Examine the map. A good starting nation will have a fairly circular shape, so that you can build railroads to all the non-coastal areas in a fairly short time. It will also adjoin two or more Minor Nations, making later expansion by conquest as easy as possible. It should not adjoin another Great Power. Ideal is a continent with five or more minor nations and no other great power on it.
If the chosen nation has significant areas that are not accessible from the most productive coastal areas without crossing hills or mountains, it may be a bad risk. Even swamps are impassable for a while. Conversely, if a nation has very few hills and mountains and/or very few forests and/or very little cotton or wool it may be a bad risk too. Consider starting over, using the "Game Controls" button near top right.
If no Great Power on the map has the required qualities, click the globe for another map, as often as you like; or choose a map key with specific attributes.
Finally (well, almost) click a suitable Great Power and give it a name then "Start Game". Enjoy reading the newspaper; some of its items are useful.
Now you can see the detail of your terrain. (If using Windows XP or Vista, avoid the Zoom button, which tends to crash, unless all of your naval and civilian units have moved.)
- First turn is very important
- You should spend much longer on your first turn than on most of the next few turns.
Civilians ready for workEdit
You already have a few civilians: possibly a miner (who has nothing to do yet), probably a prospector or two (who should be placed on the hill or mountain tile(s) nearest to your capital) and an engineer (who could go to prepare for building a productive port or could start a railroad from the capital city to an area with lots of forest and/or sheep (for wool) and/or cotton. You may have a farmer; set him to improve grain or fruit tiles in the radius of a proposed port (not the central tile of your first one because civilians can't share a tile) or depot.
When all the civilians are assigned or invited to rest, the last unit blinking (in "Introductory" or "Easy" mode) will be a warship, sitting in the sea zone nearest to your capital. Tell it to rest too; it's a watchdog for a while.
Assessing your strengthsEdit
Assess your nation. You need, in addition to food, approximately equal numbers of :
- Forests for timber
- Productive hills or mountains (which you can't initially assess) for coal and iron
- Cotton plantations or wool farms for textile production - maybe not so many of them
See which you might be short of. If there is one, keep it uppermost in your mind when visiting the diplomacy screen (from the fourth button on the main menu).
Making international approachesEdit
Assess the minor nations. You will try to trade with them. Click the bottom icon in the column near the middle of the bottom panel to see matters concerning trade. Find which of the minor nations lists your preferred product(s) near the top of its list of main exports. Choose two or more of those not adjacent to your borders, and use the diplomacy screen's top right tab to offer the best-looking minor nations a trade consulate, costing $500 each. That's to encourage them to sell to you rather than to your rivals. (At Introductory level, you probably have a few already. You can use the bottom right tab to offer them a 5% subsidy as an extra incentive.)
Click the second button on the main menu bar: "Give Industry Orders": your capital's buildings and citizens appear. A good idea is to click on the warehouse near top right and drag its window off to the side for future reference; it will stay open for next viewing but may need re-dragging.
First, order another engineer or two from the university. You need more resources fast, for profitable conversion to materials and for food, and you'll get those soonest if you have engineers building ports on productive sites before starting railroad access to inland areas. (At higher levels of difficulty, creation of additional engineers may be better delayed until you have a good income.)
Starting your industryEdit
At "Introductory" level your six processing buildings are already in place. Set the three south-eastern ones to work (using up three trained workers). You can see your citizens in the left-hand panel: an arm means an idle "labor unit", i.e an untrained worker or half a trained worker or a quarter of an expert worker; the citizens are numbered below the arm space, with the white overalls untrained, pale blue trained, and dark blue experts. If you have untrained workers on this turn or any other, you can go to the trade school on the left of the picture and train them if possible; each costs a mere $100 and one piece of paper. If you can't train them all, try to leave an even number of untrained workers, because one alone can do nothing except join the army.
If there is any labor unit left, try one or more of the following. As you have good stores of coal and iron at Introductory level, increase production in the steel mill. If your capital produces timber, increase production in the lumber mill if you can and consider expanding the lumber mill. If your capital produces cotton or wool, increase production in the textile mill if you can. Consider expanding the metalworks, because its products tend to fetch the highest prices.
Go to your shipyard and order another Indiaman or two; this will let you buy more of the occasional surpluses available on the market.
If you have, or expect soon to have, a food surplus in all three areas, as noted by mouseover of the food icons near top right (transporting more than you need), go to the capitol and order an immigrant or two. Allow for the engineer(s) and any other civilians you are training: when they go, next turn, the food requirement will drop, so you will have a surplus then if you are just right at present.
Be prepared to build more freight cars (in the railyard at top right) so that you can ship the new production in. However, you probably have enough transport capacity for the first four turns, i.e. until you build a port or depot.
Go to your shipyard and order another Indiaman or two; this will let you buy the occasional surpluses available on the market.
Offering to buy raw materialsEdit
Finally, click the third button on the main menu bar to see the Board of Trade schedule and set up some offers.
You can bid on no more than four items at a time. Timber, cotton, and wool should be on your first turn's order, maybe with horses added. Coal and iron are generally not available in the first couple of turns, but you will be bidding for them soon (maybe replacing cotton or wool, whichever is then dearer).
At higher levels of difficulty, you could want to sell some goods at this stage. But at Introductory level you have plenty of money and can wait until the almost inevitable price rises in those items. Offer just one of each if you like. Save most of your merchant ship space for resources you buy and can then process for profit or for use in other ways.
You don't need to increase your army or navy on your first turn. You may if you wish. The army takes people from your population, along with money and arms, and every unit costs $25 per turn maintenance for every gun that went into its construction.
After putting any remaining idle workers to work in mills (not food processing except as a last resort) and saving the game (in the second slot of the first column if you like to keep each year in order, because this is Spring), click the button to end the turn.
If you have been brave and started on "Normal" or an even higher level, there's another step after you start :
Choice of capital siteEdit
Search the map for a good site for your capital. It has to be on a coast or river. Click a likely spot and read the information. Click "Cancel" to leave that one and check for more unless you're sure it's the best. Ideal food requirement should be 3 or 4 grain, 2 fruit, and 2 meat (cattle or fish), but 2+1+1 is workable if you can see some good port sites elsewhere. A river mouth has a bonus in that it gets fish from each river tile as well as the sea. Grain farms and orchards around your capital will get a bonus of first-level development. Ideally the site should have a forest tile or two within its radius, which comprises the city's central tile and the six adjoining, but don't sacrifice food for that.
Your coastal areas can be served by ports, but any tile that can't be served by a port (i.e. is more than two steps from a sea tile) will need railroad access if it is to be of value. Check whether your preferred capital can link by railroad to most inland areas without crossing hills or mountains, because it will be several decades before you get the technology to cross hills and a lifetime before you can cross mountains. Even swamp is impassable for the first 20-odd turns.
If not happy, you can still start over, and you will probably see a "redo" button near top right.