Codex Gamicus

Sid Meier's Colonization is a video 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 MS-DOS in 1994, and later ported to Microsoft Windows (1995), the Amiga (1995) and Macintosh. The game's core gameplay was re-made into what became Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization. It also has an open-source implementation, FreeCol.

Colonization is much like a more developed version of Sid Meier's previous game Sid Meier's Civilization in both visual design and handling, however the two have marked differences in gameplay[1]. Instead of forging a nation from next-to-nothing, the player manages the cross-Atlantic expansion of an established nation in the service of the Crown. As the colonies become more self-sufficient their subservience shifts from boon towards bane. To win, the player must ultimately declare independence and defeat the Royal Expeditionary Force in battle.


The game begins in 1492 C.E.; the player controls the colonial forces of either England England, France France, Netherlands The Netherlands, or Spain Spain; the other powers are controlled by the AI. This profoundly affects gameplay, since each uses different strategies. There is a choice between a historical map (America) or a randomly-generated map; the randomly generated map shifts the focus of the game toward exploration — in this mode the game has considerable replay potential.

The journey begins with two units travelling on a ship to the New World; as the ship moves into the unknown, the map is revealed. Subsequently, the New World is discovered, the Indians are met, a colony is built, colonists begin to change the land to be more productive, the ship is sent back to Europe to collect more colonists, any superfluous items are sold and the exploration of the world begins. The game revolves around harvesting food, manufacturing and trading goods. Resources gleaned from the land are converted into commodities and either used or sold (usually back in Europe). The prices of commodities fluctuates depending upon supply and demand; the more of a commodity that is sold by the colonial powers, the less the markets will be willing to pay for them. With money, a player is able to buy goods, recruit new colonists, or buy ships or artillery. While maintaining an income, the player is also required to protect his colonies from potential invasion through employing soldiers. 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 Sid Meier's Colonization world: primary resource gatherers, secondary resource manufacturers, and the more specialized units such as soldiers, statesmen, pioneers, Jesuit missionaries, 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 or silver. Thus it becomes necessary to link various colonies together via trade roads (roads grant 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 Sid Meier's 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 experience. Missions established in Indian villages eventually encourage converts to join a colony; they are better than ordinary colonists at most outdoor pursuits, but not industrial ones.

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 they allow Scouts to be created 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 (Man-O-War can only be recruited during the War of Independence). They can move goods, horses, and colonists around, and some can attack. Wagon trains (which are built in colonies) move goods and horses on land, and can be used to trade with the native tribes.

Relationships must be carefully maintained with Indians and other colonial powers, from waging war and maintaining strategic defenses to offering tributes 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 the player's final score.

The king of the player's home country meddles in colonial affairs from time to time, mostly by raising the tax rate. Occasionally they might force colonial armies into wars with rival colonies. The player must also pay attention to political developments and the recruitment of Founding Fathers (roughly corresponding to the Civilization Advances of Sid Meier's Civilization), to ensure the best possible chance of success.

On the easiest level, the action essentially takes place at the speed in which the player wants it to. With each increase in difficulty level, the restrictions that bound successful endeavours become more pronounced. The game is eventually won by seceding from the motherland, signing the Declaration of Independence and defeating the armies which are sent to usurp the player's ‘unalienable rights’. Successful navigation through the game requires the player to formulate strategies, and to effectively make use of what resources are provided, to explore and cultivate the land and to negotiate between 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 natural 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 more sensible to use the colonists who aren't proficient in a trade or profession as soldiers, the influence of historical figures on colonial New World societies, and the list goes on.

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 powers will be the computer-controlled competitors. Each power has certain bonuses that make them unique and different from each other.

Nation Color Default names Starting units Bonus
English Red Walter Raleigh, New England Soldier, pioneer, caravel An increased efficiency of Cross production, which is what prompts new free colonists to appear on the European docks. This will make it easier to expand the colony and build up the cities. The bonus alludes to "religious unrest" in England in the 1600s, such as that which led people such as the Puritans and Quakers to come to America.
French Blue Jacques Cartier, New France Soldier, expert pioneer, caravel A reduction in the rate at which they generate tension with the Natives. This leads to easier negotiations, trade, and coexistence with the natives, which can be cultivated as a military alliance as well. This bonus is in reference to the coureurs des bois
Spanish Yellow Christopher Columbus, New Spain Veteran soldier, pioneer, caravel A 50% military bonus against native villages. Using this leads to a lot of treasure and possibly some converts, and eliminates a potential threat (but also potential ally). The bonus alludes to the aftermath of the Reconquista, which left the Spanish with a huge eager military with nothing to do; they were then sent to colonize the Americas, ultimately wiping out some of the land's most legendary tribes.
Dutch Orange Michiel de Ruyter, New Netherlands Soldier, pioneer, merchantman A more favorable fluidity of prices on trade with Europe; the prices are more stable when trading in quantity, and return to their usual levels more quickly. This ultimately results in better profits and more money.

Founding Fathers[]

Analogous to technologies in Sid Meier's Civilization, social and industrial advances are achieved by the addition of "Founding Fathers" to the "Continental Congress", which are gained by generating a sufficient number of "Liberty Bells" through the colonial pride of settlers. These are all named after real historical figures.


  • Francisco Vázquez de Coronado - Makes all existing colonies (of all European powers) in the New World visible.
  • Henry Hudson - Doubles production of fur trappers.
  • Sieur de La Salle - Any colony with 3 or more people automatically gains a stockade. (This is sometimes undesirable, as it makes colony removal impossible, as noted above)
  • Ferdinand Magellan - All ships gain one extra move point, plus travel from the Pacific to Europe is sped up.
  • Hernando de Soto - All land units gain 2 sight points, plus "Lost City Rumor" (goody box) squares are positive (the unit taking the square cannot be lost, the Rumour cannot be worthless, etc.). Note however that it is still possible to "disturb native burial grounds" and so cause a tribe to become hostile.


  • Hernán Cortés - Conquering native villages always results in treasure and all treasure trains are transported to Europe for free, although the prevailing tax rate must still be paid. (Treasure must be taken to Europe with a galleon to be cashed in, and using the king's galleon costs fifty percent of the treasure)
  • Francis Drake - Increases combat strength of privateer ships by 50%.
  • John Paul Jones - Receive a free Frigate unit.
  • Paul Revere - Non-soldiers will defend a colony under attack, if there are no soldiers and there are muskets in the colony stores.
  • George Washington - Non-veteran soldiers are promoted to veterans upon winning their first battle. Also, soldiers who are petty criminals are promoted to indentured servants, and indentured servants are promoted to free colonists.


  • Benjamin Franklin - Colonial powers will no longer go to war with the player simply because of the political situation in Europe. Negotiations with other colonial powers are more favorable, and peace is always an option. (Normally, when the European nations go to war, their colonies go to war as well. Franklin is not always desirable, since the king sometimes gives veteran soldiers at the start of a war.)
  • Thomas Jefferson - Increases liberty bell production by 50%.
  • Thomas Paine - Liberty bell production is increased by a percentage equal to the current sales tax rate of the player's European parent power.
  • Pocahontas - Resets all native tension to zero and halves the rate at which tension grows.
  • Simón Bolívar - The percentage of independence-minded colonists in all of player's colonies increases by 20.


  • Jean de Brebeuf - All missionaries from now on become Expert Missionaries.
  • William Brewster - Player can select from a short list of colonist types whenever new colonists appear on the docks in Europe, which will not include criminals or indentured servants.
  • Bartolomé de Las Casas]- All natives (currently) working in colonies become regular colonists (This can lead to a decrease in effectiveness for agricultural tasks, but an increase in manufacturing or skilled labor.)
  • William Penn - Increases cross production by 50%.
  • Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda - Attacks on native villages are more likely to result in a "convert" joining the player's colonies.


  • Jakob Fugger - All European boycotts on various goods (the result of Boston Tea Party-like dumping of various products) are forgiven.
  • Peter Minuit - Native land is free to use. (Normally, natives demand one-time payment for use of their land.)
  • Adam Smith - Factory buildings can be built, which generate 50% more processed goods per unit of raw material (compared to non-factories), but actually use less raw material to do it.
  • Peter Stuyvesant - Custom House can be built, which automatically sends any amount of selected materials over 50 units straight to Europe, without need for manual shipping.
  • Jan de Witt - Allows trading with foreign colonies, and adds information to the colonial intelligence screen.

From Resources to Commodities[]

One main driving impulse in Colonization is the harvesting of natural resources, such as lumber (for building), ore (for manufacturing), and food (for population growth). Squares on the map have basic values of resource output (depending on the type of terrain and if a river runs through it), but certain 'prime' squares have double or higher output values. Inside the town, any colonist can work the field for the basic resource output. However, specially trained units can typically harvest twice as much, such as the Lumberjack (wood), Expert Ore Miner (ore), or Farmers and Fishermen (food). Farmers and Fishermen however are notable exceptions to this; rather than doubling the output of a tile, they only add two food production to the value of what would otherwise be the output of a Free Colonist's labour. An Expert Farmer is still required to gain the higher bonus values for the 'wheat', 'game' or 'oasis' special tiles however. Likewise an Expert Fisherman is required to gain the higher bonus for the 'fishery' special tile.

Another important ingredient is the production and collection of raw goods that can be converted into commodities for sale in Europe, to the Native American tribes and, provided a certain Founding Father is in the Continental Congress, the other European powers playing in the game. These commodities start out as cotton, sugar, tobacco and furs, and eventually get transformed into cloth, rum, cigars and coats (respectively). In addition, a player can mine for silver which is ready to be sold 'as-is'.

Accordingly, there exists a certain connection between the resources available and the units that can harvest them most efficiently, along with the buildings that workers use to transform them into commodities. For example, Cotton is generally available in prairies, but there are also 'Prime Cotton' squares with far greater output. Inside a town, a colonist can harvest a basic amount of Cotton from the fields (starting at 3 per turn), but a Master Cotton Planter can generally harvest twice as much (6). Once the raw materials have been collected - or perhaps at the same time - another colonist can make Cloth from Cotton (3 per turn). Again, a Master Weaver can produce twice as much Cloth (6) from existing stores compared to anyone else. To further improve this efficiency, a Weaver's Shop doubles the production rate of either the regular colonist (from 3 to 6) or the Master Weaver (from 6 to 12). Additional factors can affect the final output, such as the existence of a factory (+50%) or the town favouring independence at 50% or higher (which adds a bonus to colonists working in the town). Finally, each building supports a maximum of up to 3 workers at one time.

Sid Meier's Colonization: Resources and Commodities
Good (Special) Resource (Special) Harvester (Special) Worker Building / Factory Best Suited Terrain
Cigars (Prime) Tobacco (Master) Tobacco Planter (Master) Tobacconist Tobacco Shop / Cigar Factory Grassland
Cloth (Prime) Cotton (Master) Cotton Planter (Master) Weaver Weaver's Shop / Textile Mill Prairie
Coats (Prime) Furs (Master) Fur Trapper (Master) Fur Trader Fur Trading Post / Coat Factory Tundra/Boreal Forest/Mixed Forest
Rum (Prime) Sugar (Master) Sugar Planter (Master) Distiller Rum Distillery / Rum Factory Savannah

Native tribes[]

Aside from European colonial powers, the NPC powers include eight Native American tribes, in four main categories. Each Native American settlement can convert one regular colonist into a specialist (such as an Expert Farmer or Cotton Planter); the specialist type varies in each settlement, with the capital settlement able to convert multiple times. When a scout unit tries to enter a settlement, results may range from monetary gifts, to the revealing of nearby lands and the occasional being tied up for target practice (usually only if the natives are wary of the player's actions or growth on their lands).

More advanced tribes live in larger cities. Conquering them is harder, but yields more treasure. On the standard map they typically have fewer settlements than the other tribes, but there is no difference on random maps.


Semi-Nomadic (technically, hunter-gatherer) tribes live in teepees.

  • Apache
  • Sioux
  • Tupi


Agrarian tribes live in longhouses.

  • Arawak
  • Cherokee
  • Iroquois


  • Aztec - cities of golden ziggurats


  • Inca - cities of stone villas

Game Modification[]

Sid Meier's Colonization allows for some basic game modification, mostly in the form of altering text files that control certain aspects of the game. The primary file is "NAMES.TXT", which contains information such as square-types and their output of natural resources, but also on the goods and their prices in Europe. One can alter the starting prices, the min/max values, the drop and recovery levels, etc. By setting the minimum and maximum values to be the same, one can effectively "fix" the price of a particular item.

There are also several custom scenarios[2] available online, that put the player in different circumstances to the regular in game campaigns.

There exists at least one subtle difference between platforms. On the Amiga version, putting a Missionary into a capital causes no ill effect. On the Windows version, doing the same results in a high degree of native anger.


Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization is a Firaxis Games remake of Sid Meier's Colonization, using an upgraded Civilization IV engine. The game features original gameplay, 3D graphics, an updated AI, and multi-player support. It was released for Microsoft Windows on September 22, 2008.

In Sid Meier's Civilization III: Conquests, one of the "conquests" was similar.

Minimum & Recommended Specifications[]

Amiga Amiga Minimum Specifications
Minimum Specifications
Graphics AGA-compatible
Input Keyboard & Mouse
Media Provided 3.5" Floppy Disk x 1
Mac OS Classic Mac OS Minimum Specifications
Minimum Specifications
Input Keyboard & Mouse
Media Provided CD-ROM x 1
MS-DOS MS-DOS Minimum Specifications
Minimum Specifications
Operating System MS-DOS 4.0
CPU Intel-logo.svg 80286
RAM 640 KB
Input Keyboard & Mouse
Media Provided 3.5" Floppy Disk x 2, 1 x CD-ROM
Microsoft Windows Microsoft Windows Minimum Specifications
Minimum Specifications
Operating System Windows 3.1
Input Keyboard & Mouse
Media Provided CD-ROM x 1


External Links[]