There are three key limitations in TN:
Clans can find resources (at least for most common types) by searching and/or trading (with other friendly Clans or with NPC/Fairs). Though it may take time and effort (and possibly a willingness to relocate), typically tribes will be able to access sufficient raw resources for most purposes (NB this was not true in some earlier incarnations of TN). Where raw resources are lacking, it is sometimes possible to find or make substitutes (e.g. charcoal for coal, brick for stone, etc).
Population growth is largely a matter of time, although higher Morale has a small effect and some special hexes (as well as some Research topics) give population growth bonuses. Recruits through Seeking and through establishing political control are other avenues to enhance population growth. Mercenaries can act as Warriors and hirelings and slaves can act as workers, effectively increasing the available population.
Skills are the key limitation over which Clans have the most influence, through their choice of skills attempted over time. Skills also have the capacity to offset (to some extent) deficiencies in other areas (e.g. by allowing skill-based solutions to resource shortages, or by making available workers more efficient at their tasks). Deciding on a Clan’s skill strategy is a large part of deciding what sort of Clan it will be.
In TN there are a wide range of skills. These skills can usefully be categorised into five groups:
Some skills have elements of more than one category, for instance Forestry is primarily a volume limited skill (10 workers per skill level), but has a qualitative element in that Forestry 5 enables making charcoal (a coal substitute) from logs with a Charhouse.
Some skills do not fit easily into any of these categories, the most important being Economics. This is critical for providing access to the Fair at L4 with a trading post or L5 without a TP (though there is an alternative path through Diplomacy L7 plus TP).
Research-focused skills are most relevant to highly experienced Clans, who are beyond the scope of this note. Having a university is very important once any Tribe in your clan has more than one skill at level 10, since without a Uni each tribe can only research 1 topic each month. For this reason, a Clan’s long-term strategy needs to include building a University (which requires Res:10, Eng:8, Stn:4) – try not to leave this too late.
Cultural skills’ main benefits currently are the Morale boosts and generate income at Fairs (although there are efforts underway to add more flavour and benefits to these skills).
My knowledge and experience is too limited for me to provide a proper discussion of the relative advantages and disadvantages of the various combat-related skills. This does NOT mean that they are not important – just that they are not considered in this note.
This note therefore considers:
These skills determine what options you have for organising your Clan. In particular, Diplomacy determines how many Tribes you can have and Admin (for each tribe) determines how many additional elements that Tribe can have.
Additional Tribes allow additional skill attempts, as each Tribe has its own skills inventory. This is a very important part of a Clan’s skill strategy. From a skills perspective, the more Tribes (and hence skill attempts) the better, though there are some caveats: for instance, splitting skills across tribes may mean Joint Projects are needed for building some structures.
The main downsides of splitting the Clan are:
When a Tribe splits from its parent Tribe, it may receive skills from its parent (which correspondingly loses those skills). This is the only time that skills transfer between Tribes, so you should use it judiciously. A common early tactic, for instance, is to allocate skills between the original and the second Tribe so that one has the skills associated with Herding and its by-products (e.g. Skinning, Gutting, Boning, Tanning, Curing, Bone Working, Leather Working, etc) while the other has the skills associated with Hunting and being in rougher terrain (e.g. Forestry, Woodworking, etc).
You should avoid having the Diplomacy Tribe also target another important Group B skill. Therefore, it may be advantageous for the Diplomacy skill to shift on creation of a smaller tribe, where Admin skill (another Group B skill) is less important and can therefore wait at least until after Dip5 is reached.
It is useful to plan skills with each Tribe having a primary skill focus (that will be its primary skill attempt most months) and a secondary skill focus that is in a different Group (to avoid the additional penalty on success chance for attempting more than one skill in the same Group).
Once the Clan can trade at the Fair (and/or has some other access to a steady flow of cash), then it is usually advantageous to have each Tribe do a primary and a secondary from Groups B and C, plus a Teacher for Hire skill from Group A, as this maximises the number of skill attempts per month. Sustaining a rate of 15 skill attempts per month is a reasonable goal, if you are looking to enhance your clan’s skill base.
There is an underlying presumption in the discussion of Production skills below that the Clan has pursued some Diplomacy, so that it has multiple Tribes.
These skills have linear benefits below level 10, so that three tribes each with L2 will have the same aggregate production capacity as one tribe with L6. Because of the increasing difficulty of learning skills by level, it is usually easier to achieve a moderate level of capacity for input limited skills by obtaining the required skill levels across multiple tribes.
In the long term, it is more efficient (at least for skills where large volumes will eventually be required, e.g. Refining) to pursue these skills in a single Tribe, which targets getting to L10 and hence having output volume only limited by workers applied (up to the hard limit of 10,000 workers in a skill per hex). However, the average time for a Tribe to go from no skill to L10 is nearly 27 months of primary skill attempts. This is such a long lead-time that it will often be advisable (even within a L10 strategy) to supplement the Clan’s skill capacity using other Tribes in order to generate sufficient output for immediate needs.
Many input limited skills can be enhanced by using tools (e.g. adze for Forestry, mattocks for Quarrying, etc) or by ancillary skills (e.g Milling enhances Baking). Obtaining the relevant tools (by trading or by developing Metalworking) is therefore a key part of production strategy.
The change in output quantity per worker by level is not necessarily linear for these skills, though most seem to fit this pattern. Because these skills improve efficiency (output/worker, rather than number of workers), they can be used to overcome limited numbers of available workers (by using less people to produce the same output) or to deal with resource limits (by producing more per turn with a fixed number of workers). One exception is Herding, where improved skill enhances output (herd growth), but cannot be used to employ less people for the same number of animals (although there are Herding research topics that do allow this).
Obviously, because the number of workers used is not limited for these skills, it usually makes sense for only a single tribe in each clan to pursue these skills. In planning skill allocation between tribes, you should consider how you will deploy these skills (since only one tribe will have each of these skills). For instance, Mining and Farming are geographically based and each use a specific type of hex (Prairie or Grassy Hill for Farming; mineable resource for Mining, which appear only on hills and mountains, except for Salt). Therefore putting both Mining and Farming in the same tribe would run a high risk that the tribe will need to be different places at the same time. Because of the limitations on the size of elements (each must be smaller than the main Tribe), it is advisable to restrict unlimited input skills within each Tribe to those which can all be done in the same place. For example, Weapon Making and Hunting are both well suited to work in a Forest/Jungle hexes; similarly, Herding and Farming are both well suited to work in Prairie/Grassy Hills hexes.
As for input limited skills, tools can significantly assist production using output volume skills, enabling the same production from less people. For these output volume skills, however, you can just throw more people at the problem in order to achieve a target output. Furthermore, the number of usable tools may be very large (e.g. 10,000 traps for 2,000 hunters), limiting the attractiveness of buying tools for these skills.
These skills allow a tribe to produce different types of goods depending on skill level, e.g. Metal Working, Weapon making, Stone Working, etc. I would consider Engineering to fall into this category – the difference being that the output goods are structures, not moveable goods. The goods produced at higher skill levels tend to be more valuable or useful.
As noted above for output quantity skills, generally only one tribe in the clan needs to develop any of these skills (there is a partial exception noted below for construction related skills). However, because these skills are generally independent of terrain, there is more freedom in deciding how the Clan allocates these skills between tribes. Certain skills do fit well together; for instance having a Tribe capable of doing most building without needing joint projects will simplify construction (as well as being more efficient with workers). Therefore having your Engineering Tribe pick up Woodworking skill makes sense (some Stoneworking skill as well may be worthwhile, even though it may not be the primary Stoneworking Tribe, since both are Group C skills).
A key part of your skill planning is to consider what skills you need and to what level in conjunction with your other skills and overall clan strategy. For example, a nomadic clan may want Weaving L3 to make rope from gut and bark as well as snares from rope; a settled clan might only want Weaving L1 to make rope from cotton in order to build mills.
A Clan’s skills define its capabilities, so target skills to suit the type of Clan you want to be.
More Tribes = more skill checks, so Diplomacy is an important part of your skill strategy. Multiple Tribes also have some down sides (RL cost and increased vulnerability to attack).
Thinking ahead about sensible skill allocation and targeting for each tribe can avoid wasteful situations, such as:
If you want to increase skill attempts beyond having five Tribes, there are some options, such as