When I was doing my MBA classes a few years ago we had an operations management class. Ops Management is all about creating a process that is optimized for efficiency; no bottlenecks where resources are waiting to be processed, no overages in productions, but no under-runs either. In that class we had a little simulation we were meant to work on. It was a terrible little web page written in PHP (nothing against PHP. It's a fine language but is often abused into things like this) with minimal styling and a frustrating interface. You were tasked with keeping your machines running, making sure that outputs from
A were fed to
B at the right rate to meet demand, etc. etc.
Anyway we should have all just played Anno 2205 instead. Or probably any of the Anno games. I've known about the series for years, but I've never played one of these until they were on a Steam sale recently. And I'm kinda hooked.
It starts simply enough. Produce rice for your people to eat. Also produce water. To do this you build factories. In 2205 water comes from desalination plants on the coast. Rice comes from highly automated rice farms.
Then you start producing things that need two steps of processing. Mine this metal, then make it into something that your people want. As you produce fancier goods you can promote your employees (who are also your primary customers, the supply/demand curves in this game are weird) which will make them ask for still fancier goods, which will allow you to promote them, which in turn means they will pay more for goods...
And then you get into real ops management. Before too long you are managing multiple sites, each with different strengths and unique goods. Your “temperate” region is the cheapest to build on, and will be your moneymaking region. The “Arctic” zone produces some specialized goods that you need for other workflows. The orbiting space station (2205, see?) does research. The Moon produces very specialized goods. You start to need raw goods from the Arctic combined with processed goods from the Temperate region to be shipped to the Moon to build an awesome new resource there...
And then you realize that you can often buy goods from the world market for less than your production price, so you start to buy goods instead of building them, until the prices shift and you start selling those goods on the world market.
Then they mixed in my financial accounting class. Your running balance sheet is always top of mind, and top of screen, as it shows the bottom line, your net profits at that moment, and you can dig into it just like any good balance sheet to see your cost and revenue mix.
It's interesting to me that this is a game. This is literally part of my MBA education, handled far better than my professors ever could have. The motivations for your actions are made clear, The payoffs for handling your inventory levels correctly are explicit. And it's honestly really fun.
There are some more video-game-y parts as well. If you want, you can participate in some real-time-strategy battles that will get you some rarer resources, or you can just buy those resources if you don't want to do video game fighting.
I looked into the games pedigree because of course I did this is me we're talking about. It's made by Blue Byte, which warmed my little heart. Years ago I fell in love with The Settlers II and the lineage from that game to this one is clear.
It's not without its flaws, but what game is? If you want to learn operations management you can either read The Goal, a depressing educational novel about a man who fixes his factory while also repairing his relationship with his wife, or you can play Anno 2205. I know which I'd rather do.
I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100 Days To Offload.