It’s a rare day that I find a real time strategy game that interests me. Even just basing a game in history isn’t enough to draw me in. But an RTS about the Opium War/British Imperialist period in China? Sign me up.
High Tea places you as a British entrepreneur, buying opium from Thailand to sell to port cities in China. You use this money to buy tea to ship back to Great Britain. Failure to sell enough opium will result in the collapse of the British economy. The Brits were so addicted to tea, they were buying it by the case-load with silver, the base of British currency. Opium gives them their only chance to obtain tea from the otherwise uninterested Chinese traders without destroying the entire empire.
The game is simple in instructions but difficult in time management. You buy tea and opium when the price is low as much as possible. You sell the opium when the port city is willing to pay a high price for a large quantity of cases. At first you only have one boat, so choosing a lower-priced sale for more cases is better than sending out your only boat to sell one case at the max price. Regarding the tea, the Imperial Armada will show up at faster and faster intervals for greater quantities of tea. Fail to get the tea in time and the British people get upset. If chaos breaks loose at 0 satisfaction rates, the game is over.
The difficulty in High Tea rises at just the right rate to make this game challenging but accessible. I’ve been playing a few days already and still haven’t reached the end of the timeline. Everything about the game–from controls to visuals to sound design–is exactly what a web-based RTS should be. It’s a lot more fun than you would expect an economy/trade-based RTS about opium/tea trade to be.