop the natural resources to build the structures you'll need to turn your village into a mighty bastion of your empire. Hardy Pioneers are useful as you can culti- vate a square around a settlement to be more productive, build roads, or as a cheap way to supply a settlement with 100 tools. If you have the time, you also may want to plow or clear the square you build a settlement on before founding that settlement so that you'll always have a super-productive square automatically. Unless you're in no hurry, do this with a Hardy Pioneer only, as regular pioneers aren't terribly quick.


Productively harvesting the resources surrounding your settlements is your main goal, and building a dock and a warehouse right away is a big step towards accomplishing this. The needs of your network of settlements will evolve, and the path this evolution takes is dictated by what you choose to construct, where, and when.

Building a dock allows you to fish, and thus use fishermen. Ocean squares aren't good for anything else, yet allow you to free up land squares for other things. Note that there is a design fault in Col- onization: you can only fish ocean squares, not rivers or lakes. Yet if you place a fisherman over a river or lake square in a sett- lement that isn't adjacent to a coast, you are told that you first need to build a dock. However, this structure isn't available in settlements that aren't by a coast. A catch-22 that makes no sense. Simply put, fishermen have no purpose in settlements not by the coast - they don't know how to fish from a river or lake.

Building a warehouse allows you to store more of the resources you are harvesting. In no time you'll be moving around resources in groups of 100 so warehouses quickly become a necessity.

After building a dock and warehouse, choose structures according to the resources around your settlement. Unless you're playing the Spaniards and have thoughts of immediate conquest, avoid building a stockade or armory right away. Your first priority should be to maximize the harvesting and processing of the natural resources surrounding your settlements.


Once you've developed your empire to the point where you have 5-10 settlements (I've noticed that it takes fewer settlements to win in Colonization than it would take in Civ) making the most of the resources around them, it's time to shift focus to eventual secession. You could, of course, win the game through brute force by defeating all the other Europeans. But the name of the game is to found your own nation, which maximizes your score. Besides, to keep your settle- ments growing, you have to maintain balance between those in your colonies that favour secession with those still loyal to the Crown (Sons of Freedom vs. The Tories).

In order to declare independence before another European contingent, the majority of your colonists will have to be specialists. This is more true at the higher levels. An easy way to accomplish this in the early phase of the game is to have your colonists visit indian tribes to gain skills from them. Later on you should build a school (later a college/university) in one or two of your settlements that can be easily reached by the other settlements. You will then convert all your free colonists into the specialists you require. At first these will be Master Carpenters, Blacksmiths, Lumberjacks and Miners to build the larger structures faster, then Elder Statesmen as you focus on increasing your liberty bell production, and finally to Master Gunsmiths and Veteran Soldiers as you prepare to face the Royal Expeditionary Force (REF). At Governor level, liberty bell production is more important, necessitating a University earlier on.

In terms of production, your ultimate goal is to be able to produce the war machines needed to defeat the REF. You can buy the ships and guns you need, but the more you buy, the more expensive they get. Eventually, your network of resources that generate your wealth will be interrupted by warfare and you'll need to be able to generate these items on your own.

The main problem in facing the REF is that you never know for sure where they will land. However, you can be sure of the following: the REF will always appear adjacent to a settlement on a coast, these units will not move on to another settlement until the one landed next to is taken over, and they will always attack a rebel settlement over units out in the open. Therefore, before declaring independence, make sure that all your coastal settlements are defended by at least 2 cannons each, and are protected by fortresses (you will NOT last long with 2 cannons in a fort). Keep your dragoons out of your settlements in order that they benefit from the ambush bonus against royal troops. Lastly, make sure the Sons of Freedom % in all your coastal settlements is high (over 70%), as this will assure you will get enough combat bonuses to defeat the tough REF troops.


Combat is very simple in Colonization. Hopefully armed conflict will not be forced upon you, but you should be prepared if it is. As said above, you should have your settlements most likely to be targeted bolstered by a Fort, and stocked with at least two defensive units (a cannon and a dragoon). A cannon is the most powerful unit on land, but is effective only in fortifications. A dragoon is useful to sweep up units weakened in their attack against the cannon. You can pick up extra colonists in this fashion.

Infantry units are not very effective in Colonization. Unless you are attacking an unarmed unit, it is best to use dragoons exclusively as your offensive weapon. Horses are basically free in Colonization, so you're better off with the cavalry. And I'll explain just how cheap horses are a little later.

Unless you are playing as Spain, I find it easier to leave the natives alone than to build the resources needed to subjugate them. You don't need to be on the best of terms with the indians, and they will likely be more concerned with another European power than you. If you are on good terms with them, you can incite them against a neighbouring enemy, or to gain extra colonists from. I find the latter option less useful though, as indian converts are effectively free colonists that are limited to professions that work the land only.

Combat is extremely simple in Colonization. Always attack, as when you are out in the open the attacker has the advantage. Also, before taking on the REF make sure your liberty bell production is cranked up so that your forces benefit from a healthy Sons of Freedom per- centage bonus when attacking (did I mention this already? ;).

The reason why you should never bother with infantry, other than they are weaker than cavalry, is that you never have to! Horses are vir- tually free in Colonization. Remember that Seasoned Scout you had roaming the countryside? Well, after you're done with him, put him to work in a settlement. You'll then have 50 horses which will breed to the capacity of your warehouse. Stables will increase the rate at which your horses breed. Bring in a wagon to circulate the horses throughout your settlements and before you know it you'll have 300 horses in each of your communities.


The last element of Colonization to consider is which Founding Fathers to pick. This depends on how you want to go about achieving your independence. As the Spaniards, for instance, you should pick someone like Hernan Cortes, not Pocahontas. There are several of these historical figures that would be welcome in anyone's Congress. They are:

Sieur de la Salle:
Not having to worry about building a stockade for each of your settlements is a real plus. By far the most immediately useful.
Jan de Witt:
Allows you to keep a much closer eye on your rivals. Plus, he enables trade with your European neighbours.
Peter Minuit:
With him you can now develop any land square around your settlements without demands from the natives for compensation. Those red totem poles will be gone.
Benjamin Franklin:
Negotiations with your rivals are much easier with BF in your pocket. Now you can hold off the other powers from initiating hostilities.
Thomas Jefferson:
Very helpful from the mid-game onwards. Your statesmen will have everyone signing up for the Continental army in no time.
Adam Smith:
Will have your settlements humming with activity.

There are also some Founding Fathers that can be overlooked:

Henry Hudson:
Just how many fur pelts do you need? Choose HH if you want to drive the price of furs/coats down to 1 in a hurry.
Jakob Fugger:
This one's useless only because of the 'U'nload bug - by pressing the 'U' key in Europe you can still sell the goods that are boycotted.
Paul Revere:
Insurance against forgetfulness? Unlike in Civ, other powers don't walk into your settlement to take it over unexpectedly. They announce breaking the treaty, which is enough for most to grab their guns. This guy's only useful in protecting a settlement with a population of 3 or less that has a stockade - you can't designate someone to become a soldier in this case.

The others vary in usefulness, depending on how you handle the natives and trade relations. Simon Bolivar and John Paul Jones are useful to gain prior to declaring independence, and William Brewster is particularly useful if your cross production is quite high. Peter Stuyvesant is useful in that he alleviates your workload; however, being able to keep a trickle of gold flowing during the revolution is meagre consideration for selecting PS.

That's about it. Just remember to expand and develop like mad for the first hundred years or so (trying to appease the natives as best you can while so doing). Consolidate what you get and make lots of money for the next hundred years so that for the last 50 you can concentrate on GUNS. If all goes according to plan (hehe), you'll have achieved independence before 1780!


There are some glitches and oddities in this game. Though certainly not complete, the peculiarities (not bugs mind you) I've noticed so far are:

1. At some point in a game you may find declaring independence as the only way to save your empire. This may sound strange, but when you have another player surrounding many of your settlements with a large number of troops, the REF may start to look like a more attractive option! When you declare independence, all the enemy troops around your settlements disappear for some reason. Instead of having to face a large number of enemy troops around several colonies, against the REF you usually only have to focus on a set of troops around a few key landing sites at a time.

2. The computer player doesn't seem to achieve independence by facing the REF. Instead, at some point you will get notice that some country is considering granting independence once a certain number of the colonists are in favour of secession. Therefore, an enemy can be on the way to achieving independence AND still be looking to end your aspirations at the same time - something not possible for the human player. Note that when you receive this notice, you'll want to be thinking about seceeding as well if you want to grab the "first to declare" point bonus.

3. Once a settlement has a stockade around it, there is no way to get rid of it (the settlement, that is). Starving the settlement will only drive the population down to 1. You must remove all the colonists in order to remove all traces of the settlement. This is important to remember if you're trying to get rid of an enemy settlement that is too close to a number of your own and overlaps some of your resource squares.

4. Combat doesn't seem to be according to the odds. It seems that every unit will eventually expire, no matter what the odds. Try reloading at a position before what you thought was a "sure thing" and see how many times your veteran dragoon gets beat by a rookie soldier.

5. Don't found a settlement on a pine tree resource square because for some reason the colony won't produce lumber (just pelts and food). Founding on any other resource square produces food and the appropriate specialty.

6. There's no indication that the computer selects Founding Fathers like you do. I have seen other privateers with the "Drake bonus" so I guess they do, but there is no way to find out. I've yet to take over a settlement that has a factory, indicating Adam Smith in the Congress, and I've never had any trouble selecting exactly the Founding Fathers I wanted.

7. Even if you're at peace with another player, the computer will eventually attack you. Oddly enough, this behaviour doesn't break the peace treaty, though any attempt at retaliation on your part does. This seems to happen only if you have Benjamin Franklin in your Congress.


In addition to the advantages that each of the 4 nationalities in Colonization have, the European countries also differ according to what units they begin the game with. The following is a table by country and difficulty setting:

         Discoverer   Explorer   Conquistador   Governor   Viceroy
 French: V. Soldier   same as    Soldier        same as    same as
         H. Pioneer   Discover   H. Pioneer     Conquist.  Conquist.

  Dutch: V. Soldier     ""       Soldier           ""        ""
         Pioneer                 Pioneer                 

Spanish: V. Soldier     ""       V. Soldier        ""        ""
         Pioneer                 Pioneer        

English: V. Soldier     ""       Soldier           ""        ""
         Pioneer                 Pioneer        

Where 'V' denotes a Veteran unit and 'H' denotes a Hardy Pioneer. It seems that the French and Spanish have the advantage in terms of starting units, at least at the higher levels.

Does anyone have any preference as to which country they play, not withstanding the above? I personally feel that the French or Dutch are your best bets, if only because I prefer to profit off the indians, not attack them, and because the English just don't have a strong enough advantage to make them worthwhile at the higher levels. Requiring 1/3 less crosses to produce a recruit is peanuts compared to a 50% reduction of indian alarm (French), or higher prices and a merchantman at the start of the game (Dutch). A 50% attack bonus against indian settlements (Spain) is also a better deal overall than a measly 1/3 bonus to cross production.

Has anyone gone through the various *.txt files that are in the Colonization directory? I found that the NAMES.TXT file to be most interesting. This file lists a whole slew of things. The most interesting was the list of building expansions. In this list are entries called Capitol and Capitol Expansion. These are not implemented in v2.25 but perhaps they will be in an update. The volatility of goods prices in Europe can also be scanned over, as well as the probability of particular Founding Fathers appearing during the game. As the files says, mess with these entries at your own risk!

This article is Copyright (C) 1994 by Bill Cranston for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.