In our ongoing series about binge-worthy games, we present various kinds of games, that we can play for days without end. In Passing Time Building Cities, we looked at city-building simulations. Today, we leave the stress of traffic jams behind and set sails. What is so special about passing time on islands in real-time strategy games?

Many real-time strategy games like Age of Empires give us a town center or a similiar building in the middle of nowhere without any explanation. In 1996, the German developers Blue Byte remedied this in The Settlers II: Veni, Vidi, Vici. We start as a group of shipwrecked Romans on an uncharted island. Now, it makes sense that we have few resources, do not know our surroundings, and have to start from scratch. The game combined real-time strategy with city-building games. While we expand the settlement, we need to build roads and manage the distribution of resources like food and iron.

It does not matter, whether we compete against other settlements or relax in a free game without opponents. It is satisfying to see our town grow and flourish, even without the cars and electric grids we know from Cities: Skylines. The uncreatively named sequels The Settlers III and The Settlers IV focused more on the military aspects of the game and departed from fixed road systems. However, the adorable animations still have a special place in my heart. I especially love how the titular settlers leave trails in the grass on frequently treaded paths.

The Austrian developers Max Design put emphasis on the settling part in 1998 and released Anno 1602: Creation of a New World (also known as 1602 A.D.). Instead of suffering shipwreck, we start with a ship full of food and building materials in a wild archipelago. We find a nice looking island and create a colony. While there is military conflict, the game focuses on trading and economy.

Every colony starts with poor peasants that do not need for much. They are content with fish and cider. However, if we want to collect higher taxes, we need to provide more amenities like meat, clothes, and churches to attract the richer burghers. If we want to attract the even richer patricians, we need to offer luxuries like bathhouses and spices. Over the years, several sequels took place in different times, from my personal favorite Anno 1404 to the futuristic Anno 2205. (Fun fact: the digit sum is always 9.) The basic principle is always the same and always addictive.

Another video game series focused its attention on a single island for a long time: Tropico. Since the original in 2001, various studios in the USA, Bulgaria, and Germany have developed multiple episodes. (I sense a German obsession with colonizing tropical islands.) In any Tropico game, we assume the role of El Presidente, the totally democratically elected dictator of a small banana republic. With lots of tounge-in-cheek humor we balance our diplomatic relations with the USA and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, satisfy the demands of our beloved citiziens as little as necessary, and gather as much money in our personal Swiss bank account as possible. Since Tropico 5 we can even experience the full history of our island nation since its birth in colonial times.

If you want to develop a city-building game with a twist, think about passing time settling islands. They offer a pleasant climate and enough isolation to try something new and different. In a wide wilderness, it feels like we control only the developed parts of land. But if we surround this stretch of land with the sea, it feels like we own the whole island.

What are your favorite experiences of passing time on islands? Share them in the comments below! I look forward to reading them. In the meantime, I will relax in my palace at the beach.

(Photo by Jailam Rashad on Unsplash)