How do I make money? How do trade routes work? Why do my ships not sell everything at port for profit? How is demand and consumption calculated? If you’ve asked these questions or ones like them, this guide if for you. Inside we’ll explore in depth the economy, trade routes, and production.
Hi there, Hello!
This will be a comprehensive, living guide to the economy: trade routes, demand/consumption, and production chain strategies. Please leave comments, questions, concerns, critiques. This guide is by no means the definitive way to play, just the way I’ve found the most reproducible success.
The Warehouse Guide will explain how to use your warehouses and interpret important information from them.
The Commodity Production Spreadsheet breaks down the costs of producing commodities yourself, suggested max buy and min sell prices for all three economy difficulty settings, a sheet that groups the commodities based on their demand rates, a brand spanking new demand calculator (it’s accurate within a few barrels), and a couple sheets where I explore the demand for given city sizes and get some insight into how the demand of commodities (read: how many you can sell before the green bars fill up) works for a given population size. It has a bunch of information in there, with some explanations at the bottom of the sheet for why I went with the numbers I did, or some explanation and insight into the numbers themselves. Do yourself a favor and save a copy of the spreadsheet for yourself just to have the Demand Calculator
Trade routes are the biggest focus of the game, and as such they are your life blood. Can you play without them? Arguably yes, but you may have a tough time and you’ll be limited in how much you can do.
There are 2 ways to play with trade routes: Automatic and Manual. Sure, you can play without actually setting up a trade route and manually control your convoys, but that’s tedious. When we say Automatic vs. Manual trade routes, we’re talking about how the convoys buy and sell commodities in port.
Automatic Trade Routes
Automatic is just that: the convoy takes a good guess about the demand of an item that it’s buying and attempts to buy enough of it to sell in each port that is designated a ‘sell’ port. You do not set any quantities nor any prices. The AI is pretty ok at this. You can set all your routes to Automatic and be ok for the most part
When a convoy buys from a port, it will take into account all of the demand for the commodity along the route, and it considers if it can buy more of that commodity along the way. For example, on a 6 stop route, given the commodity can be bought at stop 1 and stop 4, the convoy will buy enough on stop 1 to fill the demand of stop 2 and stop 3. It will then get to stop 4 and recalculate demand for stop 5 and stop 6 before buying the commodity to try and fill that demand.
Convoys can also Load from a warehouse based on demand along the route. This works great if you have a main warehouse that supplies an entire trade route with all the commodities. This is a great way to work with warehouses in Regional distribution games. Unloading to a warehouse does not, however, take into account other trade routes that will be picking up from the warehouse.
Manual Trade Routes
You set the quantity to buy and sell in each port, and the price to pay for buying and selling. The convoy will attempt to buy, or sell, the quantity you set as long as the cost is below or above your price.
Important note: The price you set is Exclusive. This means if you are buying, it will buy UNTIL the price hits your maximum price, not through that maximum. So if I am buying fruit, and I want it to be bought at 64, I should set my price to 65. If you go to sell, and the selling one of the commodities will drop the price LOWER than your price floor, the convoy will not sell. If you go to buy, and buying the next item will raise the price HIGHER than the price ceiling, the convoy will not sell that last item.
With manual trading your convoys will make sure to sell every last barrel of each commodity before moving on to the next port. This is where figuring out approximate demand based on population sizes and the type of commodity comes in handy; basically you’ll be making a spreadsheet to make sure you aren’t overloading your convoy and end up with unsold commodities piling up in your holds. I’ve been there with my routes and it’s led to the multiple testing sheets in the Commodities Production spreadsheet I created. You can use the consumption for the given populations, and the groupings to a little more easily decide how much of each commodity to attempt to sell at each port.
Priority for Sell/Unload
Priority(the stars) on the trade route determine which ports get precedence for the distribution of goods, either with selling or unloading them. If you want a somewhat even distribution, you can leave all priorities at 1. I will set ports that consume the commodity for production between a 3-5, depending on what they’re making and how much of it they’re making. This way the normal consumption of other ports doesn’t rob from the production chains.
Trading Licenses & Building Permissions
Unless you choose the Merchant class, you will need to purchase trade licenses to be allowed to trade with foreign nations. The licenses start at 10,000 gold and scale with your wealth(total value of all your assets: ships, commodities, businesses, and cash on hand) and fame. I suggest buying them as soon as you can. Consider buying them all up with only 1 or 2 active trade routes, and before building businesses. Focus on doing lots of town missions to maximize the value of those fame XP points you get. If you get a trade empire humming early, you’ll notice fame points are tougher to come buy than if you just had a couple trade routes and did missions
Once you purchase a trade license, you will need to trade a little with that town to be able to get a building permission. Just like the trade license, building permission costs scale with wealth and fame so if you have your eye on some cities you’d like to produce goods in, get these as soon as possible. Building permissions start at 25,000
Demand & Consumption
The way demand is calculated in this game, at least from what I can tell through testing, is an algorithm based mainly on population size and total consumption of the commodity. In this section I’ll be referencing the tabs labeled ‘Consumption’, ‘Demand’, and ‘Demand 2’ from the Commodity Production Spreadsheet
Something to note while we talk about demand and consumption is that the numbers displayed are rounded, but the actual numbers are carried to decimal places. Just watching the daily change of commodities in the market screen in game can confirm this for us
In the ‘Consumption’ tab of the spreadsheet, I’ve grouped the commodities by similar demand/consumption and tried to account for production chains and their demand. We get 3 distinct groups when considering consumption, with the 4th (Food consumables) being more segmented. Fruits and Vegetables have the highest consumptions in this group, and Sugar has the lowest in the group. Commodities in the same grouping have similar demand curves and will move the demand bars around the same stock levels.
Production chains also affect the demand, although to what extent I have not yet figured out. I believe it just adds to the consumption multiplier for commodities that are needed by businesses, and for stocking purposes it increases the amount that can be sold to the town before the green bar moves. For instance, on one of my routes there is a town producing 64 corn per day and consuming 12. I can sell 1537 corn to the town before the demand bar moves from 2 green bars to 3 green bars. With this in mind, assuming you are playing with the optional setting for warehouses, a market may be more advantageous in towns that you only intend to use to produce raw material commodities. The market costs no upkeep and increases the amount of items that can be stored in the port stockpile before the price drops. I tested this a bit and my results so far are in the sheet ‘Demand with a Market’. Basically: You can sell a lot more to the town and continue to make money. This is best utilized in cities where you can get the 110% inherent efficiency bonus
So knowing all this, we can figure out a relative demand mostly based on commodity type, population of the city, & consumption (this includes production) – with some funky stuff when producing the commodity itself.
A Note on Commodity Production
Producing your own commodities is a great way to make even better margins when trading. I have a breakdown of prices to buy/sell on the three difficulties plus various unit costs of the commodities along their production chains in the Commodities Production spreadsheet. Your goal when building your own production chains should be to get at least 110% efficiency. Harvesting and Extraction business can get up to 120% by building in a town with the commodity bonus and then getting the building bonuses for the commodity itself (4 farms or a toolmaker nearby).
Handicraft business can get up to 115%, except for the Clothing chain, which can only get 110%. You get this by having the raw material businesses adjacent and populated residentials within 2 tiles of the Handicraft business. On the Standard difficulty you’ll still make money without the efficiency bonuses, with exceptions for the artisanal businesses, but on Very Hard efficiency bonuses are required or else you’ll mostly lose money on producing commodities. You’ll definitely lose out on your businesses selling to the towns, if you’re not picking up the goods and selling for profits elsewhere.
My advice is to take it slow in the beginning. What I mean by that is don’t start accumulating ships and businesses so quickly that you outpace your ability to continue to grow and maintain. The cost of everything revolves around your wealth, which is the value of your ships, commodities(both in storage and in convoys), businesses, and cash on hand. The more wealth you have, the more money trade licenses, building permissions, and fame points will cost. Yes, fame points will take more experience if you have more wealth. Here is a thread with the numbers(Courtesy of TheCollector and Dray Prescot). You may need to be signed into a Steam account to view the thread. I have personally observed this trend, and notice that my Merchant playthroughs where I expand quickly do not have as many concessions as my Adventurer playthroughs where I can’t expand as quickly since I need to buy trade licenses, and therefore it takes a bit to start earning decent income to snowball
I play with Regional Random for commodity distribution. Regional Random is more challenging, since the commodities are shuffled around and not the same each time. Regional is still fun to play and great to practice with. I play with automatic trade routes turned on because I don’t enjoy manually setting all the prices and quantities for all my routes. The good news, if you play without automation, is that on a trade route you start, any price you set for a max/min for a commodity will be remembered for other towns on that route. Bad news, is you have to set the prices again each time you create a new trade route. Good news, if you play without automation, you can use the Commodity Production spreadsheet to easily figure out prices you want to pay, so that guesswork is taken out for you. Also the other parts of that spreadsheet about demand and consumption and the groupings for demand curves should help you set quantities so your convoys don’t get filled up with unsold commodities. Feel free to save a copy for yourself and fill in your own information on the sheets however you like. The world is your oyster.
Your first trade routes
When setting my first trade route I will keep it small, 5-10 towns. Smaller routes are easier to manage than larger routes, and smaller routes require smaller convoys. In the beginning I’ll pop everything to standard and let the AI figure it out while I attend to more important things, like missions, figuring out other trade routes, or finding extraction bonus towns and possible places for super efficient production chains.
If the same commodity is produced in multiple towns along my route, and I own a business producing that commodity, I will not buy from anywhere except my own businesses. I want my stuff to sell and make me larger profits and it increases the amount I can produce, since I’ll be supplying entire trade routes with this one city. I continue this practice as I build more businesses in my nation’s towns. In Regional games, it is important to get trading licenses with other nations as early as possible in order to gain access to commodities you may not have and to sell commodities that they do not have.
When planning your routes, also consider the wind as a bonus. There are some routes you can plot that will have the wind in the sails the entire time, but many will have to sail against the wind for a bit.
More important than wind is the draft of your ships. Barques are the fastest of the shallow draft ships and are minimally slowed down when sailing over shallow water and reefs. Fluyts hold the most for any of the regularly available merchant ships, but it is the slowest and has the deepest draft. When you are in the route plotting screen, the right hand window will tell you the approximate time the route will take based on the draft. Left number is for shallow drafts, right number is for deep drafts. You can mess with waypoints on this map to lower the deep draft number, but this comes at the expense of increasing the shallow draft convoy time. For shorter routes I don’t mess with the waypoints too much, but for long routes like big commodity shipments from my production towns to my hubs I will certainly mess around for optimal routes
Fewer Large Convoys vs. Many Small Convoys
Large convoys are great for the simple reason you won’t need as many. Holding upwards of 3000 barrels of commodities will give you the ability to sell lots of commodities in lots of ports. However, to get over 2500 barrels in a convoy you’ll need to either have a captain and put military ships into your convoys or use Fluyts – unless you’re the Dutch and then you can use Trader Fluyts. So the issue at hand is do you want fewer but larger, slower convoys that can fill the demand in one trip around, or many but smaller, faster convoys that may not be able to fill all the demand, but they whip around your trade routes like nothing.
My answer is both. I’ll use Barques in the Bahamas, Antilles, and the Gulf. I’ll assign a bunch of small convoys to the route and have them zip around blissfully. I also use barques to ferry commodities from my production towns to my hub towns. Their only job is to go back and forth, so I don’t need massive holds. I’ll set a route for each commodity; for example my meat production is in Caracas, and my production in Turks, but my hub warehouse that all of my trade routes east of the Gulf report to is in Baracoa. I’ll have a route that starts in Turks and picks up the corn, sails to Caracas to drop the corn and pickup the meat, then to Baracoa to drop off the meat. Then it starts over. It does not concern itself with anything other than those commodities. Typically it’ll just be a single commodity that goes back and forth.
On my main trade routes, I’ll have large convoys that distribute the commodities to the other ports. What I do is set every commodity in the hub town to Load by Demand, and then every other town is set to Sell by Demand, with priority going to towns that need commodities for their production chains.
Expanding your empire
Utilize Markets before Warehouses
When you first start plopping production buildings in your hometown, you may be tempted to build a warehouse, or be required to if you’re playing with the Mandatory setting for warehouses. In either case, the market hall is the best way to go until you get to the point where you need to keep the commodities away from the hungry town consuming them all.
How do you ignore a warehouse even on the mandatory setting? In the commodities tab of the warehouse you can turn off the “Accepting produced commodities ”. With this turned off, your businesses will sell to the town.
Why do we want to do this? If you’re ramping up production, and following my style of your production is the only game in town, you’re gonna need a lot of it. With a warehouse you have all those barrels of commodities sitting there, racking up storage costs. Even if you hire an administrator, that’s doubling your warehouse’s daily maintenance cost, which on Very Hard is a substantial amount for early game warehouses. Instead, the market hall allows more commodities to be sold to the town before the price will drop, i.e. before the 2 green bars fill to 3 green bars. What this means for you is consistent early game cash flow and not breaking your bank with storage costs. The more businesses you have producing commodities, the more you can sell to the town before prices drop. This is true without the market hall, but the market hall helps a ton. You’ll just need to make sure you keep an eye on it so you don’t crater the price and wind up losing money on your commodities, although it won’t be too much since you’ll still be getting gold from the sale, it’ll just be a net loss, versus it sitting in a warehouse and being a total money sink.
How to get the most from your Warehouses
I will start to utilize my warehouse when I need to manage commodities in vs. commodities to businesses and to trade routes. In the Netherlands campaign, Crooked Island produces literal boatloads of metalwares. Even with the amount of metal I was producing in Andros and selling in Crooked Island, the demand for metal was so great that the price to buy from the town was 88 gold per barrel; there was 2,000 metal in the town’s stock. This lead to my 110% efficient metalware costing 208 gold/barrel to produce, way above the even basic production cost of 170. I had to use my warehouse to escape the town’s clutches
I will set the warehouse to still sell extra commodities to the town, but this is where some math comes in. I’ll take a look at how much of each commodity is required for the business each day, and then figure out how many days between deliveries from the production towns, giving me the minimum I want stocked in the warehouse before selling to the town. If this town is not a hub, that’s where it ends. If it is a hub, then I need to figure out the demand of that commodity along the trade routes that pick up the town. This is more art than science for me. You can totally go to every city along all the routes that pickup from your hub, and estimate how much you can sell to the town based on what commodity you’re selling, the population size, and if that commodity is used in production chains in the town. That’s a lot of work even for me, so I’ll monitor the warehouse and play with the minimum stock number until it hits an equilibrium where my businesses don’t run out of raw materials and my trade routes can keep selling for profit.
Organizing Production Buildings
Maximizing the space you have in a town and getting the efficiency bonuses can get tricky. My preferred strategy is to build the raw material commodities that do not feed into other businesses as far away from the town as possible. This way they won’t cause dissatisfaction among the population.
With the other production chains, I will build the raw material businesses with a 2 hex gap between them and the residents. This gap will be for the handicraft businesses to fill. This gives a buffer zone to minimize the effects of raw material businesses. Remember, each raw material business within 2 tiles of a residential building is -10% satisfaction for those residents. This can add up very quickly
I will typically have a town to do just one production chain in the beginning, and then produce the ever loving ♥♥♥♥ out of it. As I need to build up other towns, I’ll add more towns into that production chain to either send raw materials, or just more of the finished product to sell to the other growing towns.
My first businesses to target when building production are Fruit, Vegetables, and Grain. Fruit and Vegetables share the spot for the highest demand, with Grain in a close second. Fruit and Veggies aren’t used in any other production chains, but Grain is needed for Beer, so it routinely is in higher demand than Fruit and Veggies. In the commodity spreadsheet, we can see that in a 6500 population town, it takes around 650 barrels to fill the demand to 2 green bars, and grain is right behind that just shy of 600
That’s all we are sharing today in Port Royale 4 Soup to Nuts: The Economy Guide, if there are anything you want to add please feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll see you soon.
Credit to Rabid Puma
- Port Royale 4 Warehouse Guide
- Port Royale 4 Manual Trade Routes – Price Guide
- Port Royale 4 French Campaign Treasure Location