Civilization V: Tips and Tricks

This article is long overdue and probably the most requested content we have here at ManaPool. In this Civilization V Strategy Guide I will focus on general tips, tricks and tactics which will help you improve your game massively and potentially gain an edge over your friends. Or if you play solo – how to consistently beat the AI, at any difficulty level.

Civ 5 Achievements

I’d like to think I’m at least somewhat qualified to write a guide.

Handy Tips

In this section I will focus on tips and tricks which you might not be aware of but which if used correctly can make a big difference. They’re often little things which just help you improve your game in little ways. Combined these tips will make a big difference in a game where every turn matters, especially early on!

Make extra gold easily

You can sell your luxury resources for up to 240 gold, and your strategy resources for up to 45 gold. How much a Civilization will pay you depends on how much they like you and how much they want the resource.

Alternatively, you can sell them for 1 gold per turn for strategic resources or 6-8 gold per turn for luxury resources, depending on current relations.

You can sell World Congress votes to Civs which have a diplomat in your capital. Why would you do this you say? Well if you know you’re going to vote a certain way, why not approach another Civ and establish some positive relations by having them pay you to vote exactly what you were going to vote anyway? They don’t know that’s how you were going to swing after all.

Diplomacy

Renew your declarations of friendship before they expire. You can do this 30 turns before they run out – and it often prevents the AI from backstabbing you. Maintaining positive relations is vital to preventing wars on multiple fronts.

You can bribe warmongering Civs into declaring war on someone else. This often prevents them from turning to you as they’re already otherwise engaged. (Thanks to Mr__Random)

Just because a Civ shows as ‘friendly’, doesn’t mean they are actually friendly. Look thoroughly for the reasons why they are friendly – if the only reason is an Embassy or something else without real value then the AI is probably considering to attack you.

The AI considers you ripe for conquest and is more likely to back-stab you if your military power is weak. Military power is a combination of quantity and quality – the number of troops in the demographics screen is a reflection of the number of troops and their quality level. You can get away with a much smaller army if you have a huge technological advantage.

International trade routes with another Civilization are a great tool to prevention of War, they are far less likely to declare war on you when you actively trade with them. Establishing trade routes with a neighbour early in the game can often make the difference between a friendly, peaceful relation or someone gathering a huge army on your borders. (Thanks to mcgriff1066)

Civ 5: Big City

Whomever thought Poland would win the space race?

Spies

Spies are powerful tools in the right hand. Worried about a neighbor? Plant a spy in their capital and you’re likely to get an early warning if they consider attacking you. Warnings about someone plotting against you aren’t something to be too concerned with, but if you learn that an army is marching for you I’d seriously relocate some of your forces to that front.

Use spies to steal technology from militaristic civs which aren’t in the top-3 of the game. They’re likely to declare on you sooner or later anyway, so pissing them off isn’t too dangerous unless you’re miles behind.

Once stealing isn’t useful or takes too long, send your spies to neighboring City States for diplomatic bonuses with them. Organizing a coup can often result in them outright shifting to you – and they make for excellent buffer zones around your territory.

Before you declare war, plant a spy in a city you plan to take. A few turns later, you gain full vision on the city, letting you easily use siege weapons, long range naval vessels or bombers to take it down. (Thanks to IAMA_DEGU_AMA)

Culture Bonus

This tip is great for those after a big Culture Boost. Ensure you have your Writer’s Guild up before the World Congress is formed. Once the World Congress has been formed, propose a World’s Fair. Your aim is to win this; if necessary, change all your cities to produce towards the World’s Fair. Once you’ve won it – you’ll have a bonus of 100% culture and you want to pop your Great Writers for a massive culture boost. Make sure you have a few Great Writers so you can pop them during the duration of this bonus or you will not have this benefit. You can easily acquire 4-5 social policies at the same time this way.

Rushing Great Library allows you to get Drama and Poetry as a free tech ages before any other civ can get it, allowing you to rush Parthenon. Parthenon comes with a pre-built great work of art, providing +2 tourism before anyone in the game has a great person. This can help you to start gaining the tourism necessary for a culture victory. (Thanks to BraavosiNinja)

Finding the Sea!

This may sound obvious once you know it, but not many players think of this. It’s a well-known tip among Civ veterans: If you’re trying to find the Sea/Ocean – zoom in on the nearest river and see what direction it flows in. Rivers always flow towards the Ocean.

Civ 5: Island City

Ah, the ocean and all its riches. This is a pretty interesting city spot.

Resource Trading

Many players don’t consider trading away the last copy of their luxury resource as you’d lose the +4 bonus to happiness from it. However, if the resource you get in return would trigger a ‘We Love The King’ day, or fulfill a City State Quest, you’d actually end up with a net gain. Look for such opportunities!

When you start next to multiple copies of the same luxury resource, trade the first one away for an AI luxury immediately upon improving it. You’ll get more, and lose no happiness. If you wait until receiving your second “surplus” copy, the AI might have traded all of theirs away already. It’s also a great way to bait resource quests and ‘We Love the King’ for a luxury that is one tile from your capital. (Thanks to goodolarchie)

Science

Science is absolutely paramount in Civ for any victory type. If you fall behind, you will most likely lose. Education is one of the most important technologies in the game. It can often nearly double your science output and should be an absolute priority after you have unlocked the luxuries around your early cities. After this, go straight for Philosophy -> Civil Service -> Education.

Workers

You can steal workers from nearby City States without too much punishment, instead of building them yourself. This can provide a huge saving in production efforts early in the game and make a difference between staying ahead of all competition and falling behind.

You want 2 workers early on if you’re really going to push for victory, with a focus on production over growth. It’s likely you cannot sustain the happiness anyway, especially as you’re looking to get your other 3 cities up as soon as possible. You’ll catch up in growth very easily with the other tips in this guide, so don’t worry about that for now.

To add to the above as it’s that important: build mines/production first, farms later. Of course the primary focus is connecting luxury resources, but do those which give production first.

Chop! Forests may seem tempting, but in most cases (Iroquois being an exception) they’re only good for one thing: chop them. Each time you chop a forest you gain a production boost for the city worth 3-4 turns of production. I don’t need to explain how important it is early on to gain those few turns. Don’t be tempted to save them for later, these additional turns are worth far more early on, even if you may gain a smaller amount of production at this stage. This goes hand in hand with other tips, for example getting Education and building Universities. Faster Universities, more science, more chance to dominate.

Micro Management

Early on, Prioritize Production and micro manage your citizens in a way which will build your early scout and other buildings as quickly as possible. If you have to sacrifice on food and growth for 1 turn to allocate some citizens to production and prevent production spill.

Switch to production when you’re building a settler. Cities cannot starve whilst they’re producing a settler, and whilst excess food does contribute towards the building of a settler, pure hammers provide more production. You can build the settler a tiny bit faster without any population loss, as long as you remember to switch back after the settler has been build.

Barbarians

Experience gain from Barbarian units caps at 30 experience points, which means you cannot farm Barbarians to level your units. (Thanks to MetropolitanVanuatu for suggesting that this would be useful for new players.)

Barbarians can only spawn in ‘dark’ areas of the map, e.g. any tile on which no Civ has any vision. You can use this to your advantage by strategically placing units around your territory. In some cases you can completely prevent any barbarians from spawning at all on your island or continent. Purchasing tiles in cities helps with this as well – as you always have vision within your own territory as well as directly next to it.

Pillage

When at war ensure you make liberal use of the pillage function to cut supply lines and deny your opponent access to luxury and strategic resources, as well as reducing both their production and food income to levels where their city is starved for both. It is key to winning a war at higher difficulty levels. On easier difficulty levels you can even declare war and pillage purely to keep a Civilization from advancing too quickly. Don’t do this at higher difficulties as the AI will not accept peace easily. (Thanks to rawreffincake)

Cities

Remember when your significant other said that size doesn’t matter? She was lying. Size is everything. In Brave New World, the game meta has significantly decreased the performance of ICS (infinite city sprawl) and Wide Empires. In the vast majority of cases, unless you’re playing for Domination, you should aim for a Tall Empire. Big Cities are immensely powerful.

To grow a city to an enormous size, you need food. And loads of it. Luckily, there are some fairly simply tricks which give you massive quantities of food for even the worst starting position.

Civ 5: Huge Cities Rule

Enormous cities are awesome.

City States

First, don’t underestimate maritime City States. These provide a food bonus which really adds up over time. Become friendly with a few of these and you’ll notice a massive influx in the amount of food and thus city growth.

Internal Trade Routes

Most people overlook this as a waste – trust me it isn’t. If you have settled your first 4 cities and have your granaries, consider establishing internal food trade routes from your 3 other cities to your capital. That’s right, food. Sea trade routes work especially well for this as they provide about twice as much food as land routes do. Get three of these going and your city will suddenly grow a lot faster.

Religion

There are a few religious beliefs which provide a big bonus to growth. Namely, the Founder Belief Fertility Rites (+10% Growth) and the Follower Belief Swords into Plowshares (+15% Growth when not at War). These stack with all other bonuses. They’re not vital and come at the cost of not having other useful Beliefs – but if you’re min/maxing city growth, they’re the ones to pick.

Social Policies

The Tradition policy tree is vital if you’re aiming at pure City Growth and should always be picked if you’re going for a Tall Empire. Landed Elite gives +10% Growth and +2 Food in your Capital, whilst finishing the Tradition tree provides an additional +15% Growth and free Aqueducts for your first four cities. Aqueducts happen to be vital to City Growth at around size 10+, so this is a powerful combination.

Wonders

Normally, going for these Wonders can really hurt you long-term. Veterans will tell you that most wonders are a distraction from your victory conditions and a giant waste of time. However, for those min/maxing City Growth there are two wonders worth mentioning:

Temple of Artemis (DLC): +10% Growth in all Cities.
Hanging Gardens: +6 Food. (+10 if you don’t have the expansions.)

The former is very powerful if your goal is to grow huge cities by end-game, the latter should only be build if your capital is in a truly terrible location food wise, such as a huge desert.

To add to the wonders: don’t focus on these, especially at higher difficulty levels. You’re better off with a few units or buildings than one wonder. All wonders do is make you a nice shiny target and piss off the other Civs. National Wonders are an exception, they’re very important and should often be your focus.

Civ 5: Immortal

No, seriously. Big cities are awesome. (Same game as last screenshot, Immortal Difficulty)

Keep them Happy!

Never ever let your people grow unhappy. This almost always results in an enormous setback and is almost never worth it. Learn to grow and expand without ever going into unhappiness and you’ve acquired one of the most fundamental skills to winning on higher difficulty levels.

Plan ahead with your research. Outside a strong emphasis on reaching Education as quickly as possible, ensure you plan ahead for the techs which provide a bonus to happiness.

Settling

Where to settle your cities? And when? This is always the difficult question.

The when part is easy – as soon as you can, without compromising other aspects of your game. The sooner that second city is up, the sooner it can contribute to your empire.

The where part is very situational, but generally speaking don’t follow the advice the game gives you on city spots. You want to settle near or on luxury resources so that the city doesn’t negatively impact your happiness straight away.

In addition, it’s often worth settling on a hill. This both provides a defensive bonus as well as ensure your city starts with a higher base production. This in turn ensures your city is capable of getting through the hardest part of building it up early on.

If you can settle along the coast, this is a huge plus as it means access to sea trade routes, lighthouse, harbors, etc. Rivers are also very important. If you really want to hit the jackpot – settling next to a mountain provides a whopping 50% additional research later once you hit Observatories. Finding the right combination of these factors is key.

You also don’t want to forget ‘special’ tiles. Ensure there’s a good mixture of production and food available for your city, as well as luxury and strategic resources. If you’re only going for 4 cities, make sure to find sweet spots – remember that cities expand their workable tiles to 3 hexes in all directions. Therefore, your cities should ideally have 5-6 hexes between them if you wish to really min-max this.

That’s it!

Well, that’s it for now. If you have a tip you want to share or think should be added to this guide, leave a reply and we’ll get right on it! Equally if you just want to say thanks – I always love to hear from people. Let us know the story of your next Civilization – will it stand the test of time?

If you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to also read our Civilization V: Civilizations & Leaders Guide.

the author

Managing Editor of ManaPool, Peter lives in York, UK and is a great fan and master of turn-based strategy games. If he isn't playing one of those, you'll probably find him in a role-playing game instead. He's definitely not afraid to provide a straight up opinion on any game and has a strong like for indie developers. We all start small, after all.

  • Gary Thwaites

    So once I have committed all this to memory does that mean I might have a chance of beating you Peter? :)

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      A bigger chance than before, anyway ;)

  • bill

    To add on to the World’s Fair thing, if you can pop a Great Artist at the time a Golden Age gives an additional 20% culture. Since Great Writers produce the last 8 turns-worth of culture when they’re used, you’ll want to try to stack those buffs as much as possible.

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      Thanks for sharing, bill!

  • Ilantsh

    Spies??? In Civ 5?

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      Yup. It is part of one of the expansions, Gods & Kings.

      • Ilantsh

        Great to know, much thanks. such spy. WOW!

  • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkzbPMwcJJbKsaNX2uxEgJw SVK PETO

    Is it right “401 hrs on record” or have you played it more in time of making screenshot?

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      I’ve played more since then – though I don’t play anywhere near as often as I used to. I should get some more time in with the game again as I still love it :-)

      Edit: The screenshot was more to demonstrate the 100% achievement record – some of those were hard work!

      • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkzbPMwcJJbKsaNX2uxEgJw SVK PETO

        I’m asking, becouse its 1h 24m average for one achievement. So you are genius or cheater. How did you manage to built temple average every 24m of playing? How did you win the Scramble for Africa playing as the Boers and Ottomans on Deity?

        • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

          You will generally unlock a fair few achievements at the end of a game, so if you’re speed-running, you can rack up a lot of achievements very rapidly. It’s only the “do this x many times” and the Deity achievements which can take a bit longer.

          A few of the Deity achievements are actually fairly simple, and don’t take very long to complete. (There are entire forums dedicated to good strategies for completing these, if you’re purely achievement hunting.)

          It’s worth noting that I achieved some of these prior to ‘big patches’ such as the “Fall Patch”, which changed the playing field in some of the scenarios. I generally don’t touch the scenarios after the achievements as I don’t find them all that much fun.

          As far as temples goes – you rack these up very, very quickly as I tend to build Temples *everywhere*. For most achievements, I played very fast speed-run style games, usually for an hour or 90 minutes maximum after work with the sole intention to get a few achievements. In almost all cases, you will get several at once.

          A few people here have played Multiplayer games with me, so they can comment on my aptitude with Civ V. I’ve loved Civ ever since the very first game, which I played thousands of hours on my old x286 EGA (4 color screen if you’re not as old as I am) 2 MHZ (not Ghz!) computer. I think it had 256k ram and a 10MB HDD.

          These days, your toaster or fridge have more processing power.

          • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkzbPMwcJJbKsaNX2uxEgJw SVK PETO

            I challenge you for duel.