A series of SimulationSpace Management Games in which your primary task is to build a city. First developed by Impressions Games, then Breakaway Games and finally Tilted Mill Entertainment, most of the titles were published by Sierra and are among its few games where not everything is trying to kill you - only your neighbors, their gods, your gods, wild animals...The settings for the games are all famous ancient cultures, but the devs at least tried not to fall wholly into Hollywood History:
Pharaoh (1999) and its Expansion PackCleopatra (2000) departed from the Roman setting and featured monumental building efforts, agriculture adapted to the flooding of the Nile and roadblocks for walkers.
Immortal Cities: Children Of The Nile (2004) was the first title published by Tilted Mills, and is more of a Spiritual Successor than a direct continuation. It radically breaks with established concepts (such as walkers, apartment blocks for workers or active gods). It was also the first in the series to go fully 3D, but the graphics were found to be a bit lacking. It remains something of an odd one out among the games.
Master of Olympus - Zeus (2000) and its expansion pack Master of Atlantis - Poseidon (2001), set in Ancient Greece and Atlantis respectively, change the mood from relatively realistic and historically accurate-ish to myth-centric with a dash of humor. It gives monsters, gods walking (or destroying) your city and some of the more famous heroes of Classical Mythology a much more prominent role than in earlier games. This created somewhat of a Broken Base between those who saw these two games as too childish and cartoonish and those who thought it was a new, creative and funny approach.
A new installment, Medieval Mayor, is under development by Tilted Mill. Scheduled for a 2013 release and set in medieval Europe, it will return to a 2D representation and a walker system. Unfortunately, the game is currently in development hell due to funding issues.
The series provides examples of:
Alternate History: While the more history-centered games start off following history relatively closely, most games take a turn towards alternate history later on.
The Campaign maps for the Caesar games included some provinces that were never actually under Roman rule.
Pharaoh makes your family take over the throne of Egypt in the middle of the campaign, and rule a united Egypt until the end.
Cleopatra requires you to change history by winning the Battle of Actium.
Poseidon, which makes no pretense at having any historical accuracy, offers two campaigns as alternate histories to each other. In one you play the Atlanteans and defeat the Greeks, in the other, you play the Greeks defeating the Atlanteans.
Apathetic Citizens: Averted. You can right-click on your citizens and they will complain about everything from a lack of employment to a lack of workers, inadequate healthcare or worship services. Even if there are only 10 workers needed in a city of 7000. Very unhappy homes also spawn muggers, vandals or looters.
On the other hand, if you manage your city well, your citizens will give you unending praise.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: While there is no population cap, there is a cap on the number of companies of soldiers you can have.
Construct Additional Pylons: The whole purpose of the game. Also literally, in order to reach perfect coverage of the city for your various service buildings, you need to build additional apothecaries/schools/gymnasia/whatever, even if all your citizens actually already receive it, but the statistic that keeps track of it (and influences some modifiers) works on a Number of Citizens/Number of Buildings basis.
Difficulty Levels: Most game offer difficulties from Very Easy to Very Hard, which changes various in-game modifiers, such as good consumption rates.
Early-Installment Weirdness: Most of the tropes of the series were standardized by Caesar III. I and II have their own quirks, such as being far less battle-focused (if such a thing is possible), having separate city and province maps and the "loot and scoot" strategy (where you pour your city treasury into your personal chest right before you get promoted, leaving yourself rich and the city badly in debt).
The first games also lacked a "stop sign" the player could drop on a road to tell walkers to stay within a given area, and those of Caesar 3 blocked all walkers, including those that have specific destinations(in the later games, only walkers that have specific destinations can pass through roadblocks). As a result, an efficient road and supply network could turn out pretty darn weird as good players tried to avoid crossroads at all costs, often resulting in one lonesome meandering road snaking around the entire city. Hope nobody's in a hurry to get anywhere.
Master of Olympus - Zeus and Master of Atlantis - Poseidon
Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom
Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile
Game Mod: Every game offers a scenario editor. New scenarios and campaigns are still being released.
Game Over: In most games, running into debt leads to a game-over.
The exception to this being Zeus. There was a Ephesian leader so infatuated (without effort) during the Hercules' Labors adventure that he bailed her out of extreme debt. Ad nauseam.
In Caesar II, you can often get promoted while your city is deep in debt, leaving the mess for someone else to fix while you abscond with the treasury (which you then use to fund your next city).
Everyone Hates Hades: A rare aversion from Zeus. Hades is no more or less likely to be a nuisance than any other god. He can defeat any invading god that isn't Zeus or Poseidon, and he rewards you with infinite silver veins around his temple (Hades is also the god of mineral weath!) and protects your city with his Cerberus. Of course, depending on the scenario, Hades could wind up being an invading god.
Global Currency: Justified in most games, as you simply build one city in a large empire, but the Greek city states all accepting drachmae is a bit of a stretch... then the expansion pack has the Atlanteans use the same currency, as well.
The drachmae example is partly justified (or even an aversion of global currency), as they were made of silver, and city states with silver ore deposits would mint their own money. With intrinsic value it could be accepted anywhere, and only the lack of exchange rates or variations in weight and purity needs to be handwaved.
Offscreen Momentof Awesome: Zeus and Poseidon feature quests given to you by the gods, where you need to summon a hero such as Hercules, Achilles, or Perseus, to your city, who must then be sent to fulfill some sort of important task (such as Perseus retrieving the items needed to fight the Medusa, or Hercules performing some of his labors). Said tasks takes place entirely offscreen, with nothing but an eventual message telling you that the hero has succeeded. Averted when a hero is summoned specifically for the task of slaying a monster attacking your city.
Pyrrhic Victory: Potentially for the cities, if not necessarily for the player. Because most of the games feature campaigns where you build up one city, and then move on to the next one, it is at times possible to simply make a mad dash for victory, leaving the city in a poor, unsustainable state that you won't have to bother fixing. Your city needs a few hundred more inhabitants for you to achieve victory? Don't bother making sure that your infrastructure can feed and supply that many, just place down low-level housing until victory is achieved. Your city is under attack? Doesn't matter, you just finished the monument needed to complete the mission, someone else will have to deal with the invaders. In Zeus and Poseidon, this is much less of a viable strategy, with campaigns featuring the same city from start to finish (meaning that whatever mess you get yourself into, you will actually have to clean up yourself), with an exception for the occasional one-off colony mission.
As a workaround, it was possible to adjust the game's speed to a crawl before complex builds.
Recycled IN SPACE!: The original Caesar was described as SimCity in Ancient Rome with a military aspect added. Also the games that share the same engine (from Caesar III to Emperor) can be recursively defined in this way; Pharaoh is Caesar III in Egypt, Zeus is Pharaoh or Caesar III in Greece and Emperor is Caesar III in China.
Refining Resources: The goods required by the population can be made by the local industries or imported from the world market. Gaining access to the cheaper raw materials to then manufacture expensive/strategic goods on your own becomes an important gameplay aspect.
The greek temples take a long time to make, even if you already have everything needed to build them.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: In the first two games, you can bribe the Emperor with your personal funds, so he'll lower the tribute that your city has to pay to the Senate. Also, when you receive a promotion, the size of the city treasury is irrelevant, but you can carry your personal treasury to your next city (either to fund the new city's growth, or to pay off the Emperor). And yes, you can pay your own salary while the city is 9000 denarii in debt.
Scripted Event: By the truckload. Each game contains numerous scripted events, be they requests from other cities for goods, cash or troops, invasions, opportunities for conquering other cities, droughts, earthquakes, divine wrath...
Sequence Breaking: In Zeus it's possible to delay your first mission of the Trojan War campaign and build up your forces in preparation for the war. With the right preparation, you can even conquer Troy before the war begins.
Spiritual Successor : If you count the games made by the staff that went on to create Firefly Studios, then the Stronghold series is probably the best example.
Forced Tutorial: In Pharaoh, the tutorial is spread over the first fifth or so of the campaign, as new concepts keep getting introduced. While single scenarios and sub-parts of the grand campaign can be played on their own once they've been unlocked, playing the grand campaign forces you to learn how water is distributed over and over again.
You Require More Vespene Gas: Your citizens require food (in most games more variety means better houses and happier citizens), basic commodities (whether pottery, linen, olive oil or tea) and luxury goods (exotic furs, incense, wine, silk...). For the grander construction projects you may need wood, stone, marble... and everything needs to be paid for, whether in debens or drachmae or food.
Averted in the first two games. Here, your citizens require amenities to advance their housing quality, but not food, and their consumption of goods from your manufacturing businesses is one of your two main sources of income.