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Civilization Guide: America (vanilla)



In its founding and since, America has been a civilization in many ways shaped and defined by its wars. From the ideals of the Revolutionary War to its government-defining Civil War to the industrial burgeoning and nuclear unleashing of the World Wars, America's military history has been taken to Civ 5's heart, producing a civilization that plays somewhat differently than its past incarnations.

Key Concepts
Land-Grab: Early claiming of land and seizing important choke points.
Spawnbusting: Preventing barbarians from appearing by making sure that tiles are visible.

Manifest Destiny

The American Unique Ability is often debated and derided for its relative value. It comes in two parts, one consistently useful and one situationally useful.

The consistently useful ability is that land military units receive +1 sight. This doesn't sound that great on paper; you'll see things next turn anyway. However, it starts being useful at the beginning of the game and stays useful right up until the end -- for different reasons.

In the early game, scouting is crucial. Meeting city-states first, getting a feel for the land so that you know what your strategy will need to be, finding and popping ruins -- in all these things, America has a decided edge. By the time you start sending out settlers, you will likely have a far more comprehensive knowledge of the map than were you playing another Civ, and will have done it far more efficiently. To capitalize on this, make sure you're sending your cities to the ideal spots -- depending on difficulty level, this could be resource spots, defensive spots, or blocking spots. Again, this benefit is hard to describe numerically or on paper, but it is there and should be used.

The increased visual range also comes into play in dealing with Barbarians. For simply the cost of a scouting promotion, your Scouts can have a nice +2 visibility, enabling you to spawn-bust entire swaths of land. Not only that, but your city garrisons early on will be able to survey more of the land, allowing you to detect and deal with Barbarians that much more early. As America, you should be in total control of when and if Barbarians spawn near your cities, and you should be able to do it with far fewer units.

When you're getting ready for war, this visibility will come in handy once again; it will allow your mobile units (mounted/armor) a better sense of where to go and whom to attack, it can allow your foot units to avoid traps and pitfalls, and -- perhaps most importantly -- it increases the sight range of your siege units. While scouting alone makes the ability worth it, being able to counteract the "limited visibility" promotion of siege units means that your siege units can fire without needing a spotter (someone to provide vision for siege units' range), and America has an easier time spotting for Artillery with their three range. After the early land-grab, if you are not warring with somebody as America, you're denying yourself the full value of the extended vision of Manifest Destiny.

The value of this extra sight only starts to peter out with the advent of flight and Fighters for scouting, but even then, do not underestimate the utility of extra sight for your land units in any invasion; your land units can spot for air attacks as well as they can for siege attacks.

The second part of Manifest Destiny concerns the gold cost of buying tiles, and hearkens back to the Lousiana Purchase, wherein America paid France to acquire a great deal of what would become the Central United States. Quite simply, America receives a discount on purchasing tiles. This has some natural synergy with pursuing Angkor Wat, and more so with their extended vision. The key here is to not go purchase-crazy; the key is recognizing situations where buying the tile is the right move.

In the early game, use it to close off pathways and chokepoints so that other civs can't get past a far-settled city without declaring war. Use it as well to get those happiness resources hooked up sooner, if you've needed to position your city in such a way that some will be in the outside ring. Use it when Iron and Horses are revealed to quickly make the tiles workable and connectable.

Of course, if you're saving up money for this, it means you likely won't be spending it on city-states. If you're settling the best spots on the continent and blocking off your opponents, it's going to irritate them. Extremely. Buying tiles is a goad to get your enemies to declare on you, where you can use your superior vision to help you wipe out opponents. Make no mistake -- from start to finish, America is a Warmonger Civ.

Examples and Screenshots for Manifest Destiny
Spoiler Fig. 1 :

I know it will be worth following the peninsula more because I can see the border of a city-state.​
Spoiler Fig. 2 :

This is at the start of turn 10; other Civs will be hard-pressed to get early game map information like the Americans.​
Spoiler Fig. 3 :

This ruin was hiding under a one-hex cloud. Being able to see that extra hex can make a large difference in your decisions.​
Spoiler Fig. 4 :

With Honor, it isn't too hard to get the scouting promotion for a scout, and you have a highly useful four-tile view from a single unit.

Spoiler Fig. 5 :

I'm out of Iron, but happily there's another deposit a mere two tiles away.

Spoiler Fig. 6 :

Relatively cheap with a 50% discount. The eventually profit will be six more iron-based troops to spank the pants off of Rome, who has their own large iron supply.

Spoiler Fig. 7 :

And speaking of spanking, that's how it went down. Without devoting troops to Cumae, I can still see what's going on in the city.

Spoiler Fig. 8 :

An example of spotting for Artillery; my Infantry does not have to be in range of the city to let my Artillery see it and soften it up.

Spoiler Fig. 9 :

An example of tile-buying later in the game; this city-state had not yet claimed the coal because of an AI city I ended up razing; 110 gold is peanuts compared to the ability to set up more factories, while 220 gold would take longer to recoup. Note also that Cultural expansion will claim that lovely ocean tile . . .


The Minuteman is a Musketman replacement that starts with Drill I (bonus in rough terrain) and ignores terrain movement costs. Because it is a Musket replacement, you will not be able to upgrade earlier units; you must hand-build each one. On the other hand, it requires no strategic resource to build, so you can always be sure you're getting them. Depending on the map type, they should come when you have cemented dominance of your continent and are looking hungrily overseas. Minutemen flourish naturally as pillagers and advance troops. Their free Drill Promotion gives them a head start on the path to March, and their ability to run roughshod over hill and through forest should allow you to pillage mines and lumbermills while standing firm against reprisal, essentially destroying a civ's production capacity. With Civ 5's absence of war weariness and ability for both sides to survive a round of battle, your Minutemen should be able to give your opponent headaches at little to no cost to yourself. The absence of terrain movement cost also greatly eases the logistics of troop movement; your Minutemen can get themselves in position to assault a city without clogging the lanes for your Siege. Overall, like the UA, the Minuteman is solid without seeming spectacular; better once you're actually playing than it looks on paper.

Examples and Screenshots for Minutemen
Spoiler Fig. 1 :

This Minuteman has a clear path to Quebec, where any other infantry-type unit would need two moves; this means he won't be clogging the lane for the Cannon coming up. Not only that, but with a modest focus on getting the Brandenburg Gate, these Minutemen are starting out with March, and will be ripe for upgrades when I finally elect to go for Rifling.

Spoiler Fig. 2 :

In this case, there's a very narrow lane of approach to Vientiane, with 4 of its six hexes unavailable to land units, and one of the two remaining a hill, disallowing Cannon fire. Happily, my Musketmen can travel on the hill and the forest as normal roads, allowing me to swiftly rotate troops in and out while wearing down this city with the few available cannon spots.

B17 Bomber
America has traditionally had a late-game unit that's derided by most for its timing. While the B17 Bomber is a late-game unit, it is a thing of beauty. The B17 starts with Siege I and Evasion I, enhancing their survivability and allowing them to do more damage against cities in the Modern Era. These promotions put you on the fast track for Logistics, allowing your Bombers to bomb twice, as well as Air Repair, the flight equivalent of March. B17s require Oil, as do Bombers, which means that Biology should be a priority tech as well as seizing sources of said resource once revealed. If you've been doing your job and taking over your continent, you should hopefully have a nice supply. As with your other Unique Unit, you will be building these from scratch, but whatever production centers you were using for your Musketmen will probably work as well, here. Unlike Musketmen, B17s do not obsolete, even though they upgrade to Stealth Bombers. The Americans, therefore, will continue producing B17s even in the stealth era, then upgrading them to take advantage of the freely offered promotions. This essentially gives America another modern-era UU, and bodes well for American Air dominance.

Bombers require that a land unit have line of sight for targets. To make full use of their operational flight range, they require forward land units to be within visible range of a city. Of course, with America's Manifest Destiny UA, it means land units can remain one extra tile away from a city, swapping out with each other to survive a city's firing ability until said city is weak enough to be captured.

Additionally, Stealth Bombers can't rebase to aircraft carriers. The B-17 build to Stealth Bomber upgrade track can be halted when you need to pound an island or coastal city into submission with air power attached to your fleet. If you don't want to conquer or build a new city for getting your bombers in range, this a useful, if rarely necessary, tactic.

Other than their advanced promotions, though, the standard bomber tactics apply (see the Modern & Future Units Guide). For those who have mastered the intricacies of Research Agreements and Bulbing, Bombers and Stealth are actually not that far away, but even a more relaxed pace gives you a very useful unit.

Examples and Screenshots for B-17 Bombers
Spoiler Fig. 1 :

With even a modest investment, your bombers have Air Repair or Logistics, depending on preference, out of the box.

Spoiler Fig. 2 :

With a more dedicated approach, you can nab the Brandenburg Gate, allowing you to produce Air Repair/Logistics Bombers right out of the chute. Combined with Honor, it's very easy to fill out the Siege Branch and turn them into even more effective Land-Troop killers. This particular bomber has only been in action for a few turns (attacking twice each turn with the Honor bonus to xp earned, and repairing itself as well) -- each B17 with the right promotions is easily worth 4-5 Bombers in terms of efficiency.

Spoiler Fig. 3 :

If you can nab the Pentagon in addition to Professional Army from the Honor tree, the only possible objection to building and upgrading B17s to Stealth Bombers (gold cost) disappears.

America-Specific Strategies

As mentioned before, America is a warmonger Civ. You're not out there to play peacefully, you're out there to win by destroying your neighbors. With an early game focused on the Land-Grab and spawnbusting, Liberty might sound like a tempting policy tree, but you need to be thinking long-term. The advantage of both the Minuteman and the B17 is their easier access to deeper promotions, and in the case of B17s the ability to build and upgrade while Stealth Bombers are available. Pick Honor with the Americans; you'll know where more Barbarian camps are thanks to your more effective scouting; you'll be able to kill Barbarians for culture, eventually you will be generating culture with the garrison units you were going to buy anyway, and the maintenance-free happiness of Walls and Castles that you were likely going to be building anyway in your outlying cities all point to Honor as the tree to go for and fill out. Later in the game, if you've reached Stealth technology, you'll want to be building B17s and upgrading them to Stealth Bombers, which also points to Honor as a tree to possess.
Once you have filled out Honor, you will be earning gold for each enemy you kill, which you can channel into upgrading or tile-buying as seems appropriate. Patronage is an unlikely choice; America gets more mileage out of beating on City-States than cultivating them. In the mid-game, Commerce is an attractive choice for helping your overseas invasions both financially and logistically, and you'll round out your social policy choices with Autocracy for not only the enhanced combat abilities but the enhanced strategic resource amounts, from Coal for Factories to Uranium for Bombs and everything in-between. In anticipation thereof, annexation rather than puppeteering your conquests is a likely choice, while razing marginal cities; you'll want to be able to control troop production wherever the action is, and the ability to buy tiles on the cheap makes you less reliant on cultural expansion to get key tiles and therefore less tempted to keep a lackluster city simply for the territory it claims. If you want to go "tall" as America, simply let your opponents do the foundation work.

On the other hand, there are some advantages in temporarily puppeting a city, such as using it for gold farming; indeed, a puppeted city having been used for gold production can have its buildings sold off, have itself razed to the ground, and then its annexed neighbors can quickly buy up the newly vacated tiles at half the cost everybody else pays. A puppeted city in the later game can also be used as an airbase, which can at times mitigate an otherwise lousy position. Since planes have to advance to conquered frontier cities to bomb your next target into the ground, choosing which cities to keep and which to drop becomes a matter of maximizing your forward air support with your land and sea units. If your enemy has pursued a "wide" empire settling strategy (very common from the AI), you can skip the tougher positions, take out a smaller target and cut off an enemy city's contact with with his production centers, not to mention breaking trade routes. Isolating a few cities from your enemy's capital at one time can eat into his gold supply (depending on difficulty level) while he's still fighting a war with you. Puppeteering on a temporary basis can also mitigate happiness concerns that come from full-on annexation, though Honor still gives you rather good Happiness options.

With so much of their early- and mid-game having to do with the strength of their land warring, it should be obvious that America grows stronger the more land there is; Archipelago and Small maps will be their bane, low sea levels, continents+ and standard size+ will allow more of their strengths to come to the fore. With their advantages in Scouting and Land-grabbing, the rarer resources are, the more America will have value, and conversely more frequent Barbarians make for a stronger America.

Examples and Screenshots from Civilization Specific Strategies
Spoiler Fig. 1 :

Thanks to my scouting, I'm able to nail down the only source of gems on the continent and put in an initial block against Liz.​
Spoiler Fig. 2 :

Buying the southern tile keeps Liz from sneaking around me to that side, while buying the others robs London of some riverside bounty.​
Spoiler Fig. 3 :

With two cities there, Liz has been encouraged to spread along an unproductive and highly food-poor coast rather than up toward me.​
Spoiler Fig. 4 :

Honor-killing Barbarians can take you all the way to the Military Caste policy without any particular attention to culture buildings.


The image of the Warmonger as set forth for America in Civ 5 is surprisingly accurate, reflecting a Nation that found its birth in a war as well as the one that unleashed the nuclear bomb in World War II. When you sit down to play America, you're sitting down for war, whether with your intelligence advantage early on, your mobility advantage in the midgame, or your aggressive air power in the end game. Play to these military strengths and you won't go wrong, settle into defensive or peaceful postures and you will find the American's strength fading into a mediocre and meandering game.

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