Playing Civilization V, Part 5


There are two kinds of wonders in Civ 5. World Wonders are things that can only be built once by only one player. Whoever completes it first gets it, and if two players complete it on the same turn, the player whose turn comes first gets it. National Wonders can be built once by each player, so you can always build them if you meet the criteria. In addition, there are International Projects that can be built with contributions by all players, and give benefits according to the level of contributions each player makes. Deciding which ones you want to pursue and when is important, and you have to accept that you won’t always succeed with World Wonders. If you lose out because another player built it first, you get some money in exchange for your lost production, but not that much so it is still a net loss.

Listing all of the Wonders and related items here would take up a lot of space, and the lists are already available online, such as at the Civilization Wiki. Please consult this list for all of the details. There are a lot of these, and each one provides different benefits, so some study here is warranted.

World Wonders

World Wonders are worth building if you want the benefits they provide. For example, if you build the Great Library you receive +3 Science per turn, 1 free Technology, a free Library in the city where it is built, +1 Great Person Point per turn towards getting a Great Scientist, and it has two slots for Great Works of Writing. If you were intending to go for a Science victory, this would be a good one to have. It comes early, you can build it once you have discovered Writing. This illustrates a few points about World Wonders. The first is that there is a prerequisite discovery that unlocks the ability to build the Wonder. The Great Library is an Ancient Era wonder, so it is unlocked by a very early discovery. But as you continue to research technologies you unlock more World Wonders. When you get to the Medieval Era and discover Theology, several wonders are unlocked such as Borobudur and Hagia Sophia. And in the Modern Era the discovery of Radio unlocks Broadway and Eiffel Tower. Another point is that many, though not all Wonders provide Great Person Points each turn. That is something to look out for.

You don’t need to build any World Wonders at all, but because of the benefits they provide it usually makes sense to build a few. Of course, there is a trade-off. World Wonders require many turns to create, and there is always the chance that you will invest 20-30 turns of production into a Wonder only to be beaten to it by another player. And there is also the opportunity cost in that while you are building the Wonder you are not building units, other city buildings, and so on. There may well be Wonders you like to have, but one of your neighbors gets nasty and you have to focus on building military units. That does happen, and it is part of the game. The game is always forcing you to make choices, and if you choose wrong you will pay a price. One thing you have to understand right away is that you can only attempt a few of these Wonders. Winding up with 3-4 of them by the end of the game is not unusual. There is one way to get Wonders without building them, however. If you conquer a city that has a Wonder, you get the Wonder as part of your conquest.

National Wonders

These are Wonders that every player can build once, so you can never lose out. The prerequisite is that you need to have built a certain building in each city you control directly (i.e. not including Puppet cities). For example, a key National Wonder for a Science victory is the National College, and that is unlocked when you have built a Library in each city you control directly. It gives +3 Science per turn, plus a 50% increase in the Science output of the city where it is built. You get the maximum benefit from this Wonder if you build it early, which suggests that you don’t over-expand too early. I would not go past 4 cities before I got Libraries in all of them and built this National Wonder. Another example is the National Epic, which requires a monument in each city. Well, one little trick is that you can choose the Tradition Policy tree, and get Legalism, and it will give you a free monument in your first four cities. If you only have four cities you have your prerequisite right there without building anything. Once you understand how the National Wonders work, you see how the game is nudging you towards building only a few cities and not over-expanding. Many of the best players advise that you build no more than 4-5 cities.


There is another related thing you can build, called Guilds. They are like National Wonders in that each player can always build them once. They are designed to help you earn Great Writers, Great Artists, and Great Musicians, so they are key if you are going for a Culture victory, but they are worth building for anyone because Culture is how you get added Policies.


These come late in the game, and can give you powerful options. One is the Apollo Project, which is necessary if you want to win a Science victory since it lets you construct spaceship parts. The other is the Manhattan Project, which lets you construct nuclear weapons. That may or may not be necessary depending on the circumstances of your game.

International Projects

There are three of these International Projects:

  • International Games
  • International Space Station
  • World’s Fair

These do not just show up in the production queue, they have to be voted on in the World Congress. If one of them is proposed and the vote is positive, the clock starts to get the project done. Each Empire can make their own decision about how much production they want to put into it, but you can have all Empires participate. And you can decide to have multiple cities devote their production to the International Project if you wish to. The top three contributor Empires are rewarded, so if you are the fourth or lower you have simply lost the production you added. So this is a “go big or go home” situation in my view. Of course, it takes a lot of production to built these, so if you have other problems, such as an ongoing war, you will probably have to pass.

Strategic Considerations

There are far too many Wonders for you to contemplate building all of them, so you have to consider selectively to attempt to build one. Generally you will be in competition with other Empires, so you need to have a city with high production that you can build a Wonder in. Even so, you will sometimes lose out. There are ways to “rush” a Wonder if it is really vital to your strategy. First, adjust your population in the city to focus on production. Second, make sure you have high production tiles such as mines. Then, if this focus causes food output to fall, you can use Caravans to bring food to a city. Caravans are normally used for foreign trade, but if caravans are sent between two of your cities, they bring in food. Finally, if you have untouched forest tiles you can use your Workers to cut down the forest, which adds production to your city. You can only do this once, of course, on any given tile, but it is a frequently used technique. Players refer to this as “chopping” to get the Wonder.

Take a look at the list of Wonders I linked to above, and you will see that the benefits of the Wonders are quite varied. Some will help you get a Science victory, some a Culture victory, others a Diplomatic victory, and so on. So you shouldn’t just build random Wonders willy-nilly. You should have a strategy for getting a victory, and pick Wonders to focus on in line with that strategy. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Science – Great Library, Porcelain Tower
  • Domination – Statue of Zeus, Brandenburg Gate
  • Culture – Parthenon, Sistine Chapel
  • Diplomatic – This one is indirect. The key to winning a Diplomatic victory is to ally with virtually all City-States. This can be done two ways. First, station a spy in the City-State to rig elections in your favor. Second, shower them with money. So if you want to try this type of game, focus on money. So Colossus and Machu Picchu are examples of useful Wonders.

Now these are just a few obvious ideas, but Wonders that increase Production are good for any strategy, but particularly a Domination strategy since if you can crank out military units faster than your enemy you are quite likely to win. The point is that you have to make choices. There are always competing demands on your resources, and you have to know which Wonders you really want to compete for, which ones are “nice to have”, and which ones you can safely skip. Personally, I rarely attempt to build any Ancient Era Wonders. The reason is that I tend to focus on exploration and building up my Empire in the early turns. Later on if I am in a more comfortable situation with 4-5 well-developed cities, I will build more Wonders. But often when I do it is because I don’t have anything else to build that is a priority. And I always prioritize the Production buildings. When Workshop becomes available, for instance, I will make it the next thing in my queue for all of my cities. If you have high production cities you will be successful more often in building Wonders.

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