Civilization 5: A New Ruler’s Guide



This guide is intended for players who are new to the Civilization franchise, who enjoy strategy sparingly, and/or who just want to understand fundamental concepts of gameplay. I hope to translate game concepts into easy-speak and provide new players with a quick, yet thorough and readable guide. Intermediate, advanced, or hardcore players might find this guide handy, but the content isn’t targeted at you.

This guide was originally published for the Steam community, where it’s become quite popular so I’ve decided to republish all of my guides here so that I can enhance them.

Table of Contents

Welcome, Your Highness!

Foremost, my intention is to make sure this guide really serves new players well. Please give me any feedback on things which you think need clarity or just questions about things not discussed at all! So far the community has been great, helping me make corrections and providing some clarity of advice for this guide. Please, keep it coming!

Civilization is a veeeeeery old game spanning the ages of our times itself!!! It is a grand turn-based strategy game about the achievements of earthly civilizations past. Without commenting on actual accuracy, it does generally try to adhere to the historical record.

You’ll see characters such as Pharoah Ramses, Catherine the Great, Bismark, Ghandi, and many more. The idea is that you chose any of the great civilizations represented in the game and you chart their nations path to victory. You can do this by all the good old fashioned methods taught in the history books:

  • Conquest
  • Cultural Achievement
  • Scientific Achievement
  • Diplomacy

These don’t represent any game modes specifically, but gives a good idea of how the game is played. Pick your civilization of choice and go out into the world and see how far you can get!

During the game you take turns against your opponents, building things, founding cities, making discoveries, and defending your lands. This is the heart of gameplay. You can even choose what style of government; will you rule as a dictator or will your civilization be a democtratic republic?

This guide will ONLY discuss single player mode. Some of the rules of gameplay change for multiplayer games and for that reason multiplayer is a different kind of game. For the sake of keeping this guide newbie friendly, we’ll only cover the very basics of how to play. By the time you’re done with this you should be able to jump into the game and understand how to play.

If you’ve truly never played this game, do yourself a favor and start at the very lowest difficulty: Chieftan. This has nothing to do with your ability to learn or anything else, but difficulty in this game works a tad different than in others. Game balance determines difficulty. For newbies, Chieftan will give you the best balanced environment to learn the game. Every increase in difficulty will bring more and more challenge until the game is balanced against you.

The Dawn of Your Empire

Don’t worry too much about the game length and the dozens of map choices. For learning, just start a simple game without tweaking advanced options.

All civilizations begin the game with different but equal features. Each one has unique characteristics and advantages. They are generally balanced such that at the start everyone is on the same level playing field.

I’ll assume you know what a turn-based strategy game is. If you don’t, they are all mostly played like chess. One player makes a move and then their opponent does the same. The board itself has rules (how many tiles are on it) and the pieces on the board have rules (how far they can move, their power, etc). You win the game by manuevering your pieces strategically around the board until you out maneuver your opponent. This is exactly how Civ is played except it’s far more interesting than Chess (imho)!

In this guide, I’ll explain the board, the pieces, and the rules in as few words as possible. The table of contents is made so you can easily skip to the relevant sections you want information about. Also, at the end of the guide is an Appendix of Terms. For the most part I’ll be defining everything as I go. Where necessary, I’ll link to guides around the community for additional information.

6 thoughts on “Civilization 5: A New Ruler’s Guide

  1. Pingback: Site Update: Gaming Guides and Modding | XP Chronicles

  2. Newbie Question: “you want to improve every workable tile in your city with farms, pastures, mines, or whatever else you need” Why do I want to do this? On page 3 “This means that one of your citizens is working that tile, which means you’re receiving the full benefit of +4 food and +2 gold. The other tile is grayed out, showing that no citizen is working the tile. Nothing is being earned there.” Doesn’t that mean I shouldn’t bother impoving tiles until I have a citizen to work it?

    • Your goal is to have all of your tiles improved over time. Whatever your town is responsible for producing (whether wealth, food, culture, science, etc), you should improve the tiles accordingly so that as it grows the citizens maintain the right balance of productivity. To do that, you need to continue to improve tiles. For a good ruler, you’re never done improving your cities 🙂

  3. Late to the party but as this is a question about tile improvement: some tiles are unneccessary to improve as your city a) will never be able to reach them to put a citizen ontop of that tile to get a benefit of the improvement or b) will never have the population to have enough citizens to put on all the tiles you want.

    And a special improvement is the road for which you pay maintenance (something like 1 gold per hex even if it is not within your borders) so spamming roads might lead to financial ruin. Railroads cost more IIRC but allow for quicker unit deployment than regular roads.

    Other than that what Doone says is correct and a map full of improvements is way prettier as well and keeps those workers busy 🙂

    • I see you had a double post. No strategies are really being offered here. It’s mostly raw information to help new rulers understand how the game works.

      The point of improving all of your tiles isn’t that you’ll have citizens on them all. It allows you to switch up strategies and be more versatile as a new player. Since most players specialize their cities (farm tiles, gold tiles, culture tiles, etc), this is almost never an issue. But a good balance of tiles prioritized around the location’s strength is a strong strategy. Especially for beginners who don’t know what they’ll want to do by the time they hit medieval era.

      But yes, as mentioned in the guide be careful with road building. You don’t ever want to spam roads.

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