Sid Meier's Civilization V

Sid Meier's Civilization V

178 ratings
Zigzagzigal's Guide to the Inca (BNW)
By Zigzagzigal
The Incans can grow cities taller than anyone else, and a mountainous focus can give them a very strong science output. This guide goes into plenty of detail about Incan 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)

Aspiring leader, you have an opportunity to rule one of the greatest empires of all time. Advanced societies developed in South America over 5000 years before the present day, but one over the course of 500 years rose from a tribe among many to conquer them all - the Incans. Through war and through peace, this empire stretched over half the length of the continent - the modern day equivalent of their extents being from southern Colombia to near Santiago in Chile.

This great empire, this dominant empire, was to fall essentially by bad luck - that the Spanish invaders had a head start in technology and hence had little trouble tearing apart an advanced, sophisticated society. But now, under your rule, the Incans will show their full potential. The hills and mountains, treacherous for many others, serve a great home to you thanks to your people's skill in engineering. And in these peaks, build a civilization that will stand the test of time.

Following is an explanation of some key terms used throughout the guide, mainly for the sake of newer players.

Finisher - The bonus for completing a Social Policy tree (e.g. Free Great Person for Liberty.)
Melee Units - In most contexts in Civilization 5, melee units are land units without a ranged attack. (Not just Warriors, Swordsmen, Longswordsmen, Spearmen and Pikemen.)
Opener - The bonus for unlocking a Social Policy tree (e.g. +1 culture for every city for Liberty's opener)
Spotter - A unit which provides a line of sight for units with higher range than sight (such as siege units or Range-promoted archery units)
Tall Empire - A small number of cities with a high population each. Terrace Farms will help you achieve this.
Turtle - As in to "turtle up". Refers to a highly defensive state where expansion is limited. This is fine to do once you've taken all the mountains you need.
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.
Uniques - Collective name for Unique Abilities, Units, Buildings, Tile Improvements and Great People
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.
At a glance (Part 1/2)
Start Bias

The Incans are biased towards hill tiles. There's a decent chance you'll start near mountains (particularly as only the Austrians also have such a bias.) Even if you don't get mountains, hills near your capital will allow you to take advantage of Terrace Farms as soon as you can build them, and roads on hills are free for you to maintain.


The Inca come with a Unique Improvement - the Terrace Farm. This can be built starting in the classical era but will be useful throughout the game. Their Unique Unit comes in the ancient era and while it has a promotion that carries over when you upgrade it, it's rather less effective.

Unique Ability: Great Andean Road

  • All land units (both civilian or military types) moving into hill tiles only use one movement point.
    • Hills with forest or jungle also only use one movement point for units to enter.
    • This does not affect crossing rivers onto hill tiles.
  • Roads and railroads built on hill tiles have no maintenance cost.
  • Roads and railroads built on tiles without hills have half the normal maintenance cost.
    • With the Wagon Trains Social Policy from the Commerce tree, roads and railroads are maintenance-free regardless of location.

Unique Unit: Slinger (Replaces the Archer)

A standard ranged unit

Upgrades from
Upgrades to
Production cost
Purchase cost
Resource needed

Ancient era
1st column
(2nd column overall)

Classical era
1st column
(4th column overall)

(Ancient Ruins upgrade only)

Composite Bowman
*Assumes a normal speed game.

Ranged Strength
Negative Attributes
Positive Attributes
7Ranged Strength
2Movement Points
  • May not melee attack
  • Chance to withdraw rather than deal and receive damage if attacked by melee (Withdraw Before Melee)

Negative changes

  • 4 strength, down from 5 (-20%)

Positive stay-on-upgrade changes

  • Chance to withdraw to an adjacent unoccupied land tile if attacked by a non-ranged land unit
  • Being attacked by faster units decreases the withdrawal odds
  • Mountains, lakes and seas behind the Slinger can negatively impact its withdrawal chance
  • High base strength relative to the attacking unit increases withdrawal chance, low base strength reduces it

Unique Improvement: Terrace Farm

Terrain Requirement
Base yield
Final yield

Classical era
1st column
(4th column overall)
With freshwater access:

Civil Service
Medieval era
1st column
(6th column overall)

Without freshwater access:

Industrial era
1st column
(10th column overall)

+1Food for
*Natural Wonders count as mountains for this purpose with the exception of the Rock of Gibraltar, King Solomon's Mines, Krakatoa, the Great Barrier Reef, El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth.
At a glance (Part 2/2)
Victory Routes

Note that 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: 6/10
Diplomatic: 6/10
Domination: 7/10
Scientific: 9/10

Science will be your best route, due to the Terrace Farm's ability to build your cities to incredible heights and the mountain focus giving you plenty of Observatories. The fact that every city you found puts up science costs in BNW hasn't really affected the Incan game. You could utilise the easy hill movement to support domination, or the cash saved from cheap roads towards diplomacy, but typically science is your best option.

Similar Civs and uniques


If you want something similar to the Inca, give the Aztecs a shot. They also come with strong food bonuses and military potential. The Aztecs are less dependent on particular terrain than the Inca are, but need to make more use of war to reach their full potential. Furthermore, the Woodsman promotion held by Aztec Jaguars acts similarly to the mobility of the Incan UA, but for forests and jungles instead of hills.

Same start bias

The Incan hill starting bias is shared with Austria. Rather than Austria having a bonus associated with hills, they have a penalty removed - they don't need flat land to build their Windmill-replacing Coffee House UB.

Similar to the UA

The Incan UA has much in common with that of the Iroquois - cheap routes and fast movement through a particular type of terrain. The Incan bonus affects hills, while the Iroquoian bonus affects forests and jungles. The Incas have the advantage that their mobility bonus isn't restricted to their own lands, but the Iroquois don't have to spend time building any roads before making use of their free forest/jungle routes.

You can also get cheap city connections via Carthage's UA, which gives every coastal city a free Harbour.

Another Civ with a mobility bonus as part of their UA is Persia. During a Golden Age, all of Persia's non-air units gain an extra movement point. The Inca will still have a speed advantage in areas with a high concentration of hills and especially forested hills. Mongolia also has a +1 movement point bonus in their UA, but it only applies to melee mounted units.

Finally, UUs which are more mobile in hills include America's Minuteman and Denmark's Norwegian Ski Infantry.

Similar to Slingers

The withdraw-before-melee promotion held by Slingers is identical to the one owned by all Caravels (except Korea's Turtle Ship UU) and Destroyers, but Slingers are the only ranged unit (and the only land unit) to have it.

For something that functions similarly (but on your enemies rather than your own units) consider the Heavy Charge promotion held by Poland's Winged Hussars. They knock back enemy units in addition to dealing damage, or deal extra damage if the unit can't be knocked back.

Similar to Terrace Farms

Two other UIs offer food: Morocco's Kasbahs and Dutch Polders. Both offer food, production and gold. Polders have bigger yields (and can have food outputs rivalling Terrace Farms) but are more restricted in where they can be built in comparison to Kasbahs.

The Aztecs and Siam also have unique food bonuses that work in different ways. Aztec Floating Gardens offer a 15% food bonus while Siam gets 50% more food from maritime City-States.
Unique Ability: Great Andean Road
While the Incan trait is necessarily your strongest asset (that honour belongs to the Terrace Farm,) it is nonetheless helpful for defence, exploration and to help with finances.

Easier hill movement

Few Unique Abilities will be useful from 4000 BC, but here's one that is. Faster hill movement gets your exploring units around the map faster in the early turns as any sort of hills (including forested hills) become as easy to move in as open terrain. This also ensures your hill start bias doesn't slow down exploration and might even get you into some ancient ruins sooner. Scouts do not move any faster than normal through hills, so aside from flat forested areas, they have no speed advantage over your other units. (Building one still may be good for a Scout-Slinger, explained in the following section)

Above: It's worth your while to explore mountain clusters thoroughly, which faster hill movement helps with. By exploring these places, you can work out where best to place your cities later for Terrace farms. To find mountains quickly, try moving in the opposite direction from a river's course. (In other words, move away from where it meets the sea.) Many rivers have their sources in mountainous regions.

When those pesky Barbarians come a-calling, your focus on hills and mountains will help slow them down. Faster hill movement for yourself allows you to outpace them even before you have a road network going, which should keep your improvements much safer from pillaging.

Above: I can retreat that Slinger two tiles and heal up for a turn before the Barbarians can reach it. Plus, moving it two tiles makes it out of sight and thus less likely to be followed. Other Civs may suffer a wild goose chase without a chance to heal up.

Hill movement also helps decide promotion paths for units. Most empires have a mix of rough and open terrain - a huge bias towards rough terrain means most of your defensive units can take the respective line of promotions and be able to use that bonus in most situations.

Besides the military, your civilian units also benefit from faster hill movement. Workers can move from one tile to an adjacent hill tile and start working on a new improvement in the same turn. This may not seem like much, but hills for Terrace Farms often come in lines and (particularly in faster-speed games) this could save you a fair bit of worker time over the course of the game. Your Missionaries will also gain highly from this as with 4 movement and no slowing down for hills, you can easily convert an unfriendly city without risking losing religious strength en route.

Above: That unit was outside my lands while I was busy going through naval technologies and therefore lacks the ability to embark. It's surrounded by the sea and hills with other Civs' units. Normally, that unit would be trapped and at risk from the Barbarian, but the Inca can move it out the way.

Above: I could move that Settler, found a city and fire on that Barbarian all in the same turn. It's possible for any Civ in open terrain, but only the Inca can do that in hills.

As the game runs on, forests will slowly become less common while hills cannot be removed. In the case of the Iroquois and Celts, enemies capturing their cities can cut down their forests, messing with their Unique Abilities. If you lose a city, they can't just remove the hills you have around.

And finally, if Mt. Kilimanjaro is in your game, its promotion lets your units move through hills at quadruple the normal rate, meaning moving through hills is actually faster than moving in open terrain. it won't be a factor in most games, but it's a powerful advantage if you do get it going.

Reduced road/railroad maintenance

Just to make you love hills more, roads are free on them. Because Civilization 5 attempts to simulate some degree of plate tectonics, hills generally occur in rows allowing for long free roads. Mountain ranges particularly are your friend as they tend to have tonnes of surrounding hills, and are great for Terrace Farms. These free roads lead to greater profit for your empire, which could be diverted instead to supporting science buildings, defensive units, or using Caravans/Cargo Ships to transport food and production around your empire.

Even roads not on mountains are cheaper, being half-price. This is important if mountains are in dispersed clusters. Many other Civs could go briefly into deficit while building their first road, but you won't have that problem so much.

Now, another consideration. Because all roads on hills are free, if your Workers aren't otherwise occupied, you can cover the hills in your lands with roads (avoid doing this too close to a militaristic enemy likely to spam Citadels against you.) Then, you can use these roads for a massive home-ground speed advantage. A nice extra touch is that invading forces will have to either pillage all those extra roads or face huge maintenance costs if they capture your city!

But why stop at covering your hills with roads? If you have the Wagon Trains Social Policy from the Commerce tree, it stacks with your UA to make all roads and railroads free to maintain. This allows you to completely cover your lands in roads giving you an even greater speed advantage.
Unique Unit: Slinger

Here's the bad news: The Slinger is on the whole weak. It's not a massive loss if you never get around to building any at all, but they do have their tricks.

One of the most notable things about the Slinger is that it's the only ranged UU with a unique promotion - the chance to retreat if the unit's attacked by melee, avoiding taking any damage. (The Chinese Chu-Ko-Nu has a second-attack promotion separate to Logistics, but it works in exactly the same way. The Chu-Ko-Nu is also the only other UU in the game that has a one-off downside but all its upsides are kept when you upgrade the unit.) This retreat chance is affected by a range of factors, but most important is the fact adjacent impassable tiles will reduce the odds - which clashes with your focus on mountains.

Sometimes retreating isn't so useful, such as when your Slinger is pushed into a more dangerous spot, or one harder to defend, but that problem can be avoided by putting other military units around the Slinger so it can't retreat.

Above: Something you should avoid doing: Escorting civilian units with Slingers. If Slingers retreat, the enemy unit will capture the civilian unit.

The lower base strength of Slingers makes them impractical for offensive campaigns, as they're incredibly vulnerable to melee attacks. In fact, Slingers carry the lowest base strength in the game, lower even than Scouts! Hence, Slingers can end up in a risky situation of dying almost immediately or being able to retreat and avoid any damage whatsoever.

Interestingly, land-based ranged units use their ranged strength rather than melee strength when defending against other ranged units and city attacks, meaning Slingers are no more vulnerable than regular Archers against them.

So, what can Slingers actually do well? Scouting. The retreat ability helps reduce the amount of time you have to spend healing up the unit in Barbarian attacks. This hence lets you explore more of the map early on - something that improved hill movement is also handy for. Over hills, you can move a tile and fire, while Barbarians can only move a tile or attack there, letting you do damage while retreating without recieving any (or not much, anyway.)

For the ultimate Slinger, build a Scout early on and send it to explore the map, preferably areas with some flat-land forests, marshes and/or lots of rivers as your other units can't explore those regions so fast. Your aim is to get a promotion or two, then get it upgraded to a Slinger through Ancient Ruins. A unit that has high sight, (or good defensive abilities,) can retreat from combat and move rapidly through the land is a very effective Scout indeed.

Special promotions kept on upgrade

  • Withdraw before melee

This gets interesting with later ranged units, as no longer will you have the base strength penalty, helping to increase the withdrawal chance. Gatling Guns, Machine Guns and Bazookas in particular have more favourable retreating chances as they have base strengths very close to the units of the same era - Gatling Guns have 30 vs the Rifleman's 34, Machine Guns have 60 to the Infantry's 70 and Bazookas have 85 to the Mechanised Infantry's 90.

So, beyond exploration, what do you do with the withdrawal ability? Defend. Use non-former-Slinger units over your more valuable tiles so enemies cannot pillage them, and your former Slingers on tiles nearer the front lines, cheap roads and fast hill movement together with a retreat chance makes them hard things to catch.
Unique Improvement: Terrace Farm

The Incan Terrace Farm is arguably the best one of all the Unique Tile Improvements, so long as you reach a mountain cluster. Otherwise, they act as a compromise between food and production (the production coming from the fact you can only place them on hills) as shown below.

  • Grass farm: 3 food, 4 later on
  • Plains farm: 2 food, 3 later on, 1 production
  • Terrace farm on a non-snow hill not adjacent to mountains: 1 food, 2 later on, 2 production
  • Mine on non-snow hill: 3 production, 4 later on

Now, hilly areas are good, but the Incans really want mountains. Every mountain adjacent to a Terrace Farm increases its food yield by 1. This can create the highest food yield tiles in the game (with the exception of Lake Victoria,) and hence grow your cities fast for the rest of the game. Here's an exhaustive guide to bonuses:

  • Start with 2 production for the hill (unless it's snow) and 1 food for the Terrace Farm
  • Add 1 food for every adjacent mountain
  • Add another 1 food if it's adjacent to fresh water and you have Civil Service, or if you have Fertiliser
  • Finally, add 1 food and 1 production if it's a desert hill and the respective city has the Petra wonder

Note that you cannot build Terrace Farms on bonus yield tiles (e.g. Sheep.) This is to prevent a tile being too strong (hence giving you a very strong city only a few turns after being founded.)

The maximum theoretical yield on a tile is 9 food and 3 production, but this would require a desert tile completely surrounded by mountains in a Petra city - you can only get a worker there by it being in someone else's territory when an Open Borders agreement expires, or being gifted a worker by Carthage on that tile. Realistically, the best you can consistently get is 7 food and 2 production for a non-snow hill surrounded by 5 mountains, with the +1 food from Civil Service/Fertiliser.

Now, it has been argued that all those Terrace Farms will hurt your production as they'll go where Mines usually would be. But in response, I'd argue that thanks to Terrace Farms, you can settle in regions with far more hills than usual (as they won't slow down city growth like they normally do) which will provide more production, and Terrace Farms will probably be the first tiles to be worked by cities meaning you get the hill's 2 production immediately.

Above: Because mountains make your Terrace Farms so good, generally it's not worth bothering to build Terrace Farms on isolated hills - mines are probably better. You don't need to dedicate all your tiles to food! You can also use flat tiles for Trading Posts rather than farms for a bit of extra cash.

Exploit them!

Having lots of food is handy to grow cities (obviously.) But don't forget every point of population adds a point of science and more with respective buildings - which you're more likely to have in your bigger cities. This explains the whole idea behind going for a science victory. To back that up, settling your cities adjacent to mountains (be sure to settle it on flat ground or next to only one mountain to avoid losing a good Terrace Farm tile) will allow you to build Observatories in the Renaissance era, meaning your massive population could give you a massive amount of science.

Now you know where the food's heading, it's good to know how you can make the most out of it. There are several early-game boosts to city growth, as follows:

  • Tradtion Social Policy - Landed Elite (+2 food, +10% growth in capital)
  • Tradition Finisher (Free Aquaduct and +15% growth in first 4 cities)
  • Wonder - Temple of Artemis (+10% food* in all cities and +15% production of ranged units)
  • Pantheon - Fertility Rites (+10% growth)
  • Follower belief - Swords Into Plowshares (+15% growth when not at war)

*A food bonus affects base food in a city rather than the net food growth bonuses affect. In a city with 10 food and 5 being eaten (thus making a net food of 5), a 10% growth modifier will bring net food to 5.5, while a 10% food modifier will take it to 6.

More information about each individual boost will come later in their respective sections. The first two can always be picked up no matter the situation in the game.

Stacking these bonuses will ensure you can get cities up to their full potential faster. This lets you assign specialists as soon as they become avaliable (and with Rationalism's boost to specialists, produce lots more science) or work more tiles quickly, which can lead to more production.

Of course, excessive growth means your cities may grow fast even in the midst of unhappiness. Just make the city work some mines instead in this situation, or check the "avoid growth" option on the city screen.
Militaristic City-States
While the standard Incan playstyle is to build tall and go for a scientific victory, high science output along with money saved on route maintenance and fast hill movement makes the Incans good at supporting a strong army. You can make that even better by allying with militaristic City-States if they have good Unique Units on offer. Here's a selection of the ones that synergise best with your UA.

Ancient Era

Battering Ram (Medium priority)

Battering Rams are amazing, but often they can suffer from hills in the way. With the Incan UA, it's harder for your opponents to stop your Rams tearing down their city walls.

Horse Archer (Low-Medium priority)

Now, you can move Horse Archers four times as fast through hills as Chariot Archers can!

Jaguar (High priority)

Goes together with your UA brilliantly. Only marshes and rivers will slow this unit down.

War Elephant (Low priority)

A strong and mobile unit, although it's fairly unlikely you'll be able to ally a City-State with these and get enough to wage war this early in the game.

Classical Era

African Forest Elephant (Low priority)

Extra mobility makes the Feared Elephant bonus easier to use.

Ballista (Low priority)

Moving to attack cities is a little faster.

Cataphract (Lower priority)

You can make up for their reduced movement speed and take advantage of their defensive bonuses in one.

Companion Cavalry (Lower priority)

Build upon their already-impressive speed.

Kris Swordsman (High priority)

Greater mobility will be useful for all Kris Swordsmen, but in particular it will provide more escape routes for important Invulnerability units (which you'll want to keep alive due to their excellent ability to soak up damage) and more attack routes for Ambition and Restlessness units.

Siege Tower (High priority)

Composite Bowmen go great with Siege Towers. Extra-mobile Composite Bowmen that can dodge melee attackers combined with extra-mobile Siege Towers are all the better.

Medieval Era

Berserker (Low priority)

Build upon their relatively high speed.

Camel Archer (High priority)

The main thing stopping Camel Archers is rough terrain - it makes hit-and-run attacks harder to pull off. For the Incans, cheap hill movement helps to relieve that issue.

Conquistador (Medium priority)

Units see further when on hills, and Conquistadors have a base sight of 4. Put that together with your UA and you have a very, very effective scout.

Keshik (High priority)

Just like Camel Archers, rough terrain is the usual enemy of Keshiks. Lessen that problem and you'll only make the unit even better.

Longbowman (Medium priority)

On a hill, Longbowmen can often have enough sight to exploit their 3-range attack radius without the help of a spotter. Cheaper hills movement means they can move and fire at their maximum range in a single turn.

Renaissance Era

Sipahi (Low priority)

Free pillaging, fast movement and no movement penalty in hills makes an Incan Sipahi excellent at tearing apart enemy mines, destroying their production base.

Winged Hussar (Medium priority)

Cheap hill movement makes it easy to move a Winged Hussar around an opponent and knock it back towards your own forces. Alternatively, on defence, try pinning an enemy unit next to mountains so it can't retreat - you'll deal extra damage.

Industrial Era

Comanche Riders (Low priority)

Another fast-moving unit. This time, the speed bonus keeps on upgrade. Tanks moving through 6 hills in a single turn are certainly nice to have around.

Cossack (Low priority)

It's easier to exploit the bonus against wounded units.

Hussar (Medium priority)

It's easier to exploit the flanking bonus.

Mehal Sefari (Low priority)

Excellent for defending your hilly capital with.

Norwegian Ski Infantry (Medium priority)

Their bonus stacks with your UA, making front-line units that can move through 4 hills in a single turn.

Atomic Era

Panzer (Low priority)

Yet another fast movement than cheap hills movement synergises well with.
Social Policies
Two of the trees are pretty obvious to take when you have tall cities next to mountains; Tradition and Rationalism. Between finishing Tradition and starting Rationalism, unless you have Social Policy saving enabled, you'll probably have to take at least an opener from another early tree.



Cultural borders of cities tend to spread towards resources (whether bonus, luxury or strategic) and not towards hills surrounded by mountains. Faster border expansion by culture means you can focus more gold onto buying those powerful hills rather than nudging your cities towards taking luxuries.


If you feel like keeping a few Slingers around for their retreating promotion, Oligarchy lets you hide them away in cities to avoid maintenance. More importantly, a considerable ranged attack bonus makes your cities very hard to take out. As a defensive policy, leave this until last unless there's a good chance you'll soon be attacked.


Free culture buildings in your first four cities is handy to compensate for the fact you may be neglecting such buildings in favour of science, but that's not the reason why choosing this policy before Aristocracy is a good idea. The reason is that this policy leads into more useful ones, and the sooner you have them, the more considerable your advantage.

Landed Elite

Despite your hill starting bias, it's fairly likely your starting position lacks nearby mountains, quite possibly leaving your capital as the only major city without. More food will help even up that difference. If you're lucky and do start near mountains, you'll have an incredibly huge city by the end of the game helped along with the 10% bonus.


Even without mountains, you can still build Terrace Farms in hill tiles for food. Incan cities can grow larger than any other Civ's cities. Hence, gold and reduced unhappiness is a considerable bonus for your nation, particularly in the earlier years where scraping together gold may be a problem.


While there are a couple of handy early wonders for the Incans, it's a bigger priority to get your cities growing early, hence the reason for going for Landed Elite first. Nonetheless, this is still a good bonus for getting mid-game wonders such as the Porcelain Tower. Seeing as you'll raise new cities to size 10+ pretty quickly, getting the happiness point per 10 citizens definitely comes in handy.


Even if your culture rate is very low, you'll want to finish the tree. A 15% bonus to growth is roughly equivalent to 1 extra food for every 7 excess, letting you stretch your Terrace Farms much further. Free Aquaducts help cut city maintenance costs while letting your cities grow even faster.

At this point, both Commerce and Liberty offer some good stuff. If your empire needs to be developed faster, go into Liberty. If your empire's already reasonably well-developed or you need more gold, Commerce will probably be more useful.



The Commerce opener stacks well with Monarchy in the Tradition tree to rake in plenty of gold from growing your capital.

Wagon Trains

Together with your UA, this completely eliminates road and railroad maintenance costs. Spam them as much as you like, and if anyone takes your lands, they'll have a huge cost to deal with.



Liberty's opener allows your culture-starved cities to expand their borders if they couldn't already. Together with Tradition's opener, this helps to save cash in tile purchasing. The main reason for this policy is heading into Citizenship.


The idea here is to get Terrace Farms up and running quicker, therefore allowing taller cities earlier in the game (and the considerable tech advantage that brings.)


If you still aren't in the Renaissance era by this point, taking Meritocracy is probably your best choice for your 9th Social Policy. Reduced unhappiness from citizens and happiness from city connections will certainly come in handy in the happiness-starved midgame.



More science. Can't argue with that. Just be sure your fast-growing cities don't jeopardise happiness.


Probably one of the best policies around for the Incans. Because your cities will be growing huge quickly, it's quite likely you'll fill most of your specialist slots. This means an awful lot of science. Hence, you should nearly always pick this one up first.


You can fill specialist slots easily, but that could mean getting undesirable Great People (Merchants, Engineers and Scientists raise the cost of each other.) Now, the 25% bonus to Great Scientists allows you to fill the slots of Secularism's bonus while still getting plenty of Great Scientists.

Free Thought

Because you'll get a lot of food from Terrace Farms, one possibility is to plant Trading Posts on riverside tiles instead of Farms. Besides cash for Research Agreements, the science you now gain stacks nicely with all the research multipliers you'll likely have in your cities. The University bonus is always good.


Having many buildings will cost you a fair bit in maintenance. Cash back on science buildings helps you to build more, or you can use that cash for Research Agreements, etc.

Scientific Revolution

War won't be your focus, and you aren't spamming cities everywhere, angering everyone. Hence, signing away lots of Research Agreements won't be too hard, especially with extra cash from other policies and cash saved from cheap routes.


The late game is pretty loose for technology paths. Hence, you can use free technology to really push into some high-cost technologies for a significant head start on Spaceship building or push for a science-assisted domination victory with help from your UA.
Freedom has more tall-building focus than Order, the other ideology that allows scientific victories.

This guide shows the best choices for the first "inverted pyramid" of tenets (3 from level 1, 2 from level 2, 1 from level 3)

Level One Policies - Freedom

Civil Society

This might be mad, advocating even more growth when your cities are already huge, but then again, it means more science in this end-game.

Avant Garde

Filling so many specialist slots means plenty of Great People, why not make that more?

Economic Union

Take something else if you're unlikely to make trades with other Freedom civs. The extra cash is very useful for purchasing Spaceship parts with the Space Procurements tenet. The only problem is that this encourages you to use Trade Routes for international trade, rather than internally boosting your production.

Level Two Policies - Freedom

New Deal

Those Engineers and Scientists you may have settled earlier see their Great Tile Improvements recieve a greater yield. Handy for building the Spaceship or getting to their techs sooner.

Universal Suffrage or Urbanisation

Both of these help with happiness. Universal Suffrage is better if you have less of a problem with happiness or haven't built many growth buildings. If your happiness is appalling, then pick up either Capitalism or Universal Healthcare as a fourth level one tenet as well as Urbanisation.

Level Three Policy - Freedom

Space Procurements

Cheaper roads and railroads from your UA saves you a little bit of cash which is a mild advantage you have over Babylon and Korea for use of this policy. Being able to purchase Spaceship parts allows you to not have to dedicate as many cities to Spaceship building, which helps in late-game defence.
The Incans by no means excel at faith generation, but it's still very much worth it to grab a religion. If you can't get one in time, don't worry. The main bonuses you're going for don't require you to be the religion's founder, so just favour the religion that has them.


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.

Messenger of the Gods

Cheap routes means this'll come into effect quickly (as there's no need to hold back on road-building for financial reasons.) More science is always good.

Desert Folklore

Why take Desert Folklore? Because of the Petra wonder. A hilly desert area becomes very strong anyway with Petra, but being able to build Terrace Farms gives you tiles with both good food and production. (3 of each once the Terrace Farm's enhanced with the appropriate technology, and that's before taking any mountains into account.) If you're going to be working a lot of tiles, you're going to get a lot of faith.

Goddess of Love

In the early game, you have the problem of ensuring you're getting good city spots while still building tall. This can make happiness quite a concern. A little extra happiness from your larger cities should help to keep expansion rolling.

Fertility Rites

Terrace Farms bring in so much food that you'll really see the difference a 10% growth bonus. As a Pantheon, it'll spread to all the cities you found until you found a religion, so early expansion brings this to maximum early-game potential.



A consistently effective choice. Your very large cities will be a safe source of revenue for buying tiles, buildings or research agreements. Notably, this is the only Founder belief based on population which doesn't require foreign cities to operate - handy as your likely weak faith generation won't be very good at doing that.

Church Property

Often inferior to Tithe due to the need to convert cities rather than just populations, but this can still be a good source of cash.

Interfaith Dialogue

Also a decent choice. If you're up against strong religious players, this is probably better than Tithe, as your own cities will probably be converted to their religion. Interfaith Dialogue is typically more effective on larger cities, and yours are massive.


Swords into Plowshares

The obvious choice, capitalising on high food production. Just don't go into lots of wars.

Religious Community

Sacrificing potential Mines for Terrace Farms may arguably hurt your production (see the Terrace Farm section for an explanation on why it might not.) Luckily, tall cities gain the most from this belief, putting your cities back on par with other places and putting you well on the way for the eventual Spaceship.

Feed the World

Missing out on Swords into Plowshares? Feed the World will nudge your food production up that little bit higher, though the need to build Shrines and Temples is a problem.


Not nearly as strong as Swords into Plowshares or Religious Community but more useful than many alternatives, Guruship takes advantage of the fact large cities tend to have specialists present, and gives you a little production which is useful no matter your path.


Religious Texts

A great way to keep your faith from being overwhelmed by others without having to spend faith on Missionaries (thus potentially freeing up more faith later for buying Great People.)

Itinerant Preachers

If you're taking Tithe, you want your religion to have a presence in as many cities as possible, even if it's not dominant. Otherwise, this could help back up your religious pressure between distant cities, keeping your own cities in your own faith.

Defender of the Faith

If hill-settling and high-strength cities weren't enough, add a 25% bonus on top. It'll be hard for those militaristic enemies to get at you now.
World Congress
Cheap roads and railroads combined with trading posts where farms usually would be gives you a fair amount of cash, maybe to bribe a City-State or two with.

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 someone wants to implement Arts 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 Arts Funding on the table. Note also that voting choices can vary depending on your game.

Arts Funding

High priority
Vote no

Cultural Heritage Sites

Medium-High priority
Vote no

This'll help cultural players more than it helps you.

Embargo City-States

Low priority

No need to anger anyone over this one.

Historical Landmarks

Medium priority
Vote no

International Games

Medium priority
Vote no

International Space Station

Very High priority
Vote yes

All that science and production is not something you want to miss. If it passes, drop everything (aside spaceship building or defence if you're at war) to get the wonder.

Natural Heritage Sites

Low priority
Vote no unless you have a Natural Wonder of your own

Nuclear Non-Proliferation

High priority
Vote yes

The last thing you want is everyone nuking your huge cities to oblivion. Ban them early and keep them banned forever.

Scholars in Residence

High priority
Vote no

Sciences Funding

High priority
Vote yes

This'll aid you at getting those handy Great Engineers or Scientists.

Standing Army Tax

Medium priority
Vote yes

Your UA will let you defend fairly well with a minimal force, (as you can move through your own lands pretty well,) so higher maintenance is no great harm for you.

World's Fair

Low priority
Vote no
The Incans don't have the world's greatest production, but they're not bad either. Here's a selection of the best wonders to pick up if you have the chance.

Ancient Era

Great Library

Gives a huge early-game boost to science. Seeing as that's the path you're likely to be heading, it's a good idea if you can build it fast enough. The competition is fierce, though, so if your starting area's poor on production, skip it.

Temple of Artemis

Faster ranged unit production could be used to churn out Slingers, but the main reason for getting this is the 10% food bonus (the description says "growth", but it actually affects base food.) It's a cheap Wonder on the whole, which is a plus.

Classical Era

Great Wall

You already have a speed advantage on your own land with hills. But why not bring that further? Now, enemy mounted units will be impractically slow. This is the only wonder that obseletes, though, and there are other similar-era wonders that are of higher priority like Petra.

Hanging Gardens

Because you should focusing on stacked growth bonuses already to make the most of Terrace Farms, it makes the Hanging Gardens go further, too. Preferably, this should go in your capital due to Tradition policies that focus on it and the fact your capital may not start near mountains for Terrace Farms' full potentials.


Desert hill tiles gain the most out of Petra, gaining a base yield of 1 food and 3 production. Desert hills near mountains become extremely good tiles. Know your map early to find a good Petra location, as in Incan hands, you could have one of the game's most powerful cities. Not to mention the free Caravan, which you can use for extra gold or food (and production later on.)

It's not a bad idea to build the National College and Oxford University in your Petra city (provided it's next to a mountain so it can also have an Observatory) as you can take advantage of the massive growth and huge number of specialists that way. Place Academies on flat tiles.

Above: Get a good Petra spot, focus your Workers there so you get strong Terrace Farms and grow the city quickly (send in some trade routes to help) so it's ready to build Petra. Once you've got it, the food and production is immense.

Medieval Era

Angkor Wat

Why get Angkor Wat? Because, as described in the section with the Tradition opener, your cities' cultural tile acquisitions tend to be towards resources, not strong hill tiles. Use the cheaper cultural acquisition so you don't need to buy so many resource tiles and the cheaper purchasing to get more of those hills under your control.

Machu Picchu

City Connection gold is based on population, which is typically better for wide empires as the first points of population grow quickly. However, Terrace Farms give consistently high growth which makes this wonder very good indeed. Plus, settling near mountains means you can probably start building it as soon as it comes (or pretty soon after.)

Renaissance Era

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Having lots of specialists will generate Great People rapidly. Might as well add to this! The free Great Person can mean lots more production or science for a city (Academies near an Observatory city are very powerful)

Porcelain Tower

Signing research agreements is easy when you've been playing peacefully, not expanding wide too much and have cash from cheap roads to afford them. And even if you still can't make them, the free Great Scientist will come in handy.

Modern Era

Statue of Liberty (Freedom Only)

With so many specialists from a high population, you'll rake in the production. A must-have wonder on the way to building the spaceship.


A source of extra gold in the late-game will help greatly with Space Procurements. Meanwhile, the culture helps defend against those annoying Civs with lots of tourism.

Atomic Era

Great Firewall

Tall, science-rich cities have massive potential for enemy Spies. Find whichever city you have with the highest science output, and build the Great Firewall in it to stop enemies seizing your technology advantage. It also helps slow down cultural players on their path to victory by denying the advantages of the Internet from being used against you.

Information Era

Hubble Telescope

While most of your cities will have great growth, they may not necessarilly have exceptional production due to a focus on Terrace Farms rather than Mines (though, again, the Terrace Farm section also states why that may not be the case.) The exception to the rule is probably your capital, which is likely to lack mountains and thus the hills in the area will probably be used for production rather than food. Build the Hubble Telescope there, and the rest of your cities will gain in that final push for victory.
Pitfalls to Avoid
While a relatively easy nation to pick up and play, it's nonetheless quite possible to get things wrong as the Incans.

Putting your faith in Slingers

It's not the end of the world if you never build any Slingers. Their bonus uses random chance, so it's not reliable. Never go on the offensive against another Civ with Slingers due to their lower base strength.

Avoiding settling adjacent to a mountain

It's better to found a city adjacent to a mountain than not, even if that involves giving up a decent Terrace Farm spot. +50% science from Observatories is too good to pass up.

Confusing food with growth

As mentioned before. Food grows your cities, but also acts as a cap on the maximum size of your cities. Growth bonuses will speed up city growth (obviously) but they do not increase the total amount of food a city has. Growth bonuses do not increase a city's maximum size.

Neglecting luxuries

I'm guilty of this. The problem is, the best city spots for Terrace Farms are often full of hills and mountains, and lack luxury resources. Ignoring them will prove detrimental to your happiness, and unhappiness means slow city growth. Sometimes, you have to settle for something less than the best just to get those luxuries.

A possible exception is a Petra city - you want that to be as strong as possible, so getting lots of mountain-adjacent desert hills is your priority.

Huge road detours to save cash

It might be tempting to save every penny by making sure roads follow hills. However, a road solely following hills just for the purpose of saving money on maintenance ignores the original point of roads - to move units around faster. If you're being attacked in a less defended area, you'll want the rest of your army to be able to reach there in time, not have to run around half a continent!

Founding mountain cities really far apart

This links on to the previous two points - you shouldn't only consider Terrace Farm potential (hence you shouldn't found cities huge distances apart just for that) but, more importantly, cities far apart are difficult to defend. Usually, the best thing to do is to find a good mountain range and settle multiple cities around it. If there's only sparse occasional mountains, get a city there and some more to link them up.

Leaving growth completely unchecked

This is the toughest point to make. Having huge growth in the early game is very useful to fill up your cities' working areas early, and in the mid-game, fills up specialist slots. The problem is, really huge cities will just spam unemployed citizens. As such, until you have Secularism from the Rationalism tree and/or the Statue of Liberty wonder, it may be best to slow down the growth of these multimillion cities in favour of less-huge cities which can use your happiness for more productive ends.

Once you have the Statue of Liberty, your unemployed citizens will be worth 2 production, and Secularism adds 2 science, hence making unlimited city growth fairly useful once more. After all, all that production will get Spaceship parts up quickly.
Make flutes out of his arms: The Counter-Strategies
No-one can build a bigger city than the Incans in mountainous terrain. But their heavy reliance on such lands will be their undoing. Any coastal cities they have will be pretty vulnerable, for example, as their uniques offer them absolutely no martime advantages.

Playing against the Great Andean Road

Incans defend well on their own ground with better movement in hilly areas. However, come into open terrain or forested flat land and the advantage is gone. Particularly later in the game, with Artillery and fast units as run-in-run-out spotters, you can attack cities safely in open terrain away from all those hills. Alternatively, you can fire over those mountains they like to hide behind so much by that point.

Earlier in the game, use the predictable nature of hills in Incan land to your advantage. Units with rough-terrain promotions will be particularly effective, while you can still utilise the defensive bonus of their hills to make your fights last longer.

The road-maintenance part of the trait encourages extra-long routes, possibly between dispersed cities. Pillaging routes outside their lands is a way to cut off cash for a few turns without going into war. Even better, you could choke off that route by planting a city there if you're a wider-building player.

Playing against Slingers

The unique promotion Slingers has doesn't work on ranged attacks, making them an easy target for your own Archers and Chariot Archers.

Aside from that, you could use the retreat mechanic to ruin their army's composition. Standard Melee units in particular have a high chance of forcing a retreat. Getting behind the Slinger (or promoted Slinger) lets you push the unit towards the rest of your army!

Playing against Terrace Farms

Why are Unique Tile Improvements better to play against than Unique Buildings? Because you can pillage them and take them for yourself, that's why.

Let's look at pillaging. Mountains make it harder to reach your pillaging unit, too (especially if the city's on one size of a range and your unit's on the other.) Doing this could lead Incan cities into starvation with the colossal amount of food lost, which certainly puts a dampener on their plans.

Now onto taking the Terrace Farms for yourself. There's often a lack of mountain clusters in the game which makes Incan city placement predictable. If you plant a city nearby, you can keep an army there ready to take the city as soon as they've built a few of those food factories.

One crafty trick if you don't want to go to war is to take luxuries relatively near mountain ranges, but not the ranges themselves. This steers the Incans into settling sub-optimum cities which may lack happiness from all the missing luxuries. Let their excessive growth be their downfall! Of course, you could just take the ranges themselves, but you may face an Incan army with a tech advantage.

Mountain settling and high growth itself promotes science building, but this could come at the expense of Wonder building. Particularly if you're a cultural player, consider taking some of what would be their major wonders (e.g. Porcelain Tower, Temple of Artemis)

A point about Carthage

Counter-strategies to the Incans wouldn't be complete without Carthage, their worst nightmare. If you're playing Carthage, you can get a mounted unit over a mountain and pillage in the same turn - on large mountain ranges, they'll probably not be able to react before you can pull back your unit again. As pillaging non-road improvements heals health, you can do this even on thick tile ranges (as you recover some of the health lost from staying on a mountain.)

Besides that, you can easily surround cities which to other Civs would be chokepoints - thus the Incans may be prone to neglecting defence in those areas.

Strategy by Style

Early or Mid-game Aggressors

Force the Inca to play on your terms - lure their units into open terrain. Plant Archers on hills - it not only allows them to shoot in other hills and forests, but it also provides defensive bonuses. Take advantage of rough terrain-focused promotions.

Late-game Warmongers

Artillery units are your friends. Additionally, hills and mountains do little good against stacks of planes. When the city's weakened, move in for the kill with an armoured unit, overcoming movement limitations of hills.

Cultural Players

As mentioned before, steal their best wonders before they find the time to build them.

Diplomatic Players

As a scientific nation, City-States may be neglected somewhat as they provide little directly helpful (the cost of bribing Maritime City-States isn't worth it when you've got Terrace Farms.) They won't compete directly with you, but they may threaten you with fast technological development. Cover the development gap with a unique unit from a militaristic City-State if you can manage it to avoid them invading you with their tech advantage, or vote through the World Congress decisions they don't want.

Scientific Players

The Inca can't have all the mountains, you need them for Observatories yourself! Plant cities near mountain clusters they're likely to settle on, if possible. That means that if they build a city full of Terrace Farms, you can easily take all that food (and Observatory spots) for yourself.
Other Guides

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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Zigzagzigal  [author] Aug 28, 2016 @ 8:56am 
Divine Inspiration is viable , but I'd typically get a faith Pantheon over God of the Open Sky so increase the odds of scoring a religion.
ShinigamiKenji Aug 27, 2016 @ 10:59pm 
Is the Divine Inspiration belief viable playing as the Inca? With cities so tall, hill emphasis and all that science, I'd guess they might be able to build quite a number of them. Could synergise well with Religious Community due to the production bonus.

By the way, I found in my game that some hills near mountain ranges have Sheep, around 2-3 per city. Hence, Stables alleviated early production issues without hurting growth, though I missed some good Terrace Farms.

I don't know if it applies in general, or may just be a coincidence, but I think it might be worth pointing out. If it's true, the Culture-from-Pastures belief might be viable in some situations.
Zigzagzigal  [author] Jun 12, 2016 @ 7:55am 
If you're going for a domination victory, you might as well go for it. Otherwise, Education and Astronomy are bigger priorities than Chivalry due to the science bonuses, and the Alhambra's a pretty competitive wonder so you'll often miss it if you put off Chivalry.
Dakir Jun 12, 2016 @ 4:27am 
Hey, can I just start by saying I'm loving the guides, they're pretty insightful and point out little things I'd otherwise miss, they've massively improved my gameplay since I found them, so thanks.
Anyway, I was just going to say have you thought of adding alhambra to the wonders at all? I undderstand that there are more important things to go for, but it comes along at a convenient time and you need the tech anyway. It just seems to synergise really well with the ua and start bias, and the inca are never really lacking the production for an extra wonder.
Just curious as to your thought. :steamhappy:
Zigzagzigal  [author] May 13, 2015 @ 12:59am 
It's partially about how skewed the Inca are to the victory type (their diplomacy, war and even culture potentials make them not necessarily a single-minded science Civ,) and partly because there's Civs around that are visibly even better at science (Babylon and Korea.)
xX_King_Snow_Xx May 12, 2015 @ 4:10pm 
I don't think it is just me, as there are others who would strongly agree: I do think that you should consider bumping the Inca to a 10/10 on science, as the biggest factor of science is definitely population. When they get going with those tall cities, they are hard to stop.
SpikerJG Mar 21, 2015 @ 3:01pm 
Great guide!
Gabadur Feb 3, 2015 @ 6:12am 
Ok Thanks, might do commerce between tradition and rationalism, kind of syncs with the andean road.
Zigzagzigal  [author] Feb 3, 2015 @ 3:08am 
Tested it and it actually works! Usually, these things don't stack like that.
Gabadur Feb 2, 2015 @ 9:41am 
Hey what about the commerce tree along with the policy that makes roads and railroads cheaper. Doesnt that make roads maintenance free?