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Civilization V Tech Tree

March 19th, 2011

This post does well in Google, but the game has been patched many times and the first expansion (Gods & Kings) and now the second expansion (Brave New World) have been released. I jotted down my final thoughts on Civ V vanilla and some refinements to my basic strategy post expansions.

I’ve played over 1000 hours of this game and recently tried it again as I have not gotten to play the sequel yet because I have not upgraded my laptop in a long while. The expansions changed the game a lot as have patches I wouldn’t advise following the below advice exactly especially on harder difficulty levels.

Original Thoughts

I took a couple week’s break from Civ V, but I recently completed my most successful game according to the scoring system. I’ve been making notes and this is the tech progression I followed.

First it doesn’t matter what you research, I generally choose tech that allows me to exploit the resources around me. My build order is generally a warrior or a monument first depending on the closeness of the enemy and any barbarians. I usually build a worker then a settler and settle my second city before starting on a wonder. I’ve come to really like Stonehenge, but the Oracle is pretty cool. I also occasionally build the Colossus or even the Great Wall. The one I target though is Stone Hedge for the big culture boost.

Before following this tech tree you probably want to research Mining, Animal Husbandry, and Calendar so you can build mines, ranches, and plantations.

  1. Writing lets you sign research pacts and leads to building some city improvements you will need.
  2. Construction is a must for the ability to build coliseums which keep your people happy.
  3. Iron Working Steel is the key military technology, but rushing towards it is counter productive.  In order to exploit Steel you need lots of iron, so find it or acquire it early, the more the better.  If you can’t find iron, you won’t be able to take fortified cities without a huge effort.
  4. Wheel is necessary as by now you probably have a couple cities, researching this lets you connect them with roads.
  5. Currency because cash is King in Civ V.  You can use it do so much, this tech lets you build the marketplace and increases your income by 25% in cities where you build them.
  6. Steel if you don’t have lots of iron, you aren’t going to rule the world, at least not until further on in the tech tree.  The Long Swordsman is the best unit in the game for a long time.  It is significantly better than the opposition’s other non-unique options.  Civilizations with a unique Long Swordsman may be something to investigate further as this is the best chance to have a technical advantage over your enemy until the arrival of Riflemen and Infantry.
  7. Navigation is the other key military technology.  I’ve played Civ forever and I used to target Astronomy so I could build the Caravel and explore the world.  However in Civ V it is worth pressing on if you have lots of iron so you can build Frigates which are necessary to launch an invasion of another continent.  An armada of Frigates can sail up to a city and bombard it allowing a lesser army to take it once weakened.  Without enough iron this tactic won’t work and at higher difficulty levels is tough to pull off.
  8. Banking because cash is still King, this allows you to build banks and make more money in your cities.
  9. Acoustics is a personal favourite as it allows for the construction of the Sistine Chapel which increases culture production by 33% in every city.
  10. Chemistry is the final key military technology, it allows you to build cannon which don’t require iron, but are necessary to take down the toughest cities.  They are also good at defending cities, they are more powerful than Frigates so their arrival on the battlefield is a big advantage to those who have cannons over those who do not.

Once you’ve researched all this you should have a pretty good idea if you’re still in the game with a chance to win. I’m generally a peaceful builder who likes to have a strong culture. However without a sufficiently strong and numerous army, the AI will pick on you even if they are “Friendly”. Thus it is necessary to prioritize certain military technologies and the acquisition of iron. After iron the next most important resource is coal so you can build factories. However it is possible to win the game militarily before that, a cultural victory is unlikely and a space or diplomatic victory is impossible without almost completing the entire tech tree.

Military is probably the easiest way to win, but the scoring system, which hasn’t been completely revealed or reversed engineered seems to reward large advance civilizations rather than quick victories. My highest scores are on easier levels too which seems the opposite of how Civ used to be scored. I think it is easiest to win diplomatically if you can hang on that long and buy enough friends among the minor powers. Winning the Space Race or a Cultural Victory takes a long time and a lot of work.

Another update in 2024

I wrote a lot about Sid Meier’s Civilization V but not as much about version six. This wasn’t an accident as I decided to focus more on miniature painting and miniature gaming with real people rather than play solo computer strategy games. Now it is 2024 and I haven’t played any video games in a long long time, but I decided to update my taxonomy and improve my blog Quality once again. I believe the next version of Sid Meier’s Civilization will come out eventually. I have my fastest computer and biggest monitor ever now, so if you are looking forward to a new video game or want to reminisce about old video games you can leave a comment below.


  • Muskie says:

     I’ve been playing more and here is a pretty good tech tree to follow, course I eventually lost this game.  ;-)
    Animal Husbandry
    Horseback Riding
    Bronze Working
    Scientific Theory

    Also important is what Social Policies you choose, here was the list I followed before I got frustrated with repeated wars:
    Collective Rule
    Universal Suffrage

    I was France and my plan was to get to the Medieval Age quickly then work on the Patronage Social Policy Track.  It worked fine but I didn’t finish off a certain foe, instead repeatedly making peace, allowing them to rebuild and then attack me again and again.

  • Muskie says:

    While playing a new game last night, I followed this tech tree, up till Chemistry and I was doing OK. I was playing as the Aztecs and didn’t really have the best start. China was winning. Eventually everyone left was fighting China. They all made peace but me, I was doing all right, then I got Nuked! Then China Nuked my capital which was huge two turns in a row. I still haven’t lost any cities, but I’m at a tech disadvantage and the reason I got nuked so much is no oil or anti-air defense really. Of course I’ve played for about 100 hours without getting nuked and in the old days other Civs would condemn the use of nuclear weapons, not this time, even my buddy Gandhi was silent. I’m probably not winning this game, but sometimes you learn more when you lose and I’d never played as the Aztecs before.

    I want to try Polynesia but they aren’t available on the Mac yet.

    In addition to my advice above, I have to say unless you have lots of minor power allies who will gift you resources, which I usually do, you need to find coal for factories and oil for modern military units. Oil can sometimes be found in the arctic or the ocean, otherwise you need to settle near deserts and tundra normally. It is a bit of a crap shoot and not having any oil or not having lots of oil is costing me civilian lives and lots of land improvements this game. So if the game keeps going past cannon be sure to continue to search for resources and buy/trade/fight for them if you have to. Or you can just be friendly with everyone and you’re unlikely to get nuked…

    I was in third and needed land and resources and a way to quickly improve my score so I went to war, it worked for a while I took two more Chinese cities with artillery, great generals, and infantry. Tanks aren’t all that like they were in Civ 1 and Civ 2 or even part of Civ 3. Artillery shooting three hexes is a huge advantage and probably my next most advantageous military tech after cannons. May have to find out optimal time to research Dynamite too.

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