This April, gamers will be treated to a perplexing, puzzling city-builder from Redkar Limited. Citizens challenges players to start with an empty, forested island and construct a safe, bustling city within a given number of turns. Sometimes it’s enough simply to reach a point of self-sufficiency; other times, you’ll need to trade with other islands and fend off attackers to ensure your people’s prosperity. With its colorful graphics and relaxing medieval music, Citizens is a chill game that’s entirely capable of stumping you.
Each action you take in Citizens causes one day to pass, whether that’s erecting or demolishing a building or simply waiting for more resources to come in. Every map has a deadline, and to win you’ll need to have completed all your objectives by that time. Often this means simply having a stockpile of various resources, but occasionally you’ll need to clear the island of military threats as well.
Delicate Supply Chains
Resource management is king in this game, and as each map reaches its endgame you’ll find that there’s a lot to juggle. Early turns are usually simple enough – get a woodcutter and a stonemason online for building materials, exploit a source of food and house your workers. Once you start dipping your toe into agriculture and (heaven help you) industry, things start to get dicey.
Let’s say you’ve exhausted your island’s supply of game and you need to start raising livestock to keep your people fed. Building a pig farm should be simple enough… but hold on! To construct and maintain that pig farm, you’re going to need wheat and water to feed the animals. That means building and maintaining a wheat farm and a well – possibly several if you’re going to be churning out a lot of bacon.
The wheat farm and the requisite fields need space to build and money to upkeep them, not to mention workers. Each paddock at the pig farm is also going to drain your treasury, and the people are starting to get nervous because your food supplies are running low (you should have started this project before you completely ran out of deer to hunt). Unhappy people don’t pay taxes, and no taxes means buildings can’t operate.
You think you’re fine – you’ve got enough money in the bank that you can afford to be in the red for a few turns while you build your paddocks. Ah, but now it seems you don’t have the resources to build them! How can that be? As it turns out, while you were fretting about food and gold, your woodcutters deforested their work zone and haven’t been producing for the last few days! As you can see, a single oversight is all it takes to send your village spiraling into destitution. That’s fine because the game plays quickly and you can try again right away.
Overexploitation can result in serious problems for the incautious player. Natural resources like wood, stone, and game exist in plentiful but ultimately limited quantities on the map – an infinite resource node is extremely rare. Extraction buildings will take resources from every node within their range each turn, whether you have room for them in your stockpiles or not. If you aren’t paying attention, this can lead to huge amounts of waste as you burn through your island’s limited supplies without actually using them. Thankfully, buildings can be “turned off” at will and reactivated when you need them to start producing again.
At the start of each map, the island is almost entirely covered with resource nodes. By necessity, you’ll have to build over them, destroying them in the process. It’s not a huge sacrifice to clear a forest if it means exploiting four or five other forests nearby, but building over a potential hunting ground or one of the last wooded areas late in the game can be a painful – if necessary – decision.
As easy as it is for things to get out of control, a well-maintained town is supremely satisfying. Once your necessities are taken care of, you can start producing more complex goods. Wheat can be milled into flour which in turn can be baked into bread. Meat can be butchered into sausage and combined with vegetables to create hearty meals. If you’re lucky enough to have a trade port, you can export your island’s produce for gold, or for items you can’t produce locally.
Occasionally, your island will have to defend itself. Whether there’s an enemy camp blocking your expansion or a pending invasion, the largest cities will need soldiers to keep the peace. Arms and armor are expensive, as is the training of individual troops, so military scenarios will require that you be on your A-game economically to pull out a win.
When the time comes to go into battle, the game shifts to a combat grid. Soldiers can be grouped together into units to maximize their effectiveness, so you’ll need to bring plenty of troops. Strategic use of terrain is essential – woods provide extra defense against ranged attacks, while mountains reduce the damage taken in melee. Depending on the situation, it might take several attacks on an enemy camp – and several rounds of conscription – to defeat every foe.
More To Explore
The free demo of Citizens does a great job of presenting the core mechanics and giving players a look at early-game challenges. The devs have a ton of exciting content in store when Citizens launches this April, as well. Random maps, natural disasters, and luxuries are all in the works in addition to alternate game modes. If you don’t need the extra stress of trying to grind out objectives, there is a free-play mode that lets you build a city however you like for as long as you want. Likewise, players looking for even more challenges will have access to an Economy Mode that adds further complexity.
The game’s campaign, of which the demo appears to be the early levels, will allow players to make choices regarding which civilizations they trade with and which ones they fight. It’s hinted that these choices will have far-reaching implications as you settle island after island. Between all the game modes available, Citizens is sure to have gameplay for just about everyone.
If you liked the gameplay of Slipways and want to see more games like it, Citizens is a great choice. The turn structure and time limits give the game a very similar feel. Each map is an empty canvas of possibilities on turn one, and everything that happens from that point on is a direct result of your decisions. Advanced gameplay will no doubt consist of strategically throttling production to make resources last, as well as knowing when a deficit is merited.
The demo of Citizens is great fun on its own, and the developer has stated they intend to keep the demo updated along with the main game as more features are added. It’s clear that they’re proud of their product, and rightly so; Citizens is highly enjoyable to play, great to look at, and an overall tricky but relaxing experience. We’re looking forward to fun challenges aplenty when the game launches this spring.