International Trade Routes are a new feature introduced in the Brave New World expansion pack for Civilization V. While the former trade route concept continues to exist under the name "City Connections" (), the new system allows you to establish long-term trading connections with other civilizations or City-States. These trade routes are supported primarily by the state, and not only by independent merchants. As such, they are established and controlled by you, via a process which is very complex. However, they are essential for the Gold income of your empire.
Establishing International Trade Routes
To establish International Trade Routes, you first need to develop your technology. Throughout the ages, various technologies (such as Animal Husbandry) expand your trading capacity, represented by the number of trading slots your empire has. The sum of all your land and sea routes can never exceed this total number. You can always choose to establish a different number of each kind (e.g. 3 land and 2 sea, or 1 land and 4 sea), up to your total maximum slots, and according to your current needs.
At all times you may see at a glance the total number of routes and the number you're currently using, from the top interface bar.
Here are the technologies that increase (each by 1) the number of Trade Routes available:
- Ancient Era: Animal Husbandry, Sailing
- Classical Era: Engineering
- Medieval Era: Compass
- Renaissance Era: Banking
- Industrial Era: Biology
- Modern Era: Railroad
- Atomic Era: Penicillin
After you've acquired the scientific means for establishing Trade Routes, you need to produce civilian trade units - Caravan, or Cargo Ship, which will conduct the actual trade. Think of them as governmental vehicles on which private traders may hitch a ride to the chosen city, where they are free to conduct trade, for a fee. Trading units are produced (or bought with Gold) in the normal way, with the exception that when you reach the maximum number of your trade slots, you can't build any more trade units.
Each trade route you establish needs one appropriate trade unit (Caravan for land, Cargo Ship for sea) in order to function, and occupies 1 trade slot. The trade units are similar to aircraft and missiles in that they are based in cities, and can't be moved freely on the map. Unlike these units, though, rebasing Trade Units may be done across the whole map in a single turn - there is no maximum range for rebasing. Caravans may be based in any city, while Cargo Ships may only be based in coastal cities.
Finally, be mindful of what Trade Routes you will need more, and don't produce unnecessary trade units. If, for example, you have 2 trade slots available, think of whether you'll need more land or sea trade routes, instead of just rushing to produce the first trade unit available. The reason for this is that, once produced, a trade unit will occupy a trade slot, regardless of its type, so you may find you're unable to establish the sea trade route you planned if you produced a Caravan unit which occupied your last trade slot.
Once you have an appropriate Trade unit in the city you want it, you can proceed to establish Trade Routes between cities. Note that Trade Routes can be established only along the native terrain of the unit (land tiles for a Caravan, Water tiles for a Cargo ship), and with cities in range of the current unit's base. This range is given in number of tiles, and is affected (increased) by a number of factors, such as the presence of a Road, presence of certain buildings in the base city, and technologies. The specific trajectory of the route is calculated automatically so that it takes the shortest way available, without passing through dangerous territory, such as a Barbarian encampment or near the cities of a nation you're currently at war with. Note that trade routes do NOT need an Open Borders treaty to pass through another nation's territory. What's more - they could even use other cities as shortcuts, when hindered by terrain! For example, if you have a narrow (not larger than 1 tile) land strip separating two water bodies, and there is a friendly city on that strip, bordering both water bodies, your water trade routes may pass through that city!
When you decide to establish a route, first move an appropriate unit in a city in range of your destination. When you click on the Establish Trade Route option of the unit, the possible target cities will appear listed. If the city you want to trade with isn't there, then you may need to re-base your unit, or it means the city may not be in range yet. In this case, try to extend the range of your Trade Route via the means mentioned above. You can use the Trade Overview screen to see all potentially available trade routes, along with their projected effects, and plan your actions accordingly.
After you successfully establish a Trade Route, the trade unit starts circulating between the two cities (its base and the destination city), and will do so for some determined amount of turns. The circulation of the trade unit itself has no effect on the actual trading unless it's attacked by enemies (see below). The route effects are constant otherwise - you and your partner share benefits each turn, until the end of the trade. You can see how many turns are left for the current route from the Trade Overview.
Note that a trade unit is inaccessible while conducting trade - you can't do anything with it, select it, or control it in any way. After the turns left for the current trade route run out, you have to reassign it.
Land trade routes are established with Caravans over land. They have a default range of 10 tiles, regardless of terrain features along the route. Range is extended if the base city has a Caravansary, and if there are any Roads along the way. The Combustion technology also extends land range. Note that target cities have to be on the same landmass - you can't trade over a sea, even if it's a narrow sea.
Sea trade routes are established with Cargo Ships. Their range is twice as much as that of land routes (20 tiles), meaning they can reach cities that are farther away. However, they can only be created between coastal cities. A Harbor in the base city extends the range of the routes. So does researching the Compass and Refrigeration technologies. Potentially, after developing all these upgrades, you can even conduct trade between continents.
Possible Destinations for Trade
You can establish trade routes with other civilization's cities, with City-States, and even with your own cities. Of course, you have to be at peace with the destination city's owner in order to initiate trade, but you don't need Open Borders agreement for your units to pass (both through that nation and through others along the way). Also, you don't need to conduct any diplomatic talks to establish trade routes - think of it as if you were providing state-supported vehicles and destinations for your eager merchants to conduct their business at your direction.
Principles of Trading
There are many benefits from International Trade Routes, and the trading mechanics are nothing short of amazingly versatile and interesting. When visiting foreign lands your merchants bring not only their goods, but also their knowledge, their culture and religion. And at the same time, they get exposed to these of the place they go to.
Trading with Other Civilizations
This is the most profitable kind of trading, but also the least secure. Before you even try, you need to keep in mind that both you and your trading partner will benefit from the trade, so it may not be a very good idea to trade with your main rival for victory, although the nation initiating the trade always gains more benefits.
The act of trading involves not only monetary gain, but also exchange of a number of influences between both parties - culture, science, even religion. Here is what you both gain exactly:
- Gold - The main product of trade, obviously, is Gold. The exact amount you and your partner gain each is determined by a number of factors, among which are:
- A base amount of 1 Gold
- The total Gold output of the origin city and the destination city - 5% of the Gold output of each city; does not include revenue from other trade routes
- The diversity of Resources available in both cities - +0.5 Gold from each improved Strategic and Luxury Resource
- Other bonuses from certain buildings, Wonders, social policies, or unique abilities of certain civilizations
- Whether the city borders a river - +25% revenue bonus to the city that borders a river; only applies to land trade routes
- Whether it is a land or a sea trade route - Sea trade routes provide double the revenue compared to land trade routes
- Science - Both partners gain some Science points each turn, if they have each discovered technologies the other doesn't know. The benefit is the greater the more technologies the partner has that you have yet to discover. As of the Fall 2013 patch, cultural influence of the civilization establishing the trade route now also conveys additional Science points, provided they are at least at the Familiar level of influence to whoever they're trading with. More Science points are granted for higher influence levels.
- Religion - Both cities will exert their normal amount of religious pressure on each other. It is important to note that the usual religious pressure range restriction does not apply to trade routes. This means that Trade Routes can be used to spread religion to cities that could otherwise only be reached by Missionaries or Prophets. However, if a city is already exerting religious pressure on another via the normal religious pressure range, then a trade route between those cities will not exert any additional pressure.
- Tourism - Cultural influence benefits greatly from trade. The nations you establish Trade Routes with are more exposed to your Tourism than normal, thanks to your merchants' stories of the wonders of your country. This translates to a 25% Tourism output bonus to this nation. So, when you're going for a cultural victory, target nations you need to influence more with your Trade Routes, using them as a backdoor for your Tourism.
Other civilizations may also establish Trade Routes to your cities. When you see Caravans and Cargo Ships coming regularly to your cities, you will know this is the case.
Trading with City-States
You can also establish routes with City-States. Those are less beneficial than trading with other civilizations, conducting nothing other than Gold trade and religious pressure. Still, this might prove very important in some cases, and often in the beginning of the game the range of your Caravans and Cargo Ships simply isn't sufficient to reach another civilization, especially on the larger maps.
Trading with Your Own Cities
Apart from trading with other nations and City-States, you can target your own cities. The point of this is, as stated above, to aid their initial growth, or help them while struggling with production.
While the point of trading with other cities outside of your empire is primarily to exchange Gold, you already do this with your own cities via City Connections. So the purpose of establishing Trade Routes with your own cities is another - to transfer either Food or Production from one city to another. Note that in order for you to transfer Food to a city, you must have built a Granary in the origin city, while for Production you need a Workshop. Cities with neither of these two buildings cannot serve as bases for domestic trade routes.
Also note that when trading in this way, while the origin city doesn't gain any benefit, it does not actually lose the Food or Production being "transferred." Still, this is a very good option to jump-start a city in the middle and late game, when you have many other trade routes assuring your income.
Plundering Trade Routes
Hostile entities may attack your trade routes. They can use the option Plunder Trade Route when they enter any tile that is part of the route. However, only entities you're at war with may plunder your trade routes. Since you're always "at war" with the Barbarians, they pose an ever-present threat to your trades. Note that Barbarians may only plunder a Trade Route if they manage to intercept the Trade Unit itself, while hostile nations may plunder a route by positioning a unit anywhere along its path.
Plundering a trade route immediately ends the route and destroys the unit that was servicing it. The plunderer gets a nice amount of Gold, but also receives diplomatic outrage from the other (third) party which was participating in the trade. Plundering a trade route also constitutes an act of war against the owner of the route.
Plundering may become an effective tactic while at war, carrying a nice profit for you. Otherwise, you also have to be aware of the consequences, so consider it carefully. When "backstabbing" a trade partner, position your units in such a way as to be able to plunder the trade routes they've opened with others in a short time. You should also try to cancel any trade routes you have opened with them, because after the start of the hostilities they'll surely return the gesture.