With over 40 different civilizations to play, Civ 5 is a massively replayable 4X strategy experience. Each civ and leader favors at least one of the four different paths to victory (domination, science, diplomacy, and culture). While most leaders can competently pursue any of these conditions, not are created equal. To that end, we’ve put together a tier list to help you decide which one to pick for your next game.
With Firaxis predominantly focused on Civilization 6 at this point, it’s fairly safe to consider this a final, definitive ranking of all the leaders in Civ 5. This list takes into consideration vanilla Civ 5, as well as its two expansions, Gods and Kings and Brave New World.
The accepted parlance for a Civ tier list is to organize each civilization into categories named after the game’s difficulties. That’s exactly what we have done below. The best civs are in the Deity category, followed by Immortal, Emperor, King, Prince, Warlord, Chieftain, and finally Settler. Now, without further delay, here is the Fanbyte tier list for Civ 5 as of February 2020.
Civ 5 Tier List – Deity Tier Civilizations
- Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar II)
- Poland (Casimir III)
- Korea (Sejong)
- Mayans (Pacal)
- Arabia (Harun al-Rashid)
- Persia (Darius I)
The deity tier civs all have strengths that are advantageous is nearly every situation, making them competitive in basically every type of victory regardless of starting situation. For example, Babylon is strong in the science route because it gains a free Great Scientist when it learns the Writing tech. In addition, Nebuchadnezzer’s Bowman and The Walls of Babylon unique defensive building make him a good choice for a domination victory.
The other civs in this tier are equally versatile, and should be considered when you’re just learning the game. Many have compared choosing any of these leaders to playing on a lower difficulty setting.
Civ 5 Tier List – Immortal Tier Civilizations
- The Inca (Pachacuti)
- The Zulu (Shaka)
- The Huns (Atilla)
- Greece (Alexander)
- England (Elizabeth)
- Songhai (Askia)
- America (Washington)
Just like the Deity tier civs, the ones in the Immortal category are strong and advantageous, even if they are slightly more narrow in their focus. Their starts are not as strong, but they are capable of salvaging some early bad decisions, a forgiveness that still makes them good learning leaders.
Civ 5 Tier List – Emperor Tier Civilizations
- Mongolia (Genghis Khan)
- Germany (Bismarck)
- Sweden (Gustavus Adolphus)
- China (Wu Zetian)
We’re arriving at the middle of the pack at this point. Many of the civs in the following tiers are fairly neutral in their associated bonuses, making them good choices if you’re looking for a fair fight against the AI. Domination victories are favored by Mongolia thanks to their strong mounted military units. For Sweden, diplomatic victories are a good choice because they tend to earn more Influence and great person generation through alliances. These aren’t game-breaking abilities, though, so don’t get cocky!
Civ 5 Tier List – King Tier Civilizations
- Spain (Isabella)
- The Aztecs (Montezuma)
- Brazil (Pedro II)
- Russia (Catherine)
- The Shoshone (Pocatello)
- Denmark (Harald Bluetooth)
- Egypt (Ramesses II)
- Siam (Ramkhamhaeng)
- Polynesia (Kamehameha)
In the King tier we find the bulk of the Civ V’s leaders. Their advantages are smaller than those in the tiers above, meaning you’ll be on a much more even playing field with your opponents. Some good choices in this tier are Spain if you’re after a science victory and Russia for a domination victory.
The Shoshone’s penchant for rapid expansion and exploration makes them good at quick starts, which you can leverage into more than one type of victory depending on the terrain. If you’re wanting to play a cultural game, Brazil is your best bet in this tier thanks to being able to double their tourism during golden ages, but keep in mind that they prefer jungle terrain.
Civ 5 Tier List – Prince Tier Civilizations
- The Netherlands (William)
- The Celts (Boudicca)
- Ethiopia (Haile Selassie)
- Japan (Oda Nobunaga)
The Prince tier leaders are middling, with a narrower focus making them more specialized. This can lead to a feeling of being shoehorned into specific ways of playing. Their advantages are also rather unremarkable.
The Japanese are a pure domination civ thanks to their unique units, and their ability to fight at full strength even when damaged. Ethiopia, on the other hand, likes to play defensively and keep their city count fairly low, as they get a combat bonus against civs with more cities.
Civ 5 Tier List – Warlord Tier Civilizations
- Morocco (Ahmad al-Mansur)
- Rome (Augustus Caesar)
- The Ottomans (Suleiman)
- Austria (Maria Theresa)
- Assyria (Ashurbanipal)
We’re on a full downward slant at this point, as the warlord tier civs are more challenging to play thanks to some pretty lackluster bonuses. For example, Assyria gains a free technology when they conquer a city, but if you’re already conquering other cities then this bonus is mostly moot. Rome’s production discount toward buildings already present in its capital city is nice in theory, but it’s impact is minimal once you hit the late game.
Civ 5 Tier List – Chieftain Tier Civilizations
- India (Gandhi)
- Byzantium (Theodora)
- Iroquois (Hiawatha)
- Venice (Enrico Dandolo)
Not bottom-of-the-barrel, but close to it! These civs require a focused plan and have no margin of error if you’re going to guide them to victory. Venice is unique in that it cannot train Settlers at all, nor can they annex cities they conquer. Enrico can still pursue a domination victory, though, but you’ll need to raze opposing cities. A more interesting strategy is to outright buy city-states by using the Merchant of Venice great person.
Civ 5 Tier List – Settler Tier Civilizations
- Indonesia (Gajah Mada)
- France (Napoleon)
- Portugal (Maria I)
- Carthage (Dido)
The lowest of the low, these civs have little-to-no value when it comes to pursuing specific victory paths. That doesn’t mean they should never get played, however; Civ 5 veterans looking for a challenge might enjoy taking them for a spin. If you must play one of them, we recommend a seafaring game with Carthage, or using its ability to traverse mountains early on to conquer your neighbors. France favors a cultural game, while Portugal leans toward diplomacy.