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Guide to City-States

everything most people might want to know about City-States in Civ VI

  1. WillowBrook
    Guide to City-States
    Compiled by WillowBrook

    This Guide provides information on Civilization VI's City-States and how you might get the most benefits from them. Comments, corrections, critiques, and any other pertinent discussion are welcome in the discussion thread.

    What is a City-State?
    How do I gain influence with City-States?
    How do I gain Envoys?
    Can I reassign or lose Envoys?
    What benefits can I get from sending Envoys to City-States?
    How do I become Suzerain?
    What benefits do I get from becoming Suzerain?
    What are the Unique Suzerain bonuses?
    There are so many City-States and so few Envoys. How do I decide where to place them?
    Any other strategic considerations?
    Can I get a summary of all the pertinent Government Policy Cards?

    What is a City-State?
    A City-State is a minor Civilization consisting of a single city. It can build districts, buildings, improvements, and units, as well as go to war, like the major Civilizations. However, it cannot found additional cities, and any city it captures is razed (including capitals and other City-States). City-States can provide considerable benefits to major Civilizations with sufficient influence. They can also be conquered. Or ignored.

    There are six types of City-States in Civilization VI, each providing a different type of benefit: cultural, industrial, militaristic, religious, scientific, and trade. There are 24 City-States that can appear in the base game and six additional City-States (one of each type) come with the Viking Scenario Pack. A list of all 30 is here. The game is hard coded to include 1.5 City-States for every major Civilization on a map. So a standard game of 8 Civilizations will have 12 City-States.

    How do I gain influence with City-States?
    To gain influence with City-States, send them Envoys. When you have one or more Envoys available, open the City-State screen to see the list of City-States you've met. Click the arrow to the right of the current number of Envoys to assign additional Envoys, and then click the green button to confirm the assignment(s).

    How do I gain Envoys?
    • Fast Exploration
      If you are the first major Civ to meet a City-State, you get one Envoy.
    • Influence Points
      Once you accumulate sufficient Influence Points, you are awarded one or more Envoys. The number of Envoys depends on your type of Government:
      • 1 Envoy at 100 Influence Points: Chiefdom, Autocracy, Oligarchy, and Classical Republic
      • 2 Envoys at 150 Influence Points: Monarchy, Theocracy, Merchant Republic
      • 3 Envoys at 200 Influence Points: Democracy, Communism, Fascism

      You gain Influence Points from Governments and Policy Cards:
      • Chiefdom: 1 point/turn
      • Autocracy, Oligarchy, Classical Republic: 3 points/turn
      • Monarchy, Theocracy, Merchant Republic: 5 points/turn
      • Democracy, Communism, Fascism: 7 points/turn
      • Monarchy's Legacy Bonus: +20% Influence Points, additional +1% for every 10 turns on standard speed
      • Charismatic Leader: +2 Influence Points per turn towards earning City-State Envoys (Diplomatic Policy Card available at Political Philosophy)
      • Gunboat Diplomacy: Open Borders with all city-states, and +4 Influence points per turn toward earning Envoys (Diplomatic Policy card available at Totalitarianism)
    • Civics
      Gaining certain Civics gives you one or more Envoys:
      • Ancient Era
        • Mysticism: 1 Envoy
        • Military Tradition: 1 Envoy
      • Classical Era
        • Theology: 1 Envoy
      • Medieval Era
        • Naval Tradition: 1 Envoy
        • Mercenaries: 1 Envoy
      • Industrial Era
        • Colonialism: 2 Envoys
        • Opera and Ballet: 2 Envoys
        • Natural History: 2 Envoys
        • Scorched Earth: 2 Envoys
      • Modern Era
        • Conservation: 3 Envoys
      • Atomic Era
        • Cultural Heritage: 3 Envoys
    • Great People
      Some Great People provide Envoys.
      • Medieval Era
        • Zheng He - Great Admiral - 1 Envoy (when retired)
        • Piero de' Bardi - Great Merchant - 1 Envoy
      • Renaissance Era
        • Jakob Fugger - Great Merchant - 2 Envoys
        • Raja Todar Mal - Great Merchant - 1 Envoy
        • Ana Nzinga - Great General - 1 Envoy (when retired)
      • Industrial Era
        • John Jacob Astor - Great Merchant - 2 Envoys
        • Simón Bolívar - Great General - 1 Envoy (when retired)
    • Policy Cards
      Besides the two Policy Cards that provide Influence Points (listed above), two other Diplomatic Policy Cards can provide additional Envoys.
      • Diplomatic League: The first Envoy you send to each City-State counts as two Envoys (available at Political Philosophy)
      • Containment: Each Envoy you send to a City-State counts as two, if its Suzerain has a different government than you (available at Cold War)

    • City-State Quests
      City-States provide quests which, when accomplished, grant one Envoy to the City-State whose quest you have fulfilled. Quests are unique to each player.

      Possible quests include:
      • Send a trade route
      • Build a particular unit
      • Build a specific type of district
      • Get a Eureka for a particular Technology
      • Get an Inspiration for a particular Civic
      • Recruit a specific type of Great Person
      • Clear a barb camp (generally within 5 tiles of the City-State)
      • Religious conversion

      Upon meeting a City-State, it will provide you with a quest. That quest will remain until you fulfill it or you go to war with the City-State or the quest becomes obsolete. An example of an obsolete quest would be getting a Eureka for a tech that you researched without getting the Eureka first. When you enter a new era, you will get a new quest from any City-State you've met that doesn't currently have a quest for you.

      Quests can potentially provide significant numbers of Envoys, especially if you don't rush through or skip eras. Also, the earlier you find a City-State, the more quests you may be able to fulfill. Norway's early ability to enter ocean can help it find City-States faster.

    Can I reassign or lose Envoys?
    You cannot reassign Envoys; once you assign an Envoy to a City-State, it stays there as long as both you and the City-State are in the game.

    The only way to lose Envoys is to directly declare war on a City-State, in which case you lose all you Envoys with that City-State. However, you do not lose your Envoys if you find yourself at war with a City-State for other reasons. For example, if you declare war on another Civilization that is Suzerain of a City-State, that City-State will declare on you, but you will not lose your Envoys. You can even send additional Envoys while at war in order to become Suzerain, and the City-State will switch sides in the war.

    If a City-State is conquered, it loses City-State status and you lose any benefits from having Envoys there. If you liberate a conquered City-State, you get your Envoys back and the City-State provides benefits as before. You cannot liberate a City-State you have conquered as long as it is part of your empire. But if you give it away or allow another Civ to capture it, you can then capture it back and liberate it. Note that you gain diplo points with other Civs when you liberate a City-State.

    What benefits can I get from sending Envoys to City-States?
    With one Envoy, your capital gains a bonus. At three and six Envoys, your districts gain bonuses. These bonuses depend on the type of City-State. They are the same for each City-State of a particular type.
    City-State Type One Envoy Three Envoys Six Envoys
    Cultural +2 Culture in the capital +2 Culture in every Theater Square district Additional +2 Culture in everyTtheater Square district
    Industrial +2 Production in the capital when producing wonders, buildings, and districts +2 Production in every Industrial Zone when producing wonders, buildings, and districts Additional +2 Production in every Industrial Zone when producing wonders, buildings, and districts
    Militaristic +2 Production in the capital when producing units +2 Production in every Encampment when producing units Additional +2 Production in every Encampment when producing units
    Religious +2 Faith in the capital +2 Faith in every Holy Site district Additional +2 Faith in every Holy Site district
    Scientific +2 Science in the capital +2 Science in every Campus district Additional +2 Science in every Campus district
    Trade +4 Gold in the capital +4 Gold in every Commercial Hub district Additional +4 Gold in every Commercial Hub district

    The Papal Primacy Founder Belief increases each of these benefits by 50%.

    Envoys can provide additional income with the Merchant Confederation Policy Card (available at Medieval Faires), which provides +1 Gold from each of your Envoys at City-States. This can provide fast cash as needed.

    In addition, if you become Suzerain, you gain additional benefits.

    How do I become Suzerain?
    If you send at least three Envoys to a City-State AND have more Envoys there than any other Civilization, you become Suzerain of that City-State. Only one major Civilization can be Suzerain of a City-State at one time. If two Civilizations have assigned the same number of Envoys, neither can be Suzerain. If a major Civilization is defeated, its Envoys disappear, so you can gain Suzerain status if you have more Envoys than any remaining Civ.

    You can become Suzerain of a City-State you are at war with if you send sufficient Envoys. It will immediately make peace with you and declare war on anyone you are at war with.

    On the City-State screen, the little grey number on the far right tells you the total number of Envoys you must have assigned to the City-State to become Suzerain.

    What benefits do I get from becoming Suzerain?
    Besides the bonuses based on number of Envoys, the Suzerain of a City-State gains additional benefits:
    • Unique bonus. Each City-State provides a unique bonus to its Suzerain.
    • Open borders.
    • Access to resources. The Suzerain gains the benefits of all bonus, strategic, and luxury resources owned by the City-State.
    • Diplomatic allegiance. The City-State follows its Suzerain to war and to peace.
    • Military help. In addition, the Suzerain can pay gold to gain control ("levy") the military of the City-State for a certain number of turns (30 on standard speed). Sumeria pays half the usual cost. Note: If you lose Suzerain status while levying a City-State's military, you lose control of the military, and you do not get control back even if you regain Suzerain status within the allotted time.
    • Visibility out to 3 tiles from the City-State center.

    There are also situational benefits to being Suzerain:
    • Some Policy Cards give additional benefits:
      • Raj: You get +2 Science, Culture, Faith, and Gold from each city-state you are Suzerain of (available with Colonialism)
      • Arsenal of Democracy: Your Trade Routes to an Ally's city provide +2 Food and +2 Production for both cities (available with Suffrage). A City-State you are Suzerain of counts as your Ally.
      • Collective Activism: +10% Culture per City-State you are the Suzerain of (available with Social Media). This won't win you a Culture Victory but may help prevent another Civ from winning by Culture.
      • International Space Agency: +10% Science per City-State you are the Suzerain of (available with Globalization). Helpful if you're trying to win a Science Victory but managed to climb the Civics Tree faster than the Tech Tree.
    • Pericles gets +5% culture per City-State he is Suzerain of.
    • Gaining Suzerain status may provoke another Civ to declare war on you. This could be a good or bad thing.

    Being Suzerain is not all sunshine and light. You can annoy other Civs, especially Pericles, Frederick Barbarossa, and a Civ with a certain hidden agenda. And the extra visibility can mean longer time between turns. Further, being Suzerain does nothing to help your score. And your Envoys might have been better used elsewhere.

    What are the Unique Suzerain bonuses?
    City-State Suzerain Bonus Notes
    Kumasi Your Trade Routes to any city-state provide +2 Culture and +1 Gold for every specialty district in the origin city. Get a handful of districts up in your capital, and a few trade routes will net you lots of culture.
    Mohenjo-Daro Your cities have full Housing from water, as if they were all next to a River. This is a great benefit if you have a water-scarce area you would like to settle.
    Nan Madol Your districts on or next to Coast tiles provide +2 Culture.
    Vilnius When you enter a new era, earn 1 random Inspiration from that era.
    Antananarrivo* Culture bonus of +2% for every Great Person you have ever earned
    Brussels Your cities get 15% Production towards Wonders.
    Buenos Aires Your Bonus resources behave like Luxury resources, providing 1 Amenity per type. If you can maintain Suzerain status, you will need few or no Entertainment Complexes.
    Hong Kong Your cities get +20% Production towards city projects. At first glance, this benefit may seem underwhelming, but the fastest science victories usually rely on gaining many great engineers and scientists through their respective city projects.
    Toronto Regional effects from your Industrial Zone and Entertainment Complex districts reach 3 tiles further. This can greatly reduce the number of factories and power plants you need to build, but you have to maintain Suzerain status.
    Auckland* +1 production for Coastal tiles (including Lakes) This can be a great benefit on watery maps.
    Carthage Your Encampment districts provide +1 Trade Route capacity each. If you build encampments, this is a nice benefit. Particularly good with Japan's cheaper encampments.
    Kabul Your units receive double experience from battles they initiate. Especially useful if you are warring much.
    Preslav Your light and heavy cavalry units have +5 Combat Strength when fighting on Hill tiles.
    Valletta City Center buildings and Encampment district buildings can be bought with Faith. Cost of purchasing Ancient Walls, Medieval Walls, and Renaissance Walls is reduced, but they can only be bought with Faith.
    Granada* Builders can construct the Alcazar improvement, which provides +2 Culture and provides occupying units +4 defense strength and 2 turns fortification bonus
    Jerusalem Automatically converts to the Religion you founded, and exerts pressure for that Religion as if it were a Holy City. Unless it is near many cities, this bonus is not as useful as it may seem, even if you are going for a religious victory.
    Kandy Receive a Relic every time you discover a new Natural Wonder, and earn +50% Faith from all Relics. This bonus can lead to much early tourism from relics for a fast cultural victory. If you have tile yields turned on, you may be able to tell when you're about to find a wonder and avoid it until you can becomes Suzerain.
    La Venta Your Builders can now make Colossal Head improvements. Colossal Heads add at least two faith to the tile.
    Yerevan Your Apostle units can choose from any possible promotion instead of receiving a random promotion. This ability can lead to much faster religious victories.
    Armagh* Builders can construct the Monastery improvement, which provides +2 Faith and heals friendly religious units +15%
    Geneva Your cities earn +15% Science whenever you are not at war with any Civilization. This can be quite helpful when going for a science victory.
    Hattusa Provides you with 1 of each Strategic Resource you have revealed but do not own.
    Seoul When you enter a new era, earn 1 random Eureka from that era.
    Stockholm Your districts provide +1 Great Person point of their type (Great Writer, Great Artist, and Great Musician for Theater Square districts). Good all-around bonus; you can never have too many Great People. Good synergy with Brazil and Kongo.
    Palenque* City growth rate +15% for cities with a Campus district
    Amsterdam Your Trade Routes to foreign cities earn +1 Gold for each Luxury resource at the destination.
    Jakarta Your Trading Posts in foreign cities provide +1 Gold to your Trade Routes passing through.
    Lisbon Your Trader units are immune to being plundered on water tiles. Very nice if you are sending trade routes over water.
    Zanzibar Receive the Cinnamon and Cloves Luxury resources. These cannot be earned any other way in the game, and provide 6 Amenities each. If you can maintain Suzerain status, you will need few or no Entertainment Complexes. The Aztec combat bonus from luxuries can also benefit from these Luxury resources.
    Muscat* +1 Amenity in cities with a Commercial Hub

    *Not in the base game, but added with the Vikings Scenario Pack

    There are so many City-States and so few Envoys. How do I decide where to place them?
    There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for placing your Envoys; every game is different. But here are some things to consider:
    • In the early game, the benefit to the capital from a single Envoy can be significant. A little bit of culture or science can be quite big early on.
    • Once you have a few districts of a certain type, getting the corresponding three-Envoy or six-Envoy benefits in one or two City-States can be worth more than spreading out your Envoys for smaller benefits.
    • Conversely, you can allow the City-States you find to guide which districts you prioritize. If you find two or three City-States of the same type early on, you may want to focus on building the districts that they benefit; the benefits from a few envoys can be much larger than any adjacency bonuses.
    • If you are pursuing a Religious, Cultural, or Science victory, you will probably want to prioritize placing Envoys in City-States of the corresponding type, up to the six-Envoy bonus.
    • Suzerain bonuses can be quite situational and may not be worth pursuing.
    • AI Civs will often fixate on being Suzerain of their neighboring City-States. Unless especially valuable to your goals, it may not be worth trying to maintain Suzerain status of a contested City-State. Instead, focus on getting the just district bonuses and/or getting Suzerain status of less-contested City-States.

    Any other strategic considerations?
    Here are a few things various CivFanatics have identified as worth considering:
    • Policy Card management: Careful management of Civics research and Policy Cards can maximize Envoys. For example, once you reach Political Philosophy, you can use the Charismatic Leader card most of the time for its +2 Influence points. Wait to send a first Envoy to a City-State until you swap in Diplomatic League for a turn (have a Civic one turn from completion when you finish another Civic). Then the first Envoy counts as two, but you don't lose out on many Influence points. If you are really into micromanaging, try to fulfill any quests from City-States with no Envoys on that turn you have Diplomatic League. Of course, you may want to assign the Envoy or fulfill the quest earlier if you want the benefit in your capital sooner.
    • War and Quests: If you are about to go to war with a Civ that is Suzerain of a City-State you may want to become Suzerain of, consider whether its current quest is one you will likely fulfill or not. If it's a good quest for you, fulfill it before going to war. If it's not a good quest, go to war with the Suzerain before sending additional Envoys; when the City-State declares war on you, the quest will disappear, and you'll get a new (hopefully better) quest after you make peace with the City-State and enter a new era.
    • Discrete versus Continuous Suzerain Bonuses:
      • Some Suzerain bonuses provide discrete benefits, so timing when you become Suzerain can be important, especially if other Civs seem interested in the City-State. For example, Seoul and Vilnius only provide their benefit (random Eureka and random Inspiration, respectively) when you enter a new era, so you may want to time becoming Suzerain just before you enter a new era. Yerevan only provides its benefit when you are buying Apostles, so you may want to save up faith to buy a bunch of Apostles immediately after becoming its Suzerain, if there is competition for Yerevan. Valetta's Faith purchases and La Venta's Colossal Heads are also discrete.
      • Other Suzerain bonuses are continuous, requiring you to maintain Suzerain status to have the benefit. If their benefits are particularly important to you, you may want to maintain a few Envoys in reserve to quickly regain Suzerain status as needed. Mohenjo-Daro's housing, Zanizibar and Buenos Aires' amenities, Carthage's trade routes, and Toronto's regional effects are all in this category.
    • To Conquer or Not: Especially in the early game, it may be more useful to conquer a City-State and have an additional city rather than influence it. You also deny your neighbors any benefit from it. And if Frederick Barbarossa (with his +7 combat strength against City-States) is a neighbor, you keep him from gaining an additional city, but will annoy him. You will also annoy Teddy Roosevelt if you go to war with a City-State on his home continent. If two major Civs are fighting over Suzerain status of a City-State, it may be worth letting them waste their Envoys on that City-State while you benefit from others.
    • Army upgrades: A City-State may have many outdated units. If you levy its army and then disband or smash the weaker units, it will build stronger ones. But you may have to protect it from conquest while it rebuilds its army.

    Can I get a summary of all the pertinent Government Policy Cards?
    Sure. These are mentioned where relevant in the sections on getting Envoys, City-State benefits, and Suzerain benefits above, but here are all of the Policy Cards related to City-States. These Cards are all of the Diplomatic type. If you particularly like them, consider building the Potala Palace wonder, which gives an extra Diplomatic Policy Card Slot to any Government.
    • Classical Era
      • Charismatic Leader (Political Philosophy): +2 Influence Points per turn towards earning City-State Envoys
      • Diplomatic League (Political Philosophy): The first Envoy you send to each city-state counts as two Envoys
    • Medieval Era
      • Merchant Confederation (Medieval Faires): +1 Gold from each of your Envoys at City-States
    • Industrial Era
      • Raj (Colonialism): You get +2 Science, Culture, Faith, and Gold from each City-State you are Suzerain of
    • Modern Era
      • Arsenal of Democracy (Suffrage): Your Trade Routes to an Ally's city provide +2 Food and +2 Production for both cities. A City-State you are Suzerain of counts as your Ally.
      • Gunboat Diplomacy (Totalitarianism): Open Borders with all city-states, and +4 Influence points per turn toward earning Envoys (obsoletes Charismatic Leader Card)
    • Atomic Era
      • Containment (Cold War): Each Envoy you send to a city-state counts as two, if its Suzerain has a different government than you
    • Information Era
      • Collective Activism (Social Media): +10% Culture per City-State you are the Suzerain of
      • International Space Agency (Globalization): +10% Science per City-State you are the Suzerain of

    Special thanks to those who contributed to several discussion threads on this topic, especially @ShinigamiKenji, @Victoria, @elitetroops, @CultureManiac, @mr.-Shadows, @Jarms48, @Skylark2009, @bowman-in-a-Bad-Mood, @TamirLenk, @I_pity_the_fool, @Calouste, @Truronian, and @Halcyan2. Thanks also to @Grumalg for his very handy Civilization VI Reference.
    peddroelm, b1tter and Photi like this.

Recent Reviews

  1. jesperben
    Very thorough and clear.
  2. GMAK2442
    Good job
  3. b1tter
    Just amazing. Very clear explanation, going into every important detail, that helped me a lot!
    Thank you
  4. kmleong
    As Usual Great Works is activated in Civfanatic and not in ampitheatre. Great Contributions
  5. hongyu20
    Clear summary of City State mechanics
  6. Mark Young
    Mark Young
    Excellent quality of information. Very clear and easy to understand.
  7. WileyWilson
    Great summary of civic states. Learnt a couple of tips I'd not thought of.