Azure Three Bezants: Trade Follows the Flag

In which an old grognard learns some new tricks.

With twelve hours of multiplayer EU4 under my belt in the past year, I am now a seasoned veteran; therefore, I’m going to explain trade, since that seems to be a rite of passage for all the great players. (Additionally, having looked through the save a bit, I see some of our players can use the primer.) This has two benefits: Firstly, I ensure that I really understand the details, since explaining them to someone else is the best way to check your own grasp of the subject; and second, all the this-is-how-to-trade explanations I’ve seen Do It Wrong. That is, they don’t give wrong information, but they speak without specifics. I’m going to Explain Trade using my particular situation in an actual game; there has never been an explanation in the history of the world that wasn’t easier to grasp for looking at a concrete example of what was being discussed.

So let’s have a look at Venice in this year of grace 1485, beginning with the trade node in the Gulf of Venice:

Venice trade node

This is looking fairly good. Venice is an end node, with no outgoing flows, so anything that comes in is going to be collected. Since I’m the only state for which this is a home node, and collecting outside your home node reduces your power in that node by half, this puts me in a splendid competitive (more accurately, monopolistic) situation. Notice that although Germany has 2% of the trade power from their one poxy province, for purposes of collecting money my power is 100%; in other words, in an end node, power that would otherwise go to transferring trade is wasted. So anyone trying to reduce my share of the income here will first have to send a merchant to collect, and that makes every other action they take half as effective!

It follows that I have exactly one economic strategy: Increase the trade flowing to Venice. I can do that by developing my Italian provinces, and unlike almost everyone else in the world I’ll get the full benefit of such development including the trade value; but observe that the incoming flow is three times the local production. If I can choose to increase one of these by 10%, I should obviously go with the flow. One more point before moving south, however: My monopoly in this node means that marketplaces are completely useless for increasing my income. Suppose that I gave Germany some extra provinces, bringing their trade power up to 10%. Well, unless they sent a merchant to collect – immediately dropping their power back to 5% – then that trade power will still be wasted, because it can’t be used to transfer. So I would still collect 100% of the income. Likewise, suppose I build marketplaces in all my Italian provinces, sending my trade power into the stratosphere. Useless! There are only so many percents!

I said, however, “useless for increasing my income”; marketplaces will still do one thing for me, namely increase the amount of trading power I send back upstream. This is 20% of the trading power due to your provinces, ignoring merchants, ships, and modifiers. At the moment, Venice is sending 26.1 power upstream to each of Alexandria, Ragusa, and Wien; if I built marketplaces all over Italy, this would increase to 39.1. Probably not worth it – I have much cheaper ways of increasing my power in Alexandria, as we shall see; but I note it for completeness.

Alexandria trade node

Alexandria actually produces more goods than Venice, but the backwards locals keep very little of it, what with all four Med powers striving with all their might to pull the trade forward. Notice that Venice, Byzantium, England, and Castille cooperate to get the stuff away from the heathen Egyptians (“pull”), but then we differ on where it should go after that (“steer”). Byz and I have merchants present, so we get to steer; my merchant has twice the power of Byzantium’s, and Venice has bonuses to trade steering, so two-thirds of Alexandria’s outgoing trade ends up in Venice. Splendid! But I can do better.

My trade power in Alexandria comes about one-third each from light ships, provinces, and Venice; and is then modified by, mainly, Egypt’s embargo. Well, really now, is this any way to behave? This would not happen in libertarian utopia. However, the effects of an embargo are based on the trade power of the embargoing state. If I retaliate in kind, Egypt’s trade power will go down and his embargo should get less effective; since I have more power than him in his own home node, maybe he shouldn’t have started this fight. So diplomacy, Egypt, Issue Embargo: The modifier from Egypt goes from 11.1% to 11.2%. I confess I do not understand this result. However, my power modifier increased anyway because my merchant feels more manly and confident when his government supports him by throwing its weight around in the market; and I also dropped Egypt’s modifier from plus 5.3% to minus 9.8%, which increases my share of power in the node. So the embargo is still worth doing.

Not done yet, though! Those provinces can be improved. I’ll create a trade post in Maan, and then I’ll build marketplaces all over the Venetian Middle East. That’s an immediate increase of 10, and another 25 when the marketplaces complete. Finally, I thought I had a custom trick up my sleeve: The next custom Venetian idea is a bonus to light ship combat power, and I’ve been told that this also increases their power to protect trade. Having done the experiment, it turns out that this is not true, but it sure sounded good and should definitely be implemented in the next patch.

Alexandria after improvements

So do all that, let the game run until the month changes, and sure enough, the transfer to Venice increases by 20%. Notice that Egypt’s pre-modifier power increases by ten, presumably because some buildings finish; but the post-modifier power drops a point or two due to the embargo. Venice’s power modifier drops another couple of points, which is due to the Egyptian embargo getting more effective: This explains the weird result above – embargo efficiency is calculated from pre-modifier power, so my counter-embargo doesn’t weaken Egypt’s embargo, just his income. Still, Egypt clearly shouldn’t have gotten into this fight.

Aden trade node

Moving further upstream we come to the Gulf of Aden. There’s not that much to say about this node; I have one province in it (plus upstream transfers from Alexandria), and what I want it to do is send trade to Alexandria where I can boot it up to Venice. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of local powers with other ideas; only tiny Alodia is helping me out by steering to Alexandria – most of my trade power is being wasted helping Asians pull the trade up to Basra! That’s what happens when you don’t have a merchant present to look after your interests. However, my power here is presently so small that it doesn’t matter much. When I’ve built a trade post and a marketplace, gotten some serious upstream-transfer from Zimbabwe, and perhaps added some light ships, I’ll consider sending a merchant here to fix the issue. Meanwhile, notice Egypt getting only half trade power because he’s trying to collect outside his main trade area; he would likely be better off steering to Alexandria. Merchants that transfer trade increase its value slightly; more trade would get into Alexandria than would leave Aden, and Egypt has quite a few provinces here and could affect the steering powerfully. True, I would siphon off a third of it, but that’s better than losing half to the foreign-collection penalty. Egypt, work with me here!

Finally, let’s move down to Zanzibar. A side note for old grognards: When I was deciding which provinces to annex from Kilwa, I let my old EU3 (well, ok… EU2) reflexes rule, and thought “Zanzibar is a trade node, let’s grab it”. Splendid idea, but the province Zanzibar is no longer the same as the trade node Zanzibar. And although it is a center of trade, that’s now just a bonus to trade power; which, as we shall see, is quite useless to me at the moment. Still, all I really needed was a port in the general area, and Zanzibar does fine for that; and being an island it’s defensible too.

Zanzibar trade node

As a trade node, however, it has one major flaw for me: It has only one outgoing flow, which goes to the Cape of Good Hope, and from there around all of Africa. If any of this trade ends up in Venice, it is by very twisting and circuitous routes; I think even Genoa doesn’t see much of it. So at the moment, I am by no means going to build a trade post or trade company in Zanzibar. Why should I help England, whose alliance guarantees me against Afrikan and Egyptian aggression, at the expense of my vassal Kilwa which sends me 10% of its income in tribute? (True, I also increase my power in Aden, but the effect is small.) Once I annex Kilwa it will be a different matter. At that point I can create a trade company that will control half the trade power in the area, so I’ll get an extra merchant; which I can use to collect. As I annex more African minors my power in the node will approach 100%, so that the 50% penalty ceases to matter – if I’m the only trading power in the node, it doesn’t matter what my modifier is. At least, that’s true unless someone deliberately decides to sabotage me by sending a merchant to get a toehold, and then “protecting” that “trade” with a humongous fleet of light ships. Obviously such an unfriendly act would be a cause for war. Taking my provinces is one thing, but nobody interferes with Venice’s trade!

Azure Three Bezants

A fair session; as expected, I finished the war with Kilwa, taking Zanzibar and vassalising them. From that base I have started colonising the Indian Ocean; Diego Garcia is now a naval base for further adventures in the Far East. This unfortunately involved me in the disputes of the Great Powers: Japan invaded Malaysia, England intervened and needed naval bases, and who should have just gained some East-African ports but England’s ally Venice? Japan, who naturally could do well without three hundred English carracks descending on its Home Islands, then seized Diego Garcia and threatened to burn it to the ground unless I refused further naval access to England. Not wanting to lose my investment (it was about 80% complete at that point) I complied, which in hindsight was a mistake; I should have said “touch the hair of any colonist’s head and England will give me Tokyo in the peace treaty”. England then declared war on me (which I hadn’t thought of when I agreed not to give access) for naval access, and got it too; three hundred heavy ships is no doubt a problem for Japan, but with my army in Africa, England’s vassals were a problem for me. Sure, I could raise twenty mercenary regiments in Italy and drive them off, but that would cost [i]money[/i]. Japan: So sorry! Force majeure! As compensation, have a twenty-percent-off coupon for African ivory, already a steal at a mere five ducats a unit. (Minimum purchase twenty ducats, Zanzibar location only, offer expires 1/1/1487, void where prohibited.)

African front

The African front. Everything is under control. The Mutapan army cannot extend its supply lines north without taking the Kilwan capital, which will require a lengthy siege; meanwhile our southern army will complete its control of the coastal fortresses and march into the interior, forcing them to the negotiating table. There is no, I repeat no, risk of thousands of savage black heathens crossing the Zanzibar Strait and descending on our colony to rape and pillage. Evacuation is completely unnecessary. Insurance premiums will be capped at the prewar rates.

African battles

Some battles of the African wars. Appearances to the contrary I’m about to win the one for Zanzibar when my reinforcements land, though I admit it was a close-run thing even with the strait bonus.

I picked up Damascus on the cheap, incidentally completing the destruction of Syria, and picked a fight with Mutapa using Kilwa’s very convenient claims. This went well until the Crown Princess of Men insisted I pay attention to her just as the Mutapan army recovered and counterattacked; the Kilwans would have won that battle if I’d been able to reinforce them in time, but it’s very hard to give timely orders when an active three-year-old is jumping on your arm. But no worries; Venice is not counted among the Great Powers, but relative to an African minor We Have Reserves.

Med and MidEast, 1485.

Mediterranean and Middle East, 1485. The conquest of Damascus rounds off a virile and manly Venetian Near East, thrusting north towards Aleppo.


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Filed under Azure Three Bezants, Dominion over Palm and Pine, Recessional

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