There are only two constants in the entire Civilization franchise — the first is that Gandhi will always want to nuke you, the second is that players love speculating on tier lists or rankings. With only a little over a week to go until the release of Civilization VI: Gathering Storm, we thought it best to look at each civ’s/leader’s unique abilities and units. Which ones look good and functional on paper? Which ones are just fancily tacked on? If you’d like to know the basics, check out our full listing of all the unique quirks of the newcomers in this expansion including the recently announced Eleanor of Aquitaine.
To be clear, this is purely speculation based on every new Civilization VI leader that’s been revealed. It also does not take into account the effects of the natural environment — especially climate change and disasters — which are focal points of Gathering Storm.
Update: This preliminary/pre-release tier list is now outdated. Kindly check out our updated Civilization VI: Gathering Storm tier list here.
Tier S Civs
S-tier civilizations are those that work exceptionally well for a variety of situations. Although they can be extremely skewed towards a certain victory type, their additional unique traits make for a manageable Deity playthrough. This is because of perfect synergy for everything they bring to the table. Examples include Korea and Persia. In Civilization VI: Gathering Storm, that honor goes to Mali.
Mali (Mansa Musa)
In Mali’s case, your innate start bias will likely drop you in areas surrounded by desert tiles. This means you’re getting the faith and food bonus from “Songs of the Jeli” from the first turn already (once you establish your City Center). Mansa Musa’s “Sahel Merchants,” and the likelihood that you’d be focused on getting Golden Ages, also means free trade routes. Likewise, all your international trade routes will get bonus gold depending on the number of flat desert tiles in your origin city.
The Commercial District is one of the earliest ones you build, and the “Suguba” which replaces it grants bonus gold for adjacent Holy Sites, other districts, and even river tiles. You’re getting a ton of gold passively, but the Mandekalu Cavalry gives you extra from kills too.
All in all, you’ll be swimming in riches just like one of the wealthiest men in mankind’s history. And gold is easily the one resource that will help you in every victory type. This is the reason why we’d rank Mali very high because of unmatched gold generation. Why hammer away, pray, or research when you can buy your way to victory?
Tier A Civs
A-tier civs are useful for a variety of victory conditions and work well in most situations. The synergy among uniques is great. The best way to describe them would be “highly consistent” with hardly any weaknesses. An example would be John Curtin’s Australia.
Dido’s Phoenicia, at first glance, doesn’t seem like it has abilities that would snowball. The truth is Phoenicia’s abilities are a combination of tricks that would be akin to gaming the system completely.
First, “Mediterranean Colonies” gives you the Writing technology eureka. Also, you’ll never have to worry about the Loyalty mechanic ever again. Traditionally, players would be hard-pressed to forward-settle further from their capital simply because the influence of other civs might “flip” your cities. Forget about that now. As long as those cities are on the same continent as your capital and are on the coast, their Loyalty will never budge. You’re free to forward-settle rich tiles, pick other Governors, and focus on other matters that you normally wouldn’t since you’re too busy looking at the Loyalty tug-of-war.
The “Cothon” replaces your harbor. It boosts the production of naval units and fully heals them in one turn. Oh, and you get bonus settler production too so you can plop down more loyal cities around you.
Let’s also talk about the elephant in the room (not the one that crossed the Alps) — “Founder of Carthage.” This surprising ability lets you move your capital to another city with a Cothon, meaning you can start pressuring other cities even more. You also get extra trade routes per Government Plaza building (four in total). Lastly, the “Bireme” unique unit adds to your early game. All of Phoenicia’s traits make a number of leaders obsolete. She doesn’t need to be suited to any victory type because she nullifies one entire facet of the game already.
The reason she’s not ranked high enough is that it takes a while to set up. Plus, if you can’t get the Casa de Contratacion (the best wonder for bonuses to cities in other continents), you’re not getting the most benefit out of your playthrough. If Mansa Musa set the bar for the best new civ in Gathering Storm, then Dido falls just a little short of that.
Kupe’s Maori Civ starts in the ocean due to the “Kupe’s Voyage” trait. You also get +2 Science and Culture while exploring you settle. This is a flat bonus that does not increase. You might end up gimping your run if you waste turns before settling. As for the bonuses from “Mana” — free Sailing and Shipbuilding techs, Production from Woods and Rainforest, fishing boat yields and culture bomb effect — well now those are just dandy! Also, the “Toa” unique unit is decent for defensive wars.
So what exactly makes the Maori powerful on paper? It’s actually the “Marae,” a building which replaces the Amphitheater. It provides bonus Culture and Faith for passable tiles (floodplains, rainforests, woods). Unlike the Amphitheater, it doesn’t have a citizen or great work slot — but the flat bonuses should more than make up for those losses. That’s because once you gain the Flight technology, all of these tiles will provide Tourism.
Consider the focus on future technologies and civics pertaining to conservation and nature. That means the Maori’s preservation of terrain features from the Marae building would be extremely helpful for Cultural or even Religious victories.
Tier B Civs
Civs in the B-tier aren’t as powerful as the ones above, but they do well enough on their own right. They have no major flaws yet no major strengths either. A couple of Civilization VI: Gathering Storm’s new civs fall under this category.
Queen Kristina and Sweden will probably be a civ you won’t go to war with. Even though they have the “Carolean” infantry, that’s probably in the rare occasion that you pushed for conflict. The reason you’re going for a peaceful game is that all their traits are tailor-suited for that style of play.
The “Nobel Prize” ability lets other civs compete for the said prize, earning a Great Musician and Great Artist if they have the most diplomatic favor. Thankfully, their extra Great Person Points (GPP) for Great Engineers and Great Scientists help out. Likewise, they gain diplomatic favor per Great Person that they generate. It can be quite a hassle to grab the ones you need in higher difficulties, though. Sweden’s “Open-Air Museum” also comes in the mid-game, giving more bonuses depending on the various terrain types your cities have settled in.
It’s the “Minerva of the North,” however, which takes her from “mediocre” to “yeah, this is an easy Cultural Victory pick” immediately. That’s because of the automatic theming bonuses that her buildings/wonders can get. You don’t even need to trade pieces of art from so-and-so civ or historical era. All you need is to have something in those slots and you’ll unlock the theming bonus. That’s quick and painless Tourism right there.
Swole-chacuti and his Inca aren’t terrible at all. Three uniques — the “Mit’a,” “Qhapaq Ñan,” and “Terrace Farms” actually have great synergy. The problem is that they all synergize towards food. Yes, food! Unless there’s some great disaster in Civilization VI: Gathering Storm that completely nullifies your food generation — and there might be one, but haven’t taken those into account just yet — you’re likely to find little use for all the corn, maize, and tomatoes that you have.
Thing is, the extra bonuses for their terrace farms would come directly from surrounding terrain. If you have fresh water/aqueducts or mountains, then you’re likely to get extra bonuses in production. Assuming you’ve got a start bias for mountain ranges or hills, then you’ve got a civ that can become a powerhouse. Sadly, that won’t happen until much later once all the bonuses start rolling. It also bears mentioning that they aren’t particularly geared towards a specific victory condition.
Tier C Civs
A couple of Civilization VI: Gathering Storm’s new civs and factions are C-tier at best. They aren’t “bad,” per se. It’s just that their unique attributes either don’t mesh well or they’re completely situational. That, or the fact that other civs are better choices.
Ottomans (Suleiman the Magnificent)
“The Grand Vizier” which adds a unique Governor named Ibrahim is next to useless on paper. Ibrahim can be placed as a Governor in the cities of other civs. His military bonuses, therefore, are nullified. That’s because his additional quirks are unnecessary. Increased alliance leveling rate but only if you’re already allied? Come on, now! Grievances lessened by one level? Yeah, like that matters in higher difficulties when the AI doesn’t care. The only useful promotion is the last one which prevents civs from exerting loyalty pressure on your cities. That’s something Dido and other civs don’t even worry about, and you’re likely to find better use from other Governors.
Naval units like the “Barbary Corsair” probably won’t win your wars single-handedly and it’s not an exceptional unit, although the “Grand Bazaar” does seem very useful. Lastly, “The Great Turkish Bombard” gears you towards a Domination Victory. You can make stronger siege units faster, and your conquered cities won’t lose population. Even better is that they’ll have additional amenities and loyalty preventing suddenly flips.
England & France (Eleanor of Aquitaine)
The final Civilization VI: Gathering Storm leader revealed was Eleanor of Aquitaine. This is also the first time in the Civilization franchise’s history that two civs have the same leader. The previous leader abilities are replaced with Eleanor’s while keeping their other uniques like buildings or units.
- If you pick England, you lose Victoria’s free Redcoats from Royal Navy Dockyards in foreign cities. However, you still get the Sea Dog, Royal Navy Dockyards district, and the new “Workshop of the World” unique trait. The last one has bonuses for mines, military engineers, and buildings powered by resources.
- If you choose France, gone is Catherine de Medici’s free spies and spy promotions. Thankfully, you still get the Garde Imperial and Chateau.
In place of the abilities of previous leaders, Eleanor’s “Court of Love” will have Great Works in your city exert loyalty pressure to any other city within nine tiles. It’s -1 Loyalty for those cities per Great Work. If a city flips and you had the most influence, it comes to your possession rather than becoming a Free City. This, to no surprise, is purely situational. You’ll need a nearby neutral/enemy city for this to work. From there, you need to construct buildings that can house Great Works… and then wait for the loyalty drops to take effect.
Tier D Civs
Civs in this category are wholly outclassed by others or tend to be at a disadvantage. Thankfully, they’re not Georgia or Norway.
Hungary (Mattias Corvinus)
Mattias Corvinus, the Raven King of Civilization VI: Gathering Storm, is geared towards a Domination Victory. However, he doesn’t do this in a straightforward manner. He actually does this by way of buddying with city-states and levying their units. The “Raven King” ability lets you freely upgrade levied units. You also get the Black Army cavalry unit that gains bonuses when nearby levied units are around. The downside is that your “Huszar” gains bonuses from alliance levels, which can be an issue if you’re a warmonger.
The “Thermal Baths” may provide Amenities but, let’s face it, your Entertainment Districts are usually not a priority. The “Pearl of the Danube” ability does help when you need to build districts faster and you’re surrounded by rivers.
Canada (Wilfrid Laurier)
There are only a couple of civs which you might notice are often near tundra — Russia and Norway. Of the two, Russia can be a Religious Victory powerhouse due to their bonuses. Meanwhile, Norway is widely considered one of the worst civs in the entire game. Canada, sadly, is more of a Norway than a Russia, eh?
For starters, you’re looking at a focus on Diplomatic Victory. Your “Four Faces of Peace” ability severely limits your playthrough by preventing you from declaring Surprise Wars or wars versus city-states. Still, not being a target of one does help in higher difficulties. You do gain extra diplomatic favor for every 100 Tourism and the completion of Emergencies or Scored Competition. The problem is that you’re likely to lag behind everyone else due to the tundra start bias.
Your “Last Best West” ability also lets you make the most out of tundra tiles by building farms and resource yields. But, let’s face it — tundra is still tundra, snow is still snow. You’re looking at weaker production, faith, and gold generation overall, offset only by extra food. The “Ice Hockey Rink” and “Mountie” are merely tacked on for good measure. For the former, remember the Maori’s unique building, the Marae? Now imagine something for Canada that uses the terrain to help earn a Cultural Victory, except that it comes too late in the game.
Gather Your Tier Lists For Gathering Storm
As mentioned earlier, all of this is purely speculative. We haven’t seen how each and every civ will work within the full expansion. Likewise, additional mechanics such as the World Congress, climate change, terrain, weather, and more will definitely come into play.
There’s a good chance that some of the civs you’re seeing now might end up actually being better in practice, or some could falter too. We’ll definitely find out more once Civilization VI: Gathering Storm releases on February 14.