BackArrowGreen Back to Civilization V

BackArrowGreen Back to Game concepts

Blue arrow right Go to the Trade route article

Trading is a vital concept in the Civilization series, as well as the real world, and it means the exchange of goods and services among the population. It is usually conducted by private entities, known as merchants, which occupy themselves with transporting goods from place to place, buying them in one and selling them in another. This way they help distribute goods from places they're being produced to places that need them, which is a vital part of the world economy.

Of course contemporary real-world trading is much more complex and is often done without anyone leaving their place, thanks to technology. Financial trading, for example, is done totally via computers... But we won't discuss such complex problems here. In the game, trading is vital for maintaining the 20xGold5 Gold income of your empire, and the 20xHappiness5 Happiness of your subjects. It is also a way of obtaining vital strategic resources which your lands lack, etc. All in all, you will lose the game if you don't know how to trade, both when establishing Trade Routes and when negotiating trade deals with other nations.

Types of tradingEdit

There are multiple types of trading in the game, all with different mechanics and ends. Learning how to activate and use each one is the key to economic success in the Civilization, so read carefully!

Domestic tradingEdit

This refers to the natural exchange of goods within your own empire. The wise leaders have long understood that leaving the trade to flow free is the best way to both distribute goods across your empire, and to enrich the National Treasury, so domestic trading happens almost automatically. All the ruler needs to do is establish an infrastructural connection between the cities of the empire and the Capital - private traders then start using these connections to conduct their business. When a city gets connected to the trade network, a small icon will appear underneath its City banner to indicate this. For more information on the exact mechanics of opening domestic Trade Routes (AKA 'City connections'), read this article.

Domestic trade has several uses:

  1. 20xGold5 Gold income. We can say that the state charges a fee for each trade transaction, which goes directly in the Treasury. So, the more trade among your cities, the more 20xGold5 for you! The exact amount of 20xGold5 per City Connection depends on the sizes (20xPopulation5 Population) of both the city and the Capital; the larger - the better!
  2. 20xHappiness5 Happiness. Traders may not only trade in basic goods, such as clothing and food, but also in what is known as Luxuries. These are particular goods which your citizens love (as opposed to the others, which they simply need), and they would pay dearly to have them. Here your role as a ruler is bigger - it's your responsibility to ensure access to Luxuries! Harvest them from your territory, or import them from other nations or City-States. As soon as your empire has access to at least 1 count of any Luxury resource, it gets circulated in your domestic trading system, and increases 20xHappiness5 by 4! Note that it doesn't matter which cities are currently connected to the capital for the 20xHappiness5 bonus to kick in - as long as you have at least 1 count of a Luxury, the effect starts. Also, having MORE than 1 count doesn't matter (doesn't increase 20xHappiness5 more), so feel free to use excesses in external trade deals.
  3. BNW-only Funneling 20xFood5 Food and 20xProduction5 Production to a particular city. This is a new feature, and involves the new Trading Routes system. With it, the ruler appoints one of the Trade Route slots it has available, and the Trade Unit that serves it, to transfer either 20xFood5 or 20xProduction5 to a city of the empire. For this, the source city has to have respectively a Granary or a Workshop. This option dedicates the cargo and trading resources to supplying a city on a regular basis, so that it could overcome the problems of, or bolster, one of its two main features - Population growth, or Production. For more info, check the International trade route article.

International tradingEdit

This is a new way of trading, introduced in Brave New World. It consists of a mixed private-governmental enterprise, where the government supplies a Trading Unit and infrastructure to Private merchants, which then they use to conduct trade with target cities, appointed by the government. Thanks to the system, your merchants are able to conduct trade with other civilizations or City-States! For the particular mechanics of the enterprise, check the International trade route article, but be aware that establishing international trade routes requires both free trading slots (developed through technology) and the respective Trade Units available. It also requires the physical closeness of the source and target cities.

International trading has the following benefits:

  • Gold income - the state again charges a fee for each operation conducted by the traders; this time, however, the variables determining the final profit are much more. Infrastructure, different resources available, land features and even distance all play a role in determining how much 20xGold5 the merchants (and thus you) will be making from the enterprise. For more details, check the above-mentioned article.
  • Religion - both the source city's religion and the target city's religion spread thanks to Trade Routes. It is a way for you to influence distant cities, converting them to your Religion, but be aware that the opposite may also happen!
  • Science - technological progress in both civilizations is also shared by the merchants. Thanks to Trade routes, you can bolster your Research a little bit. Note that this effect doesn't work in case of Trade Routes connecting to City-States
  • Cultural influence - Finally, merchants spread the fame of your civilizations' culture to other civilizations they trade with. Opening a Trade Route to a nation boosts your 20xTourism5 to that nation by 25%. Again, doesn't work in the case of City-States.

Trading dealsEdit

The last type of trading, and the most complex one, is Trading deals that you set with other nations. This is done without any pre-conditions (you don't need to establish any sort of network), although of course you need to be at peace with your trade partner. Establishing trade deals is the result of diplomatic negotiations, initiated either by you or your partner, in which both sides agree to exchange goods or 20xGold5 for a set amount of 30 turns. In the real world these sort of negotiations are one of the most frequent topics of diplomatic conversations, although it usually comes to agreements establishing general rules for trading, rather than the direct exchange of goods.

  • What can you trade?
    • 20xGold5 per turn - you agree to give or receive a certain amount each turn, while the contract lasts
    • Flat fee in 20xGold5 - you give or receive a one-time amount, payable at confirming the contract. This is only possible if you've made a Declaration of Friendship with them.
    • Luxury resources - one count of each resource is allowed per Trade Deal. Note that you cannot trade away units of Luxury resources which are gifted by City-State Allies!
    • Strategic resources - you can trade as much as you want of this item per Deal. Same restrictions apply in relation to resources gifted by City-States.
    • Treaties - you can negotiate signing of treaties such as Open Borders or a Research Agreement in exchange for goods. Note that you need an Embassy in their Capital to do so.
    • Cities - you can 'sell' (give away) or 'buy' (acquire) cities. Note that nations will only agree to sell you cities in the most dire of circumstances, for example as a part of a Peace Treaty when they're near extinction, or you really have the upper hand in the war.
    • World Congress votes - this item you can only trade if you have a Diplomat in their Capital. You can trade for both a 'Yeah' and a 'Nay' vote for each of the current proposals in the Congress.

All of the above items, or combination of them, are allowed in Trading Deals. For example, you can trade a Luxury resource for another Luxury, or for 20xGold5; or you may offer 20xGold5 per turn, a Luxury resource and some Strategic resources in exchange for a vote in the World Congress. Or you may both exchange a Research Agreement, without additional items.

  • What influences Trade Deals?
    • Reality - you can't trade away items you have no control over, or whose requirements you haven't completed, no matter how much you wish to do so. So, no cheating allowed. Also, when the other side has multiple copies of a Resource, they will part with it more readily, than if they only have 1 copy. The AI has a set behavior which calculates the relative price of a good at any given time, and you can rarely cheat this. 
    • Diplomatic relations - the better the diplomatic relations with the other nation, the more favorable conditions they will be willing to accept. So, try always to make deals with nations you're at least Neutral with - that way you'll be albe to get more profit for your goods, as opposed as making deals with Guarded or Hostile nations (if you manage to make ANY deals with them at all). 

Trading improvementsEdit

There are a number of buildings and technologies you will need to improve your trading capabilities (they only act for Domestic and International Trade Routes; Trading Deals depend entirely on negotiations):

  • Technologies - these form the mechanics of your trading abilities; the more advanced your trading technologies, the more use you will make of your Trade routes. Many techs unlock additional Trading slots, which you can then use to open new Trade Routes. Check here for the exact relation of the techs that can do that.

Also, some techs extend the range of Trade routes, allowing your units to reach cities further away.

  • Buildings and other infrastructure can also improve considerably your trading abilities.
    • The Caravansary and the Harbor extend the range of respectively Land and Sea Trade routes, besides providing additional 20xGold5 income per Trade Route when connecting to other civilizations (but not City-States). Roads also extend range for Land routes.
    • All Financial buildings increase 20xGold5 output of their cities, of course, but the Market and the Bank also provide additional 20xGold5 from other nations' Trade Routes connecting to your cities. Look to build them first in critical cities close to your neighbors, and thus likely to receive their Trade Routes. Also note that 20xGold5 gold from incoming Trade Routes is always added directly to the target city's 20xGold5 output - another reason to build Financial buildings there first.
    • The Granary and the Workshop, built in a city, as stated above allow you to transfer respectively 20xFood5 and 20xProduction5 to other cities of your Empire. Although they're such basic buildings that you will built them anyway.
    • Trading posts - these improvements are a type of local domestic trading hubs, which however need to be worked by 20xPopulation5 Citizens of a nearby city to be effective. Although they relate to trade, they don't affect it directly. Use them to make 20xGold5 out of the land.
  • Great merchant - they also aren't directly related to the process of trading, but their special abilities may be used to cut one-time mega-deals with City-States for tons of 20xGold5 and Influence (Civ5).

Finally, you could improve trade significantly via Social Policies: 

  • Commerce - this whole branch is designed to enhance trading, especial overland trading. It increases 20xGold5 gained for each Land trade route, and it increases the effects of Luxury resources, aiding your empire's 20xHappiness5 gained by them. It also enhances the Great merchant's effectiveness.
  • Exploration - although this branch is focused on improving Sea travel, it also helps Sea Trading routes.


Trading is vital for your Empire's thriving, because it is the main source of 20xGold5 Gold. You need Gold to maintain your buildings, your army, etc. As of Brave New World it is now incredibly difficult to maintain a positive 20xGold5 flow while only producing 20xGold5 off the land. With the progress of your Empire, more and more 20xGold5 is needed to maintain your empire. This is because you keep building Buildings in your cities, and you keep upgrading the units of your army (which get more expensive to maintain as they go up the ladder).

Early gameEdit

Your first trading is commonly done (and should be done) via a Trading Deal with one of your neighbors, in the first 30 turns or so, and will consist of selling an excess Luxury you have access to. The reason why it can't be done by establishing Trade Routes is simple - you don't have the tech, and the Units to do that. It's much easier (and more important) to produce a Worker in these first turns, and use it to improve the resources in your starting city, then to try and develop the tech and produce a Trade Unit. So, stick to that Worker, research the necessary techs to access the Luxuries you've been given in your starting location, and build the necessary Improvements. Every starting location has access to multiple nodes of Luxuries, so try to Improve most, or all of them, then try selling the excesses to the civilizations you've met (remember, you only need 1 count of each Luxury to get the 20xHappiness5 boost for your people). Be careful to whom you sell - many civilizations won't be able to offer you enough money, so try to sell to the highest bidder. They usually won't even try to barter.

Next you should try to develop your Domestic trading by establishing City Connections. You need the Wheel for that, and Workers building Roads between your cities. Around turn 80 or so you should've done that - it's both important for your 20xGold5 balance, and for the mobility of your forces across your emerging empire.

You should also establish your first International Trade routes - produce the necessary Trading Units (Caravans or Cargo ships) and choose the most lucrative locations they can reach. Note that there are typically few reachable cities you can trade with at that stage - you haven't developed the necessary tech and infrastructure to extend the range of your Trade Routes; so just take what you can and don't wait. Barbarians will be a great risk to your first Trade Routes, because of your early inability to control terrain and their roaming free and appearing with no warning whatsoever. What's more, if a Barbarian plunders a Trade Route, you not only lose the income (and have to build again the Trade Unit, which in the early game is a pain in the ass), but they also convert your Unit into a Barbarian, so that you now have more enemies to deal with! To avoid this unpleasant situation, try to spare some of your units to guard the Trade Routes you've established. Don't establish Domestic Trade Routes, even if you can!!! You can't afford to lose Trade slots for those yet, the 20xGold5 has to flow!

It is a real danger to go bankrupt in the beginning of the game in Brave New World, so take the above advice seriously and pay attention to your 20xGold5 balance! The biggest danger is Units accumulation, so don't turn the conquering Overlord and amass a large army, because this will bankrupt you even faster! Or rather, do that only if you're ready to balance out the expenses that an army brings.

A couple of early game Wonders will help you considerably with trading - Colossus and Petra will both provide you with a free trading slot and Unit (the first one - a Cargo ship, the second - a Caravan), as well as additional 20xGold5 production for their cities.

Middle gameEdit

With extending your Empire in the Middle game come more expenses, for Buildings, Units, etc. You may also find yourself in need of additional access to Luxuries to maintain 20xHappiness5. This means that you need to make full use of Trading now. Research Compass and connect any island cities with Harbors to complete your Domestic trade network and access its full potential; use infrastructural improvements to extend the range of your International trade routes and find the most lucrative destinations for International trade. Finally, make such Trading deals as to earn both 20xGold5 and Luxuries you lack. Try to expand your Empire in such ways as to open up new Trading horizons, by settling cities in such locations as to allow for new Trade Routes to reach new cities (if, of course, you don't have other, more pressing goals when settling new cities).

At this point you may start establishing Domestic Trade Routes to cities whose growth you wish to help. However, always keep in mind that you need to keep your overall 20xGold5 balance, and don't get too excited. You should have at least 3 - 4 lucrative Trade Routes at all times.

You should also try at this point to buy influence with City-States - this will provide you with additional Resources for your Empire. You can then sell away your own Resources for more 20xGold5 income. Keep in mind, however, that you have to maintain your Alliances, so as not to risk a sudden drop in 20xHappiness5 or Combat effectiveness when you lose the additional Resources.

Of course, it is not always easy to do all that - some civilizations like the Venetians have natural advantages at trading and will be able to make much more use of it than others. Also, keep in mind that being particularly warlike may always damage your trading options - your Trade Routes may get plundered by enemy nations, or you may simply run out of potential trading partners.

Late gameEdit

Not much changes in late game trading, compared to the middle game, except the scope of your trading activities. You will have access to considerably more resources (although you will also need considerably more), your Trade Routes should now be able to span entire continents and oceans and connect to cities halfway across the globe. At this point a single Trade Route may net you as much as 30 or more 20xGold5 per turn, and often a single Trade Route may mean the difference between a positive and negative gold flow, so consider well the wars you start, and try to diversify your trading partners so as not to risk losing large chunks of your income when somebody declares war to you unexpectedly and plunders your trade routes. Fortunately, at this point it's not difficult to replace lost Trade Units.

Another major concern in the late game becomes the World congress, and the attempts of your enemies to hit your trading via Embargo resolutions. They can Embargo your civilization, so that you can't form Trade Routes with other civilizations (and vice-versa), or they can embargo City-States (so no Trade Routes with City-States), or a particular Luxury resource important to your trade. Be wary of every proposal, and when you see somebody's trying to cut off your income, fight back by forming a diplomatic alliance to shoot down the proposal. This will involve sending Diplomats to other nations and negotiating their support in the upcoming vote in the Congress. You may also wish to negotiate support for other Resolutions that will benefit you, which will involve more Trading. All in all, Trading Deals become very important in the end game, not because of the money they provide, but more because of resources and diplomatic support in the Congress.