Barbarians encompass various hostile groups unaffiliated with either civilizations or city-states. They are based in outposts found within unclaimed territory, and their colors are dark red and black.
Barbarian units are mostly identical to normal units, with the respective abilities and particularities, but there are small differences:
- Early cavalry outposts will employ the Barbarian Horseman - a weaker version of the normal Horseman - and the ranged Barbarian Horse Archer. Both of these have lower Combat Strength and Ranged Strength than their counterparts and a Movement of 3.
- Barbarian units can't Heal unless they Pillage an improvement.
Note that fighting Barbarians will only earn Experience normally for your units until they reach Level 1; afterwards each encounter will only earn 1 XP.
If a city's Amenities fall too low and it goes into Revolt status, various Barbarian units (a.k.a. "rebels") will spawn around the city limits until its condition improves. The same will happen if an enemy Spy performs successfully a Recruit Partisans mission in one of your cities. Although they are not technically Barbarians and don't belong to an outpost, experience gained from them is still limited.
Barbarians come from outposts, which have a chance of appearing randomly in any land tile that is not in a unit's field of vision. This also includes Tundra and Snow terrain, which are rarely inhabited; that's why it is common to find outposts in the far north and south until very late in the game. As in earlier Civilization games, new Barbarian outposts generally will spawn in the spots most suitable for founding cities within any area outside a civilization's field of view. Each outpost starts with a fortified anti-cavalry unit (Spearman, Pikeman, etc.), which stays there as a permanent guardian; and a Scout, which will roam far and wide in search of places to raid.
Each Barbarian unit belongs to its own home outpost (the one which spawned it), and won't stray too far from it. The Scout unit makes an exception - it will roam around until it reaches the coast, or finds a suitable target for raids.
Outposts are further affected by location and strategic resources. Depending on where they are located, we can say that there are three distinct types of outposts:
- Melee outposts spawn on most inland tiles and will produce run-of-the-mill land units. These are usually the least trouble.
- Cavalry outposts spawn near Horses and will employ mounted units in their assaults (as well as Barbarian Horse Archers). These are quite fast and, especially in the early game, could turn into a nightmare for an ill-prepared force.
- Naval outposts spawn on coastal tiles and will create naval units (equal to those available to the civilization with the most advanced tech).
Barbarian naval units will menace your coastline, destroying naval improvements and attacking hapless land units which stray too close to the coast. It's important to maintain a navy to keep them off your back, but the best way to stop these attacks is to destroy the coastal outposts nearby. If left unchecked, these outposts will produce large numbers of Quadriremes which will not only harry your coastal lands, but may also overwhelm any lone ships you send to deal with them in the early game.
A civilization will earn a Gold reward for dispersing a Barbarian outpost, in addition to the benefit of stopping it from spawning more Barbarian units. The method for this is simple: any land unit must enter the tile of the outpost, or a naval raider unit must perform a Coastal Raid. You'll have to defeat the guardian unit first, of course (or force it off the tile with a Winged Hussar). There may also be a chance that the guard will move away from the outpost to attack a nearby unit (especially ranged ones), leaving the tile exposed for a capture.
Outposts do not overwrite resources should one spawn over a resource. Once the outpost is cleared, the resource will reappear.
Unlike in earlier games, Barbarians have a more devious play-style. Like other civilizations, Barbarian outposts will send Scouts (for land tribes) or Galleys (for naval tribes) to survey the land. If the scouts find a city, they will attempt to "report" back to their home outpost (meaning they will try to move back to it); if successful, the outpost will launch a wave of Barbarian raiders that will attack the city. This wave usually consists of three to six units (depending on game difficulty), which spawn in successive turns after the return of the Scout. The flip side is that if the Scout doesn't manage to report, the outpost won't spawn any additional units, even if attacked.
Barbarian units will target the nearest city their Scout has spotted. They will maraud around it, pillaging improvements, plundering Trade Route, trying to capture civilians, and attacking your military units. On lower difficulties they usually won't attack the city itself. On higher ones, though (Emperor and higher), they will attack the city, especially if there's more than one unit around. If Barbarians manage to capture a city, unlikely as that is, they Raze it instantly - and if this is your last or only city, it's game over! However, Barbarians cannot capture a civilization's original Capital; any attack that would otherwise capture it instead reduces its HP to 0.
Barbarian Scouts behave differently - they rarely attack, but will capture civilians and plunder Trade Routes. Generally, they prefer to head back to their home outpost as soon as they spot a target for a raid.
When an outpost is cleared, all remaining units, even Scouts, that belonged to that outpost become very aggressive and attack everything in sight.
In Civilization VI speed is paramount when dealing with Barbarians. If you don't move fast, you'll soon see a party of Barbarians at your borders, ready to destroy your improvements or conquer your city. This is why it's important to periodically survey the land around your civilization, destroying outposts before they become a threat. Always try to kill any Barbarian Scouts as soon as you see them, and if you don't manage to keep the Scout from reporting, prepare for a heated battle immediately.
Cavalry outposts are usually the most annoying kinds to deal with. Their units are fast, tough, and ignore zone of control, which makes them very difficult to counter in the early game. If you notice such an outpost, train some Spearmen ASAP, because they will be of immense help. Then make it a priority to destroy the outpost.
Naval outposts, however, can be an even greater nightmare, especially if they are found on small islands or in narrow straits where you can't approach by land. You will then have to deal with them via ships, and this could turn problematic because you will be faced with (usually) multiple Quadriremes, which will be troublesome for Galleys. The best thing to do, if you haven't particularly developed your own maritime abilities, is to leave the outpost alone, if you can, until you get your own Quadriremes...or, alternatively, build up a fleet of at least three Galleys, then attack carefully and attempt to overwhelm each enemy ship separately, using formation bonuses. And if you can't ignore the outpost long enough, you should prepare to fight it with mass ranged units.
Historically, barbarians came in two types: those who wandered about and those that settled down. The latter became “civilized” and built cities, empires and such. The former plagued the latter, raiding the borders and upsetting the empire’s citizens. Generally organized along tribal lines, these barbarians – far from the “noble savage” stereotype, most of them really were brutal, cruel and warlike – were nomads, establishing temporary outposts from which to attack civilization and each other as well. When the fun of all that rampaging wore off, or when an organized army showed up and thrashed them, the surviving barbarians would pack up and move on, to establish another outpost sometime later somewhere else. Since it was generally a good idea – if one were a barbarian – not to be easily found by the civilized, the outposts over time were located in more inaccessible (and defensible) places … until, of course, there were no such places left.
- The Barbarians' symbol is a horned helmet.