Playing Civilization V, Part 4

Faith and Religion

This is another area where Civ 5 has added depth over previous versions of Civ. What it does it modify your situation by granting bonuses of various kinds. There is no direct victory condition associated with Religion in Civ V, that would arrive in Civ VI. There are 13 named religions in Civ V, but they are just empty placeholders. You can rename any of them as you wish, I usually do just for convenience so I can always remember which one is mine. What gives each religion its distinctive meaning is the set of beliefs that you attach to it.

The fuel for this is Faith, which is something you generate in your empire in various ways. The Celts have a unique ability to produce Faith from the very first turn. They get +1 Faith in a city with an adjacent unimproved Forest tile, and their starting bias will always put them in a place to do that. For everyone else you need to take positive action to start generating Faith. The best way to get started is by building a Shrine in your city, followed by a Temple. A Shrine can be built once you discover Pottery, a very early tech, and has maintenance cost of 1. It will generate 1 Faith per turn. The Temple becomes available once you discover Philosophy, has a maintenance cost of 2, and generates 2 Faith per turn. The reason you want to generate Faith is that you can “spend” it to create a religion and add beliefs to it. In addition, you can use Faith to purchase Great People, which can be very advantageous. You can also get Faith in other ways. Some Natural Wonders generate Faith, and if you can get one in your Empire that is a big bonus. Certain World Wonders are also generators of Faith, though they tend to come a bit later. And meeting a Religious City-State can grant you a Faith bonus, and befriending them can give you a per turn bonus of Faith.


The first step is to found a pantheon. In most games, every player will be able to found one unless they delay too long. This would not be a good idea. You want to found one as soon as you can for two reasons. First, each of the pantheons theoretically available can only be chosen by one player, so if you wait too long there won’t be as many good ones available. Second, the cost to found a pantheon goes up by 5 Faith each time another player founds one. So the key is start generating Faith early. The difference between 1 Faith per turn and 2 Faith per turn is huge in the early game.

As to which pantheon you should choose, that can be dictated by circumstance. If you have a few Desert tiles in your Empire, Desert Folklore can be huge. It gives you +1 Faith for each Desert tile, and that includes Flood Plains (think of the banks of the Nile; they are basically irrigated desert) and Oases. Flood Plains and Oasis tiles are ones you would want to work anyway because they are so productive, and with this pantheon you can add +1 Faith to the output for each one you work. But if you didn’t have any of right kind of tiles, this would make no sense. And if you have a Natural Wonder in your Empire, One with Nature is fantastic. Others like Faith Healers and Goddess of Protection will rarely pay off in any significant way.


The next step once you have a pantheon is to found a religion. And if you are going to do that, haste is again important, since the number of religions allowed is always less than the number of players, so in any game one or two players will be left out. And you do lose something if you don’t have a religion of your own, though you can get a few benefits from adopting someone else’s religion. You can see how many religions can still be founded my mousing over the Faith stat in the main window. If that goes to zero, you can give up on founding a religion, and forget using a strategy that relies on high Faith generation. Founding a religion is an option when you generate your first Great Prophet, and that happens with a probability based o how much Faith you have accumulated. So if you started off strong in the Faith department and kept it up you will most likely get a Great Prophet and found a religion.

Starting religion first means choosing a name and a symbol. As mentioned, you don’t need to go with the name that is there, you can rename your religion but you do need to choose one of the symbols. Then you get to choose a Founder Belief. This is a benefit that only you, as the Founder of the religion, can benefit from. Which one you pick depends somewhat on circumstances and on the type of Victory you plan to pursue. For example, if you plan to pursue a Diplomatic victory you will want as many City-State allies as possible, so the Founder Belief of Papal Primacy will be a big help. And if you plan to pursue a Science victory you might prefer Interfaith Dialogue. Among the cash generating beliefs, Tithe is best in the long run, so unless you are desperate for quick cash, choose that over Church Property and Initiation Rites.

Then you get to choose a Follower Belief. This gives a benefit to each city that follows your religion (at least 51% in the city), regardless of where it is. Of course you will probably have most of your own cities following your religion, so they will get this benefit, but if you convert cities in other Empires they will get this benefit as well. And the reverse is true, so that if one of your cities is converted to another religion that city will get the Follower Belief of that religion. And that means that if you never get your own religion, you can at least get some benefit when one of your cities converts to another Empire’s religion. Follower Beliefs should also be chosen with an eye to your circumstances and the victory type you are pursuing. For instance, Cathedrals not only let you purchase cathedrals with Faith, but also add +1 Faith, Culture, and Happiness. And they also give you a slot for a Great Work of Art. If you are going for a Culture victory, this is very powerful. Divine Inspiration is good if you plan to build a lot of Wonders, and Feed the World is just a good all-around belief.

Once you have founded a religion, you can get additional Great Prophets. And one thing you can do with another Great Prophet is enhance you religion. This will let you choose an Enhancer Belief and one added Follower Belief. For Enhancer Beliefs, I would choose Religious Unity if you have a number of City-States near to each other since they will ramp up your followers and help put religious pressure on other Empires. If you are pursuing a Science or Culture victory and are mostly defensive against other Empires, Defender of the Faith is a good pick.

If you decide to pursue the Piety Social Policies, adopting the Reformation policy will let you add a Reformation Belief. Charitable Missions is very good is you are seeking a Diplomatic victory, Jesuit Education is great for a Science victory, and Sacred sites is good for a Cultural victory. But as always consider your own circumstances when evaluating these beliefs.

In addition, if you are Byzantium you get one added bonus belief which can come from the Pantheon, Founder, Follower, or Enhancer pool, so that is very handy. All in all, you can wind up with one Pantheon benefit, one Founder belief, two Follower beliefs, one enhancer belief, and one Reformation belief, for a total of 6 (7 if you are Byzantium).

Spending Faith

Faith is a resource that can be used to purchase buildings or units if you have chosen the right set of beliefs. Faith can even be used to generate more Faith. If you have already Enhanced your religion using a second Great Prophet, and then get a third or fourth one, you can use it to create a Holy Site. These yield +6 Faith, and can yield added Culture or Gold with the appropriate policies. And once you reach the Industrial Era, Faith can be used to purchase other Great People if you have completed the appropriate policy tree:

  • Tradition: Great Engineers
  • Honor: Great Generals
  • Commerce: Great Merchants
  • Exploration: Great Admirals
  • Rationalism: Great Scientists
  • Aesthetics: Great Writers, Artists, and Musicians

Strategic Considerations

First of all, you can win this game without getting a religion, it is just a little more difficult because of all the benefits you can get from a religion. You can get a quick boost if you can be the one to build Stonehenge, since that yields +5 Faith per turn. Otherwise, research Pottery and build a Shrine to start the Faith generation going. If you make it your focus it is not hard to do. But that is the problem: you generally cannot make it your focus because there are other things you need to do. You need to explore a lot early on, and so it is usual to build at least one and often two Scout units as your first builds. You want to find the Ancient ruins (i.e. Goodie Huts), the nearby City-States, any Natural Wonders, nearby Barbarians, and other players. And if you do have nearby Barbarians or nearby opponents, you may need to build a few military units. And to get your city to grow, you need to build improvements on your tiles, and that requires building a Worker unit or two. And you will want to settle 2-3 more cities, which means building Settler units. Balancing all of these demands is the skill you need to be successful, and that is the essence of all of the 4-X games.

 Save as PDF

Comments are closed.