NOTE: This guide does not include Brave New World and I haven't had time to update it. Many of the concepts are still helpful though.
Gold is king. By maximizing income your empire, no matter how small, can wield tremendous influence. You can rush buildings, raise an instant army, and buy the allegiance of every city state on the map - everything’s easier if you’re rich.
If you’ve ever overdrawn your treasury, you know how much it can cripple you. Maintaining a positive cash flow is essential, because if you don’t, your units begin to automatically disband to try and make up the shortfall, and the AI is eager to beat up on defenseless civilizations. This guide explores the Civ V economy and it’s complexities, and hopefully by the end of it you’ll have a better idea of how to supercharge your economy.
Some quick definitions on relevant concepts:
Tall and wide empires are the two basic empire types. Tall empires consist of few cities with a very high population, while wide empires generally have many cities with low populations.
Great People are special units that your empire automatically produces when certain conditions are met (a certain wonder is constructed, you’ve accumulated enough Great Person points with specialists...). Great People have special one-time abilities and can construct special tile improvements. The most important Great People to focus on if you want to maximize your income are Great Artists (who can start Golden Ages) and Great Merchants (who give you large sums of cash).
Golden Ages are achieved when your global happiness reaches a certain threshold. During a Golden Age, every single tile that produces one or more gold produces one additional gold. Extra production and culture are also generated during Golden Ages, which last for a default 8 turns.
Earning gold at the beginning of the game can be a struggle, as you have no economic base developed to bring in a regular amount of gold every turn. There are three basic ways to gain gold in the Ancient Era:
Ancient ruins. The more you explore, the greater your chances of finding an ancient ruin with gold. As these ruins provide only bonuses, it’s an excellent idea to build a scout ASAP and start claiming these. Gold bonuses provided are generally between 25-100 .
City-states. Every time you discover a new city-state, you get an immediate, one-time gold boost. If you are the first civilization to discover them, they will give you 30 . If you aren’t the first, you’ll still get 15 . Once again, how much gold you get is dependant on exploration, so get that scout out there!
Barbarian encampments. Clearing a barbarian encampment gives you 25 in loot in Standard speed games. This amount is modified both by your difficulty and your game speed. On Settler/Chieftain/Warlord difficulties encampment loot is 50, 40, and 30 respectively. Those numbers are modified by your game speed: Quick/Standard/Epic/Marathon modifiers are 67%/100%/150%/300% respectively. On a Settler Marathon game, you would get 150 per encampment cleared.
If you want to farm barbarian encampments, you need to ensure that there are large swathes of empty territory with no line-of-sight. If your troops, cities, or borders can see a territory, no barbarian encampments can spawn.
City income is the bread and butter of your economy. It provides the most consistent source of income throughout the entire game.
The most important thing about cities is their initial placement, and maximizing potential city income is entirely dependent upon where you build your cities. Some important stats to note:
Rivers add +1 to each adjacent land tile.
Sea and coast tiles each provide +1 .
Lake tiles each provide +1 .
Improved luxuries each add +2 to the base yield of the tile. Exceptions: Whales, Crab, Citrus and Salt add +1 and +1 ; Gems add +3 .
For initial placement, you will want to have access to water and focus on locations with luxuries.
The next thing to do to increase your city’s base gold yield is to improve the terrain. There are 4 basic improvements that will increase your income:
Trading Post: the Trading Post provides +1 (+2 once you’ve researched Economics) on the tile. With Trading Posts, you can increase the gold output of even the most landlocked cities. Trading Posts are also excellent improvements for wide empires, as they slow down growth while still providing a worthwhile benefit (reducing growth limits the unhappiness from that city). They can also be very useful for puppeted cities for the same reason.
Customs House: the Customs House is the Great Merchant unique improvement, and provides +4 (+5 once you’ve researched economics). Custom Houses become extremely powerful if you have unlocked the full Freedom policy tree, as it’s output will be doubled.
Plantations increase gold only by improving Bananas, Dye, Silk, Spices, Sugar, Cotton, Wine and Incense.
Mines increase gold only by improving Gold, Silver, Copper, and Gems.
The final way to increase your base yield is through specialists. The Market, Bank, and Stock Exchange each provide Merchant specialist slots, and each one you fill provides +2 . Specialists tend to be used primarily by tall civilizations, as they have the population to support them.
Buildings can take your cities to the next level, increasing their base gold yield by a significant margin. They are, however, a balancing act, as building too many of them will suck your treasury dry with maintenance costs. I’ve broken down buildings that positively impact your income into 5 categories: commercial, coastal, religious, defensive, and miscellaneous. Only the commercial and coastal buildings directly increase your income. The other categories impact your income because they require no maintenance, so you can gain their benefits for free!
Commercial Buildings - require no maintenance. Palace: +3 , +3 , +3 , +1 , +2.5 . Indicates this City is the Capital of the empire. Connecting other Cities to the Capital by Road will produce additional Gold through trade routes.
Paper Maker (China, replaces Library): +2 . +1 for every 2 Citizens in this City.
Market: +25% , +2 . 1 Merchant specialist slot.
Bazaar (Arabia, replaces Market): +25% , +2 . Provides 1 extra copy of each improved luxury resource near this City. Each source of Oil and each Oasis provides +2 . 1 Merchant specialist slot.
Bank: 25% . City must have a Market. 1 Merchant specialist slot.
Satrap's Court (Persia, replaces Bank): +2 , +25% , +2 . City must have a Market. 1 Merchant specialist slot.
Mint: Each source of Gold and Silver worked by this City produces +2 . City must have at least one of these resources mined nearby.
Stock Exchange: +33% . City must have a bank. 2 Merchant specialist slots.
Coastal Buildings Harbor: Forms a Trade Route with the Capital over water (if they're not already connected by land). +1 from Sea Resources worked by this City. City must be built on the coast. 3 maintenance.
Seaport: +1 and from Sea Resources worked by this City. +15% when building Naval Units. City must be built on the coast. 2 maintenance.
Religious Buildings - require no maintenance. Cathedral: +1 , +3 , +1 .
Monastery: +2 , +2 . Each source of Incense and Wine worked by this City produce +1 and +1 .
Burial Tomb (Egypt, replaces Temple): +2 , +2 . Should this city be captured, the amount of Gold plundered by the enemy is doubled. No maintenance.
Wonders can provide extremely powerful bonuses at the expense of taking a very long time to build. However, there are a few that certain strategies or empire types will want to focus on. Wide empires will especially benefit from Machu Picchu (increased trade route income) and Neuschwanstein (a free defensive structure provides gold in every city). Seafaring nations will benefit greatly from The Colossus, and Chichen Itza and the Taj Mahal synergize together quite nicely. Tall empires will benefit greatly from building the National Treasury.
Big Ben: +1 , +4 . Cost of Gold purchasing in all cities reduced by 15%.
Chichen Itza: +1 , +4 . Length of Golden Ages increased by 50%.
Machu Picchu: +5 , +2 . +25% Gold from Trade Routes. City must be built within 2 tiles of a Mountain that is inside your territory.
Mausoleum of Halicarnassus: +1 . Gain 100 each time a Great Person is expended. Each source of Marble or Stone worked by this City produces +2 . Neuschwanstein: +4 , +2 , +6 . +3 , +2 , and +1 from every Castle. City must be built within 2 tiles of a Mountain that is inside your territory.
Pentagon: +3 . Gold cost of upgrading military units reduced by 33%.
Petra: +1 . City must be built on or next to Desert. +1 , +1 , +1 for all desert tiles worked by this city (except Flood Plains). +6 once Archaeology is discovered. Provides a free Amphitheater in the city in which it is built.
Taj Mahal: +1 , +4 . The empire enters a Golden Age.
The Colossus: +1 , +5 . +1 from water tiles worked by this City. City must be built on the coast.
National Treasury (National Wonder): +8 , +1 . All cities must have market.
Domestic and Foreign Trade Routes
Trade routes - when your cities are connected to your capital - provide numerous benefits, including increased income and production (with railroads). It is highly encouraged to build efficient trade routes as quickly as you can, as they can bring in significant amounts of gold. Be advised, however, that all roads, railroads, and harbors cost gold to maintain:
Roads: 1 gold per tile.
Railroads: 2 gold per tile.
Harbors: 3 gold.
This cost should be taken into account when calculating your trade income, and you should strive to make trade routes as efficient as possible to reduce maintenance costs. If you have a lone city far away from your capital, it might not be worth connecting it via road as the maintenance cost could eclipse the potential income.
Note: harbors and roads work together to form trade routes, so even if your capital is landlocked, cities on islands can be connected to it as long as there is a coastal city with a harbor connected via roads to your capital.
The formula for calculating trade route income is as follows:
population*1.1 in the connected city + population*0.15 in the capital city - 1 = trade route income
Basically, the bigger both cities are, the bigger your trade income will be.
You’ll notice from these examples that the most important factor is the size of the non-capital city, not the capital city.
Foreign Trade Agreements
Trading with foreign powers is done purely through the diplomacy screen. You do not have to share borders, have open-border treaties, or even have embassies with each other. Resources are the only thing you can trade, however. You cannot trade technologies or maps. Most trade agreements trade luxury or strategic resources for a lump sum of gold, a specified gold-per-turn amount, or other resources (or any combination of these). Trade agreements last for 30 turns, or until they are broken by war (or until one party loses access to their resource).
There is no real hard and fast rule for resource trading, but there are some tips for getting the best deal possible.
The AI will generally only sell their surplus resources - good luck buying one they only have one of.
On lower difficulty settings the AI will rarely have a large treasury as they are programmed to spend their gold. You may have more success trading for gold-per-turn or for other resources, although you may occasionally get lucky with lump sums. Regularly visit other nations' diplomacy screen to see how much gold they have.
On higher difficulty settings, the AI will have larger treasuries. Trading resources to them for 400-500 is a great way to get early income.
How good of a deal the AI will give you depends on your relations with them. You will get much better deals from civilizations more positively disposed towards you.
Note that you cannot trade away resources given to you by city-states. But also note that city-states will often give you resources you already have access to - try and sell your own copies of them.
If you have a large happiness surplus, don't be afraid to sell some of your luxuries you only have one copy of. The agreements don't last forever. Also, if you trade your luxuries one-for-one for other luxuries, you will not take a net hit. Do this is you have cities demanding a certain resource you don't have access to.
Diplomatic trading can take a good bit of effort to maximize your benefits, but it can be worth it, especially if you're in urgent need of a quick cash infusion. Plus, having long-term trade agreements with civilizations improves your relationship with them.
Unit maintenance in Civilization V is...complicated. The formula to calculate it (which is the best guess of the Civilization community) is as follows:
c(t,n) = ((0.5 + 8/1000t)round(n,2))^(1+2/7000t)
n = number of units, t = number of turns, and the round function takes the next lowest even number if n is odd.
So, what does this mean? There is no easy answer, but here’s a table[civilization.wikia.com] for reference which should be able to give you some guidelines.
Some basic rules of thumb:
Having an odd number of units means that the odd one out doesn’t cost any maintenance
Workers and Settlers cost the same amount of maintenance as military units
At turn 50, each unit costs 1 gold
At turn 100, each unit costs 1.3 gold
At turn 200, each unit costs 2.5 gold
At turn 300, each unit costs 4 gold
At turn 400, each unit costs 5.5 gold
Please note that these numbers are rounded, and that the exact costs depends entirely upon how many units you have. Be sure to check the table[civilization.wikia.com] for more information.
In short, though, the larger the military, the greater your total costs AND per unit costs. Waging war is expensive, and decreasing your maintenance costs can significantly bolster your military capacity. Also, please note that the first thing that goes when you are running a deficit and have no treasury are your military units - the computer will automatically delete them as it tries to make up your shortfall.
There are 3 religious beliefs which can impact your income, however, all of them are Founder beliefs, so unless you are the Byzantines you will only be able to choose one of them.
Church Property: +2 for each city following this religion.
In order to gain the fullest benefit from this belief, you will need to focus on building as many missionaries as possible and spreading your religion as widely as you can, as you will benefit from your own cities, foreign cities, and city states that follow your religion. This is good for wide empires.
Initiation Rites: +100 when each city first converts to this religion.
Again, to gain the fullest benefit from this as possible, you need to be constantly spreading your religion to new cities. If you aren’t up to constantly building missionaries and sending them farther and farther, the final belief may be the best for you.
Tithe: +1 for every 4 followers of this religion.
It is certainly beneficial to spread your religion far and wide, but this belief (unlike the other two) scales very well with smaller, high density empires. If you just have a few cities, but have 20-30 followers in each one, you can gain a significant gold boost without having to worry about constantly building missionaries. This is best for tall empires.
Social Policies I
Oligarchy: Garrisoned units cost no maintenance and cities with a garrison gain +50% Ranged Combat Strength. Legalism: Provides a free culture building in your first 4 cities. Monarchy: +1 and -1 for every 2 Citizens in the Capital. Finisher: Adopting all Policies in the Tradition tree will grant +15% Growth and a free Aqueduct in your first 4 cities.
Tradition is all about tall empires. Oligarchy allows you to fortify your cities for free, while Legalism and the Finisher grant 2 free buildings (Monument and Aqueduct) in your first 4 cities, which will save you 8 per turn in maintenance costs. Monarchy is tremendously powerful as your capital city gets larger (a size 30 capital adds +15 and removes 15 ).
Representation: Each city you found will increase the Culture cost of policies by 33% less than normal. Also starts a Golden Age .Finisher: Adopting all policies in the Liberty tree will grant a free Great Person of your choice near the Capital.
Liberty is best suited for wide empires. Representation makes pursuing social policies more feasible with lots of cities, and it starts a Golden Age (which increases gold tremendously). The Finisher gives you a free Great Person, which gives you the opportunity to get a free Great Merchant.
Professional Army: Gold cost of upgrading Military Units reduced by 33% and +1 Local City from every defensive building (Walls, Castle, Arsenal, Military Base). Finisher: Adopting all policies in the Honor tree will grant Gold for each enemy unit killed.
Honor can be used for either tall or wide empires, although Professional Army reaches full potential in a wide empire. Every free defensive building also becomes a happiness building. The Finisher is fairly straightforward, and also applies to barbarian units.
Theocracy: Temples increase a city’s Gold output by 10%. Finisher: Adopting all Policies in the Piety tree will provide a 20% discount on all purchases of religious units and buildings with Faith, and Holy Sites (Prophet unique tile improvement) provide +3 and +3 . Piety is good for both tall and wide empires - all you need is a lot of faith to fully utilize it. Theocracy can be very powerful, and completing the Piety tree provides powerful synergies with a completed Freedom tree (see below), as Prophet unique improvements provide huge amounts of faith in addition to gold and culture.
Aesthetics: Resting point for Influence level with all City-States is increased by 20. Educated Elite: Allied City-States will occasionally gift you Great People . The Patronage tree doesn’t directly increase your income, but by letting your gold gifts go farther and increasing your influence starting point, you’ll have more gold to spread around. Also, receiving free Great People has the potential for granting you free Great Merchants or Great Prophets.
Social Policies II
Socialism: Gold maintenance costs of Buildings reduced by 15%. Finisher: Adopting all Policies in the Order tree will grant +2 , , , , and per city.
Order is designed for wide empires, with bonuses that become more powerful the more cities you have. Socialism allows you to build more buildings for cheaper, and the Finisher boosts your cities’ base gold production.
Adoption: Adopting Autocracy reduces Unit Gold Maintenance costs by 33%, allowing an empire to field a larger military. Receive 10 Culture as plunder for each point of Culture produced in the captured city. Militarism: Gold cost of purchasing units reduced by 33%.
Autocracy is designed purely for aggressive nations. Adopting Autocracy significantly decreases your maintenance costs, and Militarism makes it easier to purchase troops (it also combines well with Big Ben). The tree as a whole synergizes very well with Honor.
Free Speech: 8 units are maintenance free. Finisher: Adopting all Policies in the Freedom tree will increase the base yield from Great Tile Improvements by 100% and length of Golden Ages increased by 50%.
Freedom is well designed for tall empires who nevertheless want to have a respectable military. Free Speech combines well with Tradition’s Oligarchy, and will allow you to protect your cities for free in addition to having a decently powerful roving army. Be advised that Free Speech and Oligarchy are best when used defensively. Completing the Freedom tree provides an extremely powerful bonus - Great Tile Improvement yields are doubled. Custom Houses can provide over 10 with this bonus. Note that this bonus only increases the base yield of Great Tile Improvements, so Holy Sites improved by the Piety Tree will only see their faith doubled - not the gold and culture.
Free Thought: +1 from every Trading Post and +17% from Universities. Sovereignty: +1 from Science buildings.
Free Thought significantly improves Trading Posts so that they add a total of +2 and +1 to the base yield of a tile. Because Trading Posts do not remove terrain (like forests and jungles), they are some of the most powerful improvements, especially if you use combine them with Universities (which provide science in jungles) or the Iroquois Longhouse (which increases production in forest tiles). Sovereignty stacks exceptionally well with the Chinese (whose Papermaker ends up providing +3 ), and can significantly boost income for any nation who builds a lot of science buildings.
Adoption: Adopting Commerce will boost Gold output in Capital City by 25%. Trade Unions: Maintenance paid on Roads and Railroads reduced by 33%. Harbors and Seaports gain +1 .Mercantilism: Purchasing items in Cities requires 25% less Gold. +1 from every Mint, Market, Bank and Stock Exchange. Finisher: Adopting all Policies in the Commerce tree will grant +1 from every Trading Post and double Gold from Great Merchant trade missions.
Anyone who wants to maximize income should adopt at least a few Commerce policies. Two of the policies in this tree only benefit you when you have a lot of coastal cities, but the adoption bonus, Trade Unions, and Mercantilism can significantly boost your income. Tall empires benefit greatly from the adoption bonus, while wide empires will gain tremendous benefits from Trade Unions (which make trade routes far more profitable) and Mercantilism (which makes your free Commerce buildings provide science).
There are several civilizations which give you an intrinsic income bonus. These bonuses vary encompass abilities that boost peaceful or warlike civilizations, building near woods or deserts, and facilitating trade routes. These bonuses can give you a tremendous advantage over your competitors, but only if you know how to use them.
Arabia -Trade Caravans: +1 from each Trade Route and Oil Resources provide double quantity.
The Arabs work best in a desert area with lots of oases and oil resources. Their special building, the Bazaar, boosts gold output from those two tiles by 2. One wonder Arabs should attempt to get quickly is Petra, as it creates exceptionally powerful desert cities. Their civilization trait works best with wide empires as you will get larger gold bonuses the more trade routes you have.
Carthage -Phoenician Heritage: All coastal Cities get a free Harbor. Units may cross mountains after the first Great General is earned, taking 50 HP damage if they end a turn on a mountain.
Carthage is one of the most powerful seafaring nations, as their trait allows you to have completely free trade routes - each free Harbor saves 3 gold per turn in maintenance. Because of this, the trait becomes more powerful the more coastal cities you have - Carthage is best suited for wide empires.
Germany - Furor Teutonicus: Upon defeating a Barbarian unit inside an encampment, there is a 50% chance you earn 25 and they join your side. Pay 25% less for land unit maintenance.
Germany is a militaristic nation through and through. With their trait and the Autocracy tree, you can field huge armies. If you’re not playing Germany aggressively, you’re wasting all their potential. You should also try to clear as many barbarian encampments as possible early on as you can gain a large army very quickly, and support them for less.
Inca -Great Andean Road: Units ignore terrain costs when moving into any tile with Hills. No maintenance costs for improvements in Hills; half cost elsewhere.
The Incas work best in maps with lots and lots of hills, as all of your roads are completely free in hills. This allows exceptionally large trade networks, and scales best with wider empires although you still gain substantial benefits with a tall empire.
Iroquois -The Great Warpath: Units move through Forest and Jungle in friendly territory as if it is Road. These tiles can be used to establish Trade Routes upon researching The Wheel.
If you’re the Iroquois, you want to be as deep in the forest as you can. You essentially get free trade networks as long as your cities are connected by forests, and you get tremendous military mobility. You’ll want to focus your workers on building and improving Trading Posts as they don’t remove forest or jungle, and get religious beliefs that benefit those tiles. If you stack them right, you can get huge bonuses without ever clearing your forests. What kind of empire they are best suited for depends entirely on how much of the map is forested.
Ottomans -Barbary Corsairs: All melee naval units have the Prize Ships promotion, allowing them to capture defeated ships. Pay only one-third the usual cost for naval unit maintenance.
The Ottomans are designed for water maps. Their trait is straightforward - you can field a larger navy for less (which is good, because if you’re doing a lot of naval combat, you’ll be getting more ships than you know what to do with from the Prize Ships promotion).
Persia -Achaemenid Legacy: Golden Ages last 50% longer. During a Golden Age, units receive +1 and a +10% bonus.
If you’re Persia, you want to build Chichen Itza as soon as you possibly can, even if that means you rush by other technologies on your way. Golden Ages should be the entire Persian strategy, and since you receive tremendous boosts in gold, if you focus on Golden Ages you should be raking in the income. As long as you keep your empire happy, it doesn’t really matter whether or not you have a wide or tall Persian empire.
Songhai - River Warlord: Receive triple Gold from Barbarian encampments and pillaging Cities. Land units gain the War Canoe and Amphibious promotions, strengthening them while embarked.
Playing Songhai allows you to gain a huge gold advantage right out of the gate. You should focus on pillaging barbarian encampments early on to build up your treasury so you can expand more quickly. Like Germany, Songhai is a purely offensive nation. Be prepared for war to make full use of your abilities.
Spain - Seven Cities of Gold: Gold bonus for discovering a Natural Wonder (bonus enhanced if first to discover it). Culture, happiness, and tile yields from Natural Wonders doubled.
Spain’s traits are built for empires that explore and expand quickly. You’ll want to build multiple scouts to start exploring, and you’ll want a wide empire in order to have as many Natural Wonders inside your borders as you can.
01/24/2013 - version 1.1 --> Added section on Foreign Trade Agreements, under Domestic and Foreign Trade Routes. --> Corrected some minor errors. --> Split the Buildings and Wonders section in two - apparently I'd hit the maximum character limit and could not edit any more! --> Split the Social Policies section for the same reason. --> Added links to my other guide(s). --> Attempted to fix some errors Steam has with showing formatting. If you experience strange paragraph spacing, blame Steam. Everything's correct on my end.