There year is 1849. The ‘Gold Coinage Act’ was passed by US Congress and there is a big buzz in California – Gold! Gold! Gold! The rush is on and many small town folk who had previously lived an ordinary, provincial life find themselves with a sourdough attitude in the middle of a potentially prosperous time in North America. Meanwhile, in Europe, everybody is shooting everybody left, right, and center. So it is not to wonder why many folk decided to pack up and settle in the comparatively not-so-wild west!

The goal of the game is to grow a tiny village of shacks into a modern day (by 1849 standards) burg with a heap of people and a thriving economy. Sounds easy, don’t it? Well, as it turns out, it actually is for the most part. The concept is very easy to grasp especially if one has played this genre previously.

Starting out and getting a feel of things.

Starting out and getting a feel of things.

The gameplay, graphics and management of goods is reminiscent to ‘Cesar III’ which was a semi-popular simulation city builder released in 1998. Upon placing some residential lots, it is not long before Chuck, Buck, Earl, Lester, Cletus, Cletus Jr., Forest, Woody, and the rest of the extended family set up camp. Much like Cesar III, dwellings emerge as vacancies are filled and evolve from shacks to eventually mansions as physiological needs are met and luxury resources become consistently available. If there is no consistency, then houses will quickly devolve. Bigger dwellings contain more residents and pay higher taxes.

Citizens contribute to the treasury while workplaces, such as farms, mines, bakeries, and sawmills, are expenses. Ironically, in order to create a surplus or break even, a certain amount of unemployment is required. Unemployed citizens still pay taxes and the ideal ratio of people being jobless is 3/7. That may seem odd, but it should be understood that women were not core members of the workforce prior to World War One. What is difficult to understand is how a small town with a population of 500 requires four furniture shops, eight types of breweries, three shoe makers, five tailor shops, seven sawmills, a fire station on every block. Apparently, smashing chairs and tearing fabrics at the local saloon was an issue back then, so those types of resources had to be plentiful. Upgrading workplace buildings will increase production slightly, but not enough to keep up with a sudden surge in population.

Surprisingly, certain resources, such as gold and silver, do not contribute at all to the lifestyle of your citizens. Instead, they are traded as your top tier product because they sell for plenty of coin. Various tasks can be completed as part of mission objectives and they often require a collection of high quality goods. In return for sending a large bulk of something to a desperate town, continuous shipments of another resource is given. Certain tasks are hard to achieve, but are worthwhile.

HI HO SILVER! AWAY!  Cheesy,  I admit.

HI HO SILVER! AWAY! Cheesy, I admit.

Trading is the biggest concept of the game. Not all towns are enabled to grow olives and privileged with ore deposits. Therefore, it is crucial to buy and sell items to neighbouring towns. It is best to start with fruits, wheat, or lumber. Though they come cheap and don not earn a lot of cash, everybody needs to start somewhere. Eventually, the prestige goods will be extracted and sold consistently enough that money no longer becomes an issue. The challenge is ensuring enough goods in the distribution line available so production does not halt. For instance, to make wine we need grapes at the winery. It would be wise to ensure the vine farms are available to keep up with the supply of demand.  However, that’s to assume you can make or buy grapes. In one map on sandbox mode, it was evident that a brewery could be built yet barley is nowhere to be found nor can it be traded. This rendered the brewery completely useless. On the same map, a cannery can be constructed, but salt cannot be obtained to produce canned meats.

Sandbox mode can be incredibly frustrating in just finding an ideal map to begin construction on. Nothing seems to be quite right, yet nothing is horribly wrong either. One can never find a location that has access to every resource. If that were the case, the whole concept of trading and resource management in accordance to trading would be negated. A map editor would have been nice, but that could be a little overly demanding. In general, this mode is quite limitless and it what advanced players will enjoy the most.

Every town with a bunch of mansions needs five furniture stores. And to think the people in retail today complain about competition.

Every town with a bunch of mansions needs five furniture stores. And to think the people in retail today complain about competition.

The soundtrack is a mere satisfactory. That is not say the music is not good, but the variety is definitely lacking. The same hillbilly, ol’ western style of music plays. Naturally many banjos and lapsteel guitars sounds are heard which is in no doubt accurate, but it is just so horribly repetitive that even ‘oh Susanna’ would start crying.  What is missing is some ol’ fashioned saloon style honkey tonk ‘piani’ which would especially be more fitting as your town grows. I found myself turning off the music and listening to some country hits (which is a big step for me, musically). On top of the mediocre music is the abysmal, eardrum piercing sound effects that quickly become more annoying than “Achy Breaky Heart” on repeat. Luckily, like the music, they can be turned off.

In all, the game is well done. It seems to lose its cache quite quickly but fun to play. I can see an expansion or sequel of some kind on the horizon. The creators add more resources, products, and upgrades and suddenly the game is much more endearing.

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1849 Review: Oh Susanna, Don't You Cry for this Game
Well done, but not enticing enough. Those who are a fan of this genre will get some good value.
The Good
  • Easy to pick up gameplay
  • Straight forward and enjoyable
The Bad
  • Music and sound effects
  • Some limitations on select maps
  • Longevity
7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)