I the vanilla game for some time, but once I figured out how to get past a few standard difficulties, it lacked the late game flare that I had hoped it would have. Getting through the initial precarious stages of starting a city, and the early low population die-offs from old age are the hardest parts. Once you get well over 100 population, there isn't much to do in the end game other than generate a lot of trade, which you need to do anyway since stone, iron, and coal are too unsustainable and personnel intensive to produce yourself. So I spend a lot of time making warm coats from cattle and sheep and selling them for iron, coal, and stone. Part of the problem is that there just aren't that many value adding buildings/professions. You can make cloths, tools, firewood, and ale. That is it!
As you might guess, this got boring pretty quickly. But I could see that the potential for a really great and involved game was there, so I went looking for some good mods. Boy did I find them. I found a medieval mod, which adds a more medieval aesthetic, and a LOT of late game professions and buildings, as well as splitting up the market into distinct stores. In addition, it adds canals, which are great for creating awesome looking cities. Finally, the houses stack up the three floors, so you can have a much higher density and place housing on top of buildings where people work. I also found a mod called Colonial Charter. Colonial Charter is substantially more complex, with exponentially more professions. I decided to go with the medieval mod first, and once I've started to play that out I'll switch to the Colonial Charter mod.
Now I want to show off my medieval canal city a bit.
One thing that I've learned to do, especially with the increased types of buildings, is to lay out my city beforehand. Fortunately, you can place buildings and then pause their construction. So I lay out most of my cities before even starting to play the game. Inevitably, things change a little bit and my preconceptions of what the city will be gets altered by unexpected terrain or when I get access to what crops and livestock. Here is my layout for my medieval canal city, Annecy!
Here is what the town looks like after being about half finished.
A look at a nice row of shops. These are the split up market shops with second story houses on top of them.
Another row of shops on the other side of the canal. These are a butcher, a baker, an alehouse, a clinic, a third story house that I used to make a sort of raised structure over a road, and a hostel.
One of the coolest things you can build is the cathedral, the first "wonder" you can build in Banished! Its quite the construction project! Here is what mine looks like as I began to build the second half of the city.