As the game only has a very simple tutorial and limited help. I thought I'd throw together some of my thoughts and experience from playing the game recently.
I picked this game up and after initially playing it and enjoying the game, I was a little confused with the systems and particularly making a decent amount of money to compete with the Iron Bank's massive funds starting out. I've since gone back and after getting a few run-throughs under my belt feel I have a better idea of tactics.
The guide is designed to provide some of my insights into the game, although there's a lot I still don't understand, and there may be inaccuracies.
Starting the Game - Choose Your Country
The first thing you will be asked when starting the game is to choose a nation. The nations are as follows^
The benefit of choosing a nation is that the cost of maintaining branches in the country are 25% cheaper. Personally I don't think that this bonus makes any real difference. When you start out you will not be able to start in one of those countries as you will only have 50k, which is enough to get a license in a country with 1 or 2 regions. So to get to access to one of those countries, you'll need to have something like 200k+ in the bank. Even then I don't think 25% is that big a difference, unless you are doing business solely in that country. Perhaps it's due to my play-style and I'm not doing it justice, but I don't think that the countries mean anything.
What is perhaps more important (I've only really played conqueror and a certain way) is your ideology. Each ideology is linked to a country and has it's own unique bonus.
England - Conqueror - Opening new countries is 25% cheaper
This is the one I've played the most. I would highly recommend this as it's a 25% discount on every country you open. For example, a country with a single region is 27k to open and one with four regions is around 107k. That 7k discount when you start out is massive, and if you are like me and are going to make your money from war, then you'll want to get licenses to the countries where the action is. Last play through I had over 45 countries, this skill saved me a bunch of money with that play style.
France - Diplomat - 25% more influence
It says what is does on the tin, 25% more influence. Influence is generated by your employed diplomats every turn and can be used to curry favour with countries. You can also use this to start wars, revolutions and generally mess with your opponents. I've not played around enough to know whether this is a good choice. However, playing on conqueror, I neglected all the diplomat stuff and used them to keep the countries happy.
Castile - Financier - Get a bonus equal to 1% of your cash at the end of the year
I'll be honest, I don't see the point of this. Someone didn't do their maths when they did this, perhaps I'd be more likely to take it if it was maybe 10% - 20%. As it is though, getting 1% back on your cash at the end of the year (i.e. 1 million in the bank nets you 10k at the end of the year) is pathetic. Don't bother with this.
Austria - Capitalist - Development of the fed is 20% cheaper
Again, I don't see the point of this bonus. You will be able to start working on the fed in the mid to late early game and whilst perhaps this would help you going for a quick fed win. I can't help but feel the conqueror is a much more useful and immediate bonus.
Min - Militarist - Troop growth is 20% faster in regions with a players branch
Ok, I'll admit it this is one of the things I have noooo idea about at the moment. I didn't even know 'troops' existed in the game. You don't recruit troops and wars are fought with weapons you make and supply and the money. Ultimately the country with the highest amount of gold paid into the war wins. Countries are forever starting wars though, so perhaps troops are something that are in the background and affect how often the countries go to war with neighbours? hmmm I'm not sure about this at the moment, try it at your own risk.
Mongols - Mercenary - Guards generate fear 25% quicker
Similar to France and t generates fear 25% quicker. Fear is used by your guards to recover debts and can also be exchanged for Influence, materials or to burn a little of your rival banks cash. Fear is useful from time to time to boost stocks but again, I'm not sure it's as good as the conqueror.
Japan - Manager - Building upgrades are 25% cheaper
This sounds useful but again I'm not sure it really is. Not until endgame anyway. Each department is upgraded to lvl 15 and it's only really at levels 5+ you might notice the cost. That said it's not huge and is nowhere near the 27k cost you would pay for a country license starting out. Once again, this is weak in comparison to the conqueror bonus.
Korea - Magnate - Initial boost of 25% to funds
This is an interesting one but only because I think it's deceptive. 75k instead of 50k is tempting to start, and it may mean you can buy into a country with 2 regions rather than 1 starting out. But I think that unless you do that then the limits on investing (based on the combined score of your Investments dept.) may mean that you just have cash lying around with nothing to spend it on. A quick way to 2 regions is really tempting and I think that this is the only real option other than conqueror, or perhaps the diplomat and mercenary. If you do try this, be careful not to upgrade depts. or regions too early as you may find that you leave yourself with limited funds and / or properties too expansive to purchase each turn.
Building the fed is a way of winning the game. It unlocks as you upgrade your headquarters enough. There's a number of tasks you need to perform but they roughly equate to paying for it with gold, influence, fear, and materials both normal and luxury.
Skip the Tutorial
After you, hopefully took my advice, and chose Conqueror you'll get thrown straight into the tutorial. If you've not played before and need an introduction to the layout etc. then go ahead and do this. However once you have done this tutorial, restart the game and skip it.
The tutorial forces you to recruit in an inefficient way, so the first thing to do in a new game is skip that and then choose the most excellent name for your bank. A personal favourite of mine at the moment is 'The Rot'.
Recruit Your First Staff
First thing to do after you've had that champagne and you-know-what-else breakfast to celebrate the opening of your new investment bank, is to recruit your staff. You are limited to 1 employee in each dept, this is based upon the level of your HQ, you can have up to a maximum of 9 staff in each dept. Make sure that when you recruit your staff that you select pro (better stats than the others) and search for 9 each time from the drop down menu.
Employee stats are grouped into the following;
- I - Investment. This is used by your investment department and directly affects the amount of money you can invest into a region.
- C - Credit. This is used by your credit department and directly affects the amount of credit loans you can issue at once.
- D - Diplomacy. This is used by your diplomacy department and directly affects how much influence you receive a turn.
- G - Guard. This is used by your security department and directly affects how much fear you receive a turn.
- S - Science. This directly affects how much science you receive a turn.
Good thing is that this is right at the start of the game so if you get particularly bad RNG you can always restart. However I'd expect to do perhaps 2 - 4 searches, you will need 1 of each type for all your depts. I would be looking for anyone with a stat of 7 or above in the correct field and if I was struggling then I will take a 6 to start out. i.e. if I had a 8, 7, 8 and then a 6, for my last employee stat, I'd take it. Be aware that you will be charged to recruit an employee as well as the cost of the upfront search. Once you've recruited recruit them and leave them to go about their scheming ways.
I'm forever forgetting to set this going and it's easy to miss when you've completed a part of the branch. However the good news is that even if you didn't set your research going, you will have the points and can go and unlock bonuses, although you will have missed out on not having those benefits available for certain turns.
First things first, you can have a scientific victory. This is achieved by getting to that last skill int he tree. Other than that, there's a bunch of useful and perhaps not so useful skills in here. As I still have limited understanding of some of the mechanics, I'l concentrate on what I feel are key skills.
Starting out I would select 'The Big Game', this will also unlock 'Secure Citadel' which gives you a reduction in the salary of your staff. The Big Game itself, well that allows you to invest an additional 10k in property. Starting out, if you chose magnate and have around 45k in the bank then you could not spend that 45k on a single property as you are limited to the amount that you can invest based on your investment depts. limit. That limit is affected by the staffs Investment stat, whether you have invested within the region via the investments dept. and also this. This is an important skill to help you start making money starting out. It's all fairly straight-forward but after that I'd start to mop up some of the early skills but always looking for these types of skills
- Increase the amount you can invest.
- Increase the number of investment opportunities.
- Increase the amount of either fear or influence generated.
- Open regions generate gold per turn.
- Reduces countries political skill cooldown.
- Starts a revolution.
Map - Selecting a Country
The map and it's overlays are mental, it can be very cluttered and difficult to select a small country sometimes. But that aside, you will be using this a fair bit and starting out you'll need to select a country. If you look at the country view then you may be able to see the countries divided by colour, there are a lot of small single region countries, like West Ireland, that may or may not be difficult to see. However starting out these are important.
I would select a single country like Western Ireland. There's a whole bunch of info in the country screen and I'll be honest, I'm not sure how things are affected. On the left you will see the country info and then on the right any regional information, including the ratings for Agriculture, Infrastructure and Real Estate. You can affect these through diplomacy, and I think if it goes up (20 is the highest) it increases the value of your property. That said, I don't keep my property long and I'm constantly flipping. The ratings made no difference to my play-style or whether I bought the license or not. On the bottom left you will see any special luxuries that are produced by the country. In the top left have a look at the economic indicators, a good 1 region starting country may have perhaps 140+ gold and you should be looking at an investment size of around 32k starting out.
Let's Make Some Money!
There's a number of ways to make money in this game, some good, some not so good, and some bad I feel. I'll start by explaining some of the ways to make money and then describe a strategy that I've used to good effect as a conqueror in the medium difficulty.
Within the investment department you will be able to purchase a property. When purchasing a property there are a number of factors which will impact how much you can invest in a single go. Firstly, the number of investment opportunities you have per turn. This starts at 1 and can go up to 3, unlocked via the science tree.
Secondly there is then the cap to the amount of money you can invest within a region. If you have read through so far you may recall I mentioned that you are looking for a starting country with a single region with 32k available investments. This means that you can only ever own purchase upto a max of 32k worth of property within that region. So if you have already purchase a property worth 20k then on your next turn you will only be offered properties upto a max value of 12k.
In order to raise that limit you will either need to open up new countries and regions, either by winning a war or purchasing a license. Or once you have upgraded your investment dept. to lvl 3, investing within a region. To do this, you select a country and then a region within that country to invest in. That allows you to invest an amount of money which is equal to the total amount your dept. can invest, affected by the I stat on your staff. By doing this you will then pay gold to allow you to purchase more property, it's roughly a 500% increase. So if you invest around 100k, you can expect the available investment within that region to go up to around 500k.
Investing and flipping the properties, for me, is the best way to make money.
Another way to make money is to to provide credit facilities and issue loans. The maximum amount of credit you can offer if linked to your dept. score, similar to the investment dept. above and it is raised via the science screen. You can not raise this value by investing your own gold.
You'll start by receiving loans that you can issue to businesses within the country regions that you own. Doing this will typically see you pay gold to receive a rate of interest based upon the length of the loan, the longer the loan the larger the interest. When the loan is due it's either re-payed, or where it defaults you can call in the guards to either recover the loan or take the property instead. Apart from issuing the 3 loans for the tutorial steps and initial gold bonus at the start, I do not think that early game this is a good option. In fact, I think it ♥♥♥ your growth as the amount you receive from issuing loans is significantly less that you would receive flipping a 10k property. And you can flip every turn, whereas loans can be a number of turns.
What is a good option though is lending money to other banks! Again, the rate of return is much less than you would get flipping but the advantageous part here is that if the bank cannot repay then it goes under and you get the goodies! This is available after you upgrade your credit dept. to tier 3. And assuming that you have the capital (if you pay right then you should be ok to start issuing a 20k - 30k loan here or there starting out). You'll notice that there's a length of loan and interest rate. What I would say, particularly starting out if as you are pressed for cash, is that you might only want to issue a loan for 1 or 2 turns. An important part of this game is your liquidity, and if you cannot call upon cash reserves because they are all tied up in a loan to another bank for 7 turns then you are going to have problems. That said, done well then issuing a loan for 42k for 1 turn when you have 55k in the bank is often a risk worth taking early game. Banks do default fairly regularly and it's worth the gamble if you can manage your funds well. If you have managed to do that and you are getting into early mid game and above then you should definitely be doing this. I think this is a better option than investing in Real Estate due to the amounts you can invest in one go and the chances of the bank defaulting, either with or without your help.
This is the market place where you can buy and sell resources. You can buy or sell both in the raw and crafted states. This is the only place that you can sell civilian goods like stone, tea etc. and avoid selling weapons here as you will not get as much as you would selling to a country.
Weapons are used in wars. You can sell weapons to a country at war and then the value of those weapons is converted to gold to calculate the victor. You are able to craft weapons from wood, iron and coal. I've read other guides saying there's a weapon to go for or not, I've not really noticed much of a difference myself and not really looked. I'd say the key thing to bare in mind is that bows and crossbows use only wood, halberds and swords use iron, and then the guns use both coal and iron. Also important here is the amount of available work you have. This is like production and is generated each turn. It can be increased by unlocking perks within the science tree, or an event where you purchase work for gold. Whilst selling weapons is a good source of income, and can be useful early game. Its also useful to have a good stockpile of these to help in wars where you may not be able to invest enough to win.
Remember that old adage, you've got to speculate to accumulate? Well whilst that is true for some, for us evil bank managers we have another option. And that's to simply rig the outcome with heaps of cash.
Wars happen all the time, and countries are regularly going to war. Familiarise yourself with the war screen, as this is where the money is. War usually starts around turn 10 or so and when it does you may see a notification on the right. Otherwise, going into the war screen and looking at the current wars will show you a list. You also have a separate tab showing completed wars and any attacks on countries where you operate.
So how do you make money? Well when a war starts you can chose to join that war. Regardless of whether you have a license for that country or not. You support both sides in a war, so whilst you may operate in both countries, when you join a war you support one side or the other. And you can support the countries either by selling them weapons or investing money. If you sell them weapons you receive a nice amount of cash, better than you would selling on the exchange. And if you invest and the country you invested in wins, then you receive property equal to that value. Well I say equal but there's a key piece here. If you are operating in the country which won then whilst you may have invested around 500k into that country, when you sell that property it's likely going to go for around 15% - 20% more. That's a nice profit, and much better than the loans. However if the country loses, you can expect to take a big hit to the value of your investment too.
A key thing to understand here is that war lasts for 5 turns, you will see the stats of the sides, be able to select a side and make your move. If you invest when there's 5 turns left, then your money is doing nothing for 5 turns, so better to invest when there's 1 turn to go. The same goes for any property which you have in a region which is at war. That property will become unusable for 5 turns, not generate resources, you will be unable to sell it and if you lose the war will take a big hit in the value of the property. This is another good reason to use the flipping strategy I spoke about earlier, I rarely keep the properties more than 1 turn so that I can ensure I have funds to hand, as and when needed.
Conqueror - Suggested Tactics
So hopefully you've got an idea of the key mechanics in play here and you're wondering how to make some cash? As I have likely mentioned many times, I've only really played the conqueror style so I cannot say if this is the best way or not. However when I played through on medium on my second run-through I had a bank worth around 25mil which was around 17mil more than the bank in second place. I had over 45 countries, 200+ regions and oodles of cash lying around by turn 150. I had bankrupted the Iron Bank before turn 50.
I saved it there as I could go for any of the wins at this point. So for medium difficulty at least, I would say this is a solid strategy.
Ok, so as I mentioned I would recommend the Conqueror. I guess you could go for any of the others too, but hell 25% discount on countries? With this style? You would be mad not to!!
I'm assuming that you have skipped the tutorial, got your first 4 staff, and you have opened a country with a single region. So you should have around 25k in the bank to start out. The first thing you will want to do is to invest in a property. It doesn't really matter which, you just want the most expensive property you can afford without risking bankruptcy. Also issue your first loan. The tactic at this point is to get the rewards from completing the tasks and flip those investments. After 3 loans do not issue any more, the value of these loans are negligible compared to flipping properties and it will tie your money up for multiple turns. You should notice though that as you purchase a property that the value is immediately higher. So you can either sell it again (useful for getting a little more money for a war or bank loan), or keep it a turn to receive a turn of it's resources and sell it again.
Why are we not holding onto the properties you say? This is twofold, firstly we want to get that money in as fast as possible. The market prices are affected by things I have no idea about at the moment so they are just as likely to stay where they are or lower on the nest turn as to rise (unless I guess you are doing diplomacy, although that also costs gold and is useless early game). So we are living of the profit from the sale after the initial increase. Secondly our money is not tied up in properties and at risk of being rendered useless for 5 turns and stopping our profits when war inevitably starts.
So the goal is to flip these properties, keep your assets liquid and start working up to around 50k. You will want to go for the investment increase of 10k by researching The Big Game in the scence tree to start out. If you want more info on this, look above. Make sure that if you get any wood or iron that you turn these into weapons for either extra cash if needed, or perhaps a little more importantly defence from attack.
Once you have around 50k you will want to open your first new country / region. You could do this through war (I think this is preferable as it will mean that you only spend 12k instead of 20k). To do this, get your relations up high enough with the country, and select the start war option. Select a neighbour and time to go liberate them, first though make sure that you don't have property in this region. War lasts 5 turns, and if you have started then from the point it starts all banking activities are suspended in that region. As this is the only one you have then you can do nack all for 5 turns. So make sure you have sold everything and you have that gold to hand.
Tactics for war is simple. We will make money from the investment that we put into the war by selling the property we receive that will have been boosted by our win. To do this, as you now have no property owned in that region then you will have a nice 40k or so that you can invest, which you converted to gold before you started the war. Simply invest that gold into the war, you can sell any weapons you have also if you like for a little additional boost (although I wouldn't really do this unless absolutely needed) and wait to win the war (assuming you invested more than the other country). You will see that whilst you invested around 40k for that war, that it's probably increased in value to closer to 50k. And that's how we will now make money.
However we don't have the licenses for all those countries that are at war in the current war tab. So you will look to get to a decent amount where you can invest that 32k (so around 50k - 60k gold at least). Then look at the wars and find one with a turn left, use the map to view that country and then buy the license if it's one you can afford. Invest, win the war, sell the property and profit. You'll find that as you do this you may not be getting far in the leaderboard at first, but you are opening regions and countries which means you are more likely to have a war started against you etc. It's a very good way to earn money I think.
As you carry on, you will be looking to slowly increase your HQ and depts. by unlocking the upgrades as you open more regions. Be careful starting out not to enter a region without enough money to then carry on investing, make sure you always have a decent cash reserve. Also be careful when upgrading too. I would say that the important ones to upgrade are your investment dept and your workshop, then diplomats and guards. I have yet to bother with the industry etc, I've not needed them with the flipping. You don't want to open a new country and then find that after being able to invest and flip 30k that you can now only do that with 8k. Or for the same to happen because you upgraded your buildings too much. Also be sure to upgrade your staff when you can, they will quickly become redundant as you get upgrades.
Also be sure that as soon as you can when you hit lvl 3 investment you also start to upgrade the region before you invest in a war. To do this, let's assume you own England. England has had war declared on them by France and Normandy is attacking Wessex. You can find the information on the country and region in the war interface (fiddly but possible). So because your investment dept is lvl 3 you can invest in a region in a country you own, assuming it's not on cooldown. So you could either upgrade a random (or not so random region) everytime it unlocks, or you can invest prior to a war. That's what we'll be doing, so because Wessex has 1 turn left before the battle, we go into the investment screen, select England and then choose Wessex, we invest all we can (probably around 1.6k at first) but that will then allow us to invest an additional 10k of so in the battle. The more investment the more profit!
One last thing to call out is the bank loans. These are also opened when you hit tier 3 for the credit dept. I would recommend that you start out looking for bank loans for perhaps a turn or 2 and loaning them, in the hopes that they default and go bankrupt. On the last play through, I loaned the Iron Bank around 42k at the start of the game. They couldn't pay, I profited and also took out the bank with the most mental starting bonus.
As you start to get more money, you should be rolling in it soon enough. You'll then be able to start getting involved with all the bank loans and the business loans too. So whilst the loans don't work at first, once you have enough cash to burn then why not?
Also don't forget your fear. You build that up quite quickly and the second row of perks, where you get resources can give you a really good boost when you sell those civilian goods at the exchange.
Finally all that is left for you to do is to decide how you win.
General Info and Tips
Starting out be careful not to bankrupt yourself either by overspending or by having all your property locked down due to war with no way to earn funds. This can happen early game if you have all your money tied up in property and then are the victim of war.
There's a lot of different property but mainly split to farms, industry and real estate. Farms and stone cutter industry are a little meh. Real estate or wood and iron industries can be useful early game but be careful that you are not caught out by war. I would buy a property (and sometimes sell right away again) but mainly I keep until the next turn and flip it. Later on in the game, you may want to get a good wood, iron or coal industry and keep for longer to build a stockpile of weapons.
This lists all the countries you have a permit for and based upon your relations with the country provide diplomatic actions. I've not used this too much, I haven't seen significant impact from negotiating growth in there so have not really used it. What could be useful is being able to lockdown competitors activities in a country, or to kick them out through revolution. I guess you could find which countries they operate in here easily (look at whether those skills are available or not) and then target their operations in a country through war or something like that.
You start with 1 investment action per turn available and can go up to 3 through upgrades within the science tree. Investing in a region also provides an investment opportunity up to a point. So you can use buy a property, invest in a region, and then buy another. This works multiple times to a point where you have to wait for another turn.