|System(s)||Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64/128, NES, MSX|
An analogy that best describes the significance of M.U.L.E. is that M.U.L.E. is to early home computer games, what Monopoly is to boardgames: A game that takes a potentially dry subject such as economics, and turns it into a fun game of conniving and backstabbing your friends. M.U.L.E. was developed in 1983, primarily by Dan Bunten of Ozark Softscape, and published by the then-fledgling establishment known as Electronic Arts.
The concept behind M.U.L.E. was simple, but it would go on to breed very complex strategies. Four colonists land on a barren planet, and go on to build a colony around a town square. In order to survive, each player must purchase M.U.L.E.s, which stands for Multiple Use Labor Element, and outfit them with a particular job program, and put them to work on each of their plots of land. M.U.L.E.s could be outfitted to harvest food, electricity, and smithore. Each commodity was essential to successful (and economic) life on the colony. As a result, players could choose to sell their surplus of supplies to other players who might be in need, or sell excess to the colony store for later purchase.
Players who worked cooperatively, would often find their colony prospering, but would contain very little wealth. Once the greed factor of each player kicked in, the picture changes dramatically. By hording one commodity, or many, players could trade off the colony's overall success for their own financial gain. This would typically drive other players to attempt independence from the market by being self-sufficient, or go to war with one greedy player by stockpiling a commodity that the other player might be in need of to force a negotiation. The complexity increases in the Advanced game with the addition of the Crystite commodity. This guide will go in to all of the specifics of how these kinds of situations could potentially arise.
M.U.L.E. was a runaway hit in the early home computer game market, first appearing on the Atari 8-bit line of computers, which allowed for four player simultaneous play with its four joystick ports. It appeared on the Commodore 64 soon after. It also appeared as a specially made game for the IBM PCjr. In Japan, it was produced for the MSX home computer. And when four player support was added to the NES through adapters such as the Four Score and the NES Satellite, an updated, yet faithful adaptation of M.U.L.E. graced the successful console.
Four colonists have been selected to take a transport ship to planet Irata, where they will be left to fend for themselves for 12 months in an attempt to build a successful colony. If they succeed, great wealth will be their reward, but if they get too greedy, the colony will be doomed to failure. Each colonist must make use of the Multiple Use Labor Element robots known as M.U.L.E.s to harvest essential commodities such as food, electricity, and smithore, which form the basis of the colony's economy. Will the colonists work together to help the colony flourish and prosper? Or will one or more players' greed get the best of them and sacrifice the colony's well being for their own financial benefit?
Table of Contents
- Each player starts by choosing a race to play as. (Computer players always choose the Mechtron race)
- The transport ship drops each player off and the game begins.
- At the start of each round, each player is entitled to one free plot of land (provided that there are four or more available plots of land).
- A plot of land may or may not come up for auction.
- At the start of each player's turn, a good event may randomly occur if the player is in 3rd or 4th place, or a bad event may randomly occur if the player is in 1st or 2nd place.
- The player may use as much turn time as he has available (dictated by the amount of food he has) to purchase M.U.L.E.s, outfit them, assign them to his plots, and any other activity he or she chooses such as hunting the Mountain Wampus for extra money, or ending his turn by gambling at the pub.
- When all players have taken their turn, the production phase begins. Each M.U.L.E. produces an amount of commodity, dictated by how well suited the land is to producing that commodity, and the amount of electricity the player has stored, and a few other factors.
- Just before or just after production, a random event may occur which impacts the outcome of production.
- When the production phase is over, the auction phase begins, where players may buy or sell their commodities to other players or to the colony store. When the auction phase is over, the next round begins.
- The game is over when 12 rounds have passed (6 in the beginner game).