Not sure which leader to pick in ‘Civilization VI’? We’ve tallied their strengths

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2K Games

Getting started in a Civilization game can be a tall task — especially if it’s your first time with the series. Each culture offers different advantages, and some require more caution or diplomacy than others. Civilization VI, the newest entry in the series, makes choosing a leader more complicated (and crucial) than ever: Civilization VI features 24 different civilizations, each with different perks, unique combat units and infrastructure (a building or tile improvement), and a faction leader equipped with his or her own agenda and ability. If you’re a Civ rookie, or if you’re simply looking for a leg up on the digital competition, read on to find out more about each culture and its leader.

Note: Leader “agendas” are only in effect for civilizations that are not controlled by the player. Player-controlled leaders cannot operate independently, and therefore have no agenda.


Leader: Teddy Roosevelt

Perk: Founding Fathers

Unit: P-51 Mustang

Infrastructure: Film Studio

The Founding Fathers perk allows the Americans to earn Government Legacy bonuses twice as quickly, allowing players to benefit more from sticking with a single government type over a large number of turns. America’s unique unit is the P-51 Mustang, a modern-era fighter jet with bonuses to flight range, experience, and attack vs. fighter aircraft. The Mustang is best suited for eliminating enemy fighter jets. America’s unique infrastructure, the Film Studio, provides a culture bonus, adds extra slots for Citizens and Great Works of Music, and earns Great Artist and Great Musician points each turn. It also creates +100% Tourism pressure toward other civilizations, encouraging tourists to visit the American city instead.

Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, leads the Americans. Because of his unique agenda, Big Stick Policy, Teddy dislikes warring civilizations and civilizations that bully city-states on his continent. His unique leader ability, the Roosevelt Corollary, grants Combat Strength bonuses to units on the American continent, and appeal bonuses to tiles in a city with a National Park. The Corollary also allows America to build the Rough Rider unit — as long as the Rifling Technology is researched — which generates Culture with each kill and boasts a Combat Strength bonus when fighting on hills. Teddy’s bonuses are especially advantageous in the early game, helping the player expand across his home continent with ease.


Leader: Saladin

Perk: The Last Prophet

Unit: Mamluk

Infrastructure: Madrasa

The Last Prophet perk automatically grants Arabia the final Great Prophet, which will automatically found a Religion in a holy site or Stonehenge wonder. It’s a powerful perk, but difficult to plan around, since it’s impossible to know when it will activate. Arabia’s unique unit, the Mamluk, is a Medieval era heavy cavalry unit that automatically restores full health at the end of each turn, allowing players to utilize it more aggressively. Arabia’s unique infrastructure, the Madrasa, provides bonuses to Science and Housing, adds an extra Citizen slot, and earns Great Scientist points each turn. The Madrasa also provides additional Faith based upon Campus adjacency bonuses.

Saladin, the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, acts as the Arabian leader. Saladin’s unique agenda, Ayyubid Dynasty, causes Saladin to like civilizations with his Worship building, while disliking civilizations following other Religions and civilizations waging war on followers of his Religion. His unique leader ability, Righteousness of the Faith, reduces cost for Worship buildings, and provides bonuses to Culture, Faith, and Science from those buildings. Many of Arabia’s bonuses and abilities are tied to Religion and Science, meaning that players may find it easier to achieve Religious or Scientific victory with Saladin.


Leader: John Curtin

Perk: Land Down Under

Unit: Digger

Infrastructure: Outback Station

Land Down Under offers a grab bag of bonuses to help Australia expand quickly, including +3 housing in coastal cities and bonuses to district production based on the tile’s appeal. Building pastures also causes a “culture bomb” effect, immediately claiming any surrounding tiles. Outback Stations will help milk further value out of those pastures, adding food and production plus bonus food for every adjacent pasture. The Digger replaces Infantry in the modern era and helps you secure that fertile land, with a slightly higher base strength and bonuses for fighting on coastal tiles (+10) and outside of Australia’s borders (+5).

John Curtin was Australia’s 14th Prime Minister, leading the country through World War II, and now the rest of world history in Civ. His Perpetually on Guard trait makes Curtin a friend of peace, seeking to form Defensive Pacts with allies and liking civs that liberate cities (while disliking those that occupy them). Curtin can play passive-aggressively and expand quickly, even if it provokes his neighbors into attacking, because of his unique ability, Citadel of Civilization. It grants him a 100% production bonus for ten turns after someone declares war on Australia or he liberates a city. Australia’s robust and flexible ability kit makes them suitable for nearly any victory type.


Leader: Montezuma

Perk: Legend of the Five Suns

Unit: Eagle Warrior

Infrastructure: Tlachtli

The Legend of the Five Suns perk allows the player to sacrifice builder units in order to speed up construction of Districts within cities. The Aztecs’ unique unit, the Eagle Warrior, features a bonus to anti-cavalry units, and may capture defeated enemy units and convert them into Builder units for the Aztecs. This synergizes with the Aztecs’ culture perk, allowing the culture to steadily sacrifice Builder units to speed progress. The Aztecs’ unique infrastructure is Tlachtli, which can be built into the Entertainment Complex, and provides Amenities, Faith, and Great General points each turn.

Montezuma, the fifth emperor of Tenochtitlan, leads the AztecsMontezuma’s unique agenda, Tlatoani, causes him to like civilizations with the same luxury resources as the Aztecs, while disliking civilizations with different luxury resources. His unique leader ability, Gifts for the Tlatoani, causes luxury resources in Aztec territory to give Amenities to two extra cities. In addition, military units receive bonuses to Combat Strength for each different luxury resource improved in Aztec territory. Most of the Aztecs’ bonuses and abilities are tied to military power, and expanding the Aztec empire early in the game.


Leader: Pedro II

Perk: Amazon

Unit: Minas Geraes

Infrastructure: Carnival District

The Amazon perk provides bonuses to Districts and neighborhoods built adjacent to Rainforest tiles.  The Brazilians’ unique unit is the Minas Geraes, an Industrial era naval unit with improved ranged combat and defense values which requires players to first invest in the Nationalist Civic. The Brazilians’ unique infrastructure, the Carnival District, provides Amenities from Entertainment to the parent city, and can house the Zoo and Stadium buildings. The Carnival also provides extra Amenities while being built, and completion earns Great Engineer, Artist, Writer, and Musician points.

Pedro II, the final emperor of Brazil, acts as the Brazilian leaderPedro’s unique agenda, Patron of the Arts, drives Pedro to pursue Great People while disliking civilizations that attempt to pursue Great People as well. His unique leader ability, Magnanimous, allows him to retain 20% of Great Person points used after recruiting or patronizing a Great Person. This synergizes well with the Carnival District, allowing Brazil to recruit several Great People across different disciplines and eras. Brazil’s focus on Great Leaders makes it a candidate for Cultural victory.


Leader: Qin Shi Huang

Perk: Dynastic Cycle

Unit: Crouching Tiger

Infrastructure: Great Wall

The Dynastic Cycle perk provides a bonus to Civic/Technology cost reductions earned through Inspirations and Eurekas. The unique Chinese unit, the Crouching Tiger (yes, really), is a Medieval era ranged machinery unit that does not require resources to be built. The Chinese unique infrastructure is the Great Wall, a tile improvement that provides a bonus to the defense rating of Chinese units, as well as bonuses to Gold, Culture, and Tourism when segments are built adjacent to one another.

Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China and the founder of the Qin dynasty, acts as the Chinese leaderQin’s unique agenda, Wall of 10,000 Li, leads Qin to dislike cultures that have built more Wonders than him. His unique leader ability, The First Emperor, allows him to use Builder units an extra time, and spend a builder charge to hasten the construction of Ancient- or Classical-era Great Wonders. These abilities — along with the Great Wall — synergize to allow the Chinese to produce Great Wonders at a faster rate than any other faction, and earn Culture points without expanding their borders.

Cree (‘Rise & Fall’)

Leader: Poundmaker

Perk: Nihithaw

Unit: Okihtcitaw

Infrastructure: Mekewap

The Nihithaw perk provides a bonus to trade route capacity, as well as a free trader once Pottery has been researched. Also, all unclaimed tiles within three spaces of a Cree city become theirs once a trader first enters the city. Okihtcitaw replace the standard Cree scout and are available from the beginning of the game. The unit is much stronger than its usual variant and starts with a free unit promotion. The Cree Mekewap is a unique building that provides additional production and housing by default, and gains additional benefits if placed near bonus or luxury resources.

Poundmaker, the Cree leader, was well-known as a powerful and influential figure and protector. In lif he pursued peace and was an exceptional herder, able to gather buffalo into an artificial enclosure known as a pound with a song. His unique ability, Favorable Terms, grants bonuses to trade routes, including extra food and gold for each pasture or camp in a receiving city. Also, every type of alliance with the Cree grants Shared Visibility. Poundmaker’s unique agenda, Iron Confederacy, will encourage him to build up alliances with as many others as possible, and strongly dislike those that don’t do the same. TPoundmaker is a strong economy-focused leader who can leverage boosted trade capacity and good land to rapidly boost food and gold. Early, advanced scout units also allow for rapid expansion and capitalization on key resources.

Dutch (‘Rise & Fall’)

Leader: Wilhelmina

Perk: Grote Rivieren

Unit: De Zeven Provincien

Infrastructure: Polder

The Grote Rivieren perk provides large bonuses to Campuses, Theater Squares, and Industrial Zones when those structures are placed near rivers. Harbors will also be able to Culture Bomb nearby tiles upon completion. De Zeven Pronvincien is a unique Renaissance Era unit that gains a massive bonus to combat strength when attacking districts. Polders are the unique Dutch building. They have stacking bonuses that maximize food and production when placed next to one another, but they are restricted to coastal and lake tiles that are adjacent to flat land.

Wilhelmina led the Netherlands through both World Wars as the Dutch’s longest-serving monarch. With a jovial demeanor, she is still very fondly considered today. Billionaire, Wilhelmina’s unique agenda, will cause her to dislike those civs that don’t develop trade routes with her, and really like those that do. Her Unique ability, Radio Oranje, provides additional loyalty if they originate from a Dutch city, and additional culture if connected to a foreign city. This, when combined with the bonuses of the Polder, allow the Netherlands to rapidly expand trade networks from coastal areas, regaining livable, arable land from the edges of the sea, and quickly shoring up culture production with extra trade.

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