No matter if you’re a budding city builder or a battle-hardened Civ veteran, Civilization VI has something to offer you. In addition to the base game, Civ VI has two full expansions: Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm. 2K Games also recently announced a season pass that will extend into 2021, offering six new game modes, nine new leaders, and more. If you’re just getting in on the action or returning to an old favorite, our Civ VI tips will set you on the right path.
How to win in Civilization VI
Before getting to any of our Civ VI tips, we have to talk about winning the game. We can’t stress this enough. If you want to win in Civilization VI, particularly at higher difficulty settings, you need to focus on a particular win condition. Spreading out your efforts will only bring defeat.
In a normal game, there are six ways to achieve victory: Science, Culture, Domination, Religion, Diplomacy, and Score. Diplomacy is the only victory condition not included in the base game (it comes from Gathering Storm).
Although there are specific conditions for achieving each victory, you may have to take different steps during your play-through, depending on which expansions you have.
How to win a Science victory
For a Science victory, you need to do three things: Launch a satellite, land a human on the moon, and establish a Martian colony. There are some additional steps if you have the Gathering Storm expansion, too. Overall, we think this is the easiest victory condition to achieve, so it’s great for beginners.
Science victories rely on science, obviously. You’ll find this victory condition easier if you select a civilization that is strong in science. Civilizations with strong production can also have an advantage, for reasons we’ll explain.
You’ll want to plan your cities in ways to maximum science. This includes placing Campus districts near mountains and rainforests, as those provide an adjacency bonus for that district.
Don’t neglect production, however. Once you research the technology needed to begin launching rockets, you have to build them — and it requires a lot of production. Look for city sites that you can improve with many mines. Remember that Industrial Zone districts gain great adjacency bonuses from mines and lumber mills.
Finally, don’t forget the Eureka system. Every technology in Civilization VI has a eureka objective. If you fulfill it, you’ll gain a significant bonus to researching that technology. Triggering Eureka moment can be an important way to get an edge in the science race.
Science victory is relatively easy to achieve because it’s difficult for opponents to block you. Early aggression is the main threat to watch out for. If you can survive any early wars, and are successful in producing the most science, your technology lead will make it difficult for opponents to conquer you. Enemy spies can sabotage your districts in the late game, but you can guard against this by building your own spies and assigning them to counter-spy operations.
How to win a Culture victory
To achieve a Culture victory, you need to establish your civilization as a tourism hub. Specifically, you must attract more visiting tourists than every other civilization has domestic tourists, combined.
Culture can be a difficult victory condition, as it’s one of the most complex to achieve, and can become significantly more difficult if you’re unlucky enough to be paired with an A.I. civilization that is focusing on this win condition. We don’t recommend this if you’re looking to win your first game of Civilization VI.
It’s important to play a civilization with some form of bonus to culture production or tourism. This victory condition can be difficult without such a bonus. Aside from that, you’ll need to focus on culture (to unlock the civics you need to unlock important buildings) and a healthy amount of production (to create the units, buildings, and Wonders you need to house Great Works, Artifacts, and Relics).
You can employ other strategies, as well. It’s possible to buy Great Works, Artifacts, and Relics from other civilizations, so you might find the use of great wealth. Religion is helpful, since it can offer helpful bonuses, help you obtain Relics, and later can be used to produce Rock Bands (which are purchased with faith).
Like we said — it’s complex. There are many paths to victory, but in the end, it all comes down to obtaining the Great Works, Relics, and Artifacts you need, along with constructing Wonders and cultural buildings to house them. Then, since that’s often not enough for victory on its own, you can use the Rock Band (if you have the Gathering Storm expansion) to tip tourism in your favor.
How to win a Domination victory
The most straightforward of the bunch, a Domination victory comes when you capture the Capital of every other civilization on the map. We think this is the second-easiest victory condition to achieve, after Science.
As you capture other regions, the remaining civilizations will become increasingly hostile toward you. Because of that, you need to have an overpowering military to make it over the finish line.
The best strategy is to go hard, straight out of the gate. Conquer your early neighbors, including city-states, unless those city-states have a particularly useful bonus you want to preserve. This has two benefits.
First, you can begin to “snowball” by acquiring new cities and eliminating competitors for the best city locations. As you conquer more territory, you’ll be able to build an even larger military, making future conquests less difficult.
Second, the warmonger penalty is lower in the early eras, and other civilizations will have less communication with each other. The more foes you conquer early, the less likely you’ll have to deal with a strong alliance of opponents.
Production and science are obviously useful, as they let you build more units, as well as research better units. But don’t forget religion. You can buy some military units with faith. Also, the religious beliefs “Defender of the Faith” and “Crusade” provide defensive and offensive bonuses, respectively. If you can obtain these early, and combine them with a strong early rush against nearby foes, you’ll be nearly impossible to defeat.
In any case, you should have things wrapped up by the Renaissance Era. If you haven’t conquered several foes by then, consider pursuing a different victory condition (it’s often easy to switch to Science).
How to win a Religion victory
For a Religion victory, your religion must be the predominant one for every civilization in the game. Religion spreads naturally from cities that are strong in a particular religion, but to achieve victory, you’ll need to aggressively find ways to produce more faith in cities, as well as produce specific units to spread your religion. This is why religion can be a difficult victory condition.
In the early game, you’ll want to focus on two connected goals. First, you’ll need to produce a Holy Site district, as well as try to build a religious Wonder, like Stonehenge. These goals help you produce the Great Person points you need to obtain a Great Prophet and, in turn, found a religion.
There’s a limit to the number of religions that can be founded (based on map size), so it’s very important to obtain a Great Prophet before that limit is achieved. You can’t achieve a Religion victory if you don’t found a religion. Early religions also get first pick of beliefs.
Once you have founded a religion, you’ll want to expand your civilization by building cities that produce a lot of faith. Holy Sites gain adjacency bonuses from Natural Wonders and mountains, so look out for those.
As you unlock the required civics, you’ll can produce religious units with faith, such as missionaries and apostles. These units can travel to cities (domestic or foreign) that don’t follow your religion and convert citizens. It’s important to focus on high faith production so you can, in turn, produce numerous religious units to spread the word.
These units can engage in “theological combat” with other religious units, so you may find yourself in religious ‘wars’ with other civilizations. Note, though, that this combat exists outside your normal diplomatic status. You may find yourself in religious competition with civilizations that are otherwise friendly to you.
While you’ll achieve religious dominance through spreading your religion, you may need to use other means to achieve victory. If you find an opponent is giving you tough religious competition, a good old-fashioned war can be used to take over several of their best faith-generating cities. Alternatively, you can use diplomacy to rally other civilizations against them.
In the end, the difficulty of victory will have a lot to do with resistance from other civilizations. If other civilizations aren’t focusing much on religion, you may find this an easy path. On the other hand, you can find yourself in for a tough fight if other civilizations focus heavily on religion, so be prepared to pivot towards another victory condition.
How to win a Diplomacy victory
Specific to the Gathering Storm expansion, a Diplomacy victory occurs when you reach a certain number of Diplomatic Victory points (the exact number depends on your game speed; you need 20 at Standard speed).
As with a Culture victory, you earn credit towards victory through a variety of tasks. You can points by building particular wonders or researching certain future-tech technologies. However, your main source of victory points will be the World Congress. These are your major sources of victory points in the World Congress:
- Successfully passing resolutions (1VP)
- Winning a non-Emergency Scored Competition (1VP)
- Winning an Aid Request competition (2VP)
- Winning World Leader election in World Congress (2VP) – however, you can also lose VP if other civilizations outvote you.
While this victory condition does have a set goal, it is trickier than a Science victory because you don’t have complete control over the events that lead to generating victory points. You’ll need to be opportunistic. When a scored competition comes up, you’ll want to leap on that and go all-in on winning. When a new session of World Congress is held, you’ll want to carefully consider your proposals and look for those you believe can win.
Diplomatic Victory Points aren’t the only resource to monitor. You also want Diplomatic Favor, as this resource is spent in the World Congress to help pass your proposals. Your main source of bonus Diplomatic Favor will be city-states, as you gain one additional point of favor for every city-state that you’re Suzerain of. You also gain Diplomatic Favor from alliances with other civilizations, and this can become a major source of favor in the late game.
Additionally, certain one-time events (like liberating a city-state or scoring well in a competition) will generate Diplomatic Favor for you.
As with a Culture victory, the many variables at play means there’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy guarantee to work in every situation. However, you’ll generally want to focus on city-states, since they’re a reliable source of Diplomatic Favor. You’ll want to unlock civics that let you generate more Envoys to send to city-states, and use government policies that improve Envoy production.
Meanwhile, you should court favor with civilizations that will make strong allies, as good late-game Alliances are important to seal your victory.
While this may seem a peaceful victory condition, you may need a strong and mobile military to deal with any opposing civilizations that are aggressive towards city-states. A Diplomatic victory can become next-to-impossible if many city-states are conquered by foes, since this will starve you of the Diplomatic Favor you need to win proposals in the World Congress. The same is true of allies; you won’t gain any Diplomatic Favor if your ally is conquered.
How to win a Score victory
A game of Civ VI ends at 2050 A.D., so if no one has achieved victory by then, the player with the highest score will win. You earn points for doing just about anything, including owning cities, founding a religion, placing buildings, and discovering wonders.
This isn’t a victory condition you should focus on, but instead more of a fall-back. Winning a score victory is better than nothing, but it likely means your earlier plans were thwarted.
How to select city locations
Choosing great locations for your cities is important. A poor location can result in a city that’s almost more trouble than it’s worth, while a great location can grow into a massive metropolis that quickly builds the game’s most expensive units and districts.
In general, all cities should have access to several good food tiles and several good production tiles. Food tiles include floodplains, grasslands, food-related resources (like Rice, Grain, or Fish), and some tiles when you can build camps (like Pigs). Production tiles include production-related resources (like Stone or Copper), hills, and forests. A degree of balance is essential. Settling in hills won’t be that useful if the resulting city’s food production is too low to support a large population. And on the other hand, a city with huge food production won’t be useful if it lacks the industry to build improvements or districts quickly.
Also look for a source of water. Fresh water is best, since it offers the most base housing. This makes rivers extremely appealing in the early game. Later, this access to water becomes less important as technology unlocks new ways to add housing to a city.
Once you have these basics covered, look for added bonuses. Luxury resources, strategic resources, and natural wonders all sweeten the deal.
While these are all important, and Natural Wonders can become an amazing bonus if you find the right one in the right location, luxury resources take priority. Your access to luxury resources dictates your growth, since you need these to generate amenities and keep your citizens happen. Adding new cities devoid of luxury resources an put you in a bad situation.
How to plan and manage city districts
The addition of urban sprawl, which now makes buildings and wonders take up tiles on the map, has completely changed the puzzle of laying out your cities.
Whereas before you would mostly be concerned with what improvable resources would fall within a new city’s borders, now it behooves you to really think through how you want to specialize each city since they are limited to one district for every three citizens (unless you’re Germany, which raises that cap by one). Unique district variants that certain leaders have also do not count against this limit and cost half as much to produce.
Familiarize yourself with the adjacency bonuses of each district type, such as mountains for Campuses and Holy Sites or rivers for Commercial Hubs. Before you found each city, take both your overall plan and the particulars of the surrounding geography into account to plan where you want to build particular districts and wonders in order to maximize their benefits.
Campuses, Holy Sites, Theater Squares, Commercial Hubs, and Industrial Zones all get bonuses for being next to other districts, so you generally want to pack them together as closely as possible. This is reinforced later in the game once Espionage is unlocked since your defending spies on counterintelligence duty are placed in a particular district and protect it and all of its surrounding tiles from sabotage.
Also of note: You no longer need to found cities on the coast in order to build naval units. Any city with a coast tile within its workable range can build a Harbor district to achieve the same effect. The Harbor unlocks with Classical Era technology (Celestial Navigation), and settling a coastal city activates the Boost for Sailing, so settling on the shore is still key if you want to take to the sea early (if you’re playing as Norway, for example).
Two new systems limit the growth of your cities. The Nationwide happiness rating has been replaced by a localized amenities score in each city, and a new stat, Housing, limits how large a population any given city can support. You will want to proactively take both into account when planning how to grow your cities to avoid inefficient periods of no or limited growth.
How to manage luxury resources
Amenities, the new city-by-city version of the series’ Happiness system, can boost or hamper your city’s productivity depending on how well you “pamper” its citizens.
Every city needs to maintain a net Amenities score of zero or higher to function normally, requiring one amenity for every two citizens starting at three. Falling below zero, which may occur after factors like war-weariness and bankruptcy cause the score to drop, will slow growth and non-food yields. Eventually, failing to raise your amenities score will lead to Barbarians spawning in your borders. Conversely, high amenities can boost growth and yields.
Every improved luxury resource provides one amenity point to up to four cities. Additional copies of each resource are only good for trading. The amenities bonus from luxury goods is automatically distributed to where they are most needed.
Great people, world wonders, policies, religion, national parks, and buildings in the entertainment complex can also boost your Amenities score. The Entertainment Complex has no adjacency bonuses, and several of its buildings provide Amenities to all city centers within six tiles, so take that into account when placing them.
Amenities are extremely important to your success. New players can hugely improve their skills just by learning to focus on amenities. This can mean difficult decisions at times; you may need to found a city in a just-okay spot, or even declare war on a neighbor.
How to manage housing
Another new system, Housing, limits the number of citizens that a given city can support. By default, new cities support two people, but that can be boosted up to six if the city center is adjacent to a source of fresh water (river, lake, or oasis). If you can’t settle on fresh water, then aim to be one tile away from a source of it or a mountain since the early Aqueduct district will add up to six Housing for cities without a native source of potable water.
Farms, plantations, and pastures all provide 0.5 Housing, which helps cover early growth, but eventually, you will need to supplement that with buildings (such as the Granary or Sewer), Policies, Religion, and Districts.
The Industrial Era Neighborhood District adds up to six Housing, scaled to the Appeal of the tile, and you can build as many as you have the space to support. In a pinch, building a Settler will also drop a city’s population by one if it is nearing capacity and you want to keep growing unhindered.
In general, you want to plan your growth in a way that will limit any growth penalty caused by insufficient housing. This might mean bumping up plans to build an Aqueduct or additional farms. New players often forget to prioritize technologies that unlock improvements that expand Housing, and often forget to deploy enough builders to construct improvements. Keep these tasks in mind while your civilization grows.
How to manage strategic resources
Strategic resources, such as Iron, Horses, and Oil, are required to build certain units. They work differently in the latest expansion, Gathering Storm, than in the base game.
In the base game (and with the Rise and Fall expansion), strategic resources are required to build particular units. You need two of a strategic resource to build a unit that requires that resource in any city; if you have an Encampment or Harbor, that requirement is reduced to one. Additional resources beyond the first two are of no use, except for trading in diplomacy.
Gathering Storm changes the mechanic. Strategic resources instead accumulate over time. You gain strategic resources from each you own every turn. There’s a cap of 100 resources for each strategic resource. You must have a set amount of a strategic resource to build a unit that requires it (usually 20). However, these units also have a strategic resource maintenance cost. Your stockpile of the resource will go down if your maintenance cost per turn is more than your income of that resource. If you run out of a strategic resource, any units that require that resource won’t be able to heal after combat.
The newer system in Gathering Storm, while more complex, also provides more flexibility and offers more value, since additional resources act as a form of currency. You can stockpile them for a rainy day, or use them in trade negotiations.
How to establish trading posts
Trade routes generally work the same way they did in Civilization 5, though they now reward savvy players with a more diverse range of resources, corresponding in part to the districts built in the destination city. One new wrinkle, however, is the automatic construction of trading posts in the central tile of every city to which you send a trade route, foreign or domestic.
Passing through a Trading Post extends the range of the route by 15 (over a base of 15), and also adds one gold to your net profit for each Post. There is no limit to how many civilizations’ Trading Posts can exist in a given city, but you can only take advantage of your own. Take this into account when selecting Trade Routes, in addition to just the immediate benefit, since a bit of planning will help extend the range and efficacy of your trade network over the long game.
Also note that you no longer build roads manually for the most part, since they are now automatically built by traders along their routes. Eventually, you can do so deliberately with the Military Engineer support unit, but at the cost of one charge per tile, it’s not nearly as efficient as relying on trade. Setting early domestic trade routes can be critical for establishing infrastructure.
How to deal with Barbarians (and early wars)
In Civ 6, it’s more important than ever to invest in military early, no matter how you plan on winning. In Civ 5, any city could bombard nearby enemies from the start; in Civ 6, city centers (and encampments) can only attack after building Ancient Walls (unlocked with Masonry).
Barbarians generally have more powerful units throughout the game than before, starting with Spearmen instead of just Warriors. They also send out Scouts first. Killing Barbarian scouts should be a priority when they arrive: Catch a Scout before he returns home, and the Barbarians won’t find out about your city, buying you time to nip the problem in the bud.
Should the Scout make it back home, however, get ready for a serious onslaught to follow if you don’t clear out their camp soon. Scouts have more movement than most early units, so it’s important to have many well-placed units to corner them.
The second reason to soldier up early is that neighboring A.I.-controlled civilizations seem to be much more aggressive in the early game, especially at higher difficulties. The addition of Cassus Belli, a system that penalizes civilizations for declaring war without proper justification, means that many civs will be more conflict-averse as the game goes on in order to avoid diplomatic penalties if they don’t have a justification for declaring war. However, there are no warmonger penalties in the Ancient Era, and the A.I. definitely knows it.
Be especially wary of neighboring civilizations with access to strong Ancient Era specialty units, such as Egypt, Sumeria, Greece, and the Aztecs, since they are most likely to catch you off guard. We’ve lost games within 50 turns on Emperor difficulty because the production bonuses that A.I.s get at difficulties above Prince, combined with their amped-up aggression, meant that Gilgamesh showed up at our border with a horde of war carts while we just had a handful of slingers. The community has definitely noted this trend, so it’s possible that it will become less of an issue after patches, but be careful for now.
Tips for Civilization VI: Rise and Fall
Civilization VI‘s first full-fledged expansion, Rise and Fall, adds a ton of new additions that can have a major impact on your strategy and the game overall. Here are all the biggest changes, and how you might want to approach them.
Rise and Fall‘s signature mechanic is an expanded version of the series’ Golden Age mechanic. In the expansion, every civ goes through golden and dark ages, which enhance or diminish your influence over your subjects, respectively. These states have broad-ranging effects, and knowing how to use them can make or break your game.
We cover this in more detail in our guide to Rise and Fall’s Ages, but here’s the short version: As your civ advances — building wonders, conquering new land, discovering technologies, etc. — you’ll accrue era points. If you earn too few, you’ll fall into a dark age. If you earn just enough, you’ll have a normal era with no major changes. Crossing another threshold, though, unleashes a golden age.
While entering a dark age is generally bad, and a golden age is generally good, both can be used to your advantage. You are more likely to enter a dark age just after a golden age. More importantly, entering a golden age straight out of a dark age triggers a Heroic Age, which gives you almost triple the bonuses of a standard golden age. It’s tough to do, but triggering a heroic age can catapult a struggling player back into the lead.
The point is, there’s more to using them than simply playing your best. If you can, you should always be aware of what state you can (and want) to achieve in each age.
The new loyalty system, which replaces happiness from past Civ games, allows players to make soft-power territory grabs and can cause major headaches for weaker empires. Loyalty generally declines as you build further away from your capital. For vulnerable cities, there are two things you can do to protect your borders: Avoid dark ages and install governors in distant outposts.
There are other ways to finagle the system in your favor. It’s nowhere near as effective as having a governor, but placing military units near a wavering city can mean the difference between quelling a rebellion or losing territory to a new rebel queen. If you can, move great generals onto your garrison as well. Winning bouts nearby, particularly with great generals, can also help galvanize support for your regime.
There are tons of different units, abilities, etc., that can affect loyalty. Whatever you choose, make sure you have the resources to keep your empire under control.
Speaking of which, governors are also a new set of tools in Rise and Fall that you can assign to specific cities to enhance their loyalty and output. Once assigned and established in a new city, governors can be incredibly powerful and can potentially shift the outcome of wars or diplomatic disputes. We recommend carefully following each of your cities and potentially even building them with your governors in mind. During play, it’s always important to monitor your cities and keep track of their strengths and vulnerabilities, but digging deeper into how you’d like to use them in the long term can pay dividends.
The new, updated version of strategic alliances has opened the door for more complex relationships between nations. Players are no longer restricted to the classic defensive alliance. You can more deeply integrate certain elements of one civilization with another based on the alliance type, including scientific and mercantile alliances. This allows the less militaristic players to enjoy many of the same benefits without the risk of being dragged into potentially costly wars.
The biggest change, though, is how these relationships can evolve. Your relationships can level up, just like units or cities. While you may start with a modest boost to scientific output, some years down the line, you’ll have a powerful trade brain trust. To maximize these relationships, it behooves political players to start making friends. The earlier, the better.
Lasting bonds also act as a more organic means of spicing up the political stage in the midgame. The bonuses afforded by time-tested alliances are more frequently worth the effort of altering your own civ’s goals to keep them happy. That additional influence on play can make the game a lot more fun and a lot more interesting for those who are up to the task.
Emergencies are late-game additions engineered to stop any single civilization from achieving hegemony and abusing that power. In the latter stages of the game, invading a city-state, deploying nuclear weapons, and other signs of hyper-aggression will trigger an event that forces a group of civs into an alliance against that player.
There isn’t too much to say here other than that you should be very aware of emergencies. This will usually happen on a short time limit centered on a single map point, which means, in many cases, that the forces of several nations will be funneled into one region to duke it out with the local hegemon’s best defenses.
Know that if you’re dropping nukes, the rest of the world may mobilize against you. Then again, if you can fight them off, you’ll be richly compensated. Coming out on top, either as a member of an alliance or the aggressor state, can be ridiculous.
The best advice, in either case, is to address an impending emergency as soon as possible. If you are the target, you can expect a massive new burst of resistance to show up on your metaphorical doorstep in short order. Even if you are vastly more powerful, the combined forces of several civilizations funneled to (typically) one city evens the field a bit. Similarly, time isn’t on your side if you’re a member of the emergency-stopping alliance. Mobilization can take a lot of time, so you’ll want to move fast and maximize the amount of actionable time you have. Because they are emergencies, you won’t have a lot of time to prepare — and you shouldn’t try to make that time. Either you’re ready to roll and take care of the problem, or you might as well give up and focus resources elsewhere. For alliance members, there’s little in-between.
Of course, this does sometimes mean that the stronger side gets away with their (often) nefarious deeds. Even so, it’s almost always worth the expense to defend that point and err on the side of caution.
Tips for Civilization VI: Gathering Storm
Like Rise and Fall, Civilization VI’s second expansion adds a ton of content. Here are the new features in Gathering Storm and our tips for conquering them.
The biggest addition in Gathering Storm is the Diplomatic Victory. Tying into that is the World Congress, which allows you to discuss and debate world issues with other leaders. To get a foothold in the crowded conversation, you’ll need Diplomatic Favor.
There are a handful of ways to achieve Diplomatic Favor, including influencing city-states and competing in World Games. However, the best way is to form alliances with other civilizations. Doing so will award you more Diplomatic Points, as well as grant you a larger say in the World Congress.
World Congress is the biggest change in Gather Storm, though environmental hazards take a close second. Certain tiles will house volcanoes, become overrun by the effects of climate change, or be the target of storms. There’s always a negative event associated with these tiles. However, you can also use them for your civilization’s benefit.
Volcanoes, for example, will ravage adjacent tiles when they blow. However, in the aftermath, that tile will yield greater resources thanks to the volcanic soil.
In general environmental hazards add randomness to the game. They sometimes cause no trouble but, if they occur at a key moment, can cause mass havoc. Much of this can be mitigated, but at the cost of building additional infrastructure.
For the most part, environmental hazards won’t drastically change the way you play. Do watch out for large volcanoes, however; settling near them often isn’t worthwhile unless the city location otherwise looks excellent.
Strategic resources and climate change
Keeping with the weather theme, Gathering Storm introduces climate change to the game. Late game buildings require a power source, and with Gathering Storm, you’ll use Coal, Uranium, or Oil. These resources produce a lot of CO2, though, raising the world temperature and increasing the chances of spawning a storm.
Along with these changes are new eras for the Technology and Civics trees. These new eras allow you to research new technologies that can mitigate the effects of climate change. If you’re planning on using a lot of power, it’s a good idea to invest in these trees early so you can combat climate change in the late game. It’s not a problem you can ignore, as storms will destroy the resources you have, and rival civilizations will form a negative opinion of you.
- Civilization VI: All 42 leaders and cultures
- Civilization VI to get season pass, bimonthly content updates through March 2021
- The best Mac games (July 2020)
- Civilization VI is this week’s Epic Games Store freebie
- The best games for 2020: 31 games you need to try