Offworld Trading Company is the free market taken to the extremes of space — both figuratively and literally. In this real-time strategy, you’ll need to make quickfire decisions to outbid, outcompete, and outsmart your opponents in the hopes of buying up their companies in a hostile takeover.
But using market forces, sabotaging your enemies, and knowing what to build can feel like getting a crash course in economics from a Weyland-Yutani android. So in this guide, we’ve put together some beginner’s tips to help you start strong, gain the upper hand, and become the best company on this side of the solar system.
The Rules Are: There Are No Rules
You might want to play fair and win on your merits alone, but with EMPs, nukes, and even pirates on the table, that’s a risk you can’t afford to take. If someone is getting too comfortable, the Black Market will help you even out the playing field through unscrupulous measures. Even if you’re ahead, items like the Hologram and Goon Squad are great at protecting your interests.
Items bought from the Black Market have a 30-90 second cooldown, meaning players might buy Black Market goods just so their opponents can’t.
There are other amoral strategies here: monopolising resources, faking a shortage with the Hacking Array, or exploiting vulnerabilities such as disabling power sources against robot players. The point is this game is as much about building a strong foundation as it is about kicking your opponents off it. Make friends, make frenemies, but most of all, make sound business decisions.
Find Gaps In The Market
Keep an eye on the nearby colony. Lots of housing will mean life support products like food and oxygen will be in high demand, and if no one else prioritises food production, take advantage of those high prices. Not only that, but your competitors will also have to buy your food.
Another key mechanic is the patent. Researched in the Patent Lab, the first player to research a technology is the only one allowed to use it. These products can overhaul buildings, replace building materials, and let you avoid enemy skulduggery altogether.
Let’s say glass prices are sky-high, and no one has grabbed Transparent Aluminium, now is the perfect time to grab it. Even if you can’t benefit from it, taking that choice away from your opponents is just as good a reason.
Greed Is Good
You’ll always have to want more to win this trade war. Resources might be plentiful, but you’ll only have so many claims, and everyone else will be vying for the best tiles. However, great tiles alone don’t make a good company; what you do with the resources is what counts. Gathering plenty of water? Start refining fuel. Got a steady flow of carbon? Time to move into chemicals.
If you control all or most of a given resource, other players will be forced to buy through you, with this extra demand only pushing up prices and making you a healthy profit. Just ensure you have access to a diverse range of resources, too. Otherwise, you’ll have to sell your monopolised goods in bulk before they become lucrative.
Growth gives way to growth in Offworld Trading Company. Investing in your business will not only snowball but also compound other players’ problems — making it hard for them to even start competing with you. Keep thinking of your next move, where you want to be, and what needs doing to get there. Plans might change, but if you’re moving forwards, you’re on the right track.
Use Your Claims Wisely
After scouting the map, choosing a location, and selecting a headquarters, you’ll be given claims to pick any available tiles. You can see the number of claims available in the bottom-left corner, next to your HQ level.
When picking a claim, it might seem like the best choice is always the highest yield tile, but that’s not always true. Tiles farther away will mean each freighter burns a lot more fuel, shipments will also take longer to reach your HQ, and the increased costs and slower income will build debt fast.
Focus on maximising potential through adjacency bonuses rather than betting all your chips on high-yield, very expensive, and dangerously exposed claims. Remember, it’s better to have a steady income rather than an odd cash flow.
At the start of a game, there’s a short protection period where no opponent can claim the four tiles around your HQ, ranging from 20-80 seconds, depending on how far out the land is. So if there’s prime real estate near your base, there might be a good place to start.
Build To Your Strengths And Shore Up Your Weaknesses
Since everyone will want to screw everyone else over, it’s just as important to defend yourself as it is to attack. For example, If you’re playing a scavenger HQ, securing a large supply of carbon is crucial. Without it, you’ll be at the whims of the market and will more than likely end up paying exorbitant costs thanks to other players artificially jacking the prices.
Make sure to safeguard your company by owning at least 50 percent of your business’ shares. This way, your opponents must buy at twice the current stock price and also need to buy the 50 percent chunk in one purchase.
As well as covering your weaknesses, taking advantage of your strengths is essential. Consider the Robotic HQ; with no life support costs, any food or oxygen you produce goes straight into sales. This means, at worst, you generate a valuable cash flow; at best, you can flood the market to hurt your competitor’s bottom line without damaging your own.
Ultimately, if you play the right notes and cover your back, you’ll go far.
While you’ll always struggle to be the first to grab the perfect location, claim, and patent, it’s worth being on the lookout for what might improve your current situation. Take transport, for example; everyone needs to move their goods around somehow, but pirates reap havoc with your deliveries. You might look to grabbing Teleportation, but if that’s already taken, what then?
A backup plan is vital for success because it’s not if a problem will arise but when. Filthy pirates that cause trouble, for example, can be bought before your opponent, making them more expensive for the next player. Maybe you can shift priorities away from the goods they’re stealing, or perhaps it’s high time your opponent got a taste of their own medicine.
Quick thinking and decision-making are part and parcel of running a good company. Not every decision will be a good one, but you can always course correct if you’re willing to move with the flow of the game.
Always Be In Demand
A big part of any Offworld Trading Company match is trying to stay relevant. Interests will change throughout the game: from gathering raw materials and upgrading their HQ to improving existing structures and buying advanced buildings. These goals need resources to complete, and that’s where you step in.
An HQ will rarely get everything they need fast enough to be self-sustaining. This means they’ll have to interact with the market, where they want specific goods depending on their progress. If their HQ requires life support, those food and fuel requirements will raise prices. If they want to rush a patent, chemicals will be in high demand — and if that patent is for Cold Fusion, there’ll be even more demand for water.
By always having stock of what’s in demand, you’ll always have something of value, and with low supply plus high demand comes high prices for you to make serious money out of.
Diversify Your Portfolio
Having a variety of resources at your disposal means two things. Firstly, you’ll be less reliant on buying other players’ goods at ridiculous prices. Secondly, you can produce a wide selection of products both for yourself and the market — using the market as more of a helping hand than a crutch to rely on.
It might be tempting to monopolise one resource, such as water, but that still leaves you having to buy construction materials at a premium. Not to mention the massive target you’ll place on your back from the get-go. It might be impossible to cordon off the supply, too. Being Jack-of-all-trades gives you a great start and will keep you ticking over as the focus switches to subterfuge.
Never Spend More Than You Have To
The Ferengi from Star Trek wrote ‘The Rules of Acquisition,’ the third rule being “never spend more for an acquisition than you have to,” and in the cutthroat commerce of Offworld Trading Company, this holds true. Think about choosing a starting location. If you pick a place straight away, it’ll saddle you with lots of early debt, but if you wait, any opponents might nab good spots.
The key is to find a balance between the actual price of something and where people value that something. There could be a great starting point with diverse resources, but is $200,000 of debt great?
This tactic can also be used very effectively in auctions; if Dynamite has a starting price of $2,000, that’s a great deal — but one your opponents shouldn’t have. By bidding on the item, even if you don’t want it, you’ll increase its price and decrease its value for money. Eventually, someone will have to take the product; if that someone isn’t you, it should be a costly error for them.
Bidding for the sake of raising the prices is a great way to hamper other bidders but watch out that you’re not stuck with the bad deal.