Civilization VI: Warfare Through the Ages (Part 1)

By Jeff Renaud 02 Dec 2016 2

I don’t like war. That may or may not seem a strange statement, coming from a writer on a website such as, but let me explain. When I play strategy games such as Civilization VI (Civ VI), I invariably choose faction(s) leaning toward diplomacy, trade, and World Wonder production; I like exploring and discovering, chumming up with city-states, and defending all from proselytizers, bullies, and trespassers. (I also hate Barbarians; I usually turn them off, otherwise I end up chasing them all over the map instead of… well, playing!) Nonetheless, when I’m sufficiently provoked or the target of a DoW, I prosecute it with no mercy. Even to the point of incurring egregious warmonger penalties, I will chastise the enemy until they cry, “Mercy!” whereupon I will graciously allow them to live yet a little while, as long as they give me all their resources, money, and maybe even a city or two. Or all of them.

Now that you know where I’m coming from, I’d like to present to you my perceptions of the differences in combat and warfare in general between Civ VI and its previous iterations, especially V. (Note: Certain concepts will be mentioned in this article without explanation; it is assumed that the reader is otherwise familiar with Civilization game mechanics.) There are several, foremost among them the ability to wage theological war, as well as creating so-called Formations – Corps and Armies – by combining two or more units. Additionally, the strength of a city’s fortifications – walls – is tracked separately from its garrison and overall ‘health’. The latter system more or less continues the theme from Civ V whereby cities can defend themselves without an actual unit present, otherwise the differences are several and, in some cases, rather game-changing. Terrain, movement, and zone-of-control (ZoC) effects have also been overhauled.


Egyptian Corps de Canon de 6 système An XI?

Also note that Part 2 of this article will cover the Industrial, Modern, and later eras, while we start here with the early to mid-game: Ancient to Renaissance. The first noticeable difference, then, is the ability to ‘link’ civilians – e.g., Settlers and Builders (formerly Workers) – to a military escort. Prior to Civ VI, such chaperoning had to be accomplished by moving units separately; problematic if they had different movement rates. (Interestingly, this leads to some odd parades in the later game, when one sees a motor-home (Settler) rolling alongside a club-wielding warrior. But then, isn’t that part of the charm of Civilization VI, i.e., the whimsical art style and animations of ‘hit’ figures sent spinning and flying?) Civ VI features other new, early siege weapons such as battering rams and siege towers, which can also be linked with a frontline unit for protection. Again, we’ll get there soon.


While LoS rules have essentially remained the same, changes to terrain and movement, as well as ZoC, need mention. Crossing rivers and moving into hills et al. with partial movement points used to be occasionally permitted in Civ V; sometimes a unit with, say, one movement point left could move into terrain costing two, sometimes not. Now, however, units must halt and pay the full price next turn.

These revisions make river crossings, and combat positioning in general, more difficult, especially since ZoC rules force one to halt and attack – or not – yet don’t extend across rivers. Similarly, certain units, such as ranged, do not exert ZoC, meaning they are to easier to ‘sneak up on’ if mêlée units do not protect them. Furthermore, although I can’t say how common it might be as yet, I’ve also noticed ‘choke points’ of one-or-two-hex-wide valleys in which an enemy city faced my territory. In such a situation only one or two units can move adjacent, of course, unless one executes a long and arduous march around the mountains in either direction (Hannibal in the Alps, perchance?). Although cities seem easier to take – more later on – even so, one or two units will not be enough for an established city, thus, consider such sites almost impregnable, for a little while anyway. (Another strategy would be to take out the neighbours first!)


Along with the effects of Districts on warfare – more on those later as well – the first change other than the above one is most likely to encounter is sieges and siege units. Players will doubtless notice early on how siege weapons, starting with the catapult from Civ V, no longer have to set up prior to firing. Catapults now upgrade to the Bombard, then Artillery, followed by Rocket Artillery. Yet, instead of lobbing stones and cannon shot against generic ‘walls’, three different eras of ramparts can now encircle your cities: Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance, each adding +50 Outer Defense. That’s where our next departure comes, specifically how City Combat Strength and City Ranged Strength are determined, along with garrisons and health, as mentioned. 

Army Build

Armies and Corps can be built or formed.

Before moving on, though, note that Civ VI features the new Field Cannon as well, yet it’s considered a ranged unit in the Slinger-Archer-Crossbowman-Field Cannon-Machine Gun chain, and is not nearly as effective as regular arty vs. cities. Still a worthy addition to the <ahem!> field, however.

Upon completing Ancient Walls, cities gain the Combat Strength of a player’s strongest fielded military unit 10, or its garrisoned unit, if any. Similarly, their Ranged Strength equals your best ranged unit. The former defends against attackers already at the gates, while a bombardment can be launched vs. besiegers using the latter stat. Usually, walls still have to be defeated before the garrison can be engaged, which is where Battering Rams and Siege Towers enter the fray. The former adjust damage to walls by adjacent non-siege units from 15% to full, while the latter allow bypassing of the defences and the garrison assaulted directly.

Districts, whence buildings can be erected outside your ‘city centre’, bestow defence bonuses, but a fully besieged city – i.e., one surrounded by enemies or impassable terrain – can no longer recover health per turn. The Encampment, a defence District, acts as separate town or village ‘within’ a city, housing Barracks and other military facilities; it can itself be besieged and defends separately like a city centre. Once the siege is over, damaged districts or other buildings must be repaired in the build queue. 


The besieged city of Shedet is doomed…

One ought to first take note of Civ VI’s other new units, especially Apostles mentioned above. Purchased with Faith as are Missionaries and Inquisitors, Apostles can initiate Theological Combat – without a DoW – against those of other civs; success reduces alien influence in nearby cities (foreign included) whilst simultaneously advancing your own tenets. In addition to preaching the faith like their brother Missionaries, Apostles can also Evangelize – that is, sacrifice themselves to earn a new Pantheon Belief for their national religion. New abilities include a random promotion, some of which improve abilities such as enhancing religious combat strength, or allowing one to convert the heathen (Barbarians).

Other new units comprise Medics and the Military Engineer, as well as the aforementioned Battering Ram and Siege Tower. As might be expected, Medics heal adjacent units, while engineers construct Forts (Builders/Workers no longer do so), Airstrips, and Roads. The latter are automatically created by Traders, but may not always go where you need them, while Airstrips supplement the Aerodrome; essentially, the ’drome is a District – upgraded to an Airport – where air units can be built, whilst the ’strip has flashy neon signs and—err… sorry, wrong Strip! You’ve probably guessed that aircraft can be (re)based on Airstrips, though not constructed.


Before I conclude Part 1, I’d be remiss if I neglected comment on the Civilization VI Diplomacy system, because, well, it’s an unavoidable part of war in the game! A lot has been written about it as well as the AI’s supposed inability to actually conduct a war, from outside sources as well as the developers. I will not rehash arguments or present my own on its supposed drawbacks and merits herein; for our purposes it’s merely worth noting a few things, such as incurring no warmonger penalties in the Ancient Era, and later on how the Casus Belli system mitigates these consequences. All right – so I lied about offering my own opinion! All I have to say is, 70-odd hours into the game, I personally have noticed that, Ancient era aside, ‘warmongers’ seem to be more easily created than in prior editions, and penalties last longer, despite supposed casus belli. Moreover, although I have yet to raise the difficulty from Prince, the AI civs don’t scare me yet (unlike Barbarians); and I have to agree with certain critiques regarding cities being easier to take, at least early on. 


Qin, buddy… Does this mean we’re not friends any more?

In any event, now I have to go finish off Trajan for breaking his promise to quit converting my cities… Ghandi, Qin Shi Huang, Mvemba a Nzinga, Pericles, and even Tomyris, of the Scythians, have all condemned me for my aggression. (The fact that I’ve already taken out Gilgamesh for encroaching upon my territory has nothing to do with it, I’m sure.) Only Gorgo of the Greeks (Spartans) seems to have no problem with it, most likely because she has already developed nukes… Wait… what!? I’ll report back in Part 2 if I live through this.

Read Part Two Here.



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