A list of game play tips I wanted to share after playing this beautiful game for almost 600 hours on Steam and way more before Steam came along.
Almost 20 years after its original release, the third installment of the Patrician games is in my opinion still the best (Pat4 broke the series’ back), and since then I haven’t come across any game coming close to the quality of this trading simulator.
Anyways, after 600 hours playing this game on Steam and countless more hours before Steam, I wanted to share some of my gameplay tricks to help new players get started. It should give you everything you need to earn good money and start exploring the game and its mechanics on your own after that.
I’ve seen a lot of discussion on this one, and I don’t think there is one, best starting location. Each town has its pros and cons.
Personally, I always start in Luebeck as it feels like a natural starting place, being one of the founders of the League, and it is in the center of the map. It produces your early money maker – Iron goods – and is close to 6 towns that need those Iron goods. Also, you can build ships here easily as it produces Pitch.
As to the starting conditions, choose what you like. As to the ship, I keep it on ‘low’ which gives you a single trading ship (snaikka or crayer). It feels more realistic to start with a single ship and some cash, and grow your trading empire from that humble point.
You can play this game any way you want. You could pursue the traditional goal of becoming Lord Mayor of your home town and then Alderman of the Hanseatic League. Or you could try to be a monopolist in 1 good, or eliminate all competition and become the sole trader in the League. Or do all that at the same time.
But as you are starting out, your focus should be on 2 things:
1. Earn money while keeping your costs low
2. Keep your home town well supplied
Easy money maker for starters
There is one sure way to earn money fast, and that is to sell Iron goods (IG). It is by far the most profitable good in the game. Not only does it have a high profit per unit sold (I buy IG up to 300g and sell for at least 400g), but demand for IG is also very high. Towns need IG to build anything (houses, businesses, defenses, ships) and their pops consume it. If the town produces Skins, then it needs even more IG.
If I fill my snaikka to the brim with IG (150 units) in Luebeck, that will cost me 45,000g (150 * 300g) but will bring in at least 60,000 (150 * 400g) for a profit of 15,000g – in a single run! What’s more, I would probably only have to visit 3 to 4 towns (let’s say Rostock, Stettin, Gdansk and Torun) to sell all 150 units. So not only high but also fast profits!
No other good comes close to IG: some goods have high demand, but low unit profit (e.g. Beer), while other goods have high unit profit, but low demand (e.g. Spices).
The other good thing about IG is that it requires Pig iron to produce. Some towns, like Stockholm and Bremen, produce both Pig iron and Iron goods, but a town like Luebeck not. By supplying Luebeck with Pig iron (notably, from neighboring Aalborg) you not only make sure you have a steady supply of cheap Iron goods, but you also make a profit on the sale of Pig iron. One more reason for me to start in Luebeck rather than Stockholm or Bremen.
The same is partly true for Skins, which require IG to produce and are in high demand as well (although lower than IG). However, Skins are only available in large quantities in the Northern Baltic, and I usually only start trading those after I set up shop in Stockholm.
Okay, back to the opening scene – with my first ship (snaikka or crayer) in the harbor of Luebeck.
There are a couple of things I will do at this point:
1. Bring up the town’s trade screen and buy IG. Usually, supply is rather low at this point so I will pay a slightly higher price (up to 330g) to buy 20-30 units. I also add 5-10 Wine for max 260g. Send the ship to Stettin.
Wine is plentiful in only 2 towns: Cologne and Groningen (and some in Luebeck). It can be profitable, but since it does not require any inputs to produce it is widely traded by your competitors as well. So you will find that Wine is often not in high demand, especially in the North Sea and the Southern Baltic. Bringing Wine to the Northern Baltic, where it is in short supply, takes a long time (slow profits).
2. Hire an administrator/manager in the Luebeck office. He will make sure I have a steady supply of IG. Order him to buy 60 IG for max 300g.
3. Build one Pitchmaker. This is a very cheap business to build and run, and will provide the Pitch to build ships. I build it outside the walls, to keep space inside the walls for more valuable businesses (in particular, my – future – Workshops producing IG). Pitch requires Timber to make, so I order my manager to buy 10 Timber at max 65g.
4. Go to the Weapon Smith and buy all Cutlasses (usually, just a couple of units). I find that buying regularly at his shop will stimulate weapons production. Keep in mind he needs Leather to produce weapons.
By now, your ship should be in Stettin (or fast forward until it is). Sell as much IG for min 400g, and buy 30-50 Beer for max 40. Next, send your ship to Malmo.
Note that I told earlier that Beer is not a money maker. However, Beer is essential to raising your reputation in any town, in particular your home town. So I tend to buy Beer regularly, but only in small quantities, to keep Luebeck well supplied. Also, unhappy pops will disrupt production of the goods you need to earn money.
In Malmo, sell the remainder of the IG (if any) and buy some Cloth for max 220g and Pig iron for max 900g. If you have at least 5 loads of Pig iron, then send you ship back to Luebeck. Else, go to Aalborg and buy more Pig iron. In Aalborg, you will also find a good supply of Leather (max 270g), Meat (max 950g) and Whale oil (max 90g). Buy a limited amount of all three (10b Leather, 2-3l Meat and 5-10b Whale oil). Return to Luebeck and dump everything in your warehouse.
Tell your administrator to sell the Pig iron for min 1,100g, Beer for min 46g, Leather for min 350g, Meat for min 1,200g and Whale oil for min 120g. You are not going to earn much on these, but they will ensure a steady flow of IG and increase your reputation in the town. Keep the Cloth in your warehouse to build ships (you need 3 Cloth for a snaikka — sell excess Cloth for min 280g).
At this point, you might be running low on cash. Check your warehouse in Luebeck – your administrator probably bought a stock of IG that you can move to your ship and start selling in Rostock, Stettin, Malmo, Aalborg, …
Check the taverns in each town you visit: if there’s a Captain available, hire him for your ship. You will need Captains to set up automatic trade routes. Captains most often show up in river locations: Torun, Novgorod, and Cologne.
A second ship
Your money will go up quickly if you keep selling the Iron goods your manager buys in Luebeck, and keep providing Luebeck with the goods it requires (Pig iron from Malmo and Aalborg, Beer from Stettin, small quantities of Honey from Rostock, Leather, Meat, Whale oil from Aalborg).
When I hit 50-60k in cash, I join the local guild in Luebeck (the entrance fee goes up with your wealth to a max of 75k, so best to join as early as possible). This is necessary if you want to reach the higher social levels. By now, you should also have enough Pitch to order a new snaikka from the Luebeck shipyard. You will also need some IG, Cloth, Timber and Hemp. Somehow, Hemp is plentiful at the start of the game and you can easily buy it for less than 300g. It will become scarcer later, so if I have enough cash I keep a stock of 20-30 loads of Hemp in my Luebeck office.
As soon as the second snaikka is finished, send it to Stockholm and set up a circular trade route in the northern Baltic. At first, I will do this manually: Stockholm (buy IG) >> Visby (sell IG) >> Riga (sell IG) >> Reval (buy IG) >> Ladoga (sell IG) >> Novgorod (sell IG). As soon as I have a trade office in Stockholm and a Captain on the ship, I will set up an automatic trade route. You will need a better reputation to be able to build a trading office in Stockholm, so think about either supplying the town with Beer (from Novgorod) and Wine (from Luebeck), or start hunting pirates (see below).
Stockholm produces Pig iron, so no need to supply it. However, Reval does not, so you might want to bring some Stockholm Pig iron along to sell in Reval.
Once the second snaikka is finished, order a third one. If you do not have a Crayer yet, order a Crayer. We will need it to hunt pirates. Else, keep ordering snaikkas. Snaikkas are fast and cheap to build and run, and a fleet of snaikkas is more than sufficient to set up your early trade empire.
Going on a pirate hunt
Hunting pirates is by far the best way to improve your reputation across the entire Hanseatic League, and at this point in the game you will need a good reputation everywhere you want to build a trading office (see next section).
I use a single Crayer to hunt pirates, as it packs a decent punch and it is fast. A single Level-3 Crayer is sufficient to even take on Habakuk Beneke’s fleet of 2 Cogs and a Crayer.
If your first ship is not a Crayer, then order one in the Luebeck shipyard as soon as you have the cash and have it upgraded to Level 3.
By now, you should also have enough ship weapons (2 small catapults, 4 large catapults and 28 cutlasses) to arm your ship to the teeth. Check your existing Captains and transfer the one with the best Sailing + Fighting talent to your pirate hunter, and hire the max number of sailors (28 for early game Crayers). Make sure the ‘Hunter’ has no damage and carries only weapons on board – no other cargo – to maximize its speed.
There are 2 ways to hunt for pirates:
1. You can hunt them on the sea – especially the infamous and extremely annoying Habakuk Beneke. This requires a bit of patience and luck – Beneke travels across the whole map at rather high speed… You can pay informers in the taverns to discover his most recent location and plan for an ambush – the busy passages above Aalborg or below Malmo are good locations to intercept pirates.
2. You can accept missions in the taverns to escort people to another town. You will be attacked by a generic pirate on the way. If you can sink or capture this pirate, your reputation will increase. Avoid the Escort missions in Gdansk – somehow, my game always crashes when I take on these missions in Gdansk.
How to win every sea battle
I’ve been able to win every single ship battle with a single Crayer at level 3, fully armed (2 small catapults and 4 large catapults, and a full complement of sailors and cutlasses). Make sure your Crayer is at or close to 100% health and does not carry any cargo other than its weaponry.
The trick is to have the wind in your back and stay ahead of the enemy’s ships. Your Crayer is faster than Cogs and Hulks, so you can gain some distance, turn and shoot, and then turn back with the wind before the enemy can take a shot at you, gain some distance, turn, shoot, turn back, … Keep an eye on the wind’s direction as it tends to change in longer battles. If the enemy has a Crayer among its ships, then focus on damaging the Crayer first as it is the only one that can keep up with your ship unless it is damaged.
If the enemy has only 1 ship (for example, during Escort missions) then I board and take the ship as soon as it has less sailors than me (usually I wait until there are 20 vs my 28 sailors).
If the enemy has multiple ships, I concentrate on sinking them until I can capture the last one. Otherwise, the other ships will keep shooting at you while you board one of the enemy ships.
Beginnings of a trade empire
With your third ship being built and your reputation growing, it is time to think about how you will set up your early trade empire.
I like to divide the map into 3 distinct trade regions:
1. Southern Baltic: Luebeck, Rostock, Stettin, Gdansk, Torun, Malmo, Oslo, and Aalborg.
2. Northern Baltic: Stockholm, Visby, Riga, Reval, Ladoga, and Novgorod.
3. North Sea: Ripen, Hamburg, Bremen, Groningen, Cologne, Bruges, London, Scarborough, and Edinburgh (Bergen is so isolated that I usually do not bother serving it).
Each trade region will have a central hub (Luebeck, Stockholm, and Scarborough) and its own fleet of ships. This early in the game I only use snaikkas for trading, and Crayers for pirate hunting or valuable cargoes (e.g. Skins or Spices).
The focus this early in the game will be on trading IG to generate cash, so no surprise that the 3 hubs I’ve chosen are the major producers of IG in the game.
The Northern Baltic has a great IG trade route from Stockholm to Visby, Riga, Reval, Ladoga and Novgorod. These last 4 towns are the major producers of Skins, so they need a lot of Iron goods. Reval produces IG itself, but needs Pig iron, which you can get in Stockholm.
I usually set up one ship to trade Iron goods, and another to buy Skins. The Skins are kept in Stockholm, where they can be sold to the city itself or Visby. Any surplus stock can be sent regularly to Luebeck, to be further distributed to either the Southern Baltic towns of Rostock, Stettin, Gdansk and Aalborg or the North Sea (where virtually no Skins are produced).
In the North Sea, I have a ship running IG from Scarborough to Ripen, Hamburg, Bremen (buy more IG), Groningen, Cologne and Bruges. A separate ship runs between London and Scarborough, supplying London Pig Iron to Scarborough and IG back to London. Another ship collects IG from Edinburgh and Bergen and brings it to my hub in Scarborough.
Note that in a later stage, you should think about having a ship per town, moving goods between the town and your hub instead of having circular routes.
From time to time, towns offer contracts to supply them with a certain quantity of a specific good. You can find these contracts in the town hall. Contracts only apply to a limited set of goods: Wine, Wool, Cloth, Beer, Grain, and Timber.
Contracts offer high profit margins, but I tend to accept only contracts for Wine, Wool and Cloth. The other goods are simply not very profitable. To fulfill these contracts, I keep a dedicated snaikka both in Bruges and Torun (later with the addition of a trading office). Both Bruges and Torun produce Wool, the main contract good. From Bruges, you can easily get Wine (Cologne) and Cloth (London). In the Baltic you can get Wine from Luebeck and Cloth from Malmo or Visby.
Turning to the Dark Side: how to be a pirate
Being a pirate in this game is extremely tricky and dangerous. It is clearly a mechanic the creators of the game have tried to discourage, but it is not impossible to do.
If you want the (very fun) challenge to take out all the white ships (the ships of both your direct competitors and resident merchants), then you should do it at the start of the game. The fines for piracy increase with your wealth, so they will be lower (but still high) if your wealth is low. Also, it will take a long time to rebuild your reputation.
Personally, I only use piracy to take out my direct competitors once I’ve become Lord Mayor of my town and I have trading offices in all towns (after that, your reputation matters less unless you want to become Alderman and finish the game). There are 12 direct competitors, along with 24 resident merchants.
Resident merchants are mainly busy supplying their towns with the low-profit essentials (Timber, Salt, Grain, …), so be prepared to take over this trade if you want to take them out as well. If not, the League’s economy will collapse spectacularly.
So how to take out your direct competitors?
First of all, make sure you are covered politically. Go to your home town and check out the baths. You will need to bribe at least one, preferably two or three different councillors (35-40k per councillor). Once bribed, they will help you avoid being condemned and fined when you are charged with piracy. Note that this only covers 1 charge – if you are charged multiple times at once, you can still be condemned and fined even if you bribed councillors.
Next, set up a Crayer and/or Snaikka with a captain and a full complement of sailors in a good ambush spot, like the route between Aalborg and Luebeck or between Ladoga and Novgorod. I also set up 2 spotter ships at the two ends of these choke points to spot any ships coming my way. You can use the snaikka to take out any snaikkas, and the crayer to take on larger ships.
Spices can be bought cheaply in Scarborough, London, Bruges and Cologne. Large quantities (70-80 barrels) regularly appear there for a bottom price of 168g. If you have trading offices with managers buying Spices at this bottom price, you will quickly amass a huge quantity of Spices which you could theoretically sell for double the price in any other town.
However, Spices are in very low demand, usually just a couple of barrels per week per town. So it would take a very long time (and a lot of money in operating costs) to sell Spices.
I only start trading in Spices when I have become a Councillor and can sell them all to the Prince’s representative at the gates of Luebeck. The prince buys any quantity of the goods he needs, so you could amass 100s barrels of Spices at 168g and sell them to him at prices upwards of 300g. Very profitable, although it feels like cheating since this is kind of a broken mechanism.
Producing your own goods
A common mistake is to start producing your own goods early in the game. Businesses cost a lot of money to build and to run, and if you do not sell your goods fast enough you will run out of cash fast.
At the start of the game, you will need all of your cash simply to buy stock, order ships and build trading offices. I avoid building any businesses except for the Pitchmaker in Luebeck (so I can build ships fast) and one or two Iron smelters in Aalborg, Stockholm and London if the supply of Pig iron in those towns is insufficient to supply Luebeck, Reval and Scarborough.
Next, I tend to build one or two workshops in Luebeck to keep up the supply of IG in the Southern Baltic (since Luebeck is the only town producing it in that trade region). The Northern Baltic and North Sea should have enough producers to supply enough IG for your early trade empire.
So, early in the game I only build businesses for high-margin goods that are in high demand and that I can sell quickly (Pig iron, Iron goods, maybe Skins).