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In some games of UltraCorps, the price for every unit is fixed. In other games, the price changes every turn, driven by a complex economic algorithm. When the description for a game says that "the economy is in effect," it means that prices will change.
The UltraCorps economy is driven by the demand for each unit. If the current demand for a particular unit is great, then the cost in Ultranium goes up.
Here's how it works: Each tick, the system looks at the production of each unit, and compares various factors with previous turns' production. Popular units go up in cost. Units being built by few players go down in cost. The result is that popular units become a worse deal, and less popular units become a better deal. Units which are being built by few or no empires will drop in cost until someone starts building them! The lowest that a price can go is half the original price. The highest it can go is three times the original price.
Important: Orders which have already begun production have their prices locked and are thus unaffected by the economy. That is the advantage of locking a large order . . . unless, of course, you predicted wrong, and the price goes DOWN. And the CPX of each unit is fixed; the population required to build each unit never changes.
Adapting Your Strategy to the Economy
The effectiveness of a unit in your fleet must be weighed against its price. Even if a unit is very powerful, it may still not be worth building if the cost has skyrocketed. Conversely, a unit which seems like a very bad deal, and not worth having, may be a steal in a few turns when the price goes down. Adapt your plans to the economy!
The historical prices of units are recorded in two places. The clever warlord will get a great advantage if he can watch and predict these fluctuations in price. If you think a unit's price is going down, don't buy it until you need it . . . but if you think it's going up, lock it in at a good price!
At the bottom of the information page for each unit, you will see a graph showing its price since the first turn.
At the bottom of the Com-Net page, you will see a link for Unit Cost History. This takes you to a page that shows the prices of all units for each turn. If a box is red, that unit's price went up on that turn. A green box means the price went down. So: a long string of red indicates a very popular unit. A long string of green indicates an unpopular unit. Mixed red and green probably indicates that players build a lot of that unit when it looks cheap, stop when it gets too expensive, and then repeat the cycle.
The Cargo Booster is the only unit whose price does not change.