Anno 1800, by Ubisoft Blue Byte, is a great game. The game, purchasable on the Epic or Ubisoft stores, is an incredibly fun city builder with cool graphics. Unfortunately, its in-game tutorial is not that good. The various tutorial quests (under the “more guidance” option) teach you very basic aspects of the game. Meanwhile, many important dynamics are left unexplained. Rather than make you suffer through the frustration of learning these by trial and error, here are some tips (especially for Sandbox mode on the first two difficulties) that I wish I knew when I started playing.
Still having trouble with creating a trade route or moving resources between your islands? We’ve got you, check out this other guide we made on the subject!
1. Settling Islands and Early Expansion Strategy in Anno 1800
When you are plopped in an Anno map you are not rushed as in other city builders. You start only with a small trading post on an island (i.e your ‘home’ island) and a flag ship with some building materials in it. These two things alone won’t start draining your initial capital (money being a key resource required for virtually all building). You then have some time to consider what you want to do next.
What is important for all new players to know is that your home island (and any other island on the map for that matter) does not have all the resources required for your city’s development. All have set types of crop fertility and limited resources deposits (influenced especially by the difficulty setting chosen by the player). Sometimes you won’t be able to grow your glorious potato fields or mine some of that mighty iron ore. What you should always immediately consider is then the resources on your initial island. This can be done by checking in the bottom right of the screen, where the mini-map is.
Having done this, the best strategy is to take your flagship (which starts with enough materials for you to build a second trading post) and explore the game map for another island with the missing resources. Take the situation in the image above. The island of Arraceno had 4 of the 7 fertilities and 5 of the 7 resource deposits available in the old world. The very next island I found, Baltiway, had all the remaining fertilities and deposits I needed.
There are a couple more parameters when picking your first few islands. Size of the island is very important as expansion in the early phase of the game generally requires you to establish a local population in the new location. This means that you’ll need considerable space for housing and to set up production buildings necessary to fulfill the needs of these people. Distance from your ‘home’ island must also be kept in mind. Since both islands won’t be able to obtain all necessary resources for their development, you’ll have to transport goods back and forth between these. A shorter distance between these makes for quicker transportation. Longer routes also tend to also be more vulnerable to the pirates that infest the waters.
To build your second port, approach the sandy shores of an unpopulated island. Once there, press on the outline of the trading post to build it.
2. Labor Pool and the Economy
In Anno 1800, the workforce is the cornerstone of society. These, obviously, are fundamental for production.
Whenever you put down a production building on an island it will require a specific type of laborer (the old world has five, the new world two). As explained by the tutorial quests, these are generated by building more houses, fulfilling the needs of its inhabitants and eventually upgrading the house to the next tier of residence (which upgrades its inhabitants into more specialized laborers).
What beginners may not know is that if one of the five categories is in the red (i.e. more jobs than people who can do them) all workplaces using that very category start operating less efficiently. Meanwhile having a surplus of labor has no negative effect at all. Therefore you should always aim at having less jobs than people who are able to do them. General unemployment in Anno is perfectly acceptable, even recommendable, reality.
What the game also doesn’t really tell you is how important laborers are for your finances. These all double as consumers and are the main contributors to the player’s income. By fulfilling any of their basic needs (needed to upgrade a residence) or luxury ones (that determines total island happiness), your workforce will start generating money for you.
A higher tier of laborer will always net you a higher income than lower tiers, even if they consume similar goods. For example, a ‘farmer’ residence will pay you 3 coins for clothes. A ‘worker’ one will pay you 7 for these. Similarly, a ‘worker’ residence will pay 12 for beer. ‘Artisans’ instead will buy it for 37.
If then you find yourself losing money hand over fist, you can upgrade big groups of residential buildings to the next level. The wealthier inhabitants can put your economy in the green.
But beware, upgrading a house will replace one category of laborer with another. Upgrading 10 farmer houses will replace 100 farmers with up too 200 workers. Be sure to have a surplus of labor in the categories you want to upgrade! Similarly, the upgrade might put on a strain on your supply of a specific good. Perhaps you are only able to produce sausage for a much smaller population of ‘workers’. To quickly predict whether you can support the upgrade (or have to expand your productive base), select a warehouse or trading port and check for the supply ‘trend’ – represented by green or red arrows – for the relevant goods.
3. City Layout Tips for Anno 1800
When it comes to construction in Anno 1800, I often found myself saying “if I knew this, I would have done things differently”. Here are a few things all beginners should keep in mind:
- Don’t underestimate the amount of residential space you will need. As your islands develop you’ll often realize that you have to increase massively the number of houses you need to support the bustling economy of your island. Leave some room for them! Also, as you upgrade these buildings, you’ll realize that their inhabitants also will need a series of new public buildings with limited street coverage. Reserve some space for these.
- Whenever you put down a farm, you then have to draw its field. These will take up an enormous amount of space. Considering that all types of crops will be needed even in the late game, when your population has grown to great proportions, you’ll probably need to add farms to sustain production. Plan ahead then! I found very useful to start building my farms from the corners of my island, where the cliffs meets the sea. With a bit of creative field drawing, I created cultivated areas which I can expand when I need.
- Similarly to crop farms, after building an animal farm you’ll have to draw its pastures. These pastures however have an established size (they cannot be drawn free-form like fields). With this in mind, there are a series of efficient shapes which can be made with each farm. You can make sheep and alpaca farms into squares while pig ones into rectangles. Cattle ones instead can be made into a sort of ‘L’ shape that makes for very efficient productive districts.
- Symmetry can be your friend. It can allow you to exploit effectively the limited space on the island (if you have efficient neighborhood designs). To enforce it, use the ‘copy’ tool (‘c’ on your keyboard). It allows you to highlight an area, replicating all buildings/fields/pastures and their position in it. You can then rotate the area with ‘,’ and ‘.’ keys.
- Leave a space for trade unions in your productive districts. Although the building alone is useless, you can equip it with powerful items (unlocked through Anno’s quest system or by purchasing them from neutral traders found on the map). These will give a massive buff to productive enterprises in the trade union’s limited area of influence.
- Once you get your first ‘workers’, you unlock the capacity to build paved roads. Although very expensive – 13 coins and a brick per unit vs. the 3 coins for dirt roads – they are a massive upgrade. They increase the street coverage of all public and productive buildings (and eventually that of power plants). Most importantly, these increase the speed of transportation of goods making for more effective productive cycles.