Civilization Wiki
Civilization Wiki

Where to start? The manual is a hundred pages long!

Choice of initial city site[]

Most rivals build where they find themselves. You may do better by taking a step or two if it gets you into a much better position.

If you are on a special tile, building on it is probably a good idea unless it's

If you are next to a special tile, there's a fair chance that others are in the standard relationship to it (3S 1W; 3W 1N, 3N 1E, 3E 1S). Work out which tile would have a chance of using four, and move to it unless it's jungle or mountain or ocean or swamp.

Civ1 Good city site.png

If you're on resourced grassland and going to move, there is great value in building a road there first, because the two-turn delay may be well compensated by faster early trade and later faster movement. A first city with one or two good trade squares, such as a fishing site, road, or river, will increase the rate of early research two or even three-fold.

Tactically, it's generally better on a river than beside one, because you can't build roads across rivers until you learn Bridge Building, but you can use a city as a bridge. Economically, you may want to build on a plains or a resourced grassland that's near the river, because that guarantees you a resource in your home city, whereas half the river tiles have no resources. Building on a plains tile is also useful because building a city gives you a free irrigation and free road, both of which are needed by plains and wasted on rivers while under Despotism.

Before founding your first city it's also wise to check your options and tax rates. Players wanting to accelerate gameplay will probably turn animations, help text, and the palace feature off. Those taking advantage of the repeated clicking glitch will probably wish to turn the End of Turn check on also.

It's very important to ensure science and tax rates are as you intend them at this early stage. Unless your style is very cash based, it is advantageous to change the science rate to 100%, so that critical early discoveries can be obtained as early as possible.

First unit[]

Start building Settlers or a Phalanx if Bronze Working is available in time (unless rivals or barbarians have appeared). If a rival civilization walks into your only city at this stage, you can always start again. Building Militia is usually a waste of resources at this vital early stage.

Send that first unit out exploring while you build a second one. First moves should expose more of the squares from which you can extract food, resources, or trade. Then move further away, diagonally where possible so as to see the maximum number of new squares per turn until you reach the coast, a good city building site, or a rival civilization.

First Encounters[]

Unless you are very fortunate, your first or second unit will encounter a rival civilization by around 2500BC. At this stage you should be relatively evenly matched, and peace should be easy to sign up to if you wish for it. If you have an early advantage, either through a lucky village find (i.e. friendly mercenaries, or even an advanced tribe) or by prospering well naturally, and having some handy military units, you can reject peace offers, which may include gold offerings or offers of all their gold and knowledge. If they have the advantage they may threaten your civilization for knowledge or gold. Usually if they demand knowledge, you can face down their threats and then make peace. If they demand a tribute of gold, or open the conversation with 'Your civilization makes us laugh', it is usually time to prepare for war.

One useful hack is that during the first encounter, if you have agreed peace, you can ask your opponent to declare war on any of the other civilizations. This will enable you to discover which other nations are in play, and if the Russians or Mongols are among these, to make the necessary defensive arrangements. At this point of the game the other civilization will almost always have 'no contact with' whichever civilization you select.

Early Defense[]

When defending against a neighboring aggressor, try to make the best possible use of terrain -- a Phalanx fortified in a Mountain tile near your enemy can lure a dozen attackers to their doom, even if the Phalanx isn't threatening anything important. Similarly, don't just wait for your opponent to come to you -- use cheap units to attack enemy units that have a weak defense. A Militia is only 25% the price of a Chariot, but a Militia attacking a Chariot in clear terrain has a 50% chance to win. Cavalry also work well for these kinds of spoiling attacks, since they have 2 points of offense but are reasonably cheap and mobile. If you must defend, try to defend a square that's outside your city, so that you won't lose population when you lose the battle. Think about where you can create chokepoints based on the terrain and the presence of other enemy units.

Early Offense[]

When attacking a nearby enemy, use a mix of Phalanxes, Chariots and Catapults. The Phalanxes hold terrain and absorb enemy counter-attacks, the Catapults attack first to get you the best odds against the defender's Phalanxes, and then the Chariots attack twice per turn to rapidly mow down the remaining chaff (Militia, Legions, Settlers, etc.) while the enemy is exposed. If you're going to attack, it's usually worth building up at least 5 expeditionary units (i.e., above and beyond the units defending your cities from barbarians) before declaring war -- if you attack with 2 chariots and lose, your opponent will likely have time to repair any damage before the next 2 chariots arrive. On the other hand, if you attack with 5 chariots and conquer a city without taking any losses, you can rapidly proceed to the next target. For similar reasons, you want at least one major "highway" before bothering with war, unless your enemy is very close and the terrain is very clear. Consider building early roads primarily for their military value in speeding your units from your cities to your enemy's cities, rather than worrying about which tiles will generate the most trade.


Village (Civ1).png

Enter villages that are in the farmable area of a city (in other words, the 20 squares around a city that the city could farm or mine). These villages will never produce any barbarians. Avoid entering further-out villages that are close to any of your poorly defended cities. Do enter any that are much closer to rivals' cities than to yours, for two reasons:

  1. Barbarians will more likely damage the rival
  2. Good results will accrue to you, not the rival explorers

Once your cities are well defended, send a strong defensive unit to enter nearby villages if any are left.

If a barbarian enters a village, nothing happens.

What to build next[]


Once you are confident your capital is secure, usually having explored nearby land or built a Phalanx, it is a good move to build a second Settler even if you started the game with two. The earlier you can build Settlers safely, the earlier you can expand your civilization and improve the terrain around your cities. Mass building of Settlers in early game play enables you to spread over a large land area very rapidly. In some instances it is possible to colonize an entire continent by 1500BC.

It is possible to calculate the build carefully so as not to waste much, if any, food when the Settler builds. For example, if your city is size 2 (with food box able to contain 30, and actually containing anything from about 20 to 29 sheaves), at the time when "end of turn" will add the 40th resource and produce the settler, the food box will shrink to 20 and any surplus food will be wasted. If the food box is completely full, however, you have got it just right: the population increase (with enlarged food box, and half full if you have a Granary) will happen first, then with the settler creation you will revert to the population you had before, with a couple of sheaves of food below the "empty" line or several (usually more than five) below the "granary" line.

Your new settler is costing you food (and possibly resources) until it dies or creates its own city, so:

  1. don't spend time irrigating or mining with it
  2. do generally try to build roads on two or three easy squares on the route to the new city site for quick movement of troops in future emergencies and (particularly on grassland, but also on plains or even deserts) to earn more early trade.

Game screen 3 (Civ1).png

Settlers are very important for expanding your civilization. Adding another city to your nation, so long as you

Game screen 2 (Civ1).png

can defend it, increases your potential exponentially. Try to establish cities with a Phalanx defending each one as quickly as possible. Aim to have 3 cities by 3000 BC, 6-8 cities by 2000 BC, and if there is the free land to expand, 20-30 cities by 0 AD.

Early City Improvements[]

Once you have expanded as much as you can, your cities will begin to grow, and will need improvements to ensure they don't fall into disorder or languish.

With Ceremonial Burial comes with ability to build a Temple. On the discovery of Mysticism these cheap buildings turn two unhappy people into content people. Temples are a cost-effective way of keeping your citizens content -- because they make two citizens content for an upkeep of only 1 coin, it's easy enough to earn enough tax revenue off of those citizens to turn a profit off of the temple. Another option is stockpiling cheap units like militia, cavalry, or phalanxes -- these units are often free under Despotism, and will only cost 1 resource per turn under Monarchy or Communism, so if you have terrain to work that generates at least 2 food and 1 resource, then you can break even on the extra population by keeping it under military rule.

It's usually not worth having citizens work as entertainers or building the inefficient Colosseum in the opening -- it makes 3 citizens content at a cost of 4 gold per turn, which is quite expensive. Collecting 4 gold in taxes at, say, a 50% tax rate means having 10 or even 12 trade income, because some of the trade income will be lost as corruption. It's very challenging to earn anywhere near 12 trade from only 3 citizens until you have transitioned to a Republic. If you find yourself stuck with unwanted citizens, consider starving them by assigning workers as tax collectors or scientists or in mountains until your population is back down to a manageable size.

The discovery of Writing enables the building of a library. In a city that is already generating at least 4 light-bulbs, a library will help improve your economy -- it will generate 2 new light bulbs at the cost of only 1 gold. If you've got fewer than 4 light bulbs, the library doesn't really add anything; you're just shifting trade from tax to science, which you could do directly using the tax rate menu.

When you have discovered Pottery, you can build a Granary in any city. Its value appears mainly when your population grows, leaving your foodbox half full instead of empty, so you can grow almost twice as fast. Its other value is in preventing famine, a rare event. But it costs 60 resources. Almost certainly not economic when your city size is 1 and maybe not when it's 2. Work out the savings and costs. Costs include consideration of what else you could do with the resources: stronger defense, more explorer units, another settler, a library for faster scientific advancement. As with the settlers, calculate the build so as not to waste costs: plan to have it in place just before your foodbox fills.

The Barracks will automatically promote all of your units to veterans as soon as they are built, giving them a 50% increase in their combat strength, but, again, you must pay maintenance on the barracks in most versions of Civ 1. consider building barracks in about half of your cities (ideally the ones near the front lines) and then building most or all of your military units in those cities and walking them over to your other cities, so that you won't have to invest the resources or pay the gold maintenance for every single city.


In early gameplay, working towards Mathematics, which allows Catapult units, and Monarchy, so you can realise the full potential of your resources, is probably the main priority. Civilizations on small islands should concentrate on working towards Navigation, for Sail units. (Trireme units are terrible unless you see another continent on the fringes of your vision and you know it's only one tile away.) Monarchy can be attained very quickly by researching Alphabet, Code of Laws, and Ceremonial Burial.

If you build the Pyramids, you will not need to work towards governmental advances. Republic or Democracy government systems help trade, and therefore aid scientific progress considerably. If you have a city near a gold mine or gem resource, building the Colossus and Copernicus' Observatory, along with a library and a university, will increase knowledge production in that city by a factor of 8, which can enable you to sweep through advances rapidly until the discovery of Electricity and Automobile. Obviously this requires a lot of resources and dedication, and a secure position in the game.

Religion is useful for building Cathedrals, which can be enhanced with Michelangelo's Chapel and aided by JS Bach's Cathedral. These buildings and wonders are very useful for managing happiness in large cities. JS Bach's Cathedral, as a continental wonder, is exceptionally useful on Earth, or indeed any scenario where the majority of your cities are on the same island, as it turns two extra unhappy people into content people.

Into mid-game, Conscription for Riflemen units ensures almost impregnable defence. Industrialization and Automobile unlock your way to the more advanced scientific discoveries (as well as pollution). Riflemen inside city walls or on mountains are almost unbreachable. Only Battleship units, possible with the discovery of Steel, or late-game Artillery units have any chance against them.

Towards the end-game, if you are dominant at this stage, research Future Techs for extra points (they give no in-game advantage). If you wish to retire or are nearing completing the game, you can virtually double your end score by increasing luxuries to 100% on the last turn. Happy people count as two points, content people contribute one point, and unhappy people zero points.

Mid-game tactics[]


Population Boom[]

There are many approaches to building on an established civilization towards world domination. If you are isolated, or have dominated your neighbours, changing the system of government to Democracy and setting a high level of luxuries will cause any city that does not have an unhappy citizen to increase by one in population. With the right preparations such as temples, aqueducts, cathedrals, irrigation, and most importantly, a healthy treasury, this can turn a languishing civilization into a superpower within a few turns.

Self-Supporting City Improvements[]

Even if you're not ready to trigger a population boom, building a Temple, Marketplace, and Bank in all of your large cities can help you sustain cities up to about size 12 while still earning a healthy profit -- the Marketplace and Bank together will double both your gold collection and your luxuries, so they will essentially pay for themselves (and then some) while also magnifying the effect of your Luxuries or Entertainers. One citizen assigned as an Entertainer can generate 4 luxuries with the Marketplace and Bank, which is enough to keep 2 other citizens content, which should be enough to generate a food surplus that can feed the Entertainer. Once you get past size 12, it starts to make sense to invest in a Cathedral (expensive, but efficient once you build them) or to adjust your tax rate in the menu to include up to 40% luxuries.

Rapid Technological Progress[]

Aim to discover a new tech at least every 10 turns or so while still balancing your gold budget -- you can check and see how quickly you are making progress by consulting your Trade Advisor from the menu. If you're not learning techs quickly enough, you can try capturing enemy cities (each city you capture gives you a tech as long as the former owner knew something you didn't) or using Diplomats to Steal Technology from them (you can steal 1 tech per city). This is often much cheaper than researching all of the tech yourself, but be aware that either option will always start a war. You can also trade techs with their neighbors, but you will have to wait for them to suggest the trades. To encourage these suggestions, send Diplomats or cheap land units to border their cities, unloading the units from their boats if necessary. If they're very shy, you can have a Diplomat enter an enemy city and choose Meet with King.

Middlegame Wars[]

If you are engaged in war, or have an annoying neighbour, Monarchy, and later Communism, may be preferable government systems. This enables you to declare war, or conduct a sneak attack against any rival who doesn't own the Great Wall or United Nations. If you are on an island, attaining exclusive ownership of that island so that you can spend less resources on war later on, usually reaps better rewards. The middle game is often a poor time to wage war because the best available attacking unit, Catapult (6), is no stronger than a Phalanx (2) fortified behind City Walls (x3). Researching Metallurgy and building Cannons, which attack at 8, will give you a marginal advantage, but you still need to defend the expensive and slow Cannons, so this is not great either. Consider picking off a couple of your enemy's closest and most vulnerable cities and then just defending them with Phalanxes yourself until later in the game. Using Sails or Frigates to sail behind your enemy's front lines can be helpful, and the Ironclad (4-4-4) unit makes a decent mobile artillery to pound away at whatever defenses you find in your enemy's rear, as well as being able to immediately defend your conquests.

Keep Building Settlers[]

Civ1 island.png

If in doubt, build Settlers. There will always be land somewhere that is good to build a city on it - even if you have to ship them abroad to do so, the benefits of doing this in terms of trade and resources gained from an isolated city later on will be far greater than the original outlay, and the new city may be a useful launching point for settling or conquering other far-off territories.


When troops in large numbers are available, you may consider to occupy all 20 fields that surround a city. This is particularly effective against monarchies, democracies and republics: Without being able to maintain their troops beyond anything that can be sustained by the income from the cell a city stands on alone, these will quietly disappear. For blocking fields, the fighting power of troops in the second line doesn't matter.

You can use diplomats to move units to cells that are otherwise inaccessible because they are neighboring another unit or that are in current use by an enemy you're currently in peace with. While being in peace (planning to stay such and the enemy not being able to raise more troops soon), you may consider to form a competitor city that uses the cultivated cells of the enemy's city.



If you gain the upper hand over your rivals, conquest offers the most comprehensive victory. However, preparations for military operations, if they are not to drag out and become bogged down in sieges and tit-for-tat attacks, need to be likewise comprehensive. In most games, your rivals will have many cities on different islands, which may be well defended with City Walls and strong defensive units. Consider how your units will reach their targets, and ensure you have enough Transports or other shipping vessels in place to mount a sustained and overwhelming assault. It is even worth building roads or railroads between your main cities and your target, to ensure re-enforcements can reach the battlefront quickly. Against a tough opponent, you may want to leave a gap of one tile with no road on it, so that your units cannot be easily attacked by enemies on their turn.

In mid or early game, Chariots and Catapults are a devastating combination against almost any ancient era defence. If you can attack an enemy civilization before it has a chance to build City Walls, the Phalanx unit usually doesn't stand much chance.

In late game Armor units are probably the most effective land assault unit. If you need to, consider supplementing their presence with Artillery and Battleships to gain an early breakthrough against a tough defence. Once a group of Armor units gains a foothold on an enemy island they are very difficult to stop. However, to bring about a complete victory against a technologically equal foe, you would usually require three or four of these units for each city you intend to conquer.

Another option for defeating City Walls is to swarm the enemy city with Diplomats. Diplomats can perform a variety of useful tasks, including Industrial Sabotage, which randomly destroys either the city's progress toward whatever it is currently building, or one of the existing city improvements. Attacking with one Diplomat at a time will tend to waste resources by repeatedly destroying the city's progress when that progress has already been recently reset, but a swarm of diplomats who all attack at once have a very good chance of destroying the City Walls. Because Diplomats are cheap, do not consume resources as maintenance, and do not trigger unhappiness by leaving their home cities, a swarm of Diplomats supporting 3 or 4 military units can be more effective than attacking with the 10-12 military units you would need to defeat a series of good defensive units hiding behind City Walls. If you're rich enough, you can even use your Diplomats to buy enemy cities outright, by paying to Incite Revolt.

For particularly difficult opponents, Bomber units can also offer a tactical advantage. These are especially useful if an enemy city or unit is overseas, but still within 8 squares of one of your cities -- otherwise you will need a Carrier to refuel them. A Nuclear option is usually costly in terms of pollution, and the units themselves are usually too expensive to produce to make the attack worthwhile, save for the spectacle of the dedicated animation and the satisfaction of obliterating an enemy stronghold.


It is important to consider the constraints of Democracy and Republic upon any military foray. Absent military units create unhappy citizens in their home cities, which if not addressed can result in a revolution after a second turn. If you negotiate with your foe, the senate will always overrule you if you reject peace that does not come with a tribute demand. It will also prevent you breaking a peace treaty on the field of battle (this also costs your unit that turn).

The value of a peace treaty in Civilization I is relatively limited, as most rivals will happily cast aside a centuries old treaty to attack a caravan unit or establish a city on your home island. The best you can hope from a peace treaty is to buy your Civilization some time. Therefore if you intend to go to war with a foe it is usually best to ignore their requests to speak with you, so that you can remain at war without needing a political revolution.

Spaceship Building[]

If a military adventure is cost-prohibitive, or not your ideal, building a spaceship is a great option. This works really well if your civilization is relatively small but well advanced scientifically, or isolated on an island.


Some versions of the game have bugs, but most appear only at a fairly advanced stage.

Unloading ship kills air unit[]

When you press "U" to unload a ship, you may get a message saying your air unit has run out of fuel. Sure enough, one of your bombers that had flown out and was waiting will have disappeared without trace. To avoid that, just plan your turn so that all bombers that were out are back in a city or on a carrier before you do any unloading, and finish your unloading before sending out any bombers that are not going to be safely back in the same turn.

Embarking on a ship with railroad[]

If a ship is standing on a square where a railroad is built (to increase production), any unit stepping onto it may cause the square to seem quite empty. As the panel at bottom left shows the ship and any other units that were on it, clearly the game thinks that the moved unit still has movement points left (as often happens on a railroad)! Press "W" or click on some other unit to proceed.

Undeserved pollution[]

In the turn on which you complete a building that reduces your pollution level to zero, the game may still trigger new pollution near that city. To avoid the risk of pollution, a player can prevent their city from using squares that harvest large amounts of resources, or build a Recycling Center or Mass Transit as quickly as possible. It is often a wise consideration to stockpile taxes in order to purchase these improvements when your civilization discovers Industrialization and Automobile. The Hoover Dam also mitigates pollution for all the cities on that island.

City falls to enemy quietly[]

If all military units leave the city after the conquest, it may come under the enemy control again without counter attack. You cannot view city production status. If you deploy any military unit back to the city, it will be reoccupied without resistance.

Long-distance travel by sea[]

If a ship (trireme, transporter, etc.) is in sleep mode, a new unit moves in and "wakes it", it can move its relative distance. Having two ships in parallel, with one unit hopping from one to the other, allows unlimited movement within a single turn. This behavior may be different for triremes, which can sink upon being put in sleep mode in deep sea.

Infinite pollution[]

With high scores obtained by future technologies, the game may turn into pollution mode. Regardless of any cause, every turn will produce massive pollution regardless of population size, actual pollution in the city or any counter-measurements taken. The criterion is the number of future technologies, but it seems to vary across versions and complexity levels.

Sid Meier's Civilization [edit]

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