CiV 5 Tier List [Strongest and Weakest Civilizations Revealed]

CiV 5 Tier List
Can you survive the trials of time.

Veterans of Sid Meier’s timeless Civilization franchise will recall that Civilization V started life as a contentious entry to the series.

The switch from stacking units to one unit per tile, hexagonal tiles, and happiness mechanics that limit the player to five or six cities, made Civ V seem like more of a step backwards than an improvement.

Thankfully, the Brave New Worlds expansion came out and as they say, the rest is history. Civ V is now the franchise’s phoenix rising from the fire, to many it is their favourite and first entry to the series. So, if you’re starting your first journey through the ages of human history, or if you’re an experienced leader looking to try new factions, this tier list is here to show you the strongest and weakest factions in Civilization V.

Tier List Summary

In this list, we will be ranking the civilizations into five different tiers S, A, B, C and D tier. We’ll be comparing the various civilizations by their unique bonuses. There are a variety of these bonuses, which I’ll be referring to by the following acronyms:

ULA: Unique leader ability. Each historical leader has a unique ability, often reflecting their real-life accomplishments.

UU: unique unit. Each civ has one, sometimes two, unique units that replace certain base game units. These units offer various military advantages for their civilization in the era they are available.

UB: unique buildings. Some factions get unique buildings that confer better yields of gold, culture, faith or even better military upgrades.

UI: unique improvement. Some civilizations can build unique tile improvements with their workers. These improvements confer bonus yields to their respective tiles.

Start bias: A civilizations start bias dictates the kind of terrain they are more likely to spawn into at the beginning of the game.

To decide which tier each civilization falls into, we’ll be comparing these bonuses to see which ones confer the best advantages throughout the game.

S Tier

This tier will include factions whose bonuses are game breakingly good. Civilizations in this tier, will have no problem shooting ahead in the leader board and will have consistent bonuses that are useful from ancient to the atomic era. The civs in this tier include:

  • Poland: 98/100
  • Babylon 96/100
  • Korea 95/100
  • Maya 95/100
  • Persia 93/100
  • England 92/100

A Tier

Factions placed in this tier have bonuses that, while not being necessarily game breaking, will give the player a definite advantage against the AIs. While the bonuses in this tier are strong, they can be situational (only working in the right terrain or under specific conditions) or prone to becoming obsolete in later eras. Nonetheless, civilizations in this category can still pack a punch and help unexperienced players get ahead in the game. The civs in this tier include:

  • The Huns 90/100
  • Greece 89/100
  • Arabia 87/100
  • China 87/100
  • Zulu 85/100
  • Aztecs 84/100
  • Inca 82/100
  • Russia 80/100

B Tier

The middle tier, factions placed here have strong advantages that hinge upon the right conditions to maximise their effectiveness. Bonuses are mostly situational, and there may be a mixture of good and bad bonuses. These civilizations don’t have any huge disadvantages, but no real advantages either.

  • Mongolia 79/100
  • Sweden 78/100
  • Songhai 77/100
  • Egypt 77/100
  • Germany 75/100
  • America 74/100
  • Brazil 72/100
  • Spain 71/100
  • Siam 70/100
  • Shoeshone 69/100
  • Ethiopia 68/100
  • France 67/100

C Tier

These factions are pretty normal, bordering on mediocre. They have little to no advantage over the AIs and some of their bonuses may even be a hinderance to the player. Making the most of these civilizations requires complex play styles and very specific conditions.

  • Austria 65/100
  • Celts 64/100
  • Denmark 62/100
  • India 61/100
  • Rome 61/100
  • Netherlands 58/100
  • Polynesia 56/100
  • Ethiopia 55/100
  • Japan 55/100
  • Morocco 52/100
  • Assyria 50/100
  • Indonesia 48/100

D Tier

These civs are good for nothing except maybe an extra challenge. A lot of these civilizations could probably do with patching, because as they are their bonuses are hugely situational and tricky to make use off. Playing as one of these factions, your bonuses will either be rarely applicable or straight-up detrimental to the success of your game.

  • Ottomans 45/100
  • Carthage 43/100
  • Portugal 41/100
  • Venice 41/100
  • Iroquois 39/100
  • Byzantium 35/100

To get a better idea of what makes a civ over-powered or not, I will now give a detailed breakdown of the S tier and A tier factions. Here we will examine what makes these factions potential game breakers, even in the hands of inexperienced players.

Poland (S Tier)

Cashmir III of Poland

Every other Civ V tier list I’ve read places Poland at the top. Their leader Casimir III has one of the best ULAs in the entire game. Coupled with a pretty good unique building and a plains starting bias, Poland is the kind of civilization that can easily snowball into any victory type.

Why are they over-powered?

  • Poland’s ULA gives them a free social policy each time the enter a new era. It may not sound like much, but it can easily be a game changer. Allowing players to complete more social policy tree’s and get more benefits from culture. Also did I mention, it lasts the whole game.
  • Poland get a plains start bias. Plains are the best terrain for city settlement, offering the most growth for a city and subsequently more science and production.
  • Poland’s UB, the Ducal stable, costs no upkeep and adds +1 gold to all horses, cattle and sheep. This is a significant boost in gold for the early game.
  • With other military buildings, such as barracks and military academy, the ducal stable can lead to renaissance units getting three or four free promotions upon construction.

Poland’s Overall Power rating: 98/100

Babylon (S Tier)

Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon

Babylon is a great civ for the early game. It has a strong UU and a UB that will protect your lands against warmongers. However, Nebuchadnezzar II’s ULA is what makes this an S tier civilization.

Why are they over-powered?

  • Babylon get a free great scientist upon discovering writing, after this they produce subsequent great scientists 50% faster. This bonus can get you an early academy near your capital, which will set you up to rocket ahead of the AIs in science.
  • Babylon’s bowmen are stronger than the archers they replace. Coupled with their UB, the walls of Babylon, this civilization is very easy to defend against more aggressive factions.
  • Bowmen being stronger archers are also better for weakening and capturing early cities.

Babylon’s Overall Power rating :96/100

Korea (S Tier)

Sejong the great of Korea

Science is the most important variable in any Civ game. The most technologically advanced team has the greater ability to wage war, as it will have better units sooner than the other civs. Korea’s bonuses to science will keep them ahead of the other factions in technology, and are enough to make up for its mediocre UUs.

Why are they over-powered?

  • Korea gets +2 beakers for every specialist and great tile improvement. And as if that wasn’t enough, they also get a tech bonus every time they complete a scientific building or wonder in their capital.
  • Once you get to universities, your science bonus will be far higher than the AIs meaning this ULA can keep you in the lead throughout the whole game.
  • The Hwach’a is a great defensive unit. It also encourages you to rush to physics which unlocks Notre Dame, a superb growth wonder.
  • The turtle ship is a 36-strength naval unit, capable of fending off enemy ships and pillaging enemy waters. While not amazing they are very hard to kill and great fun to use.

Korea’s Overall Power Rating: 95

Maya (S Tier)

Pacal of the Maya

As well as having one of the coolest looking leaders in the game, the Maya are also a formidable opponent. Their ULA, featuring their famous calendar, will get you numerous great people from the medieval era onwards. Add this to their wonderful UB and you have a civ that can carry you to the end of the world, or to 2012 at least. 

Why are they over-powered?

  • After discovering theology, the Maya get a free great person of your choice every 394 years. While I don’t know what that is in turns, I do know it is several great people from the medieval era onwards.
  • Using their ULA, someone playing the Maya can get an easy solution to any problem they may face in game. Need a wonder built faster, get a great engineer, need tech, choose a great scientist. The possibilities are limitless making this one of the most versatile ULAs in the game
  • The Maya also get to replace shrines with pyramids. These powerful ancient era buildings grant +2 faith and +2 science each, making them very good for getting an early lead in the tech tree.

The Maya’s Overall Power Rating: 95/100 

Persia (S Tier)

Darius I of Persia

If you are struggling to fend off bankruptcy, then Darius’ fantastic ULA and UB are here to help. Persia can become one of the richest and most powerful civilizations in the game through their longer and more frequent golden ages. With their incredible endgame potential, Darius has the chance of being a literal god among men.

Why are they over-powered?

  • Persia’s ULA makes their golden ages longer allowing them to accumulate more gold, culture and production from their great artists.
  • The Immortal is a much stronger version of the spearman, that you can get for free if your warrior steps on the right ruins.
  • The Satraps court produces more gold than the regular bank as well as providing +2 happiness. Happiness is one of the harder variables to control in Civ V, so anything that increases it can be very helpful indeed.

Persia’s Overall Power Rating: 93/100

England (S Tier)

Queen Elizabeth I of England

The English are great and trust me, as a Scot, I don’t say that lightly. With two brilliant UUs that will help you eradicate your opponents in the medieval and renaissance era, England can well and truly rule the waves. As well as any cities placed next to them.

Why are they over-powered?

  • Queen Elizabeth gets a bonus of +2 movement for all naval units. This gives the English a massive advantage in naval warfare, which is a considerable bonus in a game where most factions can’t get effective navies until the renaissance.
  • The longbowmen are a great replacement for crossbows. With three tiles range they can shoot invaders before your cities can and are great for weakening enemy cities.
  • England’s other UU, the Ship of the Line, are much more powerful than regular frigates. These ships can come out of nowhere and devastate enemy coastal cities, making them ideal for conquest in the renaissance era.
  • The English also get an extra spy in the renaissance era, giving them much more versatility when it comes to espionage.

England’s Overall Power Rating: 92/100

The Huns (A Tier)

Attila of the Huns 

Looking to win a Domination victory? Well then look no further. Atilla combines a fiery ULA, with powerful siege units to make one lean mean killing machine.

Why are they over-powered?

  • Atilla’s ULA allows him to raze captured cities 50% faster. This helps the Huns to manage their happiness more effectively during their endless wars.
  • Battering Rams replace Spearmen, so if your warrior finds good ruins they could be upgraded to one a few turns into the game. Battering Rams are incredibly strong and are one of the few early game units capable of taking a flat land city solo.
  • Atilla starts the game with Animal Husbandry, meaning he can see available horses on the map from the start. He also gets +1 production per pasture.
  • Horse Archers don’t cost horses (strangely enough). Therefore, they don’t have the limitations that normal chariot archers have and can move over rough terrain as though it’s flat.
  • The only disadvantage to the Huns, is that they can require you to be at war constantly in order to sustain your gold and advantage over the other players.

The Hun’s Overall Power Rating: 90/100

Greece (A Tier)

Alexander the Great of Greece

Whenever I play a game with Greece as one of the AIs, they end up becoming my ending boss battle. Their early game advantages make them very hard to wipe out in the ancient era but, by the end of the game, their city state allies make them a worthy opponent for even the more aggressive factions.

Why are they over-powered?

  • The Greeks two UUs, companion cavalry and hoplites, make them a very strong civ in the Ancient and Classical eras. Their high strength rating also makes them good units for extorting tribute from city states.
  • But hold up, don’t bully the city states too much. Alexander’s ULA causes his influence with city states to decline at 50% the usual rate. This means that with social policies in patronage, and a common religion with the city state, your influence will practically never decrease.
  • These bonuses make Greece ideal for a wide variety of victory types, especially diplomatic.
  • The only problem is that city states can be unreliable, as they are prone to being  bought off by enemy players.

Greece’s Overall Power Rating: 89/100

 Arabia (A Tier)

Harun al-Rashid of Arabia

Arabia have the potential to be a game breaking civ. However, this potential can only be fully realised with the right starting location and sometimes a wonder. While still a mighty civilization, it may take a more experienced player to make the most of their unique advantages.

Why are they over-powered?

  • Arabia have a desert start bias. This can be a strong advantage or an absolute hinderance. Often you will be looking to get good land with plenty of hills for a strong Petra build.
  • Obviously, relying on Petra comes with its own problems. If another civ beats you to it then you could be stuck with barren desert to build your empire on .
  • Harun al-Rashid gets 50% more range on trade caravans, opening the potential to make a lot of money through trading with city states and AI factions.
  • Camel archers are the strongest land-based unit in the game until you reach guns.

Arabia’s Overall Power Rating: 87/100

China (A Tier)

Wu Zeitan of China

Another powerful military civilization, China’s UU has been a formidable unit since Civilization IV. Civ V makes them even better, with a strong ULA that further enhances their military might. China is a strong civ for beginners and anyone getting used to waging war in Civ V.

Why are they over-powered?

  • The Cho-Ko-Nu is a game breaking replacement for the crossbow, capable of firing twice per turn.
  • China produces stronger great generals and it produces them more frequently. Generals produced by this civ confer an extra 15% combat bonus to units within two tiles.
  • Extra great generals make this civ very good for stealing enemy tiles using citadels.
  • The paper maker is a library that costs no upkeep and grants +2 gold each, giving you a financial and technological head start in the game.

China’s Overall Power Rating: 86/100

Zulu (A Tier)

Shaka of the Zulu

Much like the Huns, Shaka of the Zulu is a great choice for players pursuing a domination victory. With a great UU and ULA, this civilization is capable of building and maintaining massive armies without losing too much gold.

Why are they over-powered?

  • The Zulu have a 50% discount on unit maintenance. This allows them to build armies twice the size of regular civs for roughly the same price.
  • Shaka’s ULA also means units need 25% less XP to gain promotions. So not only will your armies be bigger but also more experienced.
  • Impis, while not great for taking enemy cities, are superb defenders and very effective at killing other units given their high strength and movement speed.

Zulu’s Overall Power Rating: 85/100

Aztecs (A Tier)

Montezuma of the Aztecs

I won my first domination victory with the Aztecs. Their UU is very useful in jungle terrain and is strong enough to take on early cities, meaning you can get the conquest ball rolling from the very beginning of your game. While their ULA is certainly not the best, it is probably the most appropriate.

Why are they over-powered?

  • Montezuma gains culture from every enemy unit he kills. This ULA offers a massive advantage to getting early social policies and is hilariously reflective of the real Aztecs.
  • Combining this ULA with social policies from honour will give a substantial amount of culture for killing barbarians.
  • This civilization gets a jungle start bias, which can be a hinderance in the early game (hence why they are only A tier). This will make early production difficult and prevent the player capitalising on their luxuries quickly.
  • Jaguar warriors move double in jungle terrain and are much stronger than regular warriors. In the past, I have used three of them to capture an enemy city to great effect.
  • Floating gardens are significantly more efficient water mills, that produce more food for your empire. Food equals population, population equals science and science equals victory.

The Aztecs Overall Power Rating: 84/100

The Inca (A Tier)

Earth-shaker Pachacuti of the Inca

At first glance the Inca may not look like a game breaking civ. They get a unique farm as one of their bonuses and their ULA looks pretty minor at best. However, there are few civs capable of stacking up as much production and food as the Incans.

Why are they over-powered?

  • A hills start bias is usually a massive hinderance. But Pachacuti’s ULA turns it into a bonus. You will be surprised how much money you save paying nothing for tile improvements on hills, and half price on all other tiles.
  • The Inca’s UI, the terrace farm, means that unlike other civilizations, the Inca can produce food from mountainous terrain.
  • Workers and other units treat hills as though they are flat land. This means tile improvements can be built faster and it’s easier to move your armies  
  • With their UB, the Inca can produce enough food to compete with most science orientated civilizations. Keeping them ahead in the tech tree and therefore ahead in the leader boards.
  • The only reason this civ is A tier, is because its UU is more of a problem than a benefit. Slingers tend to withdraw from melee attacks, so don’t let them guard your settlers or workers cause they will hand them over at the first sign of conflict

The Inca’s Overall Power Rating: 82/100

Russia (A Tier)

Catherine the Great of Russia

The final civilization in A tier, Russia is monster civ when it comes to production. It’s ULA can makes building infrastructure much faster in the early game. The extra hammers also make it a competitive faction when it comes to wonder building. The great pyramids of Moscow? Now that’s got a ring to it.

Why are they over-powered?

  • Russia has a tundra start bias and this can potentially ruin your game from the start. As such they are somewhat situational, but their other bonuses more than make up for this.
  • Catherine the Great gets a +1 production bonus from strategic resources. Since most starts will grant at least two or three strategic resources, this can really make the difference both in the early game and later on.
  • What stops Russia ranking higher in this list, is both their unfortunate start bias and their slightly useless UB. Kreposts offer the chance to buy tiles at a cheaper price which, unless your playing competitive multiplayer, is rarely a game changing advantage.

Russia’s Overall Power Rating: 80/100

Conclusion

Civ V tier list

It is important to remember that any of these civs are capable of winning a single player game. Even civilizations like Venice, which ranked low on this list, are fun and interesting to use against AI’s. Although in Venice’s case avoid multiplayer as more competitive factions will stomp you into the mud. If you’re having trouble winning your first match, it wouldn’t hurt to try out one of the S or A tier civilizations on this list. Having an advantage throughout the game will help you get the hang of its various mechanics, and ensure that you’ll be playing on Deity difficulty in no time.

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