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As a long-time Civilization fan, I always get all giddy inside when I find out a new Civilization is on the horizon. Typically I expect tweaks and balances, improved graphics, a new feature or two, and the same great addictive gameplay I’ve grown to love for over 15 years. With the release of Civilization Revolution, Firaxis has realized that the Civilization formula can be drastically modified and still deliver a rich, deep and strategic experience. This revelation has caused them to hit the drawing boards and rework many of the core gameplay mechanics that have been around since the first Civilization in 1991.

Over a month ago I wrote our first preview article for Civilization V. Since then Civ V has been featured at several game conventions, released a plethora of information, and had a library of articles written about it all around the web. I have spent over eight hours reading countless articles and collecting every bit of information I could find about Civilization V. Needless to say, there’s a lot of information out there. If you were expecting a small article, you’ve come to the wrong place. You’re a Civ fan though– I’m sure you’re used to lengthy endeavors.

Under development for two and a half years, the Civilization franchise is getting much more than a face lift. In a recent interview with PC Gamer, Jon Shafer stated, “[Civilization V is] more of a revolution than a refinement.” Many features being redesigned (or removed) will have a profound effect on gameplay. Changes to the combat system, unit functionality, resource management, map tiles, terrain, cities & cultural borders, diplomacy, leadership bonuses, artificial intelligence, user interface, and modification support will vastly change the way we play this timeless classic.

Civilization V2 Playzone

The combat system alone is enough to make a Civilization veteran feel like a newbie. The biggest change would have to be the welcomed extinction of the “stacks of doom” (massive armies stacked on top of each other on a single tile.) There is only one military unit allowed on a map tile at any given time, including cities. Anyone familiar with the Civilization franchise knows that this is a game-changing mechanic. The implications of this change are massive, and in my opinion, it is one of the greatest changes they could have made. Battles are taken away from cities and are held on the open battlefield. Your army will be a literal line of defense, with your one lonely unit defending your city being that metaphorical, “last line of defense.” Please note that there is a discrepancy in information in regards to a single unit being allowed to defend a city. Some sources say you can, others say no units can defend a city tile

Another major change in the combat system includes ranged units being able to attack enemies from up to two tiles away. The trade off is that they are extremely weak against melee units. Your ranged units will weaken the enemy’s front line before you attack with your close combat forces. While this all sounds well and good, it leaves a very important, and unanswered question, what happens when you reach the modern era? I think it is safe to say that most modern military units are not close-combat oriented.

Combat changes aren’t the only gameplay mechanics that will influence how you manage and mobilize your army. There are three notable changes in unit behavior that will change the way Civilization is played. First off, units don’t die when they lose in combat. It is my assumption that they have hit points that are deducted during combat (whether they win or lose), but this has not been confirmed. Another major change to is the removal of transports. Now units automatically fold up into a very vulnerable floating platform as they traverse the seas. This means you will need a strong air force and navy to safely get your units to hostile shores. Finally, combat units can now move two tiles per turn instead of one. This has been done to make units more flexible on the battlefield since only one unit can occupy a tile. Shafer compared this new flexibility to pieces on a chess board.

Resources are being changed quite a bit as well. The benefits of luxury resources are capped at one per civilization. This means that if you control a hex with dye on it, additional dye hexes won’t offer any additional bonus to happiness. This will promote resource trading of surplus resources. This will also be a minor, but important, factor when conducting diplomacy and going to war. Strategic resources, like Iron and Horses, are vastly different in Civilization V. In past civilizations, you just needed access to a resource in order to build units that require the resource. Now each strategic resource allows for a set number of units that require that resource. This plus the addition of military wages will reward players for being able to strategically use their available units. No longer will the winner be determined by the player who can pump out the most units in the shortest amount of time.

Rise of Civilization V3

As most people know by now, Civilization 5 will be dropping square tiles for more strategic and versatile hexagonal tiles. This allows for more maneuverability and control over your units as well as a more fluid looking landscape. There are no sharp 90 degree edges with hex tiles so landscapes will look more realistic and lively. Terrain also has some minor changes associated with it. There are thirteen known terrain tile types in Civilization V. While there are many small changes in the terrain tiles, the most notable change is that units will be able to conceal themselves and heal in forests.

Cities and cultural borders are getting some very different changes as well. The most notable change is that territorial borders are no longer based solely on culture. They expand gradually (one hex at a time) instead of in large chunks. It has been said that the borders will expand towards resources and terrain that matches a cities specialization. Cities will now span a three tile “radius” instead of two and there are “game-specific disadvantages” to having cities placed too close together. Finally there are five confirmed city designs based on cultural background. This will allow for a more authentic and diverse look to cities on the map.

Many aspects of the game have been changed or removed to cater to a more diplomatic experience. Religion is one of those aspects that have been scrapped in lieu of a better diplomatic playing field. In a recent interview Shafer stated, “Because diplomacy is one of our focuses with Civ V, planning what an AI leader is thinking, how he’s going to win the game, that wasn’t something that was meshing very well with the religion system.” Another major change to diplomacy options is that civilizations can now enter a joint research project at the cost of some gold. These research projects will research technology 15% faster for both civilizations. While these are the extent of the known changes to the diplomacy system, there are many other changes to the computer’s artificial intelligence that will play a major role in the diplomatic enhancements of Civilization V.

The computer players have become much smarter in Civ V. Artificial intelligence (like many other aspects of Civ V) has been redesigned to give a richer, better and less-predictable experience. Computer players now have three tiers of thinking: operational, tactical, and strategic.

The operational AI determines how to use the computer’s units on a local level, tactical AI helps determine which battles (and other scenarios) should (or shouldn’t) be perused, and the strategic AI manages the empire as a whole. While the AI in previous Civilization games has always “lived in the moment”, the AI in Civ V will always be working towards it’s ultimate goal, to win the game.

Each leader has his own personality dictated by “flavor”. This gives each computer controlled leader a unique gameplay style based on historic information on that leader. It is rumored that there are 25 flavors grouped into several categories. Flavors aren’t set in stone though, each flavor of a leader will be +/- 2 points at the start of each match. For example: American leaders might be typically high in industry and economic flavors, but flavor variation will determine how high it is at the start of every game. While you will be able to predict that George Washington will be financial, his financial flavor will be different each game.

There are mixed reports about whether flavors are also replacing leadership traits for players. Some websites treat flavors and traits as one in the same, and others don’t. According to IGN, “The grab bag of leader traits from the previous Civilization games is gone now in favor of traits that are entirely unique to each leader.” This leads me to believe that Civ V will take the same approach that they did in Civilization Revolution. This is probably the most reliable and informed explanation I’ve read. While nobody seems to give an accurate account, I’m inclined to believe IGN over most other sources I’ve read.

In addition to new computer players there are some changes to non-player computers such as barbarians and the addition of city-states. Barbarians will now have their own tech trees as well as a home city that you must destroy in order to eliminate them as a threat. City-states are new to the game and they will play a very important role in diplomacy. City-states have their own tech trees and personality. When you befriend a city-state you will be granted specific bonuses based on their personality. While they will never grow big or try to win the game, they will be able to defend themselves in case a player decides to try and take over their city. Needless to say, city-states will be a huge factor in diplomacy. If Russia is getting bonuses from a city-state and you want to take it over then you’re going to have a war on your hands.

Civilization VI

While it is very difficult to understand the intricacies of a user interface based on textual explanations (and due to a lack of screenshots including the UI) there are a few things that are clear. The UI has been streamlined and made much more appealing to the eye. Most of your information will be streamed on an icon-based notification window on the side. The game will include an intuitive and easy-to-use nested menu system to interact with all of your advisers (economic, diplomatic, civil, etc). Finally, it has been said that the screen wont be littered with icons and numbers everywhere on every tile.

Last, but definitely not least, there is going to be mod support for Civ V like never before. There will be scheduled mod releases, more in-game support for mods, and more support outside the game for the modding community. I am assuming that Firaxis finally understands that a huge reason for the longevity of a Civilization game is it’s mods and the modding community.

Well that’s most of the important information anyone needs to know about the upcoming, future best seller, Civilization V. I think it is shaping up to be an amazing leap forward in the franchise and the genre. While I have always been a fan of Civilization, and I would have bought this one even if they changed very little from Civ IV, I welcome the change. Based on all that I’ve read, I can guarantee countless nights while muttering the words, “one more turn” to yourself, your children, and your significant other.

Below you will find some other lists of facts, articles for further reading, and the sources used for this article. If you have not preordered it yet, you can now preorder Sid Meier’s Civilization V from Amazon for $49.99.

Confirmed Leaders

  • America – Washington
  • Germany – Bismark
  • Aztec – Montezuma
  • Japan – Oda Nobunaga
  • China – Wu Zeitein
  • Arabia – Harun al-Rashid
  • Mongolia – Genghis Khan
  • Rome – Caeser
  • France – Napolean
  • India – Gandhi
  • England – Elizabeth
  • Songhai – Askia
  • Russia – Katherine
  • Ottomans – Suleiman
  • Egypt – Ramesses
  • Greece – Alexander the Great


I just want to give a special thanks to Civ Fanatics for their extremely vast amount of information regarding Civilization V.