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Combat has accompanied mankind throughout the development of all civilizations but mainly primitive ones, and it plays a major role in Civilization V. You may use combat as a way of achieving victory in the game (see Domination victory), or you can use it to simply enlarge your empire, or you can use it for a number of other reasons to improve the fortunes of your civilization.

Combat occurs at all times when Barbarians appear - they are savages that can't be reasoned with and are just a menace to all order! But between civilized nations, combat may occur when two political entities declare war on each other. Their military units and/or cities then may attack and destroy each other, and cities of one entity may be conquered by their enemies. A civilization may be at war with another civ or with a city-state.

There are four major forms of combat: melee, ranged, naval, and air combat. The first three occur throughout most of the game, while air combat doesn't happen (naturally) until civilizations discover the technology for Flight.


Declaring WarEdit

War against another civ may be declared in a couple of different ways, or you may find yourself on the receiving end of an enemy's own declaration. You (or they) may declare war through the diplomatic screen, or you can simply walk onto another civilization's territory, or attack one of their units - both will automatically result in war (look below). Regardless of how a war starts, all trade and diplomatic agreements with the other side are automatically cancelled upon entering war. Also, all allies of the sides automatically declare war on each other.

Note that when you declare war on a City-State which is allied with, or under the protection of a nation, you don't automatically enter war with that nation! They will vociferously protest your aggression, though, and diplomatic relations with them will suffer.  

Diplomatically Declaring WarEdit

This is the official way of declaring war, when you inform the other side by diplomatic means. You may do this from the Diplomacy panel, by selecting the entity on which you wish to declare war, then clicking the relevant option. When you declare war on a civilization, a confirmation screen will pop up, informing you of the current state of trade relations between you and them, and also of their allies.

Attacking Another UnitEdit

You can simply order one of your units to attack another civ's units - this is considered an "Act of War," and will automatically trigger a war with the owner of the unit. If you're not currently at war with the civ you're attacking, a pop-up will appear asking if you want to declare war on that civ (or city-state); if you choose to do so, the attack occurs. If you decline, the attack is aborted.

Entering a Civilization's TerritoryEdit

It is also an act of war to enter a civ's territory (unless doing so with a Missionary or Great Prophet) if you don't have an "open borders" agreement with that civ. A pop-up will appear and ask you to confirm your move. Note that it isn't an act of war to cross a city-state's borders, so no pop-up will appear in that case.

Walking into the territory of a City-State that is not your friend or ally won't trigger war immediately. Instead, it will reduce your Influence (Civ5) Influence until they become angry with you. If you stay in their territory for an extended period, they'll declare war on you.

Ending a WarEdit

Wars can end automatically when one side has been destroyed because it has lost its last city, or the combatants can agree to halt hostilities short of this unpleasant eventuality through diplomatic negotiations. Either you or your opponent may choose to initiate such discussions. See the section on Diplomacy for details.

Building an ArmyEdit

In order to make an army you need to train (or buy) military units in your cities. Militaristic City-States can also give units to your army, and several other game abilities allow you to capture enemy units. Note that you will need support and resources to maintain your army, as well as pay them salaries (a determined amount of 20xGold5 Gold per turn). Certain units require Strategic Resources - if you don't have the necessary resources, you won't be able to produce or buy those units! If that resource drops below 0 for some reason (possibly because of enemy raids on your Mines or the end of a trading deal), all units depending on it get a nasty CS penalty. Also, if your treasury is empty, and your 20xGold5 Gold flow remains negative for some turns, disgruntled military units start disbanding on their own (which means they simply disappear)!

Military units are all units which are not specifically marked as civilian units. Any military unit may engage in combat, or protect itself against attacks. Non-military units such as Workers, Settlers, and Great People may not initiate attacks, and are prone to being easily captured by even the weakest enemy military unit. If attacked while on their own, normal civilian units (including Great Prophets) are captured by the enemy, while other Great People and Work Boats are destroyed.

For more information on particular military units and their abilities, check the List of Units.

Unit SupplyEdit

Every military unit needs supplies (weapons, armor, ammunition, and/or fuel) to function. Those are provided by your cities and population, and paid for with 20xGold5 Gold (which is called "Unit Maintenance").

Total unit supply available to your empire is provided by the number of cities you have (2 Supply per city), 20xPopulation5 Population (1 per citizen), and difficulty setting. Each military unit spends one supply point, and once you reach the total supply limit, you receive a production penalty of 10% for each unit beyond that limit, with a maximum penalty of 70%.

From the above formula it follows that bigger empires may support larger armies. Generally, you will never exceed the limit, unless you go soldier-crazy without actually expanding your territory. Usually the 20xGold5 Gold cost of your army will be a restraining factor, even before you start approaching the supply cap.

Battle ActionsEdit

All actions related to battle require available Movement Points. If a unit exhausts all its MPs for a turn, it won't be able to perform any offensive or defensive action until the next turn.


A military unit may attack another unit, or city, if they have any Movement Points (MPs) left in this turn. Even a fraction of a MP is enough for the unit to be able to attack. An attack typically consumes all MPs left for the turn, which means that a unit may only attack once per turn. Note that Capturing any Civilian unit is considered an attack, and will consume points/attacks accordingly. However, the number of times a unit may defend per turn is unlimited (until the unit is destroyed, that is). Exceptions to this rule:

  • Mounted and armored units are able to move after they have performed an attack if they have any MPs left. Note that they may perform only non-combat actions, such as pillaging or fortifying. In their case, an attack only consumes 1 MP.
  • Certain promotions give the unit the ability to attack twice per turn if it has enough MPs. Again, each attack consumes 1 MP.

The type of the attack (melee or ranged) depends on the attacking unit. The efficiency of the attack (that is, how many Health Points it will deduct from the target) depends on a number of factors, which are outlined below.

Note that you cannot attack with a Melee unit a tile you cannot enter (since the melee battle always takes place in the target tile, despite the animations)! Situations where this is relevant:

  • Trying to attack an enemy in an Ocean tile with a Trireme, or a similar early Era sea unit. You can't enter deep ocean, so you are unable to attack.
  • Trying to attack an enemy which is in a territory belonging to another nation with which you have no Open Borders treaty. In this case attacking will mean violating the nation's sovereignty, which is an Act of War.

However, you can bombard enemies in such tiles with Ranged or Air units, if they're within range. This isn't considered an Act of War and won't cause repercussions.


Maneuvers on the battlefield are much more tricky than in normal circumstances. This is mainly due to the need of units to preserve their formation while moving next to the enemy. Thus, movement around an adjacent enemy unit requires more MPs than normal! Keep that in mind when planing the battle. For more info on this, see the Movement article.


Many units have the ability to fortify. This means that the unit "digs in" and creates defensive works in its current location. This gives the unit a 40% defensive bonus, making it much tougher to kill. However, fortifications are strictly defensive: if the unit moves or attacks, the fortifications are destroyed. While fortified, a unit will not perform any action, and will heal damage. It will remain inactive until you manually activate it by clicking on the unit.

Fortifying requires available MPs, but does not consume them! That means that a unit may not fortify if it has already exhausted all MPs for the round; but on the other hand, if it has already fortified earlier in the round, and the battle situation changes before its end, it may still perform another action before the end of the round.

Most melee and ranged units can fortify. Non-military, mounted, naval, armored, and air units cannot fortify. These latter units can "Sleep," which means that they will remain inactive until attacked or you manually activate them, but they do not receive the defensive bonus.

If a unit is damaged, the "Fortify Until Healed" button appears in its Action buttons. If you click on this button, the unit will fortify and remain in its present location until it is fully healed.


Most units may engage in pillaging the buildings or installations (the improvements) on the tile they're currently on. This damages (but doesn't completely destroy) the improvement, rendering it inoperable until repaired by a Worker, and it also restores 25 HP to the pillaging unit in the expansions. It is a great way of harassing the enemy, both inflicting economic damage and improving the state of your attacking army. Pillaging also costs one MP.

One popular strategy is to declare war on a weak city-state with a strong military unit and a Worker. Move into one of their Farms out of the city's attack range and pillage it. Then, on the same turn, have a Worker repair it so you can pillage it again on the next turn. This ensures a steady cash flow of +20 20xGold5 Gold per turn! (Remember, repairing enemy tiles so you can pillage them again in an online game is frowned upon, and is grounds for banning in many Civilization groups.)


All military melee units are able to capture enemy civilian units. For this, they simply need to move into the tile the enemy unit is occupying. Depending on the unit being captured, it will either change sides (sometimes changing even its type, as is the case of a captured Settler who turns into a Worker), or be destroyed (probably because it's too proud to surrender).

Capturing counts as a normal move for MP consumption (1 MP), but it also counts as an attack for the sake of unit attack rights. That means that the unit that captured an enemy may continue acting if it has MPs left, but is unable to initiate another attack this round (because it has already "attacked"). The only exception is if the unit has special abilities that allows it to move after attacking, or attack twice per round.

Some specific units may have more abilities, allowing them to perform more actions during combat. These are described in their individual articles (see Units).

Combat DamageEdit

Whenever a unit attacks, it does damage on the target's hit points (HP). Sometimes the attacking unit suffers as well (when it has entered melee combat).

The actual damage is determined by a complex calculation:

  • The applicable Combat and Ranged Strengths of the attacking and defending units are compared. Whenever two melee units enter combat, it is the two Combat Strengths that are compared; when a ranged unit attacks, its Ranged Strength is compared to the target's Combat Strength.
  • All bonuses involved, including terrain defense, formation bonuses, and special bonuses, are then applied.
  • From the resulting difference, the HP deduction is calculated. If two melee units have entered combat, both suffer damage; if a ranged unit has attacked, only the target suffers damage. Regardless of the final result, the target will lose at least 1 HP.

A unit that has taken damage is weaker in combat than a healthy unit, meaning that its Combat and Ranged Strength get lower. Wherever possible, it's a good idea to "rotate out" damaged units from battle to allow them to heal up before reentering the fray. Note that the Japanese, whose military units do not suffer a combat penalty when damaged, are less affected by this restriction.

Healing DamageEdit

To heal damage, a unit must remain inactive for a turn. The amount of damage that a unit heals depends upon the unit's location.

  • In a city: A unit heals 25 HP per turn.
  • In friendly territory (including friendly or allied city-states, and also civilizations with whom you have an Open Borders treaty): 20 HP per turn.
  • In neutral or enemy territory: 10 HP per turn.

Note that certain promotions accelerate a unit's healing rate.

Naval units cannot heal unless in friendly territory, where they heal 20 HP per turn. Earning the Supply promotion allows healing outside friendly territory.

A unit may choose to instantly heal for 50 HP whenever it gains enough Experience for a Promotion. If it is damaged, you'll see in the list of available promotions the "Heal Instantly" option. Of course, this will waste the opportunity for the unit to gain a permanent combat bonus. However, used under the right circumstances, this might mean the difference between winning and losing a battle!

Unit Combat StatisticsEdit

A military unit's combat abilities are determined by its combat statistics, as well as its special abilities and promotions. There are four basic combat stats: hit points, combat strength, ranged combat strength, and range.

Combat StrengthEdit

All military units have this stat, and it may also be termed 'melee strength'. Melee units use their Combat strength when attacking or defending. Ranged units use their Combat strength when defending.

Ranged Combat StrengthEdit

Only units able to engage in "Ranged Combat" have this stat. It is the ranged unit's combat strength when it is attacking.


The unit's "range" stat determines the distance at which a unit can launch a ranged attack. A range of "2" means that the target can be in an adjacent tile or one tile away. A range of "1" would mean that the target has to be adjacent to the attacker. Check Ranged combat for more info about it.

Hit PointsEdit

As mentioned above, a unit's health is measured in hit points, or HP. When fully healthy, all combat units have 100 hit points. As a unit takes damage, it loses hit points. If a unit's hit points reach 0, it is destroyed. Also, when a unit is damaged, both its Combat and Ranged Strengths diminish accordingly, down to about 50% of their original values.

Special AbilitiesEdit

Many units have special abilities, which provide them with certain advantages. These may translate into extra CS in some circumstances (for example when the unit is attacking, but not when it's defending), extra range or moves, or into different game advantages which aren't related to combat. Note that special abilities are bound to specific units, but many of them are transferred if that particular unit is upgraded to the next-gen unit.

Unit Promotions and AdvancementsEdit

All military units acquire combat experience, which may be spent for promotions that considerably enhance the unit's fighting strength under certain circumstances. Check the Experience article for more information on Promotion mechanics.

Furthermore, whenever your civilization advances its respective technology, you will receive the option to upgrade your military units to more advanced, next-generation units for a modest 20xGold5 Gold fee. Upgraded units retain all their promotions, including many special abilities associated with unique civilization units, which makes them considerably more useful than newly trained units of the same type. Whenever possible, always upgrade your existing army, instead of making new units!

Combat BonusesEdit

Units receive a variety of benefits during combat, some from the unit's location, others from its defensive posture, and others from a variety of special circumstances. Some bonuses apply only to an attacking unit, some only to a defending unit, and some might apply to both. The most common bonuses come from the terrain the unit occupies, and whether the defending unit is "fortified." Check the Combat screen which pops up when you attempt an attack - it will display all attacking and defensive bonuses applicable.

Terrain BonusesEdit

Rough terrain (forest, jungle, or hill) provides cover for units that occupy it and are attacked there - either in melee or by ranged attacks. Defending units make the best use of its features, while attacking units are forced to overcome it, and that makes a big difference. Marshes are NOT considered rough terrain, despite presenting an obstacle to movement. Note that some classes of units don't benefit from terrain defense bonuses - this is explicitly stated in their info tabs.

Melee units attacking a tile on the other side of a river, or embarked units attacking a land tile are penalized. This penalty may be overcome if a unit acquires a special promotion.

Formation BonusesEdit

When melee units attack or defend in a line with other friendly units, they receive combat bonus. A defending unit, if it has another unit in a nearby tile, receives a morale bonus (expressed as a negative Flanking bonus for the attacker). Respectively, an attacking unit receives a flanking bonus when there is another friendly unit in a tile bordering the target.

Forts and CitadelsEdit

Once a civ has acquired the Engineering technology, Workers can construct Forts in friendly or neutral territory. Forts provide a hefty defensive bonus (50%) to units occupying them, which are also cumulative with all other defensive bonuses (whether from terrain, training or fortifying). A fortified unit occupying a Fort built on a hill becomes something VERY difficult to defeat! Forts don't help with attacking, however, and they can also be occupied by enemy units, who will enjoy their benefits just as you did!

The Citadel is a more powerful Fort, created by a Great General. It will not only provide a 100% defensive bonus to the unit in it, but it will also damage all enemies that end their turn in its and the surrounding tiles for about 30% of their HP! Unlike the Fort, the Citadel belongs to the nation that currently occupies the territory it's been placed on, and it won't serve their enemies. For example, if an enemy unit enters the Citadel, not only will it not be able to use its defenses, but it also will get damaged before the next round! The Citadel's power is so great that upon placing it all surrounding tiles are automatically conquered (regardless of whether or not they belong to someone else) and annexed into your territory! This is the only way of taking tiles of land AFTER they've been taken by another civilization (short of conquering their nearest city, of course).

Additional BonusesEdit

A number of additional bonuses are available, either through unit special abilities, or via acquiring promotions. These depend on experience earned either through training, or through battle experience, and may greatly affect a unit's effectiveness on the battlefield. Use every opportunity to promote your units and make them more dangerous in combat.

Great Generals and AdmiralsEdit

Great Generals and Great Admirals are "Great People" skilled in the art of warfare. They provide 15% combat bonuses - both offensive and defensive bonuses - to any friendly land or naval units within two tiles of their location. A Great General/Admiral itself is a non-combat unit, so it may be stacked with a combat unit for protection. If an enemy unit ever enters the tile containing a Great General/Admiral, they are immediately destroyed.

Great Generals and Admirals are a great boon to your armies and fleets. Unlike other Great People, they are created when your respective land or naval units have been in battle for sufficient time. Some social policies also grant free Generals/Admirals.

Civilization V [edit]
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