This guide was written by Kquis and re-uploaded a couple of times by other people. I'll put it here since the Tavern's Side Room forums (from where I salvaged it) were shut down.
(Editor's note: This guide was originally written for Patrician II. The concepts contained herein are just as applicable to Patrician III. One thing to keep in mind is that "tiles" mentioned in this guide refers to "bricks" in Patrician III.)
Given the number of 'rookies/newbie's' that started the contest, but seem to have disappeared, I thought I'd develop a summary of strategy that they might want to consider. Most of this has been alluded to in many recent postings, but I felt a summary might be warranted. I'll try to keep it short (in your dreams), concentrating on strategy, but with enough examples to aid understanding.
A well functioning Hanse requires food. A usual beginner's mistake is to avoid building beer, grain, fish, and timber businesses because they are not high profit items. But you very quickly reach the point that you cannot buy enough of these items from other towns to keep your own trading centers going, particularly through winter. For a fast growth goal, you must also build tile workshops fairly soon in the game, because you cannot support heavy building efforts with only purchased tiles. Making your own basic materials ensures consistent supply, which keeps people satisfied and working, and lessens your need on ship transport, which in the early phase of the game really needs to be used for buying and selling higher profit items to maintain cash flow.
Your first objective, therefore, is to determine which initial towns you want to develop to establish your basic materials base.
Your first goal, before starting your first ship on its first trading run, is to review the strengths of the different towns, and determine which group of towns ('core' towns) will be developed first. The towns should be able to produce the BF (the Big Four: beer, grain, fish and timber), along with a high profit margin product that you can sell to finance your efforts. I recommend iron, 'the material of the future', as do many advanced players, but cloth, furs, and wine are possibilities. Tiles will become very important for a fast growth strategy, so one of the towns needs to produce them efficiently. You will need at least two towns in your core group, but most likely three. Try to avoid needing four, as setting up this many trading offices to get the basic core group running causes some unnecessary problems early in the game.
My core town targets for the contest were Thorn (because I had too, and it had tiles), Gdansk for its beer and grain, and Stockholm for timber, iron ore, iron works, and fish. In another game, my core towns were Lubeck (for its iron works, grain, tiles, beer, fish, and timber) and Bisbee (cloth for profit). I quickly had to develop Stockholm for iron ore.
The towns you select as your core group should be reasonably close together, as much of your ship traffic will be used to transport the BF between them. For example, Hamburg should not be used as your grain and beer town along with Stockholm for timber and fish-you need to develop the Baltic and North Seas with their own 'core' groups. You should probably wait until one core group is functioning well before setting up a core group in the other sea. (This does not mean you can't have some trading activities going on in both areas, but actually developing trading offices and building BF industries is not recommended-you have other more important things to do with your limited cash than start up a new set of core trading offices.)
Lesson 1: Have a plan for developing your empire before starting play.
Initial Play - cash flow trading:
You have made your decisions about which core towns to concentrate on, and it is now time to start the game. At first, you simply must start trading-buying goods at low prices and selling them to other towns at high prices to generate cash. Here you need to trade in the HP (High Profit) goods-furs, iron goods, cloth, leather, wine, and train oil. All of these items can be sold for between 50 and 500 gold profit per barrel. Filled with HP items, at say an average profit of 150 gold per barrel, a snaikka has a potential profit of around 20,000 gold. Filled with beer at a profit of 20 gold per barrel, the profit potential drops to 2600 gold. However, you will not be able to completely fill your ships with only HP items, and it is acceptable to pick up bargain BF items to drop off at your trading offices, or sell to towns that are paying a high premium.
In order to maximize profits, you also need to avoid paying too high a price for a trading good. I would suggest setting your maximum purchase price to insure at least a 40% return when selling the item. For example, iron works at 330 gold will give you a 40% profit if sold at 450. Over buying from a town drives up the prices, and it is likely the next time you go back to pick up more of the item that the new buying price will be higher. Buying that last barrel of iron works at 420 just because you know you can sell it somewhere at 450 is usually not a good idea, as it will hurt you later.
At this point in the game, there are no optimum trading routes. Supply and prices for HP goods vary considerably with time, and you need to check all the potential sources of the goods to get enough material to trade. Nearly each town that does not produce a specific HP good is a potential high priced buyer, so you need to stop at most ports during this trading phase. Don't try to concentrate on a single route, or limited selection of HP items. For example, the profit margin on furs is so great, that it is easy to ignore other items, but the supply and demand for furs alone will not generate enough profit to be successful.
Lesson 2: Don't be greedy - it will catch up with you later in the game.
Once you have accumulated a little cash, how should you spend it? The first priority would be building another ship or two, in order to expand trading to generate more cash flow. I'd recommend a snaikka, as it will be available sooner because of the lower price (you can order it as soon as you have the cash) and quicker delivery. Borrow money from the bank so you can order it sooner, if you are in a contest where you need fast growth. If your cash flow is in good shape, start building Crayers after your first or second snaikka-snaikkas are fairly useless later in the game and you don't want to have a lot of them floating around.
Lesson 3: Build ships before workshops.
Lesson 4: The banker is your friend.
Don't be afraid of borrowing money, but look for longer-term loans. By the time they come due, your cash flow should be high enough that paying them off won't be a problem.
Now that you have a couple of ships sailing the seas, and maybe one or two more on the way, what do you do next? Well, just like the people who had all their investment money in Enron, you need to avoid putting all your resources in a single strategy. It's time to diversify, and you have a few options. If your goal is to become Alderman, then you might want to join the Guild, since the entrance fee is probably still very low, and you need to be a member to advance to that rank. It is also important if your goal is for fast growth-you will need to become Lord Mayor in order to build a second wall in most towns. Otherwise, I'd suggest building your first HP workshop, be it iron, cloth or whatever. If your hometown does not produce a HP item with high efficiency, then you need to start up your second trading office in the next town according to your 'development plan.' (What! You didn't have a plan developed like I suggested in the first lesson! Shame on you.) You will probably find out that you don't have enough tiles, so now is the time to start looking for them at bargain prices while trading, because you're going to start needing a steady supply of them. If your HP workshop needs raw materials, you also need to start looking for them at bargain prices, and stocking up about a month's supply.
It is also time to start acquiring two or three captains. You'll need them in a month or two. I usually pick up every one that I find, unless my cash flow is desperate.
Lesson 5: Cash Flow.
Once you start building businesses, cash flow problems may arise. Watch your nickels and dimes-buy items you need at bargain prices, don't buy too much and tie up needed cash, and remember Lesson 4.
You will probably want to build another HP business as soon as you have enough money. From now on, additional expansion is simply looking at your particular situation.
--- Are you passing up on too many good trading opportunities? If so, another ship may be your best choice. Setting up some trading in the other sea is usually profitable, and you'll need 4 or 5 ships fairly soon to keep your cash flow coming in at a good enough rate to continue business expansion.
--- If you have too many ships on trading runs, you will soon find that you can't buy enough HP goods to keep them reasonably full-you can probably stop building more ships for a month or so, and build one or two more HP workshops. But remember that you don't want to wait until you are desperate for more ships to start building them again.
--- Cash flow problems? Don't build any more workshops till you've fixed the problem. Don't demolish any workshop if your wages are too high, just lay off workers.
--- Is beer or any other BF good becoming more of a problem? It's definitely time to build your first brewery, and in short order, your first grain farm and sawmill. Both will be in short supply in the winter, so you need to have a supply coming in to keep the brewery running. Plan on building up some inventory of grain before winter starts, since your farm will not produce at a high rate in the winter.
Lesson 6: Planning Ahead.
Anticipate your needs and plan your new building (ships or businesses) soon enough that they are finished by the time you really need them. (Did I say that word 'plan' again? See Lesson 1, and apply it to everything in this game.)
Lesson 7: Stay balanced.
Steady expansion of ships, BF and HP goods, and eventually housing is needed; so don't overbuild one category at the expense of the others.
Lesson 8: Feeding the Masses:
Make certain you are selling enough BF goods to all of your trading towns to keep the population satisfied. Don't sell BF goods to other towns if you're having problems keeping your own people reasonably supplied, even if it costs you a little trading profit.
If your HP or BF workshop needs a raw material, you will probably need to build a business to produce the raw material by the time you have three of them running. It is often difficult to buy enough raw materials on the open market when you have 4 or more workshops running.
I'm Starting to Grow:
By now, you probably have three HP workshops, a brewery, grain farm and sawmill. You may have needed to build a trading office in your third core town by now. You probably wish you had a better tile supply by now, and are kicking yourself that you haven't built a tile works somewhere (Your core town plan included one that produced tiles, didn't it? No? Go back and read Lesson 1 about twenty times, until you don't forget it!). Don't kick yourself - build it now. You cannot build everything you actually need on the schedule you would have liked - there is never enough cash or resources early in the game, so don't think you've made a mistake (unless you failed to PLAN), and don't get discouraged. It is also time to start thinking about fish - up till now, you have probably been able to buy enough fish at reasonable prices, to supply any of your towns that run low. But you will soon need to start producing fish yourself.
In general, continue your development following Lesson 7.
Population is starting to pick up. Once you have a trading office in a town, you will be primarily responsible for taking care of the citizens needs. If housing is in short supply, don't build any more businesses in the town, because you won't be able to get workers. You'll have to break down and build housing, or accept slower growth until one of your competitors builds it. Similarly, you can't afford to have the citizens run out of BF goods, as they will become very unhappy, and leave the town. Once workers start leaving a critical business, things start to unravel quickly - like a chain reaction. It is time to start your first Auto Trading route, in order to keep the population satisfied, because you need to concentrate on trading profits, and keeping your trading fleet running at optimum efficiency is probably taking up all your time now.
Auto Trade is a powerful tool, and can help in several areas of play. I like to think of three categories of auto trading: Stationary trading, Auto transporting, and Port-to-Port Auto trading. Do not have a single ship try to do more than one of the categories! At this stage of the game, you only need to consider the first two areas.
Stationary trading is used to sell goods to a single town. The ship does not move from port to port. The auto trade should be set up for four cycles: loading goods from the trading office warehouse, two selling cycles, and unloading all the remaining goods back to the warehouse. With two selling cycles, and two cargo movement cycles, you are only selling 50% of the time. Once you reach about 5000 people in the town, this will cause problems, and you will need to set up a second stationary trade ship - set its selling cycles to overlap the other ships loading/unloading cycle, and you can keep the population happier.
Once you have around 15 ships running around trading or transporting goods from trading office to trading office, things start to get a little complicated. Handling this much ship traffic manually is time consuming, and you will often make mistakes by forgetting to do something important. It is time to consider automating goods transport between trading offices. These ships simply take surplus goods from one office to an office that needs that good. As stated earlier, don't use these ships for other purposes such as buying or selling. You should have your stationary traders already established to do this function in your core towns, and you can use your manual port-to-port ships to do buying and selling in your non-core towns. Soon, around 5000 people in core towns, you will need more than one auto transport ship, and having them stop at some side port to buy or sell something is not efficient.
The last category of auto trading is Port-to-Port buying and selling. This is usually the first thing type of auto trading that newcomers want to set up, but it should be the last. It is very inefficient, and your cash flow will drop dramatically if you set up auto traders to do this important job. Only consider these ships when you have a lot of excess HP goods that need to be sold around the Hanse, or you absolutely can't handle all of this trade manually. Micro management of your cash flow generating trade is essential in the initial phases of the game (populations below 5 to 7 thousand in your largest town).
There is one type of stationary trading that is worth mentioning here. In a town where you don't have a trading office, you may want to station an auto trading ship at port to buy specific items, like fur in Reval and Riga, or wine in Bruges. These ships have been called 'suckers', as they stay at a port and 'suck' all the newly produced goods at the best prices. Set up the auto trade for two buying cycles at the town of interest, and it will sit there and buy at the price you want until it is full (you will get a message when it has filled completely up). Then manually send the ship back to one of your trading offices to unload the cargo, and start the process over again. You should also send the 'sucker' to the town with some of the goods that are needed to produce the items you want to buy - for example, iron goods are needed for fur production, and keeping Riga supplied with iron goods will make certain they keep producing furs.
Lesson 9: Micromanagement.
Micromanage your HP cash flow trading as long as possible. Set up separate auto stationary and auto transport ships to reduce manual workload. Don't use auto trading for Port-to-Port cash flow trading until you can afford the loss of cash generation.
Keeping everyone happy:
As you build more businesses, keeping the work force satisfied is critical. Once they are unhappy for a week or so, they will leave, and it is difficult to get them back. Selling BF goods at the right price is the key to keeping everyone happy. However, you can't sell them too cheaply, as you usually have a limited supply or will start losing too much money. In the beginning of a game, the population will be reasonably satisfied if the on-hand stocks of BF goods in the Market are about equal to the consumptions. By the time you reach about 5000 people in a town, you will need about twice as much stock as the consumption to keep them satisfied. These ratios may differ depending on what level of game you are playing, so it is important to check the Market Hall 'consumption' screen at different times to get a feel for the correct ratios where people seem satisfied.
Lets say that the correct ratio seems to be one to one (on-hand stock equals consumption). If the stock level of a good is actually higher than that, you could increase your selling price to the town. If the level is lower than consumption, you need to reduce your selling price so the town will buy more. Let's say that the population is not satisfied, and when you check the Market Hall you find that the stock level for beer is 30 and the consumption is 42 - you need to drop the selling price of beer for your stationary trader, so the town automatically will buy enough to get the stock level up to 42. You can get a feel for the correct price by manually selling 12 beer, and using the price that you sold the last keg for as the new price to log into your auto-trading schedule. This should get you close to reaching the correct stock level to keep the town satisfied.
Lesson 10: The Market Hall
Learn how to use the Market Hall information to optimize pricing on stationary auto trading ships.
There are obviously many more ways of playing the game, and a lot of hints and tricks to use besides the ones I've mentioned above. And I am by no means the most expert player on this board, so if anyone sees something that I've suggested that could be improved on, send me a message and I will continue to edit this document. If anyone wants a copy, I'd be glad to send them a Word.doc file - just let me know your e-mail address. Hope this helps gets you off and running, without making a lot of the mistakes I made as a newcomer.