Favorite "Builder" Civs?


Jul 4, 2012
So I'm on one of my recurring Civ kicks again (happens every few months, I get utterly sucked in again for a month or two before burning out for a while.) And I'm realizing the way I really love to play this game/series: I don't particularly care about "winning" a game. Basically, I play through a start for as long as it seems fun and then drop it when I'm not feeling it, which means rerolling a lot for starts that look promising to me, saying "screw it" if it turns out there's no iron anywhere near me (or if, say, Russia is swarming me with missionaries right as I'm getting a religion founded.) On that note, it means that I always play with four official mods enabled: Monopolies & Corporations, because I feel like that should just be standard in the game anyway; Secret Societies, because it adds a lot of variety even if I end up going with Owls of Minerva 9 times out of 10 anyway; Dramatic Ages, because I like the swinginess of it and I like the challenge of keeping a continuous golden age going throughout a game; and Heroes & Legends, for the aforementioned variety, swinginess, and because Sinbad in particular is such a huge booster to what I like to do in this game.

Which is: Building the bestest, prettiest empire that I can, and then sitting back and relishing it like it's a completed lego set. When I do play a game through to a victory, it's almost always Diplomacy or Culture, because victory is very secondary to just being proud of what I'm building. I play on Emperor/King because I like to found religions and generally get some stuff done in the Ancient era that I can't do while fighting off getting eaten alive. I place a heavy emphasis on trade routes and envoys and exploration. I try just about every time to get the first circumnavigation and first-to-meet-everyone achievements. I usually avoid war (the AI isn't generally very good at placing cities in my opinion) though I recognize that a good early war can be a huge boost going forward.

So my question here, assuming that others also enjoy this game for the empire-building rather than the war-making, etc: What are your favorite "Builder" civs? Mine at the moment (to give a few examples) are:

Khmer: You have to pump out settlers early for good spots along rivers and mountains, but it makes it so trivial to get huge-population cities, and the copious aqueducts and presats make for a beautiful empire. Plus they just have a number of good color schemes to choose from.

Vietnam: Like with Khmer, you have to rush to get the prime locations to make this civ work (even with wet climate checked) but the bonuses from districts are worth the trade-off, plus the speed of your units makes exploration that much easier, the defensive bonuses are sweet, and the Voi Chien comes along at just the right time in my experience to deal with aggressors in short order.

France: Maybe I just like châteaux? Both of Catherine's personae are kind of underwhelming in the power department, but Magnificence encourages me to plan my cities very carefully (like with the previous two entries) and Black Queen allows for a different kind of warfare, which is always fun. Like Khmer, really encourages settling on rivers, which I feel like you should be trying to do whenever possible in any case. Interestingly, Eleanor's ability doesn't seem to work with Dramatic Ages, and her start is so rough compared to almost anyone else in the game, that I have yet to have a good game with her despite her seemingly being exactly my jam.

Indonesia: Kampungs rock. Gitarja lets you settle flyspeck islands that nobody else could make use of. Bonus faith is also huge (especially if, like me, you want to keep recalling Sinbad or Himiko or Maui or Hercules as often as possible.) And of course the Jong is one of the truly great unique units.

Rome: Thinking particularly of Julius here, though free monuments are certainly nice. Though it's easy to see Caesar's Rome as a straight-up warmonger, it also works well as a civ that actually deals with all the Barb camps that none of the AI civs will do anything about, turning that money into more units and buildings and settlers. Later on in the game, you can just respond to emergencies to keep your coffers full (or just go to war like a normal person, if that's your thing.) And, like with Khmer, lots of aqueducts make for a pretty-looking civ.

Georgia: I used to joke about Georgia too, but for the way I play now, they're actually kind of a powerhouse. Their ability means that I actually go for Monarchy over Merchant Republic, which I otherwise almost never do, the Tsikhe is nice-looking, the Khevsur is a decent UU at a good time for one (especially if, like me, you usually check the new world box for a lot of hills) and the ability synergizes with what I'm doing anyway: spreading my religion to city states, taking the Tithe belief, and pumping out as many envoys as the game will allow. Plus if I really want to use a Dark Age policy I can do so without ever stopping my Golden Age train.

Australia: Low-key one of the most OP civs out there? Extra housing from coasts is great, extra production from getting DOW'ed or liberating cities is amazing, high appeal is of course glorious for someone like me, and the Outback Station is cool if you have a lot of pastures in your area (which I've learned is definitely not always the case.

On the other hand, I've never found any success trying to make Maya work. Phoenicia, for as gorgeous as the Cothons are, is very possibly the weakest civ in the game. Eleanor I've discussed above. Brazil can be good (and I love the Minas Geraes as a UU and doubled-up unique districts for extra era score) but they have such a rough start. Gaul can be very fun and different but I have trouble getting decent population in cities in addition to finding worthwhile areas to settle (even with new world enabled.)

So what are y'all's favorite "Builder" civs, then? Thanks!
Germany and Japan are my go to builder civs. England is up there in my top 3.
Ooh, yeah. Germany and Japan are up there for me too (with Ludwig and Tokugawa respectively, at least. Hojo Tokimune isn't bad, of course, but Tokugawa is excellent for this sort of thing. Frederick Barbarossa just doesn't interest me at all.) I start up a lot of England games and seem to be cursed to never be anywhere near any iron, like, ever, but I like Steampunk Vicki in theory at least. And I'm a fan of Nader Shah, who brings Persia's great suite with him but with an ability that's not blank if you don't plan on declaring surprise wars. (I'm aware that Cyrus is probably almost strictly better than Nader Shah, just not for how I tend to play the game.)
I always loved going CRAZY with city-planning with Greece, building as many perfect Acropoli as possible, and dreaming about getting wonders like the Apadana as Pericles and maybe the Temple of Zeus as Gorgo.

Maxing out Chateaus and Paridaezas is fun too.

For whatever reason, though, I've always hated Sphinxes. Not sure why... something about all the Egypt leaders just never really clicked with me.

Edit: Original Qin Shi Huang is also a good one- he's how I got into Civ, actually! I would replay the Civ 6 demo over and over again to try and fully optimize my wonder production, choosing different wonders and eurekas to go for... good times. If you're really smart (and really patient), you can even try planning out Great Walls, which always scared me off. Focusing on wonders and restrictive improvements was just a lot for me.
Aztecs. Building districts with builder charges means your advanced cities can effectuate and cost share in building out your expands. Aztecs have no need of Moksha or Reyna with a 4th promotion to insta-build districts, which really allows you to experiment with governor titles. Building Wonders and specialty districts is all fine and well, but Aztecs can build *any* district fast and cheap. By far the best builder civ.
I enjoy playing as Australia, and it's not just because that's my own nationality. Well, not completely. Occasionally you'll get some crazy bonuses for plopping down campuses on the coast near reefs and a geothermal fissure. It's such a rare combination but when it happens it is marvellous.
micro Aus vic.jpg

(I've renamed my version of the Australian Empire to a Commonwealth, it just feels better to me).
Nubia - quicker districts, a little bit of extra gold or production from mines on resources and the buff to the Nubian Pyramid makes them more appealing than before. Plus, if you get an itchy trigger finger those archers will help….
England, especially Vicky has been my favorite go to builder civ. Their real UU are the military engineers who they can pump out and spam water infrastructure like nobody’s business. It’s essentially like being able to buy aqueducts, canals, and dams wherever you need them. This can supercharge industrial zones where your coal plants will never run short of fuel. And you can use your engineers to build flood walls extremely fast. Cheap ways to maximize IZ production can be extremely powerful.

Gaul is another one of my favorites due to their different adjacency rules for their IZs. My experience has been they have the best early game production in the game, except maybe one who can optimize a work ethic game.

Also can’t forget the Incas. Any civ that has solid fundamentals for food and production are set up for whatever kind of success they want.
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