Policy cards are a new gameplay mechanic introduced in Civilization VI, and are part of the new government system of the game. They represent the new incarnation of social policies, the actual effects of your political agenda, and in many cases are referred to as "policies," both in order to shorten the name, and to keep the tradition of previous games.
As you progress through the Civics tree, you will gain policy cards, which can then be placed into the relevant policy card slots in your Government. Different Governments have different policy slot configurations, meaning that you may only activate so many cards of each type at any given time.
Policies have concrete effects for gameplay, such as bonus yields ( Culture, Gold, etc.), or accelerated Production rate for something. Compared to the social policies of Civilization V, they are more focused and with limited effects; however, they may be shuffled almost at will instead of staying locked through the game (for more info on how to change policies, go to the Government article).
The range of available effects is wide, and becomes ever wider the more you progress through the game. A good player will always be aware of what Policies he's able to use at the current moment, and which ones will fit his momentary tactic, as well as overal strategy. There are no right or wrong policy choices in the game - although one policy may be better than another in a given circumstance, policy choices are entirely up to personal preference. Try them all to find your favorite ones. Note, however, that many cards' effects are related to specific gameplay actions (training units, building infrastructure), or related to specific parts of your economy or infrastructure which already exist. For example, the Corvee Policy card will only be useful while you are constructing a Wonder, while the Free Market Policy card will only function for big cities with a Commercial Hub district.
Note also that Policy cards have effects that are often directed at particular eras; they become obsolete once you advance further. The first (and maybe most shocking example) is the Revelation Policy, which becomes obsolete the moment the last Great Prophet in the game is attracted, which usually happens by the Medieval Era. With continued development of Civics, you will eventually unlock other cards with similar effects, directed at more advanced eras. When this happens, the older cards are removed from your deck. Pay attention to the description of each Civic - there you will find what (if any) older Policy cards will be rendered obsolete. Sometimes this might actually become a problem! For example, the Urban Planning card is a great Economic policy for early game stages, giving +1 Production to all cities, regardless of what they have constructed. However, when its gets obsolete, a similar production - oriented bonus card, Craftsmen, only offers bonus to cities with an Industrial Zone!
Policy card types
There are four types of Policy cards (five in Rise and Fall), which are slotted into corresponding slots in one's Government. Once slotted, Policies will activate their described effects and enhance your game accordingly. The Policy card types are as follows:
- Military (Red), oriented towards combat, unit production and maintenance, and strategic resource management.
- Economic (Yellow), oriented towards Production, yield boosts, Housing and Amenities.
- Diplomatic (Green), oriented towards diplomacy and city-state relations.
- Wildcard (Purple), oriented towards Great People points and Legacy bonuses. In Rise and Fall, Dark Age (Black) cards can also be placed in these slots - see below for more information about these. In the Dramatic Ages game mode, special Golden or Dark Age cards are also placed here.
While a Wildcard Policy card may only be housed in a Wildcard slot, a Wildcard slot can also house any other type of Policy card ( Military, Economic, or Diplomatic). This gives Wildcard slots great flexibility, as they are capable of housing a card of any type (including the aforementioned Golden or Dark Age cards). Wildcard slots become very important in the latest stages of the game, when Future Era Policies offer direct bonuses focused on particular victory types. Fortunately, Tier 4 Governments (also unlocked during the Future Era) offer much greater numbers of Wildcard Policy slots, allowing the player to really use the best combination of all Policy cards to achieve victory.
How to gain more policy card slots
How many slots for Policy cards you have available depends directly on your Government type. Because of the many bonuses provided by Policy cards, it is recommended to try to obtain as many Policy card slots as possible. One can increase your amount of Policy card Slots by doing any of the following:
- Changing to a more advanced Government - When you start the game, you are in a Chiefdom with only 2 slots, but as time goes on you can adopt new forms of government with more slots (2, 4, 6, 8). In Gathering Storm, you can unlock a Tier 4 government with 10 card slots.
- Playing as one of the following:
- Building Alhambra - Grants +1 Military Policy Slot.
- Building Big Ben - Grants +1 Economic Policy Slot.
- Building Potala Palace - Grants +1 Diplomatic Policy Slot.
- Building Forbidden City - Grants +1 Wildcard Policy Slot.
- Using Adam Smith's Great Person ability (in vanilla Civilization VI) - Grants +1 Economic Policy Slot.
- Invoking a World Ideology Government Type in the World Congress (Gathering Storm) - Grants +1 Wildcard Policy Slot.
- If the Secret Societies game mode is enabled, the Owls of Minerva grant +1 Economic Policy Slot in the Ancient Era and +1 Wildcard Policy Slot in the Industrial Era.
- If the Dramatic Ages game mode is enabled, playing as Georgia will grant +1 Wildcard Policy Slot while in a Golden Age.
Completing as many of the above conditions as possible will net a maximum of 14 Policy card Slots (vanilla version only), as it is impossible to play as both Greece and Germany at the same time. This number is changed to 13 in Rise and Fall and up to 15 in Gathering Storm. If the Secret Societies game mode is enabled, the maximum number is 15 in Rise and Fall and up to 18 in Gathering Storm!
Policy changes in Rise and Fall
The first expansion to Civilization VI brings small but important changes to many Policies. Most of them have been tweaked so as to include the new Loyalty mechanics. New Policies have been added for the same reason, as well as to benefit the new and enhanced Alliances system. There is one notable change, however: Policies which previously provided a 100% increase in yields from district-specific buildings (e.g. Science from Libraries, Universities, and Research Labs) have now been conditioned to only provide it in cities with 10+ Population, or districts with +3 or better adjacency bonuses. This makes it much more difficult to actually get the bonus, and in practice limits its usefulness in many cities, which was probably a balancing decision.
Finally, Legacy bonuses from Governments have been removed and are now represented as Wildcard Policies, which can be adopted after you switch away from a given government.
Dark Age policy cards
Dark Age policy cards are a new type introduced in Rise and Fall. As their name implies, they can only be adopted by civilizations that are experiencing a Dark Age. They must be placed in Wildcard slots, and provide potent benefits...at a price. Read their descriptions carefully and make sure you can live with the drawback in order to gain the benefit!
Different Dark Age policy cards become available as the game progresses, as seen in the table here.
Policy changes in Gathering Storm
The latest expansion brings many new Policies. Many of them are related to the new way Strategic resources are handled; the rest are the late-game Policies from the Future Era which bring powerful effects capable of tipping victory progression not only of your own civilization, but of your rivals' as well!
Also, a very important change was made regarding Era-specific Policies: namely, they now work for all previous Eras, as well as the new ones (previously they would only work for the 2 latest Eras, and not for the older ones). This makes them much more universal and gives advanced civilizations a logical advantage across the board, instead of just for their current Era-specific units and wonders.
List of policy cards
- Main article: List of policy cards in Civ6