Civilization V – Ultimate Guide To Mastering The Turn-Based Strategy Masterpiece

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy video game developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games in 2010. It is the fifth main installment in the Civilization series, which allows players to lead a civilization from prehistory into the future while competing against other civilizations for world domination.

civilization v game

Civilization V is widely considered one of the greatest turn-based strategy games ever made. It builds upon the foundations of previous Civilization games while introducing major gameplay changes and innovations that improved the experience. The addictive turn-based gameplay, wealth of strategic choices, and the thrill of competing against history’s greatest leaders cemented Civilization V’s reputation as a modern classic.

Table of Contents

Why is Civilization V considered one of the greatest turn-based strategy games of all time?

There are several key reasons why Civilization V is regarded as one of the best strategy games ever made:

  • Addictive “one more turn” gameplay: The turn-based structure makes it extremely hard to stop playing, as you constantly want to accomplish just one more thing before ending your turn. This gameplay is enhanced by the ability to customize your civilization’s development through research, city-building, diplomacy, and more.
  • Endless replayability: With dozens of civilizations and leaders to choose from, randomly generated maps, and multiple victory conditions, no two games of Civilization V play out the same. You can experiment with new strategies and tactics every time you play.
  • Strategic depth: You have an incredible amount of strategic options when leading your civilization. Everything from city placement, research priorities, diplomacy, warfare, and resource management comes into play. Maximizing these systems leads to extremely rewarding gameplay.
  • Polished presentation: Civilization V features bright, colorful visuals and an award-winning soundtrack that perfectly complements the epic scope of the game. The user interface is also expertly designed to avoid complicating the experience.
  • Build on a beloved franchise: Civilization V masterfully built upon the addictive turn-based formula of previous games while overhauling graphics, UI, and major gameplay systems for the better. It appealed to longtime fans and new players alike.

What are the key features of Civilization V?

Civilization V introduced several landmark features and improvements that helped redefine the turn-based strategy genre:

  • Hexagonal tile-based map: Replaced the square grid maps of previous games with more natural-looking hexagonal tile maps that opened up new strategic placement options.
  • One unit per tile: To reduce unit stacking exploits, only one military unit could occupy a map tile at once, forcing more tactical play.
  • City-states: These independent minor civilizations could be befriended for unique bonuses and help influence United Nations elections.
  • Improved combat: The combat system was overhauled to make positioning and terrain much more important factors on the battlefield.
  • Social policies: New skill trees allowed you to customize your civilization’s bonuses over time based on your playstyle preferences.
  • Improved graphics: Making use of Hexagonal maps and a new game engine, Civilization V featured brighter, more stylized visuals that brought the world to life.

These innovations built on the series’ strong foundation of turn-based gameplay and empire management, launching Civilization V to widespread critical and fan acclaim upon release.

Core Gameplay Mechanics

Expanding your empire

One of the main goals in Civilization V is to expand your civilization’s borders by founding new cities and gaining control of nearby land. Settling cities in optimal locations with access to resources, especially in the early game, is crucial to gain an economic and military advantage over rivals. You must balance expansion with other needs, as uncontrolled growth can lead to economic problems and unrest.

Building cities and infrastructure

Cities serve as the engine of your civilization’s development. Using citizens assigned as workers, you can construct buildings like workshops, libraries, and universities to produce units, research technologies, and provide other bonuses. Developing a strong infrastructure is key to training a powerful military, generating culture, and progressing towards one of the available victory conditions.

Researching new technologies

Advancing through the technology tree by researching science and culture techs can confer major advantages. You can unlock new military units like infantry or crossbowmen, naval vessels, infrastructure like hydro plants and hospitals, cultural buildings like museums, and much more. Prioritizing key technologies is important for long-term success.

Developing your culture and religion

In addition to scientific research, you must also cultivate your civilization’s culture output through constructing relevant buildings, gaining great artists/writers/musicians, and adopting social policies. You can found a customized religion then spread it to cities for bonuses. Your culture directly contributes to a cultural victory.

Engaging in diplomacy and trade

Using the trade system and diplomatic negotiations, you can set up mutually beneficial trade routes and relationships with other civilizations and city-states. This can provide resources, spread religion, and allow for beneficial alliances. You can also engage in espionage against rivals.

Waging war against other civilizations

Unfortunately, clashing with neighboring civilizations through war is inevitable in most games. Building a strong military via production and research is critical to defend your territory or conduct offensive campaigns. Strategic use of terrain, naval/air units, sieges, and more can help overcome rivals.

Different Ways to Win

Civilization V offers four different main paths to an ultimate victory.

Domination victory: Conquer all other civilizations

The most direct path to victory is conquering all other civilizations by capturing their capital and eliminating all of their units. This requires a heavy focus on military production, strategic warfare, and denouncing your opponents. Dominating all rivals is no easy task.

Science victory: Be the first civilization to reach the Alpha Centauri star system

By focusing research efforts on the later technologies in the tree and constructing key science buildings in your cities, you can unlock spacecraft parts to eventually assemble and launch a ship bound for Alpha Centauri. Reaching this new system first achieves a science victory.

Cultural victory: Have a greater culture score than all other civilizations

Generating culture via buildings, wonders, policies, great people, and tourism can allow you to dominate other civilizations with your cultural influence. If your lifetime culture output surpasses all opponents, you snag a cultural victory.

Diplomatic victory: Be elected as World Leader

With enough allied city-states and leveraging the World Congress system added in later expansions, you can swing crucial votes to be elected World Leader and secure a diplomatic victory. This path relies heavily on shrewd politics and trade relationships.

Strategies for Beginners

Succeeding as a new player in Civilization V relies on smart foundational play. Here are some useful starter strategies:

Focus on expanding your empire early on

In the ancient era, concentrate major production on settlers and workers to quickly found new cities and improve the land. Claim territory and resources aggressively before opponents can. Resist overexpansion by spacing cities appropriately.

Don’t neglect research and technology

It’s easy to obsess over military might alone. But you must balance unit production with investing in key science buildings, generating great scientists, and progressing down the technology tree. Don’t fall behind in development.

Build a strong military to defend yourself from other civilizations

While peaceful play is possible, expect to be dragged into wars as neighboring civs target you for territory. Maintain a modernized army and situate units strategically to fend off surprise attacks and barbarian raids. Don’t leave frontiers undefended.

Be mindful of your culture score and try to stay ahead of the competition

Early on, adopt social policies that generate culture and faith. Construct key culture buildings to keep your civilization competitive on the cultural front as others will be progressing as well. A strong culture output is the path to cultural victory.

By smartly balancing expansion, research, military might, and culture generation as a new player, you can survive against aggressive AI opponents on most difficulty levels and set yourself up for the mid-to-late game phases where you can pursue one of Civilization V’s victory routes.

Civilizations and Leaders

Different Civilizations

One of the most compelling parts of the Civilization V experience is the wide variety of civilizations you can lead to greatness. Each civilization has its own unique units, buildings, abilities, and optimal paths to victory. Choosing a civilization that matches your preferred playstyle is important. Here is an overview of some of the major civilizations available:

Civilization V map


Unique Ability: Manifest Destiny – All land military units have +1 sight. 50% discount when purchasing tiles.

Unique Units: Minuteman, B17 Bomber

Victory Strengths: Domination, Diplomacy

With combat bonuses and tile buying discounts, America is a great civilization for rapid expansion across continents. The Minuteman unit excels on defense early on. America’s strengths make it a solid pick for newer players.


Unique Ability: Art of War – Great General provides double combat bonus, +1 movement for certain units

Unique Units: Chu-Ko-Nu Crossbowman, Crouching Tiger Cannon

Victory Strengths: Domination, Science

With bonuses tied to the Great Generals, China excels at warfare but also faster movement of civilian units for infrastructure building. Their unique Crouching Tiger Cannon unit can be a late-game powerhouse.


Unique Ability: Monument Builders – +20% production towards Wonder construction

Unique Units: War Chariot, Ship of the Desert Camel Archer

Victory Strengths: Cultural, Science

Egypt has production advantages towards ancient wonders and powerful unique early game units like the War Chariot. They are strong candidates for an early wonder rush strategy.


Unique Ability: Sun Never Sets – +2 movement for naval units and +1 spy

Unique Units: Ship of the Line, Redcoat

Victory Strengths: Domination, Diplomacy

England dominates the seas with faster and stronger naval units. The Ship of the Line can decimate coastal cities while England spreads its cultural influence far and wide.


Unique Ability: Furor Teutonicus – 25% faster unit production, chance for barbarian camp units to join Germany

Unique Units: Landsknecht, Panzer

Victory Strengths: Domination, Science

With faster unit production and abilities to absorb barbarians, Germany can raise a massive army faster than most civilizations. Combined with their Panzer tank, this makes Germany a domination powerhouse.


Unique Ability: Hellenic League – City-state influence degrades slower, +2 envoys for city-states you are suzerain of

Unique Units: Companion Cavalry, Hoplite

Victory Strengths: Culture, Diplomacy

Greece has major advantages with city-states, more easily becoming their suzerain for powerful bonuses. Alongside strong early game Hoplite units, Greece can leverage alliances and culture generation to succeed.


Unique Ability: Population Growth – Unhappiness penalties from citizens reduced by 10%

Unique Units: War Elephant, Fast Worker replacement

Victory Strengths: Science, Cultural

With improved population happiness, India can grow huge cities faster. This combined with the War Elephant for early rushing makes India a great pick for booming infrastructure and science output.


Unique Ability: Bushido – Units fight at full strength when damaged, +1 culture from fishing boats

Unique Units: Samurai, Zero Fighter

Victory Strengths: Domination, Science

The Bushido ability makes Japan’s military very hard to defeat, remaining dangerous at low health. Their coastal start bias also aids rapid expansion and naval power projection in the early eras.


Unique Ability: All Roads Lead to Rome – 25% faster road construction

Unique Units: Legion, Ballista Siege Weapon

Victory Strengths: Domination, Science

Rome builds roads and infrastructure at blazing speed, allowing for rapid reinforcement of far-flung legions. The combined might of Legionaires and other units makes Rome lethal in the early eras.

This covers just a sample of the civilizations available in the base Civilization V experience. Each offers unique playstyles, keeping the game fresh across multiple playthroughs. There are even more civilizations added through the expansions and DLC.

Different Leaders

In addition to each civilization having inherent unique traits, they are also led by famous historical figures that further influence their capabilities and playstyle. Most civilizations have 2-3 leaders to choose from. Here are some examples:

George Washington (America)

Leader Ability: Manifest Destiny – 50% faster tile acquisition

Agenda: Dislikes civilizations with more cities than him

As America’s first president, Washington doubles down on America’s expansion bonuses. He will try to settle as much land as possible and dislikes “overexpansion” by rivals, often denouncing such behavior.

Wu Zetian (China)

Leader Ability: Art of War – Builders receive an extra build charge

Agenda: Dislikes civilizations not denouncing their enemies

The only female ruler in Chinese history, Wu Zetian adds extra builder charges to China’s bonuses, allowing for faster improvement construction. She pushes others to take sides in wars.

Queen Elizabeth (England)

Leader Ability: Sun Never Sets – England starts games in Era 2 rather than 1

Agenda: Dislikes any civilizations with stronger navies

Queen Elizabeth propels England ahead technologically with a starting era boost while also pushing for naval dominance. She will denounce those who dare to surpass England’s navy.

Saladin (Arabia)

Leader Ability: Righteousness of the Faith – All worship buildings provide science equal to their faith output

Agenda: Dislikes civilizations following other religions

As leader of the Arabs, Saladin adds new bonuses for worship building output while pushing religious dominance. He is very aggressive towards those following other faiths.

Gandhi (India)

Leader Ability: Nonviolent Protest – Receive triple war weariness penalties

Agenda: Dislikes warmongers and nuke-happy civilizations

Famously peaceful, Gandhi cripples India’s war capabilities but makes India highly effective at culture generation and science research. However, he is also known to be erratic and hypocritical in his dislike of warmongers.

Choosing the right leader is almost as important as choosing the right civilization. Their unique bonuses and agendas steer you down certain strategic paths. Learning leader tendencies takes Civilization V mastery further.

In summary, the diverse civilizations and leaders are a big part of what gives Civilization V such incredible replay value. There are so many combinations to experience that you can never exhaust them all. Each game tells a new emergent story.

Mods and Custom Content

What are Mods?

One of the aspects that has kept Civilization V thriving long after its release is the incredible modding community that the game enjoys. Mods, short for modifications, are player-created content that can alter, expand, or overhaul the base Civilization V experience in almost any way imaginable.

Mods operate on a few levels:

  • Gameplay tweaks: Mods that subtly change game balance, AI behavior, add new mechanics, or fix bugs without drastically changing the core experience.
  • New civilizations & leaders: Enormous mods that introduce whole new playable civilizations and leaders, expanding well beyond the vanilla game’s options.
  • Total conversions: Mods that completely transform Civilization V into a different game, such as fantasy or science fiction themed conversions.
  • Map scripts: Mods that change how maps are generated, such as sprawling new Earth maps with customized start locations.
  • Graphical/audio changes: From new unit models to background music replacements, mods allow customization of the visuals and sounds.

Mods range from minor tweaks and quality of life improvements to massive new content additions expanding the world of Civilization V in any direction imaginable.

With thousands of mods available, it can be hard to pick out the best ones to try. Here is an overview of some of the most popular and game-changing Civilization V mods:

Civ V Enhanced User Interface

This extremely popular UI mod adds tons of new information and management options to the base game’s interface. Additional data, Production queues, better trade route handling, and countless other benefits make managing your civilization smoother.

Community Balance Patch

A massive collaborative mod that finely rebalances almost every game system, from social policies and wonders to religions and espionage. Designed to open up more diverse strategies and reflect modern modder wisdom.

Extra Civilizations Mod

Adds over 25 new fully fleshed out civilizations to play, each with unique traits, units, buildings, and playstyles. You’ll never run out of new nations to conquer the world with using this mod.

Yet (not) Another Earth Map Pack

Provides a highly accurate and lovingly crafted custom Earth map with latitudes adjusted for gameplay balance. Lets you rewrite history on a grand global scale.

R.E.D. Modpack

Overhauls combat to emphasize tactical play even more strongly. Also improves AI and other mechanics in smart, subtle ways that maintain game balance and performance.

Civ-V – CBP Late Era Units

Adds 100+ new modern, near-future, and even sci-fi themed units to the late eras to keep technological advancement feeling fresh and powerful. Anti-tank guns, mechs, giant death robots, and more become available.

England Civilization Mod

An example of a focused mod that expands just one civilization – England. Adds new uniques, graphics, and even voiceover lines to create an improved England experience.

Custom Religions Mod

Lets you build a religion not just for bonuses, but fully customized it with unique traits, mechanics, units, buildings, and even holy texts. Create your own faith from scratch.

Hellblazer’s Map Script

A renowned map script for generating compelling randomized worlds with balanced start locations. Adds new world age options and tons of customization.

This just scratches the surface of the diverse mods out there that can massively expand and enhance Civilization V in almost any way imaginable. The modding community is incredibly active to this day.

How to Install Mods

Installing mods for Civilization V is thankfully a painless process, especially on PC. There are a few options:

Steam Workshop

By far the easiest method is subscribing to mods on Steam Workshop, which will download and install them automatically. Enable/disable mods and manage load order right through your Steam library.

Direct Download

For mods not on Steam Workshop, you can directly download the mod files then extract them into the Civilization V mods subfolder. They will appear when you launch the game.

Mod Managers

Dedicated mod managers like Civ Mods allow for more intricate control over a large mod library. They facilitate disabling, compatibility checking, and automatic mod updates.

When installing mods:

  • Carefully check compatibility info to avoid conflicts between mods.
  • Pay attention to load order – the game loads mods from top to bottom.
  • Disable mods not being used to streamline loading times.
  • Update mods after game patches to avoid crashes or bugs.

With just a bit of care, modding Civilization V is an easy and safe process. The Steam Workshop especially makes trying new mods addictive and hassle-free. The vibrant mod community has made Civilization V incredibly replayable and extended its lifespan for over a decade and counting.

Tips and Tricks

General Tips

Mastering Civilization V requires learning key strategies and tactics that can help guide your civilization to victory. Here are some general tips and tricks for performing well in most games:

Build your cities in strategic locations

Plan city placement carefully around resources like iron, horses, and coal that will boost production. Build new cities within range of freshwater for farming bonuses. Choose defensible positions protected by mountains and rivers when possible.

Use trade routes to boost your economy

Internal trade routes rapidly grow new cities by transferring food and production between your own cities. External routes bring in science, gold, and spread religion to foreign civs. Maximize both route types to accelerate expansion.

Don’t be afraid to declare war if necessary

If an aggressive civilization is eyeing your territory or spreading into lands you want, it can pay off to hit them hard before they hit you. Surprise attacks, bribing other civs to join in, and quickly seizing cities can pay off.

Construct key wonders

Wonders grant powerful, often unique bonuses. Ideally build them in your highest production city with relevant boosts active. Prioritize essential wonders like the Colossus for trade or Great Library for early science gains.

Settle or conquer city-states strategically

If city-states have resources or land you need, don’t be afraid to conquer them militarily. Otherwise, stay friendly with city-states near your enemies to create buffer zones and troop staging points.

Spread your religion aggressively

Enhancing your religion with bonuses like Tithe can generate huge amounts of faith and gold when established across many cities. Use missionaries and religious pressure to dominate foreign cities.

Advanced Tips

Once you have the basics down, employing these advanced tactics can help take your game to the next level:

Micromanage citizens for efficiency

Manually control which tiles your citizens work rather than leaving it on auto-assignment. Optimize for the yields each city needs most, like production for a wonder-building city.

Specialize cities by terrain

Build a science-focused city next to mountains for an observatory. Place naval production and gold generating cities on the coast. Match city specialties to the nearby terrain boons.

Abuse trade deals and embassy intelligence

Frequently check what resources opponents have and need. Use this knowledge to leverage very favorable trade deals and knowledge of their land.

Seed key great people

Use policies, wonders, and careful planning to grab key great people like scientists and engineers early who can accelerate your progress tremendously.

Eliminate city-states last

When pursuing domination victory, leave city-states alone initially and eliminate them last. You can leech their troops and benefits or ally them against opponents first.

Spread unhappiness burden

Avoid overexpansion penalties by managing which cities grow. Let population soar in a few core cities and stagnate elsewhere by focusing growth.

Purchase key units & buildings

Use excess gold reserves to instantly buy essential buildings like granaries/monuments in new cities or units like siege weapons to turn the tide of a war.

Abuse ranged naval units

Frigates, battleships, and submarines can safely destroy land units and soften up coastal cities from range. Use them to cripple coastal capitals and more.

By mastering advanced tactics like efficient micromanagement, strategic city planning, intelligent diplomacy, and more, you can gain an edge over both AI and human opponents when playing Civilization V competitively. Practice will lead to utilizing the game’s full strategic potential.

Why Civilization V is a Must-Play Game

In closing, there are several key reasons why Civilization V deserves its reputation as one of the greatest strategy games ever created and is a must-play title, even over a decade after its release:

Civilization V is endlessly replayable

With dozens of civilizations and leaders, map scripts, game modes like scenarios, and expansions packs that added even more content, no two games ever play out the same. You can put hundreds of hours into perfecting strategies with different nations on varied maps and settings.

The strategic depth is unmatched

From the sprawling technology trees, intricate economic systems, complex unit strengths and weaknesses, diplomacy options, cultural development paths, and more – Civilization V offers unparalleled strategic depth. Mastering its myriad systems is incredibly rewarding.

It refined the addictive franchise formula

Civilization Revolution streamlined the iconic turn-based 4X formula and added polish like hex maps and one unit per tile. It carved out the absolute best Civilization experience without needless complexity.

The presentation and polish are fantastic

Featuring charming visuals that stand the test of time, an intuitive user interface, and an award-winning soundtrack, Civilization V is as beautiful as it is addictive. The polished package makes losing hours to “just one more turn” a joy.

Mod support vastly expands its horizons

The incredible mod support allows for nearly endless expansion of content, opening up new civilizations, gameplay enhancements, total conversions, and so much more.

Civilization V is quite simply one of the pinnacles of the turn-based strategy genre. Both newcomers and devoted Civilization fans will find it utterly engrossing and endlessly enjoyable. For any player wanting to experience strategizing, empire building, and historical reimagining at its absolute best, Civilization V is a must-play game destined to offer “one more turn” forever.

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