Your Favorite City Builder/Economic Game?

After the talk of Imperialism 2 on these forums and the Tom vs Bruce article in GFW, I’ve suddenly got an urge to play something from the city builder/economic game vein.

Anyone have recommendations in this genre? I’m not a big fan of the “Tycoon” kind of games since they’re a bit too detailed for me – I prefer more abstraction, if that makes any sense.

Caesar 1-3, Pharoah, Zeus and all those games.

1701 is fabulous.

Yeah. Pretty much those. I had to download a fix and mess with some files to get Pharaoh to work on XP, but Microsoft’s tech support made that fairly painless.

The thread where I slowly figured out how to get it to work (and left links!) is probably in the board dumpster somewhere.

For pure economics, Capitalism Plus is fun. Capitalism II is more evolved, but…
no breweries?! Plus it is!

I haven’t played it yet, but “Emperor” is a city-builder set in China. I’ve heard mixed to very positive things about it.

I don’t know if I really have a favorite, but I do find myself coming back to Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 more often than any other game of the type.

I also have to give special mention to Tropico and Tropico 2. They not only have good systems but they provided a unique setting.

‘Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom’:

Yep it’s a good one, one of my top three with Pharoah and Caesar2. It has much larger, detailed graphics than those other games, but i still think graphicaly speaking Pharoah just looks the most polished/consistent. Pharoah is probably my favourite in the series.

Transport Tycoon and Tropico

Children of the Nile. Probably the best combination of the things I look for in a city builder - laid back atmosphere, visible logistics (raw materials have to be transported to building sites, buildings are actually constructed on screen, specialised workers etc), decent UI, and an interesting theme, cleverly weaved right into the game design and economic model. The Settlers and Tropicos are also favourites. Anno 1701 is very cool, although I was disappointed it was yet another insta-build tile-placing game. Last year’s bumper crop of Rome-themed builders were all uniformly bland, I thought, and can easily be avoided without regret.

Walkers must die! Sorry but I hate that mechanic and much prefer the more recent city builders of Tropico, Children of the Nile, and Caesar IV over Zeus, Empire, and Caesar I-III.

Tropico had an interesting setting, but I had some real pathfinding issues with my workers. CoTN is very different, money=food and you can’t insta-build by spending money and proceed to stamp out facilities. You actually need resources and have your citizens labor to create anything. C4 is in some aspects a step back to money being the biggest resource and you can stamp out buildings, but people still fetch the resources they need instead of being distributed by walkers.

What makes Pharoah and Children of the Nile ‘better’ than the others in my opinion is the building of large structures (pyramids, etc). There is something satisfying about having your city working in harmony such that you are supplying a steady stream of materials to your pyramid workers at all times - and seeing the results over the course of the game.

That said, I’ve read several reviews that proclaim Emperor the best of the ‘old style’ Impressions engine games (ie., those with walker mechanics vs. CoTN and Caesar4 which changed the system).

I found Emperor very visually appealing with a great sense of being in an empire, but hampered by even tighter devotion to the right way/wrong way approach to scenarios.

Children of the Nile has been my favorite builder for a while. I love the leisurely pace, the chain economy and the prestige meter. You can recover from setbacks with enough time, so there isn’t a sense of wasted effort when you realize that you should have been making weapons instead of pottery - the classic Caesar III export dilemma.


I am counting Majesty because it rules and shit. It wins every game category and if you disagree you are a donkey butt.

If I must pick an actual city-builder, Caesar III minus any combat.

I’m partial to Emperor, which as far as I’m concerned is the pinnacle of the walker-based city-builders. Basically it combines the improvements of Zeus with the complexity of Pharaoh.

I also like the original Stronghold, which has a bit of a Castles vibe to it.

  • Alan

I enjoyed Stronghold and the expansion, too bad that the series went down hill from there. I liked Cotn but never got really good at it.

I never played Emperor, but Zeus was my favorite of the city-builders. The “epic” buildings weren’t so large that it took hours of watching your workers assemble the materials after you had your economy built out - which was my main complaint with some of the Pharoah missions - and it gave more options for solutions in the campaign (you could bribe invaders instead of fighting them, for example, and choosing certain gods to worship would help with specific challenges).

It did still have the walker mechanic, which has always felt somewhat forced and arbitrary, but it also introduced roadblocks, so you could get a finer degree of control over them.

CotN didn’t really scratch that itch for me. There wasn’t enough control over the city, the graphics were muddy rather than bright and cheerful, and there were a lot of “wait a couple of seasons to see how things develop” dynamics.

Just another opinion to throw in the mix.


Dwarf Fortress ;)

I think Caesar IV is the game for you sir.

Stronghold is the closest game I have ever played to this type of genre without bieng bored to sleep.

Sorry, but I need direct conflict in my games, or else it’s just boring.