With our Civ 5 tier list, we’re going to divide each of the game’s 43 different civilizations into five different tiers. This article is based on our own preferences and playstyles. It’s also different in structure than our Risk of Rain 2 tier list.
Not everyone will agree with our choices of course, and that’s okay. Leaders and their civilizations are similar in many instances but unique in others. So your choices will no doubt be different, because the game offers a variety of different ways to play it.
With that being said, let’s dive into this Civ 5 tier list.
Civ 5 Tier List
For the sake of context, we would like to mention that this tier listing is based on how easy it is for a particular civilization to achieve victory.
We’re going to consider their capabilities when it comes to all of the major victory conditions in a match. We’ll also go over different units and abilities that they may possess.
Poland – S Tier
No Civ 5 tier list can begin without mentioning the behemoth that is Poland. This civilization is not only capable of quickly attaining a Domination Victory due to their compelling Winged Hussar units, but they can also quickly meet the requirements for any of the other ones.
Because Poland can gain free social policies as their unique ability, allowing them to advance their society faster than any other nation in the game.
Other nations can still scramble to raise starting armies, while Poland could have already established a religion. The growth is honestly incredible.
Babylon – S Tier
The Babylon civilization is oriented towards a Science Victory, since the discovery of the Writing technology and their first Great Scientist allows them to build an Academy early in the game.
Their unique ability also increases the birth rate of Great Scientists by 50%, allowing them to leave behind most other nations in terms of technological advancement.
The walls of Babylon is also a unique defensive structure that gives their cities improved defenses and health. This ensures that attackers will not easily breach your cities and destroy them early on.
Korea – S Tier
Korea is another Science oriented civilization whose unique ability Scholars of the Jade Hall gives them +2 Science for all specialists and Great Person tile improvements.
They also receive a tech boost every time a scientific Wonder is built in the nation’s capital.
And while Korea is not particularly suited for combat scenarios, they do get access to a unique unit named the Hwach’a. It is highly effective against enemy infantry, and it keeps being helpful well into the Industrial era.
Arabia – S Tier
Arabia is the first civilization in this list that is suited towards a Cultural Victory, since their trade routes allow them to spread the home city’s religion twice as effectively. Using this, players can quickly convert huge swathes of the land to their own faith.
They are also some of the best traders in the entire game. Not only do each of their trade routes provide +1 Gold, their Caravans also gain 50% more range than other nations.
The unique Bazaar building also lets them generate Luxury Resources at a higher rate than normal, allowing them to make even more money. Basically, you’ll never find yourself short on Gold with this civilization.
Zulu – S Tier
To get the most out of the Zulu civilization, players should focus on a Domination Victory. Everything about their unique abilities encourages an aggressive style of play.
Melee units created by this nation cost 50% less maintenance than other factions. Meaning that if you have the proper resources, you can keep around twice as many units on the board at any one time.
Zulu units also require 25% less experience to earn promotions. So this ensures that you can train your forces up much quicker than average.
Persia – S Tier
Golden Ages are brief periods of time where everything is going perfectly. When these begin, you receive bonus Culture, Gold, and Production for your civilization. And the Persian nation excels at using this time to its fullest potential.
You see, Golden Ages for Persia last 50% longer than usual by default. On top of this, their units temporarily receive +1 Movement and +10% bonus to Combat Strength.
And finally, the unique building Satrap’s Court allows Golden Ages to occur more often. This lets you reap the benefits of these periods more often than anyone else in the game.
Inca – A Tier
Let’s now start looking at the A ranks in our Civ 5 tier list, beginning with the Inca. This nation can draw their strength from hills, where they are able to put down road and railroads for absolutely no maintenance costs. Their units also ignore any terrain costs when they move into any tile with hills.
Additionally, they can improve these hills into unique variants called Terrace Farms. These allow them to generate Food from the mountains without having access to any freshwater. Terrace Farms are even more vital near mountains, so it’s generally a good idea to stay in hilly areas.
The Inca’s Slinger unit is also helpful in the early game because it can avoid enemy melee attacks by withdrawing. This is a handy perk to have at the start of a game.
Venice – A Tier
Venice can either be an overwhelmingly powerful civilization or an extremely mediocre one. It all depends on how you play.
First, this nation cannot create settlers and establish new cities. The only way to get these is to either attack enemy settlements or purchase city-states without having to conquer them. Out of these two methods, purchasing cities is the better option since it leaves buildings and units intact.
But the amount of Gold required to make these purchases can be astronomical. Which is why Venice also has double the normal amount of trade routes available. With the proper policies in place, you can print basically print money.
Maya – A Tier
Learning to use the Maya civilization is tricky, but those who take the time to learn are rewarded handsomely.
Once players research Theology, The Long Count ability activates. With this, you gain a bonus Great Person at the end of every Mayan Long Count calendar cycle. One cycle is supposed to be 394 years.
Now, this seems like a lot, but it’s worth keeping in mind that time passes more quickly in the early game. So if you hurry up and get Theology as soon as possible, that actually translates to more Great People as you move forward. You can then use these in conjunction with the unique Pyramid building, which provides +2 Faith and +2 Science, to pursue a path to victory through religion.
Greece – A Tier
We haven’t talked about any civilization that favors the Diplomatic Victory condition so far, but Greece is here to change that.
Their unique ability Hellenic League, allows their influence with city-states to degrade slower and recover much faster. This, in turn, also lets them work up to and maintain Allied status with these states more easily.
Greeks also have access to the unique Hoplites units, which have +50% damage bonus against mounted units. You can get them at the start of the game and they will remain useful for a long time.
Songhai – A Tier
The Songhai are another civilization that are suited towards Domination Victory.
To start with, they get three times as much gold from destroying barbarian encampments and pillaging cities than other nations. In the early game, this is extremely useful in helping you quickly develop your cities.
Further adding to this aggressive playstyle is the unique Mandekalu Cavalry, which is cheaper to produce than its peers. It also does not suffer from any penalties when attacking cities. This is a unit that was tailor-made for sieges.
America – A Tier
In terms of unique abilities, America doesn’t possess anything particularly groundbreaking. But what they do have is extremely useful.
Manifest Destiny gives the nation’s land military units +1 sight so that they can scout further than their peers. This allows Ancient Ruins and natural wonders to be found quickly and more efficiently.
They also get a 50% discount when purchasing new tiles. Expanding their borders is quicker because of this, and resource acquisition is also much faster.
Americans also get access to two compelling units, but they are only accessible later on in the game. The Minuteman is available in the Renaissance Era, while the B17 becomes available in the Atomic Era.
England – A Tier
The English are relatively weak during the start of the game, but they more than make up for it as they progress.
To start with, this nation has the best nautical capabilities out of all the civilizations. Their naval units gain +2 to Movement from the start, allowing them to explore foreign shores and move their units around quickly.
Their unique Longbowman unit also has +1 to ranged attacks. They can take up defensive positions in forts or cities and strike at foes from much further away.
And finally, the English get an extra Spy from the beginning of the Renaissance Era. For those who like to dip their toes in a bit of espionage, this is a massive advantage.
Huns – A Tier
If you want to play a civilization that can easily lay siege to cities as early as the Ancient Era, you have to go for the Huns.
Ranked in A Tier, They have two powerful units in the form of the Battering Ram and the Horse Archer, both of which excel in their respective classes. Proper use of these will allow you to completely destroy other players on the board before they even have a chance to establish a proper foothold.
Huns also start the game with the Animal Husbandry technology, and they even gain +1 Production per Pasture. Together, this combination let’s you produce mounted units earlier and at a faster speed than usual.
Mongolia – A Tier
The Mongolian nation has one of the most outstanding units in the entire game, and they are named the Keshik. These ranged units can move up to 5 spaces and attack 2 spaces away. On top of this, the Keshik gains 50% bonus experience, allowing them to gain promotions more quickly.
And if none of this was enough, these units can also move after making attacks. Essentially what you have here is a hit-and-run force that can move, attack, and then run away from any incoming attacks. They also face no penalties when attacking cities.
If nothing else, playing as the Mongolian civilization is worth it for the Keshik unit alone.
Germany – A Tier
The last one in A Tier: Here we have another civilization for those who enjoy going for the Domination route.
At the beginning of a game, there are a bunch of different barbarian encampments scattered all over the map. It’s a good idea to attack and destroy these since they pose a threat to your fledgling city.
The Germans however possess a unique ability where defeating a barbarian unit inside an encampment actually has a 67% chance that they will join their army. They also gain the 25 gold usually earned on top of this.
This also creates a situation where more and more units are constantly joining the army. So you’d naturally expect unit maintenance costs to go up. But it doesn’t because Germans also conveniently get a 25% reduction to maintenance for land units.
China – B Tier
China is a fairly flexible option that can go for both the Science and Domination routes. This nation is our first entry in the B ranks of our Civ 5 tier list.
On the one hand, the birth rates of Great Generals is increased by 50%. These remarkable individuals also provide +30% combat bonus, instead of the standard +15%, for China alone. Players can also construct the unique Paper Maker building to increase their gold generation by +2. And with both of these features together, a powerful army can be assembled relatively early on.
Alternatively, players can choose to invest the additional money generated by the Paper Maker to build structures that help advance Science instead. The key here is the Gold.
Sweden – B Tier
When it comes to Diplomacy, few civilizations excel at the act better than Sweden, since their unique ability is focused all around enhancing relations with other states.
If you declare friendship with someone, you gain a +10% boost to all Great Person generation. And once one of these does show up, they can then be gifted to a City-State for 90 Influence. So it pays to be on friendly terms with everyone.
What’s surprising however is that on top of this, Sweden also possesses two unique units. The Carolean is reasonably normal, but the Hakkapeliitta gains a combat bonus explicitly if stacked together with a Great General.
Russia – B Tier
Next in B Tier is Russia. Due to its particular starting bias, the Russian Civilization is most likely to start near tundra terrain. Necessities will be hard to come by, and players will have to expand rapidly to move into greener pastures.
To balance this difficulty, yields for strategic resources provide +1 Production and Horses, Iron, and Uranium spots provide double the yield. The unique Krepost building also reduces the cost of acquiring new land tiles by 25%.
Russia is not for new players. We highly recommend that you don’t pick this for your first few games.
Ethiopia – B Tier
Now this is a curious one to talk about, since it encourages you to do something that goes against the game’s core formula of expansion.
Ethiopia is a nation whose units gain a +20% combat bonus when fighting against a civilization that has more cities than them. So to keep this buff active at all times, it is recommended that you not grow your empire a whole lot. Or at the least, keep a keen eye on your foes and make sure that your cities are always less than theirs.
And to help defend your small nation, you also get access to the unique Mehal Sefari units. They get a 30% combat bonus while fighting inside your capital, so always keep them close by.
Morocco – B Tier
For an easy Cultural Victory, go for the Moroccan civilization.
This nation gets +3 Gold and +1 Culture for each trade route it establishes with rival players and City-States. The passive Culture generated by this is a massive boon that can set you up for the long run.
Additionally, when a rival civilization sets up trade with you instead, they receive +2 Gold for each route. On top of the obvious Influence generated because of this, these profitable trade routes are a great reason not to go to war with you.
Spain – B Tier
The Spanish are the absolute best when it comes to exploring the map.
This civilization gets a massive bonus for discovering a Natural Wonder to encourage the player to uncover new areas. On top of the default yield, they receive 100 Gold for discovering one of these. This amount is even increased to 500 Gold if they are the first nation to discover it.
Happiness gained from Natural Wonders is also doubled for Spain, and building on them gives you twice the normal amount of resources.
And finally, they get access to the Conquistador, one of the best scouting units in the game. Not only do these get extra sight, they are also able to settle new cities by themselves.
Brazil – B Tier
Brazil is a civilization that struggles a lot in the early game, but flourishes later on due to Tourism.
This is the second nation on our list that greatly benefits from Golden Ages, mostly because their Tourism generation increases 100% during these. They also earn Great Artists, Musicians, and Writers 50% faster while the effect is active.
Their jungle starting bias limits them in terms of what they can build. But once they unlock Machinery, the unique Brazilwood Camp can be constructed to provide +2 Gold and +2 Culture. These can only be built on jungles, so don’t cut them down if possible.
Aztec – B Tier
The Aztec civilization is really special because they can pursue both Domination and Cultural Victory simultaneously.
With the help of their mighty Jaguar unit, which has combat bonuses in jungles and forests, they can easily overcome their starting bias. They can also use this unit to take down a lot of early rivals and barbarians.
What makes this nation unique, however, is their ability to gain Culture from killing enemies. So the more bloodthirsty you are, the more you gain from war.
Shoshone – B Tier
Deciding the placement of new cities can often be a challenging task because you have to account for what resources you want quick access to.
Shoshone doesn’t have to worry about this a whole lot because their newly established cities begin with 8 additional tiles. This allows them to gain access to resources that might be out of reach for most other civilizations.
All units of this nation also receive a combat bonus when fighting within their own territory. So the more you expand, the better you perform.
Polynesia – B Tier
In league with the actual history of the Polynesian people, this civilization has the ability to embark on oceans from the beginning of the game.
They are able to move across continents earlier than any other player on the map, so this allows them to capture some of the best territories for themselves.
Polynesian units get +1 to sight, and they also gain +10% Combat Strength when they are within range of the unique Moai improvement. Coincidentally, this improvement also gives the nation +1 Gold and +1 Culture.
Celts – B Tier
The Celts are almost always going to be the first civilization in a game that establishes a religion.
Their unique Druidic Lore ability allows them to generate +1 Faith for each city with an adjacent unimproved forest. This bonus also increases to +2 and +3 if more than one forest is present. On top of this, the unique Pictish Warrior unit also generates Faith for each enemy that it kills.
With both of these factors together, the player is able to spread their religion and gain lots of influence quickly.
Netherlands – B Tier
Netherlands.So this one might not be for everyone, but it is an exciting civilization nonetheless.
When the Dutch trade away the last copy of a luxury resource that they control, half of the Happiness provided by that resource is still retained by the nation. So players can gather a variety of these, sell them off for Gold, but still retain some of the benefits.
They also have a unique naval unit called the Sea Beggar. This ship is not only powerful, it also gets two free Coastal Raider promotions and the ability to heal outside of friendly territory. It is also able to convert defeated ships to your side.
Egypt – B Tier
Egyptian civilization is synonymous with the Pyramids in the real world, and that translates into the Civ 5 tier list as well.
With the unique ability Monument Builders, this nation gets +20% Production towards Wonder construction. Using this, players can set up a number of different monuments and reap the benefits quickly.
Egypt also has the unique War Chariot unit, which is extremely useful near the beginning of a game. Unlike other mounted cavalry, this unit does not require Horses to train. So while other players are still stuck on infantry, you can quickly pump out a powerful force to overrun them.
Denmark – B Tier
The Danish are suited for a Domination Victory, with a little help from their tendency towards costal combat.
Once this civilization researches Optics, they can take to the seas and start the process of raiding across the coast. They can do this easily because embarked units get +1 to Movement and pay only 1 Movement point to move from sea to land.
Danish units also don’t use a movement point when they attack a settlement. This allows them to move away after engaging and heal up for the next attack.
Siam – C Tier
As we enter the lower ranks of our Civ 5 tier list, let’s begin with Siam. While the Siamese civilization does not possess any impressive units or buildings of its own, their diplomacy helps them gain strength.
When you become friendly with a City-State, they reward you with resources like Culture, Faith, and Food, depending on their specialty. With Siam’s unique ability, all of these rewards are increased by 50%.
Also, units gifted by Militaristic City-States get +10 experience from the start. So this is an excellent way to get experienced forces.
Ottoman – C Tier
The Ottomans are yet another naval-oriented civilization that should get on the water as soon as possible.
When defeating Barbarian ships, not only does this nation gain Gold, they also have a 40% chance of converting them to their side. If they focus on defeating as many of these as possible, a reasonably sizable navy can be assembled early on in the game.
To assist in this Endeavour, naval unit maintenance is also reduced for the Ottomans to 1/3 as part of their unique ability.
Later in the Renaissance Era, they gain access to the unique Janissary. Not only does this unit earn a +25% combat bonus, but it also heals 50 damage for each enemy killed.
Japan – C Tier
A Japanese player should always go for an aggressive approach, even if a Cultural victory is technically possible. I say this because we have one of the most helpful combat perks in the entire game.
As units engage in fights and take damage, their strength begins to fall, becoming less effective. However, Japanese units are not a victim to this and can attack at full strength regardless of their status.
This is incredibly powerful in conflict, as it allows weakened armies to stand toe to toe with enemies at full health. However, the ability applies only to a point since units are still susceptible to a quick death.
Austria – C Tier
Austria’s unique ability lets it quickly acquire new cities to add to the empire, provided that enough Gold is available.
The Diplomatic Marriage ability lets players spend gold to take over City-States that have been your allies for at least five turns. No fighting takes place, so all units, buildings, and the population instantly joins your side.
However, gold itself is the main hurdle since you require extravagant amounts of it to make these purchases. Depending on the era, the cost can reach well over 1000 Gold per City-State.
Assyrian – C Tier
Like the Huns, the Assyrian nation is suited to taking over cities through sieges.
Their unique Siege Tower unit has a 200% damage bonus against cities by itself. But more importantly than that, it also gives other units within 2 tiles a 50% bonus when attacking the city with it.
Then when a settlement does fall to the Assyrians, they gain a free random Technology from the ones already unlocked by its owner. This is as good a reason as any to attack a rival.
Other aspects of this nation’s military are not so great. And unlike the Huns, they don’t have a powerful unit like the Horse Archer.
Rome – D Tier
You’d expect something truly great from a digital representation of one of the greatest empires in history, but sadly that’s not the case here. So let’s dive headfirst into the absolute bottom of our Civ 5 tier list – D tier.
Rome has no prominent advantage to speak of, and even the one unique ability it has is fairly mediocre. If a building already exists within your capital, then constructing it in other cities gives a +25% Production bonus.
The one minor advantage they do possess is their unique Legion unit. These allow the player to build road networks without workers directly.
Indonesia – D Tier
Being rewarded for expansion is always a good incentive, but not when it’s done like this.
There are certain Luxury Resources players can get when they expand the Indonesian civilization to other landmasses. The first set of these resources is given when a city is set up on a second continent. The second and third sets are given after two different continents are claimed.
On smaller archipelago maps, this might work fine, but otherwise, you’re being asked to spread your hubs out over a vast distance. This does not make protecting the empire any easy; it simply makes the game unnecessary challenging.
The only positive is that these new cities cannot be destroyed. They can be taken over by enemies, but they will still be standing for you to take them back.
Byzantium – D Tier
New players should avoid the Byzantium civilization, unless they really know how to take advantage of religion as a tool for victory.
This nation doesn’t have any special units or buildings of note, but they can choose one more Belief than normal when they establish a Religion.
More customization options for your faith allow you to tailor your empire towards whichever Victory conditions you want, but this process is not appealing to most people.
Carthage – D Tier
Carthage is a civilization that has a really good start when it comes to trade routes, but after that it’s mediocre.
All coastal cities in the empire start with a Harbor, which accomplishes the requirement of having your hubs connected. This isn’t always optimal if there is a lack of water, but it works at the beginning when you have nothing.
After a Great General is earned, Carthaginian units also gain the ability to cross mountains. But they take 50 damage if they actually end a turn on them. Honestly, the trade-off doesn’t seem worth it to me.
France – D Tier
France is set up to be one of the civilizations that can achieve a Cultural Victory.
Each city in the French empire gains +2 Culture per turn, but only until you research Steam Power. So as you progress through the game, it actually get more challenging to get this resource.
The unique Chateau improvement also generates +1 Gold and +2 Culture for the nation, but it’s seen by many as a temporary source. Not soon after it becomes available, many better sources of Culture are also in arm’s reach. So why waste the time and Gold needed to build them.
India – D Tier
This nation’s main strength is hard to understand, and even harder to thrive in.
As an empire grows, more cities are added to its territory. But this also increases the unhappiness of the citizens. For India, this unhappiness is doubled as more settlements are established.
But at the same time, unhappiness gained from population growth within a city is halved. So players are encouraged at the start to sustain large populations within a few cities. Now on top of being challenging, this is simply boring to play with as well.
Unique buildings like the Mughal Fort and War Elephants are nice to have, but neither of them are so unique that they change up the standard formula in any way.
Portugal – D Tier
Through trade, the Portuguese civilization can work their way towards a Diplomatic Victory.
To start with, trade routes grant twice as much Gold to Portugal than normal. But this is a drop in the ocean compared to what a nation like Morocco can make on these routes. It’s simply not comparable.
Players can also build the unique Feitoria improvement on an allied City-State territory. This gives them a single copy of any luxury resource the state might possess, but it cannot be sold. For every positive, there is a negative.
Iroquois – D Tier
Mobility is the strength of the Iroquois civilization, but unfortunately not much else is present here.
Their units can move through forest and jungle tiles in friendly territory as if they were roads, but this perk disappears in unclaimed or foreign regions. It’s surprising that such a simple ability is not allowed in areas where it can be the most useful.
These tiles can also be used to establish Trade Routes between cities, but nothing about this is special or unique. Wherever there are forests, players are bound to find plains as well. Why would anyone prefer one over the other?
The unique Longhouse building does provide +2 Production, but it’s still not enough to stop the Iroquois from landing at the bottom of our list. Hence, ranked at the end of Civ 5 tier list.
What Is The Best Civilization In Civ 5?
The short answer to this question is Poland. But depending on your playstyle, any of the A and S ranks on our list can classify as the best.
Hopefully, we’ve made it clear with this article that Civ 5 is a highly varied game that supports a number of different playstyles. An experienced player can dominate a match with a D rank nation, while a beginner can flop hard with an S rank.
There’s also a factor of randomness to the whole equation. A high-rank civilization could start out in a terrible terrain with no resources, and their unique abilities could serve no purpose. A veteran can still make it work, but it all depends on the level of skills they possess.
What Is The Worst Civilization In Civ 5?
Iroquois is arguably the worst civilization in the entire game.
Selective movement capabilities are not something that you truly require in a match. It’s hard to play as Iroquois when so many better options are available.