There are three key limitations in TN: 1) population, 2) skills, and 3) resources. 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.
This discussion is targeted towards Clans at early to mid-stage of development (though there is some discussion of research topics to indicate longer term possibilities). It also does not discuss fighting skills (e.g. Combat, Archery, etc) as others are better placed to do that.
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/fleets that Tribe can have. There are also skills (Courier and Garrison), which allow Tribes to have additional units that have more limited capabilities.
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 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 (other than Scholar Tribes, which require research), 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 at the creation of a smaller tribe, where Admin skill and fighting skills (all Group B skills) are 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 silver), 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 (5 tribes each attempting 3 skills) is a reasonable goal, if you are looking to enhance your clan’s skill base.
Production skills can usefully be categorised into three types:
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.
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 usually 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. To avoid creating a need for multiple elements, 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 each 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 main Engineering Tribe pick up some Woodworking and Stonework skills makes sense (even though it may not be the primary Stoneworking Tribe, since Engineering and Stonework are both 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 (or Wv:5 for making Nets from gut and bark); a settled clan might only want Weaving L1 to make rope from cotton in order to build mills.
Fundamentally, your choices of skills to pursue will determine the character of your Tribes and of your Clan as a whole. Every Clan is different – it is up to the player to decide what sort of Clan you want.