I am playing Civlization V using the Brave New Worlds expansion, which is the final version of the game, and I have it on Steam. So that is the platform behind everything that follows. Steam does keep track of certain statistics, and it showed me that I have actually spent more time playing Civ V than I have on Civ VI, which surprised me since I have pretty much played Civ VI most of the time since it was released. But since Civ V is such a good game, that is not a complete surprise.
Cities and Citizen Management
The biggest thing will notice right away is that the map no longer uses squares. Civ V (and later Civ VI) switched to hexagon tiles. So the BFC is out now. When you settle a city you immediately get the center hex tile and a ring of 6 hexes around it. But as your culture grows you get additional hex tiles, up to the third ring of hex tiles around the center. The second ring will have 12 tiles, and the third ring will have 18. So the total number of tiles you could theoretically work in a city is 36, not counting the city center. In practice you will rarely get this far, particularly since some tiles might be unworkable for some reason like Ice or Mountains. Also, spreading out your cities to get the maximum tiles is not a good strategy. There should be some overlap between the cities since growing your empire is more important than growing individual cities.
What this means in practice is that your city will have more tiles at any time than are being worked. So managing what your citizens are doing is important. If you open the City screen, you will see Citizen Management in the upper right corner. Click on that to open it, and you will see that you can make a general assignment for the direction of your city. You can leave it in Default if you wish, or you can choose to emphasize Food, Production, Gold, Science, Culture, Great Person, or Faith. In addition there is a selection that might puzzle you at first, to Avoid Growth. The reason you might want to do that is that you have a Happiness problem, and every added person creates more unhappiness.
Under this, you will see Great Persons, which tells you which Great Persons are being “produced”, and how much progress you have on each of them. Below this are the Specialist Buildings, and this ties into Citizen Management because certain buildings hold slots for specialists. These are citizens that have been removed from the usual citizen roles of farming, mining, etc. And after clicking the Citizen Management on the right, the map of the City will also change to display each of the tiles and what, if anything, is happening on each tile. A green circle with a picture of a person’s head is a tile that is being worked by a citizen. A blank black circle is not being worked at all. A black circle with two swirling arrows inside is a tile that is within 3 tiles of the city center and could be worked by this city, but is currently being worked by another city. Remember that as we said there will normally be an overlap between cities. If you click on the tile, it will transfer to this city, and no longer be worked by the other city. If you click on a tile that is currently being worked, i.e. one with green circle, the citizen will be taken off of working that tile. You can then do either of two things to reassign this citizen. If you click on a tile with the blank black circle, that citizen will now assigned to work this tile. Or you can go to the Specialist Buildings on the right, click on a slot with a blank black circle, and assign the citizen to being a specialist. Depending on the building involved, you can thereby produce additional Science, Gold, Culture, etc. from this citizen who is now a Specialist.
If you are new to this kind of game, you might want to let the Governor handle things for you at first, and maybe just change the focus of the city on the large scale instead of micro-managing your citizens. I generally focus on Food early on, because more food is how you get more Citizens, and more Citizens is how you can get more tiles and more output from your city. But if you start to fall behind in Science, that is bad, so you might want to increase your assignment of citizens to Science to prevent that. If you are under attack, or just need to deter attack, you might want to build more units, and that suggests putting more of your Citizens into high production tiles and production Specialist buildings. Overall, the key to all 4-X games is balance, so you need to always devote some resources to Science, some to Culture, some to your Military, and so on.
In Civ V, your system of government is now determined by the Social Policies you implement. The game mechanic is that you earn culture points by a combination of Buildings, Wonders, Great Persons, and Specialists. And when you accumulate a sufficient number of culture points, you can adopt a policy. There are 9 policy trees, but in the very early stages of the game you only have access to 4: Tradition, Liberty. Honor, and Piety. The other 5 get unlocked as you go along and move into different eras. Generally Tradition and Liberty are the best in the early game, though there are some interesting strategies that employ the other policy trees. But for a first time player, I would recommend Tradition as the safest bet while you are learning. Liberty is designed for a strategy of lots of cities, but that is risky because of the Happiness mechanic that penalizes you for adding cities and for adding population.
The first time you get a bunch of culture points, you need to unlock a policy tree. Then the next time you can select a policy to implement. You can mouse-over the icons to see what each policy does so you can make an informed choice. You cannot implement policies on the lower levels of the tree until you have implemented all of the prerequisites. And note that the number of culture points you need to accumulate in order to add a policy continually rises through the game, so one thing you have to do is keep adding culture generators. And to illustrate this, lets look at the Tradition Policy tree, and again I will remind you I am assuming the Brave New World expansion, which is the final form of Civ V:
- Unlocking the Tradition Tree – This is the first step. You have to unlock a tree before you can start adopting policies. But unlocking brings benefits right away. When you unlock Tradition, it increases the rate of border expansion in your cities by 25%. City borders expand as you gain culture (one more reason to keep up with the Culture generation) and faster expansion means faster access to those resources that are just outside your starting city limits. Also you get +3 Culture per turn in your capital, and it unlocks the ability to build the Hanging Gadens wonder.
- Then you accumulate some more Culture, and you can choose between 2 policies, Aristocracy and Oligarchy.
- Aristocracy – This policy gives you +15% Production when building Wonders, and +1 Happiness for every ten citizens in a city.
- Oligarchy – This policy gives you zero maintenance cost for garrisoned units, and cities with a garrisoned unit gain +50% ranged combat strength. Yes, cities themselves have ranged combat capabilities in Civ V.
- The next row of policies contains Legalism, and that requires you to already have Oligarchy as a prerequisite. It provides you with a free culture building in your first 4 cities.
- The last row contains two policies, and both require Legalism as a prerequisite. They are Monarchy and Landed Elite.
- Monarchy gives you +1 gold in your Capital, and -1 unhappiness for every two citizens in your Capital.
- Landed Elite provides +10% Growth and +2 Food in the Capital.
- Finally, if you complete the tree by adopting all of the policies, you get +15% Growth in all of your cities, a free Aqueduct in your first four cities, and the ability to purchase Great Engineers with Faith once you reach the Industrial Era.
Note that I said “if” you complete the tree. You are under no obligation to do so. For instance, I find Aristocracy to be rather less useful unless I am going after a lot of wonders. And I tend to not go after wonders early on anyway. So I might go Oligarchy–>Legalism–>Landed Elites, and the move on, and maybe pick up Aristocracy later on when I start going for Wonders. You could unluck Tradition, adopt Oligarchy and garrison all of your cities, then decide to unlock Honor because it adds even more benefits for a strategy of going to war. Wars can be useful. For example, there is nothing wrong with letting another player build a Wonder you covet, and then simply conquering the city and gaining the Wonder that way. Or if you want to employ a religious strategy, you could the unlock the Piety tree. The only rule you have to follow (and the game enforces it) is to meet the prerequisites. You cannot possibly adopt all of the policies available, and the four trees given above are just the ones available from the start in the Ancient Era. As the game progresses you will gain access to 5 more policy trees. In the Classical Era, which comes surprisingly fast, you get access to Patronage and Aesthetics. In the Medieval Era you get access to Exploration and Commerce, and in the Renaissance Era you get access to Rationalism. And once you reach the Modern Era (or have 3 factories, which ever comes first) you choose among three Ideologies: Freedom, Order, and Autocracy, each of which have their own set of policies to adopt.
The point is that you can’t have all of them, you have to make choices. If you want to conquer the world, the Honor tree will be important. If you want to try a Science victory, the Rationalism tree is important. And that is the underlying principle in all Civ games, you have to choose a course of action that fits your strategy, and adapt your strategy to fit your circumstances. If you are always choosing the same policies in every game, you are missing a key point.