Sid Meier's Civilization V

Sid Meier's Civilization V

322 ratings
Thinking Strategies to Instantly Improve your Gameplay
By Advantage
Thinking Strategies to Instantly Improve your Gameplay
After reading this guide, I hope you will have a better understanding of how this game works and thus enjoy the richness of this game. My approach will be mostly theoretical with some real examples and illustrations to support it. I urge you to try out every new or unfamiliar concepts that you see here as it deepens your understanding of them. I hope that by learning them, can better appreciate this game.

Generally, this guide is good for beginners to intermediates. Ideally, my target audience is the group of players who are somewhat familiar with the game but just can't seem to excel in it. For beginners, it's also for you as it's good to start learning from what I think are the two most important concepts of this game.

Many Choices, Many Possibilities
Let's start from the beginning of the game. You have to make some big decisions right at turn 0.

When the game has loaded, you start with a warrior and a settler. You have two units. I list two possible rational choices you can make at this turn 0.

1. Select your settler and settle immediately. Move your warrior towards fog of war.

2. Move your warrior towards fog of war. Select your settler and settle your capital.

Consider these two options. Which option is better? In the past, I always did option 1. But as I played on, I wondered how I can make improve my capital starting from turn 0 and the answer is option 2. This is because by moving my warrior towards fog of war or up a hill, I can see my starting area better and thus make a more informed decision about where to settle my capital. This has a long term effect which will be elaborated in my 2nd point. So if you manage to choose a better spot for your capital right from the start, you theoretically have an advantage over your opponents who chose option 1.

The next choice you have to make is where to move your warrior. Here are some possibilities.

1. Move your warrior up to a nearby visible hill to scout the area around you. Warrior only moves 1 tile

2. Move your warrior on flat ground to scout the area. Warrior moves 2 flat ground tiles.

3. Move your warrior on flat ground to scout the area, and then spend its second movement point to move it up the hill.

Each choice has its merits and for any choice you make, you ought to have a specific goal in mind. What do you want to achieve in the long run? At turn 0, the turn timer (for multiplayer) doesnt start ticking so you have almost unlimited time to do all your planning (though your friends will be complaining).

The important question to ask when presented with these choices is "Which is the best choice?"

The answer is "It depends." In order to answer this question, you ought to analyze your area and set your goals clearly.

For example, if my starting area doesnt look too good, I would choose option 3 as it usually reveals the most number of hidden tiles so I can settle my capital at a better location.

For exploration, option 3 covers more ground at lesser number of turns than option 1. Of course, a scout works better but a warrior can do the same also if used correctly. If your warrior encouters multiple hills ahead, it's better to head in another direction of unexplored tiles where there are linking flat grounds than to bash through the hills. Then, send a scout to the hills later. This is my suggested approach.

The next choice you have to make is what to produce. Here are the production possibilities

1. Worker
2. Warrior
3. Scout
4. Monument

Again, each choice has its merits and you should align your choices to your goals. For example, if you have a fabulous start like wheat around you, an early worker to improve it is a good idea. A monument allows you to get your favourite policy faster.

Here is a simple scenerio. When playing duel size maps in multiplayer, land is very small and good land is scarce. Thus, building a monument right from the start allows you to gain the free settler from liberty policy as early as possible. And using this free settler, I would grab the good land before my opponent does.

Usually, I wont produce a warrior unless its Aztec jaguar warriors which fight very effectively in early game. A scout allows you to gain sight of the map faster and possibly gather intelligence about your opponents or even disrupt their activities if you decide to go aggressive.

Note how I make my choices according to my goals in mind. They can be short term, like securing key terrain as soon as possible, or even long term like improving food output of my capital to make it fat at later stages.

The last choice you have to make is which technology to choose. Here are some possible scenerios.

1. You are Spain and looking for wonders. +4 faith from wonders pantheon is the one belief that you must grab it before your opponents does (if they know how powerful it is). So going pottery and straight for a shrine helps. Alternatively, you can get 2 scouts to find religious city state for an instant pantheon if you find it first but it is not always guaranteed.

2. Go straight for archery to get some archers on the ground to put pressure on your opponents or get barb kills to gain city state favour fast.

3. Animal husbandry to discover horses which are valuable tiles.

4. Mining technology followed by mansory allows you to rush the pyramids if it is a significant wonder to your game plan.

Notice how from turn 0, you have so many choices to make and each has its own outcome. Ultimately, you want to align the outcome of your choies with your goals in mind. That is the gist of this section. Notice how it becomes increasingly complex turn after turn when you have even more choices to make. Dont be afraid of it but embrace it. Take your time to think it through and enjoy the process.

Everyone has a different start. Every map will be different. But no matter what the circumstances, a prudent player can make the best out of his situation and rise above others. This is a hallmark of a good civ v player.
The Accumulation Principle.
We usually encouter this principle in our lives, even when we are not aware. In finance, compound interest exponentially increases your principle sum. We can also observe a similar effect in Civilization V.

Consider this statement.

What is the difference between building a granary at turn 10 and at turn 20?

While it may not seem significant, calculate how much difference in food you can get and think about what it means.

Assume you dont have any bonus granary tiles like wheat deer or banana. By having a granary at turn 20 instead of turn 10, you lose out 10 X 2 = 20 units of food which a single growth in population, and this extra citizen yields more resources depending on what you assign it to. And this additional resources could be a little more gold, production, or food. And these can help you buy or produce buildings faster like a water mill (+2 food, +1 production), which increases your food in capital.

In summary, the earlier you get essential buildings, the better. The effect builds up over time so you become more powerful later on.

This is why people recommend rushing The Hanging Gardens, because it gives big bonus amount of food to give a big advantage to population, or the Great Library, as it allows you to research technology faster and use them to improve your empire faster.

There is a wide variety of buildings that you can produce later on in game. Does it matter which order you produce them? It does, because of the accumulation principle. Going back to the previous section, you should make a choice of which order to produce in order to achieve what you want.

For instance, choosing between a circus or a workshop, is about whether you like to get a golden age faster, or get your empire out of unhappiness for temporary relief, or boosting your city's production.

I believe that by prioritizing production buildings, it is the most efficient method because with better production, you can produce others faster. Hence, I like to build a workshop as soon as I got metal casting.

When I say efficient, it means getting the greatest amount of things done in the least number of turns. Production is probably the most important resource you need if attaining maximum efficiency is your no.1 goal. You can also create army fast and build wonders quickly.

Food is the resource you should aim for if you want to stay relevant in the game because more food means more population and more population means faster science research.

Ideally, it is best to have all resources but we know that is not always possible in scarce land. Hence, I recommend going for a combination of food and production as one cannot do without the other. A healthy balance allows you to stay powerful and relevant in game.

By combining these two powerful principles, you are one step closer to creating the empire of your dreams. I hope you have enjoyed reading this guide and good luck in trying them out.
< >
srhubb Aug 26, 2017 @ 12:07pm 
@Advantage, well written, well thought out.
Good job, just what my friend who is starting his first Civ play needs.
Advantage  [author] Jul 7, 2017 @ 10:05pm 
Fully agreed with you. It is difficult to precisely optimize every move in multiplayer, though it can be done theoretically. That's why we rely on instinct, or our approximations guided by experience to make the closest possible optimal choice.
A Pleb Among Noobs Jul 4, 2017 @ 12:27pm 
The accumulation principle is a good thing to include. I might add though that if you truly analyze it, you can go insane trying to calculate the opportunity cost of things. In your granary example, by waiting 10 turns to build it, you are missing out on 10 x 2 = 20 food like you said. But you are also missing out on the extra food and/or hammers you get from growing to more tiles faster as well. The exact value of what you're missing out on is very hard to calculate perfectly, especially if you are playing a multiplayer game with a turn timer.
donMan Jul 28, 2015 @ 4:39pm 
Now I can play more strategically with this way of thinking! Thanks for the tips!
Crystal Rose May 11, 2015 @ 4:23pm 
Great guide. Well done! Thanks for posting.
Stinium Ruide Dec 22, 2014 @ 5:42am 
I feel that being impulsive in civ will lead to general mistakes and losses. Thinking before acting is crucial in a game like civ. More challenging games like AoE2HD that is based on time is much more stressful. I always ensure that my moves have a purpose, before moving them.
stebobibo Aug 5, 2014 @ 9:30am 
Production and happiness are the most important resources in my opinion. Production is important for the reasons the author stated. Happiness is more important than food because food without happiness is useless, whereas happiness without food is still beneficial.

Gold is a wild card resource that can be used for anything. It's very useful for rushing key buildings in a new city to balloon its growth as fast as possible.
Ambermonk Jun 22, 2014 @ 10:59pm 
Nicely done!
Gryphonheart Mar 5, 2014 @ 11:03pm 
Please add more, like mid game and late game decisions and scenarios.
Great guide, has helped me a lot. +1 and to faves.
Georgestephenson Mar 1, 2014 @ 12:35pm 
Good guide.