1869 / Max Design / PC

 Ah, the rough-and-tumble life of a sailor ... crossing cannon and blade with scurvy pirates ... wenching and fighting from port to port ... the feel of the salt spray in your face and the freedom of the open sea ... none of these things will you experience here in 1869, as this is more of an accountant/business owner sim than anything else.
 The basic concept of the game is pretty simple. Run a shipping empire, buy stuff cheap in one port, sell it for much more in another, usually quite distant from the point of origin. There are lot of little variables to consider that complicate the works, though. Stuff has to be stored, and it gradually rots or gets eaten up by critters. You've got to keep your ships ship-shape and be careful when purchasing new ones that you aren't getting a Stan's Used Ship with a glossy coat of paint.

You've also got to roust up reliable crew, and make sure you have enough funds on hand to pay their salaries, as well as the wages of the folks running your various port offices. And then there are those damnable random events, like wars between countries and blockades of formerly lucrative ports, robberies, and pirate attacks. (With regards to the lattermost, you don't get to do any fighting, you just kind of limply give up the goods.)

 Game menus are mostly intuitive, except it took me a while to figure out how to set sail to another port (without the manual), and how to only load part of your money onto the ship to take with you (necessary to pay crew and buy new goods along the way, but you have to leave some cash behind to also pay your warehouse and office crew their monthly salaries.) Hiring a crew is also a little crazy with tons of dialogue options with really minor semantic nuances regarding quality of sailors requested, though some are hilarious (you can say "I need idiots!" to get the cheapest, most incompetent sailors possible.)
 The actual gameplay is really extremely dry. Fortunately, it's actually quite nice to look at, a necessity given the general dryness of the material, the complete lack of action and the slow overall pace. Don't expect much animation but the backgrounds are colorful and detailed, and events take place in little well-detailed cut scenes that are often pretty cool. The game kind of reminded me of the first Dune game in that regard.  Different ports around the world mostly have identical facilities, but you get different-looking people and background decorations appropriate to their nation, with a change in background music as well. For that matter, the soundtrack is also pretty good, although it occasionally gets a bit Euro-techno-y, which is inappropriate for the setting.
 Don't expect the undiscovered clone of Pirates! or Uncharted Waters with this one. This is a number-crunching economic sim that looks and sounds very nice, and has a mostly well-designed menu system to recommend it. There's no real goal or story other than playing for x amount of years (pre-selected before you start each game) and hoarding as much cash as possible in Scrooge style. So it's almost like a really pretty board game in that regard. Or like Pirates! with just about all of the fun stuff removed.

 Videos :
Gameplay Video
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