FreeCol is a complex turn-based strategy game which plays in the colonial era. The objective of the game is to colonize America and create an independent nation which can stand the test of time.
It is the year 1492. The major nations in Europe have sent ships in search of new lands, and you control the colonists of one of these nations. You start with only a few colonists which will (hopefully) be the birth of a new and glorious nation. Will you guide them on the Colonization of a New World?

You can build settlements and collect various resources such as food, wood, ore, etc. You can explore the New World to expand. Growing your nation on your own will take a lot of time, but you can send ships back to Europe to sell goods and attract more settlers to your settlements.
At the beginning, you know nothing about the New World. Exploration is a key aspect of the game and sometimes even grants you bonuses.
You will not be alone in the New World. The New World is already inhabited by several native tribes. Decide if you want to live peacefully with them, trade and teach your settlers valuable new skills, or if you would rather subdue or conquer them for a quick buck. Other nations of the Old World have sent ships and they will compete with you or even declare war.
You will need various specialist workers to help supporting your settlements. Your settlers will be unskilled and rather inefficient at the beginning, only with hard work they will become skilled. You also need to keep an eye on governmental efficiency which affects tht production of all workers. By increasing governmental efficiency, you can increase production and also support for a declaration of independence. By promoting religious freedom, you can attract more settlers from Europe.
Your settlements can be expanded by your workers by building one of many different buildings to chose from, in order to increase production, craft more valuable goods, promote religious freedom, increase governmental efficiency, build ships, build a defense against attackers, and more.
Your colonists can also become soldiers and build war ships to create a powerful military.
The ultimate goal of the game is to declare independence (which requires the support of your people) and survive the following attack of the monarch of your home nation.

This was a simplified overview about the gameplay. There are many more aspects about the game. The game is pretty complex and needs time to learn and even more time to master.

Project goals
The first major goal of the FreeCol project is to create an almost exact free software clone of the old game Sid Meier's Colonization. For later it is planned to build upon the result and add own ideas.

Minimum system requirements: 

A Java Runtime Environment, version 1.5 or later.
A display resolution of at least 1024×768.