Civilization 5 Strategy Guide: Culture Explained

Civilization 5 Strategy Guide: Culture Explained
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The Complete Civilization 5 Guide: Learning Culture

All civilizations in the world have a culture assocaited with them. Some civilizations consider their culture to be a central aspect of identity in the eyes of the world, while others approach culture as a tool to be manipulated, and others try to ignore it entierly. There is no avoiding culture, however, even in the smallest of towns and villages.

This is reflected in Civilization 5. In this part of the Complete Civilization 5 guide we’re going to take a brief look at culture so you’ll be able to understand how to use it in your games.

Culture Cause and Effect

The culture income of your Civilization is made available at all times at the top of the Civilization 5 game window. It is displayed in purple as three numbers. The number to the very left is your current accumulated culture, the number in the middle is the amount of culture you need to achieve your next social policy, and the number to the right (placed in brackets) is your culture income.

Although culture points are important, they’re a means to an end and are never directly spent. Your civilization-wide culture goal is to reach the amount of culture you need to achieve your next social policy. You win a culture victory in Civilization 5 by completing five of the ten social policy trees and then finishing the Utopia Project.

Obtaining Culture Points

Civilization V Culture Gameplay

There are several different ways to increase the culture income of your civilization. The number one of to increase culture is through the production of culture improvements, which includes things like Monuments and Operas. These buildings provide a fixed culture bonus for a city. They also open up specialist slots associated with the improvements. You can take citizens away from the working the land around your city and place them into these slots to further increase culture income. Some Wonders also serve as culture improvements, either by providing a percentage bonus or by providing a static bonus.

Culture points can also be obtained by becoming friends with cultured city-states. You’ll find these scattered across the game world as you explore. Becoming allies with these city-states provides a static boost to your culture. This is often an effective way to improve your culture, particularly if you have some money laying around.

Population is related to culture income because a city with a high population will likely have more citizens than needed to work the land surrounding the city. These extra citizens can be placed into specialist positions at culture generating improvements.

Finally, you can boost culture by spending a Great Artist on the construction of a Landmark tile improvement, which provides a static bonus.

Culture Strategies

Civilization V Culture Strategy

There are essentially two primary ways to utilize culture. One is as a way to win the game directly, and the other is as a way to win the game indirectly.

Trying to win the game directly through culture means that you are actively building culture improvements in hopes completing five social policy trees and constructing the Utopia Project before anyone else. This strategy means going all-out. Culture improvements should be your first priority in yoru cities, and you should chase down social policy upgrades that improve culture income. You also need to keep your number of cities low because the amount of culture you need to obtain your next social policy increases with every city you own.

Winning the game indirectly through culture means keeping culture in mind, but using it to buy social policies that are beneficial to a different type of victory. Those looking for a conquest victory, for example, may want to quickly buy up the Honor social policy tree. If this is the way you intend to use culture you should not build many or any culture improvements because these improvements have a maintence fee attached to them each turn and will turn your cities away from producing other structures and units important to your strategy. Instead, focus on cultured city-states. They will provide you will a culture bonus in exchange for gold or the completion of tasks. Once you’ve obtained the social policies that are needed for your strategy you simply stop paying off the cultured city states and focus your fund on other goals.

Culture and Cities

Civilization 5 Culture Strategy

Understanding the effects of culture on your civilization as a whole isn’t difficult. You gain points, you fill up your culture pool, and once full you gain a social policy. Easy as pie!

You may not realize, however, that culture also influences cities. The game does not telegraph this information as well as the information about your civilization-wide culture. If you open up a city’s details screen, however, you’ll see that there is a purple culture icon that is being filled just like the green food icon.

When this purple culture icon is filled your city will automatically grab another nearby tile. This means that cities with a lot of culture will rapidly expand their influence over an area.

The effects of this on your overall strategy are subtle. Cultured cities, because they grab land more quickly, can be built further apart. If your civilization is going after a conquest victory, for example, you may be restricted to building your cities very close to resources even if the tiles near the resource you need are less than ideal for city growth. If you intend to build a lot of culture improvements, however, you can choose a more ideal location a tile or two further away because your city will quickly gobble up surrounding land.

Culture cities will also expand your borders quickly, which can be useful if you’re in close quarters with another empire. Keep this in mind when thinking about planting a new city close to another civilization, and remember that other civilizations can’t encroach on territory under your culture influence unless you enter an Open Borders treaty.


Hopefully the information has brought you up to speed on the basics of culture. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment!

This post is part of the series: The Complete Civilization 5 Guide

Are you a new player to Civilization 5 looking to learn the game? Or a veteran of Civilization 4 looking for some tips about what is new and different? This guide will help you become familiar with the mechanics of Civilization 5.

  1. The Complete Civilization 5 Strategy Guide: An Intro for New Players
  2. The Complete Civilization 5 Guide: Advanced City Building
  3. The Complete Civilization 5 Strategy Guide: Combat Basics
  4. The Complete Civilization 5 Strategy Guide: Culture
  5. Complete Civilization 5 Strategy Guide: Research