Friday, October 1, 2004

Set sail with the tradewinds at your back


By James Booth

Aaah, the salty spray of the sea air. The deck rolling under your feet. The sound of the sails snapping in the wind. This is the life of a merchant trader. This can be your life too, with Tradewinds for Palm and Pocket PC from Astraware.

On the manifest

Tradewinds is a game of merchant trading based in the 1860s on the high seas of Southeast Asia. The ultimate goal of the game is to amass $1 billion in gold and retire at the rank of Tai Pan.

"A light, simple game, packed full of fun."

You have the choice of four different characters to play in Tradewinds, as shown in Figure A, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.


Tradewinds offers four characters that you can play. (click for larger image)

Some start with more money than others, some actually start in debt. Some have a solid reputation, others are borderline criminal, and one is an outright pirate.

There are four permanent settlements that you can trade at in Tradewinds and one hidden, mobile outpost: the outlaw city of Shangri-La. Figure B shows a map of the play world.


This map shows the Tradewinds world. (click for larger image)

Whether or not you have access to Shangri-La depends largely upon which character you choose. Some have immediate access; other will have to learn its location from vanquished pirates or tavern gossip.

Each town has a market for trading goods, but otherwise varies in the other shops they offer. Some towns will have a shipyard for the repair, outfitting, and purchase of your ships, taverns for gossip, and warehouses for storage. There is also a Port Authority for the necessary bureaucracy, banks, and the money lender, who is, in reality, a loan shark. Figure C shows the town of Jia-Ching.


Jia-Ching is representative of the towns in Tradewinds. (click for larger image)

Tradeable goods are kept pretty simple, as you can see in Figure D. There are general goods, arms, silk, and the illegal Dream Dust. Trading in Dream Dust can offer high returns, but watch out for the Port Authority. If they catch you, they'll seize your cargo.


Tradewinds keeps the market simple. (click for larger image)

In your quest for fame and fortune, you'll encounter pirates on the high seas. By arming your ships, you can stand and fight like the brave ship is doing in Figure D and collect a tidy bounty on your defeated foes, or flee in order to save your hide. You can also dump your cargo as pay-off for the pirates to induce them to let you go.