In a recent practice AI match, I was trying a ToV build order and noted that there were alot of elements that could be used for a trade boom. Pretty much all Delhi strats need alot of wood and all ToV builds need alot of vills on gold, since scholars are expensive. The 2tc pro builds felt janky as heck with Delhi since they dont have any eco buff that plays off multiple vils as well as the French/Abba/HRE perks. Its awkward trying to keep pace with those super boom civs with a mostly generic version of the same thing, and Delhi cant afford to skip the vils on gold - scholars be expensive.
At some point it occurred to me that traders are a tiny bit better than un upgraded vils if you have a trade route least 2/3 of a map length. A practical test on (micro) Dry Arabia gave me that 10 traders with a 2/3 route give about 488 gpm. In other words, its the same as 10 (non HRE) vils on gold with the first upgrade and wheelbarrow done. Scholars cost a shitton of gold without DoF and are always needed so the excessive trade boom gold isn’t a macro problem with this civ. With ToV, you want infantry to boost up - Delhi infantry can set palisades. This saves the hurdle of vil time to secure the trade route. Its a huge wood and decent gold investment for the market, walls, and traders but Delhi puts alot of vills on wood/ gold early anyway and it pays back fast enough between scholars and the gold gained.
The outline of the plan is to age up with ToV and then put vils on food, and mostly wood at first. Get down 1 mosque to start efficient production like normal and go for a barrack/range over a stable range. After efficient production and the first tier eco techs are done put the free scholar in the barracks. A few spears and/or archers go to start the walls and a vil also goes to a corner to drop a market. Have 4 vils on gold to keep up constant trader production. Add more houses and at least 1 more mosque - you need 1 to make scholars and one for techs. At 7 traders you can sustain 1 mosque constantly making scholars and have selfsustained trader production. Fill out as many mosques with scholars and also go for SS/relics/etc - no reason not to. Then do regular Delhi stuff, but backed by a reliable gold income. Mass scholar production makes imp bearable for Delhi and ToV handcannons pack quite the punch.
The end goal is to indirectly compete with multi TC booms with a trade boom into huge scholar numbers. The logic behind it is that Delhi, imho, cant out gather food against most civs - and by extension cant go for as many TC’s on full blast, ultimately falling behind in a straight vil race. To compensate, early trade takes less overall res than a TC in terms of infrastructure and offers a way to make more eco units with less straight investment. The elephant in the room is that traders cost triple what vils cost, but there’s a silver lining in that they dont compete with food for military/vils and in the earliest stages, food is a faster spent. More, the direction of the game with the new civs implies trade may be getting some more attention in the coming season.
I’ve been testing this with AI on dry arabia - to get the kinks out of the build before I try it in pvp. Thoughts, and opinions welcome before I move start playing with map types.