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Hamurabi

MobyRank MobyScore
ZX80
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Commodore 64
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Description

The great grand-daddy of all god games, Hamurabi puts the player in the shoes (well, sandals) of Hammurabi the Wise, ruler of ancient Sumeria. Though this king is best known historically for his codification of laws and edicts, composed and engraved in cuneiform tablets ~1780 BC, the game veers away from lawmaking and the pursuit of justice in favour of guiding your population of subjects to stable, contented growth. The game puts it, somewhat blandly, in other words:

YOUR TASK IS TO DEVELOP A STABLE ECONOMY BY THE WISE MANAGEMENT OF YOUR RESOURCES. YOU WILL BE BESET FROM TIME TO TIME BY NATURAL EVENTS.
Results of your actions are narrated to you in plain text; player input primarily consists of punching in numbers and selecting the occasional YES and NO (the end of every turn typically asking you DO YOU WISH TO ABDICATE?) into your keyboard, touchscreen -- or TeleType terminal. Gameplay and interaction are restrictive, but the minimalist number-crunching is foundational for all the managerial leadership games that followed: You can buy and sell acres of land, purchasing extra bushels of grain to sow in your fields or feed your populace if so needed. Between turns (only 10 on the iPhone version), citizens starve and are laid low by plagues, peasants immigrate to replace them, and vermin deplete your stores of grain reserves. One year is much the same as the next, though the particular numerical values shift according to elegant algorithms the deeper understanding of which will lead you to a fruitful and harmonious reign, concluding with enthusiastic congratulations from the computer:

A FANTASTIC PERFORMANCE!!! CHARLEMAGNE, DISRAELI, AND JEFFERSON COMBINED COULD NOT HAVE DONE BETTER!

Screenshots

Hamurabi Browser First turn
Hamurabi Browser Trading grain for land
Hamurabi Browser Error -- can't cover that expense!
Hamurabi Browser Starting a new game.

Alternate Titles

  • "The Sumer Game" -- Description in original FOCAL version
  • "Hamurabi von Babylon" -- German C64 Title
  • "Hammurabi" -- Hugo Port title

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Topic # Posts Last Post
There can be only one... 7 Rola (7054)
Jul 23, 2012

Trivia

Release history

This game first appeared in 1969 on a DEC PDP-8, written in FOCAL, an ALGOL derivative, by the language's author, Rick Merrill (taking up 700 mighty bytes!) It gained popularity among the mainframe set after being ported to BASIC (needing to be trimmed down to 400 bytes in the process) and influenced at least one generation of game designers after its source code hit the mainstream in David H. Ahl's 1978 book BASIC Computer Games (aka 101 BASIC Computer Games), published by Creative Computing... seeing it typed feverishly, over and over again, into BASIC-interpreting microcomputers worldwide.

You can see scans of the original BASIC source code publication at http://atariarchives.org/basicgames/showpage.php?page=78 or, if you prefer, a raw text conversions of them at http://www.moorecad.com/classicbasic/basic/creative/hamurabi.bas.

One of the more peculiar ports of this venerable title would be Robb Sherwin's 2002 conversion of it to the Hugo Interactive Fiction language.

Related Web Sites

  • Hamurabi online (A JavaScript rendition of the game for WebTV playable through your web browser.)
  • More Hamurabi online (Jeff Halbgewachs' JavaScript version of this game, also playable through your web browser, with instructions and tips.)
  • Still more Hamurabi online (Russell Glasser tosses his hat into the ring with one more JavaScript implementation of the grain-distributing game.)
Contributed to by Soma-Group.com (80), Kabushi (121658), Pseudo_Intellectual (44532) and General Error (4212)