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The Economy of Tradewars Part 1 - By Traitor











"If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some." -Ben Franklin

Trade Wars is built around credits.  If you can't make credits, you can't win.  This essay is broken into three parts.  The first section will cover the basic ways of making money as a Red.  Part 2 covers ports, and how they work and how to find good ones.  And the final part goes into advanced money making tactics and pulling the information from Part 1 and Part 2 together.  I will go into some depth on how ports work, how furbing and the various Red money making tactics work, and some good practices that will help you get the most out of your red's and blue's turns.  
This started out as two articles, one on furbing and the other on Ports.  But I realized that I couldn't talk about furbing without talking about playing Red, and ports are so closely tied to making money, that I kept cross-referencing the other article.  One thing led to another, and I decided to make the article more comprehensive and discuss the fundamentals of making money in TW.  This is written with both the new player and the experienced veteran in mind, so everyone who reads it will probably learn something.  This is the culmination of my years of experience, research and trial and error.  It references many different sections of my site, but I've tried to pull everything together in one spot.  It was written while TWGS v3.11.55 was the most current, and with a mixed-corp on a low turn, 5k sector, stock, MBBS GOLD games in mind.  Enjoy! 
-Traitor, 11/21/02

Part 1: Making Money The Red Way

You can't make money without ports, at least not real money.  The most basic method for money making is PPT'ing.  I'm going to assume that you are familiar enough with that strategy that you are reading this to learn a better way "earning" money.  With the exception of Planet Trading (which I will go into later), the best way to make money is to be RED.  Red's have several methods at their disposal.  Some of them require the assistance of fellow corpies, and some of them can be done solo.  I've already covered each of the most common methods below in the Glossary page, but I'm going to go into more details here and include some tips I've picked up along the way.

First though, I want to talk a little bit about what I think it means to play a red, and some good habits that all reds need in order to not only survive, but to really bring in the cash.  The number one rule about being red is: 

Any player who forgets that rule shouldn't play a red.  Period.  A good red can bring in 15+K credits per turn.  If you have 1000 turns, that's 15 million.  If you blow 100 of them just getting to your cashing area, then you've lost 1.5 million credits.  Reds need to be miserly with their turns.  Any turn not spent making money is wasted.  The only exception to this rule is when some action you take as a red will cost your enemies more than you lost by not cashing for those turns.  If you have two enemies, then it had better cost them 2x as much.  You can't afford to run around the universe looking for action either.  That's a Blue's job.  Your job is to get on, make money, and then get the hell off.  It can get boring as hell, but if you want your corp to win, you gotta stick it out.  Often, as the game enters it's later stages, you'll be able to do more interesting things, but in the beginning of the game, your ability to make money is all that stands between your corp and defeat.  It takes discipline and restraint to be a great red, but the rewards are well worth it.  Rule number two is:

Never sit in one place for long.  If you aren't cashing, you should either be moving to the next cashing spot, or getting ready to cloak out.  You can't afford to dink around yapping with old friends on-line.  Use ICQ or whatever for chatting if you must.  You need to burn your turns as quickly and efficiently as possible.  If you want speed, you need scripts, or at least a helper.  There are many good ones out there.  You NEED to use them.  The less time you spend on-line, the less time the enemy has to find you and pod you.  You know what happens to talkative criminals?  THEY GET CAUGHT!  Nothing is worse than losing part of a days take to some enemy hunter who happened to stumble on to you while you were blathering on about the weather with someone else.  You may as well drop that cash you just made in their banks.  Remember, when you get #SD#, it not only costs your corp whatever you made today, but possibly what you would have made tomorrow, and you've given them money on top of it.   Rule number three is: 


Heh, that may rub some people the wrong way, but getting #SD# costs you turns and money.   As a red, you have to be paranoid.  They really ARE out to get you.  You are never safe.  When you first sign on, you should immediately move to some sector that one of your blues has verified is safe.  Don't just take their word for it either.  If it's been more than 30 seconds since they looked at the sector you're planning on warping to after you log on, then they need to check it again.  Ideally, they should provide you with the sector number where you are going to start your cashing from.  You should NEVER go to the Star Dock once you become red.  That's what blues are for.  When you are cashing in your COLT, your blue should be driving your Havoc back to dock and loading it out with more cloaks, probes and fuel.  This is why we usually don't have our reds use the CFS, only Havocs.  The only reason a red should ever be in a CFS is if they are playing solo.  If you need to get into a fight, don't settle for anything less than a fully loaded Interdictor Cruiser.   And remember rule #1 while you're in it.   If the fight doesn't cost them more than it costs you, then you are better served cashing.


Robbing and Stealing:  When you are red, and your alignment is -100 or less, you get a new option on the port menu, R, to Rob.
<A> Attack this Port
<R> Rob this Port
<T> Trade at this Port
<Q> Quit, nevermind
When you press R, you get the following options:
(R)ob this port, (S)teal product or (Q)uit
R is for robbing, and S is for stealing.  Ports accumulate cash when they sell product.  Over time, some busy ports accumulate a lot of credits.  Robbing is what you do to get those excess credits off the port.  The amount you can rob in one turn without high odds of busting is based on your experience, and the game Mode (See here for more info).  You can actually rob more that what the port says it has on it.  The total amount of cash on a port is really equal to what it says plus 11%.  So if a port says it has 541 credits, it really has 600.  The game won't let you rob more than what is really on the port, so if you over shoot, you don't have to worry about busting, but you still get charged a turn.  If I don't already know how much money is on the port, then I go for 10% over.  Stealing on the other hand is where you try to swipe product from the port.  See below.
Items Status Trading On Dock OnBoard
----- ------ ------- ------- -------
Fuel Ore Selling 2550 2550 100
Organics Buying 2010 0 0
Equipment Buying 2640 300 0

Which product? (1)Fuel Ore, (2)Organics or (3)Equipment (Q=Quit) ?
Note how in the above example, The port is an SBB, it is trading over 2k in everything, it has 2550 units of fuel ore on the dock, and 300 units of equipment.  You can steal anything that's On Dock.  Also note that it indicates that there are 100 units of Fuel ore on my ship, so the max I could steal is 150 units of something (I'm in a 250 hold COLT in this example).  The amount you can steal without high odds of busting is based on your experience, and the game mode. (See here for more info).  You need at least 5,251 experience to steal 250 holds in MBBS mode, and 7501 experience in GOLD or Classic mode.  

Busting:  While busting isn't a way of making money, it's such an integral part of the red experience that I felt that I should mention it here before going any further.  Assuming you aren't exceeding your experience limit while robbing or stealing, your odds of busting are about 1 in 50.  (See here for more info).  When you get busted stealing, you lose 10% of your experience, and a portion of your holds equal 9% of the number of holds of equipment you tried to steal.  If you aren't stealing equipment, then you aren't making good money!  Don't bother with anything else.  It's better to buy fuel if you need it than risk getting busted over fuel.  In a pinch you can steal fuel, but as a general rule, ONLY steal equipment!  When you get busted robbing, you lose 10% of your experience, and holds equal to 1% of the number of credits you tried to rob.  This can leave your COLT with only one hold if you bust trying to rob more than 250,000 credits.  Your holds never goes below one.  When robbing massive amounts of credits, it's often a good idea to use a junker ship for that purpose.  If you try to rob or steal from the same port twice in a row, you take what is known as a fake bust.  If you try to take more than your experience allows, you odds of busting go up exponentially for every hold or 1000 credits you exceed your experience limit.  Robbing or stealing less than your experience doesn't improve your odds.  You always have at least a 1 in 50 chance of busting.  Know your limits, and never push them.  I'll talk about recovering from busts further down.

SSM: Sell-Steal-Move.  This is the most basic red strategy for making cash.  It's only a little more efficient than PPT'ing.  The idea is to find an evil pair and do a slight upgrade on one of the ports equipment equal to the number of holds on your ship plus a few extras to deal with the port regen.  This puts equipment on the port that you can steal.  Then you port and steal the equipment off the port.  Then you move to the other port and sell the equipment.  Then you steal the equipment, and move to the first port again and sell the equipment.  Then steal it back and move to the 2nd port. Repeat until you get busted.  This method is only really useful in an unlimited turn game, or when you are just starting out as a red.  You want to move to SST as quickly as possible.  

SST: Sell-Steal-Transport. Another red money making tactic.  Requires 2 COLTS, two XXB ports, and around 100k startup cash.  Used early on by most reds, until they get the resources together to SDT. You find two XXB ports within 7 of each other, and park a COLT under each.  Then you upgrade the ports about 30 or so (turns into 300 eq available), and then  you port Sell any eq you already have on you, then steal 250 holds of eq.  Then you transport to the other colt, and do the same.  You repeat this process until you get busted.  Always selling any EQ in your holds first, then stealing it back.  Makes about 10mil for 1k turns.  It's alot easier to setup this tactic, so many reds use it throughout the whole game.  However, I recommend that you use SDT, since there is more profit in it.  
Here is a step by step breakdown of a typical SST cycle:
Step Action Turns
1. Position colts ?
2. Check for available EQ on port and upgrade as necessary. 0
3. Port and Sell Equip - ship 1 1
4. Port and Steal Equip - ship 1 1
5. Transport to Ship 2 1
6. Check for available EQ on port and upgrade as necessary. 0
7. Port and Sell Equip - ship 2 1
8. Port and Steal Equip - ship 2 1
9. Transport to Ship 1 1
10. Repeat steps 2 to 9 until bust  
Total turns per cycle:


SDT: Steal-Dump-Transport.  Another red tactic to make money.  Requires 2 COLTS, two XXB ports, a few hundred K of startup cash, and a planet under each port (they don't have to be mobile).  This mid-game tactic is where most reds make their money.  First, you find 2 XXB ports within 7 of each other.  You create a planet under each of them.  Then you upgrade the equipment on the ports to about 2000 available.  Then you get into one of the COLTS, and port and steal 250 equipment.  Then you land on the planet, and dump the eq.  Then you transport to the other COLT and steal and dump.  Repeat this process till the port runs out of eq.  Then  you do a port negotiate and sell back the eq to the port.  Then you start all over again.  If you bust, have a blue sell the eq on the planet back to the port.  This is one of the most profitable ways of making money.  Compared to SST, which takes more turns to run the same number of cycles.  It's roughly 4.375 turns per cycle with SDT compared to 6 with SST.  The more you upgrade the port, the longer in between sell-offs, but the more likely you will bust before your first sell off.  Upgrading ports costs money, and you need to balance the cost of the upgrade with the risk of busting before your first sell-off.  It is possible to lose money with this method if you have a long run of bad luck.  We often start at around 1750 units on the port, and then after each sell cycle, we upgrade the port an additional 500 units.  
Here is a step by step breakdown of a typical SDT cycle:
Step Action Turns
1. Position colts and make planets if necessary. ?
2. Check for available EQ on port and upgrade as necessary. 0
3. Port and Steal Equip - ship 1 1
4. Land on planet and drop off Equipment 0
5. Transport to Ship 2 1
6. Check for available EQ on port and upgrade as necessary. 0
7. Port and Steal Equip - ship 2 1
8. Land on planet and drop off Equipment 0
9. Transport to Ship 1 1
10. Repeat steps 2 to 9 until no eq available on ports, usually 8 cycles or so, then go to step 11 32
11. Sell off EQ at port 2 1
12. Transport to ship 1 1
13. Sell off EQ at port 1 1
14. Go back to step 2
Total turns per 8 cycles 35

RTR: Rob, Transport, Rob.  Requires two ships, and two ports with cash.  The ships have to be under each port.  A red robs one port, transports to the other ship, robs that port, then transports back to the first ship.  Repeat till all the cash is gone.  It uses a four turn cycle, and the profitability is only limited by the amount of cash on the port, and your experience. 

SDF: Steal, Dump, Flee. SDF requires 3 people online at the same time.  Requires one COLT, and one planet and one NON-Corpie under each XXB port.  Also requires that the two ports are surrounded by figs that aren't part of your corp, or someone else's personal figs, but make sure there are no figs in the sectors with the ports.  The theory is that when you are attacked, your ship will attempt to flee, which costs zero turns.  If you have no place else to flee too, then you will flee to the other port sector.   You will not flee from corpmates so either run 2 corps (red/blue) or be sure corp alignment is ok to drop/rejoin the corp.  You upgrade ports and run the cycles just like in SDT, but instead of transporting to the other colt, you have your non-corpie friend ping you with 1 fig to get you to flee to the other sector.    This is why you need a non-corpie in both sectors.  And you want to make sure your ship and their ships have enough figs on them to run this for a while.  Nothing is worse than getting podded by your own corpie.  I've seen it happen.  This method averages out to a 3 turn cycle, once you take Flee Penalties into account.  So, it's roughly twice as profitable as SST, but it takes more coordination, more setup time, and takes longer to run.  I used to like this method until the Flee Penalty got added, now I think it's a royal pain.  Still, it's the most profit per turn a red can make till you get mobile planets.  There is a variant of this called SSF (Steal, Sell, Flee), which is like SST, but with a average 5 turn cycle.  However, you might as well run SDT or SDF instead, rather than go through all the trouble of running SSF.  About the only good thing I can say about SSF is that it's a nice lead into SDF.
Here is a step by step breakdown of SDF:
Step Action Turns
1. Position colt and make planets if necessary. Other non-corpies get into position too. ?
2. Check for available EQ on port and upgrade as necessary. 0
3. Port and Steal Equip 1
4. Land on planet and drop off Equipment 0
5. Non-Corpie Attack with 1 fighter 0
6. Flee to 2nd sector 0 or 1
7. Check for available EQ on port and upgrade as necessary. 0
8. Port and Steal Equip 1
9. Land on planet and drop off Equipment 0
10. Non-Corpie Attack with 1 fighter 0
11. Flee to 1st sector 0 or 1
12. Repeat steps 2 to 11 until no eq available on ports, usually 8 cycles or so, then go to step 13 16 to 32
13. Sell off EQ at port 2 (usually a blue does this) 0
14. Non-Corpie Attack with 1 fighter 0
15. Flee to 1st sector 0 or 1
16. Sell off EQ at port 1 (usually a blue does this) 0
17. Go back to step 2  
Total Turns per 8 cycles 24 avg.

Megga-Rob: Only available in MBBS mode.  Requires a COLT, A mobile planet, and at least one fully upgraded XSS port and one fully upgraded XXB port.  The ports don't have to be close to each other.  If a port has 3.3 million credits to a maximum of 6.6 million, you can rob it all at once, with the same odds as a normal rob.  No matter what your experience is!  The common strategy for setting up a mega-rob is to park a mobile planet under an XSS port that is fully upgraded on equipment to and possibly some upgrade on the Organics).  You need approx 3.5 million cash on you when you start.  You then buy dump all of the equipment on to your planet and maybe some of the organics to top the port off.  (remember to reverse haggle when you do this or you wonít have the 3.3 mill there when you are done)  Once you have drained the port, you then port and rob, getting all your cash back.  Remember that you can also rob 11% more than the port shows available.  So, if the port shows there is 3.2 million available, you can actually rob 3.55 million.  (and it's the number + 11% that needs to be more than 3.3 mill.  If you keep track of how much money you spent buying the goods, you can simply rob that back.) Your odds of busting remain about 1 in 50.  Originally this was a bug in the MBBS version, but it has never been fixed due to itís popularity.  Some players consider it a bug still, but the amount of setup and prep required to pull it off makes it balanced in my opinion.  When you are getting ready to begin MR's, you want to carefully choose your ports, so as to maximize your profit and save turns.  This is in effect a 1.01 turn cycle compared to the other methods mentioned above, when it's run properly.  I'll go into that in more detail in Part 3.
Here is a step by step breakdown of a Megga-Rob.
Step Action Turns
1 Upgrade Buy Port.  This should have been done well in advance of your Megga-Rob to allow for the port to regen back to full.  You will want to max equipment, and maybe some organics. ?
2 Upgrade Sell Port.  This can be done in advance, or on the fly, as needed.  You want to max the equipment, and do partials on the organics or fuel ?
3 Move the Mobile Planet under the upgraded XSS port. 0
4 Buy-down Equipment until you have spent more than 3.3 million on Equipment.  Remember to Reverse Haggle.  If you run out of Eq before you spend 3.3 million, buy down Organics or Fuel until there is enough cash on the Port. 131or more turns
5 Port and rob the cash you spent back from the port 1
6 Move the Mobile Planet under the upgraded XXB port. 0
7 Port Negotiate the sale of the equipment 1
8 Move on to the next XXS port and repeat until you run low on turns ?
Total Turns 133 or more

D/RTR: buy-Dump, then Rob, Transport, Rob.  This is the poor man's Megga-Rob.  On non-MBBS games, or in games where you have only just gotten your mobile planet, and you don't have a lot of cash to upgrade ports, this is the alternative to MR's.   Requires at least one mobile planet, a few million startup cash, and two or three ships (usually a COLT, a Havoc, and sometimes a Merf,).  First thing you do is find two SXS ports that are within 5 of each other (the maximum transport distance for a Merf). Upgrade them to around 2.5k fuel ore and 5-10k equipment.  Park a mobile planet under one of the ports, and then buy dump all the fuel and equipment (remember to haggle for BEST price).  Once you have buy dumped all the goods, then  move to the other sector and do the same.  Once you are finished with the buy-dump, you then park a ship under each port, usually the Havoc and the Merf, and RTR them.  Then sell the Equipment at a XXB port.  This method will keep your planet in fuel.  You can skip the get fuel part if you are using an H.  Then move on to the next port pair.  There are several advantages to this method.  One, your experience tends to go through the roof!  The more exp you have, the more you can rob, the safer it gets.  Two, you can use the upgraded buy ports that you were using for SDT's to sell off the EQ.  Three, if someone starts killing off ports, you're not out a ton of money.  The disadvantage of this tactic is that you need ALOT of little ports to support it.  However, most people ignore any ports under 10k, so you tend to be able to pull this one off fairly well.  Depending on your experience, this averages about 1.2 or less turns per cycle.  Better than SDF, but not as good as MR.  One thing to keep in mind with this strategy is you should have around 20k experience before you begin using this.  Less will work, but ideally, you want to be able to rob all the cash off the port in one or two shots.


When a Red busts, as mentioned above, they lose holds and experience.  The experience usually isn't that big of a deal, but losing the holds can be a problem.  Furbing is how you cheaply fix that problem.  You furb by having a fellow corpie (usually a blue) buy a merf (or Furb), make it personal, fill it with 63 holds and tow it to you.  Then you attack the furb with about 10 or so figs to destroy it.  That in turn replenishes your COLT's holds.  (Assuming you're stealing 250 holds.)  The formula for furbing is:
# of holds to buy on furb = (# of holds lost * 3) -3
Example: You lost 22 holds, 22*3=66, 66-3=63. You need to buy 63 holds on your furb. If you lost 50, then you need 50*3=150, 150-3=147
To go the other way, use the following formula:
# of holds gained by blowing up a ship = (total holds on ship + 3)/3
Example: a ship has 124 holds, (124+3)/3 = 127/3 = 42.3 = 42 holds gained if you blow it up.

I've included some charts that show both the costs and the turns used for typical furbing in a stock game.
Furb Costs:
Ship Stock Base Ship Cost Base Holds Max Holds Cost for full holds* Total cost for ship and full holds* Cost for last 22 holds* Cost for last 50 holds* Cost for 63 holds* (furbs 22 holds) Total cost for ship and 63 holds* Cost for 147 holds* (furbs 50 holds) Total cost for ship and 147 holds*
Merchant Freighter 33,400 30 65 38,500 71,900 27,060 47,500 35,640 69,040 N/A N/A
Merchant Cruiser 41,300 20 75 60,500 101,800 31,460 57,500 42,140 83,440 N/A N/A
Cargo Tran 51,950 50 125 142,500 194,450 53,460 107,500 16,640 68,590 N/A N/A
Taurean Mule 63,600 50 150 215,000 278,600 64,460 132,500 16,640 80,240 205,640 269,240
Colonial Transport 63,600 50 250 630,000 693,600 108,460 232,500 16,640 80,240 205,640 269,240

* = Based on an average base cost of 200 for holds.  See the formulas section here for a more detailed explanation on how hold prices work.

Tow Costs: Based on the formula: Move cost = your move + 2x move cost of towed ship.
Action Turns Needed
ISS Tow CFS or Havoc 10
ISS tow COLT 16
ISS tow Merf 8
ISS tow Mule 12
Havoc or CFS TOW COLT 15
Havoc or CFS TOW Merf 7
Havoc or CFS TOW Mule 11
CFS or Havoc Tow ISS 11
CFS or Havoc Towing CFS or Havoc 9

Turns required to take a COLT to SD or a Class 0 port and get more holds.
Action ISS CFS or Havoc
Go to get COLT 4 3
Get fuel 1 1
Move COLT to SD 16 15
X-port to COLT 1 1
Load with holds 1 1
X-port to other ship 1 1
Drop off in next sector
(I assume red will x-port to new sector. If not, Blue has to tow again, so use numbers in parens.)
16 (32) 15 (30)
Get fuel 1 1
Return to SD 4 3
Total Turns 45 (61) 41 (56)

As you can see, this isn't very Blue turn efficient.  It's much better and cheaper to tow Merfs or Mules to the COLT than it is to move the colt.  Even though the Mule costs more to buy than it does to buy the top 50 holds in a COLT, the savings is lost because of the number of turns it takes to move the COLT to a port and back.

Turns required to Furb with a Merf:
Action ISS CFS or Havoc
Buy Merf 1 1
Xport to merf 1 1
Load with holds 1 1
xport back to ship 1 1
Drop off 8 7
Tow Red to next sector (optional if running team) 16 15
Get fuel 1 1
Return to SD 4 3
Total Turns 33 30
Total Turns for Team (assuming running 2 reds and they clear each other's busts) 17 15

Note: Use Merf instead of a Cargo Tran, because even though Cargo Tran is cheaper, it costs more turns to move it.

Turns required to Furb with a Mule:
Action ISS CFS or Havoc
Buy Mule 1 1
xport to mule 1 1
Load with holds 1 1
xport back to ship 1 1
Drop off 12 11
Tow Red to next sector (optional if running team) 16 15
Get fuel 1 1
Return to SD 4 3
Total Turns 37 34
Total Turns for Team (assuming running 2 reds and they clear each other's busts) 21 19

Note: Use Mule instead of a COLT, because even though COLT is the same price, it costs more turns to move it.

On to Part 2

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