What is OTC?
Offworld Trading Company is a game based around managing a market economy on a Mars colonization mission. Players found corporations on Mars, collect resources from its surface, and then attempt to sell those resources on a fluctuating market to earn the most profit. If you are a fan of complex yet quick 20-30 minute strategy games, this is a game for you.
OTC is all about understanding market bubbles and making tough moment to moment decisions. The game rewards the observant and adaptable player who thinks one step ahead, as opposed to quick fingers or rigidly mastered build lists. This guide will attempt to give a framework for all 4 HQ types, but an adaptable player who can take these guidelines and realize when to deviate from them will be the most successful.
Winning the Game
As each player on Mars represents a corporation, each player's life in the game is determined by their stock sold publicly. If a player has over half of their stock purchased by an opponent, that player is eliminated from the game; however, instead of that player's assets being removed from the game, they become a subsidiary, making a profit for the players who own their stock.
A player has 10 stocks, and these can be purchased by anyone, including the player who owns that corporation. Each "stock" is actually representative of 1000 individual shares, meaning that a player whose stock is listed as $7.00 would cost $7000 to buy in the game. A player loses when at least 6 of their stock is controlled by other players. Depending on difficulty and the number of players in the game, a player can start with anywhere from 2-6 of their stock owned.
If the player secures at least 5 of their own stock (which will switch the lock symbol from unlocked to locked), the rules for purchasing change. Once all the stock in a player is owned, any stock the player owns in himself can be bought for double the price, until the player only owns 5. At this point, the remaining five stock will have to be bought simultaneously at a high price. Because of these mechanics, purchasing at least 5 of their own stock is the best way to avoid getting bought out quickly.
Player A owns 7 of his own stock. Player B owns 3 of Player A's stocks. In order for Player B to buyout Player A, they must first purchase two of Player A's stocks at twice their listed price. Then, Player B has to purchase the remaining 5 stocks in one go (also at twice the listed price). These purchases are a "forced purchase", if you will, as they forcibly replace Player A's ownership of a stock w/ Player B's.
- The more of the first 5 stock one owns in someone else's company, the less it costs to buy the remaining 5. This is explained in-depth here.
Players often find themselves caught in the rat race to get the best or most valuable territory and fail to secure their own stock. Especially after an expansive HQ upgrade, players can be vulnerable to a majority buy if they have not secured their first 5 stock beforehand. Opponents will often look for these opportunities to strike, both because the player cannot defend himself and because the HQ upgrade represents greater potential subsidiary income for them later. When to purchase your stock and other player's stock will be expanded upon below, but targeting other players correctly can be one of the trickier parts of the game.
Founding a Company
Players will begin every game selecting a spot on the map to found a headquarters. The 4 HQ types are: Expansive, Scavenger, Scientific, and Robotic. Not only do the shape of each HQ differ, each HQ has significantly different bonuses and upgrade requirements. HQ selection is very important in multiplayer play, and players should look into the associated pages of each HQ type to see which HQ to play in different situations.
The map upon which OTC is played is comprised of hexagon tiles. Tiles have many features ascribed to them: height, ground type, wind strength, and ice type (if any). References to these features will be made in other pages in this wiki, and clarification should be found there. The feature most important to a player, and the one outlined in this guide will be the resource markers found on these tiles. The only other feature of note is slope or hill tiles. These, along with the colony that begins in the center of every map are tiles that can not be built upon or claimed by the player.
Raw resources that can be found on tiles in the game are: Aluminum, Carbon, Iron, Silicon, and Water. Additionally, there may be geothermal vents on certain tiles, this tile allows for the construction of a unique building, the Geothermal Plant, which produces the Power resource. (Power as a resource acts quite differently than the rest of the resources in the game. For further information, go to the Power page .)
Players are advised to choose a founding location as close to as many raw resources as possible, with a strong preference for founding close to resources necessary for HQ upgrades. There are several manufactured resources that can be made through some combination of these raw resources: Chemicals, Electronics, Food, Fuel, Glass, Oxygen, Steel. These manufactured resources do not depend on starting location and can be produced from any claimed tile, though generally you will want to place your manufacturing buildings adjacent to your HQ to cut down on fuel costs, allow them to produce sooner, and allow them to be swapped out for more profitable production later, if necessary.
Players should also look for resource tiles that have several icons stacked on top of each other, representing a high deposit of resources on that tile. This tile will produce raw resources at a greater rate than tiles that only have a single or double resource icon on top of it. Finally, bunches of the same type of resources, especially Water (and Iron for Robotic and Expansive HQs), that allow you to receive an adjacency bonus can be very important, as the bonuses allow you to produce more of a resource than normal.
One consideration that may trump others is if certain resources are rare on the map. In these cases, you may want to position a found to allow you to have a monopoly or near-monopoly of that resource. However, a player seeking to claim a monopoly must have access to other resources as well in order to be able to use it effectively. For example: if there are only a handful of Silicon tiles on the map, claiming enough of them will force opponents to buy the Silicon from the market if they wish to produce Glass, for instance, which will drive Silicon's price up and allow you to make large profits. However, if you do not have alternate sources of income with which to purchase Aluminum or Steel to upgrade, you may be forced to sell Silicon before it becomes expensive and lose the advantage of having the monopoly.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you found an HQ on top of a resource, you are gifted a small amount of that resource at the start of the game. While this small boost to your early economy can be helpful, those tiles are permanently removed from the game. This is a double edged sword; while you will not have access to these tiles, neither will anyone else. Sometimes covering up an already scarce resource and grabbing the few remaining tiles afterwards can secure a player an easy win, especially in the case of upgrade resources.
More discussion of founding, including valuing founds on Reveal Map mode and example maps, can be found in the free Almanac DLC, included with the game (and located in the game's installation folder).
Once a player has founded their HQ on the map, they will be given the option to claim territory on Mars. On the standard online difficulty, Manager, players are awarded 3 claims to begin the game. There is a small claims counter in the bottom left of the screen next to a player's HQ level. Claims are permanent territorial acquisition. In layman's terms, once you have claimed a tile, you are the only person who can use that tile, and you can not revoke it or move it. As such, choose your claims wisely!
Tip: Building on a tile automatically claims that tile for the player, yet it is also possible to claim a tile and save it for later. By pressing 'C' on the keyboard, then clicking on the wanted tile, the territory will be claimed even if you do not yet have the money or the wish to build upon that space yet. Be warned, that claim is permanent like all the others, and comes from your limited claim pool. If you have not yet completed any building on a claimed tile, or if you are playing on the Assistant difficulty level or lower, you can refund claims and use them elsewhere.
In the early game, claiming tiles that hold raw resources is key. While later in the game the manufactured resources can be produced anywhere, claiming the best raw resources is a limited proposition. On top of securing potentially rare resources, raw resource extractors (with the exception of the Solar Condenser) cost nothing to build, which can be very useful while you have little production and money. That said, because many players prioritize raw resources early, their prices can drop quickly. Moving into manufactured resources fairly early can thus provide a source of much-needed early income, though you will have to be careful that the production is sustainable.
If you found adjacent to a patch of raw resources, one trick you can use is to put your production buildings on top of the valuable deposits. By doing so, you can reap the benefits of higher profits in the short run while also giving yourself of scrapping the production buildings and extracting the resources later, when they become more valuable.
Finding close, valuable tiles defines the early game of OTC. There is a protection period for tiles near a founded HQ and claims on a tile are instant. A player founding closer to a valuable resource may seek to claim the tiles before you, and excessive distance from a tile could cost you a valuable tile (or a lot of fuel transporting the good to your HQ). Resources are transported by freighters from claimed and worked tiles back to the HQ. Once there, these resources may be used in construction or sold on the market for funds. A larger distance away from a player's HQ means that resources will take longer in transit, and those seconds will feel like an eternity when the resources are required for important upgrades or purchases. Finally, each freighter that flies between a player's tile and HQ costs the player Fuel. Larger distances mean increased flight times and therefore increased costs, which can result in the rapid accumulation of debt.
Tiles attached to a players base via claims do not use freighters and therefore save on Fuel costs. Additionally, it is easier and faster to swap buildings on tiles close to a player's HQ, saving precious time when trying to beat someone to the market of a valuable resource.
Upgrading Your HQ and the Early Game
The easiest way to acquire more claims is through the upgrading of a player's HQ. HQs can be upgraded 4 times, allowing a maximum possible level of 5, and award the player with more claims after each upgrade. HQ upgrades are purchased with Steel, Aluminum, and Glass. (For all but the Scavenger HQ, which uses Carbon instead of Steel and the Robotic HQ, which uses Electronics instead of Glass). As a result, these resources are typically sought after in the early and mid game so that players can upgrade and gain a stronger foothold with more claims. The construction of most buildings also requires these same three resources and helps keep these resources valuable for most of the game.
You can also help prepare for upgrades by buying resources that you'll need for the upgrade but are not producing. Oftentimes, these will be Glass or Electronics and by buying them early, you can typically get them cheaper by avoiding price increases from colony demand or other players competing for upgrades. If opponents are producing a surplus of these resources, though, it may or may not be beneficial to pre-buy them.
Along with granting new claims, upgrading your HQ will introduce new strains to your economy in the form of Life Support. Each upgrade you buy will have your HQ consume more life support resources. If you do not have the resources in your stockpile, the price to buy these resources will come out of your debt. Small amounts of debt are acceptable and expected in the early game, but larger amounts will drive your stock price down and grow exponentially over time, making it easier for other players to purchase you.
As the economic pressure on the life support resources, Food, Fuel, Oxygen, and Water grows with each player's upgrades, the price of these resources will rise, and make investing in these resources at level 2-3 a typically strong play, though a high priority should be placed on producing enough of your upgrade resources and on taking advantage of adjacency bonuses, with triangles still being optimal, but pairs of buildings typically being necessary given claim restrictions (single primary resource extractors are fine, but solitary production buildings should be avoided due to their inefficiency).
You can cluster more than 3 buildings together to get even greater adjacency bonuses than triangles provide, but triangles often hit the sweet spot where you produce a lot of the resource but generally not so much that you'll quickly crash out the resource's price and need to move into producing a different resource. There are, of course, cases where producing one resource is very profitable and can be predicted to stay very profitable for the foreseeable future, in which case larger clusters may be desirable. It is worth considering, however, that large clusters are more vulnerable to being shut down by a single sabotage item, whereas two separated triangles will generally require two sabotage items to shut down.
Power can be an especially important resource around HQ level 3 because players will often not produce any power at the beginning of the game, in order to move through upgrades effectively. By HQ level 3, however, the cumulative consumption from all the players will have caused power's price to rise substantially, which makes power production a highly effective way to either pay off debt or prevent yourself from accruing as much debt.
The Robotics HQ does not require Life Support, but its substitution of Power for Fuel can make timely entry into the power market especially important.
Using Claims Efficiently
It is important to remember that you receive a limited number of claims per upgrade and have a limited number of total claims. While having a set plan for your claims is infeasible because you will need to react to market prices and other players' production, you should eventually develop a sense of what you want to do with your claims and how various decisions you make affect what you'll need to do later.
For example, as a Scavenger without extra claims, you might spend your claims as follows:
2 carbon quarries
1 silicon quarry
1 aluminum mine
2 geothermal plants
2 water wells
3 triangles of production buildings, equivalent to 15.75 buildings worth of production, counting adjacency bonuses
1 advanced building
By the end of the game, you'll probably want 2 Offworld Markets and at least 1 Optimization Center, which will essentially reduce your available production to one triangle and two pairs of buildings, or the equivalent of 11.25 buildings' worth. In other words, by moving two additional production claims into advanced buildings, you lose 4.5 buildings' worth of production. Keep this in mind as you commit to claims that can't easily be converted to production. In an extreme case, a scavenger that takes 3 carbon quarries, 3 water wells, and 3 wind turbines (instead of the 2 geothermal plants) would end up with only 4 claims for production, or 6 buildings' worth if arranged as two pairs.
While doing something like claiming silicon away from your HQ can keep you secure if the silicon price ever skyrockets, it has a real opportunity cost. If you have multiple opponents producing a surplus of a resource, then, noticing that and avoiding committing too many claims yourself can give you an advantage. Trying to cover your deficits using optimizations or Slant Drilling can have similar benefits. Acquiring extra claims through the Black Market or Auctions (or a random event) will also mitigate problems caused by having too few production claims, but you do still have to be careful that paying for those extra claims doesn't slow you down too much.
While in the early game, expanding, upgrading, and claiming the most valuable tiles are the most important objectives, these become less important as the game progresses. Resources will rise and fall in price, and surveying the map to figure out what will be worth investing in is critical. Unlike most games where buildings are static and permanent, buildings in OTC are often scrapped and the claimed tile reused to produce a more valuable resource. Each HQ upgrade costs more resources to complete and your supply of claims is very limited, so it is optimizing the tiles you have is a very important part of the game. You do, however, want to be careful that your transitions will be significantly more profitable for a reasonable length of time, otherwise the time and construction costs can cause your transitions to be a net loss.
For Example: In the early game you had several adjacent tiles collecting Iron, but now its price is below $10 and you have a large stockpile of several hundred Iron (if you are not producing Steel, you may not even need to build a stockpile). Deleting the Iron Metal Mines and building Electronics Factories at $200-$300 can be a terrific play.
Sometimes basic production will make you enough money to buy all your opponents, but you'll often need to use Advanced Buildings to get the job done. Zultar's video on advanced buildings covers the basics of how advanced buildings work, while Yerand's guide goes deeper into how you might use the advanced buildings to your advantage. Both guides can be found on the Guides page.
It is typically advised against investing in another player's stocks at HQ level 1 and 2, but there will always come a time in a game when attempting to purchase another player is the correct choice. Players with high debt, less upgrades, and low cash will have lower stock prices and be easier to buy. While upgrading to level 4 or 5 may seem appealing for the three new claims, it is possible that the same amount of money spent upgrading could purchase an opponent, giving you the income of a subsidiary and removing an opponent from the game. Be careful, though. Investing in a player gives you no direct benefit on the map, so if the market turns and your tiles do not produce enough money for you to finish the buyout, you may have lost valuable time and resources to a fruitless endeavor while painting a target on your own back.
The choice of whose stocks to buy and when to buy them is often the determining line between a good and a great player. Several guidelines will be listed here, but realize there are exceptions to each one of these, and all the game's factors should be taken into account:
- Buying the player with the lowest stock price: This avenue of attack is often the easiest when going for a purchase. A player with high debt could be spinning out of control even though they have valuable tiles. Their low price allows you to buy them up early and quickly. The pitfalls to this strategy lie in your own vulnerability. When buying a cheaper player, the other strong players will certainly take notice. You have now spent large amounts of money on another player and may have no means to defend yourself if the other rich players start going after you.
- Buying stock in a player who is going after another player: When a player begins to buy someone, they are immediately marked as a target on the map. If they succeed in buying that player they will take a massive lead, and their stock will jump massively in price. However, their investment of cash in another player leaves them with less cash to secure their own stock.
- Buying stock in a player who is going after you: If you believe that you can purchase someone before they purchase you, then the best play is often not to buy your own stock in defense, but to attack and purchase their stock right back. Not only will buying them raise your stock price and make you harder to purchase, but if you succeed in purchasing them, then you will have defended yourself by acquiring all of your own stocks that player purchased!
As a beginner, keeping up through the early game and learning to read and predict price movements for the various markets are the most important skills to learn. Once you have the basics down, you'll be able to win some games, but learning the intricacies of the mid-game, as well as how to play the stock market and black market well, will be key to becoming a better player.