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Trade Routes represent the foreign trade activities of civilizations (although they can be established also between cities of the same owner). They are an essential activity which provides multiple benefits: they boost Gold, Production and other yields for your cities, 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 at least one less than your total Trading Capacity), a Trader unit and at least 1 valid destination city.
Trading capacity is the maximum number of Trade Routes you can have at the same time. Developing Foreign Trade (one of the earliest Civics of the Ancient Era) gives you a trade capacity of 1, which means that your empire can have one Trade Route at a time.
Constructing Commercial Hubs and Harbors (or, in Rise and Fall, Markets and Lighthouses) increases Trading Capacity by one each. Their effects aren't cumulative within a city, though: a city with both a Commercial Hub/Market and a Harbor/Lighthouse only increases Trading Capacity by one.
Each Trader unit services one Trade Route. For this reason, when the number of traders equals the trading capacity you can't 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 suffers from enemy attacks (or in Gathering Storm - 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 (or Traders) 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' (isn't servicing a Trade route), an origin city and a destination 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 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 cost one turn). 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.
Sea routes have additional technology and infrastructure requirements:
- The Celestial Navigation technology is required to move on Coastal 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 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 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.
A Trade Route runs for a minimum of 20 turns on Standard game speed (affected by game speed), but only ends when the Trader reaches the origin city. As Traders move at a speed of one tile per turn, Trade Routes can only end after (n * 2 * route length) turns, where n is a natural number ≥ 1.
Examples for different route lengths on standard speed:
|Distance travelled (tiles)||Roundtrip time (turns)||Number of trips||Duration (turns)|
This 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 there needs to be physical access to the coast!
As mentioned above, Trading Posts are automatically constructed in the destination and source city of every finished Trade Route. 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! Trading Posts add 1 Gold each to the route's yield.
Potential Destinations for Trade
You can establish Trade Routes with your own cities (they are called 'Domestic routes'), with rival civilizations' cities, or with city-states (both of these are called 'International routes'). The results are slightly different, although trading with foreign cities or city-states is largely the same. Trading between your own cities provides mainly Food and Production, while trading with foreign cities provides mainly Gold, along with other yield types which depend heavily on the types of districts and resources the target city has. For more details, see below. Also, opening a Trade Route to the city is often requested by city-states as a Quest.
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.
- Domestic (or internal) routes are those established between cities of your empire.
- International routes are those established with cities outside your empire.
This separation is also important when considering certain Policy Card effects (see below).
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.
Trading with Your Own Cities
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.
Trading with Other Civilizations
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!
Trading with City-States
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|
|Harbor||1 Production||3 Gold|
|Industrial Zone||1 Production||1 Production|
Other effects of Trade routes
Besides yield boosts for your cities, Trade routes also have other important effects:
- 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).
- 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.
First, 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.
Second, 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. This makes it possible for a single Trade Route to yield 30+ Gold, if established the right way!
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; 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.)
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 only costs 1 MP, so it is much easier than Plundering improvements or districts! Try to protect your water based Trade Routes with some strong Naval units.
Comparison with Other Games
|Civilization VI |
|Rise and Fall • Gathering Storm • New Frontier Pass|