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FreeCol for Windows
Bringing historical strategy gaming to the masses, the original Colonization from Microprose software was one of Sid Meier's finest games away from Civilization. Until the recent release of Civilization IV: Colonization, there were few chances of replaying this classic colony building, trading and independence game. FreeCol is an open source alternative to the original Colonization that also offers a difference to the official sequel.
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What is Colonization? Background to FreeCol
Looking like a cross between the original Colonization (1991) and Civilization II (1996), FreeCol (released in 2003) puts the player in charge of English, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish and Russian pioneers starting from 1492 in the New World. The presence of other European nations creates an air of tension that is further increased by the local native Indians.
FreeCol is more than just a standard isometric remake of Colonization, however. It includes extra features such as a map editor – and is open source and as such is free to download, install and play.
The aim of FreeCol is ultimately to successfully declare independence from the Crown. To do so requires a degree of resource management, diplomacy and trading ability that echoes Civilization – however the focus here is on individual colonists, their roles and the available resources.
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For instance, a typical colony will have fields for planting wheat crops as well as sugar, cotton, and tobacco – these can all be farmed, and while the wheat crops are used for food, the sugar can be refined into rum, the cotton into cloth and the tobacco into cigars. These raw materials or finished products can be traded with native Indians and the Crown – trading with other European nations is also possible.
Colonists come in different shapes and sizes, from politicians to lumberjacks, indentured servants to expert fur trappers. Skills can be taught to other colonists by building schools and colleges, while new colonists can be recruited on the European docks screen.
FreeCol is faithful to the Sid Meier original, with enhanced graphics and recently new sound effects have been added – the game continues to develop and also has a multiplayer option. The game interface is much improved over the original, while pre-game setup options allow the player to start out on a variety of different-sized maps either based on the Americas, Australia or Africa as well as maps generated by FreeCol based on the player’s specifications.
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Declare Your Independence!
Every game of FreeCol is different, and from turn to turn you might be sorting out resource management or negotiating with native American Indians for land or even concentrating on building your forces to overcome the Crown’s reaction to your declaration of independence.
Once the colonies are fully behind the player and “Sons of Liberty” membership is sufficiently high, independence should be declared. At this stage, the Crown sends Expeditionary Forces to restore allegiance to the homeland, and the game enters its final stages, requiring strategic and tactical planning as well as diplomatic leverage with the native tribes and other European settlers in order to succeed.
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Unlike most open source alternatives to established titles, FreeCol enhances the Colonization experience. There is as much to gain from playing it as there is from playing the original, and FreeCol stands up as a suitable alternative to the new as different to that game as it is to the new version