Trade Nations better marketplace model than Monopoly
Spoiler alert! Trade Nations offers a slightly more complex approach to social network games than many I’ve played. It isn’t the slickest or most colorful, but it may challenge you more than many of the others out there.
My sister Aimee wrote me recently, asking me to become her friend in Trade Nations. She even thought I’d want to review it. To be honest, I had downloaded it already because it had been reviewed elsewhere as the best iPad game ever. I thought it was okay, but I hardly thought it was the best game ever.
On the other hand, I owed her for the best Christmas present I received this year—cowboy bubble bath.
Cowboy bubble bath is something I would have enjoyed more as a boy, but Baptist Preacher’s Kids (BPK) don’t get to enjoy cowboy bubble bath (not to be confused with cowboy Bible bath, which is where mothers scrub your mouth out with soap while quoting passages from the Bible, and which is also totally unpleasant). That’s because BPK mom’s would have a heart attack if they walked in on their kids in the middle of a cowboy bubble bath.
Now you might think that mom’s shouldn’t walk in on their kids taking baths, and you would be right, but BPK moms have a holy dispensation from God that allows them to enter any room their children are in without knocking. Mainly to make sure their kids don’t do anything fun, like taking a cowboy bubble bath.
Trust me, if kids, especially BPKs, have fun Jesus would disapprove. Well, they can have fun, but they have to have fun certified by the WWJD seal of approval. We could play sword drill where we picked verses out of the Bible on command, we could listen to Billy Graham crusades on TV and we could play cowboys and indians because Jesus protected guns with the second amendment. So we could play cowboy, but cowboy bubble bath would be going way too far.
Of course, my BPK mom has lightened up a lot since Aimee and I were kids. In fact, she lightened up a lot with both my younger sisters, but oldest kids usually get the short end (or the long end) of the parents’ discipline stick. First kids put in all the hard work wearing parents down so they know which battles to pick. So mom thought the cowboy bubble bath was pretty funny.
Carol did too, at least until I suggested we take a bath together and try it.
In case you don’t know about cowboy bubble bath, it’s pretty simple. You take the ingredients1 and boil them together. You eat them a couple of hours before you take your bath and then, when you settle yourself into the hot water, it will mysteriously begin to effervesce around you.
So I owed it to Aimee to play and review Trade Nations.
Innovation and Trade
I’ve reviewed a number of social network games and I’m sure readers are already familiar with the basics. I decided to add a basic page on social network gaming to the pages section for readers to look at if they want to know the details. This will allow me to concentrate on the game itself.
Trade Nations most closely resembles We Rule in conception. Players begin with a medieval village and have to build commerce within their village and establish trade routes outside the village. They populate their village with houses accompanied by animated characters.
Players can also add a wizard’s tower to their village to boost production. As they build commerce and population, they buy more land and upgrade the administrative building to reflect the size of their village.
Trade Nation works a lot like We Rule, with players building a population and commerce in order to trade with other players. As their population and wealth expands, players have to expand their land as well.
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This may be why I wasn’t initially excited about Trade Nation. Since I reviewed We Rule I discovered I have a weakness for SNGs and tend to spend a lot of time playing them through to the higher levels. I actually spend two to three hours a day on We Rule, am closing in on becoming one of the top hundred players, and I even launched a separate blog We Rule: The Hidden Grimoire. I’ve also played a number of games to the top level. Needless to say, I was reluctant to get involved in yet another one.
I must admit, however, that from their basic premise the two games pretty much go in totally different directions. Rather than providing a wide variety of crops and buildings that players can use to assert their identity and sense of design, Trade Nation restricts the choices and focuses more on developing a market strategy that will boost commerce and population growth.
Playing the markets
Players start with wheat farms and then add logging camps, quarries and sheep farms. These provide the basic materials for the industries that will add later, which include baking, lumbering and carpentry, stone cutting and tailoring.
Trade Nations adds another wrinkle. If you don’t want to manage your farms and quarries, you actually need to hire workers from your population. In most games based around this premise, you plant crops (or make products) harvest them yourself and collect money as soon as you harvest. If you fail to harvest them in time, however, your crops or products spoil.
The houses in Trade Nation come with people you can hire to manage your businesses. But you need at least two employees per business, one to produce the product and a second to deliver it to the market. In order to provide your businesses with workers you have to improve houses, and in order to add and improve new houses you need to level up.
You also need to have money and the raw materials to build the houses and upgrades. In fact, you need the raw materials for just about every new business and expansion.
In most games you expand with money. Trade Nations requires players to produce or purchase the raw materials as well. The raw materials must then be refined to use in the retail businesses. But if you don’t have enough of the material you can’t make the product or transaction.
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This means you also need to warehouse your raw materials until you need them (or sell them) and you need a market to manage your transactions. Trade Nations distinguishes itself from other games by adding a commodities market with fluctuating prices.
Players need to hire employees to move products into warehouses. The materials in the warehouse become the elements of trade. Amazingly, those workers have very strong backs.
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Players need to think carefully about what to do with what they produce. If they sell to much, they may have to buy some back at a higher price. If they sell too little, they won’t have the cash they need to expand. In addition, market prices fluctuate throughout the day so players need to monitor the market until prices are high to sell and low to buy.
The commodities market is Trade Nations’ major innovation. Serious players need to monitor prices to know when to buy and sell.
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Magic Beans, the inevitable SNG catch
Unfortunately, it takes time to build houses, businesses and products. You may have to wait twelve to fourteen hours for housing construction and renovation to finish before you can hire new employees. Some products can be made in a few minutes, but the more profitable products take hours.
Amplified Games, the developers, are always willing to lend a hand for impatient players buy providing magic beans. Magic beans serve as Trade Nations’ version of game dollars, the SNG cash suck that finances upgrades and maintenance. You can earn a handful of magic beans as you climb levels, but the main way is to actually buy them through the Apple Store.
Social networking is probably the weakest element of Trade Nations. You can visit other kingdoms and order from their shops, and that’s about it. This very much follows the We Rule model. The problem with Trade Nations is that you have to know who’s a member of the network.
ngmoco:)’s plus+ network is extensive, covering dozens of games. It’s pretty easy to build a friends network. In addition, We Rule lets you see the names of other players who are friends and followers of the few players you know, which also allows you to build up your friends list.
Team Lava, who produces the Story Series, and Game Insight, who produce games like Syndicate, provide walls for players to leave messages and post their game names so other players can find them. They also allow players to visit other players at random so they can see and write on their walls. You can leave messages for a specific trading partner, but the game doesn’t offer more extensive public exchanges.
So far I don’t see anything like this in Trade Nations. Players are pretty much reduced to twittering and emailing friends and hoping they already play or are willing to add one more game to their growing stable of social network games.
I’ve also played games with better design and variety. There’s nothing extraordinarily innovative or colorful about the graphics, and the limited choices of buildings keeps different player’s villages looking fairly similar.
Nonetheless, Trade Nations is worth the review and worth playing. It needs to work on the social networking features, but the game play itself is about the best I’ve seen in a social network game.
Jenny Manytoes rates Trade Nations
Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over Trade Nations. It’s more challenging as a game than most, which will make it attractive to players looking to do more than chat with and poke their friends.
The Jenny Manytoes Rating System
Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
- When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
- When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
- When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
- When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
- When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.
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