Civilization 6 Newbie’s Guide: New To Civ? Here’s What To Focus On

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Civilization 6
Civilization 6. (c) Firaxis / 2K Games

Civilization 6 is out now and all the strategy fans are abuzz. As with all releases of the series, the game is a major milestone in the strategy genre—and a perfect point of entry for new fans. Don’t be afraid by that big number at the end of the title. If you’re new to the series, Civilization 6 is the perfect place to jump in. It’s a complicated game, but it’s not that hard to learn and it builds on the lessons of its already very accessible predecessor Civ V. Nevertheless, if this is your first go-around on the Civilization rodeo, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know to dive right into Civ 6.

Civilization 6 Newbie’s Guide: What To Think About If You’re New To Civ

Civilization 6
Civilization 6. Photo: (c) Firaxis / 2K Games

Trust The Interface And In-Game Advisors

Civilization 6 has a modest learning curve, but it does have a learning curve. The game has a lot of interlocking systems, some of them quite complex, but as a new player you don’t really need to understand all the details right off the bat. And the game does a great job explaining what you need to know with frequent popups that give you advice and link you to the Civilopedia, which provides more in-depth information about a topic. Don’t turn off these notifications. Embrace them—and if you don’t quite understand something, maybe you’ll pick it up on your next play-through. The in-game advisors do a great job explaining the game’s basic concepts (as does Firaxis's introductory video series), so they can be helpful even for veteran players.


Build Units Early And Protect Your Cities


Most of these tips are geared toward the long-haul, but here’s one you’ll need early: Defend your cities. In Civ V, your cities could defend themselves on their own against basic barbarian attacks. Not so much in Civ VI. Barbarians come at you early, they’re relatively smart and they won’t go easy on you. But if you build a basic melee and ranged unit and keep the latter in your capital city at all times, you should be okay. Just don’t leave your cities defenseless. Once you build Ancient Walls, your city will be able to perform ranged strikes even without units in it, giving you a modicum of protection even without units. Encampment districts can also perform ranged strikes. In both cases, you’ll still want units around to prevent barbarians from pillaging your improvements, but you won’t be defenseless.


Plan For The Long Haul

Civilization 6 has a very long time scale and the urgent threats and opportunities of the early game will be long forgotten by the time the modern age rolls around. In Civ 6, you need to plan for the long haul early on. As a new player, don’t overcomplicate it—just focus on getting a lot of cities on good land (the in-game advisors will help you, but keep an eye out for hills for production, land on rivers, flood plains, natural wonders, and the like) and stay on top of technological research. But as you grow more experienced, you’ll be able to spot major opportunities well before you can take advantage of them—a key chokepoint on the map, or a bottleneck technology that you can be the first to grab, or a resource that will give you a long-term military advantage. What benefits you down the road won’t be obvious on your first play-through, but try to think long-term and strategically and you’ll set yourself up for success.


Pay Attention To District Bonuses

Districts in 'Civilization 6' Photo: Firaxis Games

Most of the nitty gritty details in Civ 6 can be learned over time, but one area is really worth investment early on: Districts, the game’s signature feature. Understanding these early will pay major dividends down the road. The game will tell you what each one does as you unlock them, but pay close attention to the adjacency bonuses they come with. Each District gets extra benefits from being next to certain types of terrain, whether it be a jungle, a desert or another District. Focusing on these bonuses can dramatically amplify your city’s power, and it’s worth paying attention to right away.


Court The City States

Civics in 'Civilization 6' Photo: Firaxis Games

City State mechanics can be a little confusing if you aren’t already familiar with how they worked in Civ V, but these one-city sovereign entities can be among your greatest allies… or your worst enemies. In Civ 6, the civilization who has sent the most envoys to a City State is their suzerain. City States fight alongside their suzerain in war and offer unique bonuses that can be critical to victory, so it’s important to fulfill City State quests and curry favor with them. Keeping your influence above that of a close rival can be critical—especially since City State loyalties can change mid-war, turning an ally into a sudden enemy. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and your City States closest of all!


Pay Attention To Your Rival’s Agendas

Every computer-controlled civilization in Civ 6 has its own agendas, some of which are specific to the civilization itself and some of which vary from game to game. Both can make a dramatic impact on your playthrough. If you’re next to China and build lots of Wonders, China is going to become your enemy—they prefer to keep those Wonders to themselves. Espionage and diplomacy can help you ferret out your opponents’ agendas, and be sure to take them seriously. The AI doesn’t just pay lip service to its agendas, so be ready for conflict if you’re pursuing a path that will upset them.


Don’t Worry About How You’re Going To Win

Trajan of Rome. Photo: (c) 2K Games

And lastly, some advice that’s very strictly for new players: Don’t worry about how you’re going to win Civ 6. If you’re playing on the easier difficulty levels or just starting out, there’s plenty of room to pivot between victory conditions down the road, or just aim to win a Time victory by having the highest score at the end of the game. It’s more important to learn the feel of the game than to pursue a specific victory condition. And you can always go all-out for military conquest when you get tanks and airplanes. It won’t work on higher difficulty levels, but for your first few playthroughs, just see what Civ 6 throws at you, focus on building your civilization, and worry about winning later on. Civ veterans know that Time victory is just for newbies—but if you’re a newbie, it’s the perfect victory to go for your first few times. Otherwise, check out our guides:

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