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Trade Routes Guide

Trade Routes Guide

Trade Route Guide
"That’s the positive aspect of trade I suppose. The world gets stirred up together" – Isabel Hoving

Traders, and trade routes have been critical part of civilization games, and with the release of Civ 6, there is some confusion and misinformation out there. That is why I created this guide so that the community and I can find and contribute to this guide and hopefully get accurate information out there.

List of all the topics:


What are trader routes?
As Wikipedia defines – “A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. The term can also be used to refer to trade over bodies of water.”

Why do you need them?
All trade routes have a yield. This can be Food, Production, Gold, and sometimes Culture, Science, and Faith. These yields are gained per turn, while the trade route is running. In addition to these basic yields, trade routes also help in the following ways:

  • Traders also build you roads, which are critical to the mobility of your army and civilian units. The road is built from the origin city to the destination city.
  • Trade routes provide visibility bonus (can be seen from "Trade Overview" screen, with a small eye icon). Diplomatic visibility deserves its own guide, but in short it lets you know what the player is currently doing (like what wonders, buildings, districts are being built).
  • Trade routes also provide a tourism bonus with the player you are trading with (can be seen from "Trade Overview" screen, with a small suitcase icon). This bonus starts at +25% but goes up to +50% with the policy card, Online Communities. This tourism bonus can help you with your culture victory, and is almost essential against highly cultural civilizations.

How do I create/start trader routes?
After researching the civic Foreign Trade, you gain the ability to create Traders. Traders can start a route from the city they are currently in. Once a trader is selected, you can see an action in the Unit Panel with the icon of a trade route (two arrows in a circle).

If you click that action, the “Make Trade Route” panel open. From there, select a destination you want to trade to, and then click “Begin Route”.

Once the trade route finishes, the trader will be back in the origin city, available to be sent out on another trade route.

Is there a limit to the amount of trade routes I have currently?
Indeed, there is. On the top bar, you should see two numbers with a trade route logo.

The number on the left of the ‘/’ is the number of trade routes that are running currently, and the number on the right is capacity of trader routes you can run.

Once you hit that limit, you cannot build more traders, or start new trade routes. A common example for that would be if you pick the Government Merchant Republic, it grants you +2 trade routes capacity. If you advance or change to any other government, you no longer have that bonus. But if you were maxing out the trade routes before making that government switch, you would have exceeded the limit by 2, and two of your traders will not be able to start trade routes.

How do I decide my trade routes?

This depends on what you want you want your trade routes to do.
  • If you want to grow and develop a city, you would want to send a domestic trade with the highest food and production route from that city.
  • Trader routes are the only way to build roads early game. That means at the start of the game, most of the trade routes are decided based on where you want your roads.
  • You can fulfill a city-state quest to Send a Trade Route, and earn an envoy with that city state. Tip: You can see if the city-state has quest with a small quote icon next to the city banner in the Make Trade Route screen.
  • Do you need to fund a huge army, or trying to upgrade outdated units? Pick the route with the maximum gold. Tip: Don't ignore city states here. Many times, the most lucrative trade route is with a mercantile city state (ex: Zanzibar).
  • Are you trying to win a cultural victory? You would want to exploit the tourism bonus from trading with that player.
  • Are you planning to declare war on a player? Send a trade route to them so you have a road leading to their cities. This allows you to reinforce the army with new units faster. Tip: You don't need to wait for the trade route to finish. Declare war, automatically cancels the trade route, and the trader will be back in the origin city.
  • Competing for a wonder? Sending that high production route, could make the difference to beat the player to that wonder.
This is just a short list of usage examples. If you have one that is weird and unique, comment and let know and I will add it to this list.

Advanced Info

What modifies my trade route yields?

There are multiple things that modify the trade route yield. Below is a list of all modifiers, trade route related. Big thanks to @Browd and @KrikkitTwo for this.
  • Districts of domestic destination city:
    • City Center: 1 Food + 1 Production
    • Campus: 1 Food
    • Encampment, Commercial Hub: 1 Production
    • Industrial zone, Harbor: 1 Production
    • Holy Site, Theater Square, Entertainment District: 1 Food
  • Civic/Policy boosts
    • Caravansaries (Ancient Era policy): +2 Gold from all Trade Routes. Unlocked at Foreign Trade (Ancient Era civic) and obsoleted by Triangular Trade (Renaissance Era policy)
    • Triangular Trade (Renaissance Era policy): +4 Gold and +1 Faith from all Trade Routes. Unlocked by Mercantilism (Renaissance Era civic) and obsoleted by Ecommerce (Information Era policy)
    • E-Commerce (Information Era policy): +5 Production and +10 Gold from international Trade Routes. Unlocked by Globalization (Information Era civic).
    • Trade Confederation (Medieval Era policy): +1 Culture and +1 Science from international Trade Routes. Unlocked by Mercenaries (Medieval civic) and obsoleted by Market Economy (Modern Era policy)
    • Market Economy (Modern Era policy): International Trade Routes provide +1 Gold per Luxury and Strategic Resource improved at destination, as well as +2 Culture and +2 Science. Unlocked by Capitalism (Modern Era civic)
    • Arsenal of Democracy (Modern Era diplomatic policy): Trade Routes with an Ally provide +2 Food and +2 Production for both cities. Unlocked at Suffrage (Modern Era civic).
    • Collectivization (Modern Era policy): +4 Food from domestic Trade Routes. Unlocked at Class Struggle (Modern Era civic).
    • Online Communities (Information Era policy): +50% Tourism to civilizations to whom you have a Trade Route. Unlocked at Social Media (Information Era civic).
  • City-State-related trade route bonuses:
    • Carthage (militaristic CS) suzerain bonus: Each Encampment district provides +1 Trade Route capacity.
    • Amsterdam (trade CS) suzerain bonus: Trade Routes to foreign cities earn +1 Gold for each Luxury resource at the destination.
    • Kumasi (cultural CS) suzerain bonus: Trade Routes to any city-state provide +2 culture and +1 Gold for every specialty district in the origin city.
    • Jakarta (trade CS) suzerain bonus: Your Trading Posts in foreign cities earn +1 Gold for each of your Trade Routes passing through.
    • Lisbon (trade CS) suzerain bonus: Your Trader units are immune from being plundered on water tiles.
  • Civ unique bonuses
    • Rome: All cities start with a Trading Post. If founded within Trade Route range of Rome's capital, they also start with a road to the city. Rome's Trade Routes provide +1 Gold for passing through Trading Posts in Rome's cities.
    • Egypt - Cleopatra's Mediterranean's Bride: Trade Routes to other civilizations provide +4 Gold for Egypt. Other civilizations' Trade Routes to Egypt provide +2 Food for them and +2 Gold for Egypt.
    • Russia - Peter's Grand Embassy: Receives Science or Culture from Trade Routes with civilizations that are more advanced than Russia (+1 per 3 technologies or civics ahead).
    • Spain: Trade Routes between multiple continents receive bonus Gold for routes to other civilizations, and bonus Food and Production for routes between your own cities.
  • Great Person bonuses
    • John Rockefeller (Industrial Era great merchant): Grants 1 Oil, a strategic resource. Your Trade Routes gain +2 Gold for each Strategic Resource improved by the destination city. 1 charge.
    • Raja Todor Mal (Renaissance Era great merchant): Gain 1 Envoy. Your Trade Routes to your own cities gain 0.5 Gold for each specialty district at the destination. 1 charge.
    • Sara Breedlove (Modern Era great merchant): +25% Tourism towards other civilizations you have a Trade Route to. 1 charge.
    • Ching Shih (Industrial Era great admiral): +100 Gold. Military units gain +60% reward when plundering sea Trade Routes.
    • Francis Drake (Renaissance Era great admiral): +75 Gold. Military units gain +50% reward when plundering sea Trade Routes.
    • Rajendra Chola (Medieval Era great admiral): +50 Gold. Military units gain +40% reward when plundering sea Trade Routes.
How do I increase my trade route capacity?
Below is the list of things that can increase trade route capacity:
Note: This is an incomplete list. If you notice something that should be on this list, please let know and I will add it
  • Civic - Foreign Trade: +1
  • District - Commercial Hub: +1
  • District - Harbor: +1
  • Wonder - Great Zimbabwe: +1
  • Wonder - Colossus: +1
  • Government - Merchant Republic: +2
  • Great Merchants:
    • Zhang Qian: +1
    • Irene of Athens: +1
    • Marco Polo: +1
    • Melitta Bentz: +1
What is the range of trade routes?
In vanilla Civ 6 the trade route range is 15 tiles in land, and 30 tiles in sea. But this can be extended with trading posts explained below.

What are trading posts? How do trading posts work?
Once you finish a trade route, you get a trading post in the destination city and the origin city.

Trading posts are critical to your trade network, and the easiest way to understand what they do, is to imagine them as refueling stations for your trader. For instance, a route from the origin city has a fixed range (15 tiles in land, and 30 tiles in sea). If the trader hits a city with a trading post, it can reach a city further away (by 15 tiles in land or 30 tiles in sea). If that city also has a trading post, the trader can reach even further away and so on. In short, trading posts increase your trade route range and allow you to reach a city a lot farther than the origin city.

In addition to increasing your trade route range, they also increase provide bonus gold:
  • For each trading post you pass through (including the trading post in the destination city) you get +1 Gold
  • This bonus does not apply to domestic trading posts, unless you are playing as Rome.
How many turns will my trade route take?
This is a surprisingly more complicated question than you initially thought. So to properly understand what is going on, let us start at the beginning.

The trader moves a tile per turn to the destination and then back. Sometimes the trader moves back and forth multiple times, but in the end the trade route ends with the trader back in the origin city. Hence the path the trader takes is critical to how long the trade route will take.

Here is when an important distinction needs to be made between the distance between two cities, and the length of the trade route path. The former is the absolute distance (ignoring mountains, seas and other restrictions) between the two cities. The latter is the length of the path the trader takes to complete his trade route. Ideally these two will be equal, but this is not always the case. For instance, if two cities have a mountain range between them, the trader cannot pass through the mountains, hence the trader paths around the mountains hence increasing the length of the path he takes. This difference between the absolute distance, and the length of the trade route path gets exacerbated when pathing through multiple trading posts. Below is another simple example of this difference:

Spoiler Image :

The path in orange is absolute distance, and the path in white is the trade path.

Since the trader moves through its trade route path, the absolute distance is irrelevant to the amount of turns the trader takes.

This is where the problem in vanilla Civ 6 arises. Trade screens show the absolute distance, and not the turns remaining to complete trade route.

So why did Firaxis put irrelevant info there? I think they had to meet a deadline, and couldn’t program it in. Comments in code, tooltip, and hidden UI elements show that Firaxis meant to work on it.

Hope is not lost though! There is another thing that affects the turns the trade route will take - the number of trips the trader takes to the destination. After testing for a few days, here are the things I found:
  • Number of trips is not affected by the current era, techs/civics, buildings, districts.
  • The trader makes at least one trip to destination (obviously).
  • Domestic and international routes don’t affect the number of trips.
  • Game speed does affect the number of trips. Marathon has a lot of higher number of trips compared to online.
After hours of tracking trade routes using excel, the mathematical formula I found was:

a = Game Speed Multiplier (can be found from the GameSpeeds.xml)
b = Trade Route Length (explained above)
c = Number of trips
FLOOR = Mathematical floor: Rounds a decimal value down. Ex: FLOOR(2.3) = 2, FLOOR(3.9999) = 3

c = FLOOR((a / b) * 0.1) + 1
Amount of turns = c * b * 2

How does the game speed and distance affect the amount of turns for my route to complete?
If you don't like graphs, skip over the spoiler and just go to conclusions I drew.

Spoiler I heard you like graphs! :

x-axis: Distance
y-axis: Amount of turns to complete the trade route

Online - Speed Multiplier 50

Quick - Speed Multiplier 67

Standard - Speed Multiplier 100

Epic - Speed Multiplier 150

Marathon - Speed Multiplier 300

Graphs are cool and all, but what does this all mean for gameplay?
  • If you are playing on Quick or Online, you can assume the relationship between distance and amount of turns to be linear.
  • Playing on speed Standard and higher, there are distinct dips in the amount of turns. That means, there are specific cases where sending a trade route further will lead to less turns consumed. Ex: In Marathon speed, sending a trade route at distance 30 takes 120 turns, but sending it to a city at distance 31 will only take 61 turns. This is a huge difference!
How can I just see the turns it takes to complete the trade route?
In vanilla Civ 6, I have not found a place. So your only option would be to use a mod, that does these calculations for you, like my mod: Better Trade Screen, or Chaorace's CQUI.

Miscellaneous important things to know:
  • A coastal city does not need a harbor to trade with another coastal city.
  • A coastal city will need a harbor to trade with an inland city on a different continent.
  • An inland city with a harbor will allow your trader to embark and trade across water, but also receive foreign sea routes.
  • When you declare war with a player, you trade routes to that player, and his trade routes to you get terminated, and traders teleport back to their origin city.
  • You want your trade routes take the least amount of time, since that is the time the trader is out of your control and stuck on the current route (unless you declare war on the player you are trading with).
  • The majority of the trade routes yields are based on the destination city, and not the origin city. Exception: Great Zimbabwe.
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Thanks, great help man!
Thanks for the excel
wow thanks just discovered it!!! could use an update with the expansions now :-)
Terrefic in-depth!
Ther is at least one Gevernent with +2 trade routes, the Merchant Republic
This really cleared up how long it takes for the trader to complete their route and how game speeds affect it.
Well explained - better than the in game explanation!
Excellent explanation of some things that are not obvious.
You'v e just taught an old dog a whole lot of new tricks! Thanks for this.
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