How do you systematically get better?


Nov 22, 2016
Hello all,

I have played Civ since Civ I came out, but I have noticed that after 30 years I am not really getting better. What are your tips to getting better? I would love to come up with a systematic approach to improving my play.

I've also been playing Civ since it came out and only ever played on the easier levels. I was never able to play anything higher than Warlord. Until now, just yesterday I won my very first Civ VI game on King, so whatever it is I'm doing now is better than what I was doing before, ha. I am so proud of myself. I've gone from eternal noob to decidedly average! :lol:

I consistently play VI on Prince now but I felt ready to push myself higher and give King a try. I never thought I'd ever improve after all these years. I think I first decided to try Prince out about a month ago and was feeling frustrated and kept rage quitting. It was just after that when I bought R & F (Only had vanilla + DLC before) and I also decided to try MP for the first time. My internet was always too unstable and slow to play MP anything in the past but it's fine now. Anyway, I think it was MP that helped me improve how I play. I honestly think watching others play was what gave me the push to be a better player.

Now that I know I can play on King, when that starts to feel more comfortable I'm going to try Emperor, but I might find that Prince/King is my comfort zone. Especially after thinking I'd never play on anything higher than Warlord.
We should define "better" first. Does it mean being able to beat a higher difficulty?

The reason I play on King in Civ VI, having played almost all the civ games since the early 90s, is that is the highest difficulty on which I can systematicly win without using any exploits, like excessive chopping. Does that make me a worse player? I don't think so.

I have won games on difficulties up to and including Deity, but I did not enjoy them at all. Things get too gamey, and the roleplaying and empire-building fun is lost. There are those on this forum who look down upon us "casuals", but it is their problem.

So maybe embrace the way you naturally enjoy the game, without fretting over getting "better". Gaming is not a competition, for normal people anyway.
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Two things are important. First expand, expand and expand. Getting a huge empire that you must micromanage is a must. Build settlers or warmonger.

Secondly, only build relevant districts and skip the rest. Read: campus. Also skip flavour buildings.

And of course. Abuse what you can. Chopping and trading.

Seeing people struggle at lower levels is mostly about building too much junk.
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Getting better as in being able to beat higher difficulties? In part you should look up how to exploit the flaws in the AI, in part you should realize that higher difficulties are meant for players who warmonger.

This is just plain not true. But first, let me explain.

I played the heck out of Civilization V. It's one of my most played games of all time. Certainly in my top 5. It's #1 on Steam by a mile, and it doesn't include the time I played it offline, when I used to go to my ex-boyfriend's house who didn't have the Internet and that's how I'd entertain myself when I got bored. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure I played some before I even downloaded it to Steam, but don't quote me on that. Point is: I've played it. A LOT. And I'm good (at least against the AI, haha, as I almost never do multiplayer). But to play Civ VI, I had to through that all out the window. It's a completely different game.

So my first advice? Forget everything you know. Forget everything you THINK you know. Be prepared to be wrong. Be open to new ideas about the game. And that's how you'll improve.

Is it warmongering, then, that is the key to victory? Certainly not. It's one route to take. But the key is to get more cities, and there's other ways to do that...just keep making settlers. Unlike in Civ V, you can't win (as easily) if you only have 3-4 cities. You need a bunch. My goal is to shoot for 12, but falling a little short is fine. I don't expand too far away and try not to step on anyone's toes, but you should easily get 8 cities, preferably 10+ (again, shoot for 12 though if you can).

Since I was willing to give up everything I knew and opened myself to new ideas, I can now easily beat the game on Deity and I find it fun and challenging to find new ways to do it faster. The first extra challenge I tried after beating it on Deity was a one city challenge......but that proved to be too easy. xD But of course I don't recommend that yet until you can beat it normally.

For the record, I play primarily with diplomatic victory. I did the same in BNW Civ V (pre-BNW, I prefered culture). I also do like domination with the Mongols in Civ V, but less so in Civ VI. And warmongering? Totally unnecessary. I can play 100% peaceful and easily win just the same.
It most certainly is true, because AI combat ability is the thing that is increased the least at higher difficulties, with deity having +4 combat strength (vs +80% to yields along with a start-boost to techs and civics, cities and more).

Meaning that if you want to win then the AIs lack of combat ability is the thing you want to exploit.
I try to pay more attention to what I'm doing, and slow down. Doesn't always work. I still tend to play my turns too quickly. There's always this rush to get to the next big thing like completing a wonder or accomplishing war objectives.

And then there's the real possibility I haven't gotten better. It's hard to say because the game has gotten easier. But I'm fairly certain I have gotten better, and one reason is reading a lot here and really learning the mechanics properly. In civ5, I'm not sure I ever learned all the ins and outs of cultural victory in Civ5 (not the silly original version of cultural victory), but Civ6 I know every single thing that I need to do to get it and get it faster.
The main problem with this game and chatter is that we all play on different Settings, Map, Civs, Mods... etc etc.
Another problem is that what I find fun is not what someone else finds fun so that messes up all the strategy.
I am pretty sure it is a given that warmongering is very strong in this game or prior versions.
You will find that peaceful players do exist and the best of the best are near equal to the warmongers.
Once again though the combinations of the game are endless.
I am realizing that every game is different because of the CS meets, land, position and map.
My case in point is my last game I rolled the AI pretty darn fast for my standards on Pangaea.
I had 3 highly productive cities very early which made everything go very fast.
My current game is on a Terra Map and it is a very slow going game. The AI is only at 60spt on turn 130.
Land is ugly and I have been in a constant war with the Zulu from the start stealing 3 settlers and killing a lot of troops.
I need a Navy on this map to make it easier but that is hindsight for me :)

I think you have to first decide if you want to be a Peacemonger or Warmonger.
After you figure that out you watch others and read strategy.
Learn the basics and keep playing/trying.
Many players say to play the first 100 turns on the same map a few times.
See how much better you can do each time.
Once again though you have to do what you find fun first and foremost.
"How do you systematically get better?"
I don't.
Now and then I manage to win on level emperor, but that's the end of the line for me. Tried hundreds of times on immortal, it was pointless. Either I am militarily destroyed by the AI quite early or I build lots of military myself and end up 15+ techs behind already in the middle ages.
I don't.
Now and then I manage to win on level emperor, but that's the end of the line for me. Tried hundreds of times on immortal, it was pointless. Either I am militarily destroyed by the AI quite early or I build lots of military myself and end up 15+ techs behind already in the middle ages.

I believe, if you wanted, to play the whole game out, you could overcome 15 techs from the middle ages but I understand how you feel.
I agree, I play for fun. If I'm playing on a difficulty level that's too high or I have to change my playstyle so much that it's not enjoyable then I just won't do it. When I played on King for the first time the other day, I played a completely peaceful game while the AI were warmongering around me. I was Kongo, managed to avoid getting declared on and focused on a culture win. Only fighting I had to do was barbs, partisian and free city units that crossed my borders and attacked me (I was just waiting for them to flip over to me).Sometimes I like science or culture games, other times I like to go all out warmonger. It depends on my mood. I don't play the same way every time but I do often look for different approaches.

When I watched other players in MP, it just gave me some other ideas that I hadn't thought of before and tried them out in SP to see if it would improve my own playing a bit. The MP game I joined a few weeks ago were teams and my teammate was an amazing player. I watched what he was doing and thought I'd try out some of the things I saw him do when I played SP. I think observing others play has certainly helped to some degree.
Like others have already said Civ 6 is a different game, so requires getting used to all the new mechanics. But I do think there is plenty of stuff I have carried over from Civ 5 that is still relevant.

1. Knowledge is power. Spend a lot of time reading the Civ6 wiki, it will give you lots of information/strategy about how mechanics work, leaders/yields/resources/buildings etc. This may seem tedious, but I think knowing how everything works is the first step to really improving your game, link: (notice at bottom of page is Lists/Eras/Concepts/Stats/Misc...a quick way to look up specific things.)

2. Civ is a Snowball game. Small early game advantages are more important than you think. A good example: most players often settle the 1st settler on spawn tile without any thought. Often it can actually make sense to move from initial spawn to take advantage of stronger yield tiles. Sometimes this means settling on top of that lux nearby that gives extra Science/Culture/Faith. Sometimes it means just better tiles around the city. Sometimes you do it because you spot a good place for a sweet district adjacency. But keep in mind that fresh water is your friend :) housing is a *****...

3. Plan ahead. You should always be planning out where you are going to be placing new cities and where your districts are going to go. Put pins in the map to remind yourself of this. This is more important in Civ6 because having well placed Districts can have a huge impact on your game. Don't just wait until it's time to place a district and plonk it down where the best current adjacency bonus is. You should be planning ahead of time so you know which tiles you can chop and which tiles to leave alone. I don't excessively chop, but I rarely place a district without chopping whatever is on that tile first. This might seem too difficult, but if you plan ahead, it becomes easier to get that free value. Also if you have planned where a specific district is going to go, and the tile is free, you should always be placing down districts as soon as you have researched the tech and have the required pop requirement in your city. This is because districts get more expensive the further you get through the tech/civic tree, and when you place a district, it locks in the production cost. Once the district is placed, you can go back to building something else if needed, just make sure to lock the district down, before the production cost increases.

3. Lean on Advantages. What advantages does your leader have? What advantages does the map spawn give you? Use the hand you have been dealt to your advantage. Got lots of geothermal fissures/mountain campus spots? Focus on getting the most out of every Campus adjacency, then lean on the 100% campus adjacency policy card. You have the cultural city state Nan Madol near you? Make sure to place as many districts on coastline/lake edges and get Nan Madol Suzerain asap!

4. Policy Cards. Now this is more tricky because it requires a fair amount of learning. However, understanding which policy cards are powerful and which are not makes a big boost to your game. Rationalism comes to mind. The one that gives your builders 2 extra charges is strong. All the 100% adjacency to Campus/Industrial/Theatre/Holy Site are powerful when you set up for it. So largely this is going to depend what overall gameplan you are going for.

5. Timing. Lots of things in Civ require getting the timing right. This kinda ties in with Plan ahead, but anyway... Golden ages can have powerful effects, knowing how many era points you get for doing certain things is important. One thing that @Victoria mentioned in another thread that helped me was the Governer Amani. An early Amani can be useful to get early Suzerain bonus (which gives you era points). The play is to move her around among City States that you already have 1 envoy in. She will get you Suzerain Era points fast in the early game. This is just one example of timing, but there are lots more things going on... When you are reaching your housing cap, consider popping out a settler so you don't waste food, or just focus on production more so your surplus food isn't wasted. (this is because getting to your housing cap really stunts growth and therefore excess food is wasted when you should be working production instead)

Tbh I could go on for a while, but I'm gonna leave it there for now. I guess the simple answer is, there is no easy way, it just requires a lot of work and studying the game. And to those saying 'spam cities' and 'warmonger and exploit the AI', you can do those things, but I don't think it is the only important deciding factor. I have won games on Deity with only 1 city, obviously 1 city may not be optimal, but I am beginning to think that the optimal 8-12 cities isn't as strong as people think, sometimes fewer stronger cities can be powerful. Especially seen as the deciding factor of Scientific Victories is Production, not only Science. And having a couple of 'Large' 100+ production cities can be very good for completing spaceship parts. Also, you can get some strong games by focusing heavily on Culture output from a couple of well placed Theatre Squares and getting some key early wonders then leaning on the 100% theatre adjacency card, and this doesn't really work if you just spam cities. Btw, I don't ever exploit the AI for money, or abuse stuff like that, I just feel that makes a mockery of the game, and I wish it wasn't as easy to do so. But I don't think it vastly makes my playthroughs inferior. Also, I mainly play to challenge myself and occasionally compete against my friends, and then exploiting isn't really gonna help ;-)

Sorry for the Great Wall of text...
I've been a 'emperor' player since CIV I. In V, I went a little beyond but mostly got back to emperor, I still enjoyed the more casual game over the more challenging. In VI somehow it changed. I think mostly because I started watching deity players online and reading other people's strategies on Civ Fanatics. Now I can beat deity easily and often go for either a 'flavor' or a 'turn -based' challenge to keep the game fun and am hoping for AI improvements in future patches. :) Civ is fun on any level, if you want to up your game I recommend watching and reading and not being afraid to do things very differently than you did before.
To add something new to what is Already said, the #1 skill to learn when you move up to a new difficulty is learning when you’ve lost and when you haven’t lost.
Once you hit emperor, the AI will start with 2 settlers. It’s easy to see them have 4-5 cities when you’re just getting your first settler out from the capital, and see them hit swordsmen well before you, and grab the wonders you used to covet on king and below, and get demoralized. To the point of quitting.

But that doesn’t mean you’ve lost. It doesn’t matter that you’re doing well on turn 1 or 20 or 100- the only turn that matters is when you win the game. And you have a lot of time and opportunity to get into a winning position by then.
If an AI declares an early war and catches in a bad spot, try fighting it out. You might be surprised how well you can do. Once you learn your own ability to overcome the odds, moving to immortal and deity is much less challenging.
Adding to what @Victoria said... you don't necessarily have to play the same map, just play using different styles, strategies, tactics, and goals. Try things you never have before, even if they seem foolhardy. In other words, make efforts to increase your perspectives. Try playing some games avoiding doing what has worked for you in the past.
You don't necessarily need to replay on the same map repeatedly, that leads to overfitting. A better idea is to play with the same Civ under the same setting on different maps. After you played a series of such maps you can go back to one of your first few games, and see how much you improved.

To make more precise practice, you can focus on a time period you wish to practice. For example, if you wish to practice your opening you can only play the first 50 turns or so and store a lot of T50 saves. When you wish to practice mid-game you can go on from one of those T50 saves and continue playing to T100, etc. That focuses your attention of learning.

Anyway, if your goal is only to beat Deity you don't need any strategy, just start a Deity game, just declare war to your neighbors with courage, don't fear of being late in science/culture, and don't delay any build of your military. You easily win. Many people "think" they cannot beat their deity neighbors, but in fact their neighbors are easy to be wiped off, they're actually beaten by the nervous of themselves.
I'm slowly getting better. My opinion on this is pretty much what you've done - reach out and get advice. Whether you watch videos or ask on forums, this is the best way to improve. For example, I didn't really start to play in an expansionist style until someone I know told me that Civ is better played wide (numerous cities) than tall (powerful and large cities), and this is very true. The more cities you have, the more resources you generate, the more trade routes you can sustain, the more units you can build and so on. It's better to have three 7 pop cities than one 21 pop city. Recently I watched a video on YouTube about Civ tips by Potato McWhiskey (I believe), and after that I've begun to pay more attention to the tiles my citizens are working. Another thing I did was I altered my early game plan. I never build my Monument first now. Never. I always settle then build a Scout, because you want to find City-States, you want to find Villages, and you need to know where the Barbarians are coming from. It also helps with planning where my next City will go.

I've also found that my games have gotten better if I've had more of a focused plan going into it. I played Catherine the other day, and I went in thinking I'd focus on culture. I did, and ended up winning a Diplomacy Victory (not my intended victory type, but just the way the cards fell). I was still doing really well at that point, I felt. So it's important to have a plan, but also to be able to adapt and change your plans. Right now I'm playing a Victoria game, and I've tried to focus on being a little more expansionist and militaristic than I normally would. I've not declared war or really used my military (beyond my navy for removing barbarian quadriremes), but I'm building up to that.

One good thing about Civ VI is if you click your leader portrait in-game, it comes up with all your special abilities, buildings, etc., so it's a very handy reference. You need to keep these in mind when you're playing, because you want to play to your Civ's strengths. These should also inform the choices you make as you play, with your Pantheon/Religion selections, your Government Plaza choices, which City States you seek to be Suzerain of, districts you build and so on. If you're playing Poland and you're not building Commercial Hubs, not trying to get Mont St Michel (perfect wonder for Poland) and then spamming Apostles, or you're playing Georgia and ignoring Faith, or playing Eleanor and ignoring Loyalty, you're just hampering your own game. Each Civ, each leader, has their own strengths and you need to learn the strengths of the Civs you play and how to maximise them.

My other advice is don't worry about mistakes. You're not going to always place your disticts in a perfect position, you're not necessarily going to pre-plan your cities (I don't) to maximise adjacency or other bonuses from resources/improvements/districts, you're going to misclick and send your unit in the wrong direction. These aren't big issues, and they won't tank your game to any noticeable degree.

Really, I think it's a case of be patient with yourself, but also push yourself. Set yourself a goal. Work out how you're going to get there. If you're unlike me and don't only play certain Civs, then work out which Civ is best for that goal. Do you want to win by Domination? Well, go through the list of Civs and look at which Civ or Leader is best for how you play and the goal you want. Maybe it's Germany, or maybe you want a challenge and want to try and Dominate by city-flipping, so you pick Eleanor. Learn how Districts develop, and what can be built in them. Learn how Wonders tie in to your Civ or your Districts. If you want Mont St Michel, learn which tiles you can build it on, and make getting them a priority.
I absolutely loathe tooting my own horn, but I genuinely feel like I've levelled-up my Civ game recently, and funnily enough it was because of content pertaining to Civ V, despite all the differences between that game and VI. Perhaps I'm just not looking in the right places, but I've struggled to find proper tutorials and guides for Civ VI. It's mostly just tier lists and surface-level analyses. FilthyRobot, however, dissected the unholy hell out of Civ V, and there are still a lot of common points between the two games and more broad philosophies that can be gathered from his extensive guides.

Also I recently downloaded an app which is literally just the Civ VI Civilopedia (it's unofficial, but it's 100% free), and I've been using it as reading material at work because the more knowledge you take the time to absorb, the more easily you'll be able to reference those various points during a game so you can have a better time making optimal decisions each turn.
One good thing about Civ VI is if you click your leader portrait in-game, it comes up with all your special abilities, buildings, etc., so it's a very handy reference. You need to keep these in mind when you're playing, because you want to play to your Civ's strengths. These should also inform the choices you make as you play, with your Pantheon/Religion selections, your Government Plaza choices, which City States you seek to be Suzerain of, districts you build and so on. If you're playing Poland and you're not building Commercial Hubs, not trying to get Mont St Michel (perfect wonder for Poland) and then spamming Apostles, or you're playing Georgia and ignoring Faith, or playing Eleanor and ignoring Loyalty, you're just hampering your own game. Each Civ, each leader, has their own strengths and you need to learn the strengths of the Civs you play and how to maximise them.
1,000,000% this too. Read through everything your chosen civ has. Make a list of priority districts. Take note of when in the game your unique unit comes online and make plans to go to war with someone at that point (even if you just knock over a city-state as a resource grab) to capitalise on the advantage you should have. If multiple things about your civ have synergy with one another then maximise that as best you can. etc etc etc

Despite saying that though (and to echo Loerwyn once again) - don't worry about doing this perfectly for every civ every game. These are just tips you can take from and adapt to your playstyle however you like. If you mess something up, it's fine. You improve by ironing out your kinks, and you can't do that unless you know what they are in the first place, :p

Alternatively just play as Australia and be a dick to the AI the entire game because permanent double production is p. great, *cough cough*
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