With Civilization VI’s first expansion, Rise and Fall, comes a batch of new experiments to conduct with history. India’s new leader, Chandragupta, presents just such a fascinating setup, tailored towards military aggression and early expansion. Quite the change from Gandhi.
Want a general guide to Civ 6 Rise and Fall instead? We’ve got you.
How his aggressive features match up with India’s existing religious leanings is more curious still. It’s almost enough to warrant some kind of guide that makes sense of it all, isn’t it? If only. Oh, hang on - you won’t believe how coincidental this is, but there appears to be that exact thing below. Wow! Let’s read it.
First of all - if ever a Civ leader was destined for the cover of Men’s Health magazine, it is the Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta. Not only did he unify and expand India so far that it reached modern-day Afghanistan, he evidently developed killer traps and lats doing it.
Secondly - and perhaps more pertinently, for the purposes of this guide - Chandragupta brings a very different flavour to India than erstwhile leader Gandhi.
Leader bonus - Arthashastra
Description: Can declare a War of Territorial Expansion after gaining the Military Training Civic. +2 Movement and +5 Combat Strength for the first ten turns after declaring a War of Territorial Expansion.
This is a biggie. Since you can unlock Military Training very early in Civ VI, Arthashastra is about preparing for war almost immediately upon starting a game. Ten turns isn’t all that long to successfully wage war on an enemy and take their capital, so a lot of prior planning is required to make sure you don’t waste any of those turns moving units into position, or - even worse - waiting for them to be built.
A more obvious point still is that there is no point playing as Chandragupta if you are not going to do at least a little invading. India’s bonuses are strong when paired with Gandhi, but a few Stepwells aren’t going to win the game for you if you ignore Chandragupta’s obvious early-game military advantage.
Leader agenda - Maurya Empire
Description: Wants to expand his empire, and dislikes civilisations that have cities close to his borders. Likes civilisations that aren't close to his borders.
There it is made explicit. Contrary to Gandhi’s leadership, Chandragupta is really all about expanding his empire at all costs, even if that means eating up other leaders’ territory. Waging war early in the game has a bit of a knock-on effect on loyalty, an all-new system at play in this expansion, so you’ll need to plan your city-building and governors accordingly. More on that later.
This early-game combat unit goes hand-in-hand with Chandragupta’s Arthashastra bonus. With 40 combat strength and 2 movement, it replaces the Horseman at a higher production cost of 120 vs. 80, and reduced movement. However, adjacent units receive -5 combat strength from the Varu, because that’s what happens to people when an enormous elephant turns up unexpectedly that they understand is there to hurt them.
You only need the Horseback Riding tech to be able to build the Varu so you should prioritise their production after having settled the essentials in your first ten to 20 turns. After having declared a War of Territorial Expansion, the Varu has 45 combat strength and 4 movement for ten turns in addition to that weakening property, available in the Ancient era. Frankly, that’s ridiculous, so make the most of it.
Last but not least, the Varu upgrades straight to a tank later down the line, so it is a good means of keeping your military momentum up in the Modern era when Arthashastra no longer applies. Tanks require oil and the combustion tech, so make a beeline for those if you are planning a long Domination game.
Building a Varu (if ‘building’ can be considered the correct word for the creation of a war elephant) also gains you a lot of points towards triggering a Golden Age in the Ancient era, along with the Stepwell (below).
An all-purpose upgrade district, the Stepwell yields +1 food, +1 housing, +1 faith (if next to a Holy Site), and an additional +1 food if placed next to a farm. After researching Sanitation it provides an additional +1 housing, and after researching Professional Sports (for some reason) it provides another +1 food, too.
This isn’t the kind of district to plan an entire game around, but it’s certainly a big help towards keeping your city happy, loyal, and growing.
Description: Receive the benefits of all Follower beliefs of Religions present in your cities, not just the one you founded.
This is a powerful way to generate extra bonuses. On the other hand, it requires a defter touch than usual when going for a Religious victory because, if you send in Apostles or Inquisitors to stamp out all trace of rival religions from your territory, you lose the follower bonuses too. It is best to keep some of your smaller cities as multi-faith dwellings so that you pick up their buffs.
If you are not going for a religious victory then this is of even greater benefit. Just let religions seep in across your empire and enjoy the buffs. You might need to create an Inquisitor now and then to stop one religion from taking over - thus blocking an enemy’s path to the Religious victory.
India - victory goals
The best path to victory with Chandragupta is via Domination. His early-game bonuses are simply too strong to ignore, and they stack so beautifully. First build some Varu and position them at the edge of your territory near an opponent’s city. This fills up your Golden Age meter a bit. Then, having researched Military Training, declare a War of Territorial Expansion on that opponent and send the Varu in to do their thing. Doing this, and gaining an enemy city, fills up that meter a bit more. Do it right, and you’ll have beaten one enemy by taking their capital and gained a large chunk of extra territory before the Ancient era ends, while also triggering a Golden Age.
To keep the ball rolling, use the Varu with supporting ranged units until they are outmatched by more modern enemy units, then sit tight and research hard until you can upgrade them to tanks. If you built enough Varu in the Ancient era and you have enough in your treasury, you will instantly be able to outmatch your nearby enemy’s army with one upgrade. So it’s a matter of going hard in the early game, sitting tight for a while, then going hard again towards the end.
If you are occupying a lot of enemy cities, loyalty will become a problem before too long. With that in mind, appoint a military-minded Governor in your capital as early as the game allows, and quickly promote them so that when the time comes to quell a disloyal city, you can send them in and stop worrying about it.
Religious victory is also a possibility thanks to Dharma’s bonuses and the Stepwell’s potential +3 faith points, but it is trickier than the Domination route - especially if you are doing it without Gandhi. Using Chandragupta’s early military advantage to take a civ that has already developed a couple of Holy Sites is the best foundation for this, then getting Stepwells built nice and early to generate a good faith point per turn total as soon as possible.
India - wonders
Wonders can help cement a particular approach with their buffs. Although most of those buffs tend to favour Culture or Religious victory approaches you can still gain an edge as the aggressor by building wisely.
Firstly, the Hanging Gardens are great for any civ regardless of victory route as they boost growth 15% in all cities and provide +2 housing in the city they are built in. After that, the Terracotta Army is a great idea for Chandragupta because in addition to providing +1 Great General points (having one of these would be handy for leading your Varu around) it bestows all land units with a free promotion. Alhambra is a good medieval wonder, netting you an extra military policy slot and +1 Great General point per turn.
Later in the game, the Ruhr Valley boosts production by 20% in the city it’s built in, while also adding +1 production for every mine and quarry in city limits.
Chandragupta - governments and policies
It is best to balance strong military policy with a few perks to keep your population happy when playing as Chandragupta. In the early game, that means opting for Oligarchy as soon as it’s available, because +4 combat strength for all land melee units is huge, particularly paired with a 20% experience increase. There is only one military policy slot but you can use the wildcard slot to chuck in another if you like.
From there, it is a toss-up between Monarchy and Theocracy depending on how your game goes. Since you will likely be sitting tight during this era and stockpiling for a later military assault, Monarchy’s blend of three military policy slots with one of each for the other policy types might suit you. Or, if you are benefiting from Dharma and want to make good use of your faith, pick Theocracy. This will let you buy land units with faith at a 15% discount, speeding up the stockpiling process. In the Modern era - and we can’t believe we are typing this - Fascism might be best for you. It speeds up unit production, boosts combat effectiveness, and provides a potential six military policy slots if you use the wildcards for military policies too. Seven, if you built Alhambra. Good luck sleeping at night, is all.
As for the policies themselves, Agoge will speed up production of those Varu by 50%, Conscription reduces each unit’s maintenance cost by 1 gold per turn, and Martial Law reduces war weariness by 25%. These three will keep you in decent shape throughout the game if you’re playing a long Domination victory, while the other military slots can be used more situationally. In need of fast defence? Bastions provides +6 city defense strength and +5 city ranged strength. Finally decided it’s time to upgrade those Varu to tanks? Pop Professional Army in one of your slots and do it for 50% less gold.