1869 is a commercial simulation set in the nineteenth century and based on the economic system of imperialism. The game was developed by Max Design in 1992. Natural resources from colonies and underdeveloped countries are being shipped into the industrialized countries and processed there. The goods produced this way are sold back to the colonies, sometimes at a high profit. The game is based on historical facts. During the entire game, political or social events which are historically true affect the world’s political and economic situation.
The player’s task is (naturally) to earn as much money as possible. This is done by trading different goods. The economic system is quite complex, since the individual ports sell few goods and only pay high prices for goods which are much in demand. Furthermore, the variety of these goods is a very enticing aspect of the game. There are perishable goods, and each has a different longevity. Tea, for example, will last longer than fruit, and even the highest quality cotton goes mouldy after a while. You can make easy money with weapons, if you ship them to war zones. But whenever you sail there, you run the risk of encountering a sea blockade and getting raided. On top of that, part of your load - or even all of it - may be stolen in a port with an unstable political situation.
After you have registered your company and chosen your home port and the difficulty level, the game starts with a map of the world. This map is divided into four sections: Europe, Asia, North- and South America. On the map, all ports you can sail to are indicated, and in addition to this, there are some navigation marks available while sailing, but I will come to those later. Finally, there is a large ship on screen. If you select this ship, you can control your fleets, which you do not have at the beginning of the game, however. Thus, you first need to pay a visit to the shipping company.
Now you’re at the point at which you have to deal with the interface - it's very unusual and to me it’s one of the game's weak points. By right-clicking on individual ports you’ll open a small menu of the places you are able to visit. This is only possible if you have at least one ship at the port (except in your home port). The events are handled in dialogues then (which are reminiscent of adventures). Not only can you select dialogues, but you can also change some of them by right-clicking. With a left-click on the ports you are taken directly to the local dealer, where you can buy and sell goods. You should always remember that you only have the money which is available to the ship in the port. That's another point which makes it necessary to plan your travels carefully. However, when you’ve finally found out what to do at the various locations, the controls get easier. All those things require a certain familiarity with the gameplay.
When you’ve discovered some lucrative commercial routes, you can spend hours on the game and get addicted to it quite easily. The graphics are beautifully drawn if you consider the age of the game, and the sound is very pleasant, but not too varied. Altogether, I rate this game at four, particularly because of its pedantic menu guidance.
A few hints for beginners: The first ship should not be too expensive, a second-hand sailboat will do. Otherwise you’ll run out of money very fast. If it should happen that you don’t have enough money on board to pay your crew, it's possible to dismiss the whole crew and hire new sailors. These will require payment after the next travel. But that method only works if the ship’s cargo hold is empty. There are different tides and risks of storms according to the seasons. The shortest route is therefore not necessarily the best. If you bear those points in mind, there is nothing that stands in the way of your career as a successful trader. The rest you'll have to find out for yourself.
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