You know those people who establish dynasties so powerful that their names echo through the centuries? I am one of them. – El Vice Chancellor

Sim University (U.S name: Theme University) is a series of hit real-time strategy simulation games created and developed by a one man indie outfit. The game play sits at a crossroads between SimCity and The Settlers.

In the latest installment, Sim University 5, the player is given the role of El Vice Chancellor, a character with a CV full of honorary doctorates who has been installed to preside over the Democratic People’s Republic University. In campaign mode a different scenario is presented to the player at the start of each mission; the player is typically responsible for developing the University towards a certain goal, in early missions the goal is set by the cabinet of the fictitious country in which the University is based but as the game progresses these become crazy schemes that El and the Capitalists (See: Factions) dream up at the end of the previous scenario. Each scenario typically involves the building of new buildings, satisfying the staff/students’ needs, issuing edicts and embezzling funds from the treasury; all while keeping various powers and non player characters happy. At the end of each scenario a final score is determined based on the overall happiness of the students, the size of the University’s treasury, obnoxiousness of the VC’s personal number plate, size of the Vice Chancellor’s Swiss bank account and number of ‘friends made in high places’.


El gets to give speeches from his balcony to scare the masses. Fear is a simple but effective way to control NPCs.

Money will be needed to achieve the scenario goal and it is generated by students, ensuring these students are trapped in the system is an early objective in most scenarios. Tools such as the  ‘sexy course name generator’ will only be effective for shot periods of time and the player will need to invest in ways to trap students in ‘the system’ so they continually pay up. The few needs students have are represented by floating meters above their heads, the effects of a low aggregated score of these meters will have negative effects such as the sacking of El (Game Over!) or less students numbers (which results in less money coming in for things such as sexy license plate – and therefore a lower score). All is not lost though as effects be negated using a number of edicts that El has access to, such as rigging surveys or simply declaring that a league table doesn’t count.

The University will need staff to teach the students, these staff also have meters that represent their basic needs and the extent to which they are being met, these link to the catering quality (hunger), office quality (housing) and entertainment, furthermore each staff member has an affiliation with a political faction, which links their respect for the VC to the happiness of the faction’s leader and how well the faction’s goals are being met. The factions are as follows:

  • Communists: Mostly the lowly support staff and lecturers of the University. Communists like to see more people employed, everyone with an office over their head and a low-income disparity. While it is not that important to keep these happy it will stop the odd library closure, toilet malfunction and will stop Unison invading your University (which ultimately does nothing anyway). You can use edicts on the communist class to improve the entertainment meters of the capitalist class (see: force uniform edict)
  • Capitalists: The upper class citizens of the University. Like to see luxurious offices, high-class entertainment, and a growing treasury. Can be difficult to replace if they get upset, and often require an ‘embarrassing secret’ to keep in line. The Capitalist faction is valuable for keeping wealthy degree tourists flocking to your University for honorary degrees which in turn influences the Cabinet opinion of you, which is important to stay in power. Throughout the scenario missions your capitalist advisers will usually end up arrested, exiled or kidnapped and replaced with clones forcing you to start again from scratch for the next scenario.
  • Intellectuals: The educated staff in the University. They like high quality lectures for students and need high liberty ratings to stay happy. Generally a small faction.
  • Militarists: The security staff in the University. They like the University to be an ‘orderly’ society (the average safety rating higher than the liberty rating) . This puts them at odds with the Intellectual who prefer more freedom and less military presence. High militarist support is needed for special actions like declaring Martial Law.
  • Loyalists: El’s die-hard fans. They value a strong and pompous Vice Chancellor, and think the idea of elections, free or not, is generally preposterous since El  is the only candidate you will ever need.


Building a room to deal with academics with ‘Bloaty head syndrome’ returns in the 5th of the series.

The game is reasonably well balanced and I enjoyed the first couple of missions, the problem is that Sim University doesn’t give you enough reasons to replay each scenario as the game progresses they are predictably similar. Unbelievable and crazy scenarios are laid out in front of the player mission after mission, expecting the game to let up at some point you eventually get bored of the repeating pattern.

A well designed game let down by repeatability


dkernohan · July 4, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Have you any idea how disappointed I am that this isn’t a real game!

    David Sherlock · July 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    I have no idea what you are talking about. I’ve just played the review copy.

    Lorna · July 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    What? You mean this *isn’t* a game?! :}

Lorna · July 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm

The premise of this game doesn’t strike me as being very original. I’m sure I played something very similar to this in my previous institution last year.

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