1849 Review

Screenshot of city builder game 1849
A bustling town in city builder game 1849

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: SomaSim
  • Publisher: SomaSim
  • Release Date: 9 May 2014
  • Time played: 11 hours

1849 happens to be one of those games that has been on my wishlist for a while, but thanks to my generous brother I managed to get it for my birthday a couple of years back (yes, it takes me that long to get through gifts people give me, even when they're family!).

So what is 1849? Well, the developers describe the game as "a city management game set during the California Gold Rush" where you "build towns" and make sure its workers are "housed, fed and entertained". If you take a look at the screenshots and read the game description, you'd be forgiven if you mistook the game to be one of those old "City Building" games published by Sierra in the 1990s. Since I have a soft spot for city builders, this was a primary motivator for me wanting this game but is it really as good as those city builders of yesteryear? Or maybe it doesn't need to be?

What I like

City building

I love city builders. Whether it's SimCity, Tropico or even one of those old "City Building" series games published by Sierra (Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom was a favourite of mine), you'll most likely find me playing it. At its core, this is what 1849 is all about: the game's campaign mode has well over 10 hours worth of scenarios to play that will have you constructing towns all over the Wild West or 19th century California to be precise. You get to decide what farms, mines, factories, shops, houses and amenities to build in your town. Towards the beginning of each scenario a lot of your income will be generated by selling resources to neighbouring towns but eventually you'll be wanting to increase the value of your housing since there is much money to be made with higher rents. To increase the value of housing, you need to ensure you have enough resources such as lumber, stone and even leather shoes.


I actually learned quite a bit about Californian geography while playing this game since each scenario is based off actual towns scattered throughout the state. While its educational value in reality is minimal, it was successful in piquing my interest so that I was motivated enough to read more about Californian geography and history in my own time.


Taste in music is subjective so even though I'm telling you I really enjoyed the music in this game and that it grew on me over time, it doesn't mean anything if you're not a fan of American folk music. But if you like this sort of music, be sure to check out the instrumental cover of "Shortn'n Bread"...

Steam Trading Cards and Achievements

The game has a whole bunch of achievements to work towards as well as Steam Trading cards to generate.

Sandbox mode

If you end up finishing the campaign mode or you find the concept of playing scenarios boring, there's always a sandbox mode where you can play randomly generated maps.


The game is good casual fun. It's an excellent game to unwind with after a stressful game of Rainbow Six Siege or [insert-adrenaline-pumping-competitive-game here]. While there is some strategy involved in determining which trade routes to open first (which in turn determines which resources you can import/export first) and also determining what to produce locally and what to import, the rest of the game is rather simple to nut out.

What I dislike


The game might be considered a bit too casual, especially for those that prefer a challenge when playing city builders. The game is almost impossible to lose and believe me, I tried. In the first instance, if you seem to be running low on funds, you'll get bailed out. Also, all the buildings will continue to run as normal so all you need to do to get back in the black is to demolish a few buildings and you'll be able to start again.


Each building in the town generates background noise so you can imagine that once your town starts to grow larger, you've got a really noisy town on your hands. It doesn't help that there's no option to adjust the volume in-game either (you can only turn the sound on and off) but this is probably because the game has been targeted for the mobile market.

Trading can be tedious

Continually importing resources and exporting resources every 30 seconds or so can get a bit tedious yet it's also an integral part of the game since you need to choose which resources are a priority and which ones you can live without.

Lack of variation in the maps

There isn't much visual variation from map to map, there are only minor terrain differences such as the reshuffling of rocks and trees; you'll also find that the town river is always in the same spot!

Some buildings shouldn’t be a choice

The first time your city gets burned down to the ground by a raging fire, you'll realise that a fire station is invaluable. So if it's almost essential, why even bother making it an option?

Score – 8/10 (Pretty Good)

1849 is a modern, casual take on the classic Sierra City Building games of yesteryear. I like the fact that it's casual and accessible since it's a perfect complement to more intense games that I tend to play in my library - a perfect game to wind down to. If you're a fan of the old Sierra City Building games like Zeus, Cleopatra, Caesar etc. and a purist (i.e. you like a bit of a challenge) you'll probably be disappointed with 1849 - it's also not a game for those who hate micromanagement since you'll be doing quite a lot of trading of resources to keep your town going (and abstaining from trading is not an option). If what I've described doesn't deter you though, I urge you to give the game a try.

Is the game worth $14.99 USD?: Yes. That’s $20 AUD with current exchange rates. While the gameplay is casual and there’s probably not too much variation in the scenarios, there’s several hours of gameplay here that is worth the asking price. Definitely worth it when on sale.

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[ LINK: Official 1849 Website ]