Here I want to tell how I would like the trade to work. It works as it is but I could think of a few improvements.
In a “normal” game where you produce the main part of the food for your population, it should work well enough to barter something you have a surplus of against things you can´t produce yourself. I like that you can´t produce everything yourself. This part of the trade work pretty well. The gold nuggets you can find “save you” at the beginning when you want to buy seeds and animals. For one or a few ports you need no autotrade. It´s fun to see what the merchant bring, what he pays well for or if you have something you want to get rid of anyway. Maybe you´ll make some business, maybe not. Nice. There´s one thing that I find could be improved; if you want to run salt consuming sites continuously, there’s still too little salt offered. Either you need to order it and with the ordering fee, it makes little sense to salt your meat/fish or make cheese or you need to spam the river with trading ports to get enough. Why not make a special salt merchant? Maybe he could also bring a little sugar. Salt was historically the most important import good in my country so a salt merchant would have made good business no matter from where he came.
How do I want a “heavy trade game”, where I need to buy most of the food and maybe also some other basic things (like logs in a seafarer game)? These thoughts are mostly based on my present game where I had no farming at all and a population of a little less than 400 when I stopped yesterday. It was possible to buy enough food to keep 4½ hearts. I had a lot of pastures and sold wool coats, wadmal, meat, tar, glass, pottery, furs, crayfish and the last yeas also some tools and anvils in the export ports. I bought ordered beans and bread as well as not ordered wheat, rye (processed to flour and bread), fruit, sugar and steel.
I don´t like that it should be easy to support your population with trade but I like the trade to go easy. If you understand the difference. I want to focus on the production of various goods, I could use or sell, not on manual trade. I want to use the autotrade in a way that I don´t need to sell anything/much to the lower price. The special export port gives you this opportunity, even if I see no other option than to sell manually, also if all merchants would pay the higher price for everything. It makes sense to sell many different things (I like it that way). This means you mostly sell a surplus of things you need yourself and of course you need to have control of what´s left in your store after you´ve sold the content in your port. You don´t want to sell all of your coats, wadmal, tools, glass, tar…….. But you can use the coins in the other ports to autotrade food or other things you´ll need a lot of.
The merchants that arrive at the export port are a bit confusing now. Sometimes the English merchant only wants to pay the high price for tar and furs, sometimes he also pays well for wadmal and glass panes, the other merchants are similar. It´s not bad to have this local aspect of the merchants; I like that you usually can make some business with all of them but I would prefer if I knew at once, what I could sell to this merchant; that the English merchant always paid the high price for the same things. That would make the manual part of selling easier. To the goods they pay well for; as I said; usually I can sell something to each of them but many merchants want fur and few want clothing and meat and often the merchant that wanted to pay the high price for the clothes didn´t have enough money to bye all I had in my store.
I will continue this later.
One problem when you don´t want to farm at all is to get enough grain and vegetables at the beginning. Health dropped fast and it took long until I could reach full health. The main reason is that the merchants bring too little food, even when you order. I know that this is vanilla gameplay; that the merchants only bring little at the beginning and that it increases with the population but what is the sense? A passing merchant wants to sell less to a small then to a large settlement. Why? I couldn´t buy enough before I had my 3. port but should it really be necessary to have 3 trading port for 50 people? I say, no. I would probably not have had enough to sell right at the beginning anyway but that is the way it should be. Maybe it´s not possible to make a mod that way but why not let the merchants bring the same amount of goods all the time.
Another thing I want to see changed is the difference between the small and the large ports. Now I find the difference too small. I would leave the small port quite as it is (maybe add that salt merchant, I talked about). It´s suitable to use at the beginning of a game and if you don´t want to trade much.
Let the large port be the import centre of a trading economy, where you use the coins you´ve got at the export port and can autotrade for what you need. Let the merchant only bring these “mass products” that you most likely need in a large trading economy; grain, vegetables, fruit and logs. And use the small ports for additional trade of salt, sugar, steel, proteins (if you run short of food), raw materials….
If we want it to be possible to build a large trading economy in the North we should also think about how many people one trading port (or rather set of trading ports) could support. (Maybe it´s not necessary, I don´t think so many people really would build a Nordic settlement with 1000+ inhabitants based on trade but at least I would like to try it.) In my last game, I first built 3 small ports quite fast (reasons above). With a population of about 100, I built the export port and a little later also a large trading port where I mainly bartered wool coats against food (reasons above). I built a second export port and a few more ports for import at a population of about 300. This turned out to be a bit too late. There was a short time where I didn´t have enough daler in my store to fill the small ports after the trade. So the way they are now; a set of 1 export, 1 large and 3 small ports can support something like 275 inhabitants the way I trade. I find that´s too many ports. I would like to make trade more efficient. And maybe my suggestions could lead to this.
And maybe you have better ideas, Tom.
It would be cool if you were able to make your own coins (Daler, Silver). Then maybe you could make 3 Daler from 1 Gold. This process was called hammer minting (Hammerprägung in german) and was made quite rustic by a coinsmith. So the gold has more value later and you have more to trade. You could also somehow insert that you could get silver. Maybe in the mine or an extra silver mine.
This would at least give more depth to trade and currencies.
That’s nice you’ve tested the trading more. I will just write my thoughts to yours. In general, I think providing food for a big population like 1k only by trade is very special and I would not want balancing changes that focus too much on this. But anything that makes trading more useful and comfortable is great.
That’s why I find auto-purchasing so important. It’s tedious to have to micromanage trading all the time, especially in late game. The idea of the export dock is really to define what items in what quantity should be sold away and to let auto-trade it against money. You write, even if merchants would pay the high price always, you would not auto-trade. I did not fully understand why. Or what should be different to use auto-trading?
Salt is already at the max quantity of a boat load (8k). I would rather slightly reduce the amount needed for salting and to let some more merchants bring it. Now, 5 of 10 merchants in small docks and 7 of 12 in the big dock have it in their portfolio. Can be more.
The scaling of import quantities is changeable. I already removed the item scaling long ago, so they bring always 8 stacks and not only a few items if pop is smaller. The scaling of amount per stack can be removed as well. Then a boat is always full even if it comes to a surviving couple the first time and the limit would be only your purchase power, not your pop. We can try this in 7.1. beta I want to upload this week. At the moment the scaling ends at 200 pop. Beyond this number they bring 100%.
For more focus on really needed goods for larger towns in the big port I will look through the list. I already reduced seeds there and can take away some more stuff I think. But some not so much needed items make sense in general. Otherwise, orders would become a useless feature.
To the population that can be fed by trading we can also calculate. Merchants of a small dock can bring 8 stacks full of ordered food twice in a year, let’s say rye or wheat that can be processed to 200%. In total 32K food for about 300 people. In a game you have to buy also other goods and healthier food items and your real game says more than any calculations but that’s the maximum in theory.
Edit: Yes, minting is an interesting thing and maybe to add this in a reasonable way at some point.
Two important reasons I don´t autotrade by selling in such a game I just played.
1. I can´t afford to sell much to the low price. And I like that there are no sites with such a large profit that you can afford to lose 25% (or more). If you are auto trading something like wool coats, only a few merchants pay 48. Most of them pay only 36 and if my notes are right the production cost of a coat is 36. There are other production possibilities to still make a small profit also with the low price but to support a larger population with all that food that´s needed, it´s not enough. A small calculation; 400 inhabitants need 10 000 vegetables, 7000-5000 grain** and 10 000 fruit each year. This will cost 1000-1300 daler depending on order fees. If we sell wadmal,50% for 20 50% for 15 (still a small profit) you would need something like 6000 wadmal, maybe 50 tailors and 75 sheep pastures. I find my 20 pastures a lot. I need to process some of the wadmal to coats and get a high price to survive in such a game.
2. One of the things I like so much with the trade in the North is that there are so few goods for trade only. (From what I sell, it´s only furs and there’s no room for many good trappers anyway, so it´s very limited, even if it´s a good profit and many merchants pay the high price.) So I´m mainly selling a surplus of various goods, I also need. But of course, I can´t sell everything I produce, I always need to have some coats and tools for my population, some pottery and glass to build and enough wadmal to produce coats and so on. I could sell everything that´s stored in the port but then I can´t let the traders go on and empty my stores without control. Say; I have 200 glass in my port. That´s what I think I can normally spare but if 3 merchants in a row buy glass, I know this and only sell 100 to the second and nothing to the 3. If I autotrade and let my traders do the work, I would soon be out of glass.
I don´t mind to sell manually but it would be good to be able to buy with autotrade. And as you say; we can calculate theoretical values but it needs to be tested to see how it works. And I don´t figure how you get 32k food from one port, not even in theory. As far as I remember merchants bring 4000 wheat or beans when I order it. **And can you really, in theory, get 200% from wheat or rye by making bread?. I´ll rather estimate that it gives you something like 50% more. But maybe my Bannis like to bake themselves and “steal” a lot of flour.
Now I see your point. It’s indeed not possible to fully control how much is for auto-export. As you say, traders fill up the dock again whenever it was sold and no way to keep a certain amount back for your own needs. You can keep the amount in trading docks low but with a lot of items in the port it’s not sure how constantly they trade it. There should be a way to define an amount per resource saved for your people. I have no idea how to achieve this at the moment. A depot or this distribution barn in CC would save stuff but it would not be available for your citizens and would need again micromanagement.
What I also miss and why people probably also don’t like to auto-trade is the lack of feedback. Any kind of report or statistic about the traded amounts in this and in last year. Like it’s provided in every production building. Unfortunately no way to add this by modding.
About scaling along population I did a first test and have some concern. I found it more interesting in early game if I can not buy only one cheapest item to feed my people but have to think if also to buy the more expensive stack and to dismiss the boat for a new offer soon instead if forcing the boat to stay endless until I can grab this cheap food stack step by step. In a way it can be abused or at least it can make it boring. That’s my first impression. Maybe to adjust this scaling but not fully remove it.
To the theory: A merchant brings always 8 stacks and beyond the mentioned scaling it is 1k wheat per stack. If he comes twice in a year, it’s 16k wheat and making flour + baking bread more than doubles the amount of food, even if uneducated. For example: 45 wheat into 69 – 72 flour into 104 – 120 bread (second number for educated workers).
No, I don´t think that there´s much to do to improve how the autotrade works. It was one of the first things people (including me) asked for when modding was started.
You have a point about your scaling concerns. And as we both think, this extreme trade game is nothing many people would consider to play. And if someone like me is crazy enough to try, we can live with the fact that it takes longer to reach full health or we can farm a little at the beginning until we can buy enough food.
Ok, I´m sure you are right about the bread, I didn´t calculate, only looked at what came out in the end and made the estimation that it´s better to order bread for 3 without fee than to order wheat or rye for 5 but best is if you can buy it for 4 and process it. How much you get in the end very much depends on your stores. It´s surely a big difference if you have a lot of bread in the store or not. (Don´t get me wrong, I don´t want inedible grain and flour.) This was a game without big stores, I couldn´t even accumulate a lot of daler as I have done in some other games. ;) Perfect; difficult but possible to play this way.
Updating the Tjurkö Mill I just realized my mistake here. That grain chain goes from 60 wheat to 72 flour to 120 bread, not from 45. So it’s exactly up to + 100% food if educated. :)