Ancient Ruins in Civilization V are remnants of extinct civilizations, mementos of past greatness and order amid the chaos of the wilderness. Budding "contemporary" civilizations may learn a lot from these places, which will help them in their early stages. Not to be confused with City Ruins.
In order to "activate" an Ancient Ruin, a player needs to move any land unit (including a civilian unit) onto the tile that contains the ruin. Alternatively, if a civilization's territory expands onto the ruins tile, it will also activate it.
When activated, Ancient Ruins give a reward to the owner of the unit. This is a one-time bonus, after which the ruin disappears. The possible rewards from activating an Ancient Ruin are numerous:
- A crudely drawn map of the surroundings of the ruins: Reveals most of the tiles nearby. Note that the center of the revealed space is not the ruins tile, but somewhere 3-4 tiles away in a random direction.
- Evidence of Barbarian activity: Reveals location of one or more nearby Barbarian encampments.
- Secrets of the ancients: Gives you a free Ancient Era technology. Note that you can only receive a technology that is available to research at the time you visit the ruins; in other words, all prerequisites for the technology must be met already. You can't, for example, get Writing if you haven't researched Pottery yet.
- Survivors, which join the civilization: Adds 1 Population to any one of your cities.
- Advanced weaponry: Gives a free upgrade to the unit used to activate the ruins.
- Gold treasure: You receive 50-100 Gold.
- Cultural artifacts: You receive 20 Culture.
- Religious artifacts: You receive 30-40 Faith.
- An ancient prophecy: You receive 80 Faith. Note that the civilization must have founded a Pantheon before this reward becomes possible and that it stops occurring after you've founded a religion.
On the easier difficulties, two additional awards are possible:
The choice of reward is always random, but it seems that sometimes some ruins are bound to a particular benefit - for example, unit upgrade - and will always bestow it upon activation. Also, some benefits can only be activated after receiving another Ancient Ruin benefit - the Prophecy benefit, for example, may appear only after getting the Religious artifacts from another ruin.
Finally, it seems that all Ancient Ruins have the full range of possible rewards; however, you cannot get a reward that you have already obtained from the last two ruins you found. This is best seen when using the Pathfinder's ability, which gives direct access to each particular ruin's list of rewards.
Thanks to the new archaeological system in Brave New World, Ancient Ruins will later spawn Antiquity Sites in the locations where ruins were encountered and activated, so Archaeologists may return there later to dig and uncover more valuable secrets.
The discovery of Ancient Ruins is vital for the early development of a civilization. The bonuses might seem small, but for the very beginning of the game they are very significant. A single additional citizen may considerably speed up the development of a city in the first 10-30 turns. The Culture bonus may instantly give a Social Policy (or speed up acquisition of the next one). The Faith bonus may allow for starting a Pantheon even without constructing any Faith-generating buildings. Also, upgrading Scouts gives Archers, even at a time the civilization lacks the technology to build any of these yet, while upgrading Warriors yields the more powerful Spearmen, allowing them to fight Barbarians more effectively. And of course, a free technology is always welcome (although it is possible for a technology you've almost finished researching to be completed instantly, wasting some potential).
In Brave New World, the Shoshone civilization's unique unit, the Pathfinder, may choose which of the rewards to activate upon entering the Ancient Ruins. Needless to say, this allows choosing the path of development, although as with normal ruins you cannot choose one that you got in your last two ruins.
All in all, the discovery and activation of Ancient Ruins will give a civilization a crucial advantage in the early game. It should become an integral part of early game exploration, and it's highly recommended, regardless of which civilization you play as, to consider building a Scout first upon settling the capital, and use it along with the initial Warrior unit to explore as far as possible, before having to turn back to defend from Barbarians.
Ancient Ruins are the remains of earlier long-dead civilizations. They are filled with valuable secrets - gold, maps, lost technologies and sometimes even survivors - awaiting discovery by the intrepid explorer. Rich rewards await those who first enter an Ancient Ruin.