This is one of those strange games for me. I first played it at my then girlfriends house in circa 1998/99 thinking this was an “old game”. What I guess that means is that even in circa 1999 Anno 1602 felt dated. Back then I didn’t have a PC, and the mates that I did would play games like Command and Conquer, Red Alert, Age of Empires, or slower more tactical games such as Civilization of XCom. So playing Anno 1602 even then felt, sedate.
Ok, so sedate seems the most polite way to sum this up. Have you played a simulation game like Sim City? I guess that is the fairest comparison as Red Alert et al were Real Time Strategy, Anno 1602 is a slow trading game that almost plays like a modern Freemium game. You can’t pay for an upgrade, and things don’t take 24 hours to build, but it takes 10-15 minutes to harvest a tinny ass bit of wood. Get some wood and you can build a new house, a new house will mean more denizens which means more taxes, more taxes means more money whch means more wood choppers (Forresters). It is a simple mechanic, that is fairly concise, and works. Once you have your wood supply sorted you need to start looking at Brick, so you need quarries, but to get the tax revenue you need happy denizens to get more taxes. So you need wool, and cloth, and tobacco, and beer. But your island is shite at growing certain crops, you can only grow say 1 or 2 max of the crops on offer on a particular island so you need to trade or expand and cripple your economy. To trade you need to make friends with your neighbours. Hell, even the fucking pirates will sell you booze, but they are also likely to blow the shit out of the floating donkey you call a ship.
Survive that long, and you’ll need to build Iron Mines, and ore smelters, and even a tool workshop. And do you know what the most valuable resource in Anno 1602 is? A hammer. Without a hammer you ain’t doing shit. It is the broken resource of doom like the banana tree in Harvest Moon. See if you become a tool baron early you might as well hit the “WIN GAME BUTTON”. Not all islands have Iron Ore, and the ones that do have very limited ore, but all this means is once you figure out the game mechanics you just start off exploring islands and “observing” them for ore. Once you find ore, settle that island, press win.
Depending on the game type you start with it will affect the number of tools you start with, as most buildings require a number of tools to build them you will run out fairly quickly. However, so will the AI. So if you make a beeline for an Iron Ore deposit you then control the trade as you mass produce buildings, churches, pubs, tobacco farms, wineries, whatever your heart desires. All the while, the limited AI comes cap in hand to you offering stupid amounts of money for your over produced tools. Sure you’ll run out of ore sharpish, but you’ll be so drunk with power only a gomer won’t have inhabited 17 of the other islands and set up your own interconnected islands trading spices, cotton, cocoa etcetera and raping the land of all its Ore.
I don’t claim to be a whizz at strategy/trading games, but it took me 5 games to figure out the game mechanics getting slightly further each time before I realised “fuck gold, get tools”. As long as you spend your initial resources on basic food and then homes you’ll have enough taxes to buy what you lack. Jack the taxes up to 50%, and whenever you’re making the money buy, say cloth. The cloth will make them happy and the “settlers” will become citizens, who are richer, and therefore more taxes. More taxes means more homes, or you can bother to produce your own cloth. Producing your own cloth will mean you don’t need to buy it, meaning you have more money to buy beer or other resources.
Again, it is fairly simple meet the citizens needs and they’ll gladly pay you more money. But the ony thing that stands in your way is tools. Tools are a bastard to get amd you need a shit tonne of materials to start producing them but if you scout an island and build towards a deposit you win.
Mid to End Game
The early game is setting up your island, and you playing for the first time will fail the same way I did. But once you figure to go gung-ho for tools you will move onto Mid Game. I guess mid game is the section immediately after you would normally fail. This usually comes because you didn’t spam houses, or produce tools. But now you have tools and enough houses to not be losing money you move onto what is the midgame/end game. You just sit there, waiting. Waiting for your population to hit a certain number and unlock the next building you need to spam to get your denizens to be happy enough to then grow to let you unlock the next building. Rinse and repeat
This isn’t comprehensive, but it is effectively Church, Tavern, Fire Bridgade, Hospital, and so on. This isn’t resources like cloth, and tobacco it is just a building with a defined aura that covers a certain distance. If the building is covered by an aura their happiness will improve.
Again, I failed a few times getting my head around the economy, but there is no difficulty. No attacks from the AI, maybe the occasional Pirate incursion. I spent 15 or so hours on a few different files and had one pirate attack. I didn’t even need a military, which is unlocked late game.
I guess the best way to describe Anno 1602 is sedate. This is neither a compliment or complaint. It will be your bag or not. It is effectively Sim City but more interesting and less of the “looped build queue”. But it lacks the depth even Sim City 2000 had, nevermind Sim City 3000 (released in 1999). If you came here for a swashbuckling adventure on the highseas then you’ll be more disappointed then the people that bought Sea of Thieves. But what Anno 1602 is, is a solid economy simulator that is dry andslow, but if you enjoy some fairly solid trade mechanics it won’t disappoint. Unless you cheese tools. Hint: Cheese Tools.
Pros: A solid trade mechanic, neutral to the politics of the time
Cons: Very slow going
Back in the Day:
Anno 1602 did well at release scoring low 80s. It also went on to sell 2.5 million copies which at the time was a record for a German developed game.