One of the key elements of Pharaoh (but not the only one!) is keeping your budget in black numbers (i.e. positive) in the long run. It's natural to spend most or all of your starting funds on founding a city, but finishing year after year with a deficit will only ultimately get you to fail the mission, and the "ultimately" doesn't even have to take so long. Before proceeding, you may want to check out the pages on Trade, Industry and Civil Service first, in addition to the Gameplay section in case you are unclear on the basics.
Main Factors in Money Balances
This is an overview of all that influences your money supply in the game, with some numbers for a better understanding.
- Starting Funds: You cannot influence the amount that you get to begin the mission with. It is mission-specific and also difficulty-specific - you get noticeably less in the same missions in each higher difficulty. For example on "Easy" the typical starting funds in later missions range between 6 000 - 10 000 db (debens, the in-game currency).
- Rescue Funds: You get these the moment your finances drop to zero for the first time in the mission. You only get solicited once. If you spend this money, you enter debt. Their amount is generally about 2/3 of the starting funds for the given mission.
- Debt: You can be indebted up to 5000 db., more just isn't possible - construction will become unavailable, imports will be stopped, even wages will not be paid out (imagine what that does with your city sentiment...) when you reach -5000 db. Also, you have to pay interest on your debt, which further deepens your problems. Obviously, the more debt, the higher the amount you have to pay in interest.
- Wages: You have to pay your working populace, and you have to pay them enough, otherwise they become really upset with you really fast. The default wage is 30 db./10 workers. The pesky thing about wages is that they tend to change. Unless you play on Very Easy where this happens rarely, wages will change several times a mission in the later missions, randomly up or down, usually by an amount of 2-3 db./10 workers at a time. Do not pay less than the Kingdom average, or you'll lose city sentiment. Wages are not paid to the unemployed, so you actually save money on high unemployment (but little compared to its risks).
- Taxes: While wages are paid automatically to anyone who works in your city, you have to take care of the tax you are due. People won't pay or will skip on paying unless their house is visited regularly by a Tax Collector. You cannot have a tax collector's office until you build a Palace. Taxes are 9% by default and you can adjust them any time within certain limits. Raising the tax will get you grumbling, lowering it below the default will bring you the love of your citizens.
- Trade: You should seek to have a positive trade balance, i.e. more money from exports than you spend on imports. In your Overseer of Commerce you can see the buy and sell prices of all the available goods. Notice that importing a good costs more than the revenue from exporting the same good would bring in. Trade is, at most times, the most important money source in the game.
- Tribute: A small yearly donation to the Pharaoh's treasury deducted automatically. You can check the amount of tribute you pay in the Treasury Overseer, but that's about all you can do about it.
- Gifts, Requests and Extortion: Raw gold is also infrequently the subject of Kingdom requests. You are virtually never required to send gold someplace in the Kingdom unless your city has the ability to mine gold. On the other hand, in the later missions where you are the Pharaoh, cities will from time to time offer you some money as a thank-you when you have sent them goods. Finally, enemies may try to extort you for any number of goods, often gold, with the added bonus that they will attack if you don't pay. (Don't cave in to extortionists, though, if you have an able military, you can easily defeat them, and not giving in to such demands raises your Kingdom rating quite a bit.)
- Personal Savings: These come from your accumulated salaries. Your monthly salary depends on your rank and you only can get paid when you have a Mansion built. Family savings carry over between missions (in case they don't in your game, get a patch where they do. This would be the original Pharaoh 1.0, for Cleopatra get version 2.1, as in 2.0 (basic Cleopatra) your savings do not carry over at all), but not between campaigns (i.e. the periods, like Old Kingdom, etc.). You can choose how much you pay yourself, but overpaying will make you less popular in the Kingdom. Your pay is drawn from your main city funds, so you can save some money (and improve your Kingdom rating) by not paying yourself (or paying yourself less). You can also give any amount of your savings back to the city treasury at any time. The alternative way to spend it is to use it to buy gifts for Egypt, raising your Kingdom rating a litlle. Note that gifts cost a percentage of your savings, not a fixed amount. The same price class of gift (modest/generous/lavish) will buy you the same increase in Kingdom sentiment, regardless of its nominal price at the time.
- Theft and Plundering: In case your city sentiment is poor and your police force is puny, you can get stolen from. Thieves will usually steal in the hundreds at a time and will not make a distinction between family and city savings. When you fail to stop an enemy army from destroying one of your money-holding buildings (Palace, Mansion, Tax Collector), they will pillage it, causing you to lose money (amount depends on what building they pilfered and how much you have in total, can be significant).
- Gold Mining: The easiest source of income, which is only available in a few missions. A gold vein capable of supporting ten gold mines will get your city fixed for life, but in half the missions where gold is available, the veins cannot support more than 5 mines, if even that. Five mines is more than enough to start the city, but not enough to keep a large metropolis going. Also, you still need a positive trade balance to achieve most prosperity rating goals, so you may not be able to beat the mission with gold mining alone. Gold from gold mines is always taken into your Palace, so be careful to build it as close as possible to the mines to avoid stalling production due to a long hauling distance.
Founding a Prosperous Economy
For a simple, general to-do list when starting a city of any kind, see Gameplay.
When you are starting your city on a green field (as you do in most missions), first pause the game and do a general survey of your situation. Be sure to read the mission goals first. Then, look around the map to identify potential resources and think about a working layout for your city. You should keep in mind that industry and trade both work best if the distances between the ports/storage yards/primary industries/secondary industries are all as short as possible. If you want efficiency, no single delivery man should have to go more than the diagonal length of one screen (on 1024x768 resolution) with his load. When you have the rough layout in your head, keep it there and proceed to check what primary and secondary industries are available to you.
Once done, go to the world map and check out how many cities want to trade with you, which goods, how many of them and how much it costs to open the trade routes (as you probably won't be able to afford to open two 1500 db. trade routes at the beginning of the mission). Then check the price list in the Overseer of Commerce and identify exportable goods with high profit margins (entire sell price if you can make the good entirely in your city, or the difference between finished good sell price and raw material purchase price if you need to import raw materials). In most missions you should be able to identify at least two goods on which you can turn a profit greater than 100 db. per 100 units (100 db. per 1 unit for "block" goods like weaponry).
Use all this information to get an idea of your city's physical layout, as well as its industrial and trade focus. At this point you should have enough information to be able to make necessary changes to the city founding progression listed in Gameplay (at the bottom of that page).
Remember to consider the question of military if yours is a "fighting" mission - how strong a military will you need, what types of units (land/naval/transport), how soon? You have to guess most of this based on the mission briefing, as you will not be given the luxury of detailed advance warnings about future attacks. Usually, when you receive intel that you're about to be attacked, it's already too late to start creating a response force, you have to have it ready beforehand, at least in part. If you think you'll need some military soon, you'll likely have to make compromises in early city development.
Then, you can unpause the game and start playing. As you play more missions and get more experience with the game, your pre-start guessing and planning will surely become much more spot-on.
Once you are already playing and have a town going, you should start thinking real fast about how to stop losing money. This should be done at the same time or before you start trying to make some, as making money won't help you if you lose it all on financial inefficiency. This section also covers the optimization of expenses in larger cities.
Taxes and Wages
Taxes are an important source of income. Just as a real government, you can't expect to make money on taxes, but you can expect to at least pay for wages with them. Remember: You can't collect taxes at all until you build a Palace! A palace is large and costly (especially in the later missions) and needs groundwater, so some thought should be given to its placing. The location of the palace is crucial in cities with gold mining capabilities, discussed below in the section on gold. You can only have one palace, but it can be rebuilt if destroyed.
Once you've built a palace, you can start placing Tax Collector's offcices. The tax collector is a walker, so make sure all your main housing areas are in range of one. To efficiently collect taxes, the collector needs to pass a house regularly. You can see your tax coverage and efficiency in your Overseer of the Treasury, as a percentage of population registered for tax and the amount of tax due that was not collected in a given year. You should keep your coverage above 90% and the uncollected amount should not be more than 10% of the total amount due. You can use the Administration/Taxes overlay to identify problematic areas of your city.
As mentioned before, there are limits to what taxes can do for your treasury. Taxes are a function of the wealth of a household, that is, the level of the house the citizens live in. As discussed in the article on Scribes, having the highest possible level homes in your city has its drawbacks, namely the inhabitants becoming so wealthy they leave the workforce. However, this effect only occurs when a house reaches Common Manor (see Housing), all housing levels below work along the "the higher, the better" principle.
Still, in newly founded cities you can hardly have Residence level homes. The best you can hope for in your first years as governor in a given city are Spacious Homesteads, and many times you will have to do with Ordinary Cottages. If most of the homes in your city are Huts, don't bother collecting taxes, the meager amount collected is not really worth the employees and money necessary to build a Palace and Tax Collectors.
Follows a list of approximate relative income from taxes (along with taxes-wages difference for a city of about 7000 people), assuming full employment, wages at 30 db./10 workers (default), taxes at 9% (default), a 95% tax coverage, a 5% inefficiency of tax collection (that is, the uncollected amount equals 5% of the projected tax income) and that 90% of the homes in your city are precisely at the level of:
- Sturdy Hut: Tax income equals about 40% of wage expense, approximately 3000 db. yearly loss on wages.
- Ordinary Cottage: Tax income equals about 90% of wage expense, approximately 500 db. yearly loss on wages.
- Spacious Homestead: Tax income equals about 120% of wage expense, approximately 1000 db. yearly gain on taxes.
- Spacious Apartment: Tax income equals about 140% of wage expense, approximately 2000 db. yearly gain on taxes.
- Fancy Residence: Tax income equals about 180% of wage expense, approximately 4000 db. yearly gain on taxes.
You can see your housing level in the Overseer of Society (and by looking around your city). One level of housing under the conditions stated above makes about a 10% difference in the taxes/wages ratio, you can use weighted average to estimate the level of money gained/lost in this manner for your city if you have a mixed housing level. You can see the real amounts paid on wages and collected in taxes for the last year in your Overseer of the Treasury and use them to predict the gain/loss for next year, assuming your city doesn't expand or evolve to have better housing types.
Construction can be costly, and you should refrain from wasting money. As discussed above, you should always know what you want to build before you build it. Once you develop your city and achieve a high and stable profit, you can be less picky about construction.
Remember that when you build housing areas, you are also going to need quite a lot of service structures and new immigrants don't bring any immediate money. So, only expand your city if you can afford it. Also, there are some structures that cost a dangerous amount of money:
- Temple Complex: The single most expensive structure in the game is a temple complex. You can only have one (to the patron god), if even that (in the early missions this structure is not available). The patron god will get angry with you if you don't build him a temple complex eventually, but he is willing to wait a few years after your city's founding. Until then, he will be satisfied to have one ordinary temple more dedicated to him in your city than the other gods do. Only build this structure when you have enough money and unemployed workers (needs 50, also the most of any structure). Once you build a Temple Complex, it is worth the additional expense to build the Altar and Oracle onto it, if you can afford it.
- Military: While the construction of a temple complex may be avoided in the early stages, you might need to set up a military fast, and that is the next most expensive thing. Especially forts are taxing for your treasury. To minimize costs, only build archer forts in the early stages. You may find yourself ill prepared if the enemy sends a large number of infantry, but most of the time two (full) companies of Academy-trained archers will do the job just fine. You can build infantry early if your city can mine copper, as the extra expenses are not that terrible in this case. A navy, while generally less costly than a land-based military, is not cheap either, especially if you have to import wood for the ship construction. Beware walls (also Towers and Gatehouses) - they are not as cheap as roads and will get your coffers empty in no time if you go about making yours a walled city early on in the mission. Most of the time you can do without extensive fortifications anyway, though solitary towers, while relatively cheap, are excellent for disposing of hippos, crocodiles and hyenas, which otherwise decimate your population and impede services locally.
- Vein mines (Gold and Copper): While the resources mined there can be a good source of income (gold is discussed separately below), the mines themselves (just the ones that require to be placed close to the gold veins visible in some rocks) are quite expensive if built in large numbers. Be sure not to run into debt while establishing your natural resource exploitation operation.
- Monuments: By themselves they cost nothing when placed, but, obviously, you need a vast amount of resources (both material and workforce) to complete them, especially the larger pyramids. So, if you don't want to look at a pegged expanse of ground for half the mission, only start construction on monuments when you can afford it. This means a city with a solid yearly profit (say, 3000+ db./year), as even if you can obtain all the necessary material locally, you need to build large, worker-intensive industrial quarters (consisting of Work Camps, the necessary construction guilds in sufficient number, and warehouses, as well as as many raw material production facilities as you can accomodate, if you don't want your in-game grandchildren to still be building your sacred tomb). This not only costs money, but usually requires so many workers that you have to expand your city considerably to get the construction going, meaning even more indirect costs. Also, keep in mind that populations age - if your city is stable and of constant size and you are bulding the monument over the course of many in-game years, your workforce will diminish yearly as those poor souls enter their much-deserved retirement (or drop on the spot while building the monument, which is more likely). Short of letting your city devolve into huts and then rebooting services quickly (which is VERY dangerous, but will get you a new and younger population if executed properly), there is nothing for it but to slowly keep expanding your city as your population ages. Strive to improve housing if you can, as that will save you the need to expand, but beware scribes! They are not going to be building your monument!
Imports can get your city into debt faster than anything else. Be very careful about what trade relations you maintain! (This does not mean the trade routes, there's no harm in opening one beside the opening fee, but rather the actual goods traded.)
There are several basic rules to follow regarding imports:
- Import something only when you need it: Instruct your Overseer to import a good only once there is a use for it in your city. If a good becomes unneeded again, stop importing it.
- Imports for monument construction: The above doesn't apply fully to monument construction goods, as the import rate is usually much slower than the rate at which the monument could be built if you had enough resources. So, if you have to build something large and cannot get the materials in your city, start importing as much of them as you can pay for without ruining your treasury, as soon as you can. With the exception of bricks, which are very tedious to manufacture in large amounts, you shouldn't import any monument construction material that you can quarry in your city.
- Always set the import limits manually: The "Importing as needed" option tends to overimport most goods, and you may find your treasury emptied faster than you can do anything about it.
- Do not overimport: If you import goods for processing in an industry or for consumption, do not import them in unnecessary quantities. Having two storage yards full of excess goods is just wasting money. For cities of up to about 5000 people, most industrial and consumption goods are sufficiently supplied when you have the import set to "Import to maintain 800", for larger cities you may want to set 1600 instead.
- Speculation on prices doesn't work in Pharaoh: meaning that you always sell a good for less than what you buy it for. No money can be made by importing and reselling the same good.
- Import primary goods only: You shouldn't import finished goods for consumption in your city - they are expensive. If you can have the appropriate industry in your city, and can import the raw material, do so, it will spare you a lot of money.