Civilization: Improving Trade

I met Sid Meier’s Civ series with the third game and since then, have been a fan. I started small, but I did scale my difficulty from Chieftain to Emperor through the games (honestly though, I play King mostly). Through the series, the developers brought different mechanics or tried different takes at the same mechanics. There is one topic, as far as I remember, that never really satisfied me and in the last game, I still feel the same: Diplomacy. There are different sides to this. In this article, I will make suggestions on deals between civilizations.

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To make a deal with another civilization, you make an offer and they will accept or reject. To make your life easier, you will see their response before you even ask. So what you have to do is find something they will accept and ask after that.

You can also ask place some items on the table, then ask the NPC “what it takes” to make the deal. They will then edit the items on either side to make it okay for them. But at this point, there is usually room to make it more favourable for yourself and if you are so inclined, you can add more things and realize they will still accept it to a point.

My problems with the system

  1. One-sided and fully subjectional Prices: Prices are mostly decided by NPCs (ie computer controlled civs) and it’s barely transparent. There is some sensible logic behind it (better deals for friends) but most of it is unclear.

What I propose is expanding the Trade system with an advanced pricing system and some other mechanics, like haggling. Let me elaborate.

Global Pricing

Simply put, each item would have a value that is globally recognized. It starts with a base price (same for all luxury and all strategic resources), which is then dynamically modified with a big variety of factors. These modifier factors would be roughly divided into two categories: Global and Personal. Please note that these modifiers would not be equal amounts — some would have a bigger impact than the others, even per resource. I’ll talk about Personal modifiers later.

Global modifiers would include

  • Era Modifier: Some resources would be less or more relevant per world era. This will be more important for strategic resources.
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Persia has a focus on trade routes — maybe they could have an ability regarding this system as well.


With haggling, there are consequences to trying to squeeze every bit of gold or being generous. First of all, the current “What does it take for this deal” will change into a “Set a deal” button that will edit the offer that adheres to global prices fully. However, the other side might be willing to pay more (due to personal modifiers that I will explain later), or may not be willing to pay that amount. Second, you won’t see their reactions before even offering.

You have to ask to get reactions and asking for something other than the global expectation counts as haggling, which can lead to grievance points loss or generation. If you haggle to get more or pay less, you will generate grievance points. If you are generous, you will decrease grievances. Even just haggling itself could affect the points.

Some countries will like haggling, others will even expect it to happen and not trust non-hagglers. In fact, they might not generate grievances at the occasional higher price. Others will dislike or even hate it even at the slightest.

So if you think they’ll accept, you can ask for more to make it a more profitable trade for yourself at the cost of grievance points. Or maybe you can ask for less as a sign of goodwill to reduce grievance!

If you are good at Deals, you will gather information about the other side, know what they might be willing to pay and do as little haggling as possible. A bad dealer would instead keep trying blindly. You can also create a good image by taking less or giving more than global expectations. You can also do things like having a monopoly on certain resources.

Personal Pricing

Personal Modifiers are applied in a similar manner to global ones, but only for a single civ. These include the following:

  • Benefit Modifier: Can you build stuff with this? Will you get extra amenities or will you cover missing ones?
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Surely Gilgabro would love this system. Imagine all the deals over the years!

Connections to other Systems

In addition to the modifiers mentioned above, it’s possible to have more connection to other systems, including the following suggestions.

  1. Diplomatic Visibility should grant information about their expectations, allowing you to engineer good deals for friends and know how to exploit enemies


These wouldn’t fully fix diplomacy, but I think they’d made trade deals more interactive and meaningful. I have a few other ideas about diplomacy so I might write a followup in future. What do you think? Would these changes help? What wonders-policies etc could be interesting for this system?

Written by

Gamer, gaming industry wanderer, development and design enthusiast. Current WIP: TBD

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