City Mechanics

We will cover these main sub-systems in this order:
  • Citizens and related issues such as immigration, happiness, culture, and work
  • Land, and how it is used for production
  • Goods, and how they are consumed or traded
there are only a few systems within cities, but their interactions are complex


The population of a city is the most important factor affecting:
  • how much work the city can produce. The more work, the more lands the city can claim and the bigger farms, houses, or workshops it can afford to build.
  • how much the city needs. The more people there are, the more food, housing, and public space they demand. The city will also consume more durable goods and luxury goods.
  • the maximum culture level. The more people there are, and the lower their workday, the higher the maximum culture level, which can lead to higher scores.

The city's population is made up of adults and children. Both adults and children have needs, but only adults create work and culture for the city. Childless adults are more likely to immigrate than those with families.


People move between cities to find the best living conditions. You can use the immigration report (by clicking on "Immigration" on the city info panel) to find out how well the city is attracting and keeping citizens.

"Outside settlers" are a special case of immigration. They come from off the map and not from another city. Every player receives a bonus of up to two groups of outside settlers of 1,000 every turn.


happiness is a well-kept city park where you can bring your children to cavort raucously - carefully consider the implications before depriving any city of public space! Never forget that the fine line between civilisation and barbarianism is delineated by topiary!The happier a city is, the more work they produce, and the more immigrants you attract.

To keep happiness from going down, make sure that your city has enough food and housing. The lack of durable goods (such as clothing) also decrease happiness, but to a smaller extent than food and housing.

The presence of public space, and free time to enjoy the public space, are most important for making happiness go up. Luxuries also help, but to a smaller extent, and only if the citizens can afford them.

a recreant rebel city centreIf a city becomes very unhappy, it will leave your country and become an independent city of rebels, a phenomenon colloquially known as "going pirate." Rebels can be identified by the stench of garlic, dirty pubs, a tendency to attack without declaring war, bootlegging, and liberal attitudes about sharing music. Thus, try to keep you people happy at all costs.a filthy pub with a fulsome fug

The "This city needs:" clues at the bottom of the city info panel will give you important hints for keeping your city happy. Read the survival guide for detailed help.

More info about happiness.


A city's culture not only directly contributes to your final score, it also allows a city to build more advanced options.

Every turn, your city's culture level rises or falls by .25 towards its maximum culture level. A bustling society of trading families may cause the culture level to increase rapidly. Also, you can spend your turns (gems) directly increasing your city's culture, but it is more efficient to use your time tending your cities so they create culture on their own.

These things all raise your city's maximum culture level:
  • increasing the adult population
  • reducing the work day
  • keeping public space at 100%

Work 5216497

Work is used for:
  • claiming land
  • working the land
  • changing the land by planting or building

Work is produced by adults. The longer the work day, the more work is produced. However, longer days can also make people less happy, which reduces their output. An 8-hour workday is a good compromise to start with. You can change the work day by clicking on "work day" in the city info panel.


forests are valuable to small cities for their food, and to large cities for their lumberA city needs to claim land or sea so it can:
  • hunt and gather from natural lands
  • create houses or public space
  • build farms or workshops
  • build trading ships

The closer land is to your city, the less work it takes to claim it. This work is used up every turn, which means that sprawling cities will need a lot of work to hold on to their land, whereas compact cities will not. A medium-sized city is usually a good compromise.

Each turn, your city works each land, starting with the land closest to the city. If the city has a work shortage, the outermost lands are usually unclaimed first.

City Goods and Price

Goods is a generic term that includes food, durable goods (such as clothing), luxury goods (such as jewellery), and building supplies. Prices tend to go up if the city needs more of the good, and down if the city has more than it needs. Price mainly affects trade between cities, but low work prices can limit a city's ability to consume luxuries, durable goods, or even food. Prices give you a general idea of the recent economic history of a city and help you craft your future plans for a city.

To keep the interface simpler, services are lumped together with goods. Services are non-tangible benefits that must be immediately used and cannot be traded, mainly: work, housing, public space, and trading capacity.

an example goods listThe goods list shows the city's current supply. Goods at the top of the list are very expensive, and goods at the bottom of the list are very cheap. There are several insights you can infer from the example goods list to the right:
  • the city probably needs more public space (hangout), housing, and roots
  • because work is lower down the list, the city probably has adequate work, but citizens may be a little on the poor side
  • the city has more wood and rock that it needs
  • if you were interested in trading, this city would be a good place to exchange roots for rock or wood

Virtual goods such as housing, hangout, and work can't be traded and can't be stored. In the example goods list to the right, you can see that even though the city probably has enough work (since work is near the bottom of the list), there is no work in stock.

There are several ways that goods can get into your city:
  • the city made them
  • the city traded for them
  • you, or another player, dropped the goods there

A city loses goods because:
  • in the case of food, somebody ate it
  • durable goods and luxury goods may have been used, if the citizens can afford it after food
  • the city used the materials for building
  • the city traded the goods away to another city or player
  • the city lost the goods due to a player action such as taxes or theft
  • the good was lost to decay


A food rating of 100% tells you that your city's citizens have well-stocked cupboards. If the food rating falls below 10%, people will begin to starve.

A city usually has three favourite foods. Its citizens insist on purchasing favourite foods before other types of foods, which can affect prices and supply. If a favourite food is unavailable for a long time, it may be replaced by a new favourite.

Durable Goods and Luxuries

orchestras provide music and public spaceMost durable goods and luxuries are produced by large workshops that require a lot of work to run and a high culture to build. However, there are smaller workshops that can be used earlier in the game to produce clothing and pottery.


If your city has trading ships, then some of the families living in your city will try their hand at starting their own trading empires. They will export low-priced goods and import high-priced goods.

If any nearby city has its own trading capacity, then their merchants may start trading with your city. This is most often helpful for your city, but it usually profits the trading city more than the trading partner.

3 or 4 dories can help an early city get a head start on developing trading familiesAs time goes on, trading families gain in experience and power. It can pay handsomely to start a hub of trade early in the game so the families have more time to learn their trade. However, keep in mind that the traders' first priority is profit, not patriotism. If another city offers better trading conditions, you may find some trading families moving their shops across the border.

some traders dabble in the composition of memoirs, theatrical plays, poetry, religious treatises, instruction manuals, dictionaries, or other forms of philosophy, fiction, or non-fictionSuccessful trading families may devote their extra energies towards developing your city's cultural life, setting up new businesses for their children or cousins, or penning their own literature.

schooners have a large trading capacityWhat features make a city more attractive for trading families? A fleet of trading ships, mountains of cheap surplus goods for exporting, and many nearby cities without traders and with gross imbalances in supply and demand.

Figuring out exactly what traders are doing on the streets and shipping lanes can be nearly impossible for a leader of your lofty stature. However, you can glean some clues by reading the goods report (available from the bottom of the goods list), as well as by noticing information on the city info panel, such as high society and major imports and exports. The goods report also contains an option allowing you to sponsor a new trading company, which is rarely useful.

Your pawn can also carry goods from city to city. You can obtain initial goods through taxation or larceny, and multiply your wealth by buying low and selling high. You can then use your pawn's inventory to hasten a city's building projects or to boost its local economy in tough times.

Construction Projects

You can tell a city to change its landscape, including the construction of housing, planting farmland, enriching natural terrains, founding workshops, and relocating the city centre. The higher a city's culture, the more options are available to it. Cottages have very low culture requirements, whereas orchestras have very high culture requirements. If you told a tiny village to build an orchestra, you would see the planned orchestra blinking on the map, but the village could not build the orchestra until it grew large and cultured.

Once the culture requirements are met and all the needed materials have been gathered, the city will start to use its unemployed citizens for construction.

The strength of your cities depends heavily on how you plan them. Keep in mind that bigger farms or workshops can take a lot of work to run them. Also, it is often wiser to save fertile land (forest and grassland) for farms, and place housing and workshops on less desirable land. Placing a building or farm on a fertile land "uses it up." It takes a long time to make infertile land fertile again.

cottages are useful for small cities in the early game - they provide food as well as housing and you can still build farms over them laterCottages are an unusual housing type: they can only be built on fertile land, and they themselves are considered fertile, so you can later build farmlands over them.

See Also:

  • Order of Working the Land to learn what happens when lands are worked, and in which order they are worked.
  • Turn Order to learn when various events, such as consuming food or trade, happen in a turn.