Recently, I stopped playing games long enough to read a book. I know! I'd been putting off Michael Crichton's posthumously published novel Pirate Latitudes. This swashbuckling pirate adventure, which I'd describe as an R-rated Pirates of the Caribbean (with less magic and more sex and blood) meets The A Team, set off an odd gaming craving. Not the swordplay of Prince of Persia or Assassin's Creed 2, not the naval warfare of Empire: Total War. No. This was a burning desire to play Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization, the game of city building and trade economics where you claim a new world in the name of a European colonial power, then suddenly but inevitably betray your motherland and fight a war of independence.
How did an action-oriented story about a privateer captain walking the fine line between legally sanctioned raids and despised pirate inspire me to play a turn-based economic simulation? Easy: for one, Pirate Latitudes is set in the same era as Colonization, which spans from the late 15th century to the 18th. Just reading Crichton mention the fur and silver trade of the time had me yearning for the bounty-laden caravels and merchantmen cargo ships of rival colonies in Colonization.
Buying a Privateer is an investment in being a dick. Hiring a pirate to attacks ships sailing under the flags of my allies, I can suck the life out of my rivals. By intercepting their shipments coming from Europe, I can score valuable commodities that my colonies can't produce themselves yet, like tools, horses, muskets or trade goods - great for keeping the natives sweet so I can focus on sabotaging the competition. Intercepting shipments headed from the rival colonies to Europe nets me treasures like furs, cotton and tobacco, which I then sell back to myself in Europe for an infusion of free money.
My head filling with piratical schemes, as soon as I finished reading Pirate Latitudes, I sat down and fired up Colonization to scratch my itch. Unable to blink until I finished my first game, I found that I'd managed to stay up until 3am. Oops. I should've known better than to play Civ after 6pm.
For my next game I'll be installing some mods. A quick search of the Civilization Finatics forum turned up a few interesting ones, including Age of Discovery II (no relation to Dawn of Discovery). Of particular interest to me are the balancing tweaks that make this version play more like the 1994 original, and the addition of a full-fledged Pirate faction.
If you missed the amazing Civ IV Complete for $10 sale on Steam a little while back, you've still got a few hours to snag it for cheaps in today's Steam sale .