The Grand M2TW Economy Guide
Economy - The base drive for all conquests, the foundation of every true army and the lifeline of every nation... What is it exactly? How does it work? Well, here I will explain, everything.
Trade - The trading system in M2TW is quite simple compared to say, E:TW (Empire Total War); You build a port, it starts to trade.
Important thing: The trade is apparently NOT run by your own government but by inside merchants, so having trade rights with a nation doesn't matter that much, it will not stop you from trading with said nation, however, it will grant you more income.
The fact is, that even if you do not have trade rights with a nation, you will trade with it, only you will have less trade routes with it and much less income, allowing your people trade rights with their will boost your income and will allow you even further trade with them.
A question I have been hearing lately a lot is "Is trade really that good?" Yes. (I know, sounds like a commercial...) I recall several times in which I got well over 20,000 florins a turn from just naval/land trade, I'm not speaking of Merchant Trade just yet.
Trade is also influenced by several things:
Resources - What indigenous do you have in your lands, the more, the better, the pricier, the more money you get.
Ports - Naval trade depends on your ports. When you expand your ports and develop them you will see a little section which says "Allows more trade routes", this means that if from a certain port you have 2 possible trade routes, after the upgrade you will have 4.
Roads - Land trade is reliant heavily on roads, without roads the trade will either be minimal or non existent. With dirt roads your trade will improve, but as said in naval trade before, you will have approximately 2 - 3 trade routes, when you get paved roads, this will develop to about 6 - 8. Land trade can very good.
Marketplaces - These buildings give you a hefty bonus to BASE trade, this means it allows you further trade in land and sea, also it boosts your trade in ways you didn't even imagine, allowing you even more money from trading partners.
In addition, Marketplaces give you more Merchant agent limit to allow you to build more of them, but more on that, later on.
Wars - Pretty obviously, a nation at war with you will not trade with you, and vise versa.
Blockade - A blockade on one of your ports blocks trade and access to that port, but not land trade.
Siege - A siege blocks ALL trade relating to the besieged settlement.
In a single trade route you can get endless resources, depending on what that province has to offer, a province with no natural resources will give you resources from its farms and markets, also known as Common Goods. Common Goods are the least profitable of all resources, however, no trade is a bad trade.
Merchants, or Merchant Trade, is probably the best means of income in this game;
Merchants can 'stand' on resources to start trading them, and can generate from 5 florins per turn to 2100 (The most I've ever seen) per turn!
Merchants, in addition, are free of upkeep, meaning they do not cost you any money to maintain per turn, so sending these Merchants around to valuable resources all around the globe and forgetting about them won't really hinder you.
Which resource is best, one might ask, and one will get the following answer: Ivory. Found only in N. Africa in three different spots, Ivory is the best resource in the game, followed by either the Silk in Constantinople or Gold all around, these are followed by Slaves. Those are the four best resources.
How can I tell how much I will get? Hovering your mouse over a resource you had 'discovered', meaning you have it in your line of sight or had it in your line of sight before, or you got map information from your fellow nations, will tell you how much exactly can this Merchant generate out of this resource, also, the amount of florins generated from a certain resource will vary in according the Merchant's finance level.
Taxes - Taxes will be your prime monetary generating tool (Arguably, as Merchants can generate almost just as much), taxes are collected from every settlement you have through-out your kingdom each turn from your people, in castles, the taxes are permanent on "Normal", whilst on cities, you can change them according to whatever you feel.
Taxes are very good for many reasons:
1) It allows you control of your population happiness.
2) There's rarely a difference in income between High and Normal tax rate, or Normal and Low, allowing you to control your civilization's happiness with minimum monetary problems.
3) Taxes do not rely on anything aside your population size, and since (For most cases) population size only increases, it is a very reliable source of income.
Now, taxes are blocked by sieges but not by blockades, making them sometimes also quite vulnerable, but not too much.
Farms and Mines - These two are a very good money generator for you, they are available at almost every settlement and can never be a bad thing.
Farms - These allow you further growing of your civilization by giving you a bonus for health and sanitation, thus allowing your citizens to reproduce more. Farms also generate a lot of "Common Goods" resources and allow you further inland and by sea trade.
I have heard one advice, sadly, a stupid one, and I advise ALL of you not to heed it: "Do not build farms because they boost squalor", squalor can easily be countered by traits your generals have, tax level or improvements to your city, clogging down one of your best money production resources, farms, for stopping squalor is not ill advised, it will be your demise.
Mines - Mines can only be built in provinces where there are resources that can be mined, such as Tin, Coal, Gold, Iron and so on and so on. Mines are also a very good source of income, however, also a very costly one. The mines give you a certain income level depending on their level, the monetary value of the mine-able resources you have and how many of said resources you have.
Mines boost your trade by giving you more and more of that resource and allow you to trade it more, however, as far as I can see, merchant income does not increase by mines.
Important thing about mines - They usually cost in the 2000s, or even more, so getting a mine to gives you 100 florins a turn for 2000 florins right now is a waste of your money, however, mines that give you 350 per turn for 2000, is money well spent.
Traits - Your generals get economy boosting traits or ancillaries either when they are spawned or when they stay long enough in a city, the traits usually say:
"+10% to tax income"
or "+10% to trade"
This means, that the tax income you get per citizen will increase by 10% and (or), that the income you get from each trading resource will also increase by 10%.
There is also the "+1 to farming" trait, which gives you literally +1 to farming, meaning more bonus for citizen reproduction and common goods for trade.
Upkeep - Upkeep plays a very big role in Medieval 2 Total War and greatly affects your economy, building too many troops and not being able to support them with your income will easily throw you into bankruptcy, and buying too little troops could mean your demise against your enemy, so you should find a very nice balance between both.
How do you do this? Easy! Open your financial expectation menu, look at the total "Income" and "Expenditure", it should be at the bottom part of the scroll, in bold black.
Now, this should easily tell you how many soldiers you can keep supplied and ready, with these few brief pointers:
Instead of starting to calculate how much each unit costs, there are arbitrary numbers, in average, of how much every branch costs in upkeep.
Earlier and cheaper archers cost around 100 upkeep (Per unit), when more expensive ones (Later) cost around 200-300.
Earlier and cheaper infantry (Light Infantry usually, this includes Spearmen!) cost around 90-150 upkeep, and the later, more expensive (Mostly heavy infantry) cost up to 400-500 upkeep.
Earlier heavy cavalry cost around 200-300 upkeep, and the later ones cost up to 1000 - They are easily the most expensive unit branch in the game.
Light cavalry and missile cavalry cost around 300 - 400, even 500, to all stages of the game.
Artillery units cost around 400 - 600.
Ships can cost up to 1000 or so, Cogs around 200-300.
You can average up all these numbers, and easily find out how much of your army you can support, if between your expenditure and income you have a (positive) difference of 2000, meaning you get 2000 florins per turn, you can support a half stack of an army, with about 3 archer units, 1 light/heavy cavalry and 4 infantry.
These calculations will become far simpler as time passes, and you won't even have to remember the numbers since you will remember from past experiences.
However - You must remember that the numbers you calculate with are arbitrary average numbers, meaning that the costs can easily divert to both sides, so it is far safer to take around 100 florins more than the average, this way you will easily avoid bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy - Bankruptcy is a situation in which you and your nation go into the "Red Minus" section of your balance, meaning, you spend more money than you should, or you spend more money than your income allows you, and as I had already covered the ways to try and avoid it, it is time to address the way of how to get out of it.
Most players panic when going into bankruptcy, and you shouldn't. You have plenty of ways to get out of it, and the most common way of getting into it is going on an all out war, and building too many troops.
So, the solution is right here? Isn't it? Wrong.
You still need to support your war, don't you? So here's what you should do.
1st stage - You have just reached the "Red Minus" section of your balance! This is usually caused because of lack of trade, so your first step should be getting trade rights from whoever you possibly can.
2nd stage - At the same turn, go to all your large cities (Bigger than Large Towns) and turn them to "High Tax Rate" or "Very High Tax Rate" as long as the population happiness DOES NOT go under 120%!
3rd stage - Go to the rest of your settlements, find those with 140% population happiness (Or more), and disband units there until you reach 120% (No less). Now, if you have already moved the taxes to "Very High" or "High", DO NOT disband units there as you will need anything you possibly can to keep the population high.
In addition to that, do NOT disband units who are in free upkeep slots! (Background of unit card in the settlement is blue instead of gray) - It will help you if you need an emergency response army to an attack while not affecting your upkeep.
4th stage - Cut down your army.
Yes, you have a war, and you are most likely on the offensive if you lost all that money, so what you should do is cut down on the offensive.
If you had 4 full stacks roaming around, demolish 2 of said stacks and use the other 2 to conquer CITIES, not castles. If you conquer cities, you will help your economy recuperate, and in addition to that, removing half of your army or so will drastically improve your income.
Important! If you have ONLY 2 full stacks (Or less) - DO NOT cut down in your army as it will most likely cause you to lose the war, instead, simply fall back to your settlements and bunker up until this crisis passes.
5th stage - I'm in the green!
Great work, you're now in the green, BUT, you are not out of the woods just yet, you just passed the swamp, but the woods are still filled with bandits.
You need to now develop your economy sufficiently to once again go on the offensive in this war, so what you should do is build the least expensive trade generating or income generating buildings (Markets, roads, ports... And the likes) in anywhere possible, meaning, if you have 3000 florins and can build Dirt Roads in 3 cities, or one Paved Road in one huge city, build the 3 Dirt Roads instead as to boost up the overall trade, you will easily get back on your feet.
6th stage - Now that you get around 2000-3000 florins per turn, you can regain the offensive.
7th stage - This is just a pointer really - Try not to move your armies in open fields too much, capture cities as fast as possible, both to avoid too much upkeep costs and to reduce the chances of being ambushed by a far superior army.
8th stage - Another pointer.
Merchants will easily keep you out of bankruptcy, simply throw them on a resource and forget all about them, they cost you no upkeep and they become far better in what they do over time, giving you more and more income, so building about 3 - 4 of them will easily keep you out of bankruptcy and also (If, for example, each of them generates only 100 florins per turn) give you the ability to support around 1/5 of a full stack, and whilst this may not sound like a lot, remember that 1/5, out of 20 units (In a full stack) is 4 units. 4 units is a lot of money down the drain.
What I'm trying to say is, the more merchants, the better.
This should easily bring you out of your bankruptcy and keep you out of it, good luck!