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Trade and Taxes Explained

by readercolin


The trading summary screen.

I have written this guide on the Trade and Taxes element of Empire: Total War – this part of the game is more important than ever in comparison to previous Total War games and is, infact, the lifeblood of your empire. To do this, I am going to take a very close look at one of my favourite factions - the United Provinces. Here's why - the united provinces are the only faction with regions in all three theatres, and they also start off with a trade fleet in the East Indies, as well as a great ship - the Fluyt.

To start with, I'll describe the United Provinces starting position. To start, they control Amsterdam, their only European holding. In America, they control Dutch Guyana and Curacao. And in India, they control Ceylon. They also start with a trade fleet with 3 Indiamen in the East Indies. This puts them in a perfect position to take advantage of both trade and taxes in the early game (making it much easier to describe the effects).

Trade, trade routes and profits

So let’s start with trade. Trade involves using ports and roads to move goods from one province to another. This is much the same as previous total war games. The difference now is that instead of trade being some random, arbitrarily decided number, trade is determined by what a province produces. To get a good look at this, let’s look at Ceylon. Ceylon starts with a major city, a rice farm, a gem mine, a tea plantation, a port, and a village. All these come into play to determine the prosperity of Ceylon, however, at the moment we only care about two - the tea plantation and the port.


The Dutch Colony of Ceylon.

The tea plantation starts out producing 15 chests of tea per turn, and the port allows that tea to be shipped to Amsterdam. At the start of this game, tea is worth 11 gold per chest, which means that we can snatch a profit of 165 gold from those 15 chests of tea. This shows up in two places. First, it shows up in Ceylon - if you click on the city and open up the city window it states that Ceylon is making 691 gold per turn. Part of that money comes from exporting the tea that it makes, and is shown by the tea leaf in the bar. The other part of the money comes by shipping that tea to Amsterdam. Once the tea makes it to Amsterdam, it is then shipped out to your trade partners, which at the start of this game are Great Britain, the Mughal Empire, and the Maratha Confederacy. By shipping the tea to these three empires, you make money for having an export. To be able to ship this tea, you have to have a port or a road connecting the source and the trade partner. In the early game, the ports can only support up to three trade routes, with more advanced ports being able to support more. Roads appear to be able to support as many trade routes as they connect to.

The next important area of trade is the trading zones, located in the 4 trade theatres. Each trade theatre has 5 trading zones, and all the zones in each theatre produce the same kind of product. So the East Indies all produce spices, the coast of Brazil produces sugar, and the Ivory Coast and Straights of Madagascar both produce Ivory. Since the United Provinces start out with a trade fleet in the East Indies, we'll look at things from there.

So, to take advantage of a trading port, you must first put a ship on it. If you put a regular warship on it, it will take the trade port, preventing others from using it, but will not generate any trade. This is an excellent way to generate a quick monopoly on the trade ports in the theatre. To generate resources from the trading ports, you have to put a ship with the little gold circle in its picture on it. For the United Provinces, this is the Indiamen, and the Fluyt. The difference between the two lies in the number of cannons they carry - the Flute has more than a Sixth rate, while the Indiamen has less than a Sloop. Other trade ships are the Spanish Galleon, and the Maratha and Ottoman Dhow.

What do you get from a trading port? Well, obviously you get the resources that come out of that theatre, but how much do you get? Well, the first trading ship produces the most resources, with each additional trading ship producing fewer. Gee, aint that helpful, right? Let’s get in to the nuts and bolts of it. We'll start though by taking the three Indiamen in the East Indies and seeing what they produce. One trade ship produces 20 pounds of spices. Two produce 37 pounds, and three produce 54 pounds. This means that the first produces 20 pounds, the second produces 17 pounds and the third produces 17 pounds. Switching to a save in which I control the entire East Indies with 10 Fluyt's on each trading port, we'll inspect it somewhat further. Four trade ships produce 71, five 88, six 105, seven 122, eight 139, nine 156, ten 173, eleven 190, twelve 207, thirteen 224, fourteen 241. Ships appear to have a maximum of fourteen per stack, which puts that at the top limit for the number of trade ships on a port. Having ten on each of the five ports produces 865 pounds of spices per turn. This data shows that the first trading ship on a trading port produces 20 pounds of goods, and each further trading ship produces 17.

All that trade sounds awesome - now how do we take advantage of that and start making money? First off, you have to have a trade route with someone else. Without that, all that trade that is coming in just sits around doing nothing. But, once you have one trading route, all the goods that appear on your trade screen immediately start making you money. So if one trading route trades all your goods, why should you bother to get more than one? Well, there are a number of reasons to do so, but also a few reasons not to.

Let’s start with reasons not to get more trade routes. More trade routes generally mean more wars that your trading partners are in. Wars mean things like piracy, blockaded ports and stuff like that. If a trade route is being raided, even if the person raiding it isn't at war with you, you lose money. If a port is blockaded, all the trade that would be going through it isn't anymore, netting you 0 trade income from that trade route. These are the primary reasons why you might not want an additional trade route.

So, reasons for more trade routes. Multiple trade routes mean that you aren't keeping all your eggs in one basket. That means that if your trading partner gets blockaded, the end of your wallet hasn't arrived. For each turn that you have a trade route, you also get a bonus to the wealth of that trade route. While this may not seem like much in the early game, late game it really have added up - by turn 160 the bonus from trade between Great Britain and the United Provinces had accumulated to 20,000 more gold from that trade route. There may also be further benefits, but this isn't as easily tested. Further trade routes, especially if you control all the sources of that resource (easy to do with Ivory), appear to drive up the prices of that trade good, making more profit from the goods you already control.


The East Indies trade Theatre.

The delicate art of Taxation

That’s all I have to say about Trade. Let’s move on to the other source of money - Taxation. The source of taxation seems obvious – your cities. However, there is more to it than just that. To get a closer look, we’ll look at Dutch Guyana after a few turns. Dutch Guyana has a trade port, a minor city, a gold mine, a gem mine, a logging camp, and a sugar plantation. After two turns, the logging camp, gold mine, and gem mine are finished, allowing us to look closer at the taxes for this region. At this point, the region has a bit over 5000 gold as its region wealth. However, this isn’t what you get in taxes. Without adjusting the tax slider, taxes are set at 32% for the America’s. So if you are taxing this region, you get 32% of that 5000 gold – about 1600 gold. To get a closer look at how towns affect this wealth, I’ll bring up another game that I had running.

Here, we are going to look at late-game Berlin. The region of Brandenburg has a wealth of 30,000 gold. The year is 1783, and the region contains the capital, a global trading company, a college of divinity, 2 steam powered cloth mills, and 2 steam engine factories. The current taxes are at 32%, netting me around 10,000 gold per turn from taxes. Each factory and the trading port have a net wealth, for example, the global trading company adds 1500 to region wealth. They also have a bonus towards town wealth in the region. Again, the trading port gives a +9 per turn to town wealth in the region. On the other hand, taxes on the Nobility or the Middle class, depending upon what government you’re running, reduce town wealth in regions in that theatre. With taxes set in the middle, that gives -6% to town wealth in the theatre, and -.4% to town wealth growth for regions in the theatre. Despite this, Brandenburg is still gaining 129 gold to town wealth per turn. Lowering taxes would increase the rate of town wealth growth, while reducing the amount of taxes coming in currently. Raising taxes would do the opposite. An important thing to note here though is that trade goods like tea show up in the town wealth bar, and are taxable. They are not however subject to town wealth growth or decrease, but they still do generate money even if you have no trade routes with other empires.

In addition, to talk about town growth and town wealth growth a little more in depth. Above, I used the examples of Dutch Guyana and late game Brandenburg. To explain about the towns, let us look at Brandenburg from the early game to the late game.

So, brand new game, Brandenburg consists of Berlin, the capital, a college in Magdeburg, a weaver's cottage in Potsdam, a trading port in Rostock, a farm in Lusatia, and a farm in Mecklenburg. It also has three villages in Wismar, Stettin, and Koslin. With the starting settings for taxes, Wismar will grow in ten turns, population growth is .29%, and wealth growth is 3 gold. The worth of Brandenburg is 6100 gold. Exempting Konisburg from taxes so we can look at just Brandenburg, we can see the following by adjusting the taxes.

Raising taxes on the lower class increases the income from taxes by 600 gold. On the other hand, the villages are no longer growing, meaning you will no longer gain more wealth later on from the new towns. Setting taxes on the lower class to the lowest means that Wismar will grow in 4 turns, but you loose 600 gold in income from taxing the lower classes. Exempting the region from taxes would also mean Wismar would grow in 4 turns.

Now for taxes on the Nobility. At the starting levels, town wealth will grow by 3 gold per turn, meaning that next turn the region wealth for Brandenburg would be 6103 gold. Raising taxes to the maximum would gain us 600 gold this turn, but we would be loosing 27 gold per turn from the region wealth. This means that next turn, Brandenburg's wealth would only be 6073 - and if that continued for more than a few turn, could entirely crash Brandenburg's wealth. On the other hand, lowering taxes to the bottom would change town wealth growth to +12 gold per turn, but we would loose 600 gold from taxes. Exempting the region from taxes would increase town wealth growth to +16 gold per turn, but you would loose out on 2400 gold that you would make with the starting settings for taxes.

Now, there are ways to increase the rate of town growth. The most obvious one would be to learn the farming techs, which would then increase the population growth rate, allowing you to get more towns out faster. A second way would be to trash the trading port (you would loose 600 gold from region wealth, and 2 possible trade routes) and replace it with a fishery. The fishery's increase population growth rate by up to 1.2%, making it an excellent option for large provinces with lots of ports like England (especially England with it's excessive 5 ports) or France. On the other hand, a fishery doesn't add anything to town wealth growth, while a trading port adds +3 to town wealth in the region per turn.

And now on to ways to increase town wealth growth. Towns have labels on them saying things like very poor, poor, growing, prosperous, and wealthy. These labels indicate the approximate wealth of the town, and can tell you some important things about it. I will go into this more near the end. If you build a weavers cottage on a town that is very poor, the weavers cottage will only bring in a few hundred gold. But, if you build a weavers cottage on a town that is very wealthy, it can bring in more than a thousand gold from the earlier stages, and even more from the later ones. There are quite a number of ways to increase town wealth growth too.

The first way to increase town wealth and town wealth growth is to build economic buildings on the town. That would be either a weavers cottage or an iron workers shop for interior towns, or a trading port for sea towns. A second way to increase town wealth is to improve the roads in the region. Basic roads add +3 to town wealth growth in the region, while cobbled roads add +4. The last way to increase town wealth is through technology. The various metal and textile industry buildings increase town wealth by a percentage - example, the flying shuttle increases the town wealth of textile buildings by 15%. Meanwhile, most of the philosophy technologies increase town wealth growth and town wealth - ex. division of labour increases town wealth from industrial buildings by 10%, and town wealth growth by +4 gold per turn.

And now, to look at late game Brandenburg, in the year 1783. In the game I have up for this, Brandenburg has two steam engine factories, two steam powered cloth mills, 2 Palatial estates, 1 global trading company, and 1 college of divinity to keep everyone happy. By this point, all the villages have grown into towns across the theatre, so if I wanted to I could raise taxes on the lower class without any ill effects except possibly pissing them off. Taxes on the nobility on the other hand are a different story. At the moment, Brandenburg has a region wealth of 30996 gold, and a town wealth growth of 129 gold. One thing to note is that metalworking buildings have higher regional wealth, but lower town wealth growth that the textile buildings - a metalworking building increases town wealth growth by +14, while a textile building increases town wealth growth by +18.

Lastly, on to those pesky terms, very poor, poor, growing, prosperous, and wealthy. A very poor global trading company adds 1000 to region wealth. A wealthy global trading company adds 2000 to region wealth. Each adds +9 gold per turn to town wealth. Once a town is wealthy, it doesn't gain any more to its region wealth. On the other hand, the additional gold per turn then goes on to make another town wealthy. Once all the towns in a region are wealthy, then the towns no longer grow in wealth. However, the region still increases in wealth by the amount of money in the region wealth increase area. This means that a late game weavers cottage maxes out at +1800 region wealth, and a late game ironworks maxes out at +2600 region wealth. Going and sacking a town with your armies prevents it from growing in wealth that turn, and takes the wealth of that town out of the region until it is fixed. It does not however reduce town wealth - only high taxes on the upper class can do that.

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