Offworld Trading Company is a real-time strategy game in which money, not military force, is your true weapon. You must stake your claims to resources, then extract and develop them into goods that are used for advanced buildings and upgrades, all while buying and selling in the real time, player driven marketplace.
The marketplace is the core of Offworld Trading Company. Supply and demand are the only rules, and whoever is most able to effectively craft their strategy to buy low and sell high will usually take home the prize. Running steel mills without iron mines is perfectly possible if you’re willing to pay the market price for iron to keep them fed - which may even be a winning strategy, if iron is abundant and the market is flooded.
Along the way, upgrade your headquarters to increase the number of tiles you can claim. Construct special buildings like the Patent Office or Hacker Array to manipulate wide-ranging gameplay effects. Though direct conflict is not possible -- you’ll never send marines into an enemy base -- a variety of skullduggery is available on the black market. It isn’t cheap to pay someone to smuggle an EMP into a rival base, or hire pirates to raid a competitor’s supply line -- but it is extremely effective.
Ultimately, accumulating the capital needed to build an orbit-capable launch facility and thereby access to astoundingly lucrative offworld markets drives the endgame. The player who can buy up the shares of every rival’s company gains dominance over the Martian market for good.
The territory where you are founding your base has been scanned from low Mars orbit. There are spots where it's known there densely packed resources, but until you get your scanning equipment down there, every choice is a gamble.
Your first order of business is to get the basic necessities of food, water, fuel, and energy up and running – or to buy them on the market; it's perfectly viable to import your life support in Offworld Trading Company. Hydrolysis Reactors turn water into fuel and air, solar panels (or wind farms, or geothermal reactors) produce energy, etc. Mars is not a hospitable place, but carving out a living is far from impossible.
Once your colony has what it needs to function -- generally 30 seconds into the match (Offworld Trading Company is a fast-paced game) -- you’ll need to decide how to approach resource extraction and/or refinement. Do you mine deposits of raw minerals, buy them on the market and make your money refining them, or some combination of the two? Some resources, like steel or aluminum, are critical for upgrading your colony and constructing buildings. Others, like chemicals refined from carbon, are used in the Upgrade Laboratory to unlock colony-wide improvements.
Everything has a price, though. If the market is flooded with chemicals, use your limited claims to construct buildings that produce more in-demand resources and use the money from selling them to buy the chemicals you need. Often the primary use of a resource isn't to fuel your colony, but to fuel your bank account.
Money, though crucial to every aspect of Offworld Trading Company, is a means to an end. Filling in any resource gaps in your production chains or buying up what you need to construct a desired building is much of what you'll find yourself doing, but those are only a few of many uses for your cash.
Choosing how to spend your money is at least as important as figuring out how to make it in the first place. The black market, auctions, hacking, and purchasing stock are all important things to invest in. It all depends on what your competitors are doing -- you will need to change and adapt during every game in order to stay ahead!
The starting conditions of each game (cash in hand at the start, number of claims available, debt multiplier, stock shares, etc.) vary depending on what difficulty level you select. You have 7 options for difficulty:
This is the easiest difficulty level. You start with $10,000 cash, 5 claims, and 4 shares in your company. Your debt multiplier is only x1 and your starting stockpile is +100%.
This is the second level of difficulty. You start with $8,000 cash, 5 claims, and 3 shares in your company. Your debt multiplier is x2 and your starting stockpile is +75%.
This is the third level of difficulty. You start with $6,000 cash, 4 claims, and 2 shares in your company. Your debt multiplier is x3 and your starting stockpile is +50%.
This is the fourth level of difficulty. You start with $4,000 cash, 4 claims, and 1 share in your company. Your debt multiplier is x4 and your starting stockpile is +25%.
This is your “baseline” difficulty level. You start with $2,000 cash, 3 claims, and no shares in your company. Your debt multiplier is x5 and you don’t have any bonus to your starting stockpile.
Things start to get a little tougher with this difficulty level. You only start with $1,000 cash, 3 claims, and no shares in your company. Your production modifier is set to -10% and your debt multiplier is up to x6.
Just shy of the toughest level of difficulty, this level is still quite challenging. Your starting cash is down to only $500 and you get only 3 claims with no shares in your company to start. Your starting stockpile is penalized at -25%, your production modifier is -20%, and your debt multiplier is x7.
This is the highest level of difficulty and it doesn’t pull any punches. You start with absolutely zero cash, only 3 claims, and no shares in your company. Your stockpile is penalized at -50%, your production modifier is -30%, and your debt multiplier is all the way up at x8.