Civilization V

In 2010 It was time for another installment of the Civ franchise to appear, Civ V. This time, the lead designer was Jon Shafer. He got his start by writing mods for Civ III, then became a beta tester for the Civ III expansions and for Civ IV. Then he joined Firaxis, and was a designer on the Civ IV expansions. So putting him in charge of Civ V continued the tradition of developing talent within Firaxis. His main associate in the design for Civ V was Ed Beach, who would go on to design Civ VI, and so it goes. As always, you start in 4000BC with a band of nomads, found your first city, and start the research and building. Those are the constant factors in Civ. But Civ V really develops some of the features we saw in Civ IV in ways that make the game really interesting.

First, you need to choose the Empire you want to play, and you have a lot of choices. The original game gave you 18 options, and then 7 more were added in DLC. And even more in the expansions, until you could have 43 different choices to make. And the choices matter. Each of them comes with a particular Ability, unique units, unique buildings or terrain improvements, and a starting bias. For instance Arabia has a starting bias to be located on a desert. That doesn’t mean it will be completely on a desert 100% of the time, but it will be drawn to starting there more often than not. The Dutch have a unique ability called the Dutch East India Company which means that they keep 50% of the Happiness benefits from a Luxury Resource if their last copy of it is traded away. The French have a unique building called The Chateau, which provides +1 Gold, +2 Culture, and a +50% defensive bonus to any unit on that tile. And the Ottomans have a unique unit called the Janissary which heals up to 50 damage points if it kills a unit and gets a +25% bonus when attacking. Put it all together, and this means you have to match your strategy to the particular capabilities of the Empire you are playing. If you are the Ottomans, you are well-suited to a conquest type of game, while the French Chateau is a big bonus for a Culture victory. For every victory type there are several Civs that are good candidates. You can either go for a random Civ, and then adapt your strategy to it, or you decide on the strategy you want to employ and pick a good Civ for it. That said, you will need to develop all aspects of the game. If you focus on Culture and neglect your military, someone will notice and decide you are easy meat and declare war. On the other hand, focus on your military and neglect Culture and you will not do well in getting your policies. And if you fall behind in Science you will not have the new units to keep up in military or the new sources of culture. You need to have balance among all of the areas.

The Map

One big change you will see right away is that the map got rid of square tiles in favor of hexagonal tiles. You have various terrain types, including snow and tundra, several kinds of forest and jungle, and so on. And now you have Natural Wonders. These can give you bonuses just for discovering them, and even more so if they are owned by you, so exploring the map early is important, and even more so to find out how your neighbors are and where they are located. If your neighbors are Greece or Mongolia, for example, you will want to build military units early because they will pounce on any perceived weakness.


And the map is tied to combat in an interesting way. The switch to hexagonal tiles was meant to work better with a new play rule that only one unit could be on any given tile. In Civ IV it was a common strategy to build a stack of units on a tile and go off to stomp your enemies. The new one-unit-per-tile feature on a hexagonal grid now makes for more interesting tactical choices, such as flanking bonuses. And it also makes the choice of terrain even more important. With only one unit per tile, getting a defensive bonus matters more. And of course arranging your units for a siege or battle is now more interesting.

Victory Conditions

This is a bit simpler than in Civ IV. As always, you can win a Science victory by being the first to build and launch a space ship to Alpha Centauri. This has been in Civ since the very first game Sid Meier coded, and in some form it is likely to persist. And of course you can achieve a Domination victory, but this now only requires that you capture everyone else’s original capital, you don’t have to actually wipe them out. And the other kind of domination that was in Civ IV has been dropped. You can win a Diplomatic victory with the help of votes from other Civs and from City-states in the United Nations (changed to World Congress in the Brave New World expansion). And there is a Culture victory you get from completing five out of ten of the Social Policy Trees.

Social Policies

In Civ V you have ten Social Policy Trees that give you added abilities. for example, the Tradition tree has five policies, and one of them is Aristocracy. And if you adopt that policy, you get +15% Production when building Wonders (any Era) and +1 Happiness for every 10  Citizens in a City. When you start you have four social policy trees available to you: Tradition, Liberty, Honor, and Piety. You have to amass culture to unlock them and to add the policies to your Empire. And you get culture by things like buildings, Wonders, and Great People. So you need to amass culture throughout the game to get the benefits of the policies. And as the game progresses you have other policy trees open up to you.


Another new addition to the game is City-States. They are single city “countries” that are not competing to win the game, but do offer additional game play possibilities. You can build relations with them and ally with them, get resources from trade with them, and they are centrals to winning a Diplomatic victory because of their votes in the United Nations (later on, the World Council in expansions). Or you can attack them and take them over, which Mongolia is particularly efficient at. Each City-state has a particular trait, and in the base game they are Cultured, Maritime, and Militaristic, which affects what you can get from interacting with them.


In the original Civ V religion was removed, oddly enough, but I guess they realized that was a mistake, and it came back in a big way in the Gods & Kings expansion. Religion uses a resource called Faith, which joins Food, Production, and Gold as the major resources in the game. Certain buildings give you Faith, certain tiles might give you Faith, and as you accumulate Faith you can do things. Step one to getting a religion is to found a Pantheon, and when you do you get to pick a bonus. There are a lot of them to choose from, but once a bonus has been claimed by someone it is no longer available to anyone else. So if Religion is going to be an important part of your strategy it pays to get going early. Then when you have accumulated more Faith you will earn a Great Prophet. That Prophet can be used to found a Religion, which you will probably want to do with your first Great Prophet. Ones you earn later can have other uses. In Civ V there is no Victory condition for a Religious Victory (that shows up in Civ VI), but the Faith you generate can have other uses, such as buying units and buildings.

Great People

In addition to the Great Prophet, there are other Great People. Great Artists, Merchants, Engineers, and Scientists come from the specialists you have in cities that generate Great People Points. Specialists are citizens in your cities who are not growing food or working in mines, but rather assigned to work in appropriate buildings. Assign someone to work in a Library and they will generate Great Scientist points, for example. And when you get Great People you can either get a one-off boost, or a long-term benefit. Your Great Scientist, for example, could either give you a big boost in your science, or increase your per-turn science over time.

National Wonders

In previous versions of Civ we had World Wonders, such as the Pyramids, that could only be built once per game. So if someone else got it first, you would be out of luck. But in Civ V they introduced National Wonders, which could be built by all players, but only once per Civ. An example is the National College. What makes these difficult to achieve is that there is prerequisite building which must exist in every one of your cities before you can build the National Wonder. For the National College, for instance, that building is the Library. If you have a Library in every one of your cities, go ahead and build it. But if you keep building cities as the game progresses, or conquer a few enemy cities, you have to build the Libraries in all of them before you can start. That makes for an interesting strategic choice. You might delay settling another city so you can complete a National Wonder you qualify for.


Gods & Kings was the first expansion pack for Civ V, released in 2012. We already discussed the re-introduction of Religion into Civ, and how it expanded. Another feature ignored in the original Civ V but brought back here and developed is Espionage. The combat system was overhauled to make battles more tactical. And of course more of everything. Two new city-state types (Mercantile and Religious) were added, and more city-states were added. And there were more techs and so on. But this is one of those rare cases where the expansion actually moved the game forward.

Brave New World followed in 2013 and introduced International Trade as a game system. in the Social Policies area, the policy trees were revamped and reduced to nine instead of the previous ten. In place of the tenth tree they inserted a module called Ideology which is a late-game expansion of the social area. and Archaeology was added to buff up the Culture victory. And of course, the usual new Civs, new Wonders, and new Scenarios that are part of most expansions.

Obtaining Civ V

Of course you can get the game on Steam . Civ V Complete can be purchased for $29.99, and not only includes both of the expansions, but also the DLC (2 Map packs and one added group of Civs) . Amazon has the Civ V Complete game for $25.95 as I write this, but I don’t think that includes the DLC. As mentioned before, Good Old Games does not, at this time, have Civ V available.

Other Resources

 Save as PDF

Comments are closed.