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Structure   (16.18)   Playing the Game  >  Strategies  >  Trading
Making the most of Trading

This guide outlines strategies for getting the most bang for your buck when trading. Being a good trader is vital to getting started in AAT and will provide a good deal of income for those who aren't playing aggressively. Even if you plan on attacking or focusing on building or any other pursuit, you’ll start with trading, so it’s important to make the most of your start. Being slow to start will see you get left behind.

Trading is just buying and selling commodities (organics, ore, goods, and energy mostly) for a profit. Each trade costs a turn, and we want to make as much money each turn as possible. We can do this in 2 ways:

1. Increase the amount of a commodity we are trading each turn.
2. Increase the profit margin on the commodities we are trading.

The first point relies on the Hull tech level of our ship. Simply put, the bigger the hull, the more of a commodity we can trade. The second point can be easily overlooked as just about every trade you can make will be profitable, but it is nevertheless where the real money in trading is found.

Ports sell their wares at a set price which deviates only slightly from port to port. The base prices are as follows:

Colonists: 5
Organics: 9
Ore: 21
Goods: 29

These prices may differ a little (Some ports sell Ore as cheap as 17 credits, for example) but the set price will not alter no matter how much you buy. What does change, however, are the prices the ports will pay for commodities. The longer a port has not been traded at, the higher its buy price for a traded commodity will go. I calculate the profitability of a trade based on how many credits it makes per cargo unit per turn based on a 4 turn trade route. 4 turns is the minimum amount of turns for a trade route (1 turn to trade at port A, 1 turn to move to port B, and then in reverse to complete the loop). This is an important formula as it is valid no matter the size of your hull.

Hull sizes constantly increase as you move to larger ships and upgrade to keep increasing your profits per trade. Players can quickly lose track of which runs are making them the most money when they’re always making more and more money. At Hull level 150, making $400,000 in a trade route run is pretty good. At 200, $3,000,000 is more like it, and at 205, almost $4,000,000. With each Hull upgrade your profit potential increases exponentially (since your Hull size increases exponentially) and so having a yardstick to measure route profitability regardless of hull size is important.

Calculating Route Profitability
You have 40 trade routes to work with and during the course of the game you can wheedle out the worst of the bunch as your options open up. I recommend making a list of ports that buy commodities ore goods and organics for the highest prices, as well as listing what they sell (which is important for making 2 way routes) then match the ports up. This is primarily for RS trading, but you can always create warp links between ports so long as neither are in fed space.


Just by watching the buy prices for commodities in ports, you can figure out what prices are ‘good’ and what aren’t. Use sector notes to mark the best buy prices for commodities, or keep your own log. The best routes are ore/goods routes, but some ports will buy organics for almost $70, which is a profit of around $60 per cargo unit. If you can make $60 profit each way on a trade route, you’re on the money.


A quick way to calculate trades on the fly is to take your profits and divide them by your cargo space available. This gives you the amount of money you made per unit trading one commodity for another at a particular port.

Profits = p
Cargo Capacity = C
Profitability = P

P = (p/C)/4

The profit per unit is spread across the 4 turns it would take if this became a trade route. Note that this is only good when you’re trading the commodity you would be trading during the route. If you perform the calculation on a goods port when you have a load of organics, and then go to an ore port with the goods, you’ll need to go back to the goods port again before you can add the two profitability results together accurately.

Post Route

To finalise the calculation, or to check how well an established route is performing, simply run the trade route twice and check the value of the second run.

Total Profit = p
Cargo capacity = C
Profitability = P

P = (p/C)/4

You run the route twice to ensure the pattern is established and you haven’t made a dummy run (e.g. starting the route with a cargo load of something else already on board). This is the truest indication of a route’s profits. The actual Profitability number represents the amount of credits each cargo space is making you per turn while running the route. What is a “good” profitability level is entirely dependent upon the state of the universe (older universes tend to have higher profit potentials), but you should never have to settle for less than 25.

You can easily set up a trade calculator using a spreadsheet. Just create a field for your hull tech level, and then a field with the formula:

10 * 1.04138^Hull
This gets you your cargo capacity for that tech level. You can add the formulas above to discover the rating of your trade route, or to discover what profits to expect from any profitability rating at any Hull tech level. It's a very handy tool.

RS versus Warp Trading

One factor which throws these calculations out is Energy. Purchasing a Fuel Scoop and upgrading your ship’s power tech level will enable you to start selling energy scooped during RS travel. The amount scooped depends upon the distance between the sectors. Since the energy is free, it can contribute millions to your profits. Any trade is therefore made more profitable by RS trading than by warp link trading, however you need to consider that you're investing in power and engines tech levels to gain those profits.

I personally prefer the convenience of RS trading. I can match any 2 ports that trade each others' commodities to maximise profits without worrying about whether they're connected by a warp link or not. I can also mix and match ports around to make sure I'm scooping the greatest amount of energy to further boost my profits. Warp link trading is really only for early game, and to maintain a list of warp link trades you can easily move between (taking into account that you need warp links to move from one trade route to the next) is just far too much work to save yourself the cost of upgrading engines and power.

Managing Trade Routes

I recommend that any serious trader set themselves up a database for port commodities and diligently fill it out. Being able to sort by best buy price for a given commodity allows you to organise all your routes into high profit ones. You can also go further and organise long distance RS routes to maximise energy scooping (so long as your engines will still get you from one sector to the next in 1 turn).

Routinely clean out the weakest performing routes (run each route every log in or so to see how well it 'recovers' after being run) and go exploring for newer routes. Routes begin to recover 2 hours after they were last run. Remember that any log you keep will go out of date before long, so don't be afraid to update it or to backtrack to sectors you've already searched when looking for bigger profits. A well kept trade route list is an investment nobody can take from you, and one that can be worth trillions.

Created by: InstinctSage. Last Modification: Tuesday 08 of July, 2008 00:56:46 CDT by InstinctSage.