So what is supply exactly? Supply represents all those spare items that are difficult or impossible to replicate, yet are needed by every civilization to power starships. Vessels must all be fully stocked with Romulan Ale, nanoprobes, and spanners before departing the yards, in order to keep those ships running like new.
Supply had always been intended as some sort of soft cap on maximum ship production. However, having a simple instant supply purchase button in the starbase was never intended as a long term solution. After all, if you run out of spare parts on your humble Intrepid class explorer, there shouldn’t be a simple “reset button” that allows you to function like new, right... riiiight?
In the Star Trek Universe, empires are big - convoys may travel for months to resupply wayward outposts, and many of the fights you will be participating in with Fleet Operations take place in the borderlands. Furthermore, what really distinguishes supply from dilithium or tritanium, if it’s just a thing you must purchase every x minutes with y shipyards? As a consequence, an instant “gimme supply” doesn’t fit the bill.
Introducing the Trade Dock, a structure limited to one - where all your trading and supply needs will be satisfied. The Trade Dock, as its name suggests, is a refit of the Storage Dock. The Trade Dock itself has two special functions. Let’s focus on the first for now.
As soon as a Trade Dock is fully operational, Federation convoys will begin to warp in at regular intervals. Once these convoys warp in, they begin to fill your coffers with a set amount of supply. Once their task is complete, they will warp out. You might see many unusual designs near your Trade Dock, as the Federation relies on many different classes of transports for its long-distance hauls.
Be sure to upgrade a Storage Dock in a safe location - convoys can be attacked while they are unloading their supply! If a convoy vessel is destroyed, all that supply is lost to you! …At least until the next convoy. Voila, you now have one new resource to protect!
The Trade Dock also can research upgrades to improve the maximum rate at which convoys enter the system. With each improvement to your Stellar Economy, more convoy vessels will warp in, guaranteeing you a more or less steady stream of supply. Thus, as you build more yards, you will need to upgrade your Trade Dock. If the Trade Dock is destroyed, no convoys will warp in, but you will not lose any of your Stellar Economy upgrades.
The Trade Dock also has facilities that allow it to receive shipments from trading vessels. Every minute, the Trade Dock can be ordered to barter with these special convoys. In the Federation there is no currency system, but as on the shows, bartering offers a simple way to obtain new materials. In this case, supplies, dilithium, and tritanium are your methods of payment. Since the Federation is a vast empire with no price controls, the global market for dilithium, tritanium, and supplies fluctuates. If you wait long enough, you might find a really good deal … or a really bad one.
Since you can no longer directly trade supply to your in-game allies (you can still give dilithium/tritanium), the Trade Dock allows you to convert any received tritanium or dilithium to your necessary building materials. This type of trade system offers you the chance to slowly change a glut of one resource, to a boon of another. Consequently, the watchful player is the one who will benefit most - it's still hard to get rid of a 4000 dilithium overhead, but if you are 1 tritanium moon short, you can always exchange supplies or dilithium to get the necessary miracle-metal.
Importantly, the Trade Dock also allows you to conveniently hijack the technology tree to your benefit. Don’t have enough dilithium for that Eraudi Yard? Well, pay off the nearest Ferengi and get a quick stash of the crystal. You’ll be producing Defiants in no time! Just make sure you upgraded your connections to the Stellar Economy beforehand, so you don’t run out of supply.
And remember, a contract is a contract
…but only between Ferengi
'Till next time