Civilization 5 – Beginner’s Guide

Civ 5 Logo

Civilization 5 is the most recent installment of the popular strategy series Civilization, where you control a civilization’s journey through the ages, expanding and dealing with conflicts with other civilization, controlled by the AI or other players.

The game is enjoyable for people who like to nurture their civilizations from meager beginnings to world-wide domination. The game can take up many hours of play for finishing an average game, and there are multiple ways of winning the game from what options your choose at the start. There are also a variety of different ways to play the game in this aspect.

This guide hopes to give you a quick overview of how to play the game and what a good start to the game is. From the outset the game looks very complicated and confusing,  since there are multiple factors involved in being successful.

Starting a game

I think its best to start with just a basic game against AI, rather than something like scenarios which are quite difficult for new players. With any game there are multiple difficulty levels which determine resources and how easy it will be for you starting the game. This is one of those games where you should probably use the easiest setting for learning.

There are a few different options for what kind of world you want to play on; map size, map type, weather etc. These are mainly about how you enjoy playing the game. For instance on a Pangaea, its one big continent where everyone starts, so the game is going to be more focused on land combat. With archipelago, lots of islands, there’s going to be more ocean warfare.

Each civilization on that you can choose has specific bonuses, essentially you should pick the civilization which fits well with your playing style, however as a beginner, you can pretty much just pick whatever you fancy and it should be fine.

Playing the Game – First Turns

Civ 5 First Turn

When you start a basic game, you’ll have 2 units, a settler and a warrior. Units each have their specific role, and here the first two are quite obvious. The settler can be deployed on a spot to consume themselves and build a city. The warrior is a combat unit that you want to use to explore and defend your city from the early game barbarians.

The game works based on controlling each unit and city you have, then giving the other civilizations a turn to controls theirs. Each unit has a movement range and the ability to do their specialty. However if you move to your max range, the unit doesn’t have the ability to perform another action.

Where you build your cities is very important. Each tile on the game is a certain environment and yields production and food if you own the tile. When you build a city, it will take ownership of all the tiles immediately around it, so those tiles go into your food and production amounts. Therefore you want to settle your city where there is a good mix of food and production, and also possible luxury goods. Luxury goods are on certain tiles, and you can take advantage of them by upgrading the tile later with a worker unit.

Civ 5 Later Turns

At any rate, you want to settle your first city as soon as possible, as cities are the place you produce units and buildings. The sooner you settle a city, the sooner you can build new things!

The first turns make a big impact in the game, because it sets you direct on a certain path. There are two main ways of building a civilization, a small empire and a large empire. Essentially a large empire is always going to be more ideal because of the options you have with more construction and better access to resources. However a large civilization is often hard to manage and generates more problems that a healthy small civilization.  Also if there isn’t much land on the map type, then a smaller civilization is going be more efficient in the long run.

Still, you should always look to expand to at least 4 cities whatever you are doing and improve everything within your ownership.

There are a few different core values that are important in civilization ; food, production, happiness, science, culture and gold. Food lets your city grow and keeps your population fed. Production helps speed up whatever your city is set to produce. Happiness, is a indication of your people’s status and in positive numbers allows your cities to grow at a decent rate, the opposite is true if they are unhappy. Science speeds up the rate at which you learn new sciences. Culture helps expand your borders and contributes to learning new polices. Gold is used to cover maintenance costs, used for bartering deals with other civilizations, and can be spent to completely buy a unit or building without having to wait for it to be produced.

Civ 5 Diplomacy

There a few more dynamics with these values and a few different factors affect each one that you will in time learn, but these are the basic points to remember about them.

Science is very important because with each new discovery gives you new building options and perks. You get to choose which science to work on learning and there is a technology tree that shows you what is required for the next set of sciences. It’s not especially important for beginners to pay too much attention to sciences, as you’ll be wanting to learn everything eventually. It’s essentially easier to always choose the sciences which will be discovered in the quickest time, but pay attention to the perks, since you depending on your situation, one might be very beneficial to you if you learn it before the others.

Civ 5 Science Tree

Policies are their only special sections which you unlock through culture gains. Policies gives special perks and you should work on finishing a certain policy tree before the next, be warned that if you pick certain policy trees, you will be locked out of other ones which conflict with what you’ve chosen. Have a good look at the policies and decide which fits your play-style. I recommend starting with Tradition if you want a small empire or Liberty if you want a large one as your first policies.

Easy starting strategy

First deploy your settler to build your capital in the first or second turn. Use your warrior to explore the immediate area, so you can scout for suitable cities sites, and find special ruins which give you a reward upon reaching them.

Start your first production as a worker. Once he’s built, get him to upgrade tiles in your territory. Second production should be another settler. Once they are reader, deploy him at the nearest recommended location. Now build a scout in your first city and get him exploring more land. Build a worker in your second city and once he’s build get both workers to keep upgrading tiles.

The first buildings you should have are the monument and granary, as they help your cities immensely starting out.  From this point, build some more workers and get Barracks and Libraries in each city.

Things to note

Look to keep your civilization balanced with combat units to protect yourself from other civilization’s aggression and the constant barbarian aggression that you will probably encounter. You may have to build warriors in your first turns if there are a lot of barbarians near you being aggressive.

Civ 5 Combat

Combat is something that seems initially quite complex but essentially a simple paper/rock/scissors affair. Each time you have a unit attack, the game will tell you before you choose to attack, what the chances of victory are. Each unit has an advantage over other types of units, and so its up to you to maneuver your combat units in a way that puts you in the best position after the combat. Pikemen for example do well against mounted units. Mounted units do well against archers and other weak defense units. Archers do well for besieging cities and whittling down the slower melee units. Siege units do very well against cities, but get damaged easily by any combat units. It’s important to note that with melee units every time you attack a unit, it gets the chance to attack back, but when attacking with ranged units there is no counterattack back to you. This means that you can defend cities well with garrisoned ranged units, and having a formation of ranged behind melee in open combat, works very well.

Always keep your values of different things in the positives, if you start to lack in one area, such as happiness, this should be your number one priority(other than defending a city) to solving.

Playing the Game – Later Turns

Civ 5 Much Later

Once you have explored the map and expanded your civilization, you want to start re-focusing about which victory condition will be best for you to go for. There are a multitude of conditions, and based on how well your are currently doing in whichever area, is probably going to be the best one to continue to go for. For example if you have a good army, and have taken the Honor policy, and have the ability to transport that army to the enemy civilizations, then domination might be the best, because as soon as you beginning taking over enemy cities, you start a snowball effects that keeps you in the lead. However this is a gamble, as if your armies are destroyed in their invasion attempt, your own civilization will be left weak for a counter-invasion.


Hopefully this short guide has helped you understand the basics of civilization. The game is very in-depth and will give you hours and hours of engrossed enjoyment. It’s very rewarding to expand and build up your civilization, and win or lose the game is extremely well designed, which is expected because it’s followed the same great formula from Civilization 1 and added some other great aspects.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your world wide domination!








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