Analysis on Trading for Gold

Heaven’s Reference Pages

Analysis on Trading for Gold

by FWH_Foistie

I have listed my conclusions and recommendations first so that you can refer back to them at a later date for a quick summary. Information supporting these conclusions is found in the main body of the text:

Conclusions and Recommendations:

  1. Normally build just three trading ships for each ally or opponent you trade with. If possible, trade with more than one ally or opponent using three additional trading ships.
  2. Only upgrade the trading ships to merchant ships, if you are traveling a great distance and/or are traveling through hostile territory.
  3. If possible, trade for food, wood if you must, and never trade stone for gold.
  4. Build your dock as FAR AWAY as you `safely’ can from the dock you expect to trade with.
  5. Very Important: Make sure YOU DO NOT build additional docks closer to your trading partner (in between your two trading docks) or you will only get gold credit based on the distance between your closest (non-trading) dock and the dock you are trading with.
  6. Try to trade in as straight a line as is possible (avoid going `around curvatures in the land’). Bottlenecks (created by land or too many boats / ships in a tight space) will cause your traders to stop and sit idle in the water.
  7. Make sure you have no `idle’ trading ships waiting at his dock. If you do, you are either too close to each other, you have built too many trading boats, or you have run out of food/wood to trade with. An idle trading boat has a built in penalty as described later.
  8. Begin trading as early in the game as possible. In ROR, that means the early tool (even stone) age, given the amount of food you can also obtain from fish. Not finding that first gold pile becomes less crucial. Understand that trading creates NEW gold. It does not ‘steal’ gold from you, your ally, or your opponent.

What is the Gold ‘Ticker’?

The minute the game begins, any dock (yours for trading with others and others for trading with you) begins with a gold ‘ticker’ starting at zero. If you click on any dock, you can observe the gold ticker as it accumulates this gold. You will see two numbers of which the top number reflects the gold currently available (up to 100) for trading. Every second which passes adds one unit of gold to the gold ticker up to a Maximum of 100 units of gold. The ticker stops at 100. If you trade for gold, the ticker is reduced by the number of gold units you ‘load’ onto your trading ship. This gold ticker is then replenished (one unit per second) until it once again reaches 100 units of gold. This represents how many gold units are available for trading for that entire particular Ally or opponent race. 
The second number or fraction represents the amount of return you will get for trading your 20 units of food, wood or stone. More on this later…

How much food/wood/stone can a trading boat carry to a dock and how much gold can a trading boat carry back to your dock?

Your trading boat can carry up to 20 units of a commodity (food/wood/stone) in its cargo hold. When you port at the ally/opponents dock, you will receive up to 20 units of gold. If the units of gold are available (to be explained further). 
What is a unit of gold that I pick up and store in my cargo hold, and how much is it really worth?
Remember that 20 units of gold you loaded into your cargo hold? This is NOT how much gold you eventually receive credit for and can actually use in the game. These 20 units of gold increase or lose value depending on how far you travel to get it. Think of it this way. At your dock you have loaded 20 units of food onto your boat. Lets call them 20 ‘Crates’ of food. You then trade them for 20 crates (units) of gold. Each crate has a dollar value which changes based upon distance. For example: A crate of gold has a certain value in the United States. Transport that gold crate to Europe, and it now has a new value. Travel another distance to Russia and your well traveled crate of gold takes on still a new value. 
In AOE/ROR, the further you travel, the more valuable your 20 cargo crates of gold becomes. The shorter distance you travel, the less valuable your gold crates become. Ultimately, you will receive ‘true’ gold value of anywhere between 7 and 75 gold for each round trip your trading ship makes depending upon the distances between YOUR dock which is closest to HIS dock which you are trading with. The amount received is based on the number of tiles away, etc. but let’s just say, if you put your dock right beside his, you will receive just 7 spendable gold pieces and you have wasted your time. Try longer distances and you will see how it works. The simple rule of thumb is, place your dock as far away as you ‘safely’ can. I say safely as the trade route must be protected from enemy attack. Now, do you remember the second fraction on the gold ticker? This fraction will show you your actual return (how much gold you will really get). If it says 7, you are getting a very poor return on your investment as you have docked too close. You are striving for that maximum return of 75 ‘usable’ gold per trip. 
Here’s a cruel twist: Let’s say you are trading a long distance from dock ‘a’ to dock ‘b.’ Without thinking, you build a second (or third, etc.) dock much closer to the ally/opponent you are trading with. You will now receive ‘true’ gold value based on the distance between YOUR CLOSEST dock and the dock you are trading with and your trade ships will now ‘re-direct’ to your (new) closer dock.
Here’s another twist: The amount of gold credit you actually receive and can use in game play is determined by distance based upon the ‘shortest distance between two points’ and not by how far you really traveled. For example: If you are at 12 (Continental map) and you go ‘around the cape’ at 3 and trade with someone at 5, you have traveled a very long distance. But the gold calculation is based on the direct line from dock ‘a’ and dock ‘b’. In this case, the direct line is across the land, not around the land.

Why do my boats stand idle in the water, or stand idle at his dock?

Idle in the water: If you are on inland or narrows, your boats can clog up in tight spaces (hitting each other or other ships) and they will then sit there until you see them and get them moving again. Therefore, try to trade on straight stretches of open water. 
Idle in the water: Your trading boat carries 20 units of a commodity if it is available. For example, if you are trading food, and you run out of food (lazy peons didn’t build new farms), then your trading boat will stop trading and will sit there, dead in the water until you get him going again.
Idle at his dock: How long your trading boat has to wait at his dock depends on how many units HE has available to trade (0 to 100). Example: If he has 60 gold units available and your boat arrives, your boat will immediately trade 20 commodity for 20 gold units and depart immediately. But if HIS dock only has 8 units of gold to trade, you will wait 12 seconds at his dock until his ticker gets up to 20 units at the rate of 1 unit per second. You remember that gold ticker (in the dock) that ticks up to 100 units (one per second) and represents how much gold a given race can trade? If that ticker depletes down below 20 gold units (too many trading ships arriving too quickly), then your trading boats will sit and wait at his dock until new gold units are created (one per second) in a sufficient amount to load the cargo hold of your boat with 20 units of gold.

Why do some of my trade boats never leave his dock while boats arriving later continue to depart?

The trading boat that you BUILT LAST is always FILLED FIRST at his dock. For example, let’s assume that you are trading with just two ships and one of your ships is at his dock. Now, let’s assume this was the VERY FIRST trading ship you built earlier in the game. This ship currently has 15 units (of 20) of gold loaded into its cargo hold. Your second trading ship (built later) arrives at his dock. Surprisingly, the Second ship (built later) now takes priority and begins to load gold into its cargo hold while the first ship (with 15 units of gold) just sits and waits until the second ship is fully loaded and departs. Quite a pecking order. Now, compound this if you have built four or more ships to trade with just one ally/opponent!!! You will always have ships waiting at his dock AND some will be half full AND some will never leave his dock due to the arriving (younger ships).

Why only three trading ships per ally/opponent?

In the ‘real game’, most people do not have the time (or inclination) to space the docks in exact distances in order to receive the maximum bonus. For example, if you are playing a huge map, a direct trade route along the map edge would yield you the full 75 in ‘usable’ gold if your docks are spaced about 3/4 away from each other along the map edge. On a Gigantic map, it is shorter, on a Large map it is much longer (you have to go around a map corner). Generally speaking, it will take about 2 minutes (round-trip) for your trade boat to make a maximum run yielding 75 gold. In a ‘game play’ situation, people don’t have time to count tiles, etc., so I recommend you use three traders as you get the feel for distances. As you become comfortable with estimating distances, you can add more trade boats, but you must temper this with ‘how open (unclogged) your trade route is and whether or not anyone else is also trading with the ally/opponent you are currently trading with. Remember, if someone else is also trading with your ally/opponent, his ticker will be depleting that much faster. I personally don’t recommend the fourth due to bottlenecks, etc. 
You want to create a situation where you have just enough ships whereby one is always arriving and the other is departing without having your ships to wait at his port. If you want to get into the math, that’s fine, but simply put, three trading boats is almost always the right number to use per each race you trade with for the average person plopping down a dock which is less than 3/4 of a map edge on a Gigantic map. 
Think of it this way. If it takes you 40 seconds to make a round trip from your dock to his dock and you are using three ships, then in 40 seconds you can take 60 gold units (20 gold units x 3 ships) from dock to dock. Remember his gold ticker counts up to 100 and replenishes his gold at 1 gold unit per second. His initial 100 units minus the 60 you took now leaves him with 40 units of gold available for trading. Your next wave of 3 ships will return in 40 seconds which allows his dock to increase to just 80 units of gold available (20 less than before) when you make the next trade. After this trade, he now has 20 units of gold (80 minus 60) and will replenish to a total of 60 units of gold when you arrive the third time. This third trade wipes out his total gold supply (60 minus 60 =0) and from here on out you will have one trade boat waiting at his dock for the rest of the game. 
A better example would be: If it takes you 60 seconds to make a round trip from your dock to his dock and you are using three ships, then in 60 seconds, you take 60 gold units (20 gold units x 3) from dock to dock. His initial 100 units minus 60 units (first trip) now leaves him with 40 units of gold available for trading. Your next wave of three ships will return in 60 seconds which allows his dock to fully replenish his gold units up to a maximum of 100 units. This means you are trading in an equal amount to the amount being replenished to his dock/race and your boats will never wait at his dock. Don’t let the fact that his dock once again has 100 gold units mislead you. If he can’t replenish up to 100 units before your return, then eventually you will have a trade boat waiting at his dock. Realistically, for the average player, even with three trading boats, one will be waiting at his dock as most of the time the round trip travel time will be less than 60 seconds from dock to dock.

If I build only three trade boats, then why even trade?

Well, so you can win the long iron game! You can generate a ton of gold if you do it right. Let’s assume that you started trading early, over a distance of approximately 75% of one map edge on a gigantic map. This means your round trip will take approximately two minutes per boat, per trip. In this scenario, you would get close to the full amount of 75 ‘usable’ gold times three ships or 225 gold every 120 seconds. Assuming you have been trading for 1 hour of a 2 hour game with only one ally/opponent, you will generate 6,725 in ‘USABLE’ GOLD ( 60 minutes equals 3,600 seconds divided by 120 seconds per trip equals 30 full trips times 225 gold [ 75 gold each from 3 boats] equals 6,725 in ‘usable’ gold). Now, people will point out that you could actually build more than three trading ships to bring in the gold faster. But don’t forget about bottlenecks. How many fishing boats and fighting boats do you or the ally/opponent have in the area? On a Continental map, the map edge is not very wide and will not accommodate a heavy load of traffic. The same can be said for inland and narrows maps. The Mediterranean map is wide open but there are no great distances, so you won’t need many traders at all on this type of map.

Why shouldn’t I upgrade to merchant ships unless I travel a great distance or into hostile territory?

Trade boats travel at the rate of 2 squares per second. Upgraded Merchant Ships travel at the rate of 2.5 tiles per second (per the manual). Who cares if they are faster but arrive too quickly and have to wait. Even though it’s not an expensive upgrade, it’s not worth the cost, unless the trading docks are very far away, or you are trading in hostile territory. In that case it makes sense to take advantage of the greater speed factor making you less susceptible to attack.

Why trade food first, wood second and never stone?

Food: When farming, 75 units of wood converts into anywhere from 250 food to 475 food (even more for Minoan or Sumerian) and depending on how many farm upgrades you have. You can buy a lot of gold with 250 to 475 food as compared to wasting your wood. 
Wood: It’s a non-renewable resource which can be converted cheaper to food or used in your war effort. Trade with wood only if you are very short on food and have a ton of wood collected. Use discretion. Having said this, you will probably tend to have more wood early in the game while all your food goes to the age upgrades and fighting units. As I said, use discretion.
Stone: Once stone is depleted from the land, it is gone for good. Use the stone for walls, towers, etc.

What happens when other people are trading with the same ally/opponent I trade with?

If other allies/opponents are also trading with the person you are trading with, then his 100 units of available gold units will be further depleted faster by ALL of the people trading with him.

Final Notes:

I have not talked about which races get better bonuses for trading (Palmyran-double gold per trade ship [Wow]) or which races can generate resources faster (Phoenician-wood, Minoan/Sumerian-better farms, etc.) as the discussion of the races is not the thrust of this particular essay. General trading information is the main thrust here while your trading also needs to modified based upon your choice of race. 
I have purposely tried to provide a sensible and somewhat non-mathematical approach to trading. The mathematicians will correctly point out that you can get a lot more gold trading at a two minute distance with 5-6 trading boats. However, the real world is always different. The average player just plops the docks down where he needs them and doesn’t have time to count tiles. But the average player can remember to try to put a dock down at least 3/4 of a (gigantic) map edge away from his trading opponent. Plus in the real world, bottlenecks are very common and frequent and no form of higher math can account for the variables in any given game.


It’s not really as hard as it sounds. Just follow the conclusions listed at the top of this analysis and you will find an unexpected gold bounty when you need it the most.