City-states make a comeback in Civilization VI, after their introduction in Civilization V. However, the mechanics of interactions with them have been changed considerably, and their importance is somewhat diminished, as Diplomatic Victories (available only in Gathering Storm) now stem from major civilizations voting for you instead. Nevertheless, city-states are an important part of the gameplay and everyone needs to know how to relate to them.
What is a city-state?
A city-state is an AI-controlled entity that represents a small, independent civilization which does not compete for victory but instead complements the world and presents various opportunities for interactions. A set of city-states (or rather, their Settlers) is present at the beginning of the game along with the standard AI- and player-controlled civilizations; the size of the set depends on the map size (see below).
In the Barbarian Clans game mode, additional city-states may be founded throughout the course of the game by enterprising Barbarians if they accumulate enough conversion points. These new city-states are chosen from those that remained outside the initial set, and behave as all other city-states do, despite their different background.
A city-state works like a full civilization in most respects: it develops scientifically and culturally (that is, it will apparently research certain techs which will allow it to progress), it will work its land to gather resources, build tile improvement for the resources, as well as districts corresponding to their type. city-states also produce units, and are able to upgrade them when tech progression allows. However, a city-state cannot found new cities and mainly uses its units for defense and exploration.
Apart from these actions, city-states will mostly keep to themselves, though they can interact with all civilizations in the game and confer special benefits on those with which they have friendly relations. Each city-state can also have a Suzerain, a single civilization with which it has a special relationship; it will do almost anything on its Suzerain's behalf, up to and including going to war with their enemies. A city-state may capture other cities as part of warfare, but it doesn't have any desire to keep them (since this would go against their policy of non-expansionism). If possible, the city-state will raze every captured city.
A city-state's territory expands by 1 tile whenever it receives an Envoy from its Suzerain (or when this Envoy will grant a civilization Suzerain status). Note that borders will not expand for the first Envoy you send to a city-state, even if no other civilization has any Envoys there. Sending Envoy #2 while no other civilization has more than 1 Envoy there will also expand its borders. Free Envoy, like those granted when meeting the first major civilization, Tamar and Rough Rider Teddy's extra Envoy, or Envoy brought by Amani do not expand city-state territory.
Liberating a city-state, an action which grants a civilization free Envoys with it, will also expand its territory, as that civilization is by default the city-state's Suzerain. This expansion can be quite dramatic towards the end of the game, when the liberation grants all of 9 Envoys, potentially adding 9 tiles to the city-state's territory!
As separate political entities, city-states may be conquered and later liberated (see below).
As before, you can choose to court city-states and use their benefits, you can ignore them and concentrate on your rivals, or you can conquer them for their territory. All of these paths will offer different opportunities and consequences.
Gaining influence with city-states has changed significantly in respect to Civilization V. There is no longer an Influence meter for each city-state, and your influence with them does not decay over time. Instead, you can improve your relations with city-states by assigning special units known as Envoys to each one you want to befriend.
- Main article: Envoy (Civ6)
Envoys are diplomats which specialize in city-state relations. They are the vehicle through which you will exercise your influence over these minor civilizations, and get to use their considerable benefits. There are many ways to manipulate and enhance the Envoy system, as you can read in the parent article.
The main way to earn Envoys is through accumulation of Influence Points. However, the Influence point meter in Civilization VI is a global one, measuring the general diplomatic power of your civilization, rather than an individual one with each separate city-state. Its main function is to generate (or train) Envoys, which you can then distribute as you wish. Each government type grants a certain number of Influence Points per turn, and a different Influence meter size; upon filling the meter, you gain a set number of Envoys. Look at the upper right corner of the government to check the exact details. There are three different levels of influence gain (four in Gathering Storm), depending on how advanced your government is:
- Level 1 (Oligarchy, Autocracy, Classical Republic): 3 Influence Points per turn; 1 Envoy granted at 100 points.
- Level 2 (Monarchy, Theocracy, Merchant Republic): 5 Influence Points per turn; 2 Envoys at 150 points.
- Level 3 (Democracy, Fascism, Communism): 7 Influence Points per turn; 3 Envoys at 200 points.
- Level 4 (Corporate Libertarianism, Digital Democracy, Synthetic Technocracy): 9 Influence Points per turn, 4 Envoys at 250 points.
As mentioned above, certain abilities and policy cards may speed up the accumulation of Influence Points (Charismatic Leader, Gunboat Diplomacy). Also, the Consulate and Chancery in the Diplomatic Quarter district are great for speeding up Influence points generation.
City-states regularly have certain requests or desires which your civilization can fulfill; in return, you receive 1 free Envoy with the city-state. These "quests" are given upon meeting the city-state; when completed or failed, another quest will be given upon change of the World Era. Uncompleted quests will carry over, potentially until the end of the game.
Quests vary in nature, but they fall into several broad categories:
- Train a certain unit. (Will be lost if the unit becomes obsolete.)
- Construct a certain district.
- Trigger a Eureka for a certain tech. (Can be completed by a Spy that succeeds at a Steal Tech Boost mission. Will be lost if you research the tech.)
- Trigger an Inspiration for a certain civic. (Will be lost if you unlock the civic.)
- Recruit a certain type of Great Person.
- Convert the city-state to your religion. (Given only if you have founded a religion.)
- Send a Trade Route to the city-state.
- Destroy a Barbarian Outpost within 5 tiles of the city-state. (Will be lost if anyone else destroys it first.)
As mentioned above, it is possible to fail quests; this usually happens if the target is no longer valid (e.g. the target tech or civic is discovered). A new quest will then appear upon switching World Eras.
Quests are also cancelled if you declare war on the city-state, or vice versa. After peace is reinstated, a new quest will be given as normal at the start of the next World Era.
In Rise and Fall, Governor Amani (a.k.a. The Diplomat) turns into an important agent who can influence a city-state. She can be assigned to any city-state you're not at war with, and when established will automatically raise your Envoy count there by 2, or even double your current number of Envoys (if she has Puppeteer). Her other abilities allow a player to use the city-state's resources even without being its Suzerain. Use Amani in a specific city-state critical to your overall strategy, or move her around to simply explore the map and gain Era Score.
Special benefits are conferred to any player that has a particular number of Envoys:
- One Envoy: Confers a bonus yield to the player's Capital.
- Three Envoys: Confers additional bonus yields to cities with a particular kind of district. (In Rise and Fall, this requires a Tier 1 building to be present in the district.) Also enables Suzerain status if the player has more Envoys than any other civilization.
- Six Envoys: Doubles the previous district-based bonus. (In Rise and Fall, this requires a Tier 2 building to be present in the district.)
- One Envoy: Grants +1 yield (+2 Gold for trade city-states) in the first building of the respective district and Capital.
- Three Envoys: Grants +2 yield (+4 Gold for trade city-states) in the second building of the respective district and Consulate building.
- Six Envoys: Grants +3 yield (+6 Gold for trade city-states) in the third building of the respective district and Chancery building.
The types of the yields conferred depend on the type of the city-state. Check the table below for more information on that.
As for diplomatic relations, the only possible statuses a city-state may have with a particular civilization are Neutral, Suzerain and At war. A player becomes the Suzerain of a city-state when he or she has a minimum of three Envoys with it, and more Envoys with it than any other civilization. On the other hand, a city-state cannot declare war on its own unless you provide it with a Casus Belli, such as consciously violating its borders or attacking its units. Also, a city-state will automatically declare war on any party its Suzerain is at war with. At this point it will stop providing any benefits to you (meaning that you will lose the additional yields it confers), but you will retain your Envoys with it.
In the beginning of the game all city-states are Neutral toward all players, since no one has sent any Envoys yet. As the game develops and civilizations start their diplomatic activity, each city-state will acquire a Suzerain. That Suzerain may change numerous times as other civilizations also court the city-state. However, if two or more civilizations are tied in having the highest number of Envoys with a city-state, it won't choose anyone for Suzerain and will be Neutral towards them.
Note that the Loyalty system introduced in Rise and Fall will not usually influence a city-state. While it is possible to turn a city-state into your empire peacefully via exerting Loyalty, to do so is extremely difficult, as the city-state has a large counter against foreign pressure.
Conquering and liberating city-states
City-states often become targets of bigger civilizations which want to expand, and unless they have a really strong military (or the attacker has laughable dedicated resources), they may get conquered. When this happens, it becomes part of the conqueror's empire, losing all its special effects and becoming just another city. The usual effects of Conquered cities apply, such as loss of some Population, damaged buildings in the City Center, etc. If the occupying force declared war on the city-state specifically, it will remain in the Occupied state until the occupier formally declares peace using the Suzerainty screen. However, if the city-state was occupied as part of a larger war between allies and Suzerainties, the city will not pass through the "Occupied" state, since its leaders have been effectively wiped out and its population doesn't have any hope for liberation. All other Envoys assigned to this city-state by other civilizations will be removed, and the civilizations that sent them will no longer be able to enjoy the city-state's bonuses.
After the Protectorate War Casus Belli has been unlocked, a Suzerain of a city-state which gets attacked or conquered will be able to declare such a war to the aggressor civilization. This is considered one of the most noble causes for war and will cost no Warmonger points, unless you don't limit yourself with just liberating the city-state in question. Also, in Gathering Storm attacking a city-state will earn Grievances with all civilizations which have Envoys there, and double Grievances with its Suzerain.
Finally, conquering a city-state is a reason for Emergency! It is in fact one of the most frequent Emergency causes activated, since every single civilization which had Envoys in this city-state would be able to call for the Emergency.
Conquered city-states, unlike in Civilization V, can be Razed, and thus if a rival conquers a city-state which has Suzerain bonuses you deem useful be wary that you are at risk of permanently losing said bonus! That being said, the AI will very rarely raze them. If any civilization which wrests this city from their conqueror in the future chooses to Liberate it, it will regain its independence and all its former qualities. Its territory will also expand (due to the liberator receiving free Envoys with it). City-states which have been Liberated will choose their liberator for Suzerain, automatically assigning a number of Envoys to it: 3 if the liberation occurred up to the Medieval Era, 6 if it occurred during the Renaissance or Industrial Eras, and 9 during later eras.
Of course, from this point on, the city-state will start developing normally again, although it will take it some time to rebuild its economy, infrastructure and military. Also, other civilizations will be able again to send Envoys there and change its loyalties.
Envoy bonus and Suzerainty
- Main article: Suzerain (Civ6)
The benefits of befriending city-states have changed substantially since Civilization V. City-states still have types, such as religious and cultural, and confer bonuses related to them. Most come in the form of yields of some kind, according to the type of the city-state - for example, bonus Faith in Holy Sites for Religious ones, or bonus Culture in Theater Squares from Cultural ones. Despite being quite simple, these bonuses add up considerably with the development of an empire, and may aid substantially the development of an otherwise weak civilization.
Rise and Fall brings additional changes to this system, making it more difficult to use the bonuses - you will now need specific buildings in the respective districts in order to enjoy the bonuses (a Tier 1 building for the 3- Envoy bonus and Tier 2 for the 6- Envoy bonus).
In addition to the simple yield bonuses, each city-state now also provides a powerful unique bonus to its Suzerain. Players who desire these specific bonuses will have to compete with other players to get them instead of searching for another city-state that offers the same bonus. Additionally, the Suzerain of a city-state will gain access to its Luxury Resources and Strategic Resources.
One of the more interesting of those is the opportunity to levy the city-state's army, instantly boosting your own! Since Gathering Storm this option has become far more attractive, especially for surprise rushes against an unsuspecting enemy, or quick defense against a surprise aggression. Note that levied units will only remain around for 30 turns, after which they will return under the control of their city, so plan accordingly. If you lose Suzerainty over the city-state during the 30 turns, the levied army will also return to the original city-state's control.
The cost of levying a city-state's army is equivalent to the total Production cost of the army in Gold. For example, the cost of levying an army consisting of 5 Warriors and 1 Swordsman is 290 Gold (40 * 5 + 90). This Gold cost scales according to the game speed.
There are a few things to note about levying and levied units:
- You will pay for units' maintenance costs, both in Gold and resources.
- You can levy units you have not discovered - the unit will not be downgraded.
- Levied units function just like your own units for 30 turns. You can even upgrade levied units into unique units of your civilization like normal. However, you cannot delete levied units.
- Levying a Galley will not give you Era Score for the first naval unit, but levying a land unit that requires a Strategic Resource can give you Era Score for the first unit that uses that Strategic Resource.
- Levied units do not count towards the total military strength of a civilization.
- Any promotions earned by a levied unit during those 30 turns will be kept when it reverts back to the city-state's control.
- Levied units that are upgraded into unique units will still stay "unique" when they revert back to the city-state's control. For example, Suleiman can levy some Swordsmen and upgrade them into Janissaries. These units will remain Janissaries when they come back under the control of their city-state. They will also be available for another civilization to levy if the Suzerain changes.
- You can encourage a city-state to make more units by sending them Trade Routes (for extra Gold) and improving their land with your Builders (especially helpful when you discover a new Strategic Resource that the city-state hasn't revealed). Sending more Envoys also increases the size of their territory, increasing their Production potential.
- You will gain 1 Era Score for levying units, 2 Era Score for levying units of a city-state within 6 tiles of an enemy city and 2 Era Score for making enemy's levied army stand down by using your Envoy power. These are all repeatable (i.e. will earn more Era Score if done more than once).
There are also a few tips and tricks you can use with levying mechanics and levied units:
- You can levy units to get Era Score, complete city-states' quests, trigger Eurekas and Inspirations, and possibly acquire a Galley or some other naval unit to explore with.
- You can levy units on the other side of the world. Upgrading them and attacking with them is a very fast way of colonizing distant shores as well as exploring their interior.
- When a friend or ally declares war on a city-state that you are the Suzerain of, since you cannot declare a Protectorate War or denounce them, you can attempt to form a blockade around the City Center. Since your friend cannot attack your units, this will thwart the attempted conquest by stopping your friend's troops from dealing the final blow. One way to acquire enough units is to levy the city-state's, but this will only delay their attempt for a maximum of 30 turns because the city-state will inevitably break the blockade when it regains control of its units.
- Allied city-state units will sometimes attack and destroy an enemy's city or a hostile city-state. If you do not want this to happen, levy their units. If you do not have enough Gold, wait and see if your city-state loses some units in the process, which will make its military cheaper to levy.
- If a city-state's units are levied when it is razed, the city-state does not go away. Even though it has no territory, it still exists in a virtual realm, still confers all of its Envoy-based bonuses, and still accepts new Envoys. Therefore, it may be to your benefit to levy the units of a lost-cause city-state if there is any chance that it will be razed.
As in Civilization V, city-states are a very important part of the game, which can make the difference between winning and losing. Compared to the previous game, however, the competition for influencing city-states is both more targeted and broader. It is more targeted because of the unique Suzerain bonuses of each individual city-state (which may suit one player's goals better than these of another player); it is broader because the Diplomatic Victory in Gathering Storm no longer depends on city-states. Influencing these cities is more a question of gameplay aid than a crucial element of victory.
In order to make the best use of the city-state bonus system, you must first understand how exactly it works. The first kind of bonuses (i.e. the yield bonuses to the Capital and all cities with a particular district, received with 1, 3 and 6 Envoys respectively), which we will call "general" bonuses, stay with you throughout the game (unless the city-state is conquered by another civilization, of course). However, you will have to fight for the Suzerain bonuses by competing constantly with other civilizations to earn more Envoys than anyone else. Of course, both depend mostly on your sending out your Envoys.
Earning Envoys is comparatively easy, and it happens naturally as you progress through the game (especially if you're strong in Culture - many civics grant free Envoys). How you choose to use them is another, more vital matter. Sometimes it will be more beneficial to spread them around different city-states so that you earn their general bonuses, instead of concentrating them in 1-2 specific city-states in an attempt to earn their Suzerainty.
The first general bonus of each city-state activates with a single Envoy, so if you're the first player to meet a city-state and get a free Envoy for doing so, you'll immediately reap the benefits of the bonus. This can help immensely in the early game, when your Capital is your only city - every single city-state you meet first will already boost your Capital's yields! This is one of the reasons exploration is so important in the beginning.
The other general bonuses, however, only work in cities with a particular district (or district building in Rise and Fall). This means that if you don't have this district anywhere, there is simply no use to rush and get 3 (much less 6) Envoys with a city-state. Instead, send them to other city-states and earn their first general bonuses. Only later, when your districts are up and running, should you go for the higher general bonuses - each of them will work on every city with a particular district, even without Suzerainty.
However, if you can make use of a particular city-state's Suzerain bonus early in the game, then you should go for it! Carefully analyze the bonuses of the city-states you've found, and see if you have use for them. Some bonuses, such as Toronto's, will only become useful much later in the game; others, like Brussels' or Geneva's, can be useful right away.
In any case, you should be ready to adjust your strategy on the fly. Do you lack Gold income? Look to influence a trade city-state! Are you going to war, or in need of units? Go for a militaristic city-state! Or, you could adjust from the opposite side: have you befriended many cultural city-states? Then go ahead and construct Theater Squares to enjoy their bonuses! If you are influencing many trade city-states, construct Commercial Hubs, and so on.
Another way to influence city-states is by completing their quests. These are a tad more prosaic than in Civilization V, but they are still very diverse and will make you adjust strategy to complete them. You will have to decide whether this adjustment is worth it - sometimes spending time and resources just won't be worth the reward. Declaring war on a city-state permanently removes all your Envoys at this city-state and cancels any active quest.
City-states without an active quest will issue a new one when entering a new era. Avoid completing techs and civics with a missing boost during this turn since these quests will be instantly lost if issued by a city-state.
While conquering a city-state in Civilization V is almost universally regarded as a bad idea due to the severe diplomatic penalty it has, in Civilization VI there's less of a disincentive to do so. If a city-state is in a prime location where you want a city, its bonuses are not important to you and you think you can take them on, don't hesitate to do so - really don't, since not only does the diplomatic penalty for conquest increase as time goes on, but the city-state may build Walls that will take more effort to whittle down, so you should do it ASAP. (In Gathering Storm, city-states begin the game with Ancient Walls on Immortal difficulty and above.)
Another thing to note about city-states is that if you are at war with them, they will make more of an effort to send units to take out your cities compared to Civilization V. This becomes most important to keep in mind if you are fighting a war with another civilization on one side of your empire who has suzerainty over a city-state on the other side of your empire; don't send all of your troops to fight away from home and leave your other front undefended, or you might find yourself losing a city!
Types of city-states
There are 6 types of city-states in the Civilization VI, as well as 1 scenario-specific type:
|Icon||Type||1 Envoy||3 Envoys||6 Envoys|
|Cultural||+2 Culture in the Capital.||+2 Culture in every Theater Square district||Additional +2 Culture in every Theater Square district|
|Industrial||+2 Production in the Capital when producing wonders, buildings, and districts.||+2 Production in every Industrial Zone district when producing wonders, buildings, and districts||Additional +2 Production in every Industrial Zone district when producing wonders, buildings, and districts|
|Militaristic||+2 Production in the Capital when producing units.||+2 Production in every Encampment district when producing units||Additional +2 Production in every Encampment district when producing units|
|Religious||+2 Faith in the Capital.||+2 Faith in every Holy Site district||Additional +2 Faith in every Holy Site district|
|Scientific||+2 Science in the Capital.||+2 Science in every Campus district||Additional +2 Science in every Campus district|
|Trade||+4 Gold in the Capital.||+4 Gold in every Commercial Hub district||Additional +4 Gold in every Commercial Hub district|
|Maritime1||+2 Food in the Capital.||+2 Food in every Harbor district.||Additional +2 Food in every Harbor district.|
1 Path to Nirvana scenario only.
Different types of city-states have different base bonuses. Moreover, a city-state will build a district within its territory that corresponds to its type:
- A cultural city-state will build a Theater Square.
- An industrial city-state will build an Industrial Zone.
- A militaristic city-state will build an Encampment.
- A religious city-state will build a Holy Site.
- A scientific city-state will build a Campus.
- A trade city-state will build a Commercial Hub.
Number of city-states and replacement
Currently, there are a total of 48 different city-states available in Civilization VI (excluding scenario-specific city-states). Among the 48, there are 8 cultural city-states, 8 industrial city-states, 8 militaristic city-states, 8 religious city-states, 8 scientific city-states, and 8 trade city-states.
In some cases, when a new civ is added into the game, and one of the existing city-states is a city historically belonging to that civ, then the city-state will be replaced by another city-state in order to avoid a city name duplication and keep the total number of city-states the same. For instance, when the Korean civilization was added in the Rise and Fall expansion, the city-state of Seoul was then replaced by Babylon; Seoul became one of the Korean cities. Then, when the Babylonian civilization was released, Babylon became the Babylonian Capital, and the city-state was replaced by Anshan. The new city-state usually has the same Suzerain bonus as the replaced city-state.
The number of city-states in a game is customizable, albeit dependent on map size:
|Map Size||Default City-States||Maximum City-States|
List of city-states
- Main article: List of city-states in Civ6
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