Economic Simulation Games

A few times a year I find my self craving for an economic simulation game. The SimCity type games generally don't scratch the itch, I am most interested in the supply chains and logistics that are associated with production and trade. Maybe it reflects on my job as a process engineer. Caesar 3 and Dwarf fortress scratched the itch in a great way and I find myself reinstalling them often. But Caesar 3's uncooperative Market Ladies and Dwarf fortress's lack of larger goals than just building a big fortress leave me feeling short after a while. What I would like to see is a game with a lot of supply chain type work mixed with some combat and overall goal progression to keep things interesting.

Are there any games you would suggest?

First off upgrade to Caesar IV, that should solve many of your problems.

I hate to suggest it because I hate the game, but if you want true to life economics few games even come close to Eve Online. Those guys take it seriously. Like I said probably not what you want but you could practically get an econ degree playing in the good corporations in that game.

Just go out and buy Caesar IV; you'll feel better.

1701 A.D., obviously, and maybe one of the Settler games (except Settlers V) or its open source clone Widelands. Also, Port Royale 2, which is a mix of Pirates! and traditional management sims.

The economic model in Europa Universalis (II and III) is very decent, and I also spent quality time with The Corporate Machine from Stardock. Also, Imperialism I and II are great from the economic point of view.

Try The Settlers series.
Settlers 2 (1996) is often considered the best, if you can handle a bit dated graphics.

The latest one might also do the trick if you want all the amenities of modern gaming, but the gameplay may not be as good.

Railroad Tycoon II.

You should look into Trevor Chan's games, Capitalism 2, and the Seven Kingdoms series. The first is a serious business sim, and the second is an RTS with a heavy-duty production sim built in.

I'm going to second Capitalism 2. I sank a great many hours in my youth into the first game, and the sequel is even better. Though it does have a pretty strict microeconomic focus, so not much in the way of physical combat for you.

Probably a bit old and simple to scratch the itch, but no thread about economic games can go without bringing up the genre's classic, M.U.L.E.

You know, some people play Eve Online solely as an economic just have to hire others to haul your crap about.

Hmm. And hmmm again.

But I'm into LOTRO now.

I'll second 1701 A.D. and Capitalism II. 1701 gives you a good mix of economy and a little bit o' war and Capitalism II has a full on global supply chain model.

There's a game that was designed by one of the US's most famous economists N. Gregory Mankiw. It's called 2005: A Game of Macroeconomics and is available for free at a variety of sites, such as this one. It's supposed to be pretty good, and, being designed by an economist, should be pretty accurate. I haven't tried it myself (have it downloaded, just haven't gotten to it yet).

Keep in mind, though, that it's designed as supplementary material to Mankiw's Macroeconomics textbook.

Capitalism II, Settlers III, Seven Kingdoms, and Railroad Tycoon II and III are all on GameTap.

Caesar III too, for that matter (no IV though)

Thanks for all the suggestions. I had forgot I had played and loved some of the games mentioned. Railroad Tycoon was a favorite of mine for many months, and I played the Seven Kingdoms demo endlessly when I was a younger (and poorer) lad. The spying portion of Seven Kingdoms always frustrated me when I played; nothing ended a gaming session faster for me than a general and a bunch of soldiers changing sides right when I declared war. That was a frustration quickly remembered when I played the full version on GameTap.

Capitalism II and 1701 A.D. look very interesting, and since I have his text, Mankiw's game is a must. I just found some info on a game, Children of the Nile, by the same company that did Caesar IV. Has anyone played it?

Banquo wrote:

Capitalism II and 1701 A.D. look very interesting, and since I have his text, Mankiw's game is a must. I just found some info on a game, Children of the Nile, by the same company that did Caesar IV. Has anyone played it?

Children of the Nile is a sequel (of sorts) to Pharaoh, done by the designers of Pharaoh and Caesar. Unfortunately, for me it didn't have the same appeal and was sometimes very frustrating. And maybe I'm just clumsy when it comes to fully 3D strategies. However, I still love and play Pharaoh, so if you would like economic simulator of ancient Egypt, go for that. You can buy it for peanuts including Cleopatra expansion, which adds great maps, campaign and new, huge monuments. I always loved it when you built a pyramid covering whole screen

The first Imperialism has an excellent economic model. For some reason, I didn't like the sequel quite as well, but I can't remember exactly why anymore.

It's set at the dawn of the Industrial Age, and you're trying to expand your Old World empire into the New, while simultaneously building your economy, almost entirely from scratch. Eveything is interrelated, and there's a very good trading system included as well. You need a merchant fleet for trading, a war fleet to protect them, food for your citizens, and wood, coal, iron, wool, and cotton as raw materials. You're endlessly bottlenecked on something. For instance, if you're short labor, you can recruit new citizens, but entry level citizens aren't terribly productive. You can invest paper into training them, but if you spend your wood on that, you can't make furniture, which is used, with clothing, to attract new citizens. And you can't make factories, which are used to produce your goods, or rail lines, which are used for transporting raw materials from the outskirts of your empire inward. If you make lots of furniture and clothing to get lot of low skill citizens, they eat a lot of food for any given amount of production, which strains your rail network, making it impossible to move other resources. If you train the heck out of your workers, then you won't have the low-skill people available to turn into soldiers. And if you don't spend the steel and population to make soldiers, the other countries will see that you're weak and attack you.

Like real economics, everything pushes or pulls on everything, and you're trying to navigate your particular set of resources to maximise growth rate without prompting attacks from other Powers that think you're too weak to defend yourself. But if you overdo it on soldiers, you'll cripple your growth rate, because they're expensive to maintain, and money is always in short supply.

It's really quite a marvelous game. I think you'd find it exactly what you're looking for.

Settlers II has been remade with 3d graphics. Same game but new graphics. I wish they did this with a whole bunch of old games! It was funny with the early games how even though the buildings were isometric they would be "built" by the Settlers one row of pixels at a time.

I wouldn't call these games economic sims as they are far more wysiwyg which makes them awesome games where you can pretend they aren't nerdy. The fun factor is something I am only now discovering in games that are pitched as economic sims.

Railroad Tycoon III is pretty fun: I've played it for about 30 hours this week. I keep getting bitten by trying to buy my own shares on margin. The stock split screen is a real buzz. I would love to play this multiplayer. Will post a separate thread.

There's also a new Seven Kingdoms game on the shelves.

There's also The Corporate Machine from Stardock.

- Alan

I'll also toss in my votes for both Capitalism II and Seven Kingdoms II. Both excellent games with deep economic models.

I don't think I saw Patrician on here - you can get PatricianIII from Stardock for $15 or $20 or so.

In Ars Regendi the whole economy of a state is simulated, according to economic formulas. So there aren't any specific goods to trade with.

I was just thinking how awesome it would be if someone did an econ based RTS, something like 18xx but in real-time and playable in an hour. You could have real-time auctions for stock, commodities, land, etc. Or even an RTS in the Eurogame mold, sans combat, but instead about building your economic engine.

Isn't that kind of like Seven Kingdoms? RTS with heavy economies, as I recall.

Just tagging for interesting topic.

Really loved Pharaoh back in the days. Bought Children of the Nile recently and its... different. In a bad way imo.

You should check out Dawn of Discovery. It is a great city-builder with a little bit of combat mixed in. The economy is extremely complex, but also seems to fold out naturally. For example, if you want to make bread you first need to a farm to harvest the grain, then a mill to turn it into flour, then a baker to bake the bread. The supply chain is automated once you set it up, but it is largely based on location and so you end up with cities that evolve in a way that just feels right. You'll have your population centers with lots of houses crammed together, and then your rural areas with farms and mills and the like, and you'll have mining colonies sort of off to the side where stone and iron and gems are excavated.

It becomes even more complex as the game progresses because your cities are on islands and you can own multiple islands. The islands usually have more of one resource than another so you need to set up trade routes with your ships to import and export goods. This again is handled very well thanks to a trade route management window which automates the routes once you set them up. For example, there is a stage in the game where in order to advance your city you'll need to import spices to make the upper classes happy, and to do that you need to find a source of spices - either your own island or purchased from someone else's - and set up a trade route which regularly brings the spices in.

So if you like supply chains, this is game is a beauty. Be sure to buy the "gold" version with the Venice expansion. I got it off Impulse for 49.99 a few weeks ago. The Venice expansion has some new content and adds multi-player.

Note that the Steam version of Dawn of Discovery still uses TAGES protection, which installs a CD/DVD-ROM driver, if you care about such things. This is despite the fact that TAGES has been patched out of the retail version of the game. I don't know what the status of the Impulse version is.

I played Dawn of Discovery for a while, until I found out about the driver thing. It's a lot of fun, but I'm not fond of games installing always-on system software.

Impulse version has TAGES.

Faceless Clock wrote:

So if you like supply chains, this is game is a beauty. Be sure to buy the "gold" version with the Venice expansion. I got it off Impulse for 49.99 a few weeks ago. The Venice expansion has some new content and adds multi-player.

WHOA! I didn't realize Venice added multiplayer! My brother and I just bought Settlers 7 to get a multiplayer version of DoD. Does DoD:V have a save option for multiplayer? S7 doesn't


LiquidMantis wrote:

My brother and I just bought Settlers 7 to get a multiplayer version of DoD.

You crossed the Ubisoft lines? Ugh. To each their own...