FreeCol beginners' guide/First moves

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Before your ship movesEdit

Some players want to find land near the middle of the map - as in chess, control of the centre has advantages. Use the minimap at bottom left, pressing "minus" as many times as necessary to reach the "total map" view, to work out where you are. Decide whether you want the middle or a semi-polar position.

One step at a timeEdit

Then, one step at a time, move initially due west (so as to see five new tiles instead of the three you would see if going northwest or southwest) then if you get a turn or two of no sightings maybe go north or south towards your chosen destination. Heading for the polar regions carries a higher risk of sailing for several turns without sighting land. If you reach the icebound borders, turn west (or restart: you may have wasted too much time and be at a serious disadvantage compared with other nations).

At each step, look at the five newly discovered tiles. If one or more shows a little coastline along an edge or at a corner, continue straight ahead for one move to see more land, or do a right-angled turn if the only land in sight requires that.


As long as you are adjacent to at least two contiguous land tiles that do not contain a colony or native settlement, prepare to send a man ashore: preferably your military man if you have one. Right-click on the ship then click the chosen man; he will then blink showing that he's ready to move. Use an arrow key to move him onto an unoccupied river tile if any, or as near westward as you can. You will now see several new tiles and may be ready to choose a colony site, although you are likely to need another turn or two.

Don't disembark your other man at the same place unless sure that it's good enough for your first colony. A bit of movement by each will show what inland tiles are available.

If a man is on a river tile, he can step to another river tile using only one-third of a movement point, thus seeing much more country per turn.

First colony siteEdit

The early Civilization on-screen hint system, familiar to many players, was not infallible. When it said "This looks like a great place to start your first city" it might be overlooking the fact that one more step could bring you to a much better site; for example, one with four bonus tiles instead of only two. Similar cautions apply here. Choose your first site with some care but not infinite care: of major importance is that you start producing something early. Usually you will want saleable materials to earn gold to buy more resources (such as horses and muskets) and recruit or train more colonists. However (particularly if you have started with large amounts of gold), it may be equally or more important to produce liberty bells so as to hasten the arrival of the most useful Founding FathersDe Soto, Minuit, and maybe Magellan.

Use of native land: very important point early in the game. In the original Colonization and in some versions of FreeCol (but not 0.9.5 or 0.10.0), you can build on a tile owned by natives (and use whatever your central tile produces) but you cannot farm or mine any such tile (or develop it except at great expense) until Peter Minuit joins your congress. In FreeCol 0.9.5 or 0.10.0 you have to pay even to build a colony on native land. A small village owns the eight tiles it adjoins (and may claim others if it's restricted by water on one side), but bigger ones extend two tiles out in all directions except where another settlement has a closer claim. Right-click tiles in question to see whether a tribe's name appears, or switch your display option to show tile ownership. (A colony can run quite well even if completely surrounded by native tiles, so long as it produces at least two food in its central tile. It will probably be good for only one colonist. In the early stages, that's not bad: each unimproved colony produces, in addition to what its workers produce, one cross whatever its size and one bell if its population is no more than 2.)

Which tiles are available for a colony to exploit? Each colony enjoys the production of its central tile with no manpower needed; and it can use a colonist (of whatever description) to farm or mine each of the adjacent eight tiles unless it is occupied by a native village or owned by one or being exploited by a nearby colony. However, water tiles cannot be used until you have built docks.


  • adjacent to the ocean by at least a corner (so that produce can be shipped out)
  • not on a mountain or arctic tile
  • enough food (not counting any ocean tiles or any tiles owned by natives): no problem unless you are on a desert with only mountains or ocean available; but the more the better; plains give you most food (five tons per turn; six with a river), and savannah is just one ton behind

Desirable factors include:

  • being on or adjacent to at least one bonus tile
  • being on a tile that includes a river (which should speed movement of units in at least one direction); being next to a river tile is second-best
  • being adjacent to at least one forest tile not native-owned; that's for lumber for buildings - lumber can be imported from later-created colonies, but that can be awkward and time-consuming
  • being adjacent to a small native settlement (so that your ships and later wagon trains can trade with natives in a single turn), preferably diagonally, but having at least one good food tile not owned by natives; however, that costs money in the latest versions of FreeCol
  • being only one whole turn away from the high seas, to minimize the time taken to send ships to and from Europe - four sea tiles for a Caravel; five is OK if your ship is a Merchantman

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