Pharaoh (video game)

Pharaoh (video game)
Pharaoh Coverart.png
Developer(s) Impressions Games
Publisher(s) Sierra Entertainment
Series City Building Series
Version 1.1
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) 1999
Genre(s) Strategy/Simulation
Mode(s) Single-player
Media/distribution CD-ROM
System requirements

Windows 95/98
200 MHz Processor
360 MB free space
4X CD-ROM Drive
1 MB video card

Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile
Queen of the Nile - Cleopatra Coverart.png
Developer(s) BreakAway Games
Publisher(s) Sierra Entertainment
Series City Building Series
Engine Isometric projection
Platform(s) Windows
Release date(s) 2000
Genre(s) City-building game
Mode(s) Single-player
Rating(s) ESRB Everyone
Media/distribution CD-ROM

Pharaoh is an isometric city-building game set in Ancient Egypt created by Impressions Games and published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows-based computers. It involves the construction and management of settlements and cities in ancient Egypt, and is the first such themed game in the City Building series.

The game was released on October 31, 1999, and was later complemented with an expansion pack, Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile, developed by BreakAway Games the following year. Both the original game and expansion pack are commonly referred to, and may be purchased as one, under the title Pharaoh and Cleopatra.[1]


Game description

See this section of the City Building Series article for a gameplay overview.

Pharaoh is based on the same game engine as Caesar III, also by Sierra Entertainment, and operates on the same principles, but has many improvements and exceptions. The game has little AI, relying instead on a high level of micromanagment from the player.

All scenario objectives must be met before the next city in a campaign can be used and played. Each mission sets five targets for the city, each being a value on a rating scale. A higher target along the scale represents a higher difficulty level for the city.

There are five rating scales: population, representing simply the number of residents in the city; the culture rating, representing the population's access to city services; the monument rating, which represents monument completion; the prosperity rating, which represents the city's financial success; and the kingdom rating, representing the city's relations with the Pharaoh and other cities in the kingdom.


Most buildings in the game generate walkers that roam the city, with the most part of the game being related with the effects of such walkers on the city. There are two main types of characters: walkers with a destination and roamers, both of them being NPC. Walkers with a destination are generated at one point of the city and take the most direct road to another one. The most common destination walker is the delivery man, who takes goods and products from one place to another. Roam walkers are generated by a building and roam around the city following the roads laid by the player. Usually the purpose of these characters is to have an effect over the housing plots or buildings they pass by. The player may prevent roam walkers from going by a certain road by using roadblocks, which do not stop walkers with a destination, nor remove the road itself.

A few characters can have negative effects over the city, such as thieves or diseased people. Some animals may attack the walkers as well. There are also buildings that show people inside it, but only for animation purposes.

Soldiers are the only characters that the player can control directly, and even so they can only be moved as whole formations, not individually.



A city scene from Pharaoh.

Citizens of Pharaoh's cities occupy several different levels of housing, all of which require certain services to be maintained. Higher levels of housing are also required to be located within "nice neighborhoods", determined by a level of "desirability." Desirability can be influenced by any industrial buildings in the general area (dragging the area down), as well as any nearby elegant or stately buildings (making the area more attractive). Statues and gardens may also be added to increase the appeal of an area.

The highest housing units are known as estates. The player, themselves, also may build a personal mansion, the size of which is determined by what mission is being played. The three different mansions are the Personal Mansion, Family Mansion, and Dynasty Mansion.


The gods present in Pharaoh are:

  • Osiris, god of agriculture
  • Ra, god of the kingdom
  • Ptah, god of craftsmanship
  • Seth, god of destruction
  • Bast, goddess of the home

Some cities worship only a selection of these gods, and most cities have a 'patron god' which must be worshiped more than others and is harder to please. Gods are worshiped by building temples, shrines, and temple complexes. Temples dispatch priests to wander the city and spread the word of their particular god. Shrines are small monuments which have no staff but simply serve to appease those living near one. Temple Complexes may be built to any god, though they are usually only available for the Patron God. They are massive structures which greatly increase a god's activity in a particular city and grant the city special abilities. Temple complexes also can have altar and oracle additions, which pay homage to lesser gods.

Osiris - Isis, Min

Ra - Horus, Ma'at

Ptah - Amun, Thoth

Seth - Anubis, Sekhmet

Bast - Sobek, Hathor

Each Local Deity God expects the same as every other Local Deity. A Patron God expects more than a Local Deity and will often require much more attention.

In addition to temple-building, festivals may be thrown to specific gods to appease them. Happy gods will grant a city various special gifts or powers. If a god is angry, it may effect a disaster upon the city, relevant to the god's domain. Osiris, for example, will reduce the Nile flood, thus reducing agricultural yields. Seth will destroy troop forts, and Ra will lower a player's kingdom reputation.


Keeping the citizens of Pharaoh's cities occupied in their off time is a critical part of city planning and housing requirements. To upgrade beyond the most basic cottage, a house must have access to at least some entertainment. Higher and more elegant homes require a full array of entertainment options to keep the occupants happy.

In Pharaoh, there are three main types of entertainment: Jugglers, Musicians, and Dancers. Each must be trained at a special school, known respectively as a Juggler School, Conservatory, and Dance School. Graduates of the school will either wander the streets of the cities, providing entertainment to houses as they pass, or perform shows on set stages positioned to serve multiple homes. The stages are divided into three classes, those being Juggler Booths which have Juggler shows only, Bandstands which display jugglers and musicians, and the largest stage is the pavilion which features jugglers, musicians and dancers. People will not mind living near Juggling Schools as their practicing is just as fun to watch as if they were performing.

For the most selective of citizens, a Senet House must be constructed. While not an actual entertainment show, Senet masters walk the streets of a city, inviting citizens to come to the Senet House. Unlike the other forms of entertainment, the Senet House does not require a separate training facility, it instead needs a steady supply of beer. Senet House access is one of the highest possible forms of entertainment available in the game. However, due to the betting of money, this drags desirability down, as well as conservatories and dance schools.

The ultimate form of entertainment is for a city to have a zoo, which is an addition only available in the Cleopatra expansion. Zoos require straw and meat to keep the animals comfortable and fed within, with zoos vastly raising a city's culture rating. Zoos send out zookeepers who invite citizens to visit the zoo, thus providing homes with zoo access.


Pharaoh allows for the creation of an educated class of citizens who live in better homes and hold down less manual jobs. Citizens are educated by having access to a Scribal School which dispatches teachers to teach people in nearby homes. In the more cultured cities, a library may be erected which, in turn, sends out librarians to provide further education to the elite citizens. Both Scribal Schools and Libraries require a constant supply of papyrus to operate.

Those who have received a large amount of education and who live in the top class of homes, are eligible to become a Scribe. Scribes are elite citizens who do not hold a job in the city, but rather spend their days in academic pursuit. Having too many scribes will cause the city's employment levels to drop, eventually causing some scribes to become ordinary citizens and rejoin the work force. This, in turn, makes the former scribes (and the city in general) unhappy.

Industry and agriculture

In Pharaoh, industry is not only necessary for the production of commodities but also plays a large role in the mining of construction materials, which are used in monuments.

Pharaoh also has a complex agricultural system based on the annual inundation of the Nile. Some areas of the city map next to the river are designated as flood plain areas, which are covered by water once each in-game year and where only farms, roads and irrigation ditches may be built. The extent of the flood determines how fertile the farms are when they are re-planted after the flood, and this determines the yield of the farm at the harvest season. Farms may also be built in meadows away from the river, but should be irrigated with a water lift, channeling water from the Nile to the farms in order to make them fertile. Meadow farms operate year round while flood plain farms are dependent on the inundation.

In some missions, a "Hunting Lodge" may be built which sends out hunters year round to kill various game animals such as ostrichs, water fowl, and antelopes. Other animals, such as scorpions (only in Cleopatra expansion), hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and hyenas may not be hunted but will instead hunt citizens of the city who venture too near them. Hyenas have also been known to travel across the map to your city to hunt citizens. However, one way to remedy this is to build a police station in your city. The constables will attack the predators and kill them. You can also use your city's military to exterminate certain kinds of predators, such as hyenas. Other year round sources of food are the Fishing Wharf which will send out fishing boats into the Nile to catch fish, and the Cattle Farm which raises and slaughters cattle. Fishing Wharfs need a shipwright to build their fishing boats for them, but the shipwright constructs the small boats from materials on hand, not requiring imported or stockpiled wood from a storage yard. Cattle farms need straw from a Grain farm to feed the cattle contained within.

There are several primary industries that a city may manufacture and requirements for advancement or mission completion may have a city importing resources as well. Cities may also grow certain types of food, and often must import more food to either feed the entire population or have a city with multiple food types (required for higher level residences).

When food and industrial goods are not being used immediately, they are stored in a granary (for food) or a storage yard (for other goods). Food may also be stored in a storage yard instead of a granary if it is being imported or stockpiled. Storage yards and granaries may be ordered to hold only certain types of food/goods or empty their contents of unneeded supplies. Storage yards may also stockpile goods to build up a resource of a needed item.

Primary industry Raw Product Secondary industry Product Uses
Wood Cutter Wood Chariot maker and shipwright Chariots Provides wood for:
  • Shipwright for shipbuilding
  • Carpenter's Guild for scaffolding (for monument construction)
  • Chariot Makers for chariots. Chariots allow the Recruiter building to train chariot-riders
Clay Pit Clay Potter, Artisan Guilds, and Brickworks Pottery; Bricks Provides clay for:
  • Potter to make pottery used as domestic product to upgrade housing and for Oil lamps (Cleopatra expansion)
  • Artisans who mix clay with paint for tomb murals
  • Brick makers who combine clay with straw to make bricks used in monument construction
Reed Gatherer Reeds Papyrus Maker Papyrus Library and School service buildings
Barley Farm Barley Brewery Beer
  • Domestic product to upgrade housing
  • Senet house entertainment service building
  • Lavish Festivals
Flax Farm Flax Weaver Linen
  • Domestic product to upgrade housing
  • Mortuary health service building

Chickpea Farm,
Lettuce Farm,
Fig Farm,
Pomegranate Farm,
Grain Farm,
Fishing Wharf

Wheat and Straw,

Cattle Ranch and Brickworks Meat and Bricks Food supplies; Bricks (for monument construction)
Henna Farm Henna plant Paint Maker Paint Used in the Cleopatra Valley of the King missions to paint wall murals in burial tombs
Oil Imported only Lamp Maker Lamps Used in the Cleopatra Valley of the King missions in conjunction with pottery to create lamps to light burial tombs
Gemstone Mine Gemstones Jeweler Jewelry Domestic product to upgrade housing
Copper Mine Copper Weaponsmith Weapons Equipment for Recruiter building to train spearmen
Gold Mine Gold N/A Money Delivered directly to city treasury to supplement funds
Granite Quarry Granite N/A Granite Blocks Monument construction - Obelisks
Limestone Quarry Limestone N/A Limestone Blocks Monument construction - Pyramids
Plain stone Quarry Plain stone N/A Plain Stone Blocks Monument construction - Pyramids
Sandstone Quarry Sandstone N/A Sandstone Blocks Monument construction - Sun Temples and Mausoleums

Henna farms, lamp makers, and imported oil are available only in the Cleopatra expansion and are mainly needed, along with an Artisan Guild, to paint the interior of Royal Burial Tombs.


Some cities are susceptible to attack by other civilizations, and the player must counter this threat by building defenses. A maximum of six armies can be recruited from the general population, each consisting solely of spearmen, archers, or chariot-riders. Walls, gates, and towers, limited only by costs, can also be built to defend the city. Up to six warships can also be constructed for naval defense.

Depending on the level of a particular mission, a player may or may not be allocated military unit availability. Military units are divided into forts, with chariots, archers, and infantry in separate types of forts. A Recruiter is necessary to send soldiers to a fort and, in most missions, soldiers may also visit an Academy to increase their skill level prior to be being sent on "active duty".

In addition to ground forces, a Navy may also be established in certain missions. Naval wharfs are built to house one naval vessel a piece, each requiring a shipwright to construct. The two types of vessels available are Transports and Warships, of which the player may built several of each.

Military establishments are the least attractive structures in the game and building any military building next to a residence plot will cause the desirability of the area to greatly diminish.

In addition to defense, the player will sometimes be asked by other cities to provide reinforcements for a battle elsewhere. It should also be noted that police constables can also fight enemy armies but since they are not well trained or well equipped, constables only have a chance of success if they greatly outnumber the enemy. In the final missions of the Cleopatra expansion, the player also may command Roman troops in addition to Egyptian. Though, the player can also use Nubians, the Sea People, etc. in Custom Missions.

Steps to create military units:


  1. Build recruiter
  2. Build forts
  3. Build academy(Optional)


  1. Build weaponsmith or import weapons
  2. Build recruiter
  3. Build forts
  4. Build academy(Optional)


  1. Build chariot maker or import chariots
  2. Build recruiter
  3. Build forts
  4. Build academy(Optional)

Civil Service

Cities in Pharaoh maintain a variety of civil service buildings that keep the city running through its own infrastructure. Most such buildings supply the city with specialists who walk the streets of the city, performing duties to keep the city safe or perform a needed service. The civil service buildings in Pharaoh are:

  • Palace: The hub of city administration, it is from here that all city activities are monitored. The bulk of the city's treasury is also stored at the palace and the palace provides a shortcut to set the wage amount given each year to the city workers. Palaces may be robbed if crime gets out of control in the city. Palaces are available in three levels, depending on the level of a particular mission. The palace types available are village, town, and city.
  • Bazaar: These critical buildings collect and supply houses with all the needed commodities such as food, pottery, beer and, in the case of elite citizens, jewellery and fine linen. Bazaar workers send out two types of employees, one who finds the needed goods in the city's granarys and storage yards and one who sells them. Bazaars must be located close to houses to provide their services but not too close since bazaars slightly reduce the desirability of the land immediately surrounding it. There are two types of Bazaars, elegant and normal. Normal bazaars send out one gatherer and one seller while elegant bazaars will send two of each type of employee. Bazaars become elegant if they are located in a desirable area.
  • Service Posts: Service posts provide specialists who deter three possible damage types to city, these being fire, building collapse and crime. The fire post sends out Fire Marshals to prevent fires in the city and put them out if one starts, while the architect's post provides architects to prevent buildings from collapsing. The last service post, the Police Stations, provides constables to deter crime. Service posts are small one tile buildings marked by a color code to distinguish their purpose: red indicates a fire post, brown an architect's post, and blue posts are police stations.
  • Courthouse: Courthouses are large stately buildings which provide Magistrates who help prevent crime and are necessary for a residence to upgrade to a higher type of dwelling. Courthouses also serve to store a portion of the city treasury and can be robbed by criminals if the city's crime rate is too high.
  • Tax Collector: Collects taxes from the population. The tax amount is dependent on the quality level of the housing and the percent of tax that the city is currently imposing. Pharaoh begins each mission with a tax rate of 9% which can be raised or lowered with varying effects on the city sentiment. Tax Collectors store a portion of the treasury and can be robbed by criminals if a crime wave occurs.
  • Road Blocks: While not an actual building, roadblocks are essential to proper city planning. Road blocks are placed on roads and only allow destination walkers, such as those transporting food to a granary or bringing trade goods to and from a storage yard or dock. All other "random" walkers, such as Entertainers and bazaar traders are prevented from passing the roadblock thus stopping vital civil servants from wandering into industrial areas or farms where their services are not needed.

Whenever a building requiring workers is constructed, a special type of worker known as a "Citizen" will appear and begin searching for workers to staff the building which have just been constructed. The citizen does not count as part of the city's actual workforce and will vanish as soon as the building needing employees is fully staffed. People must also live relatively close to where they work, as the citizen will not journey too far from the building needing workers to find employees.

Health care

Health care is provided in Pharaoh to both the living and the dead. Every city has a level of general health, determined by the number of health buildings active in the city. Each health building sends out its own type of provider who grants the health care services to housing units as they pass. The greater number of health care services, combined with the amount and types of food each house has, determines the general health level for an entire city. If the health level drops too low, a plague will hit the city causing much death and a sharp decline in the population. The primary health care buildings are:

Building Description Service Provider
Well Provides a crude source of water for those who live in the immediate vicinity None
Water Supply Provides a water carrier who takes fresh water to nearby homes. Normal wells send out one water carrier while elegant wells send out two. Water Carrier
Physician's Office Doctors keep health care up in the city and prevent disease Physician
Apothecary Raises the health care level in a city and prevents malaria Herbalist
Dentist's Office Raises the health care level even further, raises the city culture rating, and provides middle class citizens with dental care. Dentist
Mortuary Keeps the city health care level up by disposing of dead bodies. The mortician must have a supply of linen to turn his clients into mummies. Mortician


Some cities require that specific monuments be constructed before the player may move onto the next city in the campaign. Monuments are built through a lengthy process of acquiring needed resources (such as bricks and stone) and then having a peasant worker force clear the area where the monument will be and then build the monument itself. The peasant work force is gathered by a Work Camp which is also in charge of supplying workers for farm and field cultivation. Thus, when a work force is heavily engaged in agriculture, the available force to build the monument may diminish, especially during a harvest.

Once at the monument, the workers are directed by members of a Guild. Usually this is a Stonemasons Guild, but a Bricklayers Guild is required when the monument contains ordinary bricks. A Carpenters Guild is available to construct wooden ramps for large monuments and, in the Cleopatra expansion, an Artisans Guild supplies painters to paint the inside of the burial tombs. There are several monuments in pharaoh. Here is a list of them:

Tombs -- Available in small, medium, large and for pyramids, Complex and Grand Complex

  • Mastaba (bricks)
  • Stepped pyramid (stone)
  • Bent Pyramid (partially bent at top) (limestone and stone)
  • Pyramid (limestone and stone)
  • Mudbrick Pyramid (Limestone and bricks)

Other Monuments

Cleopatra Monuments Valley of the Kings

  • Royal Burial Tomb (Small, medium, large, and grand)


  • Great Library
  • Pharos Lighthouse
  • Caesareum

Ramses II


Trade is an essential part of the game and for most cities a primary source of income. Pharaoh has a sophisticated trade system, allowing the player to manage the flow of commodities into and out of the city. Trade begins by establishing a trade relation with another city. For this, a map of the known world is accessed, allowing the player to select a city, see what the city will sell and buy, and purchase the rights to trade with a city. The farther away a city is from the player's city, the more expensive the trading rights will be. Some cities will not offer to trade right away, but must be given gifts or assistance to open up their own trade route.

Once a trade route has been opened, the trade city will send traders to do business. Trade over land appears in the form of a caravan which will walk into the city, sell or buy their commodity, and then depart. Trade over water is slightly more complex, as it involves constructing a working dock.

Docks allow trade ships from other cities to tie up and send agents into the city to buy or sell goods. To prevent back-ups at the dock, cities with multiple trade routes should have two or more docks. Docks also should not be located too far away from the storage yards where goods are kept, or the ship's agents will have to travel across the city and delay the vessel's time at the dock.

Excessive importing of a product can be prevented by instructing merchants to only deliver products to city storage yards if those storage yards have not exceeded a given stockpile. Similarly, exports can be limited so that the city does not run out of a given commodity. Additionally, instructions given to each individual storage yard can ensure that trade deliveries to one particular location are quickly distributed over the city, which is important for trade by water as cities usually only have one suitable site for docks.

Trade cities will only trade a maximum amount of goods per year, with this level raised depending on events in the game such as lending assistance to a city or having the God Ra encourage trade partners to do more business. Trade routes may also be disrupted or even cut off by sandstorm, war, or the Nile river becoming too turbulent to travel.

The player can also order the city to stockpile a commodity temporarily, preventing export or consumption.

Historical accuracy

Although the puzzle-like aspect of Pharaoh keeps the simulation far from realistic, the game stays true to the chronological order and timing of major events in the history of Egypt, including monument construction, wars and national disasters, the births and deaths of notable leaders, and the founding and fall of ancient cities.

One inaccuracy is that Osiris is the god responsible for inundation in this game, whereas in ancient Egypt, Hapi/Hapy was. (This isn't really an inaccuracy, because at the time of the Unification of Egypt, Osiris was the God of Agriculture and of the Dead. Originally, Osiris was the god of creation and agriculture, but after having been murdered by his brother Seth, he became the god of the dead. Hapy/Hapi became the God of the Nile on a later period)

The game also provides limited encyclopedic information about ancient Egyptian practices within its help menu. The instructional booklet includes a much more thorough but short history of Egypt.

Apart from the names of various Pharaohs, historical characters who appear in the game are the Royal Architect Imhotep as well as references to Moses in a Cleopatra mission.

Campaign structure

Throughout the game the player takes the role of successive generations of a particular family, progressing from city to city and ascending in rank from village elder to pharaoh. In some cases, the player is given the option of two cities to choose from to complete the next level. Usually one is more focused on domestic challenges, while the other involves military campaigns. In the original Pharaoh game, missions were required to be played in order. The Cleopatra expansion offered a "Select Mission" feature which allowed either individual missions to be played or single campaigns.

See also



External links

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