Friday, April 17, 2020

Wilderlands - City State Market Area

I realized after my last post that what ACKS considers the distances involved in trade routes, really don't reflect real world trade distances.  While the Spanish treasure armadas and Dutch spice trade are post-medieval examples, albeit still limited to wind and muscle technologies, the Silk Road shows the the flow of long distance trade as does the Roman Indian Ocean trade even earlier.  In fact, very long distance trade evidence goes back into the Bronze Age.

With those observations in mind, the ACKS trade rules do, I think, provide a useful scale for Market Area.  That is, the locations from which a city draws immigrants, as well as natural and agricultural resources and to which it regularly exports both it's own manufactures and items  obtained from trade outside the Market Area. 

Spherical Cows of Uniform Density
     One of the comments I received about the previous post was that the circles denoting trade routes were unrealistic.  Which is quite true, I just wasn't prepared to tackle it in the first post.  The circles defined the outer limits of trade in a perfect world where we assume roads run on flat plains in every direction, which the maps show to be a false assumption.   So lets start refining those assumptions.

ACKS lists Range of Trade (Roads) for Class I Markets as having a maximum distance of 168 miles or 28 six mile hexes.  The comes to 33.6, round it up to 34, five mile hexes from the Wilderlands maps.

Assumption:  This Range of Trade is for travel on a road.  That is a patrolled and maintained pathway which has features, such as bridges, cuttings, ferries, etc to facilitate travel across natural obstacles.  Off road travel distances are shorter.

ACKS Movement Multipliers
TerrainMultiplierTrade RangeHexes (Wilderlands)
Road or Clear Wide Trail*3/2168 miles34
Plains*1112 miles22
Desert, Hills, Woods*2/375 miles15
Jungles, Swamps, Mountains*1/256 miles11

All well and good, except that I need to handle trade routes crossing all of the terrain types.  So I'm going back to my roots in counter and hex war gaming and converting things to Movement Points.  Land based trade routes are 34 Movement Points in length, they spend MPs according to the following table.

Trade Route Terrain Movement Point Costs per hex
TerrainWith RoadWithout Road
Plains13MP every 2 hexes
Desert, Hills, Woods3MP every 2 hexes
Jungles, Swamps, Mountains2

     After installing Crouton and GIMP on my Chromebook, and converting the maps from PDF, plus a few hours of counting hexes - probably not completely consistently - here's the boundaries (black lines) and Market Area (red overlay) for the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

Click to Embiggen


  1. Hm, MP might not be a good way to calculate the impact of lack of roads on trade, because roads don't just increase speed - they also allow you to use carts and wagons, and so to transport larger cargo volumes for a given number of pack animals. ACKS' caravans (page 145) assume 4-horse wagons carrying 640 stone at 30' speed. A 40-horse caravan without wagons could carry half the weight at twice the speed, which I guess gets you the same amount of cargo flow per unit time, and wouldn't need roads. Hmm...

  2. Mostly MP makes hex counting easier when working at this scale. I'm certain there are a number of options that you could use.
    IRT off road movement, from Captain Marcy's manual (http://alesmiter.blogspot.com/2020/04/real-life-hexcrawl-manual.html?m=0) it's not the draft animal or the load that determines the distance traveled in a day, but the location of the next area where you can find water and forage for them. For myself, I expect to use a flat 15 miles/day when exact accounting of the distance marched doesn't matter and perhaps 3d8 to determine a day's march when it does.

    Thanks for reading, I'm glad you took the time to comment.

  3. That's a fair point; I read Marcy's manual a couple of weeks ago after reading your post and found it very interesting. Was considering writing a post about it myself but there was too much in there.

    One could almost see a Traveller-like system, where some hexes are marked with forage and water (like Traveller's gas giants, which can be used for refuelling but aren't available in all hexes). If using 6-mile hexes, having copious forage and water in 33-to-50% of hexes would give you one in every 2-3 hexes, for an average leg distance along any given route of 12-18 miles (and then you could change those availability percentages in different terrain types).

    If you intend to have daily travel distance depend primarily on forage and water availability, are you going to handle livestock encumbrance by having it injure them, then, instead of slowing them down?

    1. I'm pretty inconsistent at tracking encumbrance for characters - much less a mule train! What I'm taking away from using water and forage as the determinant for distance traveled, is that I don't have to track livestock speed or encumbrance at a strategic level. I can quickly count hexes or miles and tell players how long the party spends offstage, barring any random encounters, while moving cross country.

    2. Ahh that's definitely fair. Trying to track livestock encumbrance has been a hassle but I hadn't really considered cutting it. Interesting - I'll have to think about this.