I too thought that this game was rediculously hard the first few times I played it. However, that’s cause I played it like the old Simcity games, and this one works in a very different way. Mostly, you have to always keep an eye on your monthly budget. In the beginning, you will be paying more than you take in, but within 10 or 20 years, you need to get it even, or maybe even make money. Once you’re able to make money, you can do certain things that will cause you to start losing for a year or two, if it causes growth that will get you back in the black.
As for how to get to making money, let me give you some handy dandy tips that I’ve found work really well.
[li]Start building near an edge of the city and immediatly build a connection ot the next region[/li][li]You do not need schools until you’re over 10,000 people. They’re too expensive to upkeep when you’ve got a population that is smaller than this.[/li][li]You can get away with not having a fire department until your first fire, then just set one down, save on monthly costs[/li][li]Your first region city will generally have to be very industrial and very dirty - don’t worry about it, you can put a totally non industrial city next to it, and just have people commute[/li][li]Build wind powerplants until you’ve got 7 - if you need another at that point, bulldoze those 7 and build a natural gas plant. This keeps your monthly power costs to the bare minimum.[/li][li]Don’t be afraid to accept military bases, prisons, anything that’ll boost your monthly income. Your first region needs to have a solid income.[/li][/ul]
One of the biggest suprises I found in this game is how much the regions work off of eachother. I had built my first region as mostly industrial, the rest residential with very little commercial mixed in. I had it until the R was extremely high and I was about even, then went to the next region, where i had roads linking the two. In the second region, I build only residential and commercial - mostly residential (about 90% res, 10% commercial) and within about 10 years, had over 10,000 people, as they all were working in the industrial region.
When I went back to the industrial region, my population went down a bit, but my tax revenue went through the roof, as there were thousands of new industrial jobs. Plus, I could build schools in the residential region without killing my budget, without having to worry about thousands of powerplants or water towers.
I guess I knew that’s how it was supposed to work, but after making 10 or so struggling, or even failed, cities, this was a real eye opener. Now there’s plenty of tax revenue to go around and I can get around to building whatever kind of area I want, so long as it’s connected into one of the other regions.