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Have You Played... The Settlers?

A calming influence

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The Settlers is one of the games that defined my early years. I was thirteen years old when I first played it and I fell in love with the world as soon as I saw the first lumberjack chopping at a tree. I didn't realise then, but it's a simple example of a game's systems working like a machine: functional, each part reliant on another part, visually cohesive. It's also a game that doesn't require conflict to work.

And, yes, I do remember the little fights that take place. I didn't get involved with that side of the game very often, concentrating on building within my own boundaries rather than expanding, but even when scraps did take place, they were orderly, dignified affairs.

The Settlers is idyllic, the production chains forming a sedate and soothing view of a productive and self-contained community. The series may have lost its way in recent years, but the first couple of entries changed the way I looked at games. Peaceful, contented and calm. I could watch my little lemming-like people going about their business for hours. The antfarm or fishtank of my youth.

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