I love simulation games of all kinds. Give me Dwarf Fortress, SimCity 3000, or The Sims and I can get lost in them for days. Sometimes, I don’t have days in which to get lost in a game. Simmiland scratches my simulation itch without taking too much time away from my life.
I’m a busy woman. I try to balance a demanding job, a social life, a relationship, and some much-needed me time every day. Playing games can be a huge source of joy for me, but I also have to do things like take out the garbage and eat.
Unfortunately, the games I most like to play are ones that take hours and hours to complete. You only really get cracking in Crusader Kings II after about half a dozen hours. Civilization has that whole “one more turn” hook. The Sims 4 can get me drawn into a deeply meticulous space where I spend a half hour perfecting a roof. Luckily, last night, I stumbled upon Simmiland, an indie game developed by SokPop, that gives me everything I want in a simulation game in a fraction of the time.
In Simmiland, you play the god of a new civilization. You have the ability to change the environment, with your powers represented by a deck of cards. In order to use each card, you have to spend faith. Sometimes you’ll need to use a card to create more trees or plants, and sometimes one of your villagers will wish for wind. Granting that wish will gain you faith. Once you’re out of cards, the game is over.
It’s a small scale game, but the mechanics are surprisingly deep. Using cards that create weather can change the biomes on the map. If you use a “Rain” card, it makes a swamp, and “Wind” cards lower the temperature, sometimes creating a tundra. Different cards have different effects in different biomes. Dropping a “Critter” card in a wooded area will sometimes get you a sheep, or maybe a bear, but using it in the plains will get you chickens.
While you’re busy tooling around with the terrain, you have to guide your civilization towards self-sufficiency. Using the “Inspect” card on certain objects helps your people discover new technology. Inspecting a tree helps them invent a pickaxe. Inspecting a wild animal teaches them how to domesticate it. Inspecting poop will lead them to invent farming. As you run low on cards in your deck, you can’t continue to just plunk down more wheat or berry bushes so that your civilization can eat. They need to learn how to farm and cook in order to survive.
Once you run out of cards, the game isn’t really over. In the menu screen, there’s a card shop where you can use “Stars,” which you earn by getting achievements or seeing new things in the game, to buy more packs of cards. If you run low on plant cards, then you can buy a pack of five for fifteen Stars. You can even introduce new elements into the game by buying “Quake” and “Meteor” cards, or even a “Plague” card. These cards introduce new variables to consider. I threw down a Meteor card just to see what would happen last night and ended up with some gold ore. I used an Inspect card on that, and suddenly my civilization had currency and was building a market.
Once I buy all the cards available, I’m sure the game will stretch into longer and longer playtimes. For now, I’m happy that Simmiland gives me the little taste of godhood I want just before bed.