If domination is not your preferred path to victory in Civilization VI, fret not – there are plenty of other ways to win. Colonizing Mars is as good a way as any, and can ensure that you don’t have to suffer the hardships of a global climate crisis after you manufacture all your rockets. Leave those other, less science-inclined philistines to mop up the mess.
This time I’m going to dive in to my top 3 civilizations – in no particular order – for reaching the stars and winning a science victory, and what makes them so adept at doing so.
Seondeok of Korea
Unique Unit: Hwacha (Replaces the Field Cannon)
Unique District: Seowon (replaces the Campus)
Good at: Accumulating mad science
Carrying on from Civilization V, the Korean empire in Civilization VI is a powerhouse science accumulator that is now led by Queen Seondeok. With a unique district aimed towards enabling early science with solid bonuses, as well as a powerful mid-game unit capable of holding the line against enemies, Seondeok is a solid science machine.
Early on, you’ll be looking to meet a major civilization in order to get your boost for Writing in the Tech Tree. Once that’s obtained, you’ll unlock the Seowon; Seondeok’s unique replacement for the Campus district. It’s finnicky – it can only be built on a hill tile, and any district around it (that includes the City Center, by the way) will reduce its science yield by one each time. With proper placement, however, you can surround it with some hills and flatland tiles in order to take advantage of the Seowon‘s secondary bonuses – mines around the district also generate +1 science, and farms around the district also generate +1 food. If you start in a continent dominated with hilly plains and find yourself a little food starved, those flatland farms are a great way to keep your city growing.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Civilization VI’s September 2019 update put a bit of a dampener on Seondeok’s science dominance with her Seowons. The update was brilliant – allowing reefs to offer a +2 science adjacency for Campus districts, and having more winding mountains thanks to the improved map generation. However, since Seondeok’s Seowons don’t receive any other adjacency bonuses, they can be outclassed in some circumstances with the way the map works out. Regardless, the Seowon is built in half the time and can let you fire out that early science lead, so it still remains a net positive in most cases.
As your empire expands, you’ll need to pay special attention to where your governors go and how you want to improve them thanks to Seondeok’s unique leader ability, Hwarang. A governor in a city will provide +3% culture and science per promotion in that city. If you start generating some serious science and culture in one of your cities, a highly-promoted Pingala or Magnus can really help you pick up steam. A strong culture game is pretty important for a space race, since unlocking your third tier government can provide the production and infrastructure you’ll need for launching those interplanetary rockets.
With great power comes great
responsibility loathing and contempt from your neighbors, who might have a bone to pick with you and your highfalutin academics. Science is an essential economy for both offense and defense and – luckily for you – Seondeok has the age-old Korean answer for anybody banging at the door – the mighty Hwacha. Named, one can only assume, for the sound it makes as it fires its projectile, the Hwacha is unique to Korea and available at Gunpowder. Despite this, it doesn’t require niter and is only 5 combat strength weaker than a Field Cannon, but available an entire era earlier. It can’t move and shoot in the same turn but, if stationed in a City Center or Encampment, it can wreak absolute havoc on units trying to burst through.
Korea is absolutely stacked on science production, and can zoom through the Tech Tree faster than just about anyone. With some bonuses to culture through Hwarang and a good defensive unit in the mid-game, Seondeok can reach Rocketry in a flash and start the steady grind to launching those colonies. With a generous disposition towards hills, you’ll have no shortage of production to put to good use as well.
Frederick Barbarossa of Germany
Unique Unit: U-Boat (replaces the Submarine)
Unique District: Hansa (replaces the Industrial Zone)
Good at: Production
Reinforcing the long-held stereotype that the Germans possess an almost divine level of efficiency, Frederick Barbarossa of Germany (henceforth referred to as Fred) and his jolly red beard are very adept at drowning the world in industry and pollution in pursuit of just about anything. Luckily, Fred’s unique district lends itself very well to the less obvious requirement to win a space race – production.
Why production? Well, it’s all fine and good stacking your science to the rafters and reaching Rocketry first in order to get access to your Spaceport districts, but that means nothing when you need 100 turns to build them. Spaceports require an eye-water 1800 production (that just 50 production shy of what it takes to build the Sydney Opera House), not to mention the production requirements of the city projects which actually launch your satellites.
Fortunately, Fred has the answer – the unique German Hansa; a direct replacement for the Industrial Zone district. They’re built in half the time required of a regular Industrial Zone, +1 production for every adjacent resource, and +2 for every adjacent Dam, Canal, Aqueduct, and Commercial Hub. This means that you can plan your cities around centralized Commercial Hubs, and allow your Hansas to rack up mental adjacency bonuses. A common practice is to have a diamond formation of districts between two cities – the top and bottom points being Hansas, and the middle two hexes being Commercial Hubs. Immediately you have two Hansas with +4 production each, increasing with any available resources or relevant districts, making the production of your cities absolutely surge.
Fred’s also got access to Germany’s unique bonus, Free Imperial Cities, which allows any German city to build one more district than the population would usually allow. This means that no matter what you have in mind for the city, you can back it up with a quick Hansa to ensure the city is primed and ready to build. Germany also has a contempt for city states, and you’ll find Fred’s unique leader bonus Holy Roman Emperor very useful if you need to clear room or relieve a city state of its, well, sovereignty. With an additional Military Policy Slot in any government of your choosing, as well as a +7 combat strength bonuses when attacking city states, you’ll find them to be quite willing to join your ranks as you build your way into space.
So there we are – Germany’s secret to winning the game is by being as productive as possible, and it really works. Even if you find yourself getting to Rocketry a little slower than your compatriots on higher difficulties, Fred’s absurdly productive infrastructure is sure to get your Spaceports up and running first. The space race victory is definitely a marathon, but you can’t go wrong by turning the last part into a sprint.
Robert the Bruce of Scotland
Unique Unit: Highlander (replaces the Ranger)
Unique Tile Improvement: Golf Course
Good at: Being happy
Robert the Bruce of Scotland is an interesting mention in this top three, as his bonuses all circle around your empire being as happy as possible. Amenities and city happiness are vital contributors to maximizing production and science anyway, but Robert takes this one step further, allowing him to combine the production powerhouse principles of Germany and the science-centric shithousery of Seondeok’s Korea (sorry, I couldn’t think of any better alliteration there).
So what is Robert up to? His unique leader bonus Bannockburn is – in nearly every conceivable way – kinda useless. It allows Scotland to declare a War of Liberation to take back a city that has been captured by a friend or ally when you reach Defensive Tactics in the Civic Tree, rather than much later at Diplomatic Service. It also gives you +100% production and +2 movement for the first 10 turns after you declare this war. That’s an incredible if you can get it to work. If you can, it’s a godsend as you approach the endgame and production is the only thing standing between you and the stars. If not, as in most games, it’ll struggle to see any real application.
The Highlander is Scotland’s unique unit, replacing the Ranger unit in the Industrial Era. Despite sharing a name with the masterpiece film starring Christopher Lambert from 1986, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed. They get some bonus strength when fighting on hills and in forests, but they’re still a recon unit with a little bit more bang for their buck – still not enough to warrant them entering production. Maybe if you’ve got some leftover scouts to upgrade from the early game who somehow managed to get their tier III Ambush promotion for +20 combat strength, but otherwise – nah.
Right, now for the good stuff. Scotland’s unique bonus Scottish Enlightenment gifts a whole swathe of bonuses – happy cities generate +5% production and science, as well as having each Campus district generate +1 Great Scientist Point per turn, and their Industrial Zones generating +1 Great Engineer Point per turn. In a city that is ecstatic, that bonus is doubled. Suddenly Entertainment Complex districts don’t look so useless, and you’ll be tripping over yourself to maximize amenities left right and center to keep your empire as scientifically and as literally productive as possible.
Players of Scotland can also use a builder charge to create their unique tile improvement, the Golf Course. These are limited to one per city and work best sandwiched between your City Center and an Entertainment Complex district – they provide +1 amenity and +2 gold as a base yield, as well as +1 culture each for having the City Center and Entertainment Complex adjacent. They also add a bit of tourism into the mix if you’re looking to stave off other civilizations and their desire to deafen you with their rock music, but synergize very well with Robert’s supreme goal of keeping everyone with a big grin on their face.