Previously I wrote about Patron, a survival city builder where the only resource I reliably generated in my first few games was piles of dead, frozen peasants. But I figured out how to survive the harsh winters with good planning and upgrades to my starter buildings, which means I can now focus on producing something more useful.
That something is cookies. Lots of cookies. Cherry-flavored cookies, to be specific. Not that my peasants will know what they taste like, because not only am I planning to bake thousands of cherry cookies, I won't be letting anyone in my village eat them.
This will all make sense shortly. Since winter is no longer resulting in the mass extermination of my citizens, I'm facing my next challenge: proper expansion. Populations in Patron grow very slowly, even with a pro-immigration policy in place, so even if I research and build new production buildings it's hard finding workers to assign to them. I simply don't have enough people in my village to staff all those new jobs unless I pull them off other jobs, and pulling people off wood-cutting and coal-mining duty means winding up with a bunch of dead, frozen peasants when winter arrives. Been there, done that.
Researching and building stuff also costs gold coins, and I'm pretty cash-poor at the moment. After building a dock and upgrading it, trade ships visit a few times a year so I can sell my excess goods to the world outside my village. But I'm not happy with the profits. Most goods I'm producing—things like iron, lumber, apples, venison, and wheat—sell for 1 gold per unit. A couple others, like eggs, leather, and oats, sell for 2 gold per unit. And there's a 10% tax on everything I sell.
But while I'm scrolling through the list of possible goods to buy or sell, I notice the most expensive goods on the list are cookies. One unit of cookies sells for a whopping 7 gold.
I'm surprised cookies are so damn valuable, but first I'm surprised cookies exist in Patron at all. I had no idea. I have a bakery, but it's just baking bread. That's about to change.
Wake and bake
I find the drop-down menu in my bakery that lets me change production from bread to cookies, but I realize it's gonna be way, way more complicated than that. Cookies require flour, made from wheat in a windmill, which I already have working so I can make bread. They also require eggs, already being produced by my small chicken farm. The secret ingredient, however, is cherries. I have no cherries because I have no cherry trees. I don't even have cherry seeds, because I haven't researched them yet.
But that 7 gold per batch of cookies is so tantalizing. If I could roll out lots of cookies I'd be trading at a huge profit. And the trader ship can carry 300 units. Very suddenly I've invented my own quest, not just to bake and sell cookies but to fill an entire ship from stem to stern with 300 units of cookies. The trade ship will creak under the weight of my mighty baking! I will build a cookie empire. This I swear on the bodies of my dead, frozen peasants.
It might not be that easy, especially since I need to keep baking bread to feed my villagers in the meantime, which means I need to set up a whole secondary operation to funnel resources into cookie-making. More eggs, more wheat, more flour, all of which will take more labor to produce them. And naturally, wheat and cherries don't grow in the winter. I realize Operation Fill A Ship With Cookies is probably going to take years.
I get started by researching seeds and eventually plant two orchards of cherry trees. I also plant a patch of plum trees, having seen that brandy sells for 4 gold per unit. I have a distillery currently making beer, but when the plums grow I'll convert that to a brandy factory. It's a side-hustle solely to fund my cookie industry.
With new orchards I need new workers, so I pull some peasants off mining, woodcutting, transporting, and other important duties that seem less important now that I've got an image in my head of a ship filled with nothing but cookies. With my new farming brigade ready, I have to wait for them to prepare and plant the fields. Winter hits and I have to sit through that. Then I have to wait for the trees to grow. Eventually, I see blossoms on the branches. And finally, finally, my first cherry trees can be harvested.
Patron is good at letting you see how it all works. If you zoom all the way in (there's a photo mode that lets you get really close) you can watch your little farmer go out into the orchard and harvest the cherries, after which little crates filled with cherries will appear next to the farm. A carrier will come along and bring the crate to the nearest depot. And then another worker will take them from the depot and bring them to the bakery.
You can really watch all your resources and goods get carted around town, unless you made all your spare citizens into cherry farmers, in which case no one comes along to pick up the cherries. Damn.
I eventually get a few more citizens in my town, build them homes, and assign them to carry cherries (and other things, but mainly cherries). But even though I'm watching my little workers like a hawk, there's a problem. As winter descends again and my fields go white with snow, I see that my bakers have only produced 20 damn cookies. That's it for the year? 20?
I eventually suss out the problem: Very few cherries are actually making it from the depot to the bakery and into the cookies. And that's weird because I built a depot right next to the cherry fields and the bakery is right across the street from the depot. It's a distance of about 30 feet, but most of my cherries aren't making the journey.
The answer comes when I examine some of the houses in my village. Clicking a house will show you not just the number of residents, their happiness, and income, but the contents of the house. Bread. Fish. Apples. Coal. And yes, cherries. The cherries aren't getting into my cookies because they're going from the depot to the local market I built, and my peasants are buying them and taking them home to eat.
That won't do. In my depot menu, I notice I can 'lock' resources so they will only get used for production purposes. I lock the cherries and briefly consider locking eggs and flour, too, but then my citizens will only be eating fish and mushrooms, and that seems a little too cruel. For now, anyway.
I should mention that while I'm in this frenzy of building a cookie empire, I'm still having to manage the rest of my village. I build a school to educate my village children, hopefully with a heavily cookie-based curriculum so they'll learn the importance of cookies and why it is now illegal to eat cherries. But schools need candles, which requires a candle-maker, which needs wax and wool, which comes from a bee farm and a sheep farm, which is a whole other mess of research, building, maintaining, and staffing. Don't get me wrong—I want to create new jobs, I just want them to all be cookie-related jobs.
My other fear is Patron's off-screen king: he keeps messing with my economy. He's already added an extra 20% tax on venison exports, 5% on beer, and 6% on wheat. I don't want him taxing my cookie shipments, too, especially when I'm still trying to get my operation off the ground. Filling an entire ship to the brim with cookies won't be as sweet if the king is wetting his beak in my delicious cherry flavoring.
Winter fades, farmers get to work, and the next year I manage to produce 105 cookies. That's not bad, but still feels inadequate. And I also notice that while I'm clicking on the trade menu at the docks, the total amount of cookies in the depot drops from 105 to 94. Dammit. I banned everyone from eating cherries but forgot to make eating cookies illegal. Once again I snoop around the village houses and look through their contents.
Yup. Pretty much everyone in town has brought home some cookies to eat.
I lock the cookies.
Am I a monster? I've forced this entire village into cookie production and now I'm banning the people who spend their lives baking cookies from ever eating them. But sometimes that's what leaders have to do. Leaders have to make eating cookies illegal because they're obsessed with filling a boat with cookies.
Another winter passes. With cherries and cookies untouchable, I produce 265 cookies. So close to 300! Something isn't quite adding up, though, because I have 2,500 cherries in the warehouse, and neary 2,000 eggs to spare. Flour seems to be the weak link, probably because a lot is going to the town market for my citizens to buy. I start to wonder if people are baking their own damn cookies at home in secret.
I pour money into the windmill, upgrading it so it can hold more workers and produce more flour. I build a second bakery and staff it. I add road signs all around the cherry orchards, farms, and bakery because a tooltip tells me peasants move 5% faster if they're near a sign, and I want them sprinting through the damn streets when they're carrying my cherries and cookies. I add another wheat farm, buy more chickens, and plant yet another cherry orchard. I yank the school candlemaker out of his store and turn him into a farmer. Sorry, kids. Education is important, but not as important as cookies.
At last, the next year, after both bakeries spend the entire winter slaving over hot cherries, I've done it. I have 369 cookies in my warehouse! Enough to fill the trade ship with dozens left over, and it's only May. I bet by the end of the year I can bake over a thousand. The king, thankfully, never added a special cookie tax, so I fill the ship with 300 units of cookies, selling each for 7 gold, minus the standard 10% tax, and I've made 1,890 gold in a single transaction.
I've done it. I've become a cookie baron. And yet, while some leaders would sit back satisfied, I'm going to press on. With my cookie gold I've unlocked a harbor on the research tree, which is an upgrade to the docks. Having a harbor means I can now welcome trade ships that are twice as big. And that's my new goal. 300 was great, but now I will fill a single ship with 600 cookies. School is still closed. Bread is still off the menu. Get those aprons on, peasants. We've got a lot more baking to do.
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Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.