The best civilisations in Civilization 6

Our top picks for Civ 6 civs across all of the major victory types

In order to help our readers get better at Civilization VI, we’ve put together a guide that looks at at which Civ 6 civilisations are best at which victory type. We don’t list every Civ 6 civ, but we’ve showcased some ‘best in style’ civilisations for various end game strategies. This is based on the same principle as the best Civ 5 civs guide we also have.

Due to the way Civilization VI was designed you no longer have the highly specific, focused civs of the previous game. Most still tend to favour one area over others, but this time around – with one or two exceptions – each faction is focused on one, maybe two of the core victory conditions in the game, allowing for some flexibility in how you play them.

This guide includes civilisations from the base game, as well as interesting new additions from the various Civ 6 DLC options that have been released to date, including the New Frontier Pass. We’ll keep this guide updated with new interesting picks as more content is released.

the best Civilisations in Civ 6

  • Tomyris of Scythia
  • Teddy Roosevelt of America
  • Shaka of Zulu
  • Basil II of Byzantium
  • Saladin of Arabia
  • Peter the Great of Russia
  • Seondeok of Korea
  • Lady Sky Sky of Maya
  • Qin Shi Huang of China
  • Wilhelmina of the Netherlands
  • Kupe of Māori
  • Menelik II of Ethiopia
  • Ghandi of India
  • Philip II of Spain
  • Tamar of Georgia
  • Wilfired Lautier of Canada
  • Victoria of England
  • Harald Hardrada of Norway

Best CIV 6 CIVS – DOMINATION VICTORY

A classic route, Domination sees you conquering the world by strength of arms over your less fortunate civilisations. In Civ 6, you fortunately don’t need to conquer an entire civilisation; you just need to control all of the capitals to score the victory. As military might walks alongside a healthy economy and scientific progress, you also need to pay attention to those instead of just spamming military units.

Tomyris of Scythia, dressed in golden armour. Some spears are placed outside of the tent entrance, leading to a desert

Tomyris of Scythia

Summary: Early-game rush, land-focused maps

One of the best traditional military factions in the game, Scythia is capable of crushing all other civs in the early to mid game. Their special Saka Horse Archer unit doesn’t require horses to produce and has 4 Movement and +1 Attack Range, making it much more powerful than any contemporary unit. Even better, you get two of them each time one is trained. This allows Scythia to quickly build an unstoppable force of highly skilled cavalry archers, capable of moving fast and striking hard, steamrolling anyone in their way.

Related: The best Civ 6 leaders

The fact that Scythia’s units gain a +5 Combat Strength attack bonus when engaging damaged foes and heal up to 50 bonus points upon defeating them guarantees the enemy forces dwindle at the same time Scythia maintain their own, pressing the advantage home and making it a formidable adversary.

It must be noted that in order to best use this civ’s ability, you need a map with lots of land — the Saka Horse Archers are nearly useless on the sea. Make sure to also act before the mid-game, as modern units quickly close the technological gap between Scythia and everyone else.

teddy roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt of America

Summary: Late-game surge, defensive bonus, highly adaptable

America really shines after the mid-game, meaning it must turtle at the start of a match. Their home defence ability gives them +5 Combat Strength in their home continent and helps them fend off incoming attacks, while their legacy grants them government bonuses twice as fast as any other civ, helping them build up prosperity.

Once the modern area is reached, America’s unique military units can defeat any contemporary — the Rough Rider land unit gains +10 Combat Strength when fighting on Hills and has a lower maintenance cost than other units, while the P-51 Mustang airplane has +2 flight range, gains +5 attack against fighters, and acquires experience twice as fast than normal. Make sure to invest in Science and Technology to be able to field those units ASAP.

Being quite versatile and late-game focused, America does not have many terrain restrictions and is easily one of the most adaptable civilisations in the game. Culture and science victories are also easily achievable.

Shaka of Zulu

Summary: Rise and Fall expansion, mid-game, large armies

The indisputable powerhouse of Civ 6’s latest expansion, the Zulu’s natural bonus to combat strength and training speed gives them a massive advantage during wars. The Impi — an anti-cavalry unit that replaces the Pikeman — is faster and cheaper to produce, and they get extra flanking and experience bonus than other units, making them the perfect starting point for a strong military.

After that, it’s all a matter of using the Ikanda Encampments and the Mercenaries/Nationalism civics to get early access to corps and armies, allowing you to stack all those units together into a single steamrolling horde. If you’re worried about defence, don’t: the Zulu are (foolishly) the only civ in the game that get a +3 loyalty for cities with a garrison, making them resistant to both military and cultural offensives.

Basil II of Byzantium

Summary: New Frontier pass, religious-based combat bonuses, powerful mid-game

With the ability to get combat bonuses from converting Holy Sites to the civs own religion, as well as the ability to spread religion quickly by eliminating non-barbarian units, Byzantium is well suited for either a Domination or a Religious victory. The beauty of it is, they don’t even have to choose as both victory conditions are intertwined.

Spreading religion early and often will help see you through to the mid-game, where the Hippodrome unique district will really let this faction shine. It’s a building that allows you to get free heavy cavalry units (which are hopefully benefitting from the combat bonuses from Taxis), and your military might will allow you to ignore parts of the tech tree and focus on production, setting you up for the late game.

Best Civ 6 civs – science Victory

Science victories are a staple of the Civ series, always leading to the space race meant to expand civilisation to the stars. Civ 6 has a myriad of ways of accruing science progress.

Saladin of Arabia

Summary: Advanced, Religion-combo, adaptable

Advanced players looking for a less traditional path to a science victory will enjoy Saladin, who has the unique ability to mix technology and religion and achieve either victory. Arabia’s religious buildings boost science, culture and faith by 10%, while their bonus generates one additional unit of science per turn for each city that follows Arabia’s religion.

This unique approach to faith and science is capable of generating an amazing payout, catapulting Arabia in front of its peers. Needless to say, Arabia can pursue a religious victory just as well as they can scientific.

Peter the Great of Russia

Summary: Advancedtundra tiles, trade routes, flexible victory

Russia is a weird civilisation, gaining major variable bonuses from tundra tiles and focusing on expansion. However, their added territory allows them greater flexibility when building districts, while their special ability generates extra +1 Science or Culture from trade routes to civilizations more advanced than them.

In the hands of a skilled player, these bonuses can help boost a science victory quite quickly, and make Russia into a powerhouse. As long as you expand and settle in tundra as much as possible, Russia can achieve any victory condition in the game.

Seondeok of Korea

Summary: Rise & Fall expansion, mid-game, Mines, Governors, City Optimisation

Korea comes back from Civilization V as a scientific civ, though with a less pronounced advantage in Civ 6 than before. Mines give Science to adjacent Seowon Campus districts, which already give +4 science on its own (and +2 for each specialist).

As of the Summer 2018 update, established governors in cities provide +3% Culture and Science for each Promotion they have earned, including their first (previously this was +10% Culture and Science for any Governor regardless of Promotions). While technically a nerf, this change allows players to plan in more detail which cities they want to optimise to their fullest potential, versus just giving a flat bonus. This specialization, in conjunction with the Hwacha ranged unit, makes a medium sized mid-game empire Korea’s best chance to get ahead and beat everybody else in the science race.

Lady Six Sky of Maya

Summary: New Frontier Pass, Tall Empire, Farms & Plantations buff, Strong early game

The Mayans are a new civilisation introduced as part of the New Frontier pass, and dropped in the first pack – the Maya & Gran Columbia Pack. With Lady Six Sky at the helm, this new civilisation can match even the Koreans in terms of science-generation potential, and can by more dominant militarily in the early game so that you can take out some key rivals (like Korea). Lady Six Sky’s unique ability (Non-Capital cities within 6 tiles of the Capital gain +10% to all yields) means you’re looking to build a tall, compact empire that’s very dependant on geography.

Related: The best 4X games on PC

The Mayan’s unique district, Observatory, represents a cheaper, better Campus and you’ll want to focus on expanding onto good farmland to make the most out of the Mayan’s buffs. The challenge will come in the Industrial era, as being a small empire means you’re more likely to be lacking in certain strategic resources. The current thinking is to choose the Ancestral Hall as your Tier 1 Government Building and focus on getting Settlers out to key locations when the time comes, as securing vital nodes such as coal and aluminium will be key.

Best Civ 6 civs – Culture Victory

Cultural victories can be challenging, as you won’t win until the number of tourists visiting your country is equal to the number of domestic tourists from all other civilisations combined.

In order to achieve that, you need loads of great people — especially artists — along with buildings, districts, and wonders that can house their works (sculpture, relics, and artefacts being the most valuable). Trade and the right policies is key.

Qin Shi Huang of China

Summary: Passive, defensive, large empire, Great Wall of China

In an ironic turn from today’s communist China, Civ 6’s China is all about attracting tourists and spreading their cultural dominance. The Great Wall of China — once a wonder in past games — is now a unique improvement only buildable by this civ. Each adjacent segment provides extra +1 gold,culture, and tourism, making walls not only strategically vital, but culturally too. A good perimeter around your empire can easily generate loads of culture in a manner unmatched by any other civilisation.

Thanks to this unique improvement, all China needs is land enough to build as massive a wall as possible. As the game progresses and your civilisation expands, the wall should likewise get bigger and bigger, generating huge amount of resources while lending formidable protection to protect your empire. All in all, this might be one of the best gameplay styles for turtling players.

a kind looking older lady holding an umbrella

Wilhelmina of the Netherlands

Summary: Rise and Fall expansion, Mid-game, trade bonuses

The Dutch people make strong use of adjacency bonuses in Civ 6, creating a very interesting self-sustaining economy that works great with their predisposition to trade. Rivers and the unique Polder tile improvement augment districts all around it, rewarding thoughtful expansion in suitable lands.

However, it is their naval trade that makes the Netherlanders stand out. Building a Harbor creates a culture bomb, which claims surrounding tiles, and trade routes spread loyalty to Dutch cities and gather Culture from foreign ones, creating a huge power spike in the mid-game if properly exploited. Make sure to use the unique ranged naval unit to protect your trade interests.

Kupe of Māori

Summary: A nature-loving people who exceed at generating statistics without destroying the land.

Much has been said about the Kupe, thanks to their unique starting position in the middle of the ocean. They get +2 Science and Culture for every turn spent without colonising your first city, making it a gamble of trying to survive as a nomad before finally setting up roots and claiming the rewards.

However, their real advantage appears once the Māori have a few cities under their belt and that wet start has long disappeared in the rear mirror. The unique Marae District replaces the Theatre, and it generates +2 Culture and Faith for each city tile that has Woods, Rainforests, Marshes, Oases, Reefs, Geothermal Fissures, or Floodplains on it. That means that if your city has 10 tiles spread around with any of those features, you get a plain flat +20 bonus to culture a turn.

Related: The best strategy games on PC

If that wasn’t enough, they also get a culture bomb that converts surrounding terrain to their cause every time a fishing boat is built, because sure, why wouldn’t they. Rest assured, if it’s a culture victory you seek, go with Kupe of Māori.

Best Civ 6 civs – Religious Victory

For the first time in the series, religion is a bona fide victory condition. In order to win, at least half of every civilisation’s followers must subscribe to your beliefs — it may sound simple, but holy wars are a thing, now. If you convert another leader’s cities, they can have a casus belli to kick your ass.

Menelik II of Ethiopia

Summary: New Frontier Ethiopia Pack, hill-terrain focus, defensive

Menelik II is a newcomer to the Religious-victory scene as he was introduced during 2020’s ‘New Frontier’ DLC wave. He’s also quite well suited for the Culture victory as well, but most of his bonuses in this area are derived from raw Faith production anyway, and Ethiopia’s special building Rock-Hewn Church gets bonus faith for being surrounded by hill or mountain tiles.

Their mid-game special unit is also quite powerful in hilly terrain, meaning that Ethiopia is able to focus on faith production and defend themselves from anyone who tries to derail that. Ethiopia can also use faith to purchase Archaeologists, further enhancing their culture game if you feel like it.

ghandi

Ghandi of India

Summary: Peaceful, Passive, Faith Bonuses

Ghandi provides +5 bonus faith each turn from every civilisation met, as long as you’re not at war with them. In order to incentive less warfare, opposing nations suffer double war weariness — a penalty to population growth and productivity — for every turn spent at war with India, generating a massive drain and unrest and increasing the chances of spawning rebels, That side effect of engaging Gandhi can quickly cripple the economy and ravage an unprepared attacking empire.

Curiously, while you of course want to spread your own faith, Gandhi is tolerant of other religious beliefs, earning the follower bonus from every religion that has at least one convert in a city. That makes India a religious powerhouse that thrives on peace and punishes war, capable of generating immense amounts of faith and reaping rewards from different pantheons.

phillip II of spain looking happy

Philip II of Spain

Summary: Aggressive, conversion-by-conquest, unit combos

If you want a less peaceful approach to religious victory, Phil’s your guy. His Inquisitors are extra effective and get one extra use in curbing other religions, and his armies get a bonus +4 combat strength when fighting civilisations who follow a different faith. This allows a more violent spread of religion that can roll in mass out of nowhere and take others by surprise — after all, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Spain’s unique unit is the conquistador, which gets a +10 to combat strength when occupying the same hex as a missionary, apostle, or inquisitor. If one of those units is next to an enemy city when it falls, that settlement is automatically converted to Spain’s religion, adding an useful twist to any holy wars you may find yourself in.

Tamar of Georgia

Summary: Rise and Fall expansion, faith production bonuses

Georgia is really good for religion victories, as pretty much everything it does generates extra Faith. Their unique Wall infrastructure gives you +3 every turn and can be built in every city, and entering protectorate wars literally double whatever your production is. Helping a city-state in a protectorate war gains their favour, which often turns them to your religion and gives each of your envoys two votes.

If that wasn’t enough, Georgia can get the Normal and Golden Age bonuses at the start of a Golden Age by making a declaration, allowing you to quickly rack up Era points and create a successive chain of Golden Ages. Ally that to the Khevsur melee unit that has extra strength and no movement penalty in hilly terrain, and you got yourself a powerful religious faction that can use force to spread their religion around.

 

Best Civ 6 civs – Diplomatic Victory

After a long wait, Diplomatic victories finally make their way back to the franchise with the release of Gathering Storm. Here’s the best faction to backstab and cajole your way into victory through the World Congress.

Wilfired Lautier of Canada

Summary: Gathering Storm civ focused on diplomatically making cold inhospitable climates very hospitable.

Masterfully beating a dead horse, Civilization VI’s Canada is a very diplomatic focused empire. Aside from the obvious boon (and handicap) of being unable to declare Surprise Wars or have them declared upon, our Commonwealth maple syrup-loving northern friends also get +1 diplomatic favour for every 100 tourism they get, and 100% more rewards from World Congress emergencies and competitions — effectively doubling what everyone else gets.

If that wasn’t enough, their Ice Hockey Rink unique district generates +2 appeal, which serves to increase both housing for your citizens and generate more tourism in later eras, allowing large empires with advanced cities to rake in the tourism points — and therefore more diplomatic favour.

If diplomatic victory is your goal, don’t think twice; put on your red jacket, don your mountie hat, and go hug a moose — Canada’s here to stay.

Civ 6 Best Naval Civs

This isn’t a victory type, but we’ve thrown it in anyway. The sea is a harsh mistress, but damn, do we love it. Naval warfare is always a nice way to change the pace of a Civ game, and some factions are of course better suited to it than others.

Naturally, only attempt the following in a map full of water — you don’t want to be stuck in a desert with these civs.

Queen Victoria standing regal amidst a dark backdrop

Victoria of England

Summary: Overseas expansion, free units, culture options

England plays a less traditional military role in this game — unlike Civ V, where control of the seas was achieved via a brute force approach with the Ship of the Line military units, the British Empire has a bigger focus on colonisation and reach this time around. The Sea Dog is a sneaky little unique ship capable of capturing enemy units, and it cannot be seen on the map unless immediately adjacent to the enemy.

The Royal Dockyard District grants +1 extra movement points to every sea craft built in it, ensuring England always has a small but noticeable advantage over other seafaring civilisations. The District also removes the penalty for land units embarking and disembarking, giving Victoria a clear pathway to unload military troops into the ocean and colonise distant lands. The Redcoat unique unit gets +10 combat strength when fighting outside the continent where England’s capital is located, and the Pax Britannica bonus gives a free melee unit to every founded or conquered city overseas, guaranteeing sovereignty in new colonies and culling rebellion. Additionally, as of the Summer 2018 update, Pax Britannica now awards a free melee class unit when constructing a Royal Navy Dockyard in a city founded on a foreign continent as well.

Naturally, England needs not only the sea, but also separate landmasses to be at the top of its game; a landlocked or Pangean map would nullify most of the British strengths. However a Culture victory would still be achievable due to the British Museum improvements that can be built in each city and then stuffed full of Culture, making that a valid victory.

Harald Hardrada of Norway

Summary: Niche, early/mid-game, raiding, domination

Norway’s unique bonuses allows its fleets to raid enemy tiles from the sea and removes penalties upon embarking and disembarking, creating a very aggressive Viking civilisation that excels at attacking from the sea (what a surprise). The berserker is a fragile but powerful unit capable of pillaging tiles and moving in the same turn, while the Viking Longship can heal itself in neutral territory and extend the longevity of the fleet. Played as a harassing and aggressive civ, Norway can be unmatched on domination.

Might as well: The best Viking games on PC

Norway is extremely niche; the right map is essential for success. Founding cities surrounded by forests next to ocean can turn Harald into an absolute powerhouse, but without sea access you won’t get anywhere.

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