Learn 2 Play Civilization V: For Brand New Rulers

Welcome, Your Highness!

Foremost, my intention is to make sure this guide really serves new players well. Please give me any feedback on things which you think need clarity or just questions about things not discussed at all! So far the community has been great, helping me make corrections and providing some clarity of advice for this guide. Please, keep it coming!

Civilization is a veeeeeery old game spanning the ages of our times itself!!! It is a grand turn-based strategy game about the achievements of earthly civilizations past. Without commenting on actual accuracy, it does generally try to adhere to the historical record.

You’ll see characters such as Pharoah Ramses, Catherine the Great, Bismark, Ghandi, and many more. The idea is that you chose any of the great civilizations represented in the game and you chart their nations path to victory. You can do this by all the good old fashioned methods taught in the history books:

  • Conquest
  • Cultural Achievement
  • Scientific Achievement
  • Diplomacy

These don’t represent any game modes specifically, but gives a good idea of how the game is played. Pick your civilization of choice and go out into the world and see how far you can get!

During the game you take turns against your opponents, building things, founding cities, making discoveries, and defending your lands. This is the heart of gameplay. You can even choose what style of government; will you rule as a dictator or will your civilization be a democtratic republic?

This guide will ONLY discuss single player mode. Some of the rules of gameplay change for multiplayer games and for that reason multiplayer is a different kind of game. For the sake of keeping this guide newbie friendly, we’ll only cover the very basics of how to play. By the time you’re done with this you should be able to jump into the game and understand how to play.

If you’ve truly never played this game, do yourself a favor and start at the very lowest difficulty: Chieftan. This has nothing to do with your ability to learn or anything else, but difficulty in this game works a tad different than in others. Game balance determines difficulty. For newbies, Chieftan will give you the best balanced environment to learn the game. Every increase in difficulty will bring more and more challenge until the game is balanced against you.

The Dawn of Your Empire

Don’t worry too much about the game length and the dozens of map choices. For learning, just start a simple game without tweaking advanced options.

All civilizations begin the game with different but equal features. Each one has unique characteristics and advantages. They are generally balanced such that at the start everyone is on the same level playing field.

I’ll assume you know what a turn-based strategy game is. If you don’t, they are all mostly played like chess. One player makes a move and then their opponent does the same. The board itself has rules (how many tiles are on it) and the pieces on the board have rules (how far they can move, their power, etc). You win the game by manuevering your pieces strategically around the board until you out maneuver your opponent. This is exactly how Civ is played except it’s far more interesting than Chess (imho)!

In this guide, I’ll explain the board, the pieces, and the rules in as few words as possible. The table of contents is made so you can easily skip to the relevant sections you want information about. Also, at the end of the guide is an Appendix of Terms. For the most part I’ll be defining everything as I go. Where necessary, I’ll link to guides around the community for additional information.

Understanding Your Screen
As the game opens you’ll have a screen that looks something like this:

The clouds/fog represent areas of the map you haven’t yet discovered. Send units into the cloud to reveal the map. However, the map will dim when you have no units in an area. In this dim area you’ll see the last information your scout saw when it was there. It’s like a real map: it reflects what you saw when you made it. For example, if you saw a barbarian encampment in an area when you scouted it, that camp will remain on your map as you first saw it. However, it’s possible that it’s been destroyed since you last saw it or that there are now more camps in the area. A common tactic is to keep a scout in the area fortified if you can afford to do so, especially if it’s an area you’re interested in.

In this picture we can see icons all over the map. Here’s what you’re looking at:

  • Food
  • Gold
  • Production
  • Science
  • Culture

See the section on The State Part 1 for a thorough breakdown of how you collect and use these.

Almost every tile has some or all of these attributes. There’s also other resources on the map, such as animals, wheat fields, and minerals. These are relatively intuitive to understand: a tile with a hill or iron on it has high production value; a tile with wheat on it has high food value. Tiles with resources on them will yield more. See the Appendix at the end of this guide for some straight-forward definitions and uses for them.

The Main Map

Everything you see around you in the world is called the map. In this picture we see a city that was built. Let’s go over the city tag and decipher what you’re looking at.

  • Population: The number 6 on the left is the Population in the city.
  • Birth Rate: The little number 1 next to the Population shows how many turns until a new citizen is born.
  • Capital: The star is the symbol for your capital city. This can be changed.
  • Name: The name of your city. This can be changed.
  • Faith: This symbolizes the religion of the city. Hovering will tell how many followers live there.
  • Building Queue: The picture on the far right of the tag is the building currently being built in your city.
  • Production Rate: The number 11 on the right shows how many turns until that building is completed.
  • Defense: The small tag on top of the city name is the total defense of the city.
  • Garrison: The circular icon on top of the tag shows who you have defending your city.
Resource Bar

This bar is located at the very top left of the screen on a narrow strip as you can see. This gives you the grand summary of your resources for your entire empire during gameplay; it is what every city combined earns. From left to right:

We’ll get to how you can collect these resources later in the guide. For now, it’s important that you know where to find this information. It shows your incomes: research, gold, happiness, culture, and faith.

This is located at the very top right of the screen on the same bar as your resources. It gives you a quick glance at the date and how many turns have passed so far in the game. There’s also the Help menu which opens into a in-game wiki. This is an invaluable tool. It’s got search functionality as well, so you can just type in what you’re looking for and get solid answers quickly. Finally, the Menu menu is for saving games, loading, and setting up additional options.

Notifications and Map

There are 3 key things going in this picture. First you see a circular icon above the map. This is the area where notifications will pop up each turn. They will have information such as new wonders that were built, trade deals that were struck, and when your units are in trouble. All sorts of things will pop up here. Just click on them for more information or right-click to dismiss them.

The next important thing is the “Next Turn” button above the map. If you need to take a specific action, it will say so on this button. Usually, it’s just notification that it’s your turn. If you can’t figure out what to do next, this button will tell you. Press it and move on.

Finally is the map itself. Notice all the white area on the map. This area is undiscovered, but will gradually be revealed as you explore. On the left side of the mini-map are two icons. Clicking them will give you additional options for viewing the map on your main screen. For example, you can toggle the hexagonal grid lines on/off or turn on tile yields (tile yields are the little icons you see all over the map in the topmost screenshot; they show the wealth of any given tile).

Unit Menu

Whenever you select a unit or object on the map, more information about it will appear here. In this case, I have a worker selected. We can see all the worker’s stats, how many moves he can make, strength, and much more . You might have noticed there are toggle arrows to the left and the right of the menu. This allows you to sort through all your units. The menu above the Unit Info is the additional Actions menu. In this case, there will be Actions I can select to tell my worker what to do, such as move or improve tiles.

Now there are 2 basic kinds of units in the game: Citizens and the others are just Units. You cannot move a citizen around the map. Units are the pieces you move around the map. This might include military units, production units, or Great Persons.

Further, don’t confuse Citizens with Workers. Citizens live in the city while Workers move around the map building things. Your population ONLY includes Citizens. They are very different and will be explained in depth in The State section.

And that’s the basics of the screen. Questions you might still be wondering about ….

  • What are tiles?
  • What are yields?
  • What is fortify?
  • What special skills can units have?
  • What are resources?
  • What is research/culture/faith and what’s it for?

You can refer to the Appendix at the end of this guide at any time. Otherwise, continue on to the next section!

The State, Part 1: City Management
Aside from moving your units into strategic positions around the map each turn, you’ll do a lot of planning and analysis too. It will all begin with feeding your citizens. Your first priority will be to ensure there is food on the table. By default, once a city is built it will focus on balancing food with production. To manually control city development you must allocate citizens to tiles to work within the city borders. To do this:

  • Double click on your city.
  • Click the citizen icon.
  • Place the citizen on a tile which yields food.

Now that’s just a quick summary. We’re going to go over exactly how this works and what it looks like from your end below!

The City Panel

This is where everything that counts in any civilization is staged: the City Panel. Clicking on any of your cities will make the following screen appear as an overlay:

A complicated screen at first glance, this has most of the information you need to execute your strategies. This is where you can build city improvements, manage citizens, and buy parcels of land to expand your borders.

There are 2 things you can do to a tile:

  • Work the tile: Harvest it’s resources
  • Improve the tile: Build things on it to increase it’s yield.

There are panels all around this screen which give you the tools to streamline your cities and really micromanage. A good ruler will micromanage their cities whenever necessary. Let’s explain these panels starting at the top of the screen.

The City Stats Panel

This panel, located on the top left of the city screen, gives a summary of economic productivity each turn. Let’s go over each one:

  • Food: Citizens eat food. After collecting a certain amount of food, a new citizen is born.
  • Production: This is how efficient your citizens are at building. The more production produced, the faster buildings can be built.
  • Gold: With this sparkly stuff, you can buy buildings, units, pay bills, and use it to trade with other civilizations.
  • Science: Science is used for researching new technologies. The more science produced, the faster techs can be discovered.
  • Culture: This expands city borders. Culture is also used to unlock social policies. The more culture produced, the faster policies can be unlocked.

This view only deals with what’s going on in this particular city. For example, this one city is producing 8.75 , as well as the shown amount of production, science, and so forth.

Earlier in the guide we saw that most of this stuff is available on the tiles of the map. Tiles within your border give you access to work and improve them them. Each turn, you want to generate some of these things.The bar at the top left of the screen shows you how much you’re generating in your empire each turn. Increase these numbers by:

  • Improving the tiles with Workers.
  • Working the tiles with Citizens.

Balancing city productivity will help it develop more efficiently. The population (number of citizens) in a city is important and this all starts with just making sure there’s food to eat. Citizens work all those tiles in your territory, generating food, cutlure, science, gold, and production each turn.

There are 2 tiles pictured here, both with their yields displayed. One tile has a green citizen icon over it (the right). This means that one of your citizens is working that tile, which means you’re receiving the full benefit of +4 food and +2 gold. The other tile is grayed out, showing that no citizen is working the tile. Nothing is being earned there.

The more citizens in a city, the more tiles that can be worked simultaneously. This will increase overall productivity of everything.

Finally, at the bottom of the stats panel is a pink hexagon icon that tracks city border growth. It represents the amount of culture produced in the city. Filling it up will expand your city’s borders. Generally, the town will attempt to grow towards valuable resource tiles but you also have the option to buy adjacent tiles to expand your borders.

Don’t confuse this with your civilization’s overall culture rate shown at the top of the screen. Each city produces it’s own small amount of culture and that’s the only thing which determines border growth for each town.

The State, Part 2: Citizen Management
The Citizen Management Panel

First, an explanation of the different types of citizens:

  • Green citizens: Good ole law-abiding, hard-working citizens. They are green because they are working.
  • Red citizens: Good for nothing rebel, slanderous citizens. They are red because they are unemployed. And angry about something. They can cause your cities production to halt.
  • Specialists: These are citizens that work in the buildings and wonders you have built. Instead of them working tiles, they can be seen next to the list of buildings in the City Panel

This panel displays all the ways in which citizens can be managed. The very top panel has some automated options for managing citizens. In my experience, it’s a pretty decent tool on it’s own but should always be moderated by human judgement, lest you starve your city to death.

The Default Focus is a general mix of producing everything but at the same time developing nothing in particular. This means it’s inefficient. Food Focus will force all your citizens to work on the highest yield food tiles. Same for Production, Gold, Science, and Culture. The Great Person (GP) Focus generally won’t be viable for cities until a little later in the game, when the player has options to construct buildings that grant GP slots.

Note that the player can also turn off Growth. This will only halt population growth, not border growth and it won’t do it 100% of the time. The AI will simply attempt to avoid growth.

The second panel below that shows the city’s progress in producing a Great Person. Below that, the third panel allows the player to manage Specialists. Specialists are citizens that work within the buildings the city builds. For example, in the city represented in the image, there are five buildings there which I built over the course of a game. I can select citizens to work in the Library and Public School. They’re represented by the blue icons, though the color of the icon is based on what’s being produced (science, culture, gold, etc.). The other buildings in the image don’t have citizens working in them.

Having specialists work in buildings produces extra stuff for you. This is based on the building type. So here, my specialists are producing *extra* science and GP points .(See note below)

Citizen management is the cornerstone of any winning strategy. As you can see, there’s a lot of activities that citizens can perform and their actions have total impact on the development of your empire. There’s plenty of room to experiment with different strategies and with all the options available to you city specialization is simple to do, but harder to master.

NOTEThis is in addition to other bonuses buildings grant automatically. If a building says “+4 culture” and has a specialist slot, placing a citizen there will produce +3 additional culture, for a total of +7 culture from that building.

The State, Part 3: Workers
Citizens vs. Workers

Now that we’ve covered what citizens do, let’s talk a bit about workers.

A worker is a unit that a city can produce, just like soldiers and scouts. While citizens work the tiles within a city, workers build improvements on those tiles to make them more productive. That’s it. Workers improve, citizens harvest.

All those little farms, factories, and camps on the map were all built by this handy little band of workers. Currently, they’re standing on an oil field. When a worker is on a tile, only the build options available for that tile will show up in the build menu as shown on the left. In this case, the workers can only build a road, well, or fort on the current tile.

Building improvements on tiles increases the yield. Building a farm on a tile will increase the food yield. Building a mine on a mountain will increase production yield. Building a market on a tile will increase the gold yield. Remember: although a worker can build an improvement on any given tile, unless a citizen is harvesting it you’re not gaining any benefit from it.

TIP: Primarily, you want to improve every workable tile in your city with farms, pastures, mines, or whatever else you need. However, prioritize this. For example, if you’ve just founded a new city and you need food right away, start by improving tiles with strong food yields. Your goal shold be to have all your tiles improved over time. Just be sure to prioritize. Generally, your cities will be specialized because every map location will be different. One city might be in a hilly area, making production very high for building wonders fast; another might have many mountains of gold and so the city will excel at filling your coffers. You get the idea!

You can also place special buildings on tiles to increase yields. For example, you can use Great Persons to build academies and monuments to improve science or cultural output. Then there are special tiles with luxury goods, marble, iron, and even animals. The player can generally build whatever she/he wants on any tile. The goal, though, is to build improvements in optimal locations. Take for example a tile with wheat on it. You CAN build whatever you want on there, like a trade post or a fort. However, you SHOULD build a farm there. If you build anything but a farm there, it will remove the bonus forever.

Additional Cities

The final section for this guide, it’s worth touching on just a point or two on how building additional cities works. I’ve seen many new players overwhelm their treasuries by building their cities extraordinary distances from the capital (that patch of incense is often too enticing to pass up).

When you decide to build a settler, city growth is halted until the unit is completed. Keep this in mind before throwing more than one into the queue.

If you want to keep your expenses manageable, be sure not to build cities too far apart. The more tiles between your cities, the less trade income/more expensive. You’ll eventually want to connect them via a road and roads cost gold. However, connecting your cities to the capital gives a trade bonus, making it profitable to build roads. As long as your road isn’t more tiles away than citizens in the city, the route should remain profitable. In other words, if you build a new city 5 tiles away, be sure you have at least 5 citizens in the city.

The Goals of Your Empire
Just remember: every ruler is green in the beginning. It is through ruling that you will become an excellent ruler. First though, you need to know what your goals are!


This is the science research tree. It progresses from left to right, from Ancient Era to the Modern Era as the game goes on. You can choose any research path you like.

Science is for technology research. The more science you earn, the faster you can advance on the technology tree. This is the supreme purpose of science in the game. The total amount of science produced by all of your cities combined is how much you’re earning per turn toward your goal. As you earn more science, you’ll notice that the amount of turns required before discovering a new tech decreases.

Some civilizations excel at science and if you want a science victory choosing one of them will make the going simpler for you. To claim a science victory you must build the Apollo program, completing the space shuttle.

How to gain more EVERYTHING?

  • Buildings & Wonders
  • Social Policies & Research
  • Specialized Tiles
  • Great Person

Check out the tab here. Notice the icons on it. In this example, if you choose to research Archery, you will gain the ability to train Archers and build the Temple of Artemis. This is how you gain access to new buildings, units, and wonders. The technology tree is key if you want to win, whether you choose to win by science or not.

You don’t have to research every technology in each era in order to advance to the next one. However, science gives you access to new actions, technology, and buildings. Production is your means of building them.


Production is the engine of your empire if you plan to do a lot of building. Your earliest sources of production will come from tiles with hills, minerals, and animals. Production is managed on the micro level, meaning city to city. This is because production is used to build improvements in your cities. To increase production, be sure your citizens are working high yield production tiles. You’ll also need to be sure you improve the hills and pastures available to you.

Why do I need it?

  • Rapid building
  • Great Person

Above, we researched Archery and gained access to Archer units and the Temple of Artemis. The more production output a city has, the faster you can build these things. Managing your production well will increase the efficiency of your empire. There will be times when you will want to speed up production and others when you want to slow it down. You do this by managing the tiles your citizens work on and by using your new buildings to your advantage.


Noticing a pattern here? Good. These 5 options are avenues for improving all of your stats! Culture tiles occur infrequently on the map with some Natural Wonders. However, you can build culture buildings and improve tiles to increase the amount earned.

Why do I need Culture?

  • Expanding your city borders.
  • Researching Social Policies.
  • Great Person
  • Cultural Victory (revised in Brave New World expasion)

Like production, you will manage culture production primarily on the micro level of your empire. At the city level, culture will expand borders. At the empire level, it will accrue to give you access to Social Policies, very similar to how the science research works.

If you become friends and/or allies with City-States that specialize in culture, they will give you a small boost to Culture production in your empire.

You can win the game via Culture. To win a Cultural Victory, you must research 5 Social Policy trees and build the Utopia Project. The latest expansion, Brave New World, also introduced Tourism to the game. This stat allows you to spread your culture to other civilization and impact the World Congress. Also, a new Social Policy tree is available, Aesthetics, which focuses exclusively on enhancing your cultural influence.


Religion arrived with the Gods & Kings expansion. It operates similarly to Culture, except that you can’t win a religious victory (so to speak). That doesn’t mean that religion isn’t an extremely powerful institution to furthering your civilzation’s goals.

What’s it do?

  • Grants unique bonuses to your civilization that no other civilization can get.
  • Spreads your civilization’s influence.
  • Makes for a more dynamic diplomatic game.
  • Think of religion as another tool in your diplomatic belt. Founding a religion grants your civilization 5 unique beliefs that no other civilization can obtain. Once a belief is founded, it’s no longer available to others.

Maintaining and spreading religion is as simple as building shrines and creating priests. As time goes on, the power of your faith will determine how fast and wide your religion spreads to City-states and other nations. Beware that other religious nations won’t simply worship you nor be grateful for you spreading your influence. It could lead to some tense relationships and even war!

Religion also has a supporting Social Policy tree, Piety. Before the expansions, Piety mostly gave culture bonuses. Now, it’s focused on enhancing your faith.

Keeping Up

Now you’ll want to keep track of your empires progress and there’s a few good tools in game to help you with that.

This is one of the economic charts in the game. Without going into depth about it, I’ll explain what this means to you as a new player. First, the Rank column shows your civilizations rank among the other nations in the game. Being ranked #1 is a good thing. The other stats simply show how large your empire is compared to the other nations. On it’s own, this won’t tell you how good or bad you’re doing. If you’re building a civilization which has a small population or smaller cities, this chart will either confirm that your strategy is effective or tell you that it’s not working out. It’s all about the kinds of results you’re aiming for. The demographics can tell you if you’re reaching your goals and where you stand in the world.

Your Neighbors

There are some very important things you can do with your neighbors (except barbarians; they only like exchanging axes):

  • Trade luxuries
  • Friendship
  • Trade technologies
  • Military alliances

You don’t have to research all that stuff on your own if you’ve got some friendly neighbors! You can also cozy up to City-states to boost your science, gold, culture, and faith.

Diplomacy is a fine art. The AI is typically very aggressive, but it’s been toned down a lot since the Gods and Kings expansion. Still, if the AI senses they can push you into a corner they will do so harshly …and blindly. It can sometimes make fatal errors which actually work in your favor. Don’t fear the computer; it’s not smarter than you but it at least makes for interesting competition as you learn. It will definitely test you and keep the game interesting!

The score is kept in the Diplomacy panel as shown in the picture. You can also find out who likes you, who doesn’t, and review your trade relations in this panel. It saves you the trouble of trying to write all this down to keep track of your deals so make good use of it.

Happiness and Golden Ages
What is Happiness?



Happiness is what keeps citizens working. Without it, they will riot in the streets and demand a new ruler …and we don’t want that!

However, happiness is a little tricky to manage so let me start by explaining what it is at base. It is:

  • Crowded: For each city you build, you will lose 3 Happiness. City population AND the number of cities you have will produce Unhappiness.
  • Exploration: Discovering Natural Wonders on the map will give you a boost!
  • Luxury: Those diamonds, incense, dyes, and salt? They make your people REALLY happy. You get a bonus for each luxury resource.
  • Difficulty: Depending on the difficulty level of the game, your empire will start off with a base amount of happiness. The harder the game, the less happy your citizens will be about it.

You can improve happiness through buildings, wonders, and resources for the most part.

Golden Ages

If your citizens are happy enough for long enough, it will trigger a Golden Age. As you can see in the image above, this empire must earn 1500 Happiness to trigger it. You can increase the amount of Happiness earned per turn in order to speed up the next Golden Age.

These eras of glory increase production and gold output by +1 on each tile in your empire. Let that sink in for a moment…

…kinda nice, isn’t it? This means that the more cities in your empire, the mo’ betta’ your Golden Ages are for prosperity. However, Golden Ages are always a good thing, no matter the size of your empire!

Golden Ages last 10 turns if triggered by Happiness. If triggered by a Great Person, the number of turns will decrease by 1 each time one is used for Golden Ages. This is, however, affected by which civilization you’re playing and what technologies and/or Social Policies you have researched.

Combat and War I: An Overview
No round of Civilization is completely bloodless. Whether you’re fighting off raging barbarians or get into a skirmish with City-states, you will need to be prepared to use military units to protect your nation’s interests.

If you’re at all familiar with the game of Chess, then combat strategy in this game will be much more intuitive for you. However, you don’t need to know how to play Chess to understand war in Civ. I’ve found that it’s just somewhat helpful, but certainly it doesn’t put you at a disadvantage.

Winning and Losing Cities

To capture a city you must besiege it. This will go a lot easier with siege and ranged units, but to make the capture you will require a melee unit. Pick your targets wisely. For example, there’s very little benefit to capturing or razing City-states. From a cost-benefit perspective, in the long run they are easier to befriend unless you want the land they are on. Even in that case, you will want to consider the costs of expanding before going through all the trouble. The second big reason is that City-states often ally with other nations. Going to war with them can often turn a while map against you. However, this is true for other nations as well due to diplomacy. The choice is yours, but pick your targets wisely.

Once a city has been defeated you will have the following options: raze it, annex it, create a puppet of it, or liberate it. You can view the definitions of these in the appendix for reference.

The benefits of capturing cities are:

  • Good land acquisition
  • Wonders
  • Military advantage (if you’re planning on winning by conquest)

Captured cities will be in a temporary state of revolt, lasting a few turns, during which they produce nothing. Immediately after you’ve captured a city you get to decide what to do with it: puppet, annex, raze, or liberate. You can view it to see if it has anything worthwhile already built; it’s generally a good idea to keep cities with world wonders in them or if it is in a particularly good location. Due to an interface limitation, if you can liberate a city you won’t see the option to view it. To get around this in single-player, save the game right before capturing the city, capture it and pick something other than liberate so you can look at the city screen. If you realize you’d have wanted to do something else, then you easily go back to the saved game and pick the option you would have picked if the interface worked better.

Experience and Promotions

As units engage in combat they gain experience. Starting at 15xp and increasing from there, units can level up and get promotions. Promotions can have a wide variety of useful benefits, such as making them more effective in open terrain, increasing their sight and movement, or even allowing them heal while moving or attacking. Not all promotions are available at first; some require others to be taken first. For example, the Amphibious promotion, which removes the penalty for attacking across water, requires one range of Shock or Drill be taken first.

The empire itself also runs a tally of experience. After enough has been accumulated a Great General will spawn in the empire. Great Generals increase the combat effectiveness of units within two tiles by 15%, making them incredibly valuable in battle. However, they are not combat units themselves and will die instantly in melee and very quickly from ranged attacks as well.


Some buildings can change units. Barracks, armories, military academies and the Brandenburg Gate world wonder give 15xp each to new units built in the city. World wonders can make units more effective. For example, the Himeji Castle makes units 15% more powerful when fighting in friendly territory. Stables and forges increase the speed at which the city makes mounted and land units, respectively.

Unit Maintenance

Armies are not free. Every turn you’ll need to spend some gold to maintain your army, with the cost rising over the eras. The Tradition social policy tree removes the maintenance cost for units in cities, Autocracy reduces the overall cost by 33%, and Freedom makes a certain number of units entirely free. If you find yourself short on gold, disband some units. If you do this in your territory you’ll even get some gold back, though much less than the cost to buy a unit.

City Defense

In combat, cities have three stats: defense, health, and ranged attack. A higher population, as well as building walls, castles, and arsenals increase all of these stats for a city. Stationing a unit inside a city will increase its defense and ranged attack. Cities are extremely durable and will heavily damage melee attackers, so be sure to bring plenty of ranged and siege units. Only melee attacks, meaning attacks by melee, gunpowder, mounted, or armored units can capture a city. A city can be at 1 health, but without a melee attack, it will remain intact and uncaptured.

Combat and War II: The Frontlines

Movement is crucial to combat strategies. Just as with chess, it’s far more important where you move than what you do when you move there. The action is in the movement. Or think of it this way: by the time your turn is over you should already have the advantage.

Movement is the number of tiles available to move for a selected unit. Terrain such as roads and forests modify this and has an impact on movement costs. However, natural terrain tends to increase costs, rather than lower them. Hills cost two points to move through. Forests and jungles are two points as well. A forest on a hill is three points, thereby making them exceptional roadblocks, as well as highly defensible positions. Crossing a river uses up all movement points unless you have a road, but the road must be in friendly territory.

There are two concepts in Civ V that make movement as important as the battles themselves.

  • 1. One Unit per Tile
  • There can only be one combat unit per tile, often referred to as 1upt. This means that unit locations have opportunity costs: if you have an archer on a tile, you cannot also have a spearman. You have to pick which unit to want to have there and this is a constantly changing decision. For example, if you’re trying to attack a city, you’ll want your melee units to be next to it so they can attack, while ranged units can be farther away and still hit it.
  • 2. Zone of Control
  • Second, units have a “zone of control” (ZOC) around them. While all units have at least two movement points, if they move across a ZOC they will expend all their movements. The zone of control is all tiles directly adjacent to a unit.

Note that moving into and out of the ZOC doesn’t trigger it. This means that sometimes a zig-zag formation will allow you to avoid expending all movement points.


Roads allow units to use fractions of movement points. Until Machinery this is ½, meaning that a unit on a road can go twice as far as on flat terrain. Machinery changes it to 1/3rd, so that units can go three times as far. Railroads further increase the range, costing only 1/10th of a movement point. This only applies to friendly territory; you cannot use roads when in lands in which you are at war.

On a strategic level, this means that armies can move very quickly within empires. Even a ‘slow’ infantry unit can cross 20 tiles in a single, while a keshik can move an incredible 50 tiles (the trick is that they ride their horses while on the train, hopping from one to the next, an awe-inspiring and terrifying sight to behold).

Note that a unit can always move one more tile if it has any movement points level, even a fraction. That means that a keshik can cross 49 tiles on rail and then walk an additional one on normal terrain, or go 40 tiles on rail and then still one on normal terrain. Tactically, this offers some useful possibilities. On pre-machinery roads an archer can move three tiles and still shoot. A siege unit can move a tile, set up, and still attack, all in a single turn. However, the ZOC rule still applies, so even on a railroad, your units can be limited to a single tile if an enemy has the side position.


If you have multiple units in melee range of an enemy your attacks get a flanking bonus, increasing the damage they deal. Isolated units are extremely vulnerable, particularly since ZOC may prevent them from retreating.


Units that do not move or attack will gradually heal. In friendly territory you heal twice as fast as while outside your borders. They can still heal if attacked. The Heal Instantly promotion will heal alot of health, at the cost of a promotion, but it may be better than losing it entirely. With the March, Repair, and Air Repair promotions units can heal even when moving and attacking.

Quick Answers: F.A.Q
Umm …how exactly do I play?

As the game begins, you’ll have 2 units that you control stranded in the middle of some unexplored map, surrouned by fog. One unit is a band of settlers. You’ll use it to found your first city. The other unit is a band of warriors. You’ll use it to explore and defend your settlement.

If your band of settlers die, you will not be able to found a city! Protect that unit at all costs and then refer to the first section of this guide to understand the rest!

What’s a unit?

A unit is anything on the map that you can directly move around. The map is divided into small hexagons, each one acting as a single tile on a game board. If you can move it, it’s a unit. Examples include military units, settlers, workers, and Great Persons.

What’s the difference between a worker and a citizen?

A citizen harvests resources from the tiles. A worker builds improvements on the tiles. Think of workers as builders. Remember that workers ARE NOT included in any population counts. They are units in the same way that archers and Great Persons are.

…and what’s the difference between resources and improvements?

Resources are represented by all the things on the map: sheep, trees, fish, stone, wheat, and all other physical resources. Improvements are farms, mines, pastures, and other specialty buildings that workers can build.

What is happiness?

It measures the contentment of your empire! Happiness is generated by providing access to luxury resources and buildings. It’s also affected by the proximity of your cities, their population, social policies, and exploration (discovering Natural Wonders). Your base happiness is determined by the difficulty of the game.

If you earn enough happiness, it will trigger a Golden Age which increases the output of gold, production, and culture.

What’s a Great Person?

They are units that your cities can produce. First, you have to have researched and built a structure which grants you a slot for the Great Person. The Great Person is developed over a period of time as the meter fills (in the City Panel). Once filled, it will appear in your city. You’ll have the option to build a special structure with them or use them for their specialized boost (See Appendix).

What does my city need in order to grow?

Food. By default, each city you build will auto-manage it’s development. Food will be it’s default priority. You can change the priority by opening the city panel (click on the city) and selecting a different option from the top right menu on the screen that pops up.

High food production leads to high population leads to greater/faster productivity in the city overall.

How do I expand my borders?

Culture. Think of it as spreading your influence on the physical map. The greater amount of culture each city produces, the faster it’s borders will grow. To find out how much culture your city is producing, open the city panel (click on the city) and review the panel on the top left of the screen.

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