Their secondary color is yellow (#EBEB8B), while their primary color changes depending on who leads them. Under Catherine, it is blue (#0000CD), while under Eleanor, it is pink (#FA72A8).
The French civilization ability is Grand Tour, which gives them +20% Production towards Medieval, Renaissance, and Industrial era wonders and doubles Tourism from wonders of any era. Their unique unit is the Garde Impériale, and their unique tile improvement is the Château.
France, under either Eleanor or Catherine, is still quite focused on a Cultural Victory. As a matter of fact, this is one of the simplest and most straightforward cultural civilizations, especially when led by Catherine de Medici, so it is suitable for newer players to try out and get used to the Cultural Victory path.
Another Wonder focused ability, Grand Tour shares more similarities with Egypt's Iteru than with Qin Shi Huang's First Emperor, as Grand Tour gives a percentage to cities' Production when they are constructing Wonders. However, Grand Tour comes with its own restrictions as well as advantages: its Production bonus only applies to Medieval to Industrial Wonders but there is no restriction of Wonder placement for the bonus to kick in. Since France focuses on a cultural game, a few Wonders they should prioritize in this time are:
- Great Zimbabwe: Not a straightforward Cultural Wonder, but no one would scoff at an extra Trade Route, especially when combined with Great Merchants like Sarah Breedlove and Melitta Bentz (this Wonder also helps with competing in the Great Merchant race) plus the Online Communities policy card.
- Forbidden City: One of the best Wonders in the game, so versatile that it is a brilliant addition that any empire can use.
- Taj Mahal: An alright Wonder but pretty good with the French. Earning Golden Ages is easier with it, allowing the French to earn the Dedication Wish You Were Here a bit more consistently. This Dedication allows a total of 150% extra Tourism from Wonders. However, if you believe that you are in the front seat and can earn Golden Ages quite easily, ignore this Wonder.
- Hermitage: A purely Cultural Wonder that helps earn Great Artists faster.
- Bolshoi Theater: An even stronger Cultural Wonder, as it has a rare Great Work of Music slot, and helps earn Great Musicians faster as well. If you can only build either the Hermitage or the Bolshoi Theater, prioritize the Bolshoi Theater - Great Musicians and the Great Work of Music slot are generally more powerful later in the game.
- Big Ben: A boost to your treasury is always welcome. Most importantly, it gives you an extra Economic policy slot, where all of the Tourism-boosting policies can be put. An absolute must, even situationally more important than the purely Cultural Wonders. And of course, it makes recruiting Sarah Breedlove and Melitta Bentz easier.
Of course, straightforward civilizations like the French often meet their downfall when their only preferred victory path is hindered, so it is always useful to have a backup. The best backup routes for the French are Scientific (focus on Ruhr Valley and Oxford University) and Diplomatic (focus on Országház and Statue of Liberty), considering the passive and defensive nature of cultural civilizations on the whole and the Garde Impériale in particular. Religious Victory is weird, since having a religion is nice and France can build midgame Religious Wonders but they do not want to put down too many Holy Sites, and most importantly, spreading your religion can provoke unwanted animosity when all you want to do is to develop your Culture in peace.
Catherine's Flying Squadron (Catherine de Medici)
Espionage is the name of the game when Catherine de Medici leads the French, and she is truly the queen at it. Spies are getting stronger and more vital than ever, as every expansion adds at least one or two new tricks into their repertoire, opening up their possibilities to pretty much, well, anything. Catherine is not only able to earn the first Spy in the game at Castles and have more Spies than anyone else, her Spies start with a promotion. This promotion allows her Spies to save a few turns of running Gain Sources, or have to delay harder missions (Steal Great Works, Disrupt Rocketry, Steal Tech Boost...) to undertake easier, less important missions to level up (Foment Unrest, Siphon Funds...). Having the first possible Spy in the game is actually much more important than it sounds, as it is synonymous to the fact that there is no counterplay to your espionage besides sheer luck. The first Spy a standard civilization can have is unlocked with Diplomatic Service, a Renaissance Era Civic, meaning any Science-focused civilizations (Korea, Australia, Arabia, Sumeria...) unlock their first Spy long after you have yours, making these civilizations the prime target to steal tech boosts from. You can pretty much warrant your Scientific Victory backup just by stealing from your neighbors. You have a competitor in gathering Great Works? Have a Spy to steal from them. A civilization is dominating in relationships with City-states? Send a Spy to Fabricate Scandals. Your neighbor is having Loyalty issues? Neutralize Governors and Foment Unrest can flip their cities under your control faster. Someone is attempting to venture into space? A Spy with the Rocket Scientist promotion can quickly solve the problem. Just want to be an incessant annoyance and as mean as possible? Run Recruit Partisans on repeat. The possibilities are endless. This is a truly terrifying ability yet very underrated about how impactful it can be.
Other cultural civilizations are afraid of warmongers, as they are often not well-equipped enough to defend themselves. Not France, especially under Catherine: against the AI, the Gossip system will keep them well-informed about what their neighbors are up to. Also, the flat extra level of Diplomatic Visibility now has military implications, plus Catherine's extensive Spy network, French army will almost always have the upper hand from intelligence against their invaders.
Court of Love (Eleanor of Aquitaine)
Court of Love is a weird ability since it is impossible to evaluate its power level in a vacuum: it ranges from completely useless to totally broken. The reason for this is that this ability, in nature, is very similar to a game of conquest. It is all about snowballing: once you are able to conquer one neighbor city, it will trigger a domino effect to every nearby one. The main difference between Court of Love and a traditional warmongering ability is that it is utterly passive, and you need a whole lot of luck for certain factors to align perfectly in your favor to get this snowball rolling. In a true warmongering situation, on the other hand, you can just amass your army and use strategies to run your neighbors over (which can be totally controlled by you).
The following factors that affect this ability's efficacy:
- How fast you can accrue Great Works.
- Your neighbor needs to be in a worse Age than you. While you can control what Age you will receive (for the most parts), you cannot decide that for the enemy.
- Population size of the neighboring cities. The bigger they are, the harder it is to Loyalty-flip them. If you happen to spawn next to civilizations with a tendency of going tall (Khmer, India, etc.), you are just out of luck.
- In order to successfully flip one city to trigger a domino effect, you will need to surround the enemy empire with your cities, which is considered as a transgression and may trigger an unwanted war even before your Loyalty pressure starts to kick in. As a cultural civilization, you most likely just want to stay away from war since you do not like building a large army.
- This ability can only work in single player, not all the time, but when it does, it works wonders. In multiplayer, however, human players are much more intelligent in terms of dealing with Loyalty pressure; they are less bound by warmongering penalty or Grievances, so they will just wage war on you if your empire is deemed to pose a threat to theirs. The best you can get out of this ability is to force other players to put Governors where they do not want to balance the Loyalty pressure, or to spread Governor titles out to many Governors instead of spending many titles on one.
Nonetheless, there are certain measures you can take - not enough to ensure the odds will always be in your favor, but they can definitely help your peaceful conquest:
- Build Entertainment Complexes and run Bread and Circuses. This is a kind of high risk, high reward play. When you surround enemy cities with your own cities in which Entertainment Complexes are built, you can run Bread and Circuses at the same time in all of them to exert a large wave of Loyalty pressure. If it works, great, your snowball has started to roll; if it doesn't, well, basically you shoot yourself in the foot. Entertainment Complexes are still the weakest specialty district in the game, and while you may want to build only one for the Colosseum, having to expend Production not only to build them but to run their equally unimpactful projects without getting anything in return can just ruin your gameplay and set you back a ton. Definitely not something you would want to do in a multiplayer game since, again, human players can deal with this with relative ease. In single player, only attempt this when you are in or anticipate a better Age than your neighbor, or they have forward-settled you and now their cities are dwindling. Never attempt this when their cities are full Loyalty and exerting a high amount of pressure, as it is suicidal.
- Your most valuable asset: Spies. Neutralize Governor and Foment Unrest are the two missions to focus on. Aim for Diplomatic Service and build the Intelligence Agency, as this is the fastest way to earn the first 2 Spies; send both of them to a nearby city and run both of these missions together. Foment Unrest can be run on repeat. This is more effective when the enemy has a worse Age than you, most ideally if they are in a Dark Age and you are in a Golden Age. If your Age is not favorable to you, it is better to run other traditional missions, like Steal Great Works or Steal Tech Boosts; otherwise it will feel like a Sisyphean task.
- Always try for a Golden Age. This goes without saying, since when you cannot control what Age your neighbor will get, you can (relatively) control what Age you will get, and it is important for Eleanor to be in a Golden Age, since the worst case scenario, the enemy may just have a similar age, not better, so your Great Work loyalty pressure can kick in. The Taj Mahal can be a great Wonder, as it is supported by the Grand Tour ability and helps you earn Golden Ages reliably.
- Earn Great Works (duh!). This goes without saying as well, since this is the core of your power. However, consider this paradox: Genghis Khan can be as "cultured" as Eleanor if he builds Theater Squares en masse, meaning Eleanor has an interesting incentive to accrue Great Works, yet has absolutely no upper hand in getting them compared to any non-cultural power. Therefore, any edge you can create for yourself in the race of earning Great People is greatly appreciated. The easiest combo is Ancestral Hall + Colonization to go wide, plus the City Patron Goddess (preferably) or Divine Spark pantheon and put down a Theater Square first and foremost in every city. Of course, you can go for other more extravagant strategies like Holy Sites + Oracle, but this is the most reliable one. City Patron Goddess is relatively better than Divine Spark because Divine Spark only gives bonus to Great Writers, but faster Theater Square construction benefits all types of Great Works.
Overall, Eleanor of Aquitaine is not as good of a leader as Catherine de Medici, as her ability is too unreliable in singleplayer and could be borderline useless in multiplayer. It requires either a risky setup or too many lucky factors to align.
Under either Catherine or Eleanor, France is a cultural civilization through and through, despite some slight differences in playstyle. You should have yourself a backup route just in case your cultural path is hindered. This backup route can be greatly facilitated by the Wonders you choose to build in the midgame.
The French brought civilization haute cuisine, haute couture, haute-contre, and a whole lot of other “hautes.” But the French are not just about culture; they also brought history the Hundred Years' War, the Reign of Terror, Napoleon’s efforts to conquer Europe, etc.
Once the Romans gave up trying to govern the unruly Gauls, a number of Frankish kingdoms rose during the early Dark Ages, most of these lasting but a couple generations. Finally, the medieval Kingdom of France emerged from the western portion of Charlemagne’s empire, that chunk known as West Francia. With the death of the last Carolingian king, to avoid the bloodshed of a dynastic civil war, the Archbishop of Reims convened the great lords of Francia to elect a new ruler. Duke Hugh Capet of the demesne Ile-de-France was eventually chosen as king, and crowned Rex Francorum by the prelate of Reims in July 987 AD. At one stroke, modern France was created and its longest reigning dynasty (from this date to 1848, with a few unfortunate interruptions) installed.
The long rule of the Capetians has several foundations. The Capetian kings were inevitably Catholic, although with widely varying piety, and hence closely allied with the Church, which favored a strong central government in France. The line came to be recognized by other monarchs (except those stubborn English) as illustrious and ancient, and therefore inherently superior to anyone else available. The Capetians also tended to enjoy fairly harmonious familial relations, exceptional when it came time for a succession. By tradition, the king’s younger brothers were given appanages (duchies, counties, towns and the like) to mitigate any lingering bitterness over the rule of primogeniture (of course, sisters didn’t get any such, and were usually married off as quickly as possible after a succession). Save for the religious in-fighting between the Catholics and the Huguenots, France managed to avoid the civil wars that plagued most of their neighbors. Trade, the arts and the crafts would flourish under them, as well as religion (well, Catholicism anyway) and education – the University of Paris, or Sorbonne, was founded c. 1150 – so they generally had the support of the common folk.
The next couple centuries would see the power and influence of the Capetians grow, although there were some missteps – such as getting involved in a half dozen Crusades to liberate the Holy Land, meddling in the squabbles of the Italian city-states, suppressing heretical movements in France (usually with a great deal of blood), slaughtering the Knights Templar in 1312 to seize their wealth, and, of course, the Hundred Years' War (which actually ran 116 years, but who’s counting).
As the fourteenth century (by European reckoning) dawned, France was the most powerful country on the continent. In 1328, Philip VI assumed the throne. The Plantagenets, kings of England, owned Aquitaine and had a slender claim to the French throne, which they hadn’t pressed at the time of Philip VI’s succession. However, in 1337 Philip VI confiscated Aquitaine, and the now thoroughly annoyed King Edward III of England reinstated his claim, bringing the two dynasties to war. In July 1346 Edward invaded and, after much marching about, won the famous “battle” (more a slaughter of the arrogant French knights) at Crecy and captured the port of Calais. Then the Black Death cropped up, and lots of folk died, delaying further campaigning – thoroughly vexing a new generation of nobles.
By 1356 the plague had passed so the bloodshed resumed. In September of that year, the French king managed to get himself captured and most of his nobles killed off at Poitiers against Edward, the Black Prince. (The French refused to pay their king’s ransom, and so John II died in captivity.) The war dragged on until Agincourt (yet another glorious slaughter), after which the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 declared the unification of the French and English crowns on the infant head of Henry VI, king of England and now France. This did not sit well with everyone. The dauphin Charles VII was declared illegitimate and bypassed, though many French patriots preferred any Frenchman to any English ruler. This included a strange (to put it mildly … she heard voices and experienced visions from God) peasant woman named Joan. Within a few years Joan of Arc had inspired the French to victory, driving the English back on all fronts. Charles was anointed king in 1429, and saintly Joan got burned at the stake.
The upshot of all this was that the House of Valois, a cadet branch of the Capetians, now sat on the throne of France. These later Capetians held more power and were considerably more influential than the previous ones. Whereas Philip I (the Amorous, 1060-1108) could barely control his unruly Parisian barons, the Bourbon (another cadet branch) Henry IV (1589-1610) could challenge both the Pope and the Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor. These kings, although they usually ruled for shorter periods, had far more impact on the course of civilization than their predecessors.
During the reigns of the glorious Louis’s – XIII the Just, XIV the Sun King, XV the Beloved, the unfortunate XVI (the guillotined) – France became a power second to none on the continent, as well as the center of European culture and refinement. The XIIIth saw explorers and colonists spread or impose French tastes across the globe, in North Africa, the Americas and Asia as France joined the race for colonies. Under the long-reigning le Roi-Soleil, the last vestiges of feudalism disappeared (although the former serfs might not know it) and Versailles was completed (mostly). Great generals, such as Turenne and Vauban, and great writers, such as Molière and Racine, as well as those gifted in other artistic pursuits, flourished. Madam de Pompadour, one of the most famous mistresses of all time, had an enormous influence on the arts – notably architecture and interior design (those pricy Louis Quinze pieces) – under the doting patronage of Louis XV. France went from grim gothic to gilded rococo in two generations. But the Ancien Régime came crashing down in 1789.
Being somewhat distressed by the gap between the haves and have-nots, in that year the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille in July and threw off the shackles of monarchy. Republicanism was afoot and revolution spread through the land. Inflamed by the concepts of liberté, égalité, fraternité and those nice young men Robespierre, Danton and Marat, they instituted the Reign of Terror, using the “humane” guillotine to execute thousands of the privileged and anyone else who ran afoul of the Committee for Public Safety. The Constitution of June 1793 established the French First Republic; most of its authors were later imprisoned or guillotined. The rest of the crown heads of Europe couldn’t have all these liberal ideas floating about, and in short order the First Coalition (Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, and Spain among others) attacked France.
In 1795 the elective five-member Directory was established to govern, but they didn’t fare so well. Building on his battlefield successes for the Republic, in a coup d’état in November 1799 that Corsican Napoleon Bonaparte removed the Directors and so launched the French First Empire. For the next decade-and-a-half, the French would battle successive coalitions (six in all), generally beating them soundly. But the sheer weight of forces arrayed against Napoleon was telling. On the fringes, in Iberia and Russia, France lost thousands of men. The ever stubborn British controlled the seas. Napoleon even had to sell Louisiana to the infant United States just to make ends meet. Finally, the Sixth Coalition, following the historic retreat from Russia, defeated the Grande Armée at Leipzig, entered Paris in March 1814, exiled Napoleon to Elba, and reinstalled the Bourbon Monarchy.
But all that didn’t last long. Bonaparte returned to France and raised yet another army. Louis XVIII, suffering from gout and having some sense, fled Paris to go into hiding in the Netherlands. The monarchs of Europe had to create yet another coalition, and after 100 days of excitement, routed the French at the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon was again shipped off to an island prison (where he eventually died in 1821 at the age of 51). France was a kingdom again … well at least until 1848. Yet another revolution, not much better organized than the first, overthrew the Capetians once and for all and established the Second Republic. Which lasted only three years until Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, following his uncle’s footsteps, overthrew those libertarians and so founded the Second French Empire.
And that in turn lasted only until 1870, when Napoleon III got himself captured by the Prussians at the Battle of Sedan during the Franco-Prussian War. The National Assembly was invaded by a Parisian mob, who demanded a change. The delegates, no fools, promptly created the Third Republic. The Empress fled for England and republicanism once again ran amok in France. They just couldn’t quite seem to get it right. (The Prussians, in the process, got Alsace-Lorraine and unified Germany … but that’s another story.)
The Third Republic did fairly well, all things considered. It made friends with England and Russia and the United States. It managed to solidify its grasp on the tattered remnants of its overseas colonial holdings, mostly bits of African desert and Asian jungle. Decadent Paris became the world’s guilty pleasure; like moths to a flame, tourists flocked to the Moulin Rouge, the Left Bank, Le Crazy Horse Saloon and the Bal Bullier. The roots of avant-garde art flourished; the belle époque was in full swing. The French set the standards for fashions, foods and fads. France even managed to survive the First World War without another change in government, although the Pyrrhic victory left it devastated and impoverished.
Indeed, the Third Republic managed to survive until 1940, when replaced by the Vichy government, which filled up the part of France the Third Reich didn’t bother to occupy. After four brutal years, metropolitan France was liberated by the English and Americans – despite de Gaulle’s claims for the “Free French” forces – in summer and autumn 1944. By 1945 Nazi Germany was defeated; the Second World War was over. It was time for yet another government, this time the Fourth Republic, when a new constitution was adopted in October 1946.
The trigger for the collapse of the Fourth Republic (yes, another one) was the Algerian Crisis of 1958. Having been truly devastated by world war, the French leaders had spent even more blood trying to hang on to a decaying colonial empire, notably in Indo-China and in Algeria. The Suez Crisis in 1956 was yet another disaster for France. In May 1958, the National assembly brought de Gaulle back to power; he quickly dissolved the Fourth and created a Fifth, based on his “Politics of Grandeur,” declaring that grandeur was essential to the nature of France. And it’s been that way ever since.
- Main article: French cities (Civ6)
- The French civilization's symbol is the fleur-de-lis, which has a long history of use in French heraldry.
- The French civilization ability is named after the traditional trip through Europe undertaken mainly by aristocratic men in the 17th and 18th centuries, which is considered a precursor for modern-age cultural tourism.
- The French civilization's colors under Catherine de Medici were changed in Gathering Storm to avoid confusion with the Swedish, whose colors are light blue and yellow.
- France is also playable in The Black Death, in which it is led by King Philip VI; and the War Machine scenario, in which it is led by the French High Command.