Toy Universe
November 13, 2013 7:15 PM   Subscribe

What are some good simulation/strategy computer games that don't emphasize violence or warfare?

I grew up with the classic Maxis Sim games (♥ SimLife), and I kind of like what little I've seen/played of StarCraft but the competitive real-time combat totally isn't my thing. My familiarity with simulation/strategy games is pretty much limited to the older educational Sim games; Civilization is something I've heard good things about, but it's hard to tell looking outside in how much it emphasizes combat/warfare. I'd prefer to play something where that element is absent or minimized, and I won't feel punished for avoiding violence.

What I enjoy (or enjoy watching) about these kinds of games is the tinkering about with little toy worlds: setting down units and buildings, seeing them grow and expand and change. I love the building/resource management of StarCraft (it's worth noting that the cute, distant, top-down toytown aesthetic is important here), but the combat is off-putting and hard for me to follow. I'd really enjoy a similar game that was slower paced, calmer and had more options for managing and nurturing a little society (particularly something outside the imperial expansion and unrestrained capitalist modes).

I'm poking around, but my near total unfamiliarity with these genres means I'm still figuring out how to sort for quality. So: I'm curious to hear recommendations.
posted by byanyothername to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I should note: I have Windows 8 and Vista. I'm expecting a lot of the recs here to be older, so please let me know if a game you're recommending is, like, butt-old. Wrangling with compatibility issues is not something I'm super enthused to do.
posted by byanyothername at 7:19 PM on November 13, 2013

Have you played The Sims?
posted by empath at 7:21 PM on November 13, 2013

The Civilization games are really as violent/war-centric as you make them. "World Domination" is *one* way to victory - but there are Diplomatic Victories, Winning the Space Race, etc.

I really enjoy the Civ games (especially Civ IV) and have never gone the 'warfaring' race way.
posted by dotgirl at 7:45 PM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

If Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri runs on your system, it's possible to play the Gaian faction with little to no violence. It's definitely possible to play it without ever initiating violence, although you may need to defend a city against attack. The battles are stylized my-catapult-attacks-yours-boom-boom types, so even squeamish pacifists who dislike FPS games (like me!) can still enjoy it.

On preview, dotgirl and I seem to be thinking along similar lines.

I feel like my Alpha Centauri reflexes are getting twitchy. XCOM addresses some of the must-manage-my-resources! urge, but not in the same way. Might have to give in and buy it again…
posted by Lexica at 7:51 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Search for "tycoon" games on Steam, including Anno 2070. Also, maybe Tropico or Godus (I haven't played it).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:08 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Railroad Tycoon II.
posted by pompomtom at 8:09 PM on November 13, 2013

OpenTTD is another railroad (and other transport) simulator. It's free, frequently updated, and has tons of plugins.
posted by vasi at 8:19 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Might want to look at the Tropico series. I also used to like the Settlers games.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:32 PM on November 13, 2013

Incidentally, gameplay videos may help you make a decision, e.g. Railroad Tycoon 2, Railroad Tycoon 3, Anno 2070, Tropico 4, OpenTTD, Cities in Motion 2, and Godus.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:36 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Civilization series. There are multiple ways of winning the game, such as having the most influential culture, being the most technologically advanced, occupying the largest portion of land (which can be done peacefully through early exploration), or being the most diplomatic. I always play as one of the less militaristic cultures and can't remember the last time I had to deal with war in the game.
posted by northernish at 8:49 PM on November 13, 2013

Startopia is one of my favorite games ever and was recently re-released on Steam; it's also available from Good Old Games (that's the link). It's a space station sim, basically SimCity in space. If you choose to play in sandbox mode with 1 player, you can build and build with minimal combat. Multiplayer (against CPU players) features the players attempting to claim the other players' sections of the station, so there's a little more combat there, but while an event may bring combat to the fore for a few minutes, it's never really a focus. It's a tremendously enjoyable game and I have whiled away many hours on it.

Kudos 2 is a life sim where you play ten years of a person's life, from 20 to 30, trying to balance career, friends, and interests. It's apparently on sale for the moment. Democracy 2, from the same company, is a political management sim. I've heard good things about it but I haven't played it.
posted by Errant at 9:01 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, while flipping through GOG's catalogue, I also found Theme Hospital, which everyone seems to love, so I'm about to pick it up myself. It is, as you may have guessed, a management strategy sim based around a hospital. I should think combat would be nonexistent.
posted by Errant at 9:10 PM on November 13, 2013

Theme Hospital is indeed excellent. You do have the optional opportunity to shoot rats in it, when you don't keep your hospital clean enough.

The Tycoon games are great. For a lighter version, Sid Meier's railroads is a lot of fun.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:58 PM on November 13, 2013

Theme Hospital is great. Might be tricky to get running on a modern system though. I think I remember trying and failing to get it running on XP.

It was on the PS1 as well though so there's a possible alternative route (buy an old console or get an emulator on the PC).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:57 AM on November 14, 2013

(Theme hospital from GOG runs fine on any recent machine -- they bundle it up inside an emulator. I've been running it on Win 7 lately, and can recommend it.)
posted by richb at 4:12 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! These are giving me a me a better idea of the genre, as well as a lot of things I wasn't aware of at all, that seem to fit the bill--exactly what I needed.
posted by byanyothername at 8:03 AM on November 14, 2013

Toylike, focus on building, no violence? Kerbal Space Program!
posted by Tom-B at 4:19 PM on November 14, 2013

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