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Civilization 5 hints and tips: combat strategy

Updated on February 21, 2011

Civilization 5 hints and tips: combat.

Combat is perhaps the biggest area in which Civilization has changed. Gone are the days of creating super stacks and zooming them around your nation wherever needed. In fact, many Avalon Hill fans will love the new combat system as it’s very similar to the old Avalon hill games which were excellent hex based strategy games. The combat is really far more realistic and subsequently it’s a lot more difficult to conquer cities and you’ll definitely find a ‘war’ victory a lot harder but a lot more satisfying. Here are some general tips:

  • The more technically advanced your troops the better. Back in Civ 4, you could find a little old spearman holding out against a stack of tanks – this simply wasn’t realistic and was very frustrating! Civ 5 has really made the difference between troops a lot more ’deadly’ so if you’re planning to win via combat, then you really need to build libraries and discover writing very quickly.

  • Generals – this seems to be a little bit too powerful for me, but you get a lot of benefit if you can place a Great General next to as many units as possible. Keep your General in the back with one of your ranged units and then keep some strong units in front of the General.

Quick Tip

 Use of terrain is perhaps one of the most important aspects of Civilization 5 combat and can make the difference between winning and losing a battle.

  • Strengths – it’s important that you really know the strengths and weakness of your units. Some units don’t get defensive bonuses, so there’s no point placing them in trees – some units are faster so you can use them to try to quickly break down the resistance of a city before your main force goes in!
  • Terrain – this is one of the most important and improved parts of the game – using the terrain is huge in battles. Attacking across rivers, up hills or into forests really is not a good thing to do and you will be heavily penalized. So, when defending, placing troops in these type of terrain will be a huge benefit.
  • Surround – a little bit obvious, but if you can surround your enemy you get a decent flanking bonus. I would have liked to have seen some really powerful strategic moves, but at least there’s one or two!
  • Cities – now that the cities can bombard enemies, attacking a city becomes a lot more difficult, especially if your enemy has built fortifications around the city, and has ranged troops in trees and on hills. It is essential that you time your attack so that all units can quickly move in and after being bombarded do some damage. Makes sure you make good use of any terrain that will allow for ranged attacks or give your troops some defense against the city. Siege engines are far more important as you really need to soften a city before attacking. If possible avoid being in the open – you’re simply going to get hammered!


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      fazz-dog 6 years ago

      For quick city elimination, do this: First-- build a bunch of low cost infantry and ranged units. THEN: bring in your better and best units to eliminate their units. When their units are damaged or destroyed spam the city with a bunch of cheap infantry (spearman, rifleman, etc) and then bringing in cheap ranged units right behind. Works really well in flat terrain because the archers can move up 1 and still shoot. Attack with all the ranged first, then spam the infantry. When the defenders counter attack, at worst they will kill 1 unit and more likely simply damage 1 unit severely. Repeat the above attack sequence, take your loses from counter attacks, fill the voids with more low cost units and the city will fall. This will usually take out a city in 2 turns, hilly areas may require 3 turns.

      This works much better than investing in heavy expensive seige equipment, if you have a decent production base. I recently had 9 cities cranking out archers and spearman

      and all my iron tied up in 4 legions. Ballista are waaay better than catapults, but why bother? They eat up resources, are slow and have to be defended against attacks.

      Now, I suppose if you only have a couple cities to work with, then building up seige equipment may make more sense. Try the cheap unit spam, and see. It really works!

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 6 years ago from NJ, USA

      fazz-dog: great tip thanks! I usually take a different approach to combat, but if it works then good luck! I would hope that the ai will be improved and that this method would be stopped eventually (as good as it is!) - this really shouldn't work LOL!

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      fazz-dog 6 years ago

      the AI needs a total rework for civ 5, IMHO. But this problem maybe more related to game mechanics than AI. I learned this approach after watching the AI tear thru my cities in an early game. This was the technique employed and they basically took me back to the stone age in about 10 turns.

      The city needs to be able to attack 1 target + 1 per "fortification" ie 1 extra target for a barracks, 1 more for a garrisoned ranged unit. Allow 1 ranged and 1 melee unit to garrison each city. Then a besieged city would be able to damage 4 units each turn, instead of just one. With a change to allow units garrisoned in cities with barracks to allow them to "sortie", the defense against infantry spamming would be vastly improved.

      As far as the AI goes... militarily, diplomaticly, and productivity are all pretty much closer to Artifical Moronic rather than Artifical Intelligence. But that is a whole other issue. Keep posting about the game-- because it is a great franchise, and I am sure this game will get the issues ironed out.

    • profile image

      fazz-dog 6 years ago


      I have totally perfected the "mounted" unit rush. It is basically unstopable (even in MP) and works even better than the infantry (cheap) rush above. I can totally take any city (if I can still do damage to it-- ie if I am not so far behind in technology) in 1 (rarely 2 at most) turns.

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      arandomguy 4 years ago

      This works best in hilly areas: A long-ranged and resilient unit like a crossbowman (for early game sieges) can be placed on a hill along with a few cheap infantry. The crossbowman bombards the city enough to where the infantry can waltz in and take it. Note: I play on "Epic" time, so this is more feasible for that.

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      gtox 4 years ago

      I prefer to use mostly ranged units (spamming a city with melee units is basically giving the city aoe..) so that they can attack without return fire.

      1-2 melee units with the medic perk and in alert stance. ranged units surrounding them.

      ranged units pound the city until it is no longer taking damage, then melee swoops in for the kill.

      it is definitely a slower process, but always works for me. even more effective once you have artillery and the enemy must leave the garrison in order to attack back.

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