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Kelsey’s Pick – Banished

One game that’s drawn me back in during these unpredictable, pandemic-laden times is Banished by Shining Rock Software. It’s from 2014 but holds up just fine, and there are beaucoup mods to spice it up if that’s your thing.

In the game, you start with a few families and supplies (the number of which depends on whether you want to play easy, medium, or hard mode) and a few houses. From there, you have to build your town and help your villagers survive the harsh winters and (hopefully) prosperous summers while expanding your population.

Which do you prioritize first? Food or clothing? Firewood or tools? The choices start to pile up quickly.

Your villagers can all take on jobs as laborers, builders, or specialists as you assign. You immediately have a lot you need to balance in order to ensure your town’s survival, but once you know what you’re doing, it feels good to cross things off your mental checklist, accomplishing so much while sitting in one place… during a global pandemic… alone in your house.

Ok, that got a little dark.

Anyway, Banished has plenty of curve balls to throw you, but at the same time, the experience of playing is one that is, at least once you get the hang of it, quite soothing. It feels good to watch your residents live well-fed, warmly dressed, well-educated lives. It’s fun to keep track of growing families and to watch your town flourish and expand. You get to rely on your own resiliency and careful planning… or fall victim to the lack of them.

While it does get stressful when disaster strikes or your population outpaces your food supply, in the end, it’s a pretty relaxing game—especially because you know you can make a difference and you can see that difference, easily defined and quantified, being made right in front of you in real-time. That sort of validation is something that’s been lost in the shuffle for a lot of us lately, but Banished can provide it in small, pixelated doses for those in need of a little boost while we do what we can to stay safe and navigate the uncertainty of the real world around us.


This article was originally published in The Iterative Digest #84. Click to subscribe!

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