Age of Empires Series Wiki

The Trade Route is a predetermined path across a map in Age of Empires III to which a Mother Nature-controlled (and completely non-interactable) trade units are traveling. Control over the bulk of the route can mean the difference between victory or defeat. The Trade Route replaces the Trade feature of previous games in the series.



A Trading Post, next to a Trade Route

To secure the route, Trading Posts or Tambos (for the Inca) must be built on the site sockets along it. Walls cannot be built over them. While the trade unit does not count as a true unit in terms of interaction or collision with other units, or for Line of Sight improvements, it will cause Gates to open and close if built close enough. This occurs regardless of who owns the entire route, or the Gates themselves.

Controlling most of the Trading Posts or Tambos built on the site sockets on the map (both on Trade Routes and at minor civilization settlements) enables the Trade Monopoly countdown to achieve victory without fully destroying the enemy.

Rates and improvements[]


A fully upgraded Trade Route

The length of the Trade Route determines the total resources acquired per trade unit pass, and is randomly generated; however, larger maps are guaranteed to have longer routes, while some medium-sized maps have a large number of individual site sockets (e.g. Araucania).

The following table lists the average rates; results may vary in some situations:

Trade unit Level Rate
Level 1 1.2 XP per second
Level 2 2.0 resources per second
Level 3 2.4 resources per second
  • Resources are not delivered per second, but in lump sums equivalent to a trickle of that amount over the time the trade unit taken to travel the route.
Note: Upgrading the Trade Route will increase the rate for ALL players using that Trade Route, not just the player or their allies.
Age Upgrade Cost Effect
Age II tech tree aoe3
Level 2 200 food
200 wood
Upgrades the Trade Route where the Trading Post or Tambo is built to use a Level 2 Trade unit which can deliver resources, moves faster, and has greater LOS
Age IV tech tree aoe 3
Level 3 300 wood
400 coin
Upgrades the Trade Route where the Trading Post or Tambo is built to use a Level 3 Trade unit which moves faster and has greater LOS; requires Level 2
  • Resources will be wasted if two or more players upgrade the Trade Route from their own Trading Posts or Tambos at the same time.
  • AI players only occasionally upgrade the Trade Route to Level 2, and rarely upgrade to Level 3.

Trade units and upgrades[]

Different Trade units are represented depending on the region and mean:

Region Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
North America Travois portrait aoe3de Travois Stagecoach icon Stagecoach Iron Horse Train (Iron Horse)
Central/South America Barter merchant portrait Barter Merchant Traveling Merchant Icon Traveling Merchant Iron Horse Train (Iron Llama)
Asia Rickshaw1 icon portrait Rickshaw Trade cart icon Trade Cart Iron Horse Train (Iron Horse)
Africa/Middle East African trader icon Trader Caravan trade Caravan Trader (Caravan Trade) Saharan trade Caravan Guide (Trans-Sahara Trade)
Sea Trade ship icon Oceanic Carrack Trade galleon icon Trade Galleon (Trade Galleons) Trade fluyt icon East Indiaman (East India Trading Company)
European Rivers Trade boat 01 icon River Trader Trade boat 02 icon Cargo Boat (Waterways) Trade boat 03 icon Trading Barge (River Traffic)
European Land Scholar portrait Scholar Stagecoach icon Stagecoach Train europe icon Train (Railroad)
  • Before the Definitive Edition, Travois, Stagecoach, and Train (Iron Horse) were also represented in Central/South America regions.


  • The Train in American and Asian maps is based on the Lincoln Memorial Train.
  • The Train in European maps is based on the Midland Railway 483 Class. This is anachronistic, as these were built in 1914-1921.


Gameplay elements in the Age of Empires series
Age · Ability (II · M · III · IV) · Architecture set (II · III) · Area of Effect (Trample damage) · Armor/Resists (hack/melee · pierce/ranged · crush/siege)  · Armor class/Tag (I - original · I - Return of Rome · II · IV) · Artificial intelligence · Attack (Attack bonus/Multiplier) · Attack delay · Attack ground · Aura (IV) · Auto Scout · Building (I · II · M · III · IV) · Civilization (I · II · M · III · IV) · Civilization bonus · Cheat code (I · II · M · III · IV) · Conversion · Counter · Diplomacy · Gaia/Mother Nature · Game modes · Garrison · Gather Point · Healing · Hit points · Hotkey · Line of Sight · Mini map · Player · Population · Range · Rate of Fire · Regeneration · Relic (II · M · IV) · Repairing · Resource (Renewable resources) · Scenario Editor (I · II · M · III · IV) · Score · Signal Allies/Flare · Soundtrack (I · II · M · III · IV) · Speed · Stealth mode · Taunt · Technology (I · II · M · III · IV) · Technology tree (I · II · IV) · Town Bell · Trade (IV) · Tribute · Unit (I · II · M · III · IV) · Unit formation · Unit stance (III) · Upgrade (I · II · III · IV) · User interface · Victory · Villager Priority
Genie Engine
Frame delay · Full Tech Tree · Team bonus
ReturnRome-AoEIcon Age of EmpiresRuins · Discovery
AoE2-DLCicon-0 Age of Empires IIPass-through damage · Projectile duplication
Bang Engine
Autoqueue · Snare
Aom original icon Age of MythologyGod (Major · Minor) · God power · Settlement
3Icon48px Age of Empires IIIAge-up methods (Politician/Tribal Council/Wonder/Federal State/Alliance· Banner army · Consulate · Damage Cap · Home City · Home City Card · Inspiring Flag · Minor civilization · Nuggets · Promotion · Revolution · Target Lock · Trade Monopoly · Trade Route · Treasure
Essence Engine
GameIcon-AoE4 Age of Empires IVBounty · Dynasty · Fire armor · Imperial Council (Vizier Point) · Influence · Landmark · Religion · Sacred Site · Variant civilization
If a gameplay element has different pages across games, like civilization, the individual pages are linked in brackets.