City Builder / Colony Manager General Discussion Thread

Is there really no thread for this genre yet? If anyone knows of one that I couldn’t find, please point us there.
My search turned up mega-threads for RTS, Board gaming, VR games, Tower Defense, and of course the adorable Space Game thready thingy.

City Builder and Colony Manager games (CBCM) are quickly becoming my new favorite category, replacing RPGs which have been my jam since the mid 90’s.I was surprised to see that I’ve spent more time on CBCM games in the past few years then any other category, according to Steam history. I was even more surprised at just how many games fell into this group. From Craft The World, Rimworld, Aven Colony, Surviving Mars, Northgard, etc.

So, what have been some of the best games in this genre?
What’s coming that looks great?
What can advance this genre going forward?

I spent some time watching videos today on upcoming games in CBCM. This one seems to have some of the better looking ones.
A couple are out, a few are in EA and some haven’t quite hit the mainstream yet.

This is also a game niche I like, probably third on my niche list after Turn Based Strategy, and Party Based RPGs.

In terms of past greats, one series you didn’t mention is the City Building series from Impressions games. Of the games, Zeus with Poseidon expansion is the best starting point IMO, a fairly good iteration of the core concept and easy to get into. Both Pharoah and Emperor are also excellent but IMO better after you’ve played at least one prior game in the series. Zeus is fairly old school but there is a wide screen patch and it is still quite good.

The ANNO series is also well-liked although I personally cannot stomach the fact that it won’t let me build while paused (this is purely a personal preference.)

There’s also the Tropico series, of which I like Tropico 2 the best.

And for more recent indie games, there’s an argument that Rebuild 3 is a small classic.

I love city builders, so yay! ZEUS FOR LYFE!

City builders / management games are probably my favorite game genre, even though my Favorite Games of All Time™ don’t actually fall into that category. Regardless, I’ve probably logged more hours into this genre than any other.

Echoing Sharpe regarding the Impressions games. Zeus/Poseidon is top notch, Pharaoh/Cleopatra and Emperor are excellent too. For a more recent game in the Impressions style, check out Lethis, which is a steampunk themed city builder built definitely in the style of the old Impressions games. In fact, the developers said outright that they were attempting to recreate the magic of the Impressions games. It’s not perfect, but it scratches the Impressions itch nicely.

I also love the Anno series, though I preferred the older ones over the newer futuristic ones. Really looking forward to Anno 1800.

I’ve played all the Tropico games, and though the later ones are kinda same-y, I still find them enjoyable. Tropico 2 is great because of it’s change in theme (to a pirate-y one).

Regarding management games, Startopia always tops that list for me. I would so love to see a sequel or reboot of some kind… if a developer out there could do it justice.

I thought about trying to do a comprehensive list of the history of these games, but man there’s a bunch. From the Sim City series, all of the Settlers, Cultures, Ceasar series, all the ones you mentioned and more.
Maybe at some point during this thread’s life we can compile it.

Geez, my contribution is going to sound a lot like everyone else’s!

City builders are easily my favorite genre, starting with SimCity.

The peak of the genre, to me, is Zeus, followed by Anno 1404. But other standouts are Settlers 7, Tropico 3/4, and Children of the Nile. And, of course, all the other Impressions games.

I’m looking forward to trying Aven Colony when I have the time.

Colony managers are an interesting off-shoot of city-builders. Is it reasonable to assume that most of them are ultimately descendants of Dwarf Fortress? I’m definitely curious about RimWorld, and I loved Gnomoria–both of which I think fall under that banner.

I can tell you why I love these games, too, and why I play them over and over: I find I really like the feeling of watching a system work and periodically tuning and tweaking it. It’s very comfortable and generally non-stressful, although the occasional bursts that come from big building projects like introducing a new industry into the city or revamping the city layout are part of the pleasure. My favorite games have a nice tempo between very passive and very active play. But overall, the calm, familiar, nonthreatening gameplay is something I just really gravitate to.

I knew I loved you guys. Group hug!

Depraved looks, well, depraved.

Industry of Titan looks intriguing.

This is worth highlighting, because that’s probably what attracts me to them as well… and is also why I’ve never been a fan of combat missions that are sometimes thrown into these games. I don’t mind having to build an army or whatever if it’s an objective, but I would get really frustrated when I’d randomly get an invasion I wasn’t expecting and wasn’t prepared for, resulting in half my city getting destroyed, or in same games, it’s game over.

Some games do this better than others (read: make it less stressful), but when given a choice, I would always pick a mission that did not have a military element to it. And obviously, this is not generally an issue in sandbox mode, since you get to pick your options (usually).

Weirdly, I was less bothered by weather related catastrophes that often occur in the Tropico games, even though they too resulted in city damage, sometimes to devastating effect. Not sure why that is.

Environmental effects are definitely a way better way to create some speedbumps to the player’s progress rather than rampaging armies. Mainly because the former generally have limits in the damage they can do, whereas, like you say, if you aren’t prepared for an invasion it can just wipe you out.

Zeus has some of the best NPC barks. :D

“Has anybody seen my spear? How can I be a spear carrier without my spear?” - random walker that works at the theatre

12 posts and 1 gif, but no one has mentioned Sim City: Societies yet! At least @Nightgaunt brought up Children of the Nile.

“CBCM” isn’t really a thing is it? Did someone seriously invent the acronym CBCM? That might actually be worse than MOBA.


It was born from laziness. Mine, specifically. I didn’t feel like typing City Builder/Colony Manager over and over in the OP. If it sticks, great. I’m not offended that you categorized it with MOBA though!

I approve of this thread!

I missed the Impressions games for whatever reason. Seems that Zeus is the way to go? I’ll have to check that out.

I find myself disappointed in Northgard, which is too bad. Ah well. I really should check out Aven Colony at some point; I did work with those guys for a while after all, heh.

My biggest failing in Age of Empires was treating it like a city builder and just creating the coolest looking cities, in all the coolest looking places, with all the coolest looking units in cool formations and patrols… and then being completely unprepared for the inevitable invasion.

So I nominate Age of Empires 1 & 2.

I guess it never occurred to me that colony management was separate from the city builder genre, but I can see the point. Colony management implies a survival element, where the stakes are higher than just adding new buildings and waiting for the the population to grow. I tend to think of all that stuff as falling under the rubric of city builder, but I can see why you might make a distinction.

Also you guys, don’t forget the city builders Civilization V and Civilization VI. Like many city builders, it has that whole superfluous element of building up a military and interacting with other cities, but you can just ignore that part since it’s so underdeveloped.

I like Aven Colony a lot! It’s come a long way since its release, too. The best thing I can say about Surviving Mars is that it made me reinstall Aven Colony.


I keep forgetting that I own this and need to play it.

Has anyone played Dwarf Fortress lately? I don’t think I’ve played it since around the time there was that hand-off game here. I’d love to play it when it’s done… that must be within another five or ten years, right?