What is the best culture in Humankind? This is a tricky one to answer: unlike fellow 4X game Civilization – where you pick one civ and then are done for the rest of the game – Humankind offers you the chance to pick a different culture every time you progress to a new era.
All cultures in Humankind are geared towards one of the game’s seven affinities – specialised gameplay pillars – and each era offers ten culture options so there are often more than one pick for a specific affinity. It is possible to identify objectively ‘good’ cultures within specific eras, though, and early game priorities currently skew towards specific things such as food or industry. When you start getting beyond a certain point this becomes a harder proposition, because it really depends on how your game has gone and what your immediate needs are.
As an example, most Contemporary cultures are very powerful at what they do in order to enable game-changing swings in the balance of power. Deciding which one is ‘best’ almost completely boils down to circumstance: where are you at, and what do you need to improve in order to bring home the win? That said, we do have one or two thoughts to share in our overview of the best cultures in Humankind.
The Best Humankind cultures
Here is a list of the best Humankind cultures:
For more information on Humankind cultures, emblematic units, quarters, and legacy traits, please refer to the official Humankind Encyclopaedia.
Humankind cultures – Ancient era
Two cultures stand out in the ancient era, and both focus on the two most important resources in the game currently – food and industry.
Which one you pick will largely depend on your environment – if there’s not a lot of good food tiles about, it might be best favouring early industry wins and boosting your population growth in later eras.
The Harappans get an extra farmer slot from their emblematic quarter. a big deal in an Ancient era culture. Yet you also get an immediate boost to growth from the trait, which is a big deal this early when yields are so low, and the Canal Network’s other food bumps can be paired with farmers’ quarters for a further boost to early growth that can become very powerful.
The role of food in Humankind cannot be understated, because more food equals more population, and population is central to everything at the moment. Population is needed to train troops, and obviously the more pops you have in a city, the more output you’ll generate.
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In a rather macabre twist, with the right technology you can ‘spend’ population to finish projects quickly, much like with money. A high growth civ would be able to field large armies and work through important projects quickly without compromising their nation’s overall performance. The only weak-point for the Harrapans is their emblematic unit, which is weaker than others within the era but is cheap, cheerful, and not gated behind tech.
If we accept food is the most important resource in the game right now, industry is the second most important, and the Egyptians are the best pick for this in the Ancient era. Their emblematic quarter is just as powerful as the Harrapans’, except you’re boosting production over food. Their legacy trait offers you a flat +1 bonus to production tile yields, as well as a permanent -10% reduction in industry costs, which is something that will stay relevant throughout the game.
The Markabata is a solid unit for this era that doesn’t need horses, and can move and fire in the same turn. You’ll need to make sure they’re protected from aggressive melee attacks, and you’ll need plenty of open ground too.
A special shout-out also goes to the Zhou. They’re an incredibly niche pick, but if you find yourself free from immediate neighbours, their ability to generate influence can come in handy, plus their legacy trait provides a permanent reduction in stability penalties from new districts, which will be handy for the entire game.
Humankind cultures – Classical era
The Celts are arguably the strongest pick for the Classical era: you’re either going to be doubling down on food production bonuses that you’re running with the Harrappans, or you went with the Egyptians and now want to bring up your food output to meet your industrial capabilities.
Their unique district – the Nemeton – gives a huge boost to food for this stage of the game (+3 per farmers’ quarter, +3 per number of attached territories) and a nice boost to faith to help your religion take off if it hasn’t already. A further +2 food per farmer from the trait is another massive bonus, making this an especially powerful pick if you were the Harrappans in the previous era.
Even without that though, the Celt’s ability to snowball population will let them leverage that in a number of different ways. Their special unit – the Gaesati – is weaker than others from the same era, but is faster and doesn’t lose strength from taking damage. Useful for hit and run raids, but you might need to shore them up with some Swordsmen if they’re going to be used in prolonged fights.
Provided you take care of your production and food needs, picking the Greeks might be a good idea to stay ahead in science. There’s no ‘science victory’ like in Civilization, but researching all of the technologies in the final era is one way to /end/ the game, and the Greeks are well placed to give you a hand in that regard.
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Their legacy trait gives a +2 boost to science per researcher in a city, which is something that stays relevant up until the final era where tech costs start shooting up exponentially. The Amphitheatron also gives you a great science boost, and can even help you with influence generation. The Classical era is the time to start investing in science and/or influence, and combined with a pretty decent unit in the Hoplite, the Greeks are a respectable second-choice for the Classical era.
Humankind cultures – Medieval era
While science is relevant in every era, focusing on influence becomes less important as the game progresses, but picking the Franks can give you a decent boost in both, as well as some other bonuses.
Their legacy trait is simple, and gives you a +10% boost to all influence production, which will be handy if you find yourself competing hard over neighbouring spheres of influence. The Franks’ emblematic quarter – the Scriptorium – provides more influence per adjacent distinct. Your cities should be quite mature at this point, so if you place this right you’re bound to get a killer influence boost. This district also gives boosts to faith, science, and provides an extra researcher slot – something that pairs very well with the Greek legacy trait.
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Finally, their unique unit is arguably the most powerful Heavy Cavalry unit in the game, comparable only to the Teutons’ Teutonic Knights. It’s quite costly, though.
The Ghanaians are a strong culture pick for the medieval era, but they require a bit of setup so you have to plan for them in advance. Get it right, and you could be earning a disgusting amount of money (which will be especially useful if you haven’t managed to grab an industry-focused culture so far).
Their legacy trait gives +5 money for each luxury and strategic resource you can access, while each Luxuries Market (their unique district) you build gives +1 money per number of trade routes. The combined effect of these is enormous if you’ve been working hard to discover those resources and set up trade routes, and if you can get a Luxuries Market in all your territories, you’ll be quids in.
Better yet, it scales pretty nicely, as by the end of the game the number of resources the AI has connected tends to jump pretty sharply. +5 money, +3 money for adjacent market quarters, and a trader slot for each Luxuries Market adds even further to this. Probably the best flat-out merchant culture in the game.
Humankind cultures – Early modern era
As with the Ghanaians, it’s best to plan with the Dutch in mind, but if you do so then you can end up with more money than you know how to spend. You need a big population to make the best of the legacy trait (+1 money per pop), so choosing Harrapans and/or Celts in previous eras is a must.
You also have to have built a few money quarters to make the best of the emblematic quarter (V.O.C. Warehouse), which grants +2 money per trader. If you can put it next to a harbour or two for a further +20 flat boost to money generation, so much the better.
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Generate a lot of growth early and build lots of markets and the Dutch can give you a ton of money – Ghanaians going into Dutch with the right prep can get you enough cash to do almost anything you want.
Percentage boosts to yields are a big deal since they’re always relevant, and if you’ve built a large empire then the industry bump you can get from the Mughals’ legacy trait – +2% industry on your capital for every territory in your sphere of influence – is incredible. You’ll want to have picked at least one of the Zhou, Greeks, or Franks in a previous era to ensure that your influence generation is where it needs to be, though.
Add to this the massive flat bumps to industry you can get from their emblematic quarter – the Jama Masjid – especially if you spam it and have built a lot of makers quarters’ with their arrival in mind, and the Mughals are probably the most powerful builder culture in the game for the era. On top of this, the Gajnal is also one of the strongest units of its era, as it can attack at range but also hold its own in close-quarter combat thanks to the ‘gunner’ trait.
Humankind cultures – Industrial era
We mentioned at the beginning that by the time you get to this stage of the game, your choice in culture will become highly situational depending on how you’re trying to win, as your strategy and your resource production should be locked in by now.
That said, there are still some best-in-slot picks even this late on:
The French represent a strong pick if you want to make a push to keep your science lead and end the game via technology research. Their emblematic quarter gives you +1 science per population – which combined with a previous food-focused culture – can mean you’ll never have to worry about science investment again. This has been tested a few times, and spamming the Exhibition Hall across all territories has enabled us to research endgame technologies in around three turns
The French Cuirassier is a decent unit – representing the only heavy cavalry unit in this era. It’s not the strongest in terms of raw combat strength, but utilised effectively on the right terrain and you’ll be able to smash enemy lines with your heavy charge. This era has no dedicated anti-cavalry role – instead the rise of firearms means tactics such as suppression become more important for pinning cavalry units down, so watch out for that.
Humankind cultures – Contemporary era
As in the previous era, your choice here will be highly situational, but there is one particular shout-out we want to make for the Contemporary era:
If you’re doing a conquest or expansionist based campaign, the Soviets represent the last word for this particular playstyle. If you’re running the ‘Last Man Standing’ setup option, this is an absolute must-pick.
The secret to their success is their emblematic quarter, the Arms Factory. This district raises the combat strength of all units by 1 for each copy of itself, at the cost of minus 10 stability for every city. However, there are plenty of options from earlier eras to mitigate this, especially if you plan for it in advance – the Zhou are a good early choice, but there are even some options from the Industrial era as well. Spamming the factories is highly recommended, even if your stability does waver, as you’ll be able to give your units an overwhelming strength advantage.
We’ve tested these mad lads out, and the only way you can really be stopped is via nukes (which are notoriously hard to get at the moment) or if someone manages to end the game before you manage to leverage the Soviets for a winning score.
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Across an entire game of Humankind, there’s reported to be over a million different possible culture combinations – we’ve obviously not had time to test them all, but these ten cultures represent some best-in-slot picks across several of the game’s core pillars.
Additional words from Richard Scott-Jones.