Hey everyone! Steve here with yet another new diary – now that we’ve wrapped up the large-scale system design, we can talk more about what we’re putting in! Let’s talk about trade today, because even though it’s not the most exciting part of a 4X type strategy game it can have long-term effects on how you play.
The first thing to understand is that there are 2 types of trade hubs that generate trade in a given area: province trade hubs and system trade hubs. (The Empire’s province hub is also considered the Empire trade hub, with a slightly larger radius of effect) Every province in the Empire at the start of the game will have at a province trade hub. Any system that is covered by the province trade hub range may trade with any other system or planet that is also within range. Province trade hubs have a large radius of effect. Province trade hubs can also trade with other province trade hubs, which will allow goods to move between provinces, and from there to the systems in the province.
System trade hubs are smaller, and not built at the start of the game, but can be used to expand your reach if you expand a province to the far corners of a given constellation. To build a trade hub, you must have a trade station built first. Any planet may import goods, but you must have a trade station to export goods to other planets for money.
There are 2 types of trade agreements – Supply and Economic. Supply trade agreements are created by the Empire to move goods from outposts to the Empire trade hub, and to the province and system trade hubs as well. Outposts are created to generate a certain type of good – food, energy, materials, etc. – and are not considered settled colonies. They can only export resources and do not generate income by doing so. Economic trade agreements are generated when a planet has a need for a certain resource and another planet has a supply of that resource that they have earmarked for trade. When that happens, a trade request is made to a certain planet, and that planet may choose to accept it or allow the planet to bid more to accept it.
Often, many planets will have a need for a resource, determined by the Viceroy through a stat called Importance, and if there is not enough resources set aside for all the trade bids, the price of a resource will go up. Trade bids also take into account distance and security between the systems, so if there are a lot of pirates or there is a war going on in the destination system, the price will be much higher to take the bid. Merchants are used to administer trade fleets, so a planet can only have as many active trade fleets as they have merchants allocated for them – merchants can either be allocated for exports or retail on a planet.
Once a trade agreement has been set, a trade fleet is created. This is a real object in the game world that can be examined and even attacked by pirates, other Houses, or other civs, or it can simply have a mechanical failure out in the depths of space. Once a fleet has made its journey and dropped off its goods, it becomes available again to fulfil a new trade agreement.
Here’s a game example of a viceroy from the planet Heaven trying to create a trade agreement for food, since they are a desert planet and cannot generate enough to feed all their Pops.
Example: Since the viceroy of Heaven has determined that the Importance of Food is high enough to make a trade request, Heaven has made a trade request for 10 food units. Melanon is the only planet in the radius of the Province Trade Hub that is currently trading food and has trade fleets available.
Since there are 5 Merchant Pops on Melanon dedicated to exports, they may only have 5 trades active at any one time. Right now, there are only 2 Trade Fleets available, as 3 Trade Fleets are out in space (Supply Trade Fleets do not count against the merchant total). Melanon has 4 trade offers outstanding from within the province for food, and Heaven’s bid is 3rd lowest (the higher 2 planets have a higher Importance on Food, and so have bid more). When considering trades, the distance and security risk is also taken into account, so planets that are farther from the trade hub may have to pay more because the trip is less profitable (energy to power the fleets is paid by the exporting planet as part of the costs of maintaining trade fleets)
For this province, even though the base price of food is ¢0.5m (that’s 500 000 Crowns, the basic unit of currency for 31st-century humanity) per unit, heavy demand has increased it to a new base of ¢1.8m per unit. In addition, the cost per unit for a trade between Heaven and Melanon is ¢4.1m due to distance and low security in the system where Heaven is located. The two planets higher on the list have offered ¢2.2m and ¢2.4m per unit of food, and their cost per unit is only ¢3.3m and ¢2.9m, respectively since they are closer, so their total bids are ¢5.5m and ¢5.3m per unit of food.
So essentially, because of the shipping costs, the viceroy of Heaven has to increase his bid to at least ¢5.4m per unit (¢2.9m cost per unit + ¢2.4m bid per unit + ¢100k to increase the total bid from the lowest-eligible planet on the list)
As the ‘bumped’ offer, the Heaven Viceroy may choose to increase their bid to make this trade happen. As his people are starting to show high unrest as their food stocks plummet, he decides to increase his bid to ¢5.45m. The planet who is offering ¢5.3m declines to adjust their price, and the lowest bidding planet does not do so either, so the Melanon trade request moves to the 2nd slot. No further bids take place, so as there are 2 fleets available, the Heaven request is filled and the trade price is calculated at the ¢5.45m base. These crowns come from Heaven’s Gross Planetary Product (GPP) budget that has been devoted to imports, and are removed from that budget immediately.
Once the trade is completed, if Heaven wants to trade again with Melanon, they must put in a new trade request, and the cycle begins again.
So as the Emperor, there will be plenty of ways to manipulate this system. One easy way is to flood a province with additional resources when prices are high, or perhaps to create a temporary bubble of need with a Project request. Let’s say that you have a Character who is a new Viceroy of the planet Tableau, and belongs to House Hawken. You want Hawken to be on your good side, and you feel that this Viceroy has the skills and loyalty to be a tremendous asset to your rule in the future (perhaps being given a Governorship down the line if all goes well). But for now, his planet is struggling, which is hurting his overall Power. What can you do?
Here’s a long-game option: You know that you are going to be building more military fleets in the next 2-3 years. Now, you could give those shipyards (which are built through a Project) to your putative friend, which would be a heavy industry and would bring wealth to the planet, but you have a longer-range plan. No, you know that Tableau has a very high concentration of rare minerals on the planet, and you also know that there is another viceroy of the planet Remola from House Ilioaia, who specialize in trade and mining, that you would like to improve your relations with since they are opposed to House Van Rigel, who most hate you and your ruling House. So what can you do?
Why, give the shipyards to Remola, which will initially make that viceroy (and House) happy, who will then need a tremendous amount of rare materials to build and power those fancy shipyards once they’re built, which will only come from the rare mineral mines that have been thoughtfully built by your order on… Tableau. And Remola’s viceroy will pay out the nose for the privilege, while your viceroy on Tableau’s GPP skyrockets from exports, and his Power increases, all while your ships of war get built by your loyal and greedy subjects.
Now that’s Imperia.