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Trade Routes represent the trade activities of civilizations, either between their own cities or with foreign civilizations. They are an essential activity which provides multiple benefits: they boost Gold, Food and Production, among other yields, create roads when running on land, and provide increased Diplomatic Visibility with other civilizations.
Trading routes and capacity are always displayed in the stats ribbon in the upper left part of the screen.
In order to establish a Trade Route you need free Trading Capacity of at least 1 (that is, the number of currently active Trade Routes must be less than your total Trading Capacity), a Trader unit and at least 1 valid destination city.
Traders may establish routes over land and sea, but embarkation requires Celestial Navigation.
Trading Capacity is the maximum number of Trade Routes you can have at the same time. The Foreign Trade civic (one of the earliest of the Ancient Era) grants a Trading Capacity of one, meaning that your empire can have one Trade Route at a time. Each city with a Commercial Hub or a Harbor (or, from Rise and Fall onwards, a Market or a Lighthouse) increases a civilization's Trading Capacity by one. These bonuses are not cumulative: a city with both a Commercial Hub/Market and a Harbor/Lighthouse adds only one Trading Capacity, not two.
Other sources of Trading Capacity include the following:
- In vanilla only, the effect of the Merchant Republic government increases Trading Capacity by two.
- The Great Merchants Zhang Qian, Ibn Fadlan, Irene of Athens (in vanilla only), Marco Polo, and Melitta Bentz all increase Trading Capacity by one.
- In Gathering Storm only, the Great Admiral Zheng He increases Trading Capacity by one when retired.
- The effects of the Colossus and Great Zimbabwe wonders increase Trading Capacity by one.
- In vanilla only, the Suzerain bonus of the Carthage city-state increases Trading Capacity by one for each Encampment.
- Passing Outcome A of a Trade Policy resolution in the World Congress temporarily increases the target's Trading Capacity by one.
- The civilization abilities of Persia and the Cree increase Trading Capacity by one upon researching Political Philosophy and Pottery, respectively.
- Mansa Musa's leader ability increases Mali's Trading Capacity by one each time he enters a Golden Age.
- Dido's leader ability increases Phoenicia's Trading Capacity by one after building the Government Plaza district or any of its buildings.
- João III's leader ability increases Portugal's Trading Capacity by one each time he meets another civilization.
- In Gathering Storm only, Victoria's leader ability increases England's Trading Capacity by one each time they found their first city in a continent other than England's home continent.
- The Comandante General Antonio Nariño, exclusive to Gran Colombia's Simón Bolívar, increases Trading Capacity by one when retired.
- If the Secret Societies Game Mode is enabled, the Owls of Minerva can build the Gilded Vault, which increases Trading Capacity by one if the city has a Harbor.
Each Trader services one Trade Route. For this reason, when the number of Traders equals the Trading Capacity you cannot build more Traders. Still, there are exceptional situations in which the number of Traders (and active Trade Routes) can exceed the Trading Capacity. This happens when your Trading Capacity suddenly decreases below the number of Traders/routes you have. Trading Capacity may decrease, for example, in vanilla Civilization VI when you change governments from Merchant Republic to something else (which reduces your Trading Capacity by 2); when your commercial infrastructure is pillaged by enemy units or disasters, or when you lose cities with commercial infrastructure. All the Trade Routes that were active when the decrease in Trading Capacity happened remain active. This means that the number of Trade Routes can actually exceed the Trading Capacity for a few turns. However, the next Trader(s) to finish a Trade Route will be unable to start a new route and will be forced to stay inactive. They will recover their ability to create Trade Routes once you increase your Trading Capacity again.
Establishing Trade Routes
You create Trade Routes by selecting a Trader which is currently free (i.e. not servicing a Trade Route), an origin city, and a destination city.
Choosing an origin city
To start, you need an origin city: this can be any city in your civilization which is physically able to connect to your intended destination city. If you have a particular destination city in mind, make sure the origin city is in range of it, and there is a viable route between the two. Note that the Trader will automatically start the new route from the city he's currently in - if the current city the Trader is in doesn't suit you, move the Trader using the Transfer to another city button in its Command tab. (This will take one turn.)
Bear in mind that all the Trade Route's benefits will apply directly to the origin city! So, if you wish to boost a particular city's basic yields, move the Trader unit to this city first, before establishing the new Trade Route. This is often the case when establishing domestic Trade Routes (whose main yields are Food and Production and fit nicely the purpose of aiding the basic development of any city). In the case of international Trade Routes, whose benefits concentrate on the empire-wide yields, your main concern should be the potential destinations, and the trajectory the future route will have (e.g. if there happen to be Barbarians in the middle of the route). Yields like Gold and Science benefit your entire empire, but be aware that the origin city's modifiers apply to the Trade Route's effectiveness.
Choosing destination city
Next, choose a destination city from the list in the left part of the screen. Valid destinations can be foreign cities, city-states, or your own cities, but must meet the following requirements:
- You have discovered it already.
- You're not at war with the civilization to which it belongs.
- It is within trading range of the origin city. Note that default trading ranges can be extended via Trading Posts!
- A route that connects the origin and the destination cities is available. A route is available if you have explored enough tiles to create a path between the two cities, and none of those tiles is impassable. Note that this doesn't necessarily mean that the chosen path will be the most direct possible - sometimes you'll find out you haven't revealed the tiles which will make this possible.
In order for your Trader to be able to embark, you need additional technology and infrastructure requirements:
- The Celestial Navigation technology is required to move on Coast tiles.
- The Cartography technology is required to move on Ocean tiles.
- Both the origin and the destination cities must have maritime access. Cities with maritime access are those that are adjacent to a body of water connected to the sea, or that have a Harbor on such a body of water.
- In Gathering Storm, Canals (including the Panama Canal) may allow additional cities to use sea routes if they connect in the proper manner.
For each potential destination, you will see projected income and benefits, as well as the number of turns the route will run. While the menu with the available destinations is open, each potential route trajectory is shown as a white line on the map. Trade Routes may traverse hostile territory, although they run a great risk of being plundered if they do.
Finally, you may choose to Repeat the last route (if there was any). This will automatically select the destination city of the last route this Trader performed and activate the route.
Each Trade Route runs for a set number of turns, after which it is considered finished. Traders move to the destination city and then return to its city of origin. When they complete this round journey Trading Posts for your civilization are created both in the destination and in the origin city, if they didn't exist already.
Traders move at a speed of one tile per turn, both on land and at sea. This is the rate at which they create roads. Even though it takes quite a few turns for a Trader to reach its destination and return, the route itself provides its benefits ( Gold, Production, etc.) from the turn you establish it, and continues to do so until its duration runs out.
How long Trade Routes run is dependent on game speed. On Standard game speed, a route runs for a minimum of 21 turns and ends only when the Trader returns to its origin city, completing a round trip. For short Trade Routes, this means a Trader will have to complete multiple round trips. (Note that the in-game UI shows only the absolute distance between the cities, not the real Trade Route duration.)
In Gathering Storm, the current World Era retroactively adds additional turns to the Trade Route's minimum duration (TradeRouteMinimumEndTurnChange parameter), as shown in the table below. This makes it much harder to establish Trading Posts in the mid- to end game.
There is nothing you can do to choose a specific path for your Traders to travel on when establishing Trade Routes. If there are multiple possible paths between two cities, the game will automatically pick out one. When establishing internal Trade Routes, the game will choose the shortest path. Regarding international Trade Routes, it will try to maximize the Gold output by making the Trader travel through as many Trading Posts, Mountain Tunnels, Canals, and Railroads as possible. In all cases the game engine will attempt to use already existing infrastructure (Roads, Canals, etc.), which makes it a bit difficult to shape the Road network of your empire exactly as you want it, especially in the middle and late game. Fortunately, at this point you are already able to use a Military Engineer to build Roads exactly where you need them.
|World Era||Turns added||Good choices for distance travelled|
|Ancient, Classical||0||4, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14|
|Medieval, Renaissance||10 (50% longer)||4, 8, 9, 16, 17, 18|
|Industrial, Modern, Atomic||20 (100% longer)||4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 21, 22, 23, 24|
|Information, Future||30 (150% longer)||4, 7, 9, 13, 14, 26, 27, 28, 29|
The following table gives examples of different route lengths (on Standard speed) for the Ancient and Classical Era. Breakpoints are bolded.
|Distance travelled (tiles)||Roundtrip time (turns)||Number of trips||Duration (turns)|
Trading range and Trading Posts
Trading range is the measure of how many tiles from its current base a Trader is able to reach, so as to establish routes. Note that, unlike Civilization V, Trade Route range cannot be enhanced via technology! The only way to do it is via infrastructure - more specifically, the new Trading Posts (see below). This makes it imperative to think strategically when establishing Trade Routes - sometimes it is worth it to establish a route which won't benefit you much, but when finished, will allow you to reach other parts of the world!
The base range for land trade routes is 15 tiles. A Trader unit sent over land will automatically construct a road (or upgrade an existing road, if your technology is more advanced) between the cities along the route trajectory.
The base range for sea trade routes is 30 tiles. Remember that you need the Celestial Navigation tech in order to be able to establish sea trade routes. Also note that routes may switch between movement modes - the route may start in an inland city, then go to a coastal city (or to a city with a Harbor), move over sea to another city with a Harbor, then continue on land to its destination. As long as the destination is within the overall range of the route, switching back and forth between modalities is possible. Also, remember that both the origin city and the destination city require maritime access (either being a coastal city, or a Harbor, or, in Gathering Storm, a Canal or the Panama Canal) in order to establish sea Trade Routes or have Traders switching between land and sea. Portugal gains +50% range for sea trade routes and does not require Celestial Navigation to establish them.
Trading Posts are a new type of infrastructure, specifically designed to ensure logistical support of your Traders in faraway lands. As mentioned above, Trading Posts are automatically constructed in the destination and source city of every finished Trade Route (or of every started Trade Route as Mongolia, and in every founded or conquered city as Rome). Future routes (both land and sea) that pass through these cities will have extended reach - they will effectively reset their range at the Trading Post. You can make use of this to reach farther and farther in the world with your Traders! When you are aiming to establish trading relations with a faraway city, or a city on a new continent, look for a route which will reach the closest possible city to your goal, then establish a Trade Route to it (even though the yields won't be as beneficial as other choices you have). After the route duration expires, a Trading Post will be established and you will eventually be able to reach your destination.
Potential destinations for trade
There are two types of Trade Routes you can establish: domestic (or internal) routes, which run between two of your own cities; and international routes, which run between one of your cities and either another civilization's city or a city-state. The results are slightly different, although trading with foreign cities or city-states is largely the same. Domestic routes mainly provide Food and Production, while international routes mainly provide Gold, along with other yield types which depend heavily on the types of District and resources the target city has. This separation is also important when considering certain policy card effects (see below).
You cannot trade with cities of a civilization with which you're at war. When war is declared, any existing Trade Routes between the two civilizations are cancelled, and the Traders servicing them are immediately recalled to their origin cities. The same happens when a destination (or an origin city) becomes a Free City due to Loyalty problems. Note that Trade Routes are not cancelled if they run through a hostile civilization's territory to a city or city-state with which you can still trade, and become viable targets for war plundering!
Also, opening a Trade Route to the city is often requested by city-states as a Quest.
Benefits of trade
Trade Routes are always sent from the City Center of their origin to that one of their destination, but they benefit from all districts that exist in the destination city's territory. Thus, a route to a specific city may start with a very negligible yield, but as that city develops over time, the yields of future routes sent there will also increase.
Note that at all times there may exist only one route between Cities A and B. You can establish a new route to City A starting from City B, but you won't be able to establish another route from A to B until the first one's duration runs out.
When you start a domestic Trade Route, the city of origin will receive Food and Production, depending on the districts at the place the route is going. Use domestic routes to boost the basic performance of any city within your empire, especially newly established ones. Cities constructing Wonders also benefit greatly - try to connect them to your most advanced industrial city.
International Trade Routes can be established with rival civilizations whose cities are within range. The yields they provide are much more varied: all such routes will provide Gold, but depending on the districts at their destination, they will also provide Science, Culture, Faith, and also Production and Food on occasion.
Aside from providing Gold income, international Trade Routes also serve as a sort of social connection. First, trading provides the most basic form of espionage, as rumors will trickle down the routes enabling you to learn of developments in rival civilizations. Second, traders will talk freely about the wonders of your civilization, which boosts your Tourism output to the other civilization!
Trade yields based on districts
Below is a table of all effects the various districts add to a Trade Route's total yield. The civilization-specific versions of the districts have the same yield as the respective generic district they replace.
|District||Domestic Destination||International Destination|
|City Center||1 Food, 1 Production||3 Gold|
|Campus||1 Food||1 Science|
|Holy Site||1 Food||1 Faith|
|Encampment||1 Production||1 Production|
|Commercial Hub||1 Production||3 Gold|
|Theater Square||1 Food||1 Culture|
|Entertainment Complex||1 Food||1 Food|
|Water Park||1 Food||1 Food|
|Harbor||1 Production||3 Gold|
|Industrial Zone||1 Production||1 Production|
|Government Plaza||1 Food, 1 Production||2 Gold|
|Diplomatic Quarter||1 Food, 1 Production||1 Culture|
Trade yields boosters
- Every Trading Post for your civilization through which a route passes along its course adds +1 Gold to its total yield. Thus, the farther the route goes (and the more cities with Trading Posts it passes along the way), the greater its final Gold yield.
- In Gathering Storm all Trade Routes passing through water tiles gain bonus Gold. Also, routes passing through advanced engineering features (such as a Railroad, Canal or Mountain Tunnel) gain additional Gold bonuses. It is calculated as follows (remember that this percentage-based bonus only applies to basic Gold yields from Trade Routes a.k.a. the Gold yield based on the District present at the destination, it will not enhance unique Trade Route bonuses or bonuses from policy cards):
- Water tiles (Lake, Coast or Ocean), Canal tiles, and Railroad tiles grant 2 "efficiency" points when a Trader passes through.
- Mountain Tunnel tiles or Qhapaq Ñan tiles grant 15 "efficiency" points when a Trader passes through.
- The exact bonus depends on the ratio of "efficiency" points versus the distance traversed by the Trader from the origin to the destination. For example, a Trade Route that earns 8 efficiency points on a 16-tile distance will earn 50% bonus toward its base Gold yield. This bonus caps at 100%.
- Magnus' Surplus Logistics title will give +2 Food to the city in which a domestic Trade Route starts if it ends in the city in which he is established. Reyna's Foreign Exchange title (Land Acquisition in Gathering Storm) gives 3 Gold for every foreign Trade Route that ends or passes through the city in which she is established.
- Constructing the University of Sankore in a city will grant +1 Science and +1 Gold to foreign Trade Routes, and +1 Faith to domestic Trade Routes, headed to that city.
- Constructing the Torre de Belém in a city will grant +2 Gold to all international Trade Routes sent from that city for each improved Luxury Resource at the destination.
- Constructing the Great Zimbabwe will grant 2 Gold to every international Trade Route starting from its parent city per bonus resource in the city.
- The follower belief Religious Community grants international Trade Routes 2 Gold for every Holy Site and Holy Site building in the origin city.
- Suzerainty of Kumasi grants 2 Culture and 1 Gold per specialty district in the origin city to every Trade Route sent to a city-state.
- Suzerainty of Amsterdam/Antioch/Venice grants 1 Gold to every outgoing international Trade Route for each luxury resource improved at the destination.
- The unique building of Poland, the Sukiennice, grants +4 Gold to domestic Trade Routes and +2 Production to international Trade Routes sent from cities that have it.
- Cleopatra's leader ability, Mediterranean's Bride, grants +4 Gold to outgoing international Trade Routes, and +2 Food in the home city and +2 Gold in the target city to incoming international Trade Routes.
- Peter's leader ability, The Grand Embassy, grants +1 Science to outgoing international Trade Routes for every three technologies that civilization is ahead of him, and +1 Culture for every three civics that civilization is ahead of him.
- Poundmaker's leader ability, Favorable Terms, grants +1 Food to the home city and +1 Gold to the target city for each Camp or Pasture in the target city to all Cree Trade Routes.
- Wilhelmina's leader ability, Radio Oranje, grants +2 Culture to all international Trade Routes.
- Pachacuti's leader ability, Qhapaq Ñan, grants +1 Food to domestic Trade Routes for every Mountain tile in the home city.
- Mansa Musa's leader ability, Sahel Merchants, grants +1 Gold to outgoing international Trade Routes for each flat Desert tile in the home city.
- Ethiopia's civilization ability, Aksumite Legacy, grants 0.5 Faith to outgoing international Trade Routes for each resource improved in the home city.
- Portugal's civilization ability, Casa da Índia, increases all yields from international Trade Routes by 50%. However, they cannot establish these routes unless they terminate in a coastal city or a city with a Harbor.
- Persia's civilization ability, Satrapies, grants +2 Gold and +1 Culture to all domestic Trade Routes.
- Rome's civilization ability, All Roads Lead to Rome, grants +1 Gold to all Trade Routes for each Roman Trading Post they pass through.
- Spain's civilization ability, Treasure Fleet, grants +3 Gold, +2 Faith and +1 Production to all Trade Routes, which is tripled if they travel between continents.
Finally, a number of policy cards enhance your routes in various ways. The following increase the yields of all routes (domestic and international):
- Caravansaries: +2 Gold.
- Triangular Trade: +4 Gold, +1 Faith.
- Ecommerce: +5 Production and +10 Gold ( +2 Production and +5 Gold).
The following policies work for domestic routes only:
The following policies work for international routes only:
- Trade Confederation: +1 Culture and +1 Science.
- Market Economy: +1 Gold per Luxury and Strategic resource improved at the destination, and an additional +2 Culture and +2 Science.
- Wisselbanken: +2 Food and +2 Production. Alliance Points grow 25% faster with target Ally. (This policy works only if the route connects to an Ally's city; the bonus yield is applied to both source and destination cities.)
- Arsenal of Democracy: +2 Food and +2 Production ( +4 Food and +4 Production). Alliance Points grow 25% faster with target Ally. (This policy works only if the route connects to an Ally's city or a city-state of which the sender is Suzerain; the bonus yield is applied to both source and destination cities.)
- Online Communities: +50% Tourism towards the target civilization. (Obviously, no effect when trading with a city-state.)
- Raj: +2 Gold (city-states only.)
In Gathering Storm, the effects of Arsenal of Democracy are transferred to Democracy, and Collectivization is available only after adopting Communism. Additionally, Wisselbanken also works on city-states of which the sender is Suzerain.
Other effects of Trade Routes
- As mentioned before, they create Roads along their trajectory on land. Also, if it so happens that your civilization has unlocked a higher level road than the existing one along the route's trajectory, the Trader will upgrade it during its first passage.
- They exert a bit of Religious pressure: 0.5 for the origin city's Majority religion (if any) to the destination city, and vice-versa. This is valid for all routes (International and Domestic). If playing as India, this is doubled against other civilizations.
- They increase the Diplomatic Visibility with the destination city's owner by 1 level. This is valid only for International routes to other civilizations.
- They boost Tourism output to this civilization by 25%. Again, only valid for International routes to other civilizations.
- In Rise and Fall, routes existing between Allied civilizations will boost the accumulation of Alliance points and speed up the Upgrade of their Alliance levels.
- The civilization ability of the Cree, Nîhithaw, allows their Trade Routes to claim land nearby their cities.
- The leader ability of Wilhelmina, Radio Oranje, grants cities +1 Loyalty per turn as long as they have an outgoing domestic Trade Route.
- The leader ability of Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt, Roosevelt Corollary, grants double Envoys with any city-state he has a Trade Route with.
Plundering Trade Routes
Trade Routes are vulnerable to attack, and unguarded ones may be plundered by Barbarians and units belonging to civilizations with which you are at war. If an enemy unit enters a tile that one of your Traders currently occupies, it can plunder the route, which destroys the Trader and rewards the enemy unit's owner with Gold. This action costs all of the unit's remaining Movement points, meaning the unit can move and plunder in the same turn. A fast unit (with at least 4 MP) might be able to pillage a district or improvement (3 MP) and plunder a Trade Route in the same turn. Try to protect your water based Trade Routes with some strong naval units.
Comparison with other games