Trade has a long and profitable history in the Civilization franchise, and that fact hasn’t changed much in Civilization: Beyond Earth. More or less lifting the trade system from Civilization V, Beyond Earth forces players to rely on both domestic and intercontinental trade to make ends meet. Success in the game overall, especially for players who do not rely on military campaigns to win, relies very much on forging successful trading relationships with other colonies.

Domestic Trade

The first form of trade in Beyond Earth, and by far the simpler of the two, is domestic. Domestic trade takes place between two cities that you own, and is referred to in-game as a City Connection. City Connections are forged whenever two cities are linked by a road or a magrail. More specifically, the cities must be linked to your capital. The more cities are linked to your capital, the more Energy you earn from City Connections. Consequently, it is wise to link cities via roads early in the game, and to maintain those roads by clearing / befriending Aliens and extending your colony’s sphere of influence over hexagons where they’ve been built. Cities built overseas from your capital require Harbors to create City Connections, so it’s wise to build your capital on a coastline whenever possible.

Because City Connections require roads and magrails, there is an inherent maintenance fee for City Connections. That said, the Energy you pull in from a string of City Connections far outweighs the cost of maintenance, so it’s always worth it to build roads, magrails, and Harbors. If maintenance is a concern, you can offset it by reaching Level Three in the Supremacy Affinity, which negates maintenance costs for roads and magrails.

A magrail, running south through the countryside from a major city. Magrails provide City Connections, resulting in more income.
A magrail, running south through the countryside from a major city.
Magrails provide City Connections, resulting in more income.
International Trade

Though domestic trade is important and profitable, it’s also slow-growing. You won’t see instant results, and you’ll need more cash in the meantime to bolster your colony’s Energy stores. This is where international trade comes in, in the form of Trade Routes.

Each city begins life with zero Trade Routes, and, thus, can have no trading partners. Once you construct a Trade Depot (via the Pioneering tech) in that city, however, it instantly gains two Trade Routes. These Trade Routes can thereafter be used to forge strong, economic connections with foreign cities or stations through the use of trade units. There are two types of trade units:
  • The first are Trade Caravans. Trade Caravans travel exclusively across the land to reach foreign cities. They can be purchased in any city with a Trade Depot.
  • The second are Trade Vessels. Trade Vessels travel exclusively across the water to reach foreign cities. They can only be purchased in cities with a Trade Depot that are on a coastline. (Because, you know, boats.)
Assuming there is an open Trade Route in the city where the trade unit is constructed, it will immediately fill that Route. If not, you can instantly reassign units to other cities to fill their Trade Routes instead.

The Establish Trade Route menu. The top city is domestic; the bottom is foreign. Note the differences in trade output.
The Establish Trade Route menu. The top city is domestic;
the bottom is foreign. Note the differences in trade output.
Once a trade unit is ready to go, click the Establish Trade Route button in its status window (bottom-left corner of the screen). This will open the Establish Trade Route window, displaying the cities with which the unit can form a trade connection. Choosing a city will then send the unit into action, along the quickest route to the chosen city, indicated on the map as a flowing series of arrows. Until the trade unit completes this route twice, you will receive passive bonuses to your resources. Once the trade unit has completed its mission you will have to choose a new Trade Route (or renew the old one, which will be marked in the Establish Trade Route window).

The effects of using a Trade Route vary, depending on the city:
  • If you make a connection with a foreign city, you will receive a passive bonus to your Energy and Science output. The target city will receive a similar bonus.
  • If you make a connection with one of your own cities, you will receive a passive bonus to your Food and Production output for both cities.
  • If you make a connection with a station, you will receive the bonus indicated in the station’s status window. Continuing to trade with this station will upgrade its bonus output, to a maximum of three tiers worth of bonuses.
  • If you make a connection with one of your settlements, you’ll make it grow 50% more quickly.
  • Trade Routes and trade units are among the most important elements to a successful game of Beyond Earth, as they’ll allow you to grow your economy and remain on par with your opponents. Consequently, you should move early to establish Trade Depots in all of your cities, even if that means outright purchasing them. The long-term benefits outweigh short-term purchase costs (and they aren’t terribly expensive after a while anyway).
A Trade Route heading out to sea. Notice that it avoids the tile covered in Miasma.
A Trade Route heading out to sea. Notice that it avoids the tile covered in Miasma.
Are there caveats? Of course there are:
  • Though trade units move instantly from one of your cities to another when filling a Trade Route, they must physically move across the map when actively engaged in trading. This means they are exposed to Aliens and hostile units. (On the plus side, when you are at war, you can Plunder a Trade Route for a ton of Energy by sending a combat unit onto the same space as a trade unit.)
  • Trade units can only establish Trade Routes with cities that have a Trade Depot. You may have to wait a while before you get lots of options for trading. Stations are a good alternative for the first hundred turns or so.
  • The amount of resources offered through trade increase not only based on the developmental level of the city, but on how far away it is on the map. Consequently, Trade Routes to far-away cities may seem more profitable (and they are), but the risks of sending your trade units along such long paths undefended grow with every hexagon they have to cross. Try not to establish Trade Routes with cities that are on the other side of the planet… or at least not until you’ve gone a long way towards culling the planet of Aliens.
  • Trade units - Caravans, specifically - will not go through tiles containing Miasma. You’ll need to clear the tile of Miasma before the Caravan can use it. Depending on the route, this can completely eliminate some cities as trading partners.
  • You do not need Open Borders with a trading partner to establish a Trade Route. That said, Trade Routes are immediately cut off if you get into a war with one of your trading partners. Depending on how deeply you rely on said colony, this could serve to cripple your Energy income.
A Trade Route leading to a station. Stations make good early game trading partners.
A Trade Route leading to a station. Stations make good early game trading partners.
Trading Tips

For the most part, international trading is pretty straightforward. Send trade units, reap benefits. Right? Well, as with most things in Civilization, trading is not that simple. Here are some things to keep in mind when formulating your trading policy:
  • While it’s smart to establish Trade Depots in most (if not all) of your cities, there’s not always a point to filling up all of the available Trade Routes right away. Only purchase a trade unit if you know it has somewhere to go.
  • When choosing a city with whom to trade, check the route the trade unit would be forced to travel. If they go through dangerous territory, consider sending them to a less dangerous city instead.
  • Unless you have no other choice, don’t bother sending trade units to nearby cities. The returns are typically quite scant, and not worth the time.
  • On the flip side, only trade with nearby stations. Distance makes no difference to the profitability of these Trade Routes, and completing the Route quickly will raise the station’s bonus tiers to the maximum early in the game.
  • Emphasize trade with foreign cities over your own. Food and Production only benefit the two cities involved in the trading process; Energy and Science, on the other hand, can be used for the benefit of everyone in your colony.
  • Keep track of your Trade Routes when considering a war. Wars cut off trade between opponents, and you can destroy your economy by choosing the wrong target.
  • Be careful when clearing Miasma to establish a Trade Route. Some colonies (namely, those jerks with the Harmony Affinity) actually like Miasma, and may actively cultivate the stuff. AI opponents in particular get snippy if you clear Miasma near their territory, and you might cause an international incident by continuing to do so.
  • Last, despite the incredible bonuses to Energy, never rely only on trade for your coin. Trade networks can crumble in the span of a turn, and unless you have a huge surplus of Energy at the ready - or, perhaps, other means of generating the stuff - your colony may abruptly go down the toilet if you get into a war or lose multiple trade units through other means. This article will help you find other ways of earning Energy.