Civilization Wiki

BackArrowGreen Back to Civilization V

Espionage (Civ5)
Espionage late (Civ5)

Espionage is a gameplay mechanic included in the Civilization V: Gods & Kings expansion pack. Reflecting real-world spy activities quite well, this mechanic introduces a new level of covert actions in the game, which will have effects on technological advancement, diplomacy, and even City-State relations.

Spy Recruitment and Mechanics[]

Spy (Civ5)

Spy icon

Espionage starts in a game once any civilization enters the Renaissance Era - when philosophers such as Machiavelli finally do away with the ideals of honor and decency, and nations realize that everything is permitted in war to achieve victory. At this point, all players recruit their first Spy at the same time. After that, whenever any civilization enters a new era, they get an additional Spy. Also, building the National Intelligence Agency provides an extra Spy for whoever built it. Spies are recruited automatically (within the previously described conditions) - they don't need to be produced in a city; they simply appear in their Secret Hideout.

Spies can be moved into cities from their Secret Hideout. You can only target cities you've discovered on the map. The movement takes only 1 turn (regardless of the city's location on the map). At the destination city, they take 3 turns to establish a surveillance network (5 turns for "making introductions" if the Spy has been assigned as a Diplomat), after which they start their activities in the selected city and continue until given different orders. As of the Fall 2013 patch, if you have the influence level of Familiar, your spies will take only 1 turn to establish surveillance. This bonus also applies to higher influence levels.

Spies may die during their activities (Killed in Action). This happens when they try to steal a Technology and encounter an enemy Spy doing counter-intelligence, or when they organize an unsuccessful coup in a City-State. Killed spies are replaced after a few turns by new recruits.

You may boost your Espionage and counter-espionage by building certain buildings or wonders. The Constabulary and Police Station buildings diminish the progress rate of enemy spies attempting to steal technology in the city where they're built by 25% each (slowing them down considerably, but not decreasing their ultimate success rate[1]), and the Great Firewall World Wonder adds another 25% to all your cities, plus it makes technology theft virtually impossible in the city it is built in. The National Intelligence Agency National Wonder levels up all your existing spies and decreases the effectiveness of enemy spies, in addition to giving you an additional Spy.


Diplomat (Civ5)

Diplomat icon

In Civilization V: Brave New World, any Spy can be reassigned as a Diplomat when you station them in the Capital Capital of another civilization. A Diplomat has different uses from a Spy, mainly related to the new World Congress feature, although they may still be able to monitor the other nation's activities just like a Spy. Note that a Diplomat can go back to being a Spy by moving them again (the dialogue opens each time you move the Spy).

Both spies and diplomats abhor military action. Whenever you attack and capture a city where a spy is active (or when the enemy does the same), they immediately leave the nation for the Secret Hideout, where you can later re-dispatch them. The Diplomat, on the other hand, will be immediately withdrawn if you declare war on the nation they are serving in, or vice-versa.

In addition to the one turn taken by a Diplomat to move, the default number of turns to Make introductions is given below:

Game pace Quick Standard Epic Marathon
Turns to Make introductions 15

Spy Abilities and Activities[]

What the spy actually does depends on where they're assigned. There are five possible spy activities.


If you station a spy to another civilization's city, they will establish a surveillance network in the city, besides giving you vision of the city territory within two tiles, and the ability to enter its city screen. Much more importantly, they automatically screen for the civilization leader's intentions and activities. They will then give information about the leader's plans (e.g., "X is secretly plotting against Y"), although depending on the spy's experience level, they might not find many details about those plans. You may then use the information to gain some advantage, for example by warning another leader of the plot. Diplomats also confer these benefits.

Technology Theft[]

While in another civilization's city, your spy will automatically engage in stealing their technology. If the target civilization has no technologies you don't know, you'll receive a message, "Agent X can't steal from Civilization Y because we've completely eclipsed them in research." In this case, the spy will only do surveillance.

The rate at which your spy steals technology depends on two factors:

  1. Science potential of the city - This potential is proportional to the city's Science Science output and is reduced by anti-spy buildings and counter-intelligence activity. The greater the Science Science potential, the faster the spy can steal a technology. Once a spy has established a surveillance network in a city, they will automatically evaluate its potential. Pay attention to a target city's Science Science potential before assigning the spy there!
  2. Experience level of the spy - The greater the level, the faster they will steal technology.

Depending on the technological level of the target civilization, the Science Science potential of the target city, and the experience level of the spy themselves, they will steal a technology within a certain number of turns. This technology is one that the target civilization already has, and you have yet to discover, but have it available for research. Successful technology theft levels up the spy.

Be careful, though! On the turn when they steal a technology, spies expose themselves to a certain degree. If they're inexperienced, and the enemy has good counter-intelligence measures in the city, they may discover the theft and who's responsible for it, leading to diplomatic outrage. Also, if there is an enemy spy in the city, doing counter-intelligence, they may discover and kill your spy, preventing the theft altogether.

Election Rigging[]

Stationing a spy in a City-State will set them to rig the local elections which occur regularly every 12 turns. If they're successful, the new City-State government will be more friendly to your civilization, and less so to others, meaning you'll gain Influence (Civ5) Influence with the City-State, while others will lose it. Enemy spies may also be acting in the same City-State, and then the spy with better experience will have better chance to rig elections. Other bonuses may improve chances at rigging elections.

Coup d'État[]

While in a City-State, your spy may also stage a coup. This is only possible when the City-State already has an ally. It is a dangerous course of action, because you risk losing your spy if the coup is unsuccessful. However, if successful, the City-State immediately allies itself with you, while their previous ally's Influence (Civ5) Influence is reduced to the level of Influence (Civ5) Influence you previously had on the City-State. The success rate of the coup tends to depend on your spy's experience level, the presence of other spies in the City-State, and your current Influence (Civ5) Influence level with them. (The higher your Influence (Civ5) Influence, the greater the chance of success, because your spy may use the existing sympathizers to bolster the coup attempt.)

Staging a coup may be the only way of making a City-State an ally when their current ally has enormous Influence and you have no practical hope of eclipsing it. It is also the only way of getting out of war with the City-State if you're already at war with their current ally. In this case you will be able to immediately make peace with them (note that peace won't be declared automatically after the coup!), after which you'll immediately become Allies.


Stationing a spy in one of your own cities will have them do counter-intelligence work. Whenever there are enemy spies acting there, besides slowing down their acquisition rate your spy will have a chance to discover and kill them. When this happens, your spy will also level up.

Leveling Up Your Spies[]

Every spy can gather experience while acting, and reach higher levels. They start at level 1 (Recruit). They then move to level 2 (Agent), and finally, to level 3 (Special Agent). For each higher experience level, the spy becomes more effective - they take fewer turns to steal technologies, have a higher success rate of election rigging and coups, and a better chance to discover and kill enemy spies.

Leveling up occurs each time the spy successfully steals a technology (whether or not they're partially discovered), or each time they kill an enemy spy. Rigging elections, diplomat work, and staging coups do not grant experience.

As of the Fall 2013 patch, Spy activity may benefit from your cultural influence with the target civilization. When you reach the influence level of Popular, all your Spies there act as if they were effectively 1 level higher than their actual level; at Influential they act at +2 levels!

A quick side note: having the National Intelligence Agency, which levels up your spies, will level up all future spies as well, including those that replace killed spies.


Espionage may become very helpful to your civilization if used wisely. If your Science Science output is lagging, station one of your Spies in the Capital Capital of the fastest technology-developing civilization, and start making up for your low Science Science output by stealing techs! If, on the other hand, your research is going pretty strong, and few other civilizations can match you, station your Spies in key City-States to gain Influence (Civ5) Influence with them. This is very important when pursuing a diplomatic victory, but it can also be useful in many other cases. Also, don't forget to spare a spy or two to be stationed in your Capital Capital (or one of your other cities with high potential) to make sure no one steals your technologies.

Diplomats confer additional options, allowing you to speed up your Tourism Tourism gain with other civilizations, or to trade votes with them for the World Congress. In the hands of skilled players, these may turn into crucial advantages!

Use both Spies and Diplomats to gain insight into enemy plans. If you have a strong, aggressive neighbor likely to initiate an invasion, station a Spy/Diplomat in their Capital Capital - they will inform you ahead of time about the enemy's intentions. Even if they don't attack you, you may gain diplomatic bonuses with another civilization by warning them of an impending invasion.

The English civilization is especially effective at spying, because they get an extra spy as soon as any civilization enters the Renaissance Era. When playing as England, you should make sure you are using this advantage and expand it.


See also[]

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