How to play Civ V using a gamepad


High Regent of Candlewick
Jul 9, 2012
Note: This is inspired by posts I made on Steam and the 2K forums. I am expanding and revising it here.

How to play Civilization V using a gamepad


Several months ago, I began experimenting with using a gamepad to control Civ V. It seemed logical to me, especially since similar controls had been used effectively on the SNES in the early 90's with SimCity and Populous. After trying out some different things, I found a method that worked with multiple gamepads but required some configuring.

I am still working on smoothing it out, but it plays great. My last several games have been played using this method.


  1. Any gamepad
  2. JoyToKey Software (Shareware, free to use)
  3. x360ce (if necessary for offbrand pads)
  4. Civilization V (Obviously)

You can download the latest version of JoyToKey here.

If you do need x360ce, you can get it here.

1. Plug in your controller

Obvious, of course. It will help setup the emulation with the controller plugged in.

2. Download and run JoyToKey

JoyToKey is downloaded in a zip file. You can extract it to anywhere (not your Civ Folder, though.) The program is about 700kb.

With your controller plugged in, run JoyToKey.exe.

3. Set up your controller in JoyToKey

Go to Preferences, then Configure Joysticks. If your controller needs calibrated, or any other settings, you can do that from here.

The main thing to check on is under the advanced settings tab. Make sure the joysticks are using the right axis settings by moving them around. Some controllers will invert the right joystick, and this will fix that.

If your joystick is not recognized, see about using x360ce.

4. Create a profile for Civ V

On the left side of the program will be the word "Profile 1". Under that, click "Create" and name the new profile Civ V (or whatever you want). This lets you change controller settings for multiple programs, and will also be useful in a later step.

Click on the Civ V profile to select it.

5. Associate the profile with Civilization V

Under preferences, click Associate Profiles with Applications.

First, I recommend changing the default profile at the bottom to Profile 1 (or a blank profile). This will deactivate the joystick when the game is off.

Click on Add.

For the application name, type in Civilization V or whatever you want to call it. For the path, you will need to put the full path to the Civ executable. Because there are multiple executables for Civ, you will need to list all of the ones you use as a separate application.

Default paths:
For DirectX 9: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\sid meier's civilization v\CivilizationV.exe

For DirectX 11: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\sid meier's civilization v\CivilizationV_DX11.exe

For Windows 8 Touch: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\sid meier's civilization v\CivilizationV_Tablet.exe

Then at the bottom of the add screen, associate the Civ V profile with the application. When Civ V is active while JoyToKey is running, it should now enable the Civ V profile.

6. Assign keys

Click on the Civ V profile to activate it. On the right, there will be three tabs. You don't need to worry about Joystick 2 and options unless you really want to fine tune things.

If you press a button or joystick on the gamepad, the related command in JoyToKey will turn yellow. This helps you know what key you are assigning.

Double click on each thing you want to assign. This is what I use/recommend (compared to Xbox 360 controls):

  • Stick Left/Right: Cursor Left/Right
  • Stick Up/Down: Cursor Up/Down
  • Right Stick Up/Down: Wheel Up/Down
  • Right Stick Left/Right: No function.
  • D-Pad: Arrow keys.
  • A: Mouse Left-click.
  • B: Space (skip unit).
  • X: Mouse Right-click.
  • Y: H (Unit heal).
  • LB: A (automate).
  • RB: F (fortify).
  • LT: < (previous unit).
  • RT: > (next unit).
  • Back: Escape (menu).
  • Start: Enter (end turn).
  • Left Stick Button: Screenshot hotkey.
  • Right Stick Button: Shift-Tab (open Steam Overlay).

How it plays

Surprisingly good. The biggest change is unit selection. Instead of scrolling around to click on units, normally you will cycle through using LT and RT. When a precise click is needed, you can still do that with the A button.

Placing the three major skip modes (skip, heal, and fortify) on the same hand, each getting progressively harder to reach does make a gameplay difference. The automate button is something I'm still playing with, but it should work out.

The zooming is very nice. A lot less jerky than using a mouse wheel, strangely enough. Zooming is very smooth now. For best effect, I recommend using it with this zooming tweak:

Scrolling, however, is a little awkward. You still move the cursor to the end of the screen, but it seems to move oddly at times. The gamepad takes longer to move than an actual mouse, so scrolling can be a little slower to start.

Movement isn't too hard to get used to. You hold X and move the left stick to where you want to go. It feels similar to mouse movement, and it's very comfortable.

The only real problem is menu selection. Some of the things you have to click on get very small, and a controller is awkward for this, but not unusable. Most of the interface is well fit, though. The tech tree, production (another great use of the right stick, as well), all are easily clickable. Promotions are a little too small, but still acceptable. A lot of this depends on your resolution and the type of controller you have, on an HDTV at 1080p this should be acceptable.

Once you get used to it, it's very nice. The devs made an interface that works very well with a controller because of little touches you might notice (like the end turn button reducing the need to scroll and click around the screen).

See next post for information on trades and numbers.

Last Thoughts

These are just my observations and settings, and I would love to hear other ideas, configurations, and responses. How well does it work for the rest of you?

As for who or why would you want to do this? Well anyone who doesn't want to spend hours hunched over a keyboard, and wants to chill on a couch or on the floor, or anywhere else, while playing an epic Civ game, will probably get some use of this. I've played a couple times like this, and I probably will play this way more often than not in the future.


High Regent of Candlewick
Jul 9, 2012
Trading/Diplomacy and Gamepads

Someone pointed out to me that with a game pad, you cannot enter in numbers during trade. There is a workaround, but it's a little trickier.

So, two options:

1. Use a keyboard to enter numbers. This kind of defeats the purpose, but it's the easiest thing. This is what I will be using.

2. Create a second profile, called Civ V Trade. Assign a key to switch profiles. This can be done when you set a key by going to the Special tab.

On the Trade profile, assign number values to buttons. The same button you use to switch into trade mode, set to switch you back to Civ V mode. Also set a backspace key in case of mistakes.
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