Looking for a list of the best Civ 6 leaders? Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is the latest in the beloved series of turn-based strategy games. For those new to the series, the premise is as follows: assume the position of a notorious historical leader, and carry your people all the way from the early days of man to world domination with your strategy, diplomacy, and occasionally, large battering ram. You’ll be up against a motley crew of other nations vying for space and resources on the map, and your job is to meet the victory conditions for one of the victory types before one of your rivals does.
Before you challenge your friends to a weekend-long Civ-athon, or decide to test your mettle against the AI in singleplayer, we’d recommend getting to grips with every type of victory available, and trying them out so you know how to secure them – or how to prevent them. To that end, we’ve made you a guide to the best Civ 6 leaders for each victory type.
What are the victory types in Civ 6? You can go for one of the following: Science, Culture, Diplomacy, Religion, Domination, and Score. Basically: become king of space (Science), make everyone think you’re the coolest (Culture), make everyone think you’re the most sensible (Diplomacy), make everybody worship you (Religion), make everybody else dead (Domination), or make everybody else give up because it’s 3 am and they just want to go to bed (Score). Here are the best Civs with which to secure each victory, excluding Score, which is won by whoever has the highest score by 2050 AD. We’ve chosen them based on how well they perform in the standard Civilization 6 game mode – no comets raining down from the sky or vampires scuttling around from the Apocalypse or Secret Societies modes, thank you very much.
Here are the best Civ 6 leaders:
Best Civ 6 leader for Science
A Science victory is all about making your way through the Science tree, constructing a Spaceport and building and launching various extraterrestrial projects into the great unknown. The Gathering Storm expansion changes the final step slightly – where previously you had to complete three Mars modules, you now must complete an Exoplanet Expedition and wait until your brave galactic ambassadors arrive safely at the Exoplanet, where there are hopefully no barbarian camps. Imagine.
You’ll need to maximise your Science output, naturally, but the space race demands a high amount of production, so make sure you have the infrastructure to support construction in the late game. You’re also vulnerable to spies stealing your information, or worse, sabotaging your spaceships, so it’s worth training a special spy defence force to keep enemy hands off your, er, rocket.
- Leader: Seondeok, who ruled Silla, one of Korea’s three kingdoms, from 632-647. Her unique leader bonus, Hwarang, gives cities with a Governor an extra 3% culture and science for each promotion the Governor has.
- Unique Unit: Hwacha, which is a ranged unit which replaces the Field Cannon – but it’s unlocked the era before. It has a lower production and maintenance cost than the Field Cannon, but a slightly lower Combat strength and can’t move and attack in the same turn.
- Unique District: Seowon, which replaces the Campus. It’s cheaper than the campus and gives +4 science as long as there are no adjacent districts.
- Civ Ability: Three Kingdoms – Farms receive +1 Food and Mines receive +1 Science if adjacent to a Seowon.
Korea is a heavily science-focused civ, thanks to the Seowon, which gives you a huge early game boost to science. You’ll want to place your Seowon as soon as possible, so focus on Writing immediately, and then build the Seowon on hills, ideally surrounded by land suitable to build the mines and farms necessary to benefit from your Three Kingdoms ability.
Anything that can boost your science output is a great help, so hiring Pingala as your first governor is wise, as well as choosing the Natural Philosophy policy card, which doubles your Seowon’s adjacency bonus. Bear in mind that your adjacency bonuses will evaporate if you place a district next to your Seowon – do not do it. Classic rookie mistake. Can’t overstate this enough. Your scientists will not be able to concentrate properly; they will spend all their time staring out of the window at the soldiers doing lunges in the Encampment… probably. Put a farm there instead.
With such a huge science advantage, you should be head and shoulders above the other Civs in the game. Even so, it’ll take a while to reach the end of the tree, so you have to watch out for players threatening to achieve cultural or religious victories before you establish Space Korea. Luckily, since you’ve secured the edge in tech, your military units are likely to be stronger than your rivals’ which means you’ve always got the option of dismembering them a little to impede their progress. For a more comprehensive guide to playing as Korea, see Zigzagzigal’s guide on Steam.
Best Civ 6 Leader for Culture
A culture victory is all about being the coolest; having the best art and music, and throwing the best parties so everyone wants to come to your house to hang out. You win when most people in the world are hanging out in your house, AKA when you’re attracting more visiting tourists than any other Civ has domestic tourists.
The primary source of tourism is through Great Works, which are created by Great People such as Great Artists, Great Musicians and Great Writers. The works these people create need to be stored in appropriate buildings or wonders, where they’ll sit steadily enticing foreigners. It’s also important to establish trade routes and open borders with your neighbours as this increases the flow of tourism into your lands. As of Gathering Storm, you can also harness the power of rock ‘n’ roll; rock bands give your Civ a huge burst of tourism wherever the band is touring.
Although you’ll be focusing on culture to accumulate Great People, it’s also beneficial to ensure you’ve got a healthy religious scene growing as well, as religious tourism from Relics is powerful. Otherwise, churn out those Wonders and train a fleet of spies to pinch everyone’s paintings.
- Leader: Kristina, Queen of Sweden from 1632-1654. Her leader bonus, Minerva of the North, makes buildings and wonders automatically ‘themed’ when full of great works. She can also build the Queen’s Bibliotheque in the Government Plaza which grants you six extra slots for great works, as well as an extra two Great Writer/Artist/Musician points per turn.
- Unique Unit: The Carolean, an anti-cavalry unit that replaces the Pike and Shot. They gain extra strength for any unused movement.
- Unique District: The Open-Air Museum, which gives two loyalty per turn, and two culture and tourism for every type of terrain in which at least one Swedish city is founded.
- Civ Ability: +50 diplomatic favour upon recruiting a Great Person, an extra Great Engineer point from Factories and an extra Great Scientist point from Universities. With Sweden in the game, there will also be Nobel Prize contests in the Industrial Era.
Usually, when you’re shooting for a cultural victory you have to spend valuable time painstakingly theming your museums so that they’re full of the same types of art. Not so under Kristina, who can chuck random pieces together and call it themed, and everyone’s like, “Nice one Kristina, you’re a genius.”
With all that time you’ve saved, you should be training settlers and sending them out to start cities across the map, so that you can satisfy the Open-Air Museum’s criteria and have a city in each type of terrain. You’ll then want to build as many Open-Air Museums as possible; you’ll start to build up your tourism early, which is definitely a good thing as cultural games can really stretch on.
Because of the diplomatic points gained by Sweden’s unique ability, you might find yourself in the position to make use of a diplomatic victory too, which can be useful if you’ve got a high population Civ competing for your tourists.
For a more in-depth guide on playing as Sweden, see our very own Civilization 6 Sweden guide.
Best Civ 6 Leader for Domination
This one is relatively self-explanatory: kill ’em all. Why spend valuable time and energy trying to politely influence your rivals to vote for you, worship you, or visit you when you could just drop a nuclear warhead on their cities? Let’s not worry about being subtle here, after all, we are after world domination, and once we prevail we’ll have a blank slate of rubble and dust upon which to grow our utopia from the radioactive soil.
In order to win a domination victory, you must conquer the capital city of each civilization in the game. Cities can be captured by melee units once their HP reaches zero. Cities can build walls which add an extra layer of defense, which your units will find hard to crack unless you have a battering ram or a unit that does bombard damage. Once you’ve taken the walls down, however, you’re free to hit them where it hurts – and if you surround the city with units, it’ll be under siege, meaning it can’t heal.
- Leader: Matthias Corvinus, the King of Hungary and Croatia from 1458 to 1490. Otherwise known as the Raven King, his leader bonus gives a powerful buff to levied city-state units, which gain two movement and five combat strength, and can be upgraded for 75% off. In addition, when he levies troops from a city-state, he gains two envoys with them. He also gets the Black Army light cavalry unit, which is stronger than the Courser it replaces, and gets even stronger still for each adjacent levied unit.
- Unique Unit: The Huszár, which replaces the Cavalry. It gains three combat strength for every active Alliance, which can be a little difficult to utilise when you’re going around stabbing your would-be allies, but nevertheless helps if the circumstances are right.
- Unique Building: The Thermal Bath, which replaces the Zoo, and provides one more amenity from entertainment. It also provides two production, alongside three tourism and two extra amenities if the city has a Geothermal Fissure in it.
- Civ Ability: Pearl of the Danube, which provides a 50% bonus to production for buildings and districts across a river from your city center.
In order to build a powerful army, any other Civ has to accumulate resources and spend a chunk of production on amassing individual units. The Raven King, however, can simply borrow units from his city-state friends, buff ‘em up and chuck ‘em at his enemies relentlessly.
To make the most of this advantage, you need to meet city-states as soon as possible. Get Amani as your first governor and send her to one of the nearby city-states and you should become the Suzerain. It shouldn’t cost too much to levy their units at this point, which you should do for the envoy bonus.
Even though you have military help, you should still rush the Black Army – make sure you have horses revealed and nearby, and research iron working as soon as possible. You’ll also need to set up commercial hubs, ideally using the bonus from Pearl of the Danube, to provide a steady income ensuring you can afford to splash out on hiring your city-states’ units, upgrading them and using them to roll over your neighbours. For a more detailed guide on how to harness the power of Hungary, see our Civilization 6 Hungary guide.
Best Civ 6 Leader for Religion
Heinrich Heine said, “Welcome be a religion that pours into the bitter chalice of the suffering human species some sweet, soporific drops of spiritual opium, some drops of love, hope and faith.” Tl;dr let’s get everyone high.
A religious victory is secured when over half the cities in every Civ follow your chosen creed, whether that be one of the default religions we all recognise, or something you made up yourself, like Profiteroles. ‘Zanzibar wants Profiteroles’ – don’t we all, Zanzibar.
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To convert cities to your religion, you’ll need to spend accumulated Faith on missionaries and apostles, and send them to other cities where they can use their charges to spread the good news. Don’t expect them to proselytise uncontested, however – if they meet a religious unit from another faith, they’re vulnerable to theological combat – which will give you a nice boost in the region if you can win it. However, if your clergy can’t defend themselves in a scripture scuffle you’ll lose a lot of influence.
Leader: Peter the Great, Tsar of the Russian Empire from 1682-1725. His leader bonus, the Grand Embassy, grants Russia a bonus to trade routes with nations that are ahead of him in science and culture.
Unique Unit: The Cossack, which replaces the Cavalry. This already strong unit gets a buff when fighting in or next to Russian soil, and can move after attacking, meaning they’re great at defending and dodging.
Unique Building: The Lavra, replacing the Holy Site. The Lavra is far quicker to produce than a Holy Site, and gives double Great Prophet points, guaranteeing you’ll be the first to start a religion. It also grants Great Writer, Artist, and Musician points, and each time a Great Person is activated, the city borders expand.
Civ Ability: Mother Russia – all of your founded cities start with eight additional tiles, you gain extra faith and production from Tundra terrain tiles, and you’re impervious to blizzards, which helps when you set up camp in the frozen soil.
Starting out as Russia, you want to claim as much of the land as possible, making the most of the extra tiles granted by founding a city. Whilst you do want to ensure there’s plenty of tundra in your empire, you’ll also need a bit of greenery for farms.
As soon as your people form a pantheon, you should secure Dance of the Aurora without a doubt. This increases the faith output of your Lavras by one for every adjacent Tundra tile. You can squeeze even more religious power from the ice by choosing the Scripture policy card, which doubles your Lavra adjacency bonuses, sending your priests into rapturous overdrive, relentlessly making snow angels all over the Lavra gardens.
For a more in-depth look at playing as Russia, see Zigzagzigal’s guide.
Best Civ 6 Leader for Diplomacy
The diplomatic victory type was added in the Gathering Storm expansion, and is achieved when you reach a certain threshold of diplomatic points (20 if you’re playing on standard speed). Diplomatic victory points can be earned a few different ways, such as winning Scored Competitions and Aid Requests, and constructing certain Wonders. In the late game, World Leader elections will be held, wherein each player can spend their Diplomatic Favor to give or remove Diplomatic Victory points from each other.
This means that if you’ve stockpiled enough Diplomatic Favor you can translate them into victory points, but also means that your enemies can band together and thwart your success by pooling their votes. If you’re in a multiplayer game, your friends can betray you by spending all their points to give the AI a Diplomatic Victory three turns before you were due to win a different way, which does irreparable damage to your friendship. Trust us.
- Leader: Wilfrid Laurier, the seventh Prime Minister of Canada. His leader bonus, The Last Best West, lets you build Farms on Tundra tiles, and generally buffs Tundra tiles to accumulate resources twice as fast. Mines and Lumber mills on Tundra receive an extra Production, and camps receive an extra Food.
- Unique Unit: The Mountie, a light cavalry unit that is strongest when hanging out within 2 tiles of a National Park. They can also use establish a National Park themselves.
- Unique Building: The Ice Hockey Rink, which must be built on Tundra or Snow tiles and grant +1 Amenity, +2 Appeal to surrounding tiles, +1 Culture for each adjacent Tundra or Snow tile, + 2 Food and Production, and + 4 Culture if next to a Stadium.
- Civ Ability: Four Faces of Peace – Canada can’t declare Surprise Wars or have them declared upon them, and gains a Diplomatic Favor point for every 100 Tourism. They also get a 100% boost to Diplomatic Favor from successfully completed Emergencies and Competitions.
O Canada, everybody loves you. Nobody wants to fight with you, we just want to eat poutine and maple syrup. Canada lends itself to both a cultural and diplomatic victory – they work in tandem together, as you gain Diplomatic Favor from tourism. In all honesty, you’re likely to win a culture victory first, but if you’re going for a diplomatic victory specifically Canada is strong because it removes the threat of getting unexpectedly ambushed by an army while you’re busy ice skating.
You’ll want to accumulate as much Favor as possible, constantly trading resources like Iron with other Civs for Favor. You can earn a ton of Favor from rescuing city-states from the clutches of your foes, the reward being boosted by your unique ability. Save up your Favor until you’re inches away from winning, then dump it all into Diplomatic Points – securing those last few points can be agonisingly difficult when your enemies are working to take them away from you. For more tips on playing as Canada, we’ve got a Civilization 6 Canada guide.
So there you have it – the best Civs for each victory type, or at least the ones we’d recommend you choose to try each victory out. Now you also know who to look out for – going for a science victory against Seondeok? It can be done, but you might have to knock down some Seowons on your way. Going for a domination victory against Canada? You’re a monster, plain and simple.