Anno 1800 wasn’t on my radar as it’s not available on Steam, but thanks to a Humble email and a sale, here we are. The game at it’s core is a city builder similar to Sim City or Cities: Skylines, and that core is really solid and fun. On top of that, Anno has a number of fun systems to give you both more to do and more purpose to what you are building.
The city building gameplay is what you would expect. You play residential buildings which house your people, and you build production chain buildings to make them happy. Residential buildings start at the farmer tier, and you can only upgrade that building to the worker tier once the farmers have the items that make them happy (access to a market, basic clothing, and fish to eat). Workers also have needs, as do artisans, engineers, and finally investors. Each tier has more needs, and those items have longer production chains. Things start simple early on, and scale up to get fairly complex. Its what you would expect from a city builder, and it works here.
Visually what is really cool is that as you control which residential buildings upgrade, you control which parts of your city look more and more advanced, and which parts retain that early farmer/worker look. Anno is a great looking game overall, and design decisions like this further help that.
The setting puts you on a map with a bunch of islands, and each island has a different selection of natural resource. As your people need more and more things, you will eventually run into a resource your starting island does not have. This means starting a new city on a different island, which means you build back up from the farmer tier, but with the benefit of having the technology unlocked and the ability to send resources between your cities via ships.
Speaking of ships, in addition to carrying resources between your cities, they can also trade items for money with other factions, visit ports to buy special items, and go on expeditions. The first expedition is to discover the New World, which once successful opens a completely new map with more islands, unique resources, and a different set of people and buildings. Ships can then sail between the Old and New world to trade and ferry goods. As you can tell, Anno goes from building one city up to managing a range of settlements, progressing each one up as you need to feed your starter city and its ever-increasing need for products.
There is also combat between ships and port defenses, a creative system of buildings like the town hall or workers guild that hold items that can buff certain buildings, diplomacy and trade between other factions, and more. If you enjoy city builders, this is one of the better I have played in years; highly recommended.