...representative of some tribe super far away welcomes you to their Outpost. He asks whether you would be interested in sending a courier Element to deliver a shipment of Super Large Amount of X Commodity to Another City super far away. Successful delivery will give you a 20% commission (that is, Medium Amount of X Commodity).
The Chieftains of TribeNet are all clearly competent enough to begin assessing the risks, potential timeframe, and relative size of force required for this task. Even the newest Chief could readily provide an estimate on amount of Commodity X per Person per Turn with ease.
But what value are your couriers providing by moving internal goods? Whether by barge, foot, or mobile, couriers have an unsurpassable ability to move between garrisons, villages, and NPC towns. But would it have been better served on a courier mission? Below is a hypothetical scenario that explores the benefit the reliable movement of goods bestows upon a clan. Until you unlock the Instantaneous Matter Transport Device (also known as Board of Trade Research), couriers are the best method to realizing the benefits of tribe specialization.
In this hypothetical analysis, a clan has a population of 1800 evenly split between warriors: actives: inactives that desires to provide enough proves and mine excess "stuff'. We will assume 33% of the warriors are unavailable for work so they can suppress, defend, or otherwise secure the hex. That leaves 1000 able bodied workers. The clan has several options both in general skill specialization and location/number of workers for each task (Hunting and Mining). If a courier allows for successful transfer of goods, how much more efficient are the workers in Months 1-9?
Below are 5 different scenarios evaluating some reasonable options, all with access to sufficient traps and picks. Hunters are provided to feed everyone for 12 months but all mining and hunting occurs in the FINE weather of Months 1-9. Winter is for making little inactives and using those shafts to create something useful... like spears. Dirty minds.
The High-Skill Self-Sufficient Tribe - This tribe/unit has both Hunting 10 and Mining 10 and is located on a GH mine with 1 water side. For simplicity, the chief has an equal number of hunters every month (yes you could optimize this but the same is true for all other scenarios).
The Medium Skill Self-Sufficient Tribe - Perhaps more realistic, this unit could not specialize in either skill so has Hunting 5 and Mining 5. Since they wish to be maximize hunting, they also are located on a GH Mine and DF with water. Activities and populations are split accordingly in the optimal hexes.
Mining Specialists Self-Sufficient Tribe - This tribe loves to dig. It has Mining 10, picks, and a nice GH mine ready for exploiting. Yet poor logistics have doomed them to also needing to supply their own food.
Hunting Legends - Due to a little forethought, this Chief split his units so one would be at a DF riverside hex using that Hunting 10 skill, while another unit spent time mining. Unfortunately, this tribe only has a Level 0 in Mining.
Specialized Tribes - The ideal situation, one unit comes from a parent tribe with Hunting 10 in a DF while a second garrison has Mining 10 on a GH mine.
Let's assume the options are simply Provs vs Coal mined. Below we can see that scenario 5 is the clear winner.
Now how much production was lost in the other scenarios and how did the worker distribution play out?
Since Mining easily translates into other outputs (silver, gold, salt, etc), we can show how much extra goods per turn are lost vs the optimal scenario. Below is a table showing the Extra Outputs/Month lost per these 1000 workers or the % gain in efficiency by hunting in the DF with a Level 10 Unit.
This is the true benefit of an internal courier unit. And since a single unit can bounce between multiple sites, NPC Trading towns, or special hexes, it isn't even limited to benefiting the specialization of two single units. While it isn't recommended to perform this type of analysis on every courier, garrison, or trade, it is important to know what you might be sacrificing by agreeing to a courier mission and opting for unit self-sufficiency. Those commodities might not be worth it.