Six new ways to play Civilization 6

If you're bored and looking for something else to try in this popular strategy game, we've got some ideas for you

A promo shot of zombies stalking the map in civ 6

Earlier this year, Civilization VI players bade farewell to the 4X game’s New Frontier Pass and its promise of continuous updates. There haven’t been any further patches since Firaxis released a sweeping balance pass in April. Without the excitement of new Civ 6 leaders and game modes, nor any certainty around further patch support, veteran players may be running low on ways to keep the fun alive in their favourite strategy game.

Fortunately, there’s no right way to Civ (except maybe don’t lose). From meme strats to trying to plan out the perfect Panama Canal or generating those disgusting tile yields, there are plenty of ways you can challenge yourself when launching a game of Civ VI. The only limit is your imagination, although even that needs a hand every once in a while, which is where we come in.

As Civ fans await updates on the franchise’s future (and dream about what they’d like to see in Civilization 7), there’s plenty of time to explore new ways to play and win Civilization VI.

Try a one-city challenge

In Civ, it’s generally advantageous to settle as many cities as possible, so the one-city challenge presents the ultimate test of mastery. It requires a deep understanding of the interplay between policy cards, wonders, governors, districts, Great People, and international diplomacy. The one-city limitation means players can’t capture enemy cities, so instead, they have to maximise tile yields.

Some one-city challengers choose to go for a Science Victory, rushing scientific advancement by stealing tech boosts through spy networks. However, the most daring among us can aim for a one-city domination victory, which requires taking over all other capital cities in a single turn. The rule for the ‘OOC’ is that you can’t end your turn with a second city, but the act of triggering the domination victory immediately ends the game. Therefore it doesn’t break the rule. For an excellent summary on the one-city domination victory, check out this post by Reddit user Civtrader.

Tamar of Georgia from strategy game Civ 6

Win a game as an unpopular civ or leader

Naturally, Civ players tend to select Civ 6 civs that suit their playstyles. For some, this means skipping leaders with complicated kits or situational gameplay mechanics. Dedicated Civ players can showcase their mastery by winning as the game’s least popular leaders. While you’d be forgiven for thinking popularity is largely subjective, there are some stats.

Related: Civilization 7 will need better AI

Civ developer Firaxis introduced Tamar and Lautaro in the Rise and Fall expansion way back in 2018, yet Steam’s global Civilization VI achievement stats suggest only 1.4 percent of players have wins with either of these leaders. You may not know Firaxis buffed both of these happy chappies with the April patch, so now’s a great time to revisit them.

This principle can also be applied to any Civ you don’t think you’ve played much. If playing as an unpopular Civ doesn’t feel like a challenge in itself, try playing one of your favourite leaders but go for a victory that doesn’t suit them. If Gandhi can go nuclear, so can others.

Win with self-imposed restrictions

Self-imposed restrictions offer countless opportunities for creative gameplay, so players can aim to win by setting their own limitations such as a no-campus science victory or a no-theatre square culture victory. In a multiplayer game, this can mean racing to build the most wonders or challenging one another to see who can develop the best tile yields. But if you’re the type of person who finds pleasure in pain, why not throw reason out the door and go for a no-district win? Civtrader pulled it off on Deity difficulty by relying on ziggurats and colossal heads.

Those seeking inspiration can look to Civ’s Steam achievements, which present numerous hard-to-earn in-game challenges. One of Steam’s rarest Civilization VI achievements is Pizza Party!, which requires you to activate Leonardo da Vinci in New York while great works from Michelangelo and Donatello are housed there, while also having a sewer in that city. You’ll earn legendary status from us if you can pull all that off in a city that has turtles as a luxury resource.

Play a multiplayer game as the same leader

By default, Civilization VI players tend to pick different leaders with unique kits and strategies, which creates fairly asymmetrical experiences. But what happens when all players begin on truly equal footing? What if, deep down, we’re all Gandhi?

Some Civ players may not even be aware that Civilization 6’s game settings allow for duplicate leaders and civs. Whether playing for glory or just for the memes, a group game where everyone plays the same leader is a guaranteed good time. It’s especially fun when playing as a leader with a really weird kit, such as Kupe, who starts the game with a settler and a warrior in the ocean. (Special thanks to WhiteAndNerdy13 for the idea.)

Diety AI Attacks A City in Civilization 6

Win without a military

While it’s possible to win a Civ game without going to war, players typically must build strong militaries to deter potential aggressors, especially as the AI looks at army size in its calculations.

So what happens when a player attempts a Civilization VI win with no military other than the game’s default starting warrior? With threats from barbarians and neighboring civilisations, winning requires strong attention to diplomacy.

Redditor Professor_Plum_28 kept their starting melee unit when they completed this challenge on Deity, but truly daring players can go even further – why not disband the unit, and see what happens?

Another twist on this is the pacifist domination victory. With this type of victory, a player must capture all enemy capitals, but is only allowed to take others cities through the loyalty system rather than by force. Redditor CubbieBlue66 offers some excellent strategies for solidifying this type of victory with Eleanor of Aquitaine, introduced in Civ VI’s Gathering Storm expansion.

Check out game modes you may have missed

If you haven’t played Civ VI in a while, you may not know that extra official game modes have been added since launch. Several playable scenarios, such as Jadwiga’s Legacy and Outback Tycoon, require players to reach certain milestones within a set number of turns. Civ VI also has two spin-off multiplayer modes, both of which are included with the base game.

Red Death is Civ VI’s take on battle royale, while Pirates is an homage to Sid Meier’s Pirates!, a much-loved hit of the ’90s. It’s worth pointing out that it can be hard to find players for these two modes at the moment.

Related: Civilization 6 DLC guide

Those who own the New Frontier Pass or have purchased the requisite standalone DLC packs can augment their normal Civ VI games with one or more special ‘rulesets’.

  • Apocalypse heightens the possibility of natural disasters and also allows players to build units that spawn disasters throughout the terrain.
  • Barbarian Clans lets players make strategic use of barbarian camps, allowing them to recruit units or to leverage the barbs as allies once they become independent city-states.
  • Dramatic Ages emphasises era score, and a single dark age can instantly cause half of your cities to become free cities.
  • Heroes and Legends adds a twist to Civ’s Great People that gives these special entities powerful new perks, but limited lifespans.
  • Secret Societies lets players choose to align with one of four mythical organisations, each of which grants unique perks.
  • Tech and Civic Shuffle rearranges the order in which players unlock techs and civics, eliminating the ability to predict your trajectory through the ages.
  • Monopolies and Corporations grants bonuses for improving luxury resources, ultimately allowing players to use great merchants to commoditise goods.
  • Finally, there’s a zombie mode, in which eliminated units can respawn and strategic use of fortifications is required to protect your cities from the shambling hordes.

The best part is you can mix and match all of these based on your preferences, or embrace chaos and activate them all at once. For more great ways to play Civ VI, check out our round-up of the best Civilization 6 mods. If worst comes to worst, you could always check out these other excellent games like Civilization to get that ‘one more turn’ fix.