Posts Tagged ‘interesting choices’

Interesting Choices: Colonization’s Founding Fathers

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Interesting Choices is a recurring column that examines a decision point in a game, focusing on those that are particularly interesting.  The point of the column is to examine what particularly makes each of the choices interesting, and the impact that this has on the game as a whole.

It is fitting that the first installment of Interesting Choices is a game that has Sid Meier's name in the title.  The title of this column is itself a nod to his definition of games as a series of interesting choices.  While Colonization does indeed feature a series of these choices, the one that I particularly want to focus on is the one presented to me in the following pop up message:

Don't invite Aaron Burr too, or there might be troubleThe founding fathers are a particularly well implemented series of choices in the game, and Alexander Hamilton is a particularly appealing option for me in the current game.  Since his benefit is increased productivity (for free!) at all settlements, and I've sort of settlement spammed the new world, I'll get quite a bit of benefit from him--essentially a free carpenter that doesn't eat, at each settlement, which I have seven of.  At first glance, there seems to be little reason to say no, in fact.  Why would I even consider it?  To understand that, we've got to take a look at the system used to determine which founding fathers are available to me.

Who to recruit?You'll probably need to click on that to look at the big version to see the portions I'm referring to, but let's break this image a part a bit, and examine the important bits:

  • First, there are a lot of founding fathers available.  Here we've got John Rolfe, Jan de Witt, Peter Minuit, and Lord Baltimore.  We can further see that each founding father has a (mostly) unique effect, which may be relatively meaningless to readers who have not played the game, and which are beyond the scope of this particular document.
    • There is a scroll bar, indicating further options to the right.
    • There are tabs at the bottom, indicating even more options with other specialties.
  • Notably, we see that each of these four gentlemen are already spoken for.  I've got the two on the right in my congress, and the English colonies have John Rolfe, while the French colonies have Peter Minuit.   The important part of this:  each founding father can only serve one colony, and once they're snatched up, they are gone for good.
  • Across the center we have two progress bars, one for Political Points and one for Trade Points.  These are earned through actions in game, and represent their own series of choices.  The UI is perhaps a little bit less clear than it could be on this, but the head of each founding father lines up with the cost to recruit him.
  • In the bottom left, there is a box detailing how many of each type of point I've collected at this moment in the game.  It's worth noting that in addition to Political and Trade Points, I've also got Religion, Military, and Exploration Points.

Several things combine to ultimately make the founding fathers decision one of the most rewarding in the game.  The fact that you are racing with the competing colonies to attract the founding fathers is one factor.  As soon as they are serving one colony, the others are out of luck.  The fact that the only time they offer to join is when they first become available is another important factor.  I cannot go back an re-invite Alexander Hamilton if I turn him town now.  I'd have waived my right to Alexander Hamilton; it's now or never.  The final factor that really makes the decision intense though, is the fact that I have to pay for him.  His cost in points is deducted from my current total.   Looking ahead on the trade tab, here's what I've got coming up:

Significantly more powerful, yet costlier.I've just passed up Adam Smith (faster factory construction), and will next have a shot at John Jacob Astor (more furs) and then Eli Whitney (more cotton).  As I haven't focused much on cotton or furs, neither is particularly appealing (this game, anyway).  However, Alexander Hamilton doesn't just cost trade points, he costs political points as well.  This is true of all founding fathers in the game.  So recruiting Alexander Hamilton doesn't just diminish my chances of getting those other trade founding fathers before my competitors, it impacts my ability to recruit exploration, religious, military, and political founding fathers as well.

Every time a founding father that interests me offers to join up, I have to carefully weigh the advantages he offers compared to the other founding fathers that I might be able to recruit (from any tab) in the near future.  I also have to weigh the odds that another colony will recruit those other founding fathers first.  I also have to weigh how much impact a given founding father will have if they are recruited by an opponent.  Perhaps I want to play spoiler, and recruit Eli Whitney before the cotton-reliant French do.

Ultimately, in this case, I decide to recruit Alexander Hamilton.  His benefit is fantastic for my setup, and he's the most beneficial guy on the trade track for me (Cyrus McCormick wouldn't be bad either, though, offering increased sugar and food production).  On the other hand, these were the next 3 gentlemen available to me in the politics tab:

Patrick Henry would be a big boon to my bid fo independence

While I'm still hoping to snag at least one of them (Patrick Henry being my top choice), my chances to do so just took a serious hit.  These three, being Political founding fathers, require only Politics Points, and I just spent a boatload of those recruiting Mr. Ten-Dollar Bill.  As I continue this game, I may come to regret the decision I made with Alexander Hamilton.  It wasn't an easy decision to make, and it may have been the wrong decision.  The consequences of this single decision--good or ill--will be felt, perhaps, through the rest of this game, and that's enough to qualify it as an interesting choice from my perspective.

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