The term terrain encompasses the geographical features of the map in Civilization VI. As in recent Civilization titles, it consists of hexagonal tiles, each of which possesses certain properties and gameplay effects. At the most basic level, terrain is divided into land (which forms the inhabitable parts of the map, where most of the gameplay happens) and water (which surrounds the land and completes the map).
In Civilization VI all landmass is separated into continents, but continents are not necessarily always separated by water. As per game rules, when each map is initially formed, even if it joins all land into a single continuous landmass, the engine will still separate it logically into several continents. This means that it is possible to see two land tiles next to each other which belong to different continents. On the other hand, it is possible for an island to belong to a nearby continent, even being fully separated by water.
The reason for this is because some gameplay effects involve different continents. So, for these to remain possible, on every map there is need for different continents, even if the land was created as a single, continuous landmass.
Map generation in Civilization VI is ever closer to real life. For example, Mountains are often surrounded by Hills, or Hills often form massive clusters mimicking highlands. Gathering Storm makes another step forward: mountain chains are now often found at tectonic faults, where two continents join; and it is also there where the new Volcanoes are found, showing earth's tectonic activity with their eruptions. Rivers are now surrounded by Floodplains when enough lowland tiles are close to each other.
As in previous titles, all terrain in the game consists of a combination of three elements: base terrain, terrain features and resources. Most tiles may also be subjected to civilization's touch via special facilities, called tile improvements.
By this we define the basic soil type of the tile. In conceptual terms base terrain denotes the climate type of the tile, and comes with pre-determined qualities and yields.
The five base terrain types can all be allocated to certain geographical regions of the map:
- Plains - Found in temperate, subtropical, and (with lesser frequency) tropical climates. This is maybe the most widespread terrain type.
- Grassland - Found mostly in tropical and equatorial climates in the middle of the map.
- Desert - Usually found in tropical climates. Not as common as grassland and plains, it usually forms expanses which are surrounded by plains or grassland.
- Tundra - Found in cold climates in the northern/southern regions of the map.
- Snow - Found in the extremes of the map, past tundra regions.
All five terrain types have their Hill variants, where the hill denotes a difference in relief (highlands, as opposed to lowlands) and not a feature (as in previous Civilization games). All Hill variants add +1 Production to their base terrain yield. Also, the following points may be made:
- Unless explicitly stated, it should not be assumed that a wonder that can be built on one terrain can be built on the Hills variant of that terrain. The same goes for abilities that interact with certain aspects of terrains. For example:
- Since Hills are no longer a feature, they do not interact with bonuses granted by Reyna's Forestry Management or the Māori's Marae or prevent Droughts.
- Bonuses of Petra and St. Basil's Cathedral: Despite the fact that these two wonders have explicit tooltips explaining whether or not they can be built on Hills variants, their bonuses do apply to Hills variants without mentioning so.
- Russia's civilization ability, Mother Russia, does apply to Tundra Hills without mentioning so.
- The Open-Air Museum counts terrains and their respective Hills variant as one for the purpose of providing Culture and Tourism bonuses.
Mountains, like Hills, are now counted as variants of some base terrain. However, Mountains are impassable and cannot be worked in any way (except when playing as the Inca). Note that Volcanoes are special mountains.
There are two more types of base terrain, related to water:
- Coast - Found right next to land, either when the world ocean encompasses landmasses, or when there is a small expanse of water enclosed by land (i.e. a bay, salt lake, or inland sea).
- Ocean - All the rest of the water expanse, found far from land.
These are commonly-met special formations of some sort (vegetation, relief, etc.) that enrich the qualities (and yields) of the base terrain and add new gameplay elements to it. Most features basically become part of the tile underneath - this is the case with Floodplains, Oasis, Volcanic Soil, and Mountains. Others, however, may be removed during the course of the game (Woods, Rainforest, Marsh), or even added to it (Volcanic Soil).
All features are related to base terrain in some way - most of them can only appear on certain types of terrain:
- Woods (Plains, Grassland, Tundra) - Vegetation, the most common feature in the game. Present both on flat terrain and Hills. Can be Removed.
- Rainforest (Plains only) - Dense tropical vegetation. Present both on flat terrain and Hills. Removable.
- Marsh (Grassland only) - Water-soaked lowlands. Present only on flat tiles. Removable.
- Oasis (Desert only) - A water source amidst the barren land. Flat tiles only.
- Geothermal Fissure - A hot-water source, caused by tectonic activity. Flat tiles only, always found near Mountains and/or Volcanoes.
- Volcanic Soil - Minerals overlay caused by volcanic activity. Only appears on tiles near Volcanoes, and only after they erupt. Present both on flat terrain and Hills.
- Floodplains (Desert, Plains, Grassland only, alongside rivers) - Areas near a river which are prone to flooding. Flat tiles only.
One feature, the River, merits special explanation: this feature is not related to a particular tile or terrain, and instead is part of the world relief. Read its article for a more detailed explanation.
The following features appear on water tiles:
- Reef (Coast only) - Areas where rocks appear very near the water surface.
- Ice - Frozen water, found in the extremes of the world.
In vanilla Civilization VI and Rise and Fall base terrain and features' yields were set in stone - they could only be changed via certain wonders. That's not the case, however, in Gathering Storm. The new disaster system unleashes the forces of nature upon the world, which are capable of significantly altering base yields. Every time a disaster strikes the land, soil and minerals are carried by it, enriching the soil of even the most arid areas of the world. This means that there is a chance the disaster will add further yields to some or all affected tiles and they will remain for the rest of the game! On the other hand, Climate change may reverse disaster effects and actually strip the land of previously earned bonus yields through desertification. Check individual Disaster descriptions for further info.
- Main article: Resource (Civ6)
These are special minerals or vegetation, important for your civilization in some way. They add the final touch to a tile's yields. Just like features, resources are closely tied to both base terrain and its features - they will appear only on certain types of these.
Unlike in Civilization V, terrain features do not overwrite the base terrain yield, but rather add some bonus to it; and resources stack their yields on top of both base terrain and features. Another major change is that tile improvements now do not necessarily remove terrain features, and their bonuses simply stack on top of these of base terrain + features + resources! So, for example, Woods on a Grassland Hills tile will have a total yield of 2 Food and 2 Production, while on a Plains Hills tile it will be 1 Food and 3 Production. If you build a Lumber Mill on it, the total yield (after all applicable technologies have been researched) will be 2 Food, 4 Production on Grassland, and 1 Food, 5 Production on Plains.
Note that base terrain, features and resources are all interconnected in terms of map organization. That is to say, all features and resources may only appear on particular types of base terrain, and/or feature: for example you will never see Woods on Desert or Snow terrains; Iron may only spawn on Hills variants on most terrain types, while Spices will only spawn in Woods or Rainforest. This logic is applied at map generation, and the player cannot affect it in any way. Nevertheless, you could try to learn what features and resources to expect in certain terrains and locations - this may help you anticipate gameplay effects, and make the most use of systems such as religion and the combat system.
Terrain and movement
Terrain and its features have a direct impact on unit movement. That is to say, many features on land represent obstacles to movement, which means that they cost more Movement points for units to pass through. All Hills, for example, cost 2 MPs, as do all Woods, Rainforests and Marshes; the combination of these raises the MP cost to 3. Mountains block all movement, presenting an insurmountable obstacle all the way until the Modern Era (when, in Gathering Storm, the Mountain Tunnel is invented).
Rivers are also a major movement obstacle. Though not insurmountable, rivers cost 3 MPs to cross, and may become quite an impediment, especially for an invading force in the early game.
Water and its features don't represent such problems to movement. There is, of course, one big exception: all Ocean tiles are impassable until a civilization researches Cartography. In essence, this limits exploration in the early to middle game to the landmass and nearby islands where the civilization is located. In very rare cases all landmasses happen to be connected by a strait or two, which allows continuous exploration even in the early game.
Terrain and combat
Finally, terrain (and particularly its features) may affect combat. They impose penalties or confer bonuses to units, and when used wisely may even turn the tide of battle. For example, Woods confer a +2 bonus to a unit defending in it, while Marsh imposes a -2 penalty. Refer to individual descriptions for more info.
List of terrains and terrain features
- Main article: List of terrains in Civ6
- Main article: Appeal (Civ6)
In Civilization VI, there is a brand new attribute associated with terrain: Appeal. Each land tile receives an Appeal rating based on a combination of factors, including the tile's base terrain and the features on and adjacent to it. Wonders and some Great People also increase the Appeal rating of tiles.
The Appeal of a tile has some important gameplay effects, mainly related to Tourism and Housing. For example, building Tourism-related buildings and improvements on or next to tiles with high Appeal will increase their effect. The Housing bonus of Neighborhood districts also depends on the Appeal of the tile.
- Main article: Natural wonder (Civ6)
Natural wonders are unique terrain features that may be found scattered throughout the map, typically in an environment resembling the real-life surroundings of the wonder. Natural wonders cover between 1 and 4 tiles, and provide powerful bonuses which are of great strategic importance to nearby civilizations. Though players cannot build districts or improvements on wonder tiles, the bonuses they provide to their surroundings make them attractive locations for constructing cities.
It is important to note that while some natural wonders behave as modified versions of basic terrain features, this is not always the case. For instance, Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro are considered Mountains, while Eyjafjallajökull and Torres del Paine are not.
Bonuses and effects
Though the bonuses provided by wonders differ in nature, all natural wonders have a few things in common. Players cannot build districts, found cities, construct wonders, or make tile improvements on natural wonder tiles. All natural wonders provide +2 Appeal to adjacent tiles, which makes them ideal spots for Neighborhoods and National Parks.
Natural wonders can be broadly categorized into "passable" and "impassable" wonders (depending on whether or not units can move on the wonder tiles). As a rule, passable wonders provide bonuses on the wonder tiles themselves, while impassable wonders provide bonuses to the surrounding landscape.
Passable wonders are usually modified forms of ordinary terrain features that provide extra Culture, Science, Gold, or Faith in addition to the normal yields from a tile of their type. Passable wonder tiles share some traits with terrain: Marsh wonders (such as Pantanal and Ubsunur Hollow) have a higher Movement cost, and Lake wonders (such as Crater Lake and the Dead Sea) provide fresh water to adjacent tiles. Passable wonders are most effective when incorporated into a city, as their tiles do not provide an adjacency bonus. Passable wonder tiles are significantly better than an unimproved tile of any kind, but are often less productive than an ordinary tile with an improvement or a district.
Most impassable wonders are modified forms of impassable terrain such as mountains and rock formations. Their bonuses extend to adjacent tiles, often providing extra Culture, Science, or Faith to their surroundings. (Note that these bonuses stack for each adjacent tile - see diagram for a visual explanation.) Many impassable wonders also grant units a one-time bonus, such as a free Promotion. Impassable wonders are most effective when near the borders of a city, such that their adjacency bonus extends onto city tiles without wasting valuable space.
In the expansions, each natural wonder grants +1 Era Score when it is discovered, or +3 Era Score if the player is the first to do so.
List of natural wonders
- Main article: List of natural wonders in Civ6