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Cities are the most important targets in the world, but they are big, and if fortified and defended by other units can be quite difficult to capture. However, doing so can reap rich rewards - in fact, the only way to knock another civilization out of the game is to capture or destroy all of its cities. Also, this is one of the paths to victory in the game - the Domination victory.

City combat statistics[]

Every city has defenses, like arrow slits or gun holes, and anti-air guns in Modern ages. It also has an automatic defense unit, which mans the defenses and repels enemy attacks, and performs the city's Ranged attack each turn. This unit uses weapons determined by your current military technology, meaning that it becomes more effective as Eras pass. The unit is protected by the city's defenses, and always fights at its full strength, not to mention whether there are additional defenders in the city, or any defensive structures - all these can increase the fighting strength, but a city will always have a minimum fight capabilities, ensuring that an enemy can't simply walk in and take possession of it.


This stat represents the current state of the city defenses. An undamaged city has 200 hit points. More are added to this maximum by constructing the city defense structures: Walls, Castle, Arsenal and Military base. As the city takes damage in combat, its hit points are reduced.

If a city's hit points reach 1, any enemy unit with melee attack (and only melee attack!!!) can capture the city by entering its tile.

Note also that cities Heal automatically each turn (being constantly repaired by their inhabitants), making them even harder to capture. The amount healed is about 10 - 15% of its total health (subject to verification).

Combat strength[]

A city also has Combat Strength (CS), representing its military might, compared to attacking units. This strength isn't constant, like for units, because a city endures through the ages, while units become gradually obsolete. The following factors are used to determine the Combat Strength of a city:

  • Base - A basic factor, determined by the current era of the civilization. For example, while in the Ancient Era, a city has a base CS of about 9 - 10, but in the Modern Era, the base increases to 50 - 60.
  • Vantage - If the city is constructed on a Hill terrain, it has an advantage over attackers, which translates into additional CS. 
  • Population - Each citizen increases CS.
  • Defenses - If you build defensive structures in the city (Walls, Castle, Arsenal and Military Base), each of those will increase CS.
  • Garrison - If you station a land unit (not naval or air unit) in the same tile as the city, it is considered 'Garrisoned'. While it is garrisoned, the city's CS increases by several points.

The city CS determines the damage it does with its Ranged attack, and whenever it's attacked by melee or air units (which triggers a retaliation attack, just like normal Melee combat). Lower health doesn't affect a city's strength as it does for units - a city always fights at its full strength!

Ranged attack[]

Every city has the ability to shoot at attacking armies. The attack has a range of 2, complete visibility (no terrain obstacles impede it), and is always at 40% of the city's full combat strength (60% with Oligarchy), even if the city itself is damaged. Bonus city strength gained from defensive structures is not applied when the city attacks. Being a ranged attack, the targets cannot retaliate.

City combat[]

All unit types can attack a city and damage it, if in range. Melee attacks trigger a retaliation attack, as normal. Melee naval units can attack a city from an ocean tile bordering it. Ranged attacks are safe - that is, the city can't retaliate to them; note however, that a ranged attack cannot drop a city below 1 HP; the city must be captured by a melee unit.

All in all, an army attacking a city is always at a disadvantage. The city has considerable combat strength (which is usually higher than the average strength of the attackers, even without additional bonuses) and always fights at its full strength, while the attacking units' strength declines when they're damaged; The city has a powerful ranged attack that can devastate and even kill units in one shot. Finally, it can garrison units inside, keeping them safe while they attack the besieging army.

Attacking cities with melee units[]

When a unit engages in melee combat with a city, the city and the melee unit both suffer damage. No matter how few hit points the city has remaining, it always defends itself at its full combat strength. Usually, a city's combat strength for the relevant age is larger than that of the attacking unit (especially if the city has defenses), so attackers are always at a disadvantage. However, only melee units can capture cities, so they have to attack eventually.

Garrisoned units in cities[]

A city's owner may station a military unit inside the city to bolster its defenses. Note that while all types of units positioned in the city's tile are completely invulnerable to attacks, only Land units may form a Garrison! So, for example, a city may have a ship and airplanes in its tile, but none of them would add to the city's CS; while a single Swordsman will serve as Garrison, even though it's not a Ranged unit.

A portion of the garrisoned unit's combat strength is added to the city's total strength. The garrisoned unit will take no damage when the city is attacked; and it is completely safe when using a Ranged attack. If the unit is melee, however, it will still suffer damage when attacking surrounding units (in real life this is called a Sortie, and as we know, a melee attack takes place in the target's tile, not the attacker, so technically the garrison unit DOES go out of the city to make the attack!). Note also that a unit stationed in the city may attack surrounding enemy units while the city will still receive its garrison bonus, as long as the unit doesn't end its turn outside the city.

If the city is captured, the garrisoned unit (as well as all other military units) is destroyed; any applicable Civilian units are either captured, or destroyed.

Siege Weapons[]

Certain ranged weapons are classified as "siege weapons" - catapults, trebuchets, and so forth. These units get large combat bonuses (+200%) when attacking enemy cities. They are extremely vulnerable to melee combat, and should be accompanied by melee units to fend off enemy assault.

Most siege weapons have to be disassembled to move around the map. When they have reached their destination, they must expend a movement point to "set up". They cannot attack until they have done so.

Siege weapons are important. It's really difficult to capture a well-defended city without them!

Capturing cities[]

When a city's hit points reach "1", an enemy melee unit may enter the city, regardless of whether or not there are any units already inside. When this occurs, the city is captured. Any units which were stationed inside, be it land, naval or air units (including missiles), and Great People, are destroyed. Civilian units, such as Workers, are captured according to the normal rules. All defensive buildings, such as Walls and Castles, are destroyed and need to be rebuilt later by the new owner. A random selection of other Buildings is also destroyed. Finally, the 20xPopulation5 Population of the captured city is diminished in half, presumably killed during the looting of the city. The city will slowly regain its health, starting at somewhere around 40% Health at the turn of capture.

The newly conquered city will also enter Resistance mode - a state when the surviving Population is silently opposing the occupation, and simply refuses to work for the new owner. This mode continues for as many turns as there is Population after the city capture. Resistance doesn't occur if you've conquered back a city you've originally founded (meaning that you've liberated your own city which was under enemy occupation), or when you liberate the city and give it back to its original owner, whomever this was.  

  • Note: As of the Fall 2013 patch, 20xPopulation5 Population loss and Resistance may be reduced if you have some degree of cultural influence over the civilization which owned the city. There is a 25% reduction in both factors for each level of Tourism influence beyond Exotic: -25% for Familiar, -50% for Popular, -75% for Influential and no Resistance and Population loss for Dominant.

The conqueror loots an amount of Gold Gold from the city, according to its size; he also receives all Great Works that were stationed in the city. Finally, he receives a choice of what to do with it (for more info on the available choices, visit this article), and if he chooses to Annex or Puppet it, territorial borders that belonged to that city pass to his nation. Note that the game remembers each and every tile a city has conquered in its lifetime - it's exactly those tiles that change owners when a city is captured. All Resources the city controls also pass to the conqueror (unless their improvements were pillaged). Whatever the choice, the civilization which loses the city has taken a huge blow.

Conquering City-States[]

When a civilization captures a City-State, the same loses its status as City-State and turns into a normal city for that civilization. Its special features (that is, bonuses for being Religious, Maritime etc.) simply disappear, and the city is counted as just another city, controlling some territory, etc. The calculation for achieving Diplomatic victory also changes to reflect the diminishing of the overall number of City-States in the game.

City-States cannot be Razed, however. That means that another civilization may later Liberate the City-State, restoring its special status and reversing all of the above changes.

Civilization V [edit]
Gods & KingsBrave New World
† Only in vanilla Civ5
‡ Only in Gods & Kings and Brave New World