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SimCity Strategy Guides




Trading is arguably the easiest of the SimCity specialisations, it is also integral to success in the mining, petroleum and electronics industries (you can accomplish great things using just the small trade depot, but the trade port is an enormously helpful upgrade).

The following sections can be found in this article:

  • Unlocking the Trade HQ
  • Upgrading the Trade HQ
  • Delivery Problems & Supply Chains
  • Sickness & Productivity
  • There is a complete listing of the natural resources of each of the base game cities in the following article:

  • Natural Resources Listed by City
  • Unlocking the Trade HQ

    The Trade HQ requires a Town Hall in the region, 3 different storage lots at a Trade Depot (coal, oil and raw ore are immediately available) and a trade profit of $72,000 per day. You can use any commodities to generate trade profit. $72,000 per day is approximately to any one of the following (I have assumed the standard pre-global market trading price):

    120 tons of coal
    120 tons of ore
    9,600 barrels of oil
    3000 crates of plastic
    20 tons of metal
    12 tons of alloy

    A single coal or ore mine, or the oil well, can generate near enough this quantity with all expanded modules in a single day, however having two should compensate for any weaknesses in your delivery network. Although you can create trade profit using the recycling center, even if you only produce alloy, it will manage a relatively small quantity and works very inefficiently.

    Upgrading the Trade HQ

    There are 3 possible upgrades for the Trade HQ. Once you upgrade the building you can add either the Electronics Division ($500,000), the Metals Division ($200,000) or the Petroleum Division ($400,000). Which you choose to add first will probably depend upon which type of raw material you are generating, however, it is also important to consider the upgrade options on the associated HQ for that industry. These are expensive modules and are quite difficult to obtain, so there's no point in duplication!

    All Trade HQ upgrades will unlock the advanced Trade Port. This is much bigger and more expensive than the trade depot, but the cargo ship and railway modules are a huge help avoiding the problem of delivery trucks being stuck on the regional highway. In spite of being larger, it takes up less space because you can have one trade port for every 5 trade depots effectively. You can also add 6 storage lots to it instead of just 4!

    Trade HQ Upgrade #1: $250,000

    To upgrade the HQ the first time you will need a little more than double the quantity of raw materials you sold to place it. This can be bad news if oil is your only commodity as you'll need 3 oil wells working at nearly full capacity as well as a coherent supply chain. Quite a lot of the cities with oil don't have an especially large area of oil present which doesn't support many wells.

    Having problems?

    Trade is by far the easiest to meet the first daily profit requirement because $250,000 for the first upgrade is the lowest of all the commodities HQ buildings. If you're failing to get anywhere near that quantity then consider the following:

  • Did you place a mine or two or an oil well as an after-thought in your city? Select each one to see how much raw material they are producing.
  • If your mines/wells are fully upgraded, do you also have the full compliment of delivery trucks?
  • Is the receiving trade depot within a reasonable distance of your mines/wells? Does it have enough capacity for the goods you produce or is it constantly full?
  • Are your depot delivery trucks getting stuck in traffic on the regional highway. Like freight vehicles, they create income only when they return to the trade depot. Check your trading data map to see where your trucks are
  • It's no good tucking in a mine or a well as an after-thought and expecting to make this, or any future upgrades to your HQ. Find out where your resources are and expand your extraction business! If you mine just a little bit here and there, not only will you not progress, but you'll also waste precious resources doing a half-arsed job!

    Trade HQ Upgrade #2: $750,000

    You will need to generate ten times the quantity of profit from commodities as you did to unlock the HQ. If you are selling coal, you will need to multiply the number of mine shafts by 10, same for ore, same for oil. This may not be possible, of course, if you simply don't have that much in your city!

    If you do have additional areas of resource you can dig up, then expanding your mining/drilling accordingly should generate sufficient profit, provided that you can maintain the deliveries without hiccups. You will likely need more storage too.

    If you cannot expand your mining and drilling operations to create sufficient raw materials, then processing them into higher value commodities is really the only way to secure more trade profit. For this you will need the HQ for the type of commodity you are processing AND you'll need to upgrade it to unlock the higher level processing buildings.

  • The Smelting Division of the Metals HQ unlocks the Smelting Factory - you can produce metal and alloy from ore / coal
  • The Refining Division of the Petroleum HQ unlocks the Refinery - you can turn crude oil into plastic / fuel
  • The Consumer Electronics Division of the Electronics HQ unlocks the Consumer Electronics Factory which allows you to turn plastic and alloy along with processors, into TVs / Computers
  • Assuming the 'standard' price for each commodity you will need to generate approximately the following materials in order to make $750,000 daily profit:

    1200 tons of coal
    1200 tons of ore
    96,000 barrels of oil
    3,000 crates of plastic
    200 tons of metal
    120 tons of alloy

    Obviously if you have to import any of the raw materials, either because you have run out or didn't have any in the first place, that import cost will be subtracted from any profit you make. If you have coal, but have to import ore at $5300 per 10 tons, then every 10 tons of alloy will make you $42,000 but it will cost you $10600.

    Either way, generating $750,000 trade profit from whatever you produce is going to require plenty of investment (and of course workers). You will need multiple factories generating processed commodities from raw materials in order to successfully complete this upgrade.

    Trade HQ Upgrade #3: $2,000,000

    In order to meet this profit requirement you would need to generate the following quantites of the commodities (remember these are approximate, assuming a standard pre global market price).

    3350 tons of coal
    3780 tons of ore
    222,500 barrels of oil
    9,530 crates of plastic
    635 tons of metal
    477 tons of alloy

    Selling the raw materials (coal, ore and oil) becomes largely unsustainable at this point (at least that has been my experience in my cities). Either it is simply not possible to add in more mines / wells because all the available areas are covered in them, or the resources themselves are starting to run out. Either way, the extraction rates of the mines and wells is limited, there's only so much you can get out of the ground in a day. The advanced coal mine can extract enormous quantities of coal, three mines could dig up enough to meet this requirement, but of course they will also run down supplies much faster. You could very easily fall short and then find you have run out entirely.

    The obvious tactic then is to expand your processing to create higher level commodities. Generating large profits becomes considerably easier if you opt to move your specialisation to into Electronics to create tier 2 and 3 processed commodities, but this can be a hard specialisation to set up in a dirty and possibly not very well educated mining town.

    For more information:

  • Mining
  • Oil
  • Electronics
  • Store & Flood

    A common suggestion for getting to the demanding level 3 upgrades, is to set your storage depots to 'use locally' until they are full of the products you want to sell. Once the clock hits midnight, set them to export.

    This tactic certainly can make all the difference if your production falls short of the amount required, however it does require available delivery trucks and clear roads (or rail / shipping connections on your trade ports). If your trucks spend half the night trying to get back into the city then you won't benefit from the extra goods. It also requires your city not to go bankrupt whilst you wait for goods to accumilate. This can be challenging if your city budget runs consistently in the red.

    Delivery Problems & Supply Chains

    Chances are if you've got plenty of mines, factories etc, but you are struggling to upgrade your Trade HQ (or in fact any other commodities HQ's), then chances are it's because you have a problem with the trading mechanism itself.

    Enough Storage

    Do the trade depots have enough storage for the materials you are producing? If they are constantly full then maybe adding more storage is the answer, either by adding another storage lot or opening another trade depot.

    Enough delivery trucks

    Do you have enough delivery vehicles? If your mines have storage full issues often then they do not have enough vehicles. Your trade depots will also need enough vehicles in order to take the materials out and take them off into the region to sell them to the global market (apparently).

    Of course if every mine and depot has the maximum number of vehicles, then things do get a bit more complicated! Use the trade data map to look for your trade vehicles. I recommend watching them for a while to see if they are getting stuck in traffic or if there are areas of your road network that could be made more efficient to bring trucks between depots and mines faster (if you have oil wells you can use their service road to create a network of additional roads that only trade vehicles can use).

    Stuck in traffic

    If your trading empire is turning into a disaster because of traffic on the regional highway then opening up a trade port really is the best solution (requires a railway connection or an area of coast / river). A trade port with a railway or shipping dock will make regular deliveries and without any road trucks, will not contribute to your city traffic, or get stuck in it. This is all well and good - but what if you can't unlock the trade port with the correct storage lots until you've made the next upgrade - the one you can't make because your delivery trucks are stuck in traffic?

    Some options to try are deleting the ends of roads that join the main city exit and which join the critical routes your trucks use. This won't lessen the traffic, but it will reduce the number of intersections which hinders traffic flow. Try de-zoning and clearing areas along side main routes and those with too much traffic. Move any 'attractive' city buildings that generate significant traffic, i.e. schools, event centers. Add mass transit, or expand the mass transit options you already use.

    If all else fails I recommend a total city-wide shut down, including all your mines. Raise taxes and clear everyone out of your city. Use the money raised to re-assess your city layout, making sure your trading supply chains are linked together well and there are as few traffic generating buildings between them and the highway. Splitting your trading routes and your general city routes up takes up more space, but the less time delivery vehicles need to sit in queues, the better.

    For more information:

  • Government: Understanding Data Maps
  • Roads & Mass Transit: Overview
  • Insufficient Raw Materials

    Imbalances or shortages of raw materials can easily mess up higher level processed commodities trading. If you keep running out of raw materials then your factories can't produce, however they will still cost money to run.

    Keeping supply chains in balance can be quite tricky. Having one coal mine and two ore mines will perfectly supply a Smelting Factory with the 1:2 ratio of materials it needs to produce alloy. But what if you start running out of coal? You will need to either import it, or you could consider simply exporting what is left of your supplies, and producing metal at the Smelting Factory instead, the earnings will probably be much the same.

    Supply chains become especially critical with the Electronics specialisation, so it's even more important to think carefully about where your raw materials are generated, where they are stored, how they are distributed, whether or not the balance of tier 2 materials is sufficient. One refinery producing plastic and one smelter producing alloy cannot produce enough material to consistently supply both a processor factory AND a factory that makes computers unless you ensure each has a proportional number of modules.

    For more information:

  • Mining
  • Oil
  • Electronics
  • Sickness & Productivity

    An unpleasant byproduct of mining industries, and to a lesser extent, oil drilling, is pollution. Aside from making a sticky horrible brown mess all over your city, it will also make Sims sick. Sickness is a particular issue for commodities specialisation of all three types, because factories whose workers are sick will be less productive, meaning the output of materials will be reduced from the potential maximum.

    Unfortunately there's no way to control sickness, or ground pollution (adding parks will only reduce air pollution by a small quantity). The best you can do to is to ensure that there are clinics / hospitals in accessible areas in your extraction areas, or on entrance / exit routes where workers come from nearby homes. It is worth mentioning that pesky old 'side of the street' problem (i.e. Sims will only walk across roads at intersections), because if your clinic or hospital is on the other side of the road from your coal mine, you may find that workers don't use it because they have to travel too far out of the way in order to get to the nearest end of the road.

    For more information:

  • Healthcare
  • Healthcare: Pollution & Germs
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