A while back, Alex hosted a stream featuring Civilization VI, and I made it known to the community I play the game with a roleplaying group. After a few inquiries from community members, I shared some of the "House Rules" I use, as well as tips on how to have the best possible roleplaying experience with the game. From the sounds of it, people were interested in reading a full-fledged guide on how to spice up a Civilization VI game with a bit of RPing! And before you ask, this blog is intended for all types of players. While I believe the game is more fun to play with real people, I also understand many Civilization fans prefer to play it offline. As such, I'll try to offer solo-only suggestions when I can think of any.
Nevertheless, before we talk about my group's "House Rules," I wanted to share a few tips and tricks for roleplaying Civilization VI in general. However, we also need to have an uncomfortable discussion about the game's two expansions and the myriad of DLC packages. If you are going to play the game exclusively on your own, then I'd advise you to buy the Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm expansion and pass on everything else. None of the DLC is necessary unless there's a faction that jumps out to you. When it comes to Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise & Fall, I personally enjoy the loyalty system, but it's not so groundbreaking that I could never imagine playing the game without it. Now, if you are looking to play Civilization VI with other people, things become more complicated. Unless everyone in your group has the same DLC and expansions, you are best off setting the ruleset to a standard game and playing vanilla. Unlike other RTS or 4X developers, Firaxis will not let you play DLC content with those who do not have it. It's a bummer, yes, but it shouldn't prevent you from having a fun time.
Tip #1: Play On A "Real Earth" Map
I'm genuinely glad Alex addressed this point on his first Civilization VI Lockdown video, but I'll reiterate this point. "Real World" maps allow for an extra amount of roleplaying potential that does not exist on the more abstracted or conceptual maps. Likewise, it's incredibly important that the map you are playing on allows for a "true start." For roleplaying, it is imperative your nation works in a climate and geographic region that mimics reality as close as possible. For example, there's nothing more frustrating than playing water or naval-based factions in the middle of a desert. And before you ask, the Civilization VI mod community has you covered.
The most popular mod that provides a "Real Earth" map is Moda's Huge Earth Map Pack. This mod is still in active development, and it takes a lot of the responsibility of setting things up, off your shoulders. For one thing, I have not witnessed a faction spawning too far from where I felt comfortable setting up camp. In fact, with some of the factions, you can convert your settler into a city on the first turn. Likewise, because the starting locations for each nation are static, it makes planning who gets to play which leaders far easier. Something you may have noticed during Alex's stream, is he limits each continent to no more than three to four leaders. I strongly recommend you do the same. If your group is having issues with who gets to play what, might I recommend setting up a lottery? For my group, we like to select nations using a lottery one week before starting our online matches. That way, you have some time to learn the nuances of your leader and their "gimmicks." And if your roleplaying session is solo, abide by the rule of thumb of three to four leaders on the significant continents, and two to three for Australia/Oceania.
Which reminds me, First, a majority of the factions that would be there are locked behind DLC and expansions. If you do not have a ton of options, go ahead and leave the continent empty and available as a target for colonization. However, if you do have the DLC, then you have an even bigger issue. To address this issue, some in the RPing community have resorted to buying the Indonesia and Khmer DLC and assigning both civs to be in a "Perma-war" with Australia. I have had better success with requiring the Māori civilization to be active if someone or the A.I. plays as Australia. The only issue there is that the A.I. is dogshit at playing the Māori.
Tip #2: You Are Going To Need To Download Other Mods
This next tip is optional, depending on your playstyle. One of the most common complaints about Moda's Huge Earth Map Pack is that it does not assign map resources and city names based on their geography. To highlight, if you go back and watch Alex's stream, you'll notice the city of Stockholm is farming rice and oranges. Again, maybe this issue bugs you, but for me, I value balance over historical correctness. Nonetheless, if you want a HARDCORE Civilization VI roleplaying session, rest assured, there are mods for you on Civilization VI's Steamworkshop page. For solo players, I advise you to scan the top mods for the game and see which ones tickle your fancy. For multiplayer players, have a group agreement as to which non-map mods everyone can have active during sessions.
Additionally, there are a few mods I strongly recommend you use in conjunction with Moda's Huge Earth Map Pack. The first of these is the "YnAMP - Closer Cities" mod which allows you to place cities in closer proximity to one another, while not entirely waiving the rules against city placement. Although, if you were wondering, there is also a mod that completely removes the regulations regarding city proximity. I like this mod, because, as we will address shortly, some nations like Portugal, have starting national borders and house rules that almost force them to build cities near one another. One point worth discussing, and this is for solo players, be warned that the "YnAMP - Closer Cities" mod can fuck up the A.I. if you are not careful. In many cases, I have seen A.I. nations end up with more free cities than owned ones because this mod ruins the loyalty system.
The next two mods I recommend are quality of life additions. The first is the "Loyal Capitals" mod, which sets all capitals to the maximum loyalty level at all times. This mod is a GODSEND for those who have the Rise and Fall expansion and dislike the loyalty mechanic. To be honest, I use this mod during "normal" campaigns as I find losing loyalty in capital cities to be incredibly annoying. Also, this is one of the mods I strongly recommend you have if you are playing with real people. With this mod active, capital cities and city-states cannot be flipped through the loyalty mechanic and are immune to revolts. I know some will say this takes away some of the difficulty in playing Civilization VI, but at the same time, as you will be playing with "House Rules," you are going to have enough on your plate. Finally, there are DOZENS of mods that allow you to "waive" the limits on how many leaders you can have on a single map. Feel free to use these if you want, but I would not recommend you try them on your first go at Civilization RPing.
Tip #3: Play Your Favorite Faction Single-Player With Easy A.I. Several Times Before Going Online
Alright, now we need to address some Civilization roleplay "housekeeping." First, I strongly recommend playing an online match with real people to be your end-goal. I understand a lot of people have anxiety about playing strategy games online. I appreciate this anxiety because I too have it. Enough of the RTS/4X community goes out of its way to be as unwelcoming to beginners and newcomers as possible that I think some of them view it as their hobby. Nonetheless, while roleplaying a Civilization VI game with A.I. is "fun," it's nowhere near as fulfilling as the "full monty." The obvious issue is that the A.I. will not play by the rules you'd typically set down for everyone else to follow, but there are other benefits to playing the game with real people.
Nevertheless, it is incredibly important to play as your nation BEFORE you start your online matches. And most important of all, you should have a good grasp of how you are going to address your "house rules" before your roleplay session starts. When it comes to those, ask yourself questions as you play against some easy A.I. opponents. Are there any wonders or great works you need to build before a specific age or era? Are there victory conditions that you need to spec your nation towards right from the getgo? The people within my RP group give me crap because I will prepare pages of notes before starting a session. You don't need to go as far as me, but having a general idea of what you want to build or recruit for your first ten turns is strongly recommended.
However, the most crucial reason for playing your leader before you pit them up against real people is to understand if they are better suited for a horizontal/wide or vertical/tall build path. Rest assured, in roleplaying sessions, I have seen vertical empires as small as three to four cities crush the competition. On the other hand, I have also seen empires blot more than half of the world map before the dawn of the Modern Era. What you do not want to do is force a leader that is better suited for one particular build path down the opposite direction. Also, for those of you planning to stick with solo games only, I have a tip to keep things interesting. Once you have a grasp on the idea of playing with "house rules," try setting the nations nearest to you at a higher difficulty setting. The reasoning for this is that doing so will force you to feel more "stretched" as you struggle to defend your borders AND meet your house rule.
Tip #4: Develop House Rules For Every Faction
Now we reach the part of my blog many of you have been looking forward to since the beginning! Before we jump into my roleplaying group's "House Rules," let's talk about why these are incredibly important. Part of their appeal is to make any campaign, even ones against easy A.I., difficult. Furthermore, these rules serve as a friendly reminder of what type of character you should act like when engaging in diplomacy, whether it be with robots or real people. Nevertheless, these are not just here to make your game harder, but to give you a goal or motivation to consider whenever it's your turn. The point is to force you from making the "best" decision, and instead, make the choice that fits your leader.
Finally, as many have been pulled from my Civ 6 group and other fansites, most notably, this post from civfanatics.com. So, I want to thank everyone who helped me in developing this list, and if you can think of any ways of improving some of these rules, feel free to drop a comment. As you will notice quickly, there are some leaders and nations my group and I prefer playing, hence, why some of these factions are better defined than others.
English: Only three cities are allowed on your home continent. Every city beyond the third must be built on another continent. Before the start of the Industrial-Age, you must have at least ten luxury resources within your trade network. Perma-war with Scotland, until the start of the Modern Era.
Scottish: No archer units, even horse archers, as they're "unmanly," and every city must be built on a hill or inside a forest tile. Perma-war with England until the start of the Modern Age.
Australian: The first seven cities you establish must be on the island of Australia before establishing colonies elsewhere. All cities must be built on a desert tile or a coastline. Cannot declare war on other nations, but every seven turns, you must insult or annoy one leader of your choice.
Aztecs: Every twelve turns, all of your builders must be deleted as a sacrifice to the Gods. Additionally, after turn twenty, you are not allowed to have fewer than fifteen age/era-appropriate military units. In the event you get below this amount, you have ten turns to get back to fifteen units. You are also in a Perma-war with Spain and any other Meso-American civs.
Sumerian: You must beeline for the Nationalism Civic. After getting it, all armies must be in a corps. Military units not in a corps cannot be used in combat. You are not allowed any cavalry other than Warcarts. Perma-war with Scythia.
Scythian: Scythians were "people of the steppe," and as such, cities must be built on grassland or plains ONLY. More than half of your military units MUST be calvary or archers—Perma-war with Sumeria and Persia.
Russian: The only religion you're allowed to adopt is Eastern Orthodoxy. You're not allowed to attack anyone with the Eastern Orthodoxy religion. Cities founded using settlers cannot be more than four tiles away from a tundra or snow tile; cities gained through war or diplomacy are exempt—Perma-war with Mongolia.
Chinese - Perma war with Mongolia. You must have at least two builders working on the "Great Wall" improvement if it is not complete. Once/if the Great Wall improvement is complete, you must delete half of your builders. Upon reaching the Industrial Age, you must make a beeline to "Steam Power." Starting with the Modern Era, all rivers MUST have a canal.
Indian- Regardless of your leader, religion must be Hinduism, and by the Industrial Era, you must be generating 100 Faith per turn. With Gandhi, you cannot start a war with anyone. As Chandragupta, you must start a war with any neighbors (i.e. civs that border you), and you cannot end wars unless you are victorious, or the peace deal gives you new land.
Khmer: Every city must have an aqueduct and a Holy Site. New cities must have these two districts for their first two slots. You must have at least five cities at a pop of 15 by the Industrial-Age. (Could use improvement because no one in my group likes playing as them)
German: You must declare war on every city-state that you meet. You must make a beeline for the "Apprenticeship" tech, after which all new cities must have their first district be a Hansa. After researching the "Industrialization" tech, all cities must have factories or be in the process of building/upgrading one. You always develop strategic resources before anything else.
France: In the medieval era, the only military unit allowed is knights. If an English archer/ranged unit damages any knights/calvary units, the French unit automatically disbands, UNLESS it's within the Great General radius of Joan of Arc. Perma-war with England in the medieval and Renaissance era. The first district in any city must be a theatre square. Otherwise, the only building you can build is a monument.
Indonesian: Every city must be on a coast or an island. You cannot accept inland cities as part of a peace deal or diplomacy. Navy must be twice the size of your military. Starting in the medieval era, declare war on anyone who doesn't have a coastal city.
Dutch: Every city must be on a river and within four tiles of the coast. Upon reaching the Industrial Age, you must make a beeline to "Steam Power." Starting with the Modern Era, all rivers MUST have a canal, and before the start of the Industrial Era, your trade route capacity must be greater than or equal to ten.
Phoenician: All cities must be settled on the coast. By the Modern Era, you must have two colonies on each of the seven continents. Your navy must be at least twice the size of your army, starting in the Classical Era. Perma-war with Rome.
Roman: Perma-war with Phoenicia. Whenever you enter a new era, you must disband half your military units on the first turn, and the other half seven turns afterward, as they've become obsolete. YOU GOT THOSE MARIAN REFORMS, BABY! Also, the first five ships that you build must be disbanded within ten turns of being made, as they've been lost to storms.
Greeks: The only ancient/classical era military land unit you're allowed is your Unique Unit. Your first district in any city must be either a campus or a theatre square. You must build the Oracle. For Pericles, you must have five city-states in you Suzerainty by the start of the Industrial and Modern Eras. For Gorgo, you can never accept a peace deal in which you give up items or cities, and you can never initial a peace deal.
Macedonians: You must declare war on any civ with a World Wonder. Perma-war with Persia. No archers allowed, and a city's first district must be an encampment, and you can go no more than five turns without an ongoing war.
Persian: No infantry unit allowed other than the immortal and your starting warrior. Perma-war with Macedonia. Also, if a Greek unit on Greek territory damages any of your units, it must be disbanded. You MUST build the Hanging Gardens.
Japanese: Only religion allowed is Shinto-ism or Buddhism. Sailing must be your first tech, your first three cities must be by the coast, and you must improve fish before anything else. Perma-war with Korea, and you must raze the cities you conquer.
Swedish: You must have at least 4 Great People by the Renaissance. Have three Archaeological Museums and three Art Museums with the theming bonus before the end of the Industrial and Modern Eras.
Korean: You cannot conquer any foreign cities, though you can raze them. After researching "Writing," all cities must have a Seowon, and you cannot be on friendly terms with any nation with less than half your science output, and you must declare war on anyone with less than 25% of your science output. Perma-war with Japan.
Norwegian: You must raze at least three cities with Berserkers before the start of the Industrial Era. You must pillage a settlement or trade route, which can include city-states, every five turns.
Ottomans: After the end of the Classical Era, you cannot recruit any settlers. All new cities in your empire after the Classical Era must be conquered; loyalty flips are permitted. Before the end of the Industrial Age, you must have five conquered cities.
Zulu: For land-based military, you're restricted to spearmen class units. You are automatically at war with anyone on your continent that attempts to establish a colony (i.e., a nation from a different continent establishes a city on your continent).
Spanish: Only religion allowed in your nation is Catholicism. You can only found three cities on your starting continent, but cannot expand to other continents before gaining Catholicism. You have to convert all your cities to Catholicism before you can conquer a new city. Perma-war with Aztecs and Mapuches.
Mapuche: Perma-war with America and Aztecs. You can only pillage or raze cities. However, you're allowed to keep the city if you get it through a loyalty flip or diplomacy. Have two cities through a loyalty flip by the start of the Industrial Era and five by the Modern Era.
Nubian: Every city must be within three tiles of a desert. More than half of your army must be archers, and you are in perma-war with Egypt. Always develop luxury resources before other resources.
Egyptian: Any unit damaged by a Persian, Roman, Greek, or Macedon unit on YOUR territory is automatically disbanded. You must build the Pyramids, and all cities must be adjacent to a river until unlocking the "canal" ability.
Mongolian: Perma-war with Russia and China. For everyone else, you must declare war on them within 15 turns of meeting them. Only cavalry-class units and archers are allowed. You're allowed to build siege units only AFTER you conquer a neighboring civ with siege technology.
Alright, fine! You must build at least three of your unique Unique Buildings before the start of the Industrial era. Also, select "Exodus of the Evangelists" whenever it appears as a Dedication.
Brazilian: You must have acquired at least 4 Great People by the time the Renaissance starts. By the Industrial Era, you must recruit two of each type of Great Person, and the first district in every city must be the Street Carnival.
Kongolese: Every city must be within three tiles of a rainforest. The Theater Square is always the first district in any city. Have every religion present within your borders before the end of the Industrial Era.
America: For the first ten turns, the only military unit you can recruit is a scout. Also, every war you fight must have at least one ally except for your perma-war; perma-war with Mapuche. Every ten turns, you must use half your budget on buying neighboring tiles.
Polish: Only religion allowed is Catholicism. Any unit damaged by a Russian or German unit in the industrial or modern era is automatically disbanded. Starting in the Industrial Age, the first two districts in all new cities must be an encampment and fort in whatever order you prefer.
Cree: Experience a Golden Age before the end of the Classical Era. The first district you build is always a commercial hub. You cannot start a war without the support of an ally.
Arabs: Islam must be your state religion. Once you get the Islam religion, you must convert at least one other city to it every ten turns. No conquest allowed until you have Islam.
Hungarian: Military consists solely of levied units from city-states, Black Armies, or Huszár. (Could use suggestions because I hate playing as them)
Maori: Can only settle on islands. Cities do not stop building fishing boats until all ocean improvement tiles are developed. Also, this faction is so unique by default; they do not need that many house-rules.
Canadian: Must have America as an ally beginning in the Modern Era. From the Classical to Industrial Eras, every ten turns, you must chop down a forest. Upon researching "Colonialism," build fifteen hockey rinks before the end of the Atomic Era. (Note: Canada is one of the rougher factions to play online as its immunity to Surprise Wars does not apply in multiplayer)
Inca: Must settle on mountain ranges, perma-war with Mapuche and Spain. Must have a surplus of 300 gold by the starts and ends of the Renaissance, Industrial, and Modern Eras. You cannot deliberately start or end one of these eras if you do not have 300 gold.
Mali: Must give half your gold away to every civ you meet. Your first two districts in any city must be a Holy Site and Commercial Hub. The order is your choice. Always develop luxury resources before other resources. To start a new era beginning with the Renaissance, you must have 400 surplus gold.
One point of housekeeping that many of you may have noticed: most of the house rules predominantly apply to the middle and early-late game eras. This decision is very much deliberate. For most, the beginning two ages are all about getting your bearings straight and feeling out the people or civilizations surrounding you. When it comes to the late-game eras, you'll find you've come to grips with how you should be roleplaying even if you do not have any mechanical hooks keeping you occupied. Likewise, the late-game is usually a mad-dash to reach victory conditions, regardless of how you play Civilization VI. Speaking of which, the only victory condition I advise you to disable is the Score Victory. Everything else should be fair game given they play into the strengths of individual leaders and nations.
Hopefully, all of this information helps you to understand the appeal of roleplaying in Civilization VI. Sometimes when I boot up the game and play it on my own, I'll pick a random nation and see if there are any edits I can make to my group's house rule list. As you can see, some are better than others, but that's a reflection of nations I downright hate playing. If there are any Hungary players out there, I'm all ears on how to make playing them more fun! Anyways, I'll catch you all later, and if you have any questions, I'm here to answer them!