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Sandbox Mode

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The Tropico Game Series has always included two modes for play - the Story (or Campaign) Mode, and Sandbox Mode. With Tropico 5 a new Mode was added - Online Multi-Player. While that is an exciting new development for the series, considering the arms-length distance that most gamers still treat online play, the Campaign Mode (which we have fully covered) and the Sandbox Mode are still perhaps the most significant for most players.

In T5 Sandbox Play can be easily considered the Scenario Mode for the game - though it should be well understood that this is player-directed scenario play, and not an officially structured one. What we mean by that is simple - the player is the one who decides the important conditions for play in Sandbox Mode.

If your only motivation in playing Sandbox is to use that mode for unlocking Achievements we have good news for you - almost all of the game-play-based Achievements CAN be unlocked via Sandbox Play. We will get to more details on that in a moment.

If on the other hand what motivates you to play the Sandbox Mode is to better understand the relationships between supply sources and industry, business and economics, and overall game play strategies so that you can sharpen your skills in a harmless environment, you are also in luck because Sandbox Mode in T5 is ideally suited to those ends!

Sandbox Gaming

Whatever your reason for choosing to play in Sandbox Mode, here is what you need to know about setting up a game here - as this covers ALL of the parameters that are available in play:

1. Map

The Map option allows for the player to choose from any of the following:

  • Generated Map - Complete control over size, elevation, resources, and climate.

  • Isla de Lago - plenty of space and resources.

  • Cayo de Fortuna - moderate size and resources.

  • Bao-bao - desert island that leans towards agriculture.

  • Puerto Coco - lots of beaches and ideal for Tourism play.

  • Isla Rojo - another island with lots of beaches for Tourism play.

  • Isla de Haba - massive size and lots of resources.

  • Isla Enorme - largest of the islands with lots of resources.

While each of the pre-made islands offers its own set of strengths and weaknesses, the Generated Map option is probably going to be the most often chosen simply for the control it offers in terms of capabilities and capacity.

When you select the Generated Island you get to designate the following settings:

  • Island Size - Tiny / Small / Medium / Large / Huge Sizes.

  • Elevation - Flat / Hills / Mountain Choices.

  • Resources - Scarce / Poor / Adequate / Rich / Abundant Resources.

  • Climate - Very Dry / Dry / Normal / Wet / Very Wet Climates.

Considering some of the strategic elements of game play the choices that are made above will have immense impact on the game that unfolds once the player starts playing. The influences range from the predictable to the surprising. For example when you choose to have higher elevations it turns out that you can attain massive effectiveness for Observatories, which in turn makes attaining Tech that much easier!

While some choices are strategic, try to remember that there really are no wrong ones - just different ones that will alter the various challenge levels for play...

2. Starting Era

Which Era you choose as the starting era will have significant impact on the game from the start because you will have automatically obtained the previous techs as a result. That is an issue that the player must take into account when they designate other settings - particularly the ones for winning condition, since it is quite possible to create a game in which you only have to build one building to win!

The choices that you have are the following:

  • Colonial Era - Pre 1900.

  • World Wars - 1900 thru the 1940s.

  • Cold War - Beyond the 1940s.

  • Modern Times - Beyond the 1980s.

Again while trying not to overstate the obvious, the choice you make here is largely going to impact how long a game takes to play - the more advanced the era the shorter the game. So if part of your purpose is to attain some of the harder to unlock Achievements, the earlier you play is often the better.

3. Starting Population

It bears mentioning that the starting population for a game has tremendous impact not just on progress but on difficulty. In many respects the general rule you should follow is this: the earlier era you choose, the fewer population you are best served by.

The reason for that rule is simple really - the earlier the era is the harder it will be to keep everybody actively employed. And you want a happy population, not one that is sitting around with nothing to do but complain about the ruler!

The choices that you have for this setting are:

  • 50 - Colonial Era.

  • 75 - Colonial Era thru World Wars Era.

  • 100 - World Wars Era thru Cold War Era.

  • 150 - Cold War Era.

  • 200 - Modern Times Era.

While YMMV in terms of effectiveness, the advice we are giving above in terms of starting population is tried and true and worth noting.

4. Starting Money

The starting money is a sticky issue for most players largely due to the way it can warp a game. Having too much money can cause you to make costly mistakes as you start out. Having too little can make the game that much more difficult. That said though, there is a general rule to follow in terms of Starting Funds and the Era in which you start in.

The General Rule as it applies here is:

  • $5,000 - Colonial Era

  • $10,000 - Colonial Era thru World Wars.

  • $20,000 - World Wars thru Cold War.

  • $50,000 - Cold War thru Modern Times.

  • $100,000 - Modern Times.

  • Unlimited - Not Recommended.

The biggest mistake that you can make in terms of Starting Funds is to allow yourself to rush the industry side of things without properly addressing the supply side. Remember there is far more to the process than simply having the farms to support a Textile or Rum Factory - you also need to have the housing, markets, healthcare, and every other supporting factor including public safety and education!

It is so easy to allow a large purse at the start of a game to ruin the game that we strongly suggest that you treat your treasury as if it could disappear at any moment - meaning to simply not rely on it. And as for the Unlimited option? Takes all of the fun out of the game in our opinion...

5. Economic Difficulty

This setting is far more than it appears to the initiate. It certainly covers things like the supply-side of the economy, but it also covers issues like labor management, the impact of rebel activities, the scarcity of favored trade routes, and everything in between!

You want to be very careful and circumspect here when you choose this setting. Just how much grief are you willing to take? How much time do you plan to spend on micro-management of your economy? Because the higher you set this the more of that there will be!

The available settings for this are:

  • Very Low - Obviously the easiest setting.

  • Low - Provides limited challenge.

  • Medium - Offers reasonable challenges.

  • High - Much more challenging.

  • Very High - Use serious caution here - you may not like what happens.

Learning the impact of the settings above is just that - a learning experience. We strongly caution you against choosing the Very High setting. But, hey, the cat only learns by doing.

6. Political Difficulty

This setting may sound like it applies to your relations with foreign powers primarily - but if that is what you are thinking this means, you totally misunderstand it.

What this is really about is how difficult - or easy - you will find the process of dealing with the political factions INSIDE your nation, not outside. The higher the difficulty you set here, the more push-back you can anticipate from the different factions that make up and, often enough, control the population of your island nation.

The available settings for this are:

  • Very Low - Obviously the easiest setting.

  • Low - Provides limited challenge.

  • Medium - Offers reasonable challenges.

  • High - Much more challenging.

  • Very High - Use serious caution here - you may not like what happens.

This is one of those deals where too much is too much, so you really can only learn the impact of these by trying them on for size. While we cannot promise you that you will enjoy the process, we can say that the higher the setting goes the more interesting your life will be.

7. Disasters

This is, without doubt, the most dangerous setting in the game. It should have been presented all in red as far as we are concerned. Play with the settings here at your own cost mates. While None is a great way to play as far as we are concerned, if you should choose Relentless, well, you deserve what you get.

The choices you can make here are:

  • None

  • Rare

  • Occasional

  • Frequent

  • Relentless

Bearing in mind that Rebel Attacks, Community Uprising, and Invasion by foreign powers you have ****** off are NOT considered to be covered by this setting, we personally think that Occasional is as high as this should ever be set UNLESS you are looking to unlock the special Achievement for the Relentless setting - and if you are see the note in the Achievements Setting below.

Which you choose is your lookout, but we seriously question the sanity of any player who goes beyond Occasional as being something of a masochist.

8. Victory by Points

Probably the simplest of the options for Victory Condition, Victory by Points allows you to set the following in your game:

  • Off

  • 3

  • 5

  • 7

  • 10

  • 15

  • 20

The settings above basically are the one that can dictate game length over-all -- and while you DO have the option to continue to play after achieving the Victory Condition, you may want to remember that the Points System is the longest, and offers you the least control over when you win. Just saying.

9. Victory by Money

The second least controllable Victory Condition is the Money one - which clearly requires you to bank $X as the primary Victory Condition. If you are a gamer who is really good at setting up and maintaining economic conditions this is probably not the option for you... Just saying.

The available settings are:

  • Off

  • $200,000

  • $300,000

  • $500,000

  • $1,000,000

From our PoV NONE of these are really a challenge at all, so we never use them. On that note however, if managing the economy is an element of play that you personally find to be challenging and difficult, this is probably the best choice for you!

10. Victory by Construction

This is obviously the easiest of all of the Victory Condition settings to choose - because you get to control when the game ends based solely upon the construction of a building that is both unnecessary and not needed in the general sense of things!

It would be different of any of the choices below were buildings that were required - but they are not - and this makes the Victory by Construction perhaps the best choice for control freaks like us!

The options for this setting are:

  • Off

  • Aerodrome

  • Nuclear Power Plant

  • Nuclear Program

  • Space Program

Personally we think that the Nuclear Program and Space Program are the best settings to choose - especially if you are starting in the earliest of the eras, since you get lots of quality play time and can then choose when to win at a point in the game when it starts to lose its brilliance. Just saying.

Conclusions on Settings

You now should possess a rather advanced notion for the structure of the Sandbox game and its play. Which settings you choose will determine a plethora of factors for the game on individual matters, and each setting is influential in its own way (save for the Victory Condition ones).

We are not quite done yet however - there are some other issues related to this mode that you need to be aware of - so please do keep reading?


While the Achievements that apply to each mode are generally among the more influential elements in a game that cannot be said for T5 largely because there are so few dedicated to Sandbox Play! In fact there are only two:

Claustrophilia (20G) Won a Sandbox game on a Tiny island.

To Live In Interesting Times (20G) Won a Sandbox game on an island with Relentless Disasters.

In addition to the above Achievements that are specific to this Mode, the following can ALSO be unlocked via Sandbox Play (note we only include the ones you are not likely to have unlocked as part of regular campaign play) :

  • Bureaucrat (10G) Issued 20 Edicts in a single game.

  • Cause of Death (10G) Execute a Rebel Leader.

  • The China Card (20G) Successfully complete 5 Trade Routes with China in a single game.

  • For Science! (30G) Research all tech at least once before the year 2005 in single game.

  • Friends with Benefits (30G) Have relations higher than 90 with all factions in Modern Era.

  • Fundamental Principles (10G) Amend the Constitution 6 times in a single game.

  • Greasing Palms (10G) Bribed a Faction Leader.

  • The Great Mogul (20G) Had 10 different industry buildings in a single game.

  • In Seventh Heaven (30G) Reach overall happiness of 77.

  • Overqualified (10G) Have a dynasty member with a level 5 skill.

  • Presidente's Seven (30G) Have 7 Dynasty Members

  • Sheep for Wood (30G) Had a fleet of 12 Trade Ships.

  • Tower Defense (30G) Had 20 Guard Towers in a single game.

Of the two Achievements that relate specifically to Sandbox play, the one for Relentless Disasters can be the most frustrating, and so we offer you this instant completion tip if it turns out that it presents particular problem for you:

To Live in Interesting Times (20G) Won a Sandbox game on an island with Relentless Disasters.

Start the game in the Modern Times Era with lots of starting money. and the Nuclear Power Plant as the Victory Condition, then simply build the Nuclear Power Plant, rushing its construction so that it is completed before a disaster can happen. You instantly win the game and unlock this Achievement.

The Faction-related Achievements

Do not be confused by these and in particular the one called Friends with Benefits. That one does NOT apply to foreign powers! It is specifically the local Factions that are the subject of it. So what you want to do is use the menu system as follows:

1. Left-Trigger plus 'X' will show you the Economy and Happiness Menus.

2. The Second Tab - Happiness - will indicate where you need to focus your efforts.

3. The Third Tab - People - will help you to monitor the factions and their leaders.

Once you start to use these tools you can combine them with the Edicts menu and your building of industry and support structures to help influence HOW and HOW MUCH support comes from and to the Factions.

Dealing with the Factions often presents the whole chicken-and-egg question as to what you can do that will have the most positive effect? Bearing in mind that certain Edicts CAN directly impact the situation, you also need to try to remember that for the most part, Edicts are NOT the answer, since any choice you make in that respect, while it may have a positive impact on one faction, is sure to have a negative one on one or more of the other factions. Just saying.

Just try to remember that the factions want what they want - the Religious Faction wants churches and the expansion of the importance of the Church in society. The Communists want just the opposite, and the Nationalist basically want big business and unrestricted trade.

Special People

Evaluating the level of your relationship with each faction is best accomplished by viewing how the leaders of the faction view YOU.

The easy way to do that is to use the Special People selection on the People Tab to see what the relations are with each faction. When we were writing this section of the guide we created a Sandbox Game to play in order to provide a reference point - so this will give you a generic sense of how that applies to your game - with the following snapshot of results when we examined the Special Citizens selection.

To put this as plain as we can, there are seven (7) major factions in the nation that have to be dealt with - and you may be deep into your game before all seven are present.

  • Eulalia Ricardo - Communists Leader - Rick - Approval = 73 / Overall Happiness = 54

  • Amata Ortiz - Environmentalists Leader - Filthy Rich - Approval = 90 / Overall Happiness = 70

  • Marco Reyes - Globalist Leader - Rich - Approval = 60 / Overall Happiness = 71

  • Gobnalt Colon - Industrialists Leader - Rich - Approval = 93 / Overall Happiness = 61

  • Marisela Garrido - Militarists Leader - Rick - Approval = 100 / Overall Happiness = 56

  • Camilo Santiago - Nationalist Leader - Rich - Approval = 27 / Overall Happiness = 69

  • Chelo Flores - Religious Leader - Rich - Approval = 88 / Overall Happiness = 54

As you can see often their personal wealth and happiness can be at odds with their position, but the important thing here is that their relations with the government are on the happy side overall. Anything that needs to be done to improve them starts with consulting this table.

Improving relations with each faction is largely a common-sense issue. For example I want to make the Religious Faction happier I can do that by building Cathedrals. As for the Communists, believe it or not making sure that there are as few unemployed Tropicans will help immensely with that.

Another effective means for both improving and maintaining the general relations with the Communists is to keep the masses at work. That is to say always try to have two or three construction projects going, even if they are just make-work projects.

The Point?

I know that this should be obvious but it bears noting here that the whole point behind the Sandbox Mode in the game is purely for fun. You are not meant to resent it and it is not meant to be work. You are not meant to put yourself in a position in which you have to struggle - unless that is your thing anyway.

So if this stops being fun at any point, you need to re-think the settings you chose, right mates? Right!

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