The Merchant House

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The Merchant House is a new Nation type, like an Open Empire, Secret Empire or Religious Primate. It represents the great mercantile cartels and companies of the late Renaissance and the age of Imperialism. The primary emphasis of a Merchant House is to develop a world-spanning web of trade contacts, monopolies and eventually political power that enable it to shake the foundations of the great Nations and direct their policies to its own ends.

It’s about money, really. A Merchant House is not geared towards fighting a land war in Asia. It exists in a symbiotic relationship with the Open Empires, providing them with services and receiving various trade concessions in turn. Since the Merchant does not have access to a large source of manpower (and what manpower it does receive will doubtless go into ships to protect and expand its trade routes) it is vulnerable to the greater military power of the Open Empires. However, a Merchant House can generate more money from trade and the local economies than can an Open Empire.

Playing a Merchant House also requires much more skill at diplomacy and cunning than a raw Empire throwing armies around the world. Various trade arrangements and pacts will need to be established if the Merchant House is to flourish and expand.

Founding Merchant Houses

A Merchant House is founded when a player requests to start one and the GM agrees. A new Merchant Houses commences with a Home Office in a suitable city (preferably a port), one leader, 50gp and 25nfp. A city is suitable if it is uncontrolled or the nation or nations controlling it are favorable to the creation of a Home Office there. The new Merchant House will share the religion and language dominant in the city.

Merchant House Leader Types

Merchant Houses are allowed the following Leader Types: King, Prince, Lieutenant, Ally, Bishop and Mercenary.

As they do not have Heir-type Leaders, when the King dies, the surviving Princes contest amongst themselves to succeed him, using their Charisma ability.

Allied and Mercenary Leaders cannot perform any of the Merchant Actions that create a Merchant House Control Status.

Powers of the Merchant House

Like Secret Empires or Religious Primacies, Merchant Houses have a number of special capabilities that set them apart from the more mundane world of the Open Empire. These capabilities are:

  • Monopolies
  • Colonies
  • Cartel Trade
  • Mercenary Brokerage
  • Trading Via Road Networks
  • Divisional Offices

Controlling Monopolies

A Merchant House can establish one or more Monopolies in Nations (Open Empires) that it associates with. Each monopoly represents the control of a specific portion of the National economy, like the trade in salt, or slaves or amber or grain. A Monopoly, once established, effectively transfers a Trade Value point from the Nation to the Merchant.

Controlling one or more Monopolies also improves the competitive ability of the Merchant House: each Nation granting the House at least one Monopoly increases the National Market Value of the House by 0.01.

Note! This means that if you’re looking to improve your NMV, you want monopolies from multiple nations.

Each nation is worth a certain number of Monopolies, in total, equal to the square-root of its total Trade Value, rounded up. Therefore if a nation has a Trade Value of, say, eight, then the number of Monopolies that could be established within its economy is three (2.8 rounded up). Each successfully established Monopoly reduces the Trade Value of the Nation by one and increases the Trade Value of the Merchant by one.

Monopoly Calc.JPG

M is the number of possible monopolies (rounded up).

TV is the Trade Value of the nation granting the monopolies.

Establishing a Monopoly can be achieved in one of two ways:

  • The Nation in question can grant the Merchant House a monopoly within its borders in return for services rendered, or cold hard cash, or a cut in the action as a result. This arrangement is purely between the players of the Nation and the Merchant. The granting Nation can revoke a ‘granted’ Monopoly at any time. A variant of this kind of Monopoly acquisition is where a Nation is forced to grant a Monopoly as part of a peace settlement between the Merchant (or its allies) and the Nation.
  • The second kind of Monopoly is one acquired via the Acquire Monopoly action, where the Merchant seizes control of a Monopoly through purely economic means. This kind of Monopoly is much harder to achieve than the first, but cannot be ‘expelled’ by the Nation at its whim. An acquired Monopoly can only be removed by the Nation executing a successful Nationalize Monopoly action. In this event the Trade Value represented by the Monopoly is destroyed and the Monopoly is removed.
Example: The Khemer East Africa company has its eye on the trade in slaves and gold coming out of the Ethiopian highlands, an area that is controlled by the Lion Kingdom of Judah. The Khemer, however, are a Renaissance nation and the Judah are only Civilized. Why, they barely have gunpowder — foolish savages!

So the Khemer approach the Judah king and offer him several shiploads of cannons and powder in exchange for monopolies on gold and slaves. The Judah nation has a Trade Value of 16, so there are (16 ^½ = 4) possible monopolies to be acquired. The Judah, desiring the guns, agree and fork over 2 monopolies (and two of their own trade value points) to the KEAC. The KEAC trade value is increased by two as a result, and the Judah trade value is reduced to 14. For the moment, anyway, both sides are satisfied.

Establishing Colonies

In addition to the normal methods of establishing Colonies a Merchant House may also attempt to establish colonies through the Establish Colony action. By this means a Combine attempts to establish a new Colony in any qualifying region or city:

  • The colony site must be within (Trade Range) Action Points of the Home Office, a Cartel City, a Colony, or a region or city controlled by the House at Tributary or better.
  • The colony site must either be uninhabited or only shared with a Pre-Columbian, Nomadic or Barbarian culture while there are unconverted GPv left. If it has a Civilised, Renaissance or Industrial population then one of the conventional methods of colonization must be employed instead.
  • No other open Merchant House, Renaissance or Civilized statuses can exist in the region.

Unlike the colonies established by Open Nations, however, Mercantile Colonies do not necessarily require the expenditure of NFP to settle them. In most circumstances, it will take more than one turn to complete the Merchant Colony. It will be recorded as a Project and the location status given as Mercantile Colony (MCL) until it is completed and becomes of Friendly status.

Settling a region (either inhabited or uninhabited) costs 50 GP and 25 NFP per GPv. A Merchant House may acquire the NFP for a Colony via Project Recruitment or expend its own NFP in establishing a colony.

If the region is uninhabited or has been depopulated then the first 50 GP and 25 NFP creates the first level of colonization as a ( 0 / n ) region. It is then subject to the normal constraints for the maximum GPv it can be colonized to and is only complete when colonized to that maximum.

If the region is inhabited then all the native GPv must be replaced before the Merchant Colony is complete. Unlike the result of the Colonize Inhabited Region action the location then has the language and the religion of the colonizers and the status of Friendly.

Example: The Khemer East Africa Company decides that it wants to expand into new, raw material rich, areas in South Africa. The present culture in that area is Pre-Columbian, so even though there are populated regions along the coast the KEAC can settle the regions directly. A Leader, Lord Prahvarata, is sent with a small fleet down into the region of Transkei off of the Cape Francis sea zone. He lands and attempts an Establish Colony action. By good luck, this succeeds. He has brought 25 NFP and 50 GP with him on his fleet, so this converts one of the two GPv of the province.

Cartel Trade

Since a Merchant House is more efficient than an Open Nation at conducting trade (well, in the majority of cases...) it may make financial and political sense for a Merchant to handle the Sea Trade being conducted between a pair of Open Nations. In this case the Merchant House provides all of the Merchant Shipping for one of the nations involved and receives the proceeds of that trade (for their Cartel partner).

The Merchant’s NMV, MSP, Trade Range and Conduits are used in place of the Nation that it is replacing the shipping for in this case. The nation whose trade is being handled is called the Cartel Nation hereafter. The other trade partner is called the Target nation.

The Merchant House opening (or accepting) a cartel trade route must have a Branch Office status or better in the port-of-origin cities of both the Cartel and the Target nation. This represents the considerable time and effort needed to interact with the trade and port authorities of both nations.

If the necessary status is lost then the Merchant House must have a replacement Branch Office status or better in another port of the nation - this becomes the new port-of-origin - by the end of the following turn. If this is not in place the Cartel Trade Route collapses (and reverts to a purely national trade route, if feasible) because there is insufficient clerical effort for the paperwork.

As the Merchant House can only carry trade in one direction, the other party (not the Cartel partner) in the trade may wish to negotiate other benefits for allowing the House to maintain a Branch in their territory. This might take the form of the Merchant House running Cartel Trade to another nation for them, a cut in the profits or some other advantage… Making deals is all part of the life of a Merchant House.

Example: The AEIC wants to establish cartel trade between Danish India (from Schwarzkastel) to Ethiopia (via the port of Gozer). The AEIC must have a Branch Office or better in both Schwarzkastel and in Gozer. Note the MSP for this route may be based at any AEIC port with capacity.

There are a number of advantages to cartel trade:

  • The Merchant House NMV is usually higher than regular nation NMV allowing more gold to be squeezed from the route!
  • Merchant House Trade Ranges are generally higher than regular nations, allowing fewer MSP to carry more trade, which also increases revenues.
  • Due to the Merchant Houses’ trade network a cartel trade route may be the only way for two regular nations to trade with one another, also increasing revenue.

The disadvantages are in the realm of coordination between the Merchant and the cartel Nation, of figuring out what the Merchant House cut is, and redistributing the gold produced by this trade. These responsibilities fall upon the Merchant House player to handle.

Additional Restrictions include:

  • Trade between any nation and a Merchant House cannot be carried by another Merchant House.
  • Land trade between adjacent nations cannot be carried by a Merchant House.
  • A Merchant House may only handle one Nation’s trade on a given trade route, not both!
  • If the Cartel nation revokes Cartel Trade rights to a route, that route reverts to the Cartel nation. Cartel Trade rights can be assigned to a different Merchant House on the following turn (or thereafter).
  • When a Merchant House takes over another Nations’ trade route(s) for the purposes of Cartel Trade, the MSP for the route must be based at a port city where the Merchant House has sufficient free capacity.

The gold generated by Cartel Trade goes to the Merchant House at the end of the turn. The Merchant must then figure out how much to give to the Cartel Nation, who gets it the next turn. This one-turn delay may be a disadvantage.

Transfer of MSP

MSP transferred from an Open Nation to a Merchant House for Cartel Trade is exempt from the usual halving of transferred units. In this case, since the Open Nation is making a business arrangement for the carriage of trade, the MSP on a transferred route (if there are any) are shifted directly, without conversion, to the Merchant House.

Mercenary Brokerage

A Merchant House may also become the broker for mercenaries operating in their area. When this occurs, players wishing to hire mercenaries must negotiate with the House instead of bidding directly on the mercenaries themselves. The Merchant house shoulders the responsibility of feeding and equipping the mercenaries.

To acquire this business, a Merchant Leader must succeed in an Establish Mercenary Brokerage action in a specific geographic area (which corresponds to the Merc Pool). Thereafter, the Merchant House must pay the mercs at least the minimum of 0.5 GP per unit per turn, or more if they are hired out, and have a Cartel City or Home Office in the geographic area to manage the brokerage.

Should the Merchant ever fail to pay this minimal support, they will lose their Broker’s rights and will have a substantial number of angry mercenaries to deal with! This will also happen whenever a Merchant House player fails to turn in orders for a turn. If a Merchant House has no Cartel City or Home Office in the geographic area then from the beginning of the next turn it loses the brokerage for all the mercenaries in the Pool, save for those serving outside the geographic area in a zone where the Merchant House has one or more Cartel Cities or its Home Office. Those mercenaries then transfer to the Mercenary Pool where they are currently operating.

Of course, another Merchant House can always attempt to steal this lucrative trade from whoever is the current broker. Ah, the price of business!

Adjusting Mercenary Pool Composition

A Merchant House that acts as broker for a mercenary pool may adjust the composition of the pool by rebuilding the units therein at their own cost. For example, a pool with 20i may be converted into 10c and 10i if the broker house pays the cost to build 10c.

Hiring Mercenaries from a Broker

Certain areas have a Hiring Contact for the mercenaries. If there is a Hiring Contact, those wishing to hire mercs must contact that player to make a bid for the mercenaries, otherwise, the bid will be ignored. Note also that mercenaries must be hired at a City within the Geographical Zone covered by the Mercenary Pool. If a group of mercenaries move out of their Regional area into another, they may be hired at the location they ended the previous turn.

Breaking a Brokerage Agreement

An unfriendly Merchant House may attempt to disrupt an existing Brokerage agreement by attempting an Establish Mercenary Brokerage action (EMB) of its own.

If successful, the existing agreement is broken, removing the other Merchant Houses’ control of the Pool. On a following turn, the ‘attacking’ Merchant House must succeed at a second EMB action to acquire a new agreement with the Mercenary Pool.

Note that this requires at least two turns of activity and two separate, successful, EMB actions.

Defending against a hostile EMB is effected by attempting an EMB on a Pool you already control. Note however, that a particularly bad failure at protecting your own Pool will cause the Mercenaries (who are by nature fickle creatures) to revert to non-agreement status.

Trading Via Royal Road & Railroad Networks

While Open Nations are restricted to only trading with adjacent land neighbors, Merchant Houses may take advantage of Royal Road and/or Railroad networks to trade through one or more Nations to another, which may be land-locked and otherwise barred from trade.

To open an Overland Trade Route, the following conditions must be met:

  • A contiguous Royal Road or Railroad must link the capital of the landlocked power to a port city, from which a sea trade route must exist that reaches the Home Office of the Merchant House (unless, of course, the port city is itself the Home Office). Or the Royal Road / RR may connect the Home Office directly to the land-locked capital. A contiguous Royal Road or Railroad may be comprised of any combination of individual Royal Road or Railroad links.
  • The Merchant House must have at least a Branch Office in the Capital of the land-locked trading partner and at least a Merchant Factor (or better) in each city through which the Royal Road / RR passes to reach the capital of the land-locked power.
  • The Nation(s) controlling the intervening area (cities and regions through which the Royal Road or Railroad passes) must give their explicit permission to the Merchant House to carry this trade through their demesne. Of course, such a Nation may choose to levy a tax on this trade…
  • The length of the land-bound (Royal Road / RR) portion of the trade route cannot be longer (in AP) than the Trade Range of the Merchant House, divided by two (2).

When the Trade Route is established it will appear as a Sea Trade route with a Distance equal to the AP necessary to reach from the port city to the land-bound capital, plus any Sea Zones necessary to reach from the port city to the Home Office.

Only the Merchant House may allocate MSP (in this case, not only ships, crews and warehouses, but pack animals, drovers, caravan masters, etc.) to the overland trade route.

Division Headquarters

A Merchant House having:

  • Two or more BL
  • Two or more Infra
  • One or more cities controlled at Cartel City status

May designate one appropriate qualifying Cartel City within the effective Control Web of the Home Office (by land or sea), as a division headquarters.

Once the Division Headquarters is designated, pairs of BL and Infra may be transferred from the Home Office to the Division Headquarters by paying the “Moving Your Capital” cost for each pair of points, as noted in Base Rulebook section [10.1.3].

BL and Infra must be transferred in pairs (1 BL + 1 Infra).

Upon the loss of a Lieutenant due to Leader death, a new Lieutenant is generated at either the Home Office or the Division Headquarters, whichever is closer to the location where the Lieutenant died.

Only Lieutenants are replaced in this way. All other Leaders (King, Heir, Prince) appear at the Home Office.

The Division Headquarters may also be used as an endpoint for trade routes. The Trade Route distance of such a ‘subordinate’ route is equal to the distance from the trade partner to the division headquarters and then to the Home Office.

Should the Home Office be lost due to enemy action or the destruction of the host city, the Division Headquarters automatically becomes the new Home Office.

In the event of the Merchant House suffering a Dynastic Failure/Civil War of some kind, it is very likely the Division Headquarters will revolt, founding a new Merchant House.

House Control Levels

Merchant Houses are not restricted in the kinds of control that they may exert over cities and regions controlled by them. They may have all of the usual control types (Allied, Tributary, Friendly and so on) but you should be aware, as a player, that the Imperial Size modifier for a Merchant House is quite high. As a result, it is not likely to be cost effective for a House to control large territories — unless the House has grown very rich and can afford the Infrastructure.

There are, however, some special control status’s that apply only to Mercantile Houses:

Table 7-1. Merchant House Control Statuses

Control Status Code Taxes Agro NFP Trade? Base?
Merchant Agent ma 0.10 0.00 No Yes Yes
Merchant Factory mf 0.20 0.10 No Yes Yes
Branch Office bo 0.30 0.20 No Yes Yes
Cartel City ci 0.40 0.30 Yes Yes Yes
Home Office ho 0.50 0.40 Yes Yes Yes
Merchant Colony mcl 1.00 1.00 Yes Yes Yes

Taxes This is the taxation percentage that the Merchant House receives of the Regional or City GPv and Public Works and affects Industrial Capacity.

Agro This is the rate at which a given status produces and consumes Agro.

NFP? Indicates whether the Merchant House receives any NFP from the location / control status. Cartel Cities do not provide as much NFP as does a Home Office.

Trade? Indicates whether the location under this control status adds to the International Trade Value of the Merchant House. Base? Indicates whether a Port City containing one of these statuses can provide harborage for House merchant shipping points. Only a Branch Office status (or better) can serve as a Conduit Anchor.

Note that Merchant Houses are creatures of cities, and efforts to create Control Statuses in regions suffer a negative modifier. In addition, only Agents, Factories, Branch Offices and Colonies may be created in the provinces (regions). Cartel Cities and the Home Office must be in a city.

As with Secret Empires and Religious Primacies, a Merchant House control status can only increase one level per turn. So, you cannot establish a Cartel City directly — you must have first acquired an Agent, then created a Factory, then expanded that operation to a Branch Office before attempting to create a Cartel City.

The tax rate of a Merchant House, even with a census in effect, may be affected by a shortfall of Infrastructure if it grows too large. Its control status rates of Agro production or consumption are very low, but still present. Merchant Houses must pay Agro to support troop units, ships, cities and their fortifications. Their tax rate may also be driven down by famine.

Mercantile Agent

The Agent (ma) is the first level of control status that a Merchant House can exert on a given city or province. It represents a local office and a minimal network of contacts, arrangements and interest. Some revenue is generated by the Agent’s local dealings. No NFP are produced. An Agent can serve as a base for Intel activities.

An Agent may be acquired in either a region or a city.

An Agent does not interfere with any Open Nation control statuses that may exist in the city, and can coexist with up to ten (!) Agents of other Mercantile Houses.

Merchant Factory

The Factory (or Factor) (mf) is the second level of control status that a Merchant House can exert on a given city or province. It represents a local office, warehouses and a growing network of contacts, arrangements and interest. Some revenue is generated by the Factory’s local dealings. No NFP are produced. A Factory can serve as a base for Intel activities.

A Factory can be established in either a region or a city.

A Factory does not interfere with any Open Nation control status’s that may exist in the city, and can coexist with up to three Factories of other Merchant Houses.

Branch Office

A Branch Office (bo) represents a more substantial interest in the local economy. The revenues from local operations are increased and the possibility of acquiring a Monopoly from the host nation is opened up. Like a Factor, a Branch Office can serve as a base for Intel operations and as a location for hiring Mercenaries.

A Branch Office may be established in a region or city.

A Branch Office does not interfere with the control statuses that an Open Nation may have in respect to the location. A Branch Office may coexist with either two Factors of other Merchant Houses or one other Branch Office. A Branch Office in a Port City allows the House to use the city as a Conduit Anchor.

Cartel City

A Cartel City (ci) is restricted, as the name implies, to Cities only. With this level the Merchant House has assumed essentially direct economic control over the city government. The city counts for the Combine’s Trade Value and the majority of the revenues and a portion of the NFP produced by the city are collected by the House. Military and Political administration of the city may still be retained by an Open Nation.

A Cartel City can also serve as a base for Intel operations, Merchant Shipping Points and hiring Mercenaries. Cartel City status cannot coexist with any other Merchant House status, even the measly Agents of another House.


A Colony (mcl) is the special, intermediate case of a region being settled by the Merchant House. The revenue, if any, that it produces is entirely gathered by the House. So too are any NFP that are produced by the Colony. A Colony may only share a control status in the region with a Pre-Columbian, Nomadic or Barbarian culture while there are unconverted GPv left. No other Mercantile Combine or Renaissance or Civilized statuses can exist in the region.

Home Office

The Home Office (ho) is the cornerstone of the Merchant House. It serves as the focus for the entire operation, as well as the origin of the Homeland Build Zone for the House. It is the seat of the House government — that is the Bureaucratic Level, Infrastructure, Intel Ratings and University. Each Combine can only have one Home Office at a time, though the Home Office can be moved like a Capital from its original location to another location of at least Cartel City status at any time.

If the Home Office is destroyed then this counts as the destruction of the capital. On the same turn that the Home Office is destroyed, a new Home Office is declared in the most appropriate Cartel City (or the next highest site location). All remaining BL and Infra points are moved to this new location. You may include a conditional order with your turn(s) indicating the location of the ‘backup’ Home Office or the GM will choose the new location for you. If a Division Headquarters has been created then it automatically becomes the new Home Office.

The Home Office produces full gold and NFP revenue from its location, and cannot coexist with any other kind of Merchant House status. It can coexist with any level of Open Nation status. A Home Office allows the Merchant House to base Intel Operations and Merchant Shipping Points from its location and to hire Mercenaries.

Note that the Home Office must reside in a city either controlled by a nation or uncontrolled. A Merchant House cannot have multiple statuses at any location.

The Merchant House only has access to yards and factories it builds at the Home Office location, unless it gains access to some or all of the Intrinsic Industrial Capacity.

Merchant House Restrictions

Merchants operate under a number of restrictions, as delineated in the following sections.

Societal Bases

Due to its nature, a Combine can only be of the Clan, Caste or Open societal types.

Economic Bases

Only the Guild and Free Economic bases are available to a Combine.

Government Types

Only the Oligarchy and Dictatorship government types are available to a Combine.

Limited Manpower

This is the primary restriction on the Merchant House. They just do not get very much in the way of NFP. You will find, if you are playing a Merchant House, that you must adjust your playing style to avoid land wars (unless fought by mercenaries) or any kind of protracted conflict that may reduce your fleet assets.

Agricultural Requirements

Merchant Houses produce and consume only limited numbers of Agricultural Points from regions and/or cities where they have a mercantile status. Regions or cities that the Merchant House controls with a ‘regular’ control status (Allied, Friendly, etc.) produce Agro for the House and consume it at the usual rates. Colonies established by the House produce and require Agro (if they are a City) to support.

Also note that troops (infantry, warships, siege) consume food too! So if the Merchant House has men under arms, they will need agro points to feed them.

Troop Support

Should a Merchant House have regular troops (infantry, artillery, warships, etc.) then they pay the usual rate of troop support for these units. Soldiers have to be paid, right?

However, unlike Open Nations or Primacies, Merchant Houses must also pay support on the Merchant Shipping Points that they maintain on trade routes. Those boats and crews are the lifeblood of the merchant house, they need pay, equipment, repairs, etc. This support will appear as “Troop Support” on the Merchant House stat-sheet.

Each MSP requires 0.1 GP per turn in support, adjusted for turn length, of course.

Controlling the Domains of a Merchant House

The House traces a chain of administrative control through its control statuses (which are also called “sites”) to create a Control Web.

Action Range is the critical stat in maintaining control over a far-flung Merchant House. The CCR (BL + Admin) defines how extensive the effective Control Web is, defining the maximum number of (AR) Action Point links. Thus the effective Line of Control is not infinite, although Trade Conduits may eventually permit a globe-spanning Control Web.

It is possible that a Merchant House will have sites/regions/cities that can trace a Line of Communication to the Home Office but are outside the effective Control Web and so are liable to revolt or degrade.

  • Each Cartel City or Colony must be within (AR) Action Points of the Home Office - or another Cartel City, Colony or regions or cities controlled at Tributary or better by the House able to trace an unbroken line of control to the Home Office.
  • Each region or city controlled at Tributary or better by the House must be within (AR) Action Points of the Home Office - or a Cartel City, Colony or regions or cities controlled at Tributary or better by the House able to trace an unbroken line of control to the Home Office.
  • Each Branch Office must be within (AR) Action Points of the Home Office - or a Cartel City, Colony or regions or cities controlled at Tributary or better by the House able to trace a n unbroken line of control to the Home Office.
  • Each Factory must be within (AR) Action Points of the Home Office - or a Cartel City, Colony, Branch Office, or a region or city controlled by the House at Tributary or better able to trace an unbroken line of control to the Home Office.
  • Each Agent must be within (AR) Action Points of the Home Office - or a Cartel City, Colony, Branch Office, Factory or a region or city controlled by the House at Tributary or better that can trace an unbroken line of control to the Home Office.

When tracing the Action Range, you count regions as if you were moving a merchant Leader through them in regular movement. Mountains and hostile terrain hinder, therefore, and roads and seas benefit.

Each Trade Conduit (Anchor City to Anchor City) counts as 1 AP when tracing the Action Range, regardless of the number of Sea Zones it passes through.

Merchant Houses can also use Aerial Trade Conduits to trace their Control Web. Each Aerial Trade Conduit (Anchor City to Anchor City) counts as 1 AP when tracing the Action Range, regardless of the number of Regions or Sea Zones it flies over.

Once an Anchor City is reached, however, Action Range across land regions is traced normally. If the final city on the Conduit is not an Anchor City, or if there is no final Conduit then each Region and Sea Zone from the final Anchor City counts 1 AP for Action Range purposes.

A contiguous Railroad quarters the AP cost to trace the Action Range if the Merchant House owns or has permission to use it.

Merchant Leaders and the Control Web

An individual Merchant Leader may leave the effective Control Web of the Merchant House (on any number of missions) and will not revolt, unless provoked by a hostile power. Once that Leader creates a Control Status, however, it must be within the effective Web of the Merchant House, or any Merchant Leader at the location at the end of the turn will be checked for revolt. If they revolt they may attempt to establish their own Merchant House in the location and take control of other sites within Action Range of themselves, if those locations are also outside the effective Control Web. If the Merchant Leader does not revolt the site will degrade.

When a Merchant Leader revolts under other circumstances they may set up their own dominion with whatever resources are to hand. They might take over a lower-tech province or city as its ruler, start a new Merchant House, or go native and disappear.

If a Merchant Leader sets up their own dominion or Merchant House then the parent company loses 1 BL and 1 Infra to the rebel. If they have seized control of a Divisional Headquarters then instead they control whatever BL and Infra was located there. Nasty.

Movement of Merchant Leaders

Merchant Houses Leaders do not pay an additional AP for entering an uncontrolled region or city if:

  • The Leader’s House has a control status of MA or better in the region / city, or…
  • The region / city have the same language as the Leader’s Merchant House.

If a Merchant House has been discredited in a Nation, then they must pay +1 AP per region as they move through the hostile domain.

Religious Operations

Merchant Houses cannot perform Religious Operations. Merchants are not very religious…


Merchant Houses do not possess a "free" bank like the Open Nations do, but can lend their own monies to whomever they please and at whatever rate of interest subject to usury restrictions — but this comes under the purview of Players as Bankers. See the Main Rules Players as Bankers.

Merchant Actions

In addition to the Action Codes available to Open Nations, there are a number of new Actions specific to the Merchant House. All of these actions chances of success can be improved by spending Gold in support of them. In addition, some actions’ chances of success can be improved by the Support Diplomacy (SD) or Battle Assistance (BA) Intel actions.

Table 7-2. Merchant House Actions Table

Action (Code) Applicable Intel Costs
Acquire Agent (aa) Support Diplomacy 2 AP and 3 GP
Establish Factory (emf) Support Diplomacy 3 AP and 5 GP
Open Branch Office (obo) Support Diplomacy 6 AP and 10 GP
Acquire Monopoly (amn) Support Diplomacy 8 AP and 25 GP
Found Cartel City (fct) Support Diplomacy 8 AP and 25 GP
Establish Mercantile Colony (ecl) Battle Assistance 8 AP and 25GP / year
Gain Preferential Treatment (gpt) Support Diplomacy 3 AP and 25 GP
Discredit Competitor (dcm) Support Diplomacy 6 AP and 25 GP
Seize Location (zl) Battle Assistance 5 AP and 10 GP
Establish Mercenary Brokerage (emb) Support Diplomacy 12 AP and 25 GP

Acquire Agent

Code AA

BAC 3+ AP and 3 GP

Stat Diplomacy

Results Can be attempted in any Region or City within (Action Range) AP of, or adjacent to, a location controlled by the Combine. If successful, it creates an Agent control status in the location. Chances of success are increased by spending gold to support the action and by Support Diplomacy actions. Hostile religion, different language and distance from other controlled locations are detriments to this effort.

Establish Factory

Code EMF

BAC 3+ AP and 5 GP

Stat Diplomacy

Results Can be attempted in any Region or City already containing an Agent. Chances of success are increased by spending gold to support the action and by Support Diplomacy actions. Hostile religion, different language and distance from other controlled locations are detriments to this effort.

Open Branch Office

Code OBO

BAC 6+ AP and 10 GP

Stat Diplomacy

Results Can be attempted in any location that already contains a Factory status. If successful, it upgrades the Factory to a Branch Office status. Suffers from the same detriments to success that an Establish Factor action does. Can also benefit from gold and Support Diplomacy actions.

Found Cartel City

Code FCT

BAC 8+ AP and 25 GP

Stat Diplomacy

Results A Branch Office in a city can be expanded to a Cartel City status through the FCT action if there are no other existing Merchant House statuses in the city. If another House has a Factor or Branch Office in the city already, it would need to be withdrawn or destroyed before a Cartel City could be founded. Again, gold and Support Diplomacy actions can increase the chances of success.

Establish Mercantile Colony

Code ECL

BAC 8 AP plus the Colony GP/NFP cost

Stat Combat

Results The ECL action is attempted by a Merchant Leader in the target province. This action is used if the target province is not adjacent to a location controlled by the Combine at least of Branch Office (or Tributary) status. Battle Assistance actions can also be used to increase the chances of success. See Establishing Colonies for more details.

Acquire Monopoly

Code AMN

BAC 8+ AP and 25 GP

Stat Diplomacy

Results Attempting to acquire a Monopoly requires at least a Branch Office in the Capital of the nation that the Monopoly will be acquired from. If no Capital exists, than a city in the target nation’s homeland region will suffice. If no such city exists, than the Merchant House may not establish a monopoly.

This action, which produces a Monopoly despite any agreement from the Nation in question, is difficult to achieve. However, if the majority of cities and regions controlled by the Nation already have some kind of Merchant House control status in them, then the chances of success are improved. Lots of cash in bribes helps too.

Maintaining a Monopoly requires the Merchant House maintain a control level in the Capital/Homeland city of Branch Office or higher. If the Branch Office (or better) status is destroyed for any reason, then the Monopoly is lost and the ‘borrowed’ Trade Value point reverts to the Nation.

This action can also be used to convert an existing ‘granted’ monopoly to an ‘acquired’ monopoly to help secure it from the whims of local governments.

Gain Preferential Treatment

Code GPT

BAC 3+ AP and 25 GP

Stat Diplomacy

Results The GPT action can be undertaken in a Nation where the Merchant House has at least a Branch Office in the national capital. Its effect is to adjust the Trade Route Duration for a trade route between the Merchant House and the Nation upwards. This has the effect of increasing the revenues gained from the trade route as taxes or levies are relaxed and the House gains better access to the National markets. If there are numerous Merchant locations (Factors, Branch Offices and so on) in the Nation, the chances of success are greater.

A GPT can also be used to reverse the effects of a Discredit Competitor action taken by a rival.

Discredit Competitor

Code DCM

BAC 6+ AP and 25 GP

Stat Diplomacy

Results Once you realize that other Merchant Houses are edging in on your action in some Nation, you begin to think about ways to kick them back to whatever misbegotten land they came from in the first place. The DCM action is one of the tools that you have available to deal with other Merchants. A specific DCM action must be directed against one of the following kinds of targets:

  • A competitor’s Monopoly (a difficult target).
  • A competitor’s Preferential Treatment (a moderate target).
  • A competitor’s movement in the Nation (an easy target)

You must have either at least a Branch Office in the same Nation that is providing the Monopoly or the Preferential Treatment to attempt the action. If your effort is successful, then your competitor may loose the Monopoly, or have the Trade Duration of his Trade Route to this Nation reduced. For DCM effects on Merchant House Leader movement, see the Movement of Merchant Leaders section.

This action and it counterpart, Gain Preferential Treatment (GPT) can be undertaken on the same target nation by two or more competing Merchant Houses. In this situation, each GPT action cancels out one DCM action and vice versa. Any remaining result is implemented.

Seize Location

Code ZL

BAC 5+ AP and 10 GP

Stat Combat

Results A Leader (hopefully backed by some combat units – warships and infantry) attempts to directly attack and take over another Combine’s control status. If successful, the captured site degrades one level.

If the site is defended (by Merchant House units or by units of a government friendly to it) then the defenders must be defeated before Seize Location can be used to capture the local assets.

If a Home Office is seized, then the unlucky Merchant House suffers the effects of the Destruction of the Capital. The lost government/intel/etc. may be ransomed if it is not put to the sword by the attacker.

Destroy Location

See Base Rulebook action Destroy Location.

Establish/Break Mercenary Brokerage

Code EMB

BAC 12+ AP and 25 GP

Stat Diplomacy

Results This effort is directed against a geographic area's Mercenary Pool in an attempt to become the controlling broker for those mercenary condotierri. See Mercenary Brokerage for more details. The Merchant House must have at least one Cartel City in the geographic area to be able to manage the brokerage.

Other Actions Undertaken by Combines

There are many activities that a Combine may undertake in support and pursuit of its mercantile policies. They are not limited to the actions shown above. Here are some activities that you may be interested in undertaking to expand your own sphere of business and limiting the influence of others:

  • Piracy against other Combine’s merchant fleets. Particularly in areas that you are expanding into.
  • Supporting Open Nations that are fighting against other Open Nations that support your competitors.
  • Fighting limited, mercenary-led, wars against weak nations to force them to grant you Monopolies and Trade Concessions.
  • Piracy against the merchant fleets of Nations that you are trading with so that your Merchant Shipping expands into the deficit of hulls that this leaves. Piracy will also get you more shipping if you are lucky.
  • Convincing Open Nations to destroy the locations and control statuses of your competitors.

Munitions and Heavy Machinery Export

All Nations with the proper Industrial and Yard Capacity may build the following kinds of units for export to other, less-technologically endowed, nations:

  • Heavy Infantry or Cavalry (as Gun points)
  • Warships and Transports
  • Artillery
  • Steamships
  • Airships
  • Aircraft
  • Submarines
  • Motorized
  • Mechanized
  • Rockets
  • Nuclear Weapons

The construction of units for Export requires the usual number of GP and Industrial or Yard Capacity (of the proper type) expended by the constructing nation. Export units require the expenditure of no NFP to build. Export units are noted on the stat sheet by their code’s enclosure in parentheses.

Example: The Pacific Mercenary and Trust company builds 10 Artillery units for export to Prester John. These units would be listed on the PM&T stat sheet like so: 10(g).

The Cargo requirement of an Export unit is one-half the cost of the regular unit. Once built and moved (or sailed by a ‘ferry crew’, in the case of ships) to the purchasing nation, the Export unit is expended to upgrade an existing national unit to a new type, as per the following table.

You may, of course, upgrade your own National units (if they are far from home) with Export units.

A ‘ferry crew’ for export ship units consists of a minimal crew commanded by a Leader tasked with delivering the vessels to their new owner. If attacked in transit, the units are simply captured, as the ‘ferry crew’ is very small and will not be able to fight the ship against an attacker and the Leader may be killed, captured or make their escape. For safety, the vessels should be escorted, or else fully crewed, sailed to the new owner, the crew withdrawn and shipped back as NFP or equivalent units of Light Infantry.

Upgrading a unit (or group of units) takes 6 AP, and in the case of ship units, must be undertaken at a controlled Port City.

Table 7-3. Export Unit Conversion(s)

Export Unit Turns… …Into
(hei) 2i hei
(hec) 2c hec
(ct), (xt), (xw), (nrw), (rrt), (rw), (xrw), (w), (dw), (hrw), (cw), (t), (vw), (ew), (hw), (gw), (fw), (ew), (gfw), (ffw), (efw), (hfw), (xsw), (scw), (st), (gb), (sfw), (hsw), (sw), (mt), (bw), (ac), (pc), (ms), (acw), (tbd), (xtb), (sb), (mm), (bb), (bc), (ca), (cl), (cla), (dd), (de), (ce), (cab), (cva), (vka), (vph) ship (nfp equivalent) ct, xt, xw, nrw, rrt, rw, xrw, w, dw, hrw, cw, t, vw, ew, hw, gw, fw, ew, gfw, ffw, efw, hfw, xsw, scw, st, gb, sfw, hsw, sw, mt, bw, ac, pc, ms, acw, tbd, xtb, sb, mm, bb, bc, ca, cl, cla, dd, de, ce, cab, cva, vka, vph
(d) c d
(zs), (z), (zh), (zt) c (or d) (nfp equivalent) zs, z, zh, zt
(sb), (ss) ship (nfp equivalent) sb, ss
(bf), (btb), (bit), (bcf), (bcb), (af), (ab), (act), (cvf), (cvb), (ahb), (jaf), (jab), (jct), (jcf), (jcb), (jhb) i (nfp equivalent) bf, btb, bit, bcf, bcb, af, ab, act, cvf, cvb, ahb, jaf, jab, jct, jcf, jcb, jhb
(ti), (mi), (pi), (ami) 2 i ti, mi, pi, ami
(ts), (ms) 2s ts, ms
(bg), (g), (sg), (hg) c bg, g, sg, hg
(tfg), (tsg), (mg), (msg), (shg) 2g tfg, tsg, mg, msg, shg
(afx), (afv), (afh), (afb) c afx, afv, afh, afb
(ssr), (dsr), (smr), (rpr) i (nfp equivalent) ssr, dsr, smr, rpr
(nab) i (nfp equivalent) nab

Note National units upgraded by the delivery of export arms continue to fight with the Quality Rating of the nation employing them.

Note When crewing Units which cost more than 1 NFP, you must convert an NFP equivalent number of ‘equipable’ units to the NFP build cost of the upgraded unit.

Note If the customer receiving the export unit does not have the relevant QR (as they have not yet completed the requisite Project) then the units will fight at a default AQR of 1.

Mercantile Construction

With the introduction of Factories and Yards (of all kinds), the Merchant House gains the capability to build different kinds of units in cities outside their immediate Homeland Build Zone.

Note: This is an exception to the usual Yard and Factory rules and only applies to Merchant House construction.

Cartel Cities (both within and without the HBZ) containing a Mercantile Industry site (or other factory or yard) may be used to build:

  • Units of the type constructed by the specific Yard or Factory (Airships, Steamships, Submarines).
  • Export Munitions (guns, artillery, ships) using the “generic” Industrial Capacity of any Mercantile Industry points present in the Cartel City.
  • Railroads using the “generic” Industrial Capacity of any Mercantile Industry points present in the Cartel City.
  • Other types of Monolithic Construction using the “generic” Industrial Capacity of any Mercantile Industry points present in the Cartel City.

Regular units (including ships for use by the Merchant House itself), must be constructed with the Homeland Build Zone (and most likely at the Home Office).

A Merchant House may build any kind of unit for which they have the technology, gold, NFP and industrial/yard capacity at their Home Office. In addition, they may build any kind of unit (assuming they have the industrial/yard capacity) within their Homeland Build Zone at any Cartel City, and any city or region in which they have an Open status (some types of factory and yard can be built in regions).

The Homeland Build Zone of a Merchant House is traced through regions they control (with a Merchant Agent or better, or have an Open status of Tributary or better) subject to the normal conditions stated in the Basic Rules. In addition, their HBZ can be traced along a Railroad if they own the line or have been granted permission to use it.

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Lords of the Earth, 6th Edition © 2010 Thomas Harlan
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