Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ship Routes - Mediterranean

At my last count this morning, I have received 14 positives - looking good, and I thoroughly appreciate all the support thus far.  Now come on and get out those last six.

As a bit of inspiration, I've been working on this project about ten days now - I've finished the biggest, below, as well as the seas around Arabia.  Almost have the seas around India finished now, then its the Sea from France to the Baltic to the Barents Sea (a big one, but not quite as big as the one below).  Here are ship routes for the Mediterranean and Black Seas:

Typically, blogger doesn't manage the image very well.  Thankfully, I've put the map up on the wiki, where it can be seen in strong detail.

This map wasn't meant to be especially pretty, and I'm noticing now I've left a few notes on it.  Ah well.  Primarily it was meant to be serviceable.

In principle, the map is intended to show the shortest routes between port/market cities of various sizes.  Take note that the size is listed next to the city - thus Palermo, on the top of Sicily, is rated at 6, Corfu is rated at 2, Marseille at 5 and so on.  Most of the cities are rated at 1.

I began with Genoa, rated at 18 (found at the left top of the map).  This was determined by the number of references I found for Genoa being a commercial/trade/market/port - which turned out to be many.  I have reasoned that Genoa is able to import goods directly from a distance up to 180 hexes, or 3,600 miles.  A port with a rating of 1 can only import goods a distance of 10 hexes, or 200 miles; thus, small ports are dependent upon other small ports to obtain goods from a great distance.  Each time that goods pass through a trade city, a cost is added (which I would cover in the trade system course, if I get those other six positives) - thus, direct shipping decreases cost.

The next part, however, is complicated.  The reader will notice, very near Genoa, to the west, is the port of Savona (rated 7).  IF it happens that an outbound route from Genoa through Savona is the same distance (always counted in hexes, without fractions) as it would be without going through Savona, then Genoa declines the direct trade to any ports in that direction and they fall to Savona.  This is worked out because Genoa's route through Savona is the same distance as Genoa's route would be without Savona.  Therefore, if we look at Oneglia (further west from Savona, the 'n' obscured by the large red 1), Genoa is 3 hexes away.  Genoa is also 2 hexes from Savona and Savona is 1 hex from Oneglia, so Genoa does not import directly from Oneglia - or, at least, the price of goods from Oneglia is considered to be increased in price due to tariffs owing to Savona.  Savona, in turn, does not import from San Remo, west of Oneglia, because Oneglia controls that trade and so on, down the coast.

Now, if it happens that the next city down the coast is limited in it's imports (Oneglia is rated as 1), then the origin city skips the intervening city and imports from as far away as it is able.  Savona, for example, goes through Oneglia's hex to import from Algiers, far from the south.  But Oneglia hasn't the economy to import from Algiers (max. 10 hexes), so Savona imports from Algiers directly.  Genoa then imports goods from Algiers through Savona.

This is infinitely more complicated than most anyone in the world would do it, I know - and it wasn't the way I started.  I began by assuming that anywhere could import from anywhere.  The result, however, meant that every port had to be compared to every other port for the prices table, and this was simply getting out of control (too much to manage).  As well, this new method vastly cuts down on the possible trade routes - and this leaves empty hexes.  While making the Mediterranean map, I considered what I might do with those hexes.

Suppose we consider all the hexes with lines in them to be patrolled by naval ships.  However, hexes empty of trade routes are not.  That would mean that pirates would keep out of the trade routes, but they would deliberately haunt empty hexes next to the trade routes, waiting for a ship to fall off course.  In turn, any hex that was two hexes away from a trade route would logically be empty again, since it was too unlikely to find an off course ship there.

Now look at the map again.  See those empty three hexes directly west of Corsica?  Prior to the making of this map, those hexes weren't very important.  Looking at it now, however, there is an incredible amount of trade going back and forth past those three hexes: Marseille, Savona, Livorno, La Spezia and Genoa are all big, big ports with incoming and outgoing traffic going right by those hexes - and the shelter of west Corsica to hide in, assuming the patrols between Ajaccio and the Italian ports can be avoided.

Or consider Malta.  Without my design, Malta turned out to be not on any shortest route between anywhere.  The sea all around it is empty, unpatrolled, but on the edge of the routes going past Sicily.  How well does this fit in with the legends of the Maltese Knights preying on shipping?

Sometimes, we set out to achieve one goal and we stumble across something completely different.  For example, consider now that there is a strong reason to be a really good navigator - since the routes where the patrols run change direction abuptly in mid-sea in order to match up with the next port city.  If you're running a ship and you simply plow ahead, you're going to run right out of the lane.  You may still be the same distance from your destination, but now you're vulnerable to attack, where otherwise attack would have been very rare.  You've probably increased your chance of being attacked by pirates 16 or 20 times, just because you're a poor navigator.


Ozymandias said...

Epic. Truly epic.

I'll be honest: before, I found the map posts to be interesting, but immediately useful. Now I can see how they tie in with the action of a game session.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Something else I forgot to mention. Because the values differ, trade will often move only in one direction. For example, the little town of Azov in the Sea of Azov is 12 hexes from Cherzeti, the gateway to the Black Sea. Cherzeti is rated 2, while Azov is rated 1. This means that while goods are imported from Azov to Cherzeti, Azov itself does not import anything by sea.

This fits, as Azov itself isn't even a market; it is a transshipment point for goods coming down the Don river, mostly through Voronezh (off map). Goods going TO Voronezh are typically off-loaded at the small port of Kherson (northwest of the Crimea), then shipped up the Dneiper River to Kortytsia, then moved overland. It means that goods in Voronezh are more likely to be found in the rest of the world that the world's goods are to be found in Voronezh.

This is my NEW method of transport between market cities. Previously, the flow of prices tended to be consistent as one moved from east to west; I am hoping the new system creates 'dark places' where goods aren't available or are very expensive.

Ithilien said...

Nice map!

This represents nicely the way smaller entities trade with one another but it doesn't seem to represent the way I imagine Venice traded (although this might not be an issue in the era you are depicting). Merchants in Venice might go further afield to avoid those price increases. Of course, applying these rules everywhere is what you are trying to avoid in the first place, but I suggest picking a small number of major trading centres to have more connections. Venice for example might have a direct connection to Alexandria.

You could still argue that this is actually happening and there is no cost saving on one large hop verses several small ones.

What do you think?

Alexis Smolensk said...


Regarding Venice (and similar situations) I have had a few thoughts.

Remember that the Venetian 'republic' does not describe only Venice, but a host of other trading cities, including Candia on Crete, Cattaro in Montenegro, Sebenico, Spalato, Zara and Sansego in Dalmatia and of course Chioggia - whereas there are a number of inland cities too. So it is good to remember that WITHIN Venice there are a number of entities competing with each other, not just with foreign competitors. A business environment tends to produce middle managers, raising the price on goods are coming from the end ports of the Silk Road and up through Alexandria (actually, the export cities were Tamiat & Rashid - Alexandria is really more of an import city; it has gotten a lot of hype and people tend not to be aware that there are other trade cities on the Nile Delta).

We can therefore imagine that, while yes there would be individual owners with ships bringing their goods direct from Alexandretta and Yafo to Venice, the MAJORITY of wares would come on smaller ships wending their way along, selling as they went at friendly ports. Even today Venice itself is not the main port, the main port is Chioggia.

It's important to note the difference between an economic system designed to reflect the mass of population and an economic system designed to promote just a few cities. I prefer to keep my personal inclinations out of the question, build the system to be CONSISTENT and therefore predictable, rather than skew the results for the sake of those cities that happened to get a lot of press.

You should look into the trade histories of Kavala, Ragusa, Patras, Hippo and so on. These were at one time greatly significant ports - forgotten now by romantics, who would ignore them because there are no nice stories written post 18th century quoting their magnificence.

So, advice. When making a system, Ithilien, try to see the WHOLE picture - don't fit the picture to your perception, match your perception to what the picture is trying to tell you. Remaking a previously unknown, minor but well-placed port (like Zante, for example) into a player on the grand scheme is MUCH more interesting that reimposing the same cliched Alexandria-Venice relationship.

Samuel Kernan said...

Im curious about the conversion from number of port/market references to 1-18 port size number. Is it a linear relationship?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I did make the port numbers linear in their reach to other ports. After all, the "total distance" is still exponential, since the total number of hexes that the port can reach is still an increasingly larger hexagon with each number.

Samuel Kernan said...

How do you actually attach the 1-18 number to the port? Is it something along the lines 1-5 market references is a 1, 6-10 market references is a 2, etc?

Alexis Smolensk said...

You'll remember my markets are designated by descriptions in the encyclopedia: the place is described as either a "port, commercial center, junction, gathering point, market or trade something or other." Each time the encyclopedia named the city in this context, I added one reference.

Antwerp was mentioned 18 times this way. That's how Antwerp has a port of 18. Bremen was mentioned 11 times, Hamburg 14 times, Bordeaux 8 times, Marseilles 5 times and so on. The number is only 1-18 because I haven't found a port mentioned more times than Antwerp. Not even London.