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Subsidies and Aggressive Trading Practices

Discussion in 'Civ4 Strategy Articles' started by Hans Lemurson, Jun 5, 2006.

  1. Hans Lemurson

    Hans Lemurson Chieftain

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    The following is a strategy for getting the most out of your GPT trades with the AI.

    Have you often been in annoying situations with the AI, wanting to sell off a resource, but getting only a pittance in return? Is silk really worth only 3 GPT?
    It turns out that the AI also values these resources more than they are paying, but are limited to only giving away as much GPT as they are currently making in profit. One of the most striking features of this is the fact that the AI always seems be willing to trade all of its availiable GPT for your goods, whether it is 1 or 5. How would you like to make 7, 9, or 12 GPT regularly per resource.:eek:
    Well now you can! All it takes is a little patience, and plenty of extra goods, and you'll be in buisiness.

    The primary limit on an AI's GPT trading is simply the size of their positive cash-flow that turn. There is a secondary limit based on how much they like you, but you don't often hit it. In order to trade as much GPT as possible with the AI, you have to make sure that they have enough GPT to cover the transaction. How do you do this? Subsidize them!

    Subsidies: If you gift GPT to an AI in negotiations, it will (as you might expect) raise their GPT in turn. Gift an AI GPT in small increments until their Available GPT stops increasing. You have just determined their trading limit, and they will now be willing to buy resources off you at top dollar.

    Here is an example scenario:
    Suppose I was trading with the Persians, and they are listed as having 4 Available GPT.
    • I gift them 2 GPT, and their Available-GPT rises to 6.
    • I gift them 2 GPT again, and now their Available-GPT rises to 7.

      Where did the money go?
      They are simply not willing to trade at 8 GPT; their limit is 7.
    • I now sell them Furs for 7 GPT, and now their Available-GPT is at 1.
    • I gift them 7 GPT, and their Available goes to 7.
    • I sell them Rice for 7GPT, and their Available is down to 1 again.
    • I see that I can only sell 1 more resource to them, Silk, and so I gift them 6 GPT. Their Available is at 7.
    • I sell them the Silk for 7 GPT, and call it a day.

    You are all probably noticing that throughout this entire affair, I'm only making a profit of 4 GPT while selling them 3 resources. I'm effectively giving them 2 resources fo free! That is however, why it is called a subsidy. You don't make a profit just yet.

    Making your profit: For the first 10 turns of your trading agreement, you'll be getting the short end of the stick. That now changes, because after 10 turns, you can cancel trade agreements! You are currently subsidizing the purchase of your goods at a cost of 17 GPT, but once the 10 turn limit expires, you can cancel these. Now, you are turning a nice healthy profit of 21 GPT from resource trading, not too shabby. The best part comes from the fact that you can do this with every civilization, resource surplusses permitting. I have personally been able to break 100 GPT in trade-profits using this method.

    Things to watch for:
    • If your potential partner's Available GPT is listed as 0, they are probably in defecit spending. Don't bother trading with them, since you'll have to subsidize them out of their defecit before negotioations can even begin, and you have no idea how much that's going to take. 5 GPT? 10? You have no way of knowing, and it will be expensive no matter what.
    • You yourself need a positive cash-flow before you can gift people GPT. To be on the safe side, set your science spending to 0% before entering negotiations.
    • Alwas sell to the highest bidder. Search around for who has the highest trading limit, and choose to trade with them first. This will make sure that you get the most out of the sale of your resources. Trading limits correlate pretty strongly with the Civ's attitude towards you, so you can be making 12-15 GPT per resource from your close allies.
    • As nations become friendlier with you over time, their trading limits will begin to rise. If you suspect this to be the case, you can cancel your trades and renegotiate. Their Available GPT will rise in accordance with their suddenly reduced expenses, and will still be available to you for buying your goods. If, in the Persian example, after a while the trading limit rises to 8, you renegotiate to sell them the first two resources for 8 GPT apiece, but you will probably have to subsidize the third. No problem there, since subsidies are a 0 net-loss, so for the first 10 turns, you will just ba making 21 GPT. Once that's up, you can cancel the subsidy and come up to 24 GPT, making the whole thing worthwhile.

    I do not believe this to be too much of an exploit, since the AIs have their own personal spending limits anyways, and are perfectly willing to pay that much for the resource. Furthermore, it seems stupid in retrospect to be selling your wheat off for 1 or 2 GPT. This tactic simply gets the AI to trade at their maximum trading level for as many resources as you have to offer. Now it might be theoreticly possible to cause serious economic harm to a Civ when you cut off their subsidies, but that's why this is called Aggressive Trading. You make them trade totheir very limit.

    Additional Uses for Subsidies:
    1. Extortion: (Edit: This has not been thoroughly tested and appears to deliver rather poorer results were originally though.)
    All GPT deals are restricted by the amount of Available GPT the AI has in stock. Subsidizing allows you to bypass this limit, and so opens up a new world of options, namely "Coercive Bargaining" or "Protection Fees".
    How to make use of this?
    • Get a Large and Threatening(tm) army.
    • Look for a weak Civ somewhere in the world, who you think might like to "stay in buisiness", but might be too much hassle to "take care of" yourself.
    • Having selected your victim, gift them enough gold up to their trading limit, to ease open their finacnes.
    • Demand a repayment in kind, but for as large a sum as possible (you are limited to their trade-limit).
    • If the first "trade" was not enough, try this again and again to see how much you can sqeeze out of the little sucker. You may have to keep pumping them up with GPT so that they can afford your demands. (Tests show that AIs rarely if ever acceed to demands twice in a row. Yields are probably limited to 1 trading-limit's worth.)
    • After 10 turns are up, go ahead and cancel your side of the bargain, but their tribute will still be coming in.
    I won't even pretend this is not an exploit, since any sensible player would cancel their tribute to an AI guilt-free after 10 turns were up. This will theoreticly allow you to soak your victim nations for a significantly larger chunk of change than you could normally, since a 0GPT in diplomacy can't limit the tribute. The AI will faithfully send it's moneys to you basicly forever once the deal is made, ending only if one of you declares war on the other. The best part about this is that you don't need to actually have any other resources than just a large military. Your relationship may suffer, but do you really care? If they don't like paying, then you can just tax them like normal citizens of your empire (after you 'assist' their citizenship).

    Edit: Many questions have come up as to "How do I cancel my deals?". Due to some bug, it seems to be impossible to cancel a GPT loan in the diplomacy window with another Civ (it prompts to change the amount given, but then does nothing). To cancel these deals, you go to your foreign advisor (F3), and look under the "Active" section. This will show all current deals you have, and mousing over them will reveal how many turns until they can be cancelled. Click on a matured deal and you will be asked whether you wish to cancel it (y/n).
     
  2. RemoWilliams

    RemoWilliams Chieftain

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    Well, what can I say but wow! What a great little article. Short sweet, and to the point. 5 stars, and a nomination to the war academy for you!

    I'm going to try this as soon as I get a chance.
     
  3. Hans Lemurson

    Hans Lemurson Chieftain

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    The idea wasn't entirely mine, but I perfected the notion. There had been suggestions of buying resources off of the AI for large sums of cash, and then selling resources back to them at a very high price, but it struck me as inefficient, and assumed a very high trading limit.

    Thanks for the good review though!

    Here's a screenshot for proof of 100 GPT trading profit.


    That's 12 from Mongolia, 45 from Egypt (3 trades, we were buddy-buddy), 13 from India (that one's inflated, since I accidentally bullied 4 GPT from them once), 18 from Germany, 21 from Mali, and 18 from Persia.

    This might have had more of an effect on the game, except that I was already doing so very very well (500 beakers coming from my capitol). But still, I was getting 8% of my GNP from selling resources!
     
  4. Cosmichail

    Cosmichail Dark Lord of The Sith

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    Hans

    That's very clever I bet you were flying along tech wise with those kinds of profits. Haven't done much in selling resources but your method is a good incentive to do so. I usually trade for another resource.
     
  5. Mutineer

    Mutineer Chieftain

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    Yes, I was playing around this idea, but did not formulate it this good yet, as Idea of simply giving them money for free did not come to me, thanks.
     
  6. acidsatyr

    acidsatyr be water my friend...

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    that's a well known exploit which i hope is fixed in the future.
     
  7. Hans Lemurson

    Hans Lemurson Chieftain

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    An exploit? The alternative is trying to sell to an AI that refuses to pay anything more than what measly profit they have on hand, making resource sales utterly worthless. This lets you sell your resources for what they are truly worth.

    If there is a bug (or design flaw), I would say it's in limiting GPT trades to your net gold income.

    As for this being well known...this is the first I've heard of it. This is however the first strategy-article about it, so I don't see any problems here. But regardless, good job to whoever else figured this out on their own.
     
  8. acidsatyr

    acidsatyr be water my friend...

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    And how much are you truly worth?
    That's like objecting to human-AI tech trades, where you give ai 7000 beakers, yet they give you back 5000 beakers. It's not fair, but that's the way it is. Same with resources trading.
    And ai doesn't know how to cancel those deals, one of the reasons it's an exploit.
     
  9. malekithe

    malekithe Chieftain

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    The aggressive nature of this ploy is what makes it border on exploitive. Just to test it out, I loaded up a game I had pretty muched already wrapped up. I currently had one GPT deal with Isabella; 8 GPT for Wheat. I cancelled that deal, gave her a few more GPT until she capped out at 11 GPT she was willing to offer me. I then proceded to gift her increments of 11 GPT and then trade her one of my resources for that same 11 GPT. I wound up trading 9 resources to her. I took a look at her GNP before moving to the next turn, she was in clear second place, but had only 120 GNP. That means that, once I cancelled my GPT gifts to her, the amount she would be paying for my resources would nearly equal the current output of her economy. This would absolutley cripple her ability to research.

    Now, the GNP figure isn't 100% accurate, but she wouldn't have had many commerce multiplying building aside from libraries at that point in the game, so it would have given a fairly accurate picture. If I had offered just a handful more trades, I probably could have sent her economy into a downward spiral. Her inability to see those trades for what they really are and cancel them as soon as possible would lead to her economic ruin. Now, this problem isn't quite as exploitable as the pop-rushing bug, but, when you do find the right scenario, I would think you could all but eliminate an AI or two without ever picking up a sword.
     
  10. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Chieftain

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    The problem is that the AI doesn't know how much they are worth, it uses its income as a proxy for figuring out how much it can afford to spend. That works unless/until it's manipulated.

    Your methodology would be fine as long as the AI were smart enough to cancel the resource deal when you cancel the GPT gift. But it's not.

    The AI should also be able to dynamically adjust its research rate as you gift it GPT. So when you give it 7 GPT, it would allocate some of that to research (just as it does its normal income), and thus the GPT it considers available for payment wouldn't go up so much.
     
  11. Hans Lemurson

    Hans Lemurson Chieftain

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    Yeah, I'll agree with Malekithe and back down from a strong "Not an Exploit" position. You are ruthlessly exploiting the poor, innocent AI. It's Economic Warfare! Cripple your neighbors while they smile back at you!

    As for what a resource is worth in sale, I'd say it's going to be around the range of what the AI would ask you for, possibly a bit lower since they're greedy. I think that comes to about the range of what the AI's spending limits are, so I don't think its too bad.

    Ideally, there should be a more advanced system in place for calculating how much gold the AI is willing to trade, but as it is now, this is the best way to exploit their innosence.

    I'm not sure how this ranks with "wheelin' and dealin'" with technologies, "the AI sucks at warfare", and "whipping rocks!", but I don't think this is any more an unreasonable Exploit than most.

    The Isabella example is a considerable investment to pull off. You have to be on good terms with Izzy, and have 9 resources to trade. Not only that, but you have to commit all 9 resources to crippling her economy, for as long as you want to keep doing that. It's not easy to pull off a coup like that, good job!

    Meh, I should stop being so defensive about this, and let my article, and people's thoughts speak for themselves.
     
  12. MrCynical

    MrCynical Chieftain

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    I'm not sure whether to count this as exploitative or not. The basic principle looks OK, since in the end you're just getting the maximum gpt the AI will pay for that particular resource (which is still far less than they'd charge a human player for the resource if they were paying pure gpt). The AI is at no point paying more than it considers the resources to be worth.

    The snag is that this bypasses the AI's restriction on not buying resources it can't afford. As long as you stay on good terms with them they won't terminate the deals you initially subsidised, even when the resources are of minimal use to them, and the gold drain is harmful to their economy. In the end I have to conclude this is mildly exploitative.
     
  13. Hans Lemurson

    Hans Lemurson Chieftain

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    It's like pulling a bait-and-switch trick on a mentally handicapped person.
     
  14. Mutineer

    Mutineer Chieftain

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    Nah, why getting resources for 7 gold is bad for AI?
    If they have just 7 cities and resource let then have one more person working per city they more then recover cost of trade.

    Nah, I would not classify it as exploite. No more then figting war again AI. AI has no idea how to fight war efficiently. If you define exploite as using ability to maximum you should pronhibit ever declare war on AI, as AI has no idea how to react properly.
     
  15. Zombie69

    Zombie69 Chieftain

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    Wow! I'm ashamed that i didn't think of this myself. For what seems like forever, i've been using the old "trade for whatever they offer, and if they have 1 more GPT available, renegotiate" deal. This is so much better!

    This seems to be just what i needed to now jump comfortably into Deity level. Combined with all the other tricks and exploits i'm already using, this should make that level quite doable at standard settings.

    And yes, i agree with others that this is an exploit. But until Firaxis is prepared to code their game properly, i'll use whatever exploit comes my way!

    Rated 5 stars, and if you don't mind, i'll add a link to this article in my micromagement article, since it really fits in well with the other points discussed there.
     
  16. Mutineer

    Mutineer Chieftain

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    Yes, it is probably what I was missing to jump to deity to.
    Firaxis allways claim that it posible to win on Deity in general settings.

    It is no more exploite then anything else.
    No ore exploite then AI giving money/tech on demand or as friends.
    No more exploite then backstubbing stuped AI.
    No more exploite then whipping axes for 2 population.
    No more exploite then waging war on stuped AI.
    No more exploite then to know how AI would react.
    I am sorry, but that what it is mean to know a game back and forward.
    It is time to stop playing AI and start to play other people.
     
  17. acidsatyr

    acidsatyr be water my friend...

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    Yes, but, programmers tried their best to include the best possible ai for war, no matter how poor it may seem to us.
    There are two definitions of exploit I could use here, first one is as you said using system to its maximum, but within the boundaries it was meant to be exploited, sort of like chopping or binary science. The other type of exploit refers to abusing system because it was programmed badly; in this case this is a simple software bug. In our case, AI doesn't know how to cancel deals even if it means crippling their economy to the point of research stagnation, because I’m sure programmers didn't thought of this idea. For this reason, this is an exploit that I’m sure will be fixed in future versions. And I’m surprised people never herd about this before, it's actually one of the first trick I heard about when I got civ4. Jumping to deity now that you know this trick is even funnier to me, as it doesn’t make you any better of a player.
     
  18. Zombie69

    Zombie69 Chieftain

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    Personally, i would say it's no more an exploit than whipping axes with 1 pop, in that both are equally exploits!

    One exploits the way whipping was coded, and the other one exploits the way trading resources for cash by the AI was coded. Either way, you're exploiting a loophole that wasn't seen by the programers.
     
  19. Mutineer

    Mutineer Chieftain

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    Well, may be we should programm better AI, now SDK is realised.
    But I am afraid in that case we would need to turn down AI bonuses or it would be unwinnable.

    BTW, simular techique was used by gaverments in real world again developing countries.

    Govermants very often sell arms to then, for example, with subsidy and then sell spare parts and upgrades for a full price. Temporally subsidy were used in order to dominate the market as by gowerments and by corporations.
    I am afraid that in this case programmers did foresee use of system this way, as it is modeling our world. The same as AI production bonuses modeling using slavery by human played, as to code efficient slavery use is very hard.
     
  20. Shigga

    Shigga Shiggadelic Baby! :)

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    Good point there, Mutineer.

    Very useful, I will try this in my next game.
     

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