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"Civilization 5" Hints and Tips: City States

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Simon is a content writer with a great deal of knowledge about a variety of things, with a special love for video games.

Sid Meier's "Civilization"

Sid Meier's "Civilization"

City-States in Civilization 5

In previous Civilization titles, while exploring you would come across "villages." these villages often gave you money, technology, or units. Civilization 5 has expanded the idea and has separated villages into two distinct entities. The first is ruins that tend to give you technological advances, maps, or money. The second and more interesting split is the City-State.

What Are City-States?

City-States are self-governed states that will protect themselves but do not expand their civilization. Depending on the type of city-state (cultured, maritime, militaristic) you will get different rewards. The city-states will seek protection from other major civilizations (or city-states), assistance with local barbarians, or request certain luxury items. Depending on your dealings with them they can be friendly, allied, or even at war with you.

Here are the city-states that can be found in-game:

  • Militaristic: Almaty, Belgrade, Budapest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Genoa, Hanoi, Ragusa, Sidon, Tyre
  • Cultured: Bucharest, Brussels, Florence, Geneva, Lhasa, Monaco, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Vienna, Warsaw
  • Maritime: Cape Town, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore, Stockholm, Venice

Strategy for City-States

  • While in the long run, it’s more beneficial to perhaps attack and capture city-states in the early part of a game they can provide resources without the need for you to maintain a city—it helps you focus more on building a strategic position without having to super-expand.
  • City-states will form friendships with many civilizations but will only ally with one, so it’s often important to gain a decent relationship with them before any other civilization can, otherwise they can become a thorn in your side. While you can continue to maintain a relationship with city-states by giving gifts this is expensive and maintaining the influence with favors such as clearing out barbarians can be a lot easier and less costly, although be careful this doesn’t divert you from your overall strategies.
  • One problem that I noticed immediately was that I had to be careful not to have too many city-state friends. Often one city-state will ask you to attack another city-state thus negating any influence you may have gained—so be careful when you choose to focus on a city-state.
  • Interestingly enough a city-state can actually capture enemy cities, although this seems to be infrequent, it is something to bear in mind as you plan your eventual "capture" of them.
  • While you can simply ignore city-states if you want, I find them to be a very important part of the initial empire building and strategy and can really make a difference especially when you are weak. I tend to focus on Militaristic city-states as this gives me quick access to units allowing me to focus on improvements in my cities while creating a defensive force.
  • Some City-States have an attitude problem! This can range from being friendly, hostile, erratic, or simply neutral—while this can have an effect on your dealings I find that these attitudes don’t really change much when dealing with them.

What Is Influence?

As you progress through the game you can influence city-states. This can be in a positive or negative way. Giving gifts will increase your influence, while simply moving through their territory can make a city-state angry. This influence also decreases over time, so you need to continue to assist them or ply them with gifts.

What Are the Benefits of Higher Influence?

As you become more influential with the city-states and they become friends, they will often give you gifts:

  • Cultured: A bonus for your culture.
  • Maritime: A gift of food.
  • Militaristic: A supply of military units.

Note: You can set the city-state not to give you military units.

Eventually, if you continue to build your influence they will become your ally; they continue to provide the bonuses above, but also let you access their resources. They also will join you in a war if you are attacked, and will help in any UN elections.


Gabriel on July 24, 2012:

In my game, happened a strange thing, that I never thought would be possible: the culture became negative, and a lot (around 500 negative), after I've conquered all an enemy empire(on immortal level). Does anyone know how to turns it positive again?

(now it's around 380 negative...). I was playing with a few mods, maybe that's the problem.

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Crazyjoeeod on May 08, 2012:

While the conversation on the lack of certain cities is valid I feel a larger point could be made. The presence or absence of one location specificly may have been made simply based on its "foot print" over the scope of history as a whole. Many actual city states (or equivilant) have come and gone and changed names, rulers, political views ect... I feel the game maker simply chose a few that had universal recognition to get the point across.

Lateralis on January 08, 2012:


That may be true of the Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam today, but not in years past. Amsterdam was once *the* trade city and most cosmopolitan city in Europe. People from all over Europe flocked to the city in search of and ultimately finding tolerance and presperity.

Alpha on December 10, 2011:

Skippy: Amsterdam shares a similar position in the Netherlands as Rotterdam and The Hague, the three cities being very roughly of the same importance, and each being important enough to be considered a "City-State", besides which a Dutch expansion may be planned.

On the other hand, Brussels is likely included since it is the urban center of a relatively rural country (Belgium).

What up on July 11, 2011:

They should create a real world simulator with all the countries in the world. 1 city per country so it is fairly easy to conquer.

Skippy on February 18, 2011:

Why no Amsterdam!!!

Shahid Bukhari from My Awareness in Being. on December 07, 2010:

An interesting analysis ... and its follow up. But suggest you read Arnold. J Toynbee's History of Civilizations ... to get an idea of what the others have to say in the matter.

Genghis Khan Temüjin Borjigin on November 21, 2010:

I forget to add this tribe name to my list

Chinookan - an American Tribe

Genghis Khan Temüjin Borjigin on November 21, 2010:

I love City-States. Now let's have them add tribes to the game. They start with a settler, can only found one city, but are nomadic, so they can unfound their city and move their settler to found it again in a different place.

Proposed tribes

African: Kongo, Ghana

American: Olmec, Toltec, Moche, Arapaho, Cherokee, Eskimo, Navajo, Apache, Zapotec

Civs They Should Add;

1. Zulu - African

2. Inca - American

3. Maya - American

4. Ethiopia - African

5. Sioux - American

6. Comanche - American

Simon (author) from NJ, USA on October 15, 2010:

usws - the strenght of a city (or a city state) will not go down. Artillery units can only do 'ranged' attacks so cannot take over a city - however once you have the city down to a very low 'damage' you should be able to use combat troops to finish the job pretty quickly!

usws on October 15, 2010:

Can you capture city-states by only bombarding them with catapults etc.? I had two catapults attacking in a turn but the damage meter doesn't seem to drop below 1mm. I was trying not to waste my melee troops as their (the city-states) strength is so much higher compared to my low-tech troops even when damaged (or does damage actually drop their strength eventhough it isn't indicated).

Simon (author) from NJ, USA on October 14, 2010:

Heyhou: in the same way as before - your units attack the city, fighting the units in the city first and ultimately reducing the cities strength total - once you bombard and attack and reduce this to zero you get the option to raze it, make it a puppet city (where it will produce but you cannot change) or Annex - it will add 'negative' happiness until you build a courthouse....

Heyhou on October 14, 2010:

Just one question : how do you CAPTURE a city ?

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