10/24/2014: 10 Leader Guides are undone, but the rest of the guide is 95%+ complete. I will work on this eventually but have my hands full playing Civilization: Beyond Earth and writing for The Sims 4. There is a possibiliy I will try to cover at least some of the gameplay elements from Beyond Earth, but can't make any promises. If you'd like to say thanks, you can use the donate button or use EA Origin, Gamestop, or Walmart to make a game purchase.

Civ 5 City Guide Part 5 - Cities and War

City Defense, Upgrades, Social Policies & Comparing Your Military

Civ 5 City Information & Strategies
City ConceptsCity Borders & Working TilesBuild & GrowScience, Gold, etc.City Strength & Military

While Military and War deserve their own Guide, I want to discuss War in relation to Cities in this Strategy Guide. We'll have a look at defending your territory from Barbarians and Civilizations that have made a Declaration of War. I'll provide a few tips for protecting your Cities when enemies are attacking, and also lightly talk about preparing your Military for your Cities are at risk if you are playing at even a medium difficulty and your military is pathetic - your land is too valuable, and too tempting for those land-hungry AI.

A city has an attack range of 2 and its combat strength is determined by garrison, buildings, and population.
A City fires its ranged attack on approaching enemies. Every City can Defend itself.

City Attack Range
Cities can attack units up to two hexes away like an early Archer, but do not have difficulty with visibility blocking their attacks as hills would an Archer.

City Defense/Combat Strength
A City's Defense Value seems to be its Combat Strength, just like a Unit. You'll gain +1 Combat Strength per Population, then get bonus defense for certain buildings. Cities tend to have Defense values a little higher than the units in the same Era, and are meant to be difficult to capture so this seems accurate. When you put a military unit in a city, it contributes 20% of its combat strength to the City's Defense, so put strong units there. They will be hit by melee attackers, but the retaliation will be harsh and you can usually soften them as they approach.

Garrisoning a Unit, Preferably Ranged
It is best practice to put a ranged unit in your City to give you two attacks against Barbarians and Warring Civs Focus on any ranged attackers first, because they will suffer no retaliation when they attack; therefore they must be deliberately taken down. Melee attackers will either not attack until the City is weak, or take heavy damage attacking the City. Late-game, you need units with mobility for when Artillery is invented and brought to the battlefield, its attack range is 3 and cannot be hit by a City if set up outside its range.

A Barbarian Pillages tile improvements in Civ 5
Barbarian Pillaged Tile Improvements take 2 Turns to Repair

Early-Game: Barbarians
If you're playing at a decent Difficulty (Prince) then Barbarian activity will be plentiful as you near the 30-50th turn. By then you may have a Worker to protect, and some tile improvements to lose to pillaging. Have a Warrior, Spearman, or Archer in your Capital while a scout explores. You need at least a small military in the early-game or you will be constantly harassed and need to go on the offensive to begin developing the City. Locate nearby Barbarian Encampments and destroy them to stop the flow of invaders. Be careful with your units and you'll get some promotions that will be handy in combat later. Fortify until healed (h) is a great command. If near your borders, step inside for a double healing rate that will make up for the lost turn.

Defensive Mobility & Counterattack
You should always have a military to protect your Cities outside of the garrisoned Archer in each (unless one is cozy and safe in the center of your Empire). Cities belonging to Civilizations with weak militaries are targets to land-hungry Leaders expanding toward your border, coveting your resources. A good friend may even turn on you over land if a couple other things go wrong with the relationship; a weak military encourages this. Remember the 3-range Artillery? You need a half-dozen or so units by the midgame outside your garrison so that you have at least some means of fighting back if someone declares War unless you've mastered Diplomacy.

Judging Your Military
Head to the Additional Information Menu in the Top Right and select Demographics. You will see your number of soldiers, the best Civ's number, and the average. Aim to be at least near the average no matter the victory type you're pursuing. Thankfully, you can win when the AI has a moderate size advantage on you because, well, they're stupid. This is based on your units' current combat strength - damaged units actually lower the value, and in the early game a few damaged units can make it seem (to you) that you are really weak, so take that into consideration.

Social Policies for City Defense
Adopting Tradition to get +3 Culture and a shot at the Hanging Gardens is good enough, but going one further you can choose the Oligarchy Social Policy, which makes all garrisoned units maintenance-free and gives the city a +50% attack bonus. Yup, it's wildly overpowered and worth taking if you are planning to be quite warlike. Else, choose Honor to protect your Society, or have great research and have powerful higher technology units in smaller number. Military strength and respect from Civs is gained from the combined Combat Strength of your units, so there are several ways to have a good Military. Any Warmonger would be a fool to skip Honor, and take every single Policy.

A Great General Citadel
Citadels damage enemy units that end turns nearby and can even steal territory from other Civs

Great General Tile Improvement: Citadel
Great Generals are more relevant to a City article than Great Admirals, though both are gained the same way. As your units gain XP, a bar will fill. It's a couple hundred XP to get your first Great General. You will want to keep your first to give your troops within 2 hexes a +15% boost in Combat Strength, but the second can be used to place a Citadel in a strategic location. This is a building that can steal land, as when placed it will claim all hexes around it and that can have diplomatic repurcussions, so be careful. It must be placed adjacent to one of your tiles, so it will extend territory out just a bit. I like to use it beyond the 3-tile working radius of a city if I can, better to use it beyond 5 and push lands further than they could go before, possibly getting access to a resource.

Citadels deal 30 damage to any enemy unit that ends a turn next to them, meaning they can be placed in the center of choke points. I like to put two units behind the Citadel to force them to stand next to it if attacking, and block with other units if that is not wide enough - that is to turtle (defend) against a raging AI until they chill and let my culture dominate. The unit in the Citadel gets a +100% defensive bonus, the best in the game. Put a powerful melee unit there with ranged behind and anything that walks up to your Citadel is toast.

City Upgrades: Walls, Castle, Arsenal
Cities that have these buildings can have nearly triple the hit points and a substantial increase in firepower. They are never obsolete, and even help protect against air attacks later. They do not increase your Military value and discourage attack, it seems, but if the War is on, you'll have your ass covered if that well-developed city near Montezuma is suddenly his next target.

Previous Page

Civ 5 City Information & Strategies
City ConceptsCity Borders & Working TilesBuild & GrowScience, Gold, etc.City Strength & Military

Comments (3)

Dvd Avins says...
I have read that if the unit defending the city is not on alert, it does not add to the city's defense stat. You either get the archer's second shot, to accompany the city's own shot, or you get its defense. Not both. You seem to be saying otherwise.
I believe the City gets the boost just as a Unit moves in and this is reflected in its Combat strength on the map. It doesn't matter what the unit is doing there as far as I know. I did just read that Cities have half their combat strength on the attack, while the actual stat is for reducing the damage taken when attacked (defense). I'll need to look into it and possibly make some edits to this page - thanks for bringing it to my attention.
4th August 2014 12:10am
davidtheterp says...
Fantastic guide. I'd like to add that the Citadel is a powerful defensive weapon, but that does not necessarily mean that it will stay in your hands. I suggest that it should never be built directly adjacent to your city, because any enemy that takes your Citadel now has a highly protected unit knocking at your door. (Like when Ghengis Khan pretended to be a friend just moving his forces through my territory.) It's great to use the Citadel as you have suggested, with the second general, emplaced at the edge of your cultural border, where you anticipate trouble arriving soon.
22nd September 2014 4:55pm
Rangeclaw says...
Quite enjoyed reading this just as your other guides. Learned some good points here. Thanks.
17th September 2014 4:17am
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This site and all original strategy guides created by and © Carl Ratcliff. This is an unofficial Civilization V fansite and I am in no way affiliated with Firaxis Games, Developer of Civ 5 Brave New World and Gods and Kings.