Civilisation 6's Best Civilizations18 Mar 2019 1
With a new Civilization games comes new civilisations, and so we must learn their eccentricities and best playstyles all over again. In order to help our readers get better at the game and figure out the best way to achieve their chosen route to victory, we've put together this guide that showcases some 'best in style' civilisations.
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Due to the way Civilization VI was designed, gone are the highly specific niche focuses of the previous game. Most civs still tend to favour one area over others, it's just now they also have a fighting chance against their rivals in other areas as well.
This guide is up-to-date as of the Gathering Storm expansion.
A classic route, Domination sees you conquering the world by strength of arms over your less fortunate civilisations. In Civ VI, you fortunately don’t need to conquer an entire civilisation; you just need to control all of the capitals to score the victory. As military might walks alongside a healthy economy and scientific progress, you also need to pay attention to those instead of just spamming military units.
Tomyris of Scythia
Summary: Early-game rush, land-focused maps
One of the best traditional military factions in the game, Scythia is capable of crushing all other civs in the early to mid game. Their special Saka Horse Archer unit doesn't require horses to produce and has 4 Movement and +1 Attack Range, making it much more powerful than any contemporary unit. Even better, you get two of them each time one is trained. This allows Scythia to quickly build an unstoppable force of highly skilled cavalry archers, capable of moving fast and striking hard, steamrolling anyone in their way.
The fact that Scythia’s units gain a +5 Combat Strength attack bonus when engaging damaged foes and heal up to 50 bonus points upon defeating them guarantees the enemy forces dwindle at the same time Scythia maintain their own, pressing the advantage home and making it a formidable adversary.
It must be noted that in order to best use this civ’s ability, you need a map with lots of land -- the Saka Horse Archers are nearly useless on the sea. Make sure to also act before the mid-game, as modern units quickly close the technological gap between Scythia and everyone else.
Teddy Roosevelt of America
Summary: Late-game surge, defensive bonus, highly adaptable
America really shines after the mid-game, meaning it must turtle at the start of a match. Their home defence ability gives them +5 Combat Strength in their home continent and helps them fend off incoming attacks, while their legacy grants them government bonuses twice as fast as any other civ, helping them build up prosperity.
Once the modern area is reached, America’s unique military units can defeat any contemporary -- the Rough Rider land unit gains +10 Combat Strength when fighting on Hills and has a lower maintenance cost than other units, while the P-51 Mustang airplane has +2 flight range, gains +5 attack against fighters, and acquires experience twice as fast than normal. Make sure to invest in Science and Technology to be able to field those units ASAP.
Being quite versatile and late-game focused, America does not have many terrain restrictions and is easily one of the most adaptable civilisations in the game. Culture and science victories are also easily achievable.
Shaka of Zulu
Summary: Rise and Fall expansion, mid-game, large armies
The indisputable powerhouse of Civ VI’s latest expansion, the Zulu’s natural bonus to combat strength and training speed gives them a massive advantage during wars. The Impi -- an anti-cavalry unit that replaces the Pikeman -- is faster and cheaper to produce, and they get extra flanking and experience bonus than other units, making them the perfect starting point for a strong military.
After that, it’s all a matter of using the Ikanda Encampments and the Mercenaries/Nationalism civics to get early access to corps and armies, allowing you to stack all those units together into a single steamrolling horde. If you’re worried about defence, don’t: the Zulu are (foolishly) the only civ in the game that get a +3 loyalty for cities with a garrison, making them resistant to both military and cultural offensives.
Alternative: Eleanor of Aquitaine of England/France
Summary: Gathering Storm civ focused on flipping cities to your side
Eleanor is a very unique lady. Not only is she the only leader in the game that can choose between two factions (British or French empires), she also has a unique path to domination: capturing cities without a fight.
Her unique ability causes foreign cities within 9 tiles to lose 1 loyalty point per turn, meaning her best strategy for an invasion is to not invade at all. Just plop down a city housing great works near the enemy’s border, and watch as that first gateway settlement is flipped to your side and starts a chain reaction. If played correctly (and not countered properly), Aquitaine can cause a domino-like series of cities switching sides every few turns even on the highest difficulties, allowing to not only dominate the map, but also generate ludicrous amounts of culture and even gold.
If you’re in trouble choosing between the France and British empire, we’ll give you a tip: as nice as a Chateau can be, nothing beats the might and power of a Royal Navy Dockyard.
Alternative: Lautaro of Mapuche
With the updates from the Summer 2018 patch, we felt an honorable mention to the Mapuche was worth adding in. Lautaro's unique ability Swift Hawk has been updated to have an additional effect: pillaging an enemy city plot now causes that city to lose 5 loyalty. This is in addition to it decreasing the loyalty of enemy cities by 20 each time one of his units defeats an enemy unit within that city's borders.
The buff makes it so that Lautaro can run wild pillaging enemy hexes and killing units, and gain control of cities without having to directly siege them., The Mapuche can be much more consistent in causing havoc on enemy border cities now that the reliance of having enemy units around to loyalty flip has been sidestepped. While this doesn’t put the Mapuche above the Zulu for a straight Domination strategy, it's a fun alternative to direct city conquest.
Science victories are a staple of the Civ series, always leading to the space race meant to expand civilisation to the stars. Civ VI has a myriad of ways of accruing science progress.
Saladin of Arabia
Summary: Advanced, Religion-combo, adaptable
Advanced players looking for a less traditional path to a science victory will enjoy Saladin, which has the unique ability to mix technology and religion and achieve either victory. Arabia’s religious buildings boost the total science, culture and faith by 10%, while their bonus generates one additional unit of science per turn for each city that follows Arabia’s religion.
This unique approach to faith and science is capable of generating an amazing payout, catapulting Arabia in front of its peers. Needless to say, Arabia can pursue a religious victory just as well as they can a scientific one.
Peter the Great of Russia
Summary: Advanced, tundra tiles, trade routes, flexible victory
Russia is a weird civilisation, gaining major variable bonuses from tundra tiles and focusing on expansion. However, their added territory allows them greater flexibility when building districts, while their special ability generates extra +1 Science or Culture from trade routes to civilizations more advanced than them.
In the hands of a skilled player, these bonuses can help boost a science victory quite quickly, and make Russia into a powerhouse. As long as you expand and settle in tundra as much as possible, Russia can achieve any victory condition in the game.
Seondeok of Korea
Summary: Rise & Fall expansion, mid-game, Mines, Governors, City Optimisation
Korea comes back from Civilization V as a scientific civ, though with a less pronounced advantage in Civ VI than before. Mines give Science to adjacent Seowon Campus districts, which already give +4 science on its own (and +2 for each specialist).
As of the Summer 2018 update, established governors in cities provide +3% Culture and Science for each Promotion they have earned, including their first (previously this was +10% Culture and Science for any Governor regardless of Promotions). While technically a nerf, this change allows players to plan in more detail which cities they want to optimise to their fullest potential, versus just giving a flat bonus. This specialization, in conjunction with the Hwacha ranged unit, makes a medium sized mid-game empire Korea’s best chance to get ahead and beat everybody else in the science race.
Cultural victories can be challenging, as you won’t win until the number of tourists visiting your country is equal to the number of domestic tourists from all other civilisations combined.
In order to achieve that, you need loads of great people -- especially artists -- along with buildings, districts, and wonders that can house their works (sculpture, relics, and artefacts being the most valuable). Make sure to trade with other civs to spread your culture, pick culture-boosting policies, and always keep an eye on your opponents’ progress when you are pursuing a Culture victory.
Qin Shi Huang of China
Summary: Passive, defensive, large empire, Great Wall of China
In an ironic turn from today’s communist China, Civ VI’s Chinese are all about attracting tourists and spreading their cultural dominance. The Great Wall of China -- once a wonder in past games -- is now a unique improvement only buildable by the Chinese. Each adjacent segment provides extra +1 gold,culture, and tourism, making walls not only strategically vital, but culturally too. A good perimeter around your empire can easily generate loads of culture in a manner unmatched by any other civilisation in the game.
Thanks to this unique improvement, all China needs is land enough to build as massive a wall as possible. As the game progresses and your civilisation expands, the wall should likewise get bigger and bigger, generating huge amount of resources while lending formidable protection to protect your empire. All in all, this might be one of the best gameplay styles for turtling players.
Gorgo of Greece
Summary: Early-game aggressive/military focused, mid-game+ defensive, Acropolis
Relying on military might to generate 50% bonus culture from defeated units and a bonus +1 wildcard policy to change things up, Gorgo brings culture to Greece when she makes war. In a different strategy than other civs, Greece can successfully pair military and culture production, bolstering cultural output by focusing on military strength and attacking a lot -- Gorgo's Greece is much more aggressive than Pericles' Greece because of the Thermopylae bonus. Because every kill means Greece gains Culture, Culture is a little more stable.
In addition, the Acropolis is a special district that provides extra +1 Culture from each adjacent wonder, district, and city center, greatly helping with Culture output. Once the classical era is through, though, Greece really loses the only unique unit it has, so a cultural victory is kind of it’s only standout option -- most other civs have unique units later in the game that crush Greece’s run of the mill roster.
Wilhelmina of the Netherlands
Summary: Rise and Fall expansion, Mid-game, trade bonuses
The Dutch people make strong use of adjacency bonuses in Civ VI, creating a very interesting self-sustaining economy that works great with their predisposition to trade. Rivers and the unique Polder tile improvement augment districts all around it, rewarding thoughtful expansion in suitable lands.
However, it is their naval trade that makes the Netherlanders stand out. Building a Harbor creates a culture bomb, which claims surrounding tiles, and trade routes spread loyalty to Dutch cities and gather Culture from foreign ones, creating a huge power spike in the mid-game if properly exploited. Make sure to use the unique ranged naval unit to protect your trade interests.
Kupe of Māori
Summary: Nature-loving savages who exceed at generating statistics without destroying the land.
Much has been said about the Kupe, thanks to their unique starting position in the middle of the ocean. They get +2 Science and Culture for every turn spent without colonising your first city, making it a gamble of trying to survive as a nomad before finally setting up roots and claiming the rewards.
However, their real advantage appears once the Māori have a few cities under their belt and that wet start has long disappeared in the rear mirror. The unique Marae District replaces the Theatre, and it generates +2 Culture and Faith for each city tile that has Woods, Rainforests, Marshes, Oases, Reefs, Geothermal Fissures, or Floodplains on it. That means that if your city has 10 tiles spread around with any of those features, you get a plain flat +20 bonus to culture a turn.
If that wasn’t enough, they also get a culture bomb that converts surrounding terrain to their cause every time a fishing boat is built, because sure, why wouldn’t they. Rest assured, if it’s a culture victory you seek, go with Kupe of Māori.
For the first time in the series, religion is a bonafide victory condition. In order to win, at least half of every civilisation's followers must subscribe to your beliefs -- it may sound simple, but holy wars are a thing, now. If you convert another leader’s cities, they can have a casus belli to kick your ass.
Ghandi of India
Summary: Peaceful, Passive, Faith Bonuses
Ghandi provides +5 bonus faith each turn from every civilisation met, as long as you’re not at war with them. In order to incentive less warfare, opposing nations suffer double war weariness -- a penalty to population growth and productivity -- for every turn spent at war with India, generating a massive drain and unrest and increasing the chances of spawning rebels, That side effect of engaging Gandhi can quickly cripple the economy and ravage an unprepared attacking empire.
Curiously, while you of course want to spread your own faith, Gandhi is tolerant of other religious beliefs, earning the follower bonus from every religion that has at least one convert in a city. That makes India a religious powerhouse that thrives on peace and punishes war, capable of generating immense amounts of faith and reaping rewards from different pantheons.
Philip II of Spain
Summary: Aggressive, conversion-by-conquest, unit combos
If you want a less peaceful approach to religious victory, Phil’s your guy. His Inquisitors are extra effective and get one extra use in curbing other religions, and his armies get a bonus +4 combat strength when fighting civilisations who follow a different faith. This allows a more violent spread of religion that can roll in mass out of nowhere and take others by surprise -- after all, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
Spain’s unique unit is the conquistador, which gets a +10 to combat strength when occupying the same hex as a missionary, apostle, or inquisitor. If one of those units is next to an enemy city when it falls, that settlement is automatically converted to Spain’s religion, adding an useful twist to any holy wars you may find yourself in.
Tamar of Georgia
Summary: Rise and Fall expansion, faith production bonuses
Georgia is really good for religion victories, as pretty much everything it does generates extra Faith. Their unique Wall infrastructure gives you +3 every turn and can be built in every city, and entering protectorate wars literally double whatever your production is. Helping a city-state in a protectorate war gains their favour, which often turns them to your religion and gives each of your envoys two votes.
If that wasn’t enough, Georgia can get the Normal and Golden Age bonuses at the start of a Golden Age by making a declaration, allowing you to quickly rack up Era points and create a successive chain of Golden Ages. Ally that to the Khevsur melee unit that has extra strength and no movement penalty in hilly terrain, and you got yourself a powerful religious faction that can use force to spread their religion around.
Alternative: Mansa Musa of Mali
Summary: An unproductive people who really excel at handling money.
Mali is a weird faction to play with. On one hand, mines generate +4 gold and settling in a desert grants every single trade route +1 gold, but on the other, production of units and buildings is slowed by 30% and mines lose -1 Production. It’s a civilization that can get a lot of money really fast, but takes a long time to get anything else done.
As a desert people, the Mali get extra bonuses for settling on scorched lands, as each desert and desert hill tile brings cities an extra +1 in Faith and Food. In addition to the previously mentioned extra gold from trade routes and the ability to permanently increase trade route capacity by +1 every time a Golden Age is triggered, the Mali can easily become a very rich empire.
How does that have anything to do with religion, you ask? Well, Civilization VI has no capitalist victory goal, meaning all that gold has to go somewhere. As the one civilization in Gathering Storm with significant bonuses to faith (outside the Māori) and the ability to buy every single thing in the damn game (unlike the Māori), Mali is capable of steamrolling the world with their chosen religion as the eons go by. Both economic and religion empires require a mix of slow build-up of resources followed by an avalanche of effort fluxed into a single point at mid and late games, and guess which empire takes forever amassing gold before storming the world with the high level stuff they bought? That’s right; the Mali.
After a long wait, Diplomatic victories finally make their way back to the franchise with the release of Gathering Storm. Here’s the best faction to backstab and cajole your way into victory through the World Congress.
Wilfired Lautier of Canada
Summary: Gathering Storm civ focused on diplomatically making cold inhospitable climates very hospitable.
Masterfully beating a dead horse, Civilization VI’s Canada is a very diplomatic focused empire. Aside from the obvious boon (and handicap) of being unable to declare Surprise Wars or have them declared upon, our Commonwealth maple syrup-loving northern friends also get +1 diplomatic favour for every 100 tourism they get, and 100% more rewards from World Congress emergencies and competitions -- effectively doubling what everyone else gets.
If that wasn’t enough, their Ice Hockey Rink unique district generates +2 appeal, which serves to increase both housing for your citizens and generate more tourism in later eras, allowing large empires with advanced cities to rake in the tourism points -- and therefore more diplomatic favour.
If diplomatic victory is your goal, don’t think twice; put on your red jacket, don your mountie hat, and go hug a moose -- Canada’s here to stay.
Best Naval Civs
The sea is a harsh mistress, but damn, do I love it. Naval warfare is always a nice way to change the pace of a Civ game, and some factions are of course better suited to it than others. Naturally, only attempt the following in a map full of water -- you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of a desert with Queen Victoria.
Victoria of England
Summary: Overseas expansion, free units, culture options
England plays a less traditional military role in this game -- unlike Civ V, where control of the seas was achieved via a brute force approach with the Ship of the Line military units, the British Empire has a bigger focus on colonisation and reach this time around. The Sea Dog is a sneaky little unique ship capable of capturing enemy units, and it cannot be seen on the map unless immediately adjacent to the enemy.
The Royal Dockyard District grants +1 extra movement points to every sea craft built in it, ensuring England always has a small but noticeable advantage over other seafaring civilisations. The District also removes the penalty for land units embarking and disembarking, giving Victoria a clear pathway to unload military troops into the ocean and colonise distant lands. The Redcoat unique unit gets +10 combat strength when fighting outside the continent where England’s capital is located, and the Pax Britannica bonus gives a free melee unit to every founded or conquered city overseas, guaranteeing sovereignty in new colonies and culling rebellion. Additionally, as of the Summer 2018 update, Pax Britannica now awards a free melee class unit when constructing a Royal Navy Dockyard in a city founded on a foreign continent as well.
Naturally, England needs not only the sea, but also separate landmasses to be at the top of its game; a landlocked or Pangean map would nullify most of the British strengths. However a Culture victory would still be achievable due to the British Museum improvements that can be built in each city and then stuffed full of Culture, making that a valid victory condition.
Harald Hardrada of Norway
Summary: Niche, early/mid-game, raiding, domination
Norway's unique bonuses allows its fleets to raid enemy tiles from the sea and removes penalties upon embarking and disembarking, creating a very aggressive Viking civilisation that excels at attacking from the sea (what a surprise). The berserker is a fragile but powerful unit capable of pillaging tiles and moving in the same turn, while the Viking Longship can heal itself in neutral territory and extend the longevity of the fleet. Played as a harassing and aggressive civ, Norway can be unmatched on domination.
Norway is extremely niche; the right map is essential to its success. Founding cities surrounded by forests next to the ocean can turn Harald into an absolute powerhouse, but without sea access, you won’t really get anywhere.
Who are your favourite civ 6 leaders? Any other play-styles you'd like advice on? Let us know in the comments!