Sid Meier's Civilization V

Sid Meier's Civilization V

178 ratings
Zigzagzigal's Guide to Polynesia (BNW)
By Zigzagzigal
Polynesia is Civilization 5's premier coastal cultural Civ. They also are excellent explorers and can make up for poor coastal production by scouting out and taking the best locations. This guide goes into plenty of detail about Polynesian strategies, uniques and how to play against them.
Note: This guide assumes you have all game-altering DLC and expansion packs (all Civ packs, Wonders of the Ancient World, Gods & Kings and Brave New World)

The islands making up Polynesia are home to some of history's greatest seafarers. Without fear of what lay over the horizon, and with the world's greatest skill in navigation for centuries, your people colonised islands which any other people of the world would have never reached. But Polynesia also is home to rich and varied cultures, each one distinct from, but no less complex than, each other.

In this brave new world, Polynesia must hold together. In the past, outside forces including the British, French, Chileans and Americans seized control of the islands, often merely for strategic reasons. It is up to you to ensure Polynesia stays strong. As those of Hawai'i, Rapa Nui, Aotearoa, Tonga and countless other lands come together to face an ignorant world, it is up to you to build their Civilization to stand the test of time.

Before I go into depth with this guide, here's an explanation of some terminology I'll be using throughout for the sake of newer players.

Builder Nation/Empire - A generally peaceful nation seeking victories other than domination. This is usually Polynesia's path.
Finisher - The bonus for completing a Social Policy tree (e.g. Free Great Person for Liberty.)
GP - Refers to "Great People" in this guide, rather than "Great Prophet".
GWAM - Great Writers, Artists and Musicians. These are the three Great People who can make Great Works for tourism leading to a cultural victory.
Opener - The bonus for unlocking a Social Policy tree (e.g. +1 culture for every city for Liberty's opener)
Tall Empire - An empire with a low number of cities with a high population each.
Uniques - Collective name for Unique Abilities, Units, Buildings, Tile Improvements and Great People
UA - Unique Ability - The unique thing a Civilization has which doesn't need to be built.
UI - Unique Improvement (also referred to as Unique Tile Improvement) - A special form of worker tile improvement that can only be built by one Civilization. Unlike unique buildings and units, it doesn't replace anything else.
UU - Unique Unit - A replacement for a normal unit that can only be built by one Civilization or provided by Militaristic City-States when allied.
Wide Empire - An empire with a large number of cities with a low population each. An extreme version of this is ICS, or Infinite City Sprawl.
ZOC - Zone of Control - A mechanic that makes a unit use up all its movement points if it moves from a tile next to an enemy to an adjacent tile next to the same enemy.
At a glance (Part 1/2)
Start Bias

Polynesia has a coastal start bias. This allows you to effectively use your Moai and seafaring abilities.


Polynesia has a unique unit avaliable from the start of the game and a classical era unique improvement to complement the early-game focused unique ability.

Unique Ability: Wayfinding

  • Can embark land units from the start of the game with no technology requirement
  • Any embarked or naval unit (including Galleasses and Triremes) can immediately cross oceans with no technology requirement
    • Cargo Ships are an exception. They can be relocated between continents, but their Trade Routes cannot cross oceans until Astronomy is researched.
  • Units recieve +1 sight when embarked (2 instead of 1)
  • All units within 2 tiles of a Moai improvement recieve a 10% strength boost
    • This applies to land, sea and air units alike. The bonus is based on where the unit is situated/based when attacking, not where the target is.
    • This works even on Moai outside your lands

Unique Unit: Maori Warrior (Replaces the Warrior)

A standard melee unit

Upgrades from
Upgrades to
Production cost
Purchase cost
Resource needed
Available from start

Metal Casting
Medieval era
1st column
(6th column overall)


(Ancient Ruins upgrade)
*Assumes a normal speed game.

Ranged Strength
Negative Attributes
Positive Attributes
2Movement Points
  • 10% penalty to adjacent enemy land units' strength (Haka War Dance)

Positive stay-on-upgrade changes

  • 10% penalty to adjacent enemy land units' strength (Haka War Dance)
    • This promotion's effect does not stack
    • This has no effect if you're using a ranged attack on an enemy unit in the promotion's range

Unique Improvement: Moai

Base yield
Misc bonuses
Final yield*

Classical era
1st column
(4th column overall)

Modern era
1st column
(12th column overall)

Coastal land tiles within your own territory**
  • +1 Culture for
    every adjacent Moai
*Note that Hotels, Airports and the National Visitor Centre will add tourism based off culture produced (Hotels and Airports: 50% of culture generated added to tourism. National Visitor Centre: 100%)
**Does not remove marshes if built upon them.
At a glance (Part 2/2)
Victory Routes

Note these scores are a matter of personal opinion based on experiences with the Civilization. You may discover a way of utilising the Civ more effectively in unconventional ways.

Cultural: 9/10
Diplomatic: 6/10
Domination: 6/10
Scientific: 5/10

Polynesia should generally go for a cultural victory. Moai gold can aid with a diplomatic or domiantion victory otherwise, as can exploiting your ability to cross oceans early (you can more easily surround cities or withdraw damaged naval units.)

Similar Civs and uniques


Polynesia's the only pure maritime cultural Civ, but Japan and Spain are other Civs that can attempt this path as an alternative to their normal war-centric approaches to victory. Japan has culture on fishing boats and atolls which adds to tourism in the late-game, while Spain can make use of the Natural Heritage Sites decision in the World Congress to add extra culture (and therefore tourism) to natural wonders. The mechanics of Spain's Conquistador UU in addition to the fact many natural wonders are found on the coast encourages a somewhat maritime playstyle for them.

Same start bias

The coastal start bias is the most common in the game. Aside from Polynesia, it's also the start bias of Byzantium, Carthage, Denmark, England, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, the Ottomans, Portugal, Spain and Venice.

Similar to the UA

Other Civ with strong early exploration bonuses include America (due to their +1 sight bonus) the Aztecs (thanks to their Jaguars, which ignore the terrain costs of forests and jungles) and the Inca (which ignore the terrain cost of hills as part of their UA.)

The +1 sight for embarked units is also found in Songhai's UA.

Having a combat bonus for units in range of a Moai is one of quite a few defensive bonuses various Civs have, but two particularly strong ones are held by the Shoshone, whose land units have a 15% bonus in friendly terrain, and Ethiopia, which gets a 20% combat bonus anywhere so long as they have fewer cities than the Civ they're up against.

Similar to Maori Warriors

The Haka War Dance works in the same way as the Feared Elephant bonus held by Carthage's African Forest Elephant. The key difference is that the Haka War Dance is kept on upgrade, while Feared Elephant is not.

The only other Warrior UU is the Aztec Jaguar. Jaguars also keep their unique bonuses on upgrade, but they're more oriented towards mobility and attacking rather than the defensive capabilities of Maori Warriors.

Similar to Moai

Moai are one of three Unique Improvements which add tourism later in the game, the other two being Brazilwood Camps and France's Chateaux.
Unique Ability: Wayfinding
Wayfinding involves two components. The first, and largest, is the sea travel and sight-related bonuses allowing rapid early exploration. The second, smaller feature is the strength bonus from your units being near Moai.

Early Seafaring Bonuses

No-one out-explores Polynesia. Almost all of the world can be reached by you right from the start of the game, and you'll probably discover the entire map long before anyone else. This is thanks to the ability to embark units and cross oceans immediately, coupled with a sight bonus for embarked units.

Above: Not to mention the fact you can use Triremes and Galleasses on ocean tiles.

To make the most of these bonuses, you should build plenty of units early. The best bet is your unique unit - the Maori Warrior - being stronger than a Scout and having a handy promotion that's kept on upgrade. The fact it doesn't ignore terrain cost like a Scout doesn't matter as that makes no difference when embarked.

Your early exploration has three objectives.

  1. Explore Ancient Ruins
  2. Seek out new City-States and Civilizations
  3. Go where no Civ has gone before

Ancient Ruins

Above: Polynesia - Destroyer of Ancient Ruins. Tremble before my stealing of that 100 gold or my ability to reveal encampments.

Being able to access landmasses besides your starting one right from the beginning, you can reach unexplored islands - often containing Ancient Ruins. As such, you'll probably search more Ancient Ruins than any other Civ. This is incredibly useful as a source of early population growth, culture or faith.

Discovering Civs and City-States

In a non-Pangea map, it's not uncommon to see many City-States crowded into an area well away from any major Civs. As discovering a City-State first gives you double the normal gold, (and faith in Religious City-States, which can be just enough to net you a Pantheon,) you can use that extra cash to buy something like another Maori Warrior for even more exploration. Discovering City-States early also is handy as you're more likely to get a quest to suit you. It also gives you an option to get an ally without having to compete with other Civs.

As for full Civs, discovering them very early allows you to befriend them before factions start emerging. Maintaining friendships is important as come the time of the World Congress, you'll likely lack delegates and hence rely on trading other Civs for votes.

Going where no Civ has gone before

Above: This is the only island in the map that is blocked by ocean. As such, not only can I settle a city there exactly where I want it due to lack of competition, but also it'd be impossible for me to be totally destroyed, until someone researched Astronomy, if I did so.

Discovering new islands and even new continents will be very important for determining your city locations - having first pick of city placement, you can be sure you get exactly the spot you need to maximise Moai culture and provide production to an otherwise starved empire.


Above: Early in the game, ocean tiles are safe as no-one else (including Barbarians) can access them. Enhanced sight lets me see if an encampment has popped up unexpectedly on this tile as I pass through.

The sight bonus while embarked makes exploration more practical - in the sea, your units have a sight of 2 (the same as most units on land) rather than only seeing adjacent tiles.

When coming across other Civs' cities, you can more easily reveal all the tiles surrounding them, as cities tend not to expand to sea tiles until later on in the game. Coupled with the fact it's very common for capitals to be coastal, you may have very few unrevealed tiles. When Antiquity Sites are revealed, you'll hence have incredibly good insight into where they all are.

Other Points

It's still important not to neglect naval technologies. You'll still need Sailing for Cargo Ships and Astronomy for them to be able to cross oceans, for example. Lighthouses and Harbours are also important. Finally remember that being able to embark immediately and cross oceans becomes worthless once everyone else has Astronomy - so exploit that ability where you can. Use oceans as shortcuts and explore the entire map as soon as possible.

As a final point about this part of the UA, meeting everyone early gives you a minor head start on tourism (as, for obvious reasons, tourism is only applied on Civs you've met.)

Special Bonus Strategies

Note: These are not essential to Polynesian strategy, but could be worth trying out.

It's worth pointing out a range of unusual paths to victory. For one, as your Triremes and Galleasses can enter Ocean tiles, (but no-one else's can,) you could lead an attack from the depths and retreat units to safety when damaged. Once they hit the Supply promotion, they'll be particularly hard to stop.

On the other end of the spectrum is a brilliant strategy for Terra maps - the "Polynesian Hail Mary." Not my own, but worth bringing up here. In Terra maps, all Civs start in one large continent while a second Americas-like continent begins uninhabited (besides from maybe a few City-States.) These are separated by oceans. By taking your starting Settler and Maori Warrior over to the Americas-like continent immediately, you can expand without fear of invasion and keep your army to an absolute bare minimum to save on maintenance. You'll have the world's biggest and most prosperous empire by the end... hopefully.

Moai Defence

If a unit of yours is within two tiles of a Moai tile improvement, they'll recieve a 10% combat bonus. While not as strong as the Ethiopian or Shoshone UA bonuses, it still gives you an edge in defending your locations. It also encourages you to stick to small islands or narrow bits of land to keep units in range of your Unique Improvements.

Above: It may seem odd to build a city slightly inland, but it means I can get more of the coast in range for Moai, and hence the entire island can be covered by the 10% bonus. The positioning of the city also allowed for maximum Moai culture, covered later on.

This 10% bonus affects naval units, making it easier to repel those attempting to blockade your cities, but more interestingly it also affects air units, so long as they're based within 2 tiles of a Moai. Because Flight and Radar are both useful technologies to you anyway (the former to add gold to Moai tiles and the latter to unlock Airports and their tourism bonus) it makes air units a rather effective choice for late-game warfare.
Unique Unit: Maori Warrior

Being a Warrior replacement, you get a Maori Warrior right from the start of the game. Like the other Warrior replacement, the Jaguar for the Aztecs, all your bonuses carry over on upgrade. Unlike them, however, Maori Warriors have a bonus which is useful in most circumstances, or, rather, a penalty to enemy units which is.

Enemy land units adjacent to a Maori Warrior or an upgraded one recieve a 10% penalty to combat. Not only is this useful for defence (particularly with the 10% bonus as well you have from Moai) but also handy for fighting Barbarians covering Ancient Ruins or that kind of thing. It's worth building lots of these in the early game to make use of your UA and get exploring, as well as the fact you'll have plenty of units later keeping the bonus.

Above: If a Maori Warrior finds weapons in Ancient Ruins, it becomes a Spearman with the Haka War Dance promotion, which will carry over upon becoming a Pikeman, a Lancer and so on.

Above: The Swordsman has the Haka War Dance promotion. The screenshot proves the bonuses don't stack.

Above: Note the lack of the 10% penalty despite my Maori Warrior garrisoning the city? That's because the 10% penalty's to enemy unit attack, not defence. It won't help with ranged attacks on enemy units but it will with melee. Alternatively, position Maori Warriors next to the more dangerous enemy units to limit their damage potential.

Above: Despite being adjacent to one of my Maori Warriors, the enemy Trireme isn't intimidated. Just to prove the promotion only works on land.

An interesting note about the 10% penalty to adjacent units is that other Civs can take advantage of it, (so for example, if your Maori Warrior's next to a Barbarian, other Civs' melee units will be more effective against it.) If you're trying to clear an encampment for a City-State, it probably will make little difference and it's unlikely another Civ will steal your kill based off that alone.

Special promotions kept on upgrade

  • -10% to adjacent enemy land units' strength (Haka War Dance)

Again, you should be building plenty of Maori Warriors for early game exploration. Hence, you should have a fair number to upgrade into your defensive force.
Unique Improvement: Moai

While early exploration will help you get started, Moai will win you the game. Only buildable on coastal tiles, they provide a point of culture and another per adjacent Moai - much like Incan Terrace Farms and their food-per-adjacent-mountain bonus.

This culture can be an enormous bonus, rushing you through Social Policies rapidly. But the crucial point about Moai is that with Hotels and Airports in the late-game, they'll start generating you a lot of tourism and will make you a great contender for cultural victory.

The important trick about Moai is in positioning. Some tiles that may appear unviable to other Civs could be producing you a lot of culture. In some instances, it may be best to settle a city slightly inland to free up a good Moai spot.

Above: Two-tile-thick areas make the best Moai locations. Early scouting will reveal these areas which you can then send your Settlers to, before anyone else has a chance to come in and wreck them. Also shown is a Moai in marshland. You can clear the marsh later without removing the improvement.

Above: Snow and tundra? Looks awful until you realise that snow tile to the left of the Swordsman could be generating as much as 6 culture a turn.

To get hold of plenty of wonders on the way to cultural victory, and overcome poor costal production, it'll help to build tall. However, this isn't to say you should keep your cities together - settle them in the very best Moai spots you can find. This isn't to say that building wide is unviable as you can maximise culture (and later tourism) through working more Moai, though it'll come with the downside of making it hard to build wonders, which offer culture (and later tourism) themselves. Either way, don't over-work Moai - they don't offer food or production leaving your cities weak if you neglect other tiles.

Whether building tall or wide, to maximise culture and hence tourism, you will probably build Moai on coastal hill tiles where you'd otherwise have mines - thus hurting your production further. You can get around this problem by building mines there until Refrigeration or Radar. Then, replace them with Moai to take advantage of the tourism boost.

Also to consider is that Moai give culture based off how many adjacent Moai there are - regardless of whether those Moai are workable or not. As such, you may be building more improvements than you would usually would as a different Civ.

Above: A lovely little dilemma. The tile the worker's on cannot be worked by Honolulu. Building a Moai there will boost the tile to the left's culture by 1. Building a plantation gives me a luxury resouce I could trade for another, and with Fine Arts in the Aesthetics tree, that'd be worth 2 culture on top of the Golden Age points. However, boosting the Moai to the left's culture will grant me more tourism later.

In the late-game, it's crucially important you get Refrigeration and Radar early for those tourism buildings, like any other cultural Civ. The sooner you get Hotels and Airports, the sooner your victory.

Above: At the end of the game. I've got the Internet, hosted the Oly--- I mean, International Games, have the Cultural Heritage Sites bonus in the World Congress adding more culture (and hence tourism) to Wonders and have a megagram of Moai tourism. Victory comes shockingly fast.


Clearly, the main use of Moai is to win you the game with tourism. But the statues of Rapa Nui have another late-game purpose - after researching Flight, they provide one gold each.

Above: Markets, Banks and Stock Exchanges mean even more money. Remember that during a Golden Age, those Moai will be producing 2 gold instead of 1, giving you a considerable gold boost.

Together with valuable sea-based International Trade Routes enhanced by the Exploration tree, you'll probably be one of the richer cultural players. You could use this cash to buy your way through infrastructure in your weaker cities, or to buy City-States and bribe other Civs to get what you want in the World Congress. Alternatively, you can switch to using trade routes internally, giving the food and production you need and freeing your citizens up to work more Moai.
Social Policies: Early-game choices
Polynesia's Social Policy route is pretty straightfoward. Tradition or Liberty depending on whether you're building tall or wide respectively, followed by Aesthetics, Exploration and Rationalism. Your high culture output should help in getting through all those Social Policy trees, but if that doesn't seem to be possible, cut out Exploration policies beyond the Opener to focus on getting into Rationalism sooner.

Tradition (Tall Polynesia favoured)


As mentioned before, you may need to build Moai outside the area cities can work. As you can only build Moai in tiles you own, and you can't buy tiles outside a workable area, you'll probably need to rely on fast border expansion to take the tiles you need.


This cuts maintenance costs further by letting you have free garrison units. Not the best of policies, but needed to go further.


This saves time building a Monument instead of another Maori Warrior, and allows you to get the National Epic up easily later on as building new cities won't interrupt its construction.

Landed Elite

Growth bonuses are important to get specialists and to work as many Moai as possible.


If your early-game culture is poor, get this sooner. The production bonus for Wonders helps to make up for your otherwise fairly bad production due to working fewer mines than other Civs.


Cutting capital happiness considerably is useful to let you build another city early on while there's still plenty of good untouched spots for cities. The cash also covers maintenance for all those exploring units.


Free Aquaducts saves precious production time for things like Wonders. Better growth is good, too, for the reasons outlined for Landed Elite.

Liberty (Wide Polynesia favoured)


Settling lots of good spots makes good use of your UA. This opener makes sure those distant cities can expand their own borders without needing backup from other cities.


Helps to lessen the production problems of a wide, coastal empire.

Collective Rule

You can take this Settler over the waves and find a really good coastal city spot. Strong city locations mean lots of culture and tourism later.


This should kick in before or around the time Moai are available, giving you an extra Worker and faster tile improvement construction to get all that culture rolling sooner rather than later. You're going to need to build quite a few Moai before they can reach their full potential, so you can get plenty out of this policy.


Reducing the Social Policy cost increase for new cities by a third should mean you can get through useful things like ideological tenets faster later on. The free Golden Age helps with Social Policy gain in the short-term with its 20% culture boost.


Many of your cities won't be connected up until Harbours, so it's probably best to leave this policy until last in the Liberty tree. Extra happiness gives you more opportunities to settle new cities before anyone else can cross ocean tiles.


There's a few good choices here, but if you're unsure, either take a Great Scientist to keep your tech rate up (wide empires tend to be worse for science later on in the game than tall ones) or a Great Engineer to build a Manufactory near a wonder-building city.
Social Policies: Mid-game choices


You should certainly build Guilds as soon as they become avaliable. While Moai will provide you a lot of tourism, Great Works will still be your primary source of it. Try to never leave Artist, Musician or Writer slots empty unless you need every last hammer of production to secure a Wonder.

Cultural Centres

It's only once you play a cultural Civ like Polynesia you realise how important getting every last Great Work slot is. Building the long line of culture buildings faster will ensure you don't have to keep a GWAM waiting until there's a slot ready, and frees up more production for other stuff. Plus, it gets you to the very important Broadcast Towers sooner.

Fine Arts

Tall-building empires tend to have more excess happiness than wide-building ones. This won't generate a lot of culture, but you'll need this policy for the rest of the tree.

Flourishing of the Arts

Ensure all your cities have a Wonder in - rush them with Great Engineers if you have to. Getting a significant culture boost will get you through Ideology tenets sooner and get that Media Culture tourism bonus from the Freedom tree. The sooner you have it, the quicker you can win.

Cultural Exchange

Bigger tourism multipliers mean quicker victories.

Artistic Genius

While not a spectacular policy, it may be worth timing this one for the sake of theming bonuses. Just don't hold off the finisher for too long just for the sake of a small amount of tourism.


Theming bonus will probably be your quaternary source of tourism behind Great Works, Moai and Wonders. However, as this boost comes earlier than most other bonuses to tourism, it'll accumulate nicely over time.



As the game's premier coastal cultural Civ, a tree with seafaring advantages coupled with a couple of important culture ones is certainly desirable for Polynesia. You'll want to build the Louvre as soon as you can for its +8 tourism (with the Aesthetics finisher) theming bonus and four painting/artifact slots.

As for the naval sight and speed, your Galleasses now have the speed and sight of Caravels, and your Triremes are faster. Both bonuses will help you find and chase Barbarian ships before they can plunder your sea trade routes, as well as scout out any naval armies that may be incoming to attack your cities.

Maritime Infrastructure

An excellent policy for Polynesia, for reasons explained before. Three production for every coastal city may still leave you as the cultural player with the lowest production, but you won't be so much behind now.

Naval Tradition

It's possible you may lack happiness in the midgame, a little boost for buildings you'll build anyway is quite welcome. Even if you've already got a happy empire, more will add to culture thanks to Fine Arts.

Merchant Navy

Before going on to the main point of the policy, let's look at the East India Company bonus. The 4 production bonus is very handy - particularly with Maritime Infrastructure - for building up a city to compete with some of the stronger wonder-building Civs.

Now, onto the gold. Remember my mention of how Moai producing gold with Flight made you one of the richest cultural players? Why not enhance that by reducing your maintenance costs? More importantly, you'll be on the way to...

Treasure Fleets

Lots of money. Coastal cities, dispersed around the map to make the most of good Moai spots will rake in massive gold revenues, as you can really take advantage of diversity bonuses. Maybe buy a few City-States' favour to help out at the World Congress?

Navigation School

While pretty much useless unless you're at war, you need this policy for the finisher.


Because you should have explored most of the map early, you'll have a great awareness of where Antiquity Sites are, and hence Hidden Antiquity Sites. All those mid to late-game Wonders, World Congress projects, culture and science buildings may make building lots of Archaeologists hard, but you should do so for all the potential tourism.



Look at the technology tree. Notice how few technologies you actually need to get to The Internet from the Modern era? Then, notice how many techs you may need to get to Radar. You'll need both, and for that you'll need plenty of science. The sooner you get the techs, the better, so a 10% boost is rather welcome.


Building tall, you should have plenty of specialists, hence potentially a lot of science, too. Nice and simple. If you're building wide, this policy can still offer a little science, which is still useful.


Great Scientists don't raise the cost of GWAMs when generated, so there's no pain in creating more of them.

Free Thought

While you shouldn't really be building many trading posts, this policy is still worthwhile for the University bonus.


Like Merchant Navy in the Exploration tree, reduced maintenance means more cash for whatever you see fit to do with it. This is most effective for wide empires.

Scientific Revolution

One useful use of your cash is to get research agreements going if there's not much of a threat from diplomatic players pushing for victory. It'll certainly help you in getting The Internet sooner.


It'll probably be quite late in the game by the time you get this. Hence, when you get the free technology, it'll be part of a crucial push towards Radar or The Internet.
While any of the trees can lead you to a culture win, you really should go for Freedom because of its all-round tourism boost and bonuses for building tall. Even if you're building wide, Freedom has the most reliable tourism bonus.

This guide assumes you're only taking a single "inverted pyramid" of tenets (3 from level one, 2 from level two, 1 from level three.)

Level One Tenets - Freedom

Civil Society (Tall Polynesia favoured)

Grow your cities faster in the late game! Less food consumption helps fill those specialist slots for more late-game Great People, and also helps your science rate with more citizens.

Avant Garde

Because there's only ever two specialist slots for each kind of GWAM, you need all the GP bonuses you can to produce them faster.

Creative Expression

While this policy doesn't affect tourism in the slightest, this will help you get to tenets and policies that do faster.

Capitalism (Wide Polynesia favoured)

The gold that Moai offer after Flight gives you a good incentive to build gold-increasing buildings. This tenet gives you happiness from them, helping to support growing cities in a wide empire.

Level Two Tenets - Freedom

Universal Suffrage

More happiness means more Golden Ages, which in turn means more production, doubled Moai gold and extra culture. The Moai gold bonus in Golden Ages particularly is a good reason to favour this tenet over others.

New Deal (Tall Polynesia favoured)

Might seem strange considering you're not prioritising Great People capable of making improvements, but any old Academies or Manufactories are still useful in this late stage of the game.

Urbanisation (Wide Polynesia favoured)

There comes a point where founding new cities isn't worthwhile, and you probably passed that point quite a while ago. So, it's time to grow those cities up so they can work more Moai! Urbanisation helps deal with some unhappiness made as a result.

Level Three Tenet - Freedom

Media Culture

The most consistent bonus to tourism out of any of the Ideologies' tenets. If any Civ is still being a problem to win over, that's what Great Musicians' concert tours are for.
Unlike many cultural Civs, Polynesia doesn't really need to prioritise religion. It's still useful, but it's not the end of the world if it's not dominant.


Note: As usual, highly-situational Pantheons (e.g. resource dependent ones) aren't listed here. Some kind of faith-giving Pantheon is a good idea for giving you a better shot at getting a religion.

God of the Sea

A production bonus for naval empires! How wonderful! If someone else doesn't steal it first.

Messenger of the Gods (Wide Polynesia favoured)

It may take a while to take effect as you can't build Harbours (and hence connect cities overseas) until the late medieval era, but extra science is still handy for wide empires, as more cities put up technology costs.

God of Craftsmen

A backup to God of the Sea, this also helps provide some handy production.

Fertility Rites (Tall Polynesia favoured)

Grow those cities tall to fill those Writer, Musician and Artist slots sooner. Nice and simple.


World Church

The normal route to go down, more culture means more important Social Policies sooner.


Great for those wanting faith to back up tourism efforts. If you're going down that road, get faith buildings and reform your faith with Sacred Sites for maximum effect.


Swords into Plowshares (Tall Polynesia favoured)

You shouldn't really be diving into war. Hence, a peacetime restriction is no problem. Just use those growth bonuses to work Moai, etc.

Religious Community (Tall Polynesia favoured)

This can turn building tall into having a good load of production. Unlike Social Policies, however, this bonus is exclusive to whichever religion picks it up. Get it first, and you won't lag behind so much on production (if at all) and thus no longer be so disadvantaged on wonder building.

Cathedrals (Wide Polynesia favoured)

For those wanting their religion to enhance tourism efforts, Cathedrals are an excellent choice, being the only faith building with a Great Work slot.

Pagodas or Mosques (Wide Polynesia favoured)

Again, for those aiming to reform their religion using Sacred Sites. More faith generation also means more GWAMs.

Divine Inspiration (Tall Polynesia favoured)

As a cultural Civ, you should be building plenty of Wonders, therefore, you'll get plenty of faith from this belief. It's particularly useful later on for faith-purchasing GWAMs.


Itinerant Preachers

Due to the nature of taking good city spots before other Civs can access them, your cities are likely to be quite isolated. This belief ensures those remote cities can still influence the faith of others.

Religious Texts

Another way to spread your religion without needing to spend faith.

Missionary Zeal

With Religious Community particularly, you'll want as many followers of your own faith in your own cities as possible. Stronger Missionaries will help with that aim.
World Congress
Some decisions in the World Congress are crucially important, but the challenge for you is nudging votes the way you want. Having diplomats in other Civs' capitals is a very good idea for both the tourism boost and to be able to bribe them to vote how you like. Voting choices may vary depending on your game.

Above: Time to choose a host. Everyone votes for themselves normally. Lacking City-State allies, I can't become host myself as no-one else will vote for me, but my votes are enough to propel either America, Korea or Sweden to chair the World Congress. Sweden's voting pattern best follows mine, so I vote for them. Plus, it boosts relations.

Note "priority" refers to how high you should prioritise your votes if it comes up, not how much you should prioritise putting them forward. If Babylon wants Science Funding, you should prioritise to vote no, for example. If you could put forward a vote, then it'd be a bad idea to put Science Funding on the table.

Arts Funding

High priority
Vote yes

Cultural Heritage Sites

Very High priority
Vote yes

More culture for wonders will later mean more tourism.

Embargo City-States

Very Low priority

No point angering anyone over this vote. You won't really need to trade with City-States when most of your cities are coastal.

Historical Landmarks

Medium priority
Vote yes

Because so many of your tiles will be dedicated to Moai, Landmarks are somewhat excessive (and may break a Moai chain.) However, a bit of culture from Academies or Manufactories is still helpful.

International Games

Very High priority
Vote yes

That double tourism boost from being the highest contributer combined with all the other late-game bonuses rushes you to victory quickly. If it passes, drop everything and concentrate on contributing to it.

International Space Station

High priority
Vote no

Natural Heritage Sites

Low priority
Vote yes unless you have no Natural Wonders

This could be pretty nice if you have the Great Barrier Reef, but if you lack Natural Wonders there's little point.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Medium priority
Vote yes

Scholars in Residence

Low priority (High if you're far behind the lead in technology)
Abstain unless you're far behind the leading Civ in technology, then (obviously) vote yes

Sciences Funding

High priority
Vote no

Standing Army Tax

Low-Medium priority
Vote yes

World's Fair

High priority
Vote yes

Above: With the poor production coastal regions offer, don't be surprised if you see this. A lot.

Wonders are the big headache for Polynesia: You need them for Great Work slots and tourism, but other cultural players are far better at building them. Watch out particularly for Egypt. The best thing you can do is keep some Great Engineers to rush them or else focus on certain Wonders' technologies early.

Ancient Era

Pyramids (Liberty Only, Wide Polynesia favoured)

Get all those Moai up faster! And faster city development in general is useful, too.

Temple of Artemis (Tall Polynesia favoured)

Helps you to defend and grow your cities faster. Note that the wonder actually offers a food bonus (unlike what its description says) which is significantly better than just a 10% food bonus.

Classical Era

Great Lighthouse (Recommended only for large maps and/or faster game speeds)

Is there a lot to explore and not much time to get all the exploration done? A speed and sight bonus will help with that.

Hanging Gardens (Tradition Only, Tall Polynesia favoured)

With all the food multipliers I advise getting, the Hanging Gardens will be particularly effective, letting you easily fill Great Writer slots without slowing your development down.


Producing above-average culture and getting through Social Policies quicker, this is a nice early choice. Not as good as the Hanging Gardens for its era, but still useful.


A very early bit of tourism! True, it's not much, but it'll accumulate over time. Plus, the +4 culture means 4 tourism with both a Hotel and an Airport later in the game.

Medieval Era


With all that Moai culture, a 20% bonus will go quite a long way. The promotion is somewhat less useful, but does help to fight off other Civs that are attacking you. Hopefully.

Chichen Itza

Golden Ages are quite strong for Polynesia once you research Flight, as Moai can suddenly generate you a lot of gold.

Renaissance Era

Globe Theatre
Theming bonus wonder - 2 Great Writing, same era and Civ for theming bonus

There's not many Great Writing slots avaliable, so it's handy to open up one more (in addition to the free Great Writer who'll probably fill up the other slot.)

Leaning Tower of Pisa

As the screenshot at the beginning of this section shows, there's much competition for this wonder. But if, unlike me in that game, you win it, that's a nice bonus to GWAM generation, plus a free GP of your choice. Great Artists are typically good because there's a lot of theming bonuses reliant on them.

Sistine Chapel
Theming bonus wonder - 2 Great Art/Artifact, needs art of the same era and Civ for theming bonus

With an empire-wide boost to culture and two Great Painting/Artifact slots, this is certainly a good wonder. But remember, Great Painting/Artifact slots are more plentiful than others. If you must prioritise Renaissance wonders, consider Globe Theatre's Great Writing slot or the Leaning Tower's GWAM generation advantage.

Uffizi (Aesthetics Only)
Theming bonus wonder - 3 Great Art/Artifact, needs art of the same era and Civ for theming bonus

Another Free-GWAM-and-the-slots-for-it wonder like the Globe Theatre or Broadway. Well, more slots and theming bonuses means more tourism means a faster victory.

Industrial Era

Louvre (Exploration Only)
Theming bonus wonder - 4 Great Art/Artifact, needs 2 art and 2 artifacts all of different Civs and eras for theming bonus

Use your early exploration uncovering the map to your advantage. You need two artifacts of different Civs and eras (in addition to the two artworks of different Civs and eras) so you'll probably need to do plenty of digging to find them all. If you manage it, the Aesthetics finisher makes it a nice +8 tourism theming bonus.

Modern Era

Theming bonus wonder - 3 Great Music, same era and Civ for theming bonus

Broadway has a particularly tricky theming bonus to fill - three Great Music pieces all from the same era. The best thing you can do is to get Radio early, generate a Great Musician before the era's out and faith-purchase another to make three.

Cristo Redentor

Not actually as useful as you might assume, seeing as most of the Social Policies left won't really help you much with tourism. Still, the 5 culture it generates will convert into tourism nicely, even if the main effect isn't spectacular.

Eiffel Tower

It comes at the same technology as Broadway, but the immediate +12 tourism means you probably should prioritise the Eiffel Tower over Broadway. You should certainly aim to get both if possible, but 12 tourism sooner rather than later will accumulate nicely over time.

Statue of Liberty (Freedom Only)

Extinguish your weakness forever. Now, all specialists produce production meaning your tall fish-resource-boosted cities can build well too. Handy for getting Hotels and Airports up faster.

Atomic Era

Great Firewall

There's two reasons for getting this wonder. One, to potentially free a Spy up from counterspy work in the respective city so you can use it as a Diplomat and hence get a tourism boost with another Civ. More importantly, it denies anyone else the chance to get this wonder, as it ignores the double tourism effect from The Internet technology. You won't want someone else picking up this wonder, that's for sure.

Sydney Opera House
Theming bonus wonder - 2 Great Music, same Civ but different eras for theming bonus

An obvious choice, seeing as you're the game's best coastal cultural player. Most of the more powerful Social Policies have probably already been taken by you at this point but two more Great Musician slots is handy.

Information Era

CN Tower (Wide Polynesia favoured)

You should probably have a Broadcast Tower in most, if not all your cities by this point, but this wonder makes them maintenance-free as well as bumping up all your cities' populations up a point for filling specialist slots or suchlike. Plus, building this wonder prevents wide-building Civs with oodles of culture getting hold of it and making it harder for you to win. One decent move is to sell as many Broadcast Towers as you can just before building this wonder, then use the cash for whatever you want.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Across these many islands, it is easy to become lost and go astray. Here are a few little points about how not to play Polynesia.

Building lots of Scouts

You may wonder: "What?! Scouts are far cheaper than Maori Warriors and get across continents quicker!" But when your Unique Unit is available right from the start and keeps its abilities on promotion, you don't want to waste maintenance cash for a different unit you cannot upgrade. Besides, Maori Warriors are just as fast embarked as Scouts, which thanks to the embarked sight bonus is as practical as land-based exploration.

Building cities close together

Overlapping work areas reduces the potential of cities. The Haka War Dance-promoted units and the 10%-strength-bonus-near-a-Moai will help you to defend remote cities.

Prioritising city spots due to luxury resources alone

Sometimes, you'll have to forgo luxuries to get the best Moai spots. Don't worry about it. Eventually, Social Policies, Wonders, buildings or religious beliefs will come around to take the pressure off happiness woes. Building tall, you'll likely not have the same problems with happiness that wide-building Civs have. Besides, having 4 happiness instead of 12 from missing two luxuries barely makes a difference. Losing out on 20 tourism because you didn't take the best Moai spots does.

Diving into Piety

Unless you think you can produce lots of faith and get faith buildings going for tourism with Sacred Sites, the Piety tree offers relatively little for Polynesia.

Delaying Wonder building

Particularly in the midgame, being slow to start on a wonder means someone else will likely snap it up, especially with your low coastal production. Another situation is if you're still building an earlier Wonder when a more important later one's around, and no city is free to build it. It might be worth giving up on that worse earlier one to make sure you seize the later better one.

Holding off contributing to the International Games to build Wonders

As soon as the International Games is in effect, drop everything (except for crucial wonders or if you're being invaded, obviously.) You want to win that double tourism. Things like the World's Fair doesn't matter too much if you don't win it, but the International Games is crucial.
Killing Kamehameha: The Counter-Strategies
Polynesia may be the premier coastal cultural player - and bit of a nuisance in that they'll discover City-States and Ancient Ruins before you - but there's plenty of weaknesses to exploit here.

You'll probably know you have Polynesia in your game if you get the message "An unknown Civilization has circumnavigated the globe!" very early on.

Playing against the UA: Wayfinding

Wayfinding is tough to stop. Sooner or later, Polynesia will discover the entire world and there's not much you can do about it. What you can do is exploit the fact most of their early units are off exploring. An early rush on Honolulu may be quite effective, as if they bring their explorers back home to defend, that delays their exploring efforts.

The UA gives very little advantage later in the game besides the 10% strength near Moai. In the late-game, you can deal with that by sending in Marines. They can fight units defending Moai, then rip them up the turn after to recover health. Otherwise, aircraft are a good choice as Polynesia should tech culturally and lack Anti-Aircraft Guns (though may have a Fighter or two)

Playing against Maori Warriors

The promotion Maori Warriors have is only any good against adjacent units when they're attacking or are being attacked in a way they can fight back against (typically a melee attack.) Hence, Polynesia may neglect ranged units as they can't take advantage of the promotion the same way they can with melee ones. Building ranged units of your own allows you to fight while keeping out their promotion's range.

Later in the game, like any carries-over-on-upgrade UU, focus fire on the units that still have the Haka War Dance. After Metal Casting, Polynesia can never build new units with the promotion.

All in all, the Haka War Dance isn't a particularly strong promotion anyway, so Maori Warriors aren't much to worry about. After all, the promotion doesn't stack.

Playing against Moai

Like any UI, it won't do much good when it's pillaged. Unlike other UIs, however, pillaging is particularly effective against Moai as it'll affect the yield of adjacent ones. Not only that, but pillaging also pulls back their tourism efforts relatively easily, hence giving you a bit of time to boost culture in defence.

Moai encourage Polynesia to build in small islands and narrow pieces of land. While a bottleneck by land, it isn't so much by sea. Hence, naval assaults are pretty effective. Again, remember they have no bonuses to naval power, and therefore are vulnerable to such attacks.

Like all UIs besides the Portugese Feitoria, taking tiles with Moai will allow you to use them yourself, whether through capturing their cities or with a Great General. This could give you masses of culture (and tourism later in the game.) Pillage them to deny Polynesia the strength bonus, take the city then repair afterwards.

A point about Denmark

Denmark is the bane of Polynesia. As Danish melee units pillage for free, they can rapidly rip up lines of Moai, and easy disembarking allows them to rush in and out before Polynesia can respond. And going in tundra/snow areas just to secure the best Moai spots is very easy Norwegian Ski Infantry prey.

Strategy by Style

Early-game Aggressors

Some kind of ranged unit may be helpful to keep out of range of Maori Warriors. Generally, Polynesia doesn't have much in the way of defence early on (thanks to all that exploring) and so long as they don't settle another city over an ocean, they should be easy enough to beat.

Mid-game Warmongers

Polynesia's capital will likely be vulnerable via a land route. But lacking bonuses to naval strength at this point, it's practical to launch a sea assault on them too. Just be sure to pillage those Moai so they can't use the 10% strength bonus.

Late-game Warmongers

Launching a round of Marines to pillage Moai isn't a bad idea. Pick off their capital - it likely hosts most of their Wonders - and plunder it for all the Great Works you can. Even if they win it back, it'll set them back tremendously.

Scientific players

You'll probably be able to build the Great Firewall before Polynesia (seeing as it isn't in their main tech path) to slow down their cultural progress. If they're really getting to be a threat, send in the Tanks and Anti-Aircraft Guns. They'll probably have Radar and hence Bombers, but not Anti-Tank Guns. Take advantage of your tech advantage, and try to plunder a major city of theirs for Great Works.

Cultural players

Prioritise keeping your production high to take Wonders. The more you take, the more tourism they lose out on. Take Religious Community before they can if you have to, and prioritise the Statue of Liberty if you're going for the Freedom ideology to keep them behind production-wise. If you can field a strong enough army, use it against them to take some strong Moai cities - this will let you use their Moai for yourself, giving you an awful lot of tourism in the late-game.

Diplomatic players

Use your large World Congress vote to block Cultural Heritage Sites. If Polynesia's a major threat for victory, focus on cultural City-States to boost your defence against tourism. An embargo against them could be pretty effective as well. Bribe someone to go to war with them if you have to - even if the civ you bribe fails, they'll probably pillage plenty of improvements en route.
Other Guides
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These guides cover every Civ in the game and can be used as quick reference guides.

Civ-specific guides, in alphabetical order

All 43 Civs are covered in in-depth guides linked below. In brackets are the favoured victory routes of each Civ.
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Zaughtilo Sep 8, 2015 @ 5:04pm 
I feel like such a retard... I thought the archeologist needed to be in your territory to extract a item... so I have like 4 cities I don't need
Zigzagzigal  [author] Sep 7, 2015 @ 2:14am 
Archipelago's great, so's Tiny Islands. Terra's also good (not just for the empty continent you can settle long before anyone else - there's also a chain of small islands in every map) and Continents Plus is alright for similar reasons.
Zaughtilo Sep 6, 2015 @ 6:41pm 
So would Archipelago be great for Polynesia because of the Moai, right?

By the way, I have a few games going which is why I've commented on like 5 different guides in the past week. Their really helpful, haha.
mustard_pretzel Nov 24, 2014 @ 10:06pm 
I thought about that terra map strategy a bit but I had no idea it had a name! Does seem a bit cheaty, but considering the AI in later difficulties it seems less so. Great guides!
hatchyrock Nov 7, 2014 @ 7:37pm 
Counterstrats should be called Kamehameha Him!
Zigzagzigal  [author] Jul 11, 2014 @ 5:58am 
Wow, two Ubered Pyros in a row =p

As Polynesia, your UA makes it easy to settle plenty of land before anyone else can reach it though, so you don't need to go to war to grab land.
Captain Trips Jul 10, 2014 @ 2:00pm 
A tip I saw from the internet is, when possible, to puppet cities. By puppeting cities you get their land so you are able to build more Maoi's.
Papa Putin Jul 7, 2014 @ 1:46am 
You can buld Moai's in the desert. Finally you can use the deserts for other things than trading post's
Luizeba Jun 14, 2014 @ 11:07pm 
Great guide, thanks :)
🙂 May 6, 2014 @ 8:27am 
I think Polynesia is the best guide that he has ever written. Although the civilization itself require long time of patience, but he emphasised one of few merits of Polynesia.

A guide is deeply explained. Decent amount of screenshots make long article attractive.