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Period, families, regionsEdit
The episode runs from AD 1430 to AD 1700. Four families compete, two based in south-west India ("Malabar"), with market names including Bangalore, Calicut, Cochin, Madurai, Mahe, and Mysore, and two families based in west India ("Khandesh"), with market names such as Bombay, Dabhol, Gujarat, Poona, and Surat. Malabar has a slight advantage in relation to numbers of some resources and buildings and the length of sea routes to other regions. Those regions link by both land and sea. Each of those regions also has a sea link to Zanzibar (which includes most of the old Tanganyika as well as the island) and a sea link to Sumatra. The other region, Guangzhou, can be reached only from Sumatra.
Zanzibar and victoryEdit
Victory points are earned from "wealth and deliveries to and from Zanzibar". Initially Zanzibar has no unique features, but after about 30 years it becomes developed with European trading enterprises, which bring western products and seek products from the east. The description of play in the "Victory Conditions" panel is partly incorrect:
- Coffee is NOT available anywhere at the start
- Medicine is more readily available in India than in the far east until you manage to establish markets in Sumatra and China to make use of the slightly higher number of herb fields.
Rice is the main food (with each rice paddy supplying enough for about seven dwellings); barracks and stables also buy rice (a stable buying about as much as five dwellings buy). Dwellings require a small amount of tea too, with each tea farm supplying enough for about 15 dwellings; castles, palaces, and temples also buy tea.
Cotton is abundant in most regions, along with smaller amounts of gold ore, drugs & herbs, rubies, and wood, from suitably-named sources; all of those except wood need further processing before they produce anything that can be sold to a demand building. Guangzhou in the Far East additionally produces raw silk, which can be turned into silk cloth in any region, and porcelain clay, which can be processed into porcelain only in Guangzhou.
When the Europeans set up trading centres in Zanzibar, new resources and products appear.
You can start with the reliable old 3-load mule or spend a bit extra for a more capacitous but slower camel, a good choice for moving wood. However, as soon as you and/or your rivals build roads and a caravansary or two you can upgrade to the horse (which is little better than a mule) or a faster but expensive 5-load wagon.
Sea and riverEdit
Merchants have much the same cost and capabilities as in other episodes. Among the first you hire may be Aibak (Seamanship), Ala ud-Din (Seamanship), Arjuna (River Pilot), Ashoka (Military Kickbacks), Aurangzeb (Famine Relief), Babur (Price Gouging), Bairan Khan (Marketeering), Bimbisara (Honest Reputation), Chandragupta (Persuasion), Genghis Khan (Leadership), Harsha (Escape Artist), Humayun (Famine Relief), and Lumagun (Animal Husbandry).
Ideas for startingEdit
Close to your headquarters, build at least two markets. One or both should have some unencumbered coastline where you and/or a rival can build a seaport when that becomes desirable, but it's not worth including if there would be little else of value in the market radius. Including a shipyard will be good, because it buys large amounts of wood, but then you shouldn't have a timber camp in the same market.
One of "your" markets should ideally have at least one tea farm and at least two rice paddies, with many more desirable, and preferably some dwellings though they will come soon if there are none initially. If you can get those within a trading post (200 coins), it's a bargain. Let a rival expand it for you unless you see real advantage in building a larger market yourself: "Market" for 400 or "Bazaar" for 800.
The third-most important item for your dwellings is cotton cloth, obtained from a weaver, who produces one load of it for every three loads of cotton delivered. As well as dwellings, Arsenals, Barracks, Castles, Fortresses, Palaces, and Shipyards buy cotton cloth. To maximize merchant profits, keep weavers out of the markets that contain those buildings or cotton farms. If the nearest weaver is a long way off, wait to see whether a rival will build a market for one.
Other commodities likely to be available soon require:
- medicinal plants sites, producing "drugs & herbs" (call it "herbs" for short) for sending to a medicine facility for producing medicines, which are bought by arsenals, fortresses, mosques, and temples
- gold mines for gold ore, needing smelters to produce gold ingots
- ruby mines for rubies;
Any of the above will have value eventually if they are in one of the markets you build. However, your rivals will build some markets, and any merchant can operate in any market, so the building of markets gives only a slight advantage to you, perhaps a couple of years in which you have a virtual monopoly of some good routes.
Create some routes for obvious needs, such as:
- cotton to weavers (three with a mule probably best)
- herbs to a medicine processor (three with a mule probably best)
- rice to large populations that have little or none growing
- tea to markets that have castles, palaces, or temples and/or clearly a need to encourage dwellings
- wood to shipyards
Once a few seconds of game have run, there will probably be other markets built by rivals. Study how their products and demands link together.
After seeing what your rivals do at the start, hire half a dozen merchants and set the most appropriate on various routes. Aurangzeb's Famine Relief skill gets superior prices for food, so he gets a rice or tea route initially. Bimbisara's honest reputation gets him to the head of the queue, handy when other families are wanting to buy cheap products too. Lumagun's Animal Husbandry should give him a little extra speed, which will be best utilized if he does long trips with little or no waiting.
Merchants who reach a market so early that they have to wait for production of more than one item may find that the price goes up so that they won't make a profit on delivery. It may be wise for such merchants to be on a route that requires only one item to be picked up at first instance.
After one game year is over, rivals are likely to have built all of the markets they intend to build in the first decade or so. Reassess your routes accordingly and assign routes to any merchants who have been waiting to see which way things are going. When your rivals start building roads and depots, you may further revise some routes and may feel tempted to build another market. Do not build roads, trails, or depots; like markets, they do not count in your wealth points and give you no practical advantage.
You should still have some spare coins. Buying more merchants will give you more profit if you can use them as intelligently as your rivals can. You should be able to end up with ten or eleven merchants at this stage, costing 5,550 coins for eleven. The twelfth will cost 1,250 coins, so it is possible to have twelve only if you have built only a single trading post and no trails or other improvements, possibly not worth the effort.
Now and again you may get an unexpected message. Its full meaning is not always clear, but you should probably switch a couple of merchants to any region of interest so that they are close to the action when the meaning is revealed.MERCHANT PRINCE
2000000 coins are required for the title Merchant Prince in this episode.
This is a scenario of vast distances and regular product changes particularity from when the European Seaport feature enters the episode in the 1460’s at Zanzibar. Your starting markets from 1430 AD will requires; Rice, Tea, Cotton Cloth and Silk; they will now demand as well; Coffee,Wine and Cigars.
Merchants get progressively more expensive to buy. At the end of the game the final merchant available for purchase is 6400 coins. There are 30 merchants as per usual but the 15th merchant costs 2000 coins and they climb to 6000 coins each fairly quickly.
An early coin building game tip: create trading posts [200 coins] at Temples, Palaces, Mosques or Fortresses on both Indian maps before you are ready to deliver or even have created roads to deliver goods. This builds good demand when you are ready, especially for those market radiuses that include more than one special structure. The AI merchants may even build the roads and caravansaries in many cases. If they dump Ruby Rings fill the gaps in Tea, Medicine, Coffee and Cloth.
Often the best profits are made on the regular bulk basic household high demand items like Tea, Coffee, Silk and Dyed Cloth to Zanzibar rather than Medicine, Balm, Cinnamon, Rings or Cannons, though they are all worth delivering. You need to get the balance right, especially as AI merchant will compete on these specialty items. Also there is the extra travel distance, the nearest Balm and Cinnamon are from Sumatra to Zanzibar. In return you take back to the East luxury items like Cigars, Wine, Gunpowder, Silver and later Muskets. All these items require no upgrades or production on your part , you just need to deliver them. A game tip-don’t over do the Wine deliveries; the demand is less than Cigars.
To achieve Merchant Prince more easily you will need more than one Zanzibar market. Game tip:only develop this second market when you have good control over your mass production of Tea, Coffee,Dyed Cloth and Refined Sugar. This is where the coffee and rice located on the East African coast becomes useful.Equally it will give you an additional source for Cigars, Wine, Gunpowder and Silver as a return cargo to the East. The Indiaman ship upgrade with a capacity of 18 trade items comes into play with about hundred years remaining in the episode.
Your starting point in India needs to be coastal or within a canal zone for MP. There are plenty of what look like very attractive starting towns areas inland on the Khandesh and Malabar maps. The AI merchants often start here. However they have no canal access. As the game progresses; it’s difficult to deliver bulk goods. A barges 12 capacity remains better than the 7 of the multiple harness upgrade.
Guangzhou only needs one developed market by the player. Look for a Silk market on the coast with rice within the market radius. One or two merchants can then operate on the Guangzhou map filling the gaps for Tea and Medicine. Only Cotton Cloth needs to be imported initially to stimulate significant growth in China. In return Silk is the most valued cargo. Porcelain should also be exported from any location that has Clay within the radius for a seaport.
Guangzhou will supply both Silk and Porcelain to India and Zanzibar. In return Zanzibar will supply China with a return cargo of more Cigars/ less Wine and picking up Coffee in Sumatra. Khandesh and Malabar will supply bulk Cotton cloth /Dyed cloth/Refined Sugar to China.
The games notes make the following explicit-“Special points are awarded for the sale of Eastern luxuries in Zanzibar and the sale of Western luxuries elsewhere”. Focus on bulk deliveries of Ruby rings,Balm, Bronze cannons and Cinnamon to the Seaports and return with Gunpowder, Muskets and Silver to India.
While the focus seems to be on the long routes, in any episode well structured short routes will probably be your game high merchants. Short permanent routes can clock over high numbers of coins trading in Ruby Rings and Medicine.
Whatever your strategy stick to it. There are endless trading possibilities but don't be seduced from a logical plan. With only thirty merchants maximum, something has to be given up. To sum up this is a bulk trading game. Use barges, upgrade your ships when you can, use the Galleons [capacity 15] and finally the Indiaman [18 and fast]. Focus on getting bulk Tea, Coffee, Silk, and Cotton Cloth/Dyed Cloth to Zanzibar along with a smaller regular mix of luxury goods like Ruby rings, Balm, Cinnamon, Medicine, Cannons and Porcelain. Returning East initially with cargoes of Cigars and Wine and later smaller but regular supplies of Gunpowder, Muskets and Silver as demanded. Enjoy the challenge.