Money Money Money Money

Bruce Duewer

So, what's the deal with these "ducats" anyway? What happened to the good ole "one SC, one unit" approach of standard? Well, in some senses it's still pretty similar. Most cities, with their provence, and another provence, supply the right amount to keep a normal unit going. We'll simplify a bunch and assume that the monetary loss to famine and gain from your variable income rolls is similar. So following a completely conventional strategy you might not be in bad shape.

But there are many opportunities the cash system provides. The two most profound are that you can save money for future needs rather than doing your builds immediately, and that you can use money for other things besides standard units. I'll leave special unit tricks for a future article, as well as bribe types, and focus on money management here. The better you do your money management, the more freedom you have to explore the other aspects of cash, or to flood the board with conventional units, whichever you prefer. In a sense, if you need what I say after this paragraph, you've already failed to exercise the best form of money management- avoiding loans completely. Don't get me wrong- I wind up borrowing money in most of my games. But it's never something I'm happy about.

The Bank

The Bank is very useful and very dangerous.  The ability to spend an additional 25d at will at the beginning of the game is a strong temptation that you most always want to resist unless you find yourself with your back against the wall, or an opportunity to cause massive beneficial changes in the strategic situation (i.e., gain another home area). Always ask yourself if the action you want to borrow money for will pay for itself. Remember to take into account the diplomatic implications (i.e., if you increase your income, your neighbours may be less friendly, even if you go into debt by more). In my opinion, it is much better to save up money for the first few years, if you can handle the diplomatic situation well enough to allow this. That's why this article was saved for third:).
The bank allows you to borrow 25d in principle, with no limit on how much you owe in interest. There is no limit in the number of loans you can have at a given time, except those implies by the limit in principle, and the fact that the longest term you can have a loan for is a two year loan. The interest costs on loans is 20% per year rounded up  on a 1 year loan, and 50% rounded up for a 2 year loan. It may thus appear that a 2 year is a bad idea, but due to the wonders of compounding, two 1 year loans have an effective rate of 44%, which is a pretty small difference compared to other concerns. "What other concerns?" you may ask. Well, that'll take most of rest of the article to cover.

The Joys Of Round Numbers

If you want to borrow a certain sum, a 'tactical' concern is the amount of additional interest you pay due to rounding. Each ducat counts. For example, if you wish to borrow 11d, the two obvious ways to do it are:

borrow 11d for 1 year


borrow 11d for 2 years

In the first case, your loan will have 3d in interest, and if you renew the loan at the end of the year for a second year your total interest comes to 6d. In the second case, you owe 6d of interest at the end of two years. You have the advantage of avoiding as much of your debt counting as principle, and the disadvantage of not saving any money paying the debt off early. In either case, you have a big lump sum to refinance or pay off at the end of two years. But the wise tyrant takes a different approach:
borrow 5d for 1 year
borrow 6d for 2 years

In this case, the loan has 1d interest the first year on the first loan, and if they renew it and have the 1d to cover the interest at that point, another 1d the next year. Otherwise they renew as another 6d for 2 years at 3d interest. The second loan costs 3d in interest, so they have either saved 1d in interest paying off only 1d early, or they have got half their loan already refinanced into the third year, and it become easier to refinance.

For bigger loan amounts, the savings can be greater. Say you need 18d to buy a unit, make it 10d for 1 year and 8d for 2 years. You get a nice symmetry in owing 12d at each repayment point, and your interest costs are 6 total if you repay at that point, vs 4 for a 18 for 1 year, or 9 for 18 for 2 years.

Another point- if you are borrowing anyway, and you don't make it all the way to an appropriate multiple, borrow up to the multiple anyway. You're already paying for use of the money, so why not keep it in your pocket? It may come in handy for refinancing, or for keeping your units alive if fate turns against you.

The moral: If nothing else prevents you, you should borrow money for 1 year in multiples of 5, and for two years in multiples of two.

Time is Slipping Away

The timing of payments of various sorts is critical, and demands close attention.
During each movement season (Spring, Summer, and Fall) is when banking matters and cash transfers can occur. In each season, the following monetary actions may occur:
  1. Transfers of cash
  2. Borrowing of cash
  3. Expenses
  4. Bank collects loans

The order is very important. The fact that one can transfer some cash to the bank before borrowing for example, means that one can pay back some of a loan on the very same season it is due, then borrow the rest of the money needed to pay the loan. When step four occurs, the bank collects that money.
Note that if you've arranged another country to send you some cash to help out,
this (in theory) occurs simultaneous to other transfers, so the money is useful for expenses and bank collections, but not for immediately sending on to the bank. In practice, I haven't explored the judge code to see if the order of countries affects this, but even if it does, your poor GM would just have to roll the turn back and fix it.


When you repay a loan, you pay interest before principle if you don't repay the entire loan. Loans due at the same season are lumped together. So if one year you borrow 4d for 2 years, and the next year you borrow 5d for 1 year, you wind up owing 9d+3 at the due date. Now if in order to repay the loan you need a new loan, and other loans have used up all your principle, how much do you need to have on hand? It's not the obvious 6, half the value of the loan- you pay 6 and you have only have 3 more you can borrow to try to deal with the remaining 3 debt. Besides, 3 is a nasty number since it's not divisible by 5 or 2. What you need it to be able to pay off half the principle- so you need at least 8d on hand. If you pay 8, you can then borrow up to 5, and you have a choice as to whether get a 1 year for 5 or the 4 for 2 years.

Moderation In All Dings

It's a heck of a lot easier to repay a lot of small loans than one big loan. For example, if someone has borrowed the full 25d, and wants to keep the loan, paying their interest costs each year, consider the two basic possibilities. Once could have it all in one big loan due in the fall, 25+5. In order to avoid assassination without spreading out the cash it's a massive 5+(25/2) = 18d one must have come fall. If one is willing to spread it out, and wishes to ignore prudent increments, then one can get by with 5+(25/4) = 12d via
Spring: pay 12d to bank, borrow 7d for 1 year
Summer: pay 7d to bank, borrow 7d for 1 year
Fall: pay 7d to bank, borrow 4d for 1 year
or more prudently
Spring: pay 12d to bank, borrow 5d for 1 year, borrow 2d for 2 years
Summer: pay 7d to bank, borrow 5d for 1 year, borrow 2d for 2 years
Fall: pay 7d to bank, borrow 5d for 1 year (bank collects 4, you keep 1)
(here's a shorthand for the above I'll use later: p12b5b2, p7b5b2, p7b5)

Now lets look at your new loan structure. To maintain this you need only 5d to handle the bare minimums (p5b6, p5b5, p5b5); 9d would let you to do it neatly and wind up paying one of the 5d loans off, or keep 5 ready to help with next cycle. Every other year you need to cycle the 2d loans as well.

The moral: Keep the amount you have to pay spread out through the year, and you can keep a your debt rotating a lot better than if you concentrate it in one place.

An Example

One quick example of a tyrant's situation, and the series of things he does over the course of a year
Debts: 5d+1 in spring, 12d + 3 in Summer, 6d+3 in Fall, 2d+1 Spring next year
Treasury: 13d after builds, 0d available to borrow

This tyrant chooses to get right to work. In spring, he transfers all his cash to the bank. The tyrant has plenty of cash to make it through the year, so figures to set up a nice smooth future debt schedule and borrows 5d for 1 year.

This changes the state to
Debts:  8d  + 0 in Summer, 6d+3 in Fall, 7d+2 Spring next year
Treasury: 5d,  4d still available to borrow

Now it's summer. The tyrant continues the nice simple repayment schedule. He pays all his cash to the bank, and borrows another 5. The bank collects 3d of that cash.

Debts:  6d+3 in Fall, 7d+2 Spring next year, 5d+1 Summer next
Treasury: 2d, 7d still available to borrow

Fall at last, the messier month, but he's still in good shape. Pay the cash to the bank, and borrow 5d for the next year, and 2 for 2 years. The bank collects this 7d, and he goes into the next year with the following situation:

Debts:  7d+2 Spring  , 5d+1 Summer next, 5d+1 Fall, 2d+1 next Fall
Treasury: Yearly income, 6d available to borrow

Note that when he started the year with 13d, there was 7d in interest due in the year, and there is now 6d more available to borrow. When you're planning a year, this is a good sanity check.

The Duck of Death

If you need more money than you ever hope to pay, at least do your best to control the circumstances of your own death to your advantage (well, at least less disadvantage). This is one of those cases where you ignore most of the rest of what I said, and get a 2 year loan for 25d, buying you as much time as possible to do whatever you need to do with the cash. Unless of course you've got some reason to believe that dying in a year is a better idea, then you can make it a 1 year loan. Or a 1d for 1 year, with the rest for two years, so that you can change your mind up until you throw away the 2d you save to pay that loan the season before it's due. This way, everyone has to guess just when you're going to die. Even better, if you've got a series of tiny loans lined up over the course of the next few years, and one big one, you have a big selection of the day of your death, and people can't position to take full advantage of the timing. Of course, if you DON'T want to die earlier, you need to keep financing those loans while waiting for the big one.

And of course, there is always the chance of a miracle leading to you not getting killed. In one of my games I did the megaloan since I figured I was doomed; my ally did the same. After his assassination and the next income, his income plus mine was enough to keep me from dying when he transferred me a bunch of cash- if I'd used a spread loan instead it would have been a lot less painful. We went on to overrun the board, and I eventually won, so it didn't cost us the game, and the extra cash effectively came out of my ally's pocket, so might have contributed to my eventual edge over him. But that wasn't my intent at the time, and it was a close thing, so I'd not advice trying this sort of thing on purpose (for one thing, allies willing to send you lots of money rather than stabbing at such a juncture are not plentiful).

So now you have chosen the date of your death. You will be assassinated. Your units will all stand around like statues. Dice will be rolled to determine which of your areas goes into rebellion. Any of your units under siege will die. Any sieges you are performing will be broken. You will take no actions at all that phase. Do not pass GO. Do not- well, you get the idea. It's the build phase, and any movement phases right before your death that you need to prepare.

Build as many units as you physically can. When you die, you lose any cash, there is no point in holding back. Get as many garrisons into your cities, especially important ones, as possible before you die. No matter how the rebellion rolls go, it is impossible for a rebellion to occur in a city you have a garrison. Get units in your other cities also, they decrease the chance of rebellion. Provence rebellions are a pain, but a single turn holding can fix them. City rebellions are nasty. Protect yourself from them. If the assassination will happen in spring, don't bother to have units in provinces that have famine, unless an ally will pay the relief. You don't get to. The one exception is of course if you don't have anything else to do with the cash, then of course keep all the scrap units you can to slow enemy advances. Even if the units are frozen, they still discourage the enemy from paying famine relief and marching through.

After your death, if you've got an ally you can trust, use them to remove your rebellions. One of their armies, and one of yours, play follow the leader through your areas in rebellion. Of course, make sure you don't give your ally an opportunity to take you out in the process.

Next Time

In my next installment, I will explore additional options in basic tactics afforded by the Machiavelli variant. Special units, garrisons, and coastal convoys will be discussed, along with whatever else I'm in the mood to rant about.
Bruce Duewer

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