Much like in real life, Rome has a rich and formidable history in the Civilization series. The empire has featured in every Civ entry since the original, where the lovely pixelated face of Julius Caesar would animatedly smile and (more often) grimace during our every colourful interaction with him. But, particularly in the way of leaders, Firaxis have decided to do things a little differently in Civilization VI, and the representative of Rome this time round is the man who oversaw the greatest imperial expansion in its history, Trajan.
Read more: check out our Civilization 6 America strategy guide.
He may not have the same Hollywood fame as your Caesars and your Caligulas, but Trajan achieved a lot during his tenure, and was known for his progressive social welfare policies and landmarks in Rome such as Trajan’s Market and Trajan’s Column (any Roman Emperor’s bound to be a bit of a narcissist, right?).
Trajan is, by most accounts, one of the great emperors of Rome, and here’s our guide on how to lead his Civ iteration on to similar glories.
The Roman emperor’s self-indulgently self-titled monument features in Civilization VI as his Special Ability, which gets your empire off to a running start. Depending on what era you start in (what sort of madman doesn’t start Ancient?!?), you get a free building in your city centre. In the Ancient era, this is a Monument, which grants +2 Culture, boosting the speed at which you learn new Civics - essentially a parallel tech tree new to Civ VI, through which you gain access to new to wonders, policies and government types (more on those later).
Roman Empire features
All Roads Lead to Rome
If you remember the form trade took in the final ‘Brave New World’ version of Civilization V, it’s not too different here, except now it’s your traders rather than builders who are laying roads between cities (just as well, given that each of your Builders works themselves to death after making three improvements).
Trade routes are crucial to this unique ability, which automatically builds trading posts (or ‘Trajan’ posts, as the Roman emperor would call them if he was as witty as me) in each city that you build or capture, and automatically builds roads between cities within trade route range of your capital. Trading Posts not only add +1 Gold to a city’s output, but also increase the amount of gold you earn from trade routes, with one extra gold per city the route travels through.
This means that when you create traders, you should transfer them to a city where they’ll pass through as many cities of yours as possible on their way to their trading destination. The more cities with trading posts they pass through, the more money you get! Those extra three or four gold pieces per turn per trade route are decent money in the early game.
On maps that have seas and continents, these trade routes will eventually get replaced by more lucrative sea trade routes, but on a map with just one big landmass, you can quite feasibly have trade routes going through six, seven cities, raking in those precious pennies. Unlike in Civ V, trade routes between your own cities also generate money now as well, so you can earn gold as well as production and food for domestic trade routes.
One of the big changes that Civ veterans will need to adapt to is the new concept of ‘Housing’. Fail to supply enough housing, and your city’s growth will slow down - first by 50% when you’re one population under your housing limit, then by 75% when you hit the limit. Even if you have a surplus of food, it counts for little if you lack roofs over heads.
The Baths are a unique Roman building that replace the aqueduct, and take up their own tile much like a district. It’s worth discovering the Engineering tech as quickly as possible so you can build this handy district. The Bath needs to be built between your city and a mountain, lake, river or oasis. It provides a whopping +6 Housing if your city wasn’t previously adjacent to fresh water (+2 housing if it was) as well as giving the city +1 Amenities (which, like happiness in previous Civ games, keep your cities productive). In short, build Baths as soon as possible to keep your empire population growing.
The stalwart unit of the Classical era, the Roman Legion replaces the Swordsman, and can be created by upgrading your oafish, clubbing Warriors. The Legion has 40 Melee Strength, which is double that of the warrior, and five more than the Swordsman. This unit is great for making some serious military territorial gains early in the game. You don’t need iron or any other strategic resource to build it either, so you should use all that coin you’ve been raking in from the trading posts to upgrade your warriors to Legionnaires as quickly as possible.
The Legion can also build roads and forts, though like a Builder can only do it a limited number of times (once). Thankfully, the Legion is made of tougher stuff than Builders, and doesn’t die once you’ve used up his building points.
Something Civ old-timers need to know is that maintenance cost increases as you upgrade your units, so be wary of blitz-upgrading your entire army in one fell swoop as it could cripple your economy.
Trajan victory types
Trajan and his Roman empire have some wonderful bonuses for the early game, though none of them exactly scream for you to aim for one kind of victory or another. With the rapid growth and civic advancement offered by Rome’s abilities, you’re well-placed to get a head-start in the Cultural and Space Race victories, though of course you’ve got a long way to go from Ancient era to the Modern one.
Trajan is a great leader to pick for beginners, because he provides a gentle early-game, giving you a nice, steady supply of housing, money and culture that will help you develop in whatever direction you like. In terms of the empire’s innate abilities though, you’re best off pursuing scientific and cultural victory paths.
The one victory type that could be tougher to achieve for Trajan is Religious, largely because the likes of Philip II and Tomyris are packing some serious bonuses in this area. I invested a reasonable amount into Religion when playing as Trajan, but was pretty much constantly on the defensive against Philip, who was bombarding me with powerful apostles for vast chunks of the game. (He got very angry when I converted one of the cities that he audaciously plonked on what I considered to be my private continent - the passive-aggressive twot.)
Rome - wonders
Rome’s early cultural advantages thanks to their freebie monuments puts you in a great position to be first in on those Civic-related wonders (you learn new Civics by accruing Culture). This doesn’t mean you should just focus on Civic-tree wonders, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you have a bit of an edge on your rivals in this respect.
If you’re aiming for a cultural victory as the Romans, then it almost seems fateful that you should build the Colosseum wonder, which offers +2 Culture and +3 Amenities not only in the city in which you build it, but also in cities within six tiles of it. Seeing as six tiles is a perfectly reasonable distance between your cities anyway, this shouldn’t prove to be too much of a problem. If you build one city within six tiles north, east, south and west of the Colosseum, you’re looking at a total of +10 Culture per turn - a huge boost. In the mid-game, the Bolshoi Theater (unlocked through the ‘Opera and Ballet’ civic) is worth pursuing, as that grants you +2 Great Writer and Great Musician points, as well as slots for Great Works of Writing and Music (giving you all-important Tourism boosts).
The Great Library is a must if you’re going for a Scientific victory, offering +2 Science and +1 Great Scientist points. Great Scientists earn you all sorts of boosts - such as triggering Eureka moments, helping you learn new techs, and increasing your Science income. The only other science-focused wonder in the game is Oxford University, which grants two free technologies, +20% science in its home city, +3 Great Scientist points and +2 Great Work of Writing slots. Get it, it’s a good ‘un.
In the spirit of Rome being a good all-rounder Civ, you’ll want to focus on getting those all-rounder wonders. The Hanging Gardens increase growth by 15% across your empire, while the Oracle adds +2 Great Person points for each district in that city. So if you’re going for a scientific or cultural victory, try having a city that’s surrounded by campuses or theater districts, then plonk an Oracle in there to reel in those Great People.
Rome - governments
Civ VI sees the return of governments as a gameplay feature, though they work differently to how you remember them. Governments are based around cards, which equate to military policies, economic policies, diplomatic policies, and wildcard policies.
Depending on what kind of government you pick, the number of slots you have for each policy will vary, so a mid-game government type has six card slots, for example; within that, Monarchy has three military slots, one economic and one diplomatic, while Theocracy has two military slots, two economic, one diplomatic and one wildcard. Each government type also has inherent and legacy bonuses. Inherent bonuses never change, and disappear when you change government, but legacy bonuses increase the longer you stick with one government type, then carry over to your new government (but stop increasing).
A good early government for Rome is Classical Republic, whose legacy bonus offers +15% Great People points (handy for both scientific and cultural victory paths). Depending on how long you remain a Classical Republic, you’ll get a certain percentage of bonus Great People points for the rest of the game.
Most of the bonuses towards culture and science are found among the economic and diplomatic policies, making Communism (3 economic slots, 1 diplomatic) and Democracy good options for victories in either of those directions. Communism’s Legacy Bonus (+10% to all production) is, for me, the strongest government bonus in the entire game.
So the lesson from this is that, contrary to what real-world history has taught us, communism is actually a very flexible and balanced government type, perfect for those cultural and scientific victory paths that are so well suited to the Romans.
Rome - policies
Your government will ultimately be shaped by the policies you choose for it. Seeing as there are over 70 policies to choose from, that’s a huge amount of mix-and-matching, and it’s quite possible for one ‘Communist’ or ‘Theocratic’ government to look completely different to another.
If you’re striving to physically reach the stars as the Romans rather than worship them like more religious, simple-minded civilisations, then try to build cities fairly close to mountain ranges, as your campus districts will earn extra science for every mountain they’re adjacent to. Combine this with the ‘Natural Philosophy’ economic policy, and all those adjacency bonuses will double, boosting your scientific gains. Later on, this policy will become obsolete, but Rationalism is a great one to put in its place, doubling the science you earn from every scientific building in your Campus districts. Finally, if you’ve been keeping up good relations with City-States (which you really should!) then get the International Space Agency policy, which grants an extra 10% Science per city-state you’re suzerain of.
If you choose the cultural victory path, you should always have policies enabled that accelerate the production of wonders by 15% (Corvee in the early game, Gothic Architecture in the mid-game, and Skyscrapers in the late game). Many of the wonders boost your culture alongside their main effects, as well as granting bonuses towards generating Great People, who can create relics and works of art to boost tourism to your empire.
Many of the tourism-boosting economic policies - so crucial for a cultural victory - appear in the late game. Heritage Tourism is a relatively early one, doubling the tourism you gain from each Great Work of Art and Artefact. In the late game, Online Communities increases your Tourism output to other civs via trade routes by 50%. Seeing as trade routes are one of the keys to improving your tourism standing with other civs anyway, this policy is essential.
Remember that policies in Civ VI are easily interchangeable, so don’t be afraid to switch them around as and when you need to. Going for a cultural victory but Monty and the Aztecs are knocking at your door with spears and slingshots? Then temporarily switch out some of those economic cards and replace them with military ones. Each time you get a new civic, you can do a free policy change, so you should always take this opportunity to review your policies to meet your short-term needs as well as your long-term ambitions.
Et tu, readers? Do you have strategies of your own for conquering all with the mighty Romans? Let us know about them below.