A reviewer for PC Gamer once wrote the truest thing I've read about Peggle: he spent scores of hours playing it, refining his score, advancing through the achievements, unlocking combos. Just another few dozen hours, he wrote, and he was sure to figure out if he enjoyed it or not. 1849
is that kind of game.
It's a simplified city-building resource-management game: it isn't dumbed down, precisely, so much as it's smartened up from its origins as a mobile game. Each of the 20 scenarios involves building up a town or tiny settlement in California at the dawn of the gold rush; there's a separate DLC campaign which adds new buildings and railroads and takes the action to Nevada (sounds like it's more an expansion than DLC, though I have not played it). The devs have improved some of the laborious gameplay in the Nevada scenarios, apparently, but the 27 hours Steam says I've spent playing California are enough for me for now.
Basically, each town-to-be starts off with a road and a depot, which is where the town's workers will store the fruits of their labors. Resources are chained from farms to product to refined trade goods: so barley farms grow barley, which is trundled to the depot, where the brewers can take it out to make beer, and so forth. As the town grows the early shacks and hovels become homes and then estates; the residents want lumber first, and then boards, and then when they get all fancy they'll ask for a school and a church and eventually a newspaper office. And, always, lots of booze and a saloon. The nicer the homes, the more rent they pay; the more people there are in town the more jobs you'll need to create so unemployment doesn't cause crime. What the town doesn't use can be sold to neighboring settlements if there's call for it. It keeps a fella busy.
The mechanics are actually pretty nice, and there's a fair range of options: you can make wheat farms, orchards, barley farms, olive farms, vineyards, fishing stations, stone and salt quarries, and mines for iron, silver, gold, and oil (well, rigs for oil, but they live on the same tab). Each scenario also includes two optional objectives which require some speedy building to meet stretch goals, which are paid well with trade goods, and the goals are balanced to keep the game constantly in motion - there's never quite enough money to build what you need to build when you need to build it, and there's lots of buying raw goods (for towns which can't produce them) and selling surplus while you try to stockpile the stuff you need for victory.
Four or five challenges in, though, I had seen most of what there is to see. Gameplay is incredibly repetitive, and while the graphics are attractive and fun, the buildings are limited and the camera is fixed, so the player can't really see a lot of detail most of the time - cities are clumpy and they all look the same. (There are new models in the DLC, apparently.) There's a nice bluegrassy soundtrack, but the handful of tunes cycle so much that they become invisible after a while. The objectives vary as much as they can, but at the end of the day this is a well-decorated mobile game, with limited play options: sometimes your town can farm what you need for export and sometimes you need to import all of the raw supplies to make trade goods, but play all comes out roughly the same.
I'm not immensely clever at these games, and so my time of 27 hours to complete the 20 California scenarios is probably way more than what a better player would spend - I managed to run a couple of towns into the ground before I learned to only manufacture what I could sell on the market, that sort of thing. I missed four of the Cali achievements, largely due to inattention; while I'm enough of a nut job to actually consider going back and playing them out, at the end of the day I've spent enough time on this one, and I don't need to head back in to figure out whether I enjoyed it or not. There's also a sandbox mode, which I did not explore.
SomaSim, the developer and publisher, is a two-person operation, thus the limited options and the repetition of resources. They've made a solid game, though it seems costy to me at $14.99. My copy was a gift-trade from GenkiColleen - it's for sale here on GOG, but I played the Steam version.
There's some good solid design under the hood here and production values are high, though it really needs more variety and flexibility to be the kind of adventure it clearly wants to be. And it's bug-free, which is always nice in an indie. My fledgeling list for 2015