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Civilization 5: Shaka Leader of the ZuluCiv 5 Zulu Civilization

Civ Bonuses, AI Info, Strategies, Unique Units and Buildings

Updated for Gods and Kings and Brave New World DLCs

Civilization's Leader: Shaka

Civ Bonus: Iklwa
Melee units cost 50% less maintenance and all units require 25% less experience to earn promotions.

Unique Unit: Impi
Requires Civil Service, Replaces Pikeman
Impi are an amazing UU. They get a spear throw attack before engaging in a melee attack (doesn't seem to work when defending). You can expect them to do more damage than the estimate by the combat predictor, because the spear attack is not included in this calculation.

Unique Building: Ikanda
Requires Bronze Working, Replaces Barracks
Pre-Renaissance Melee units start with a unique promotion line (always getting the first), giving them +1 movement, stacking Flank Attack bonuses and +10% ranged attack defense. Getting an Impi the last promotion will earn you a Steam achievement.

Playing Against The AI - Their Tendencies (XML Info and Flavors)
to Civs
War w/CivsDeception
CS War
Other InfoShaka is a very scary opponent, particularly when he techs up to Medieval era and starts putting Impi on the battlefield. Other Civs are likely to hate the Zulu, so try to team up and stop them from running out of control. Winning a city or two through peace treaties can stop them in their tracks without giving you a Warmonger penalty of your own.
Start Bias: Avoid Jungle
The Zulu's Impi Spear Throw Attack
An Impi uses the Spear Throw before engaging in Melee Combat

Strategies/Ideas for playing Shaka:
The Iklwa Bonus for Shaka is arguably the best of all the Warmonger bonuses in Civ 5 Brave New World. Even late in the game, you'll benefit from lower unit maintenance costs as units like tanks are considered melee attackers. Shaka's army is also easy to upgrade, given the reduction in XP requirements for promotions. This affects not only your melee, but also ranged units as they will be able to get past Shock/Drill III to get Logistics for Range +1, March, and two attacks. Though the maintenance reduction is only for melee, you'll require ranged for city conquest as well as defense, so do take advantage of this for all your units. Hell, even bombers will get XP faster with Shaka - that is if your opponents ever make it that far up the tech tree.

The Ikanda Barracks replacement is one great building, though its effects wear off once you are producing units later in the game, as the promotion line will no longer be available. The point is to get a large army early and take advantage of this promotion line, for your melee will upgrade and get to keep all these bonuses. So, yes, you can have Riflemen running about with all those great upgrades as you enter the Industrial Era.

The big thing to emphasize here is that to take full advantage of Shaka and the Zulu's unique bonuses is to get a large army out early and acquire all those upgrades through combat with barbarians (for City-State quests and protecting your lands) and early-game conquest of other Civilizations. This is the go-to Civ for a Domination Win in Brave New World. Most of this is due to the Ikanda and the unique upgrades you'll get, along with the Impi. As soon as you have the Monument in each expansion/city you conquer, build an Ikanda and go from there. Let's have a look at those upgrades, which must be taken in order:

  • Buffalo Horns - All pre-Renaissance Melee coming out of the Ikanda will start with this upgrade, giving +1 Movement, +25% Flank attack bonus, and +10% defense against ranged... with the free +15xp and resulting promotion, you can pick the next:
  • Buffalo Chest - +10% combat strength when in open terrain, another 25% to base flank attack bonus, and an additional 10% defense against ranged attacks.
  • Buffalo Loins - The final in this unique line of upgrades gives +10% combat strength and yet another 25% flank/10% defense against ranged. By this time, they'll essentially have a cover I promotion giving 30% defense against ranged attacks.

Note that you won't be getting +75% combat strength from flanking, but ultimately ~18% at max. It adds to the base, but this is quite enough to make them powerful. Those upgrades stacking up make any melee the Zulu produce particularly powerful and mobile. Impi aside, Swordsmen and Longswordsmen perform wonderfully, but early-game, even Spearmen will be benefiting from these upgrades and make great cannon fodder for Composite Bowmen to focus their arrows on your target City.

Now let's talk about the Impi themselves, which make beelining Civil Service after your Luxuries are connected a key strategy for playing Shaka. Impi's spear attack is not included in the combat estimate, so they'll always do more damage than stated. On the defense, my Impi were not throwing spears before combat began, which could've been a bug (not showing the animation or not working alltogether). However, on the offense, these two attacks give two separate XP boosts - first the +2 for ranged, then +5 for melee - that coupled with the Zulu unique bonus will make their promotions come very fast. The mobility from the Buffalo Horns upgrade makes it easy to get them out of harm's way, as well as walk about an enemy City's territory and pillage for gold and health. Impi do not upgrade to Lancers as the Pikeman does, but rather the much later Rifleman (note it even skips muskets), upon which time you will keep all the upgrades you've acquired.

Because of Spearmen upgrading to Impi, there is no real need for your Civ to have Iron early in the game. I did take advantage and build a couple of Swordsmen before Impi came available, but it was not a necessity. While waiting on Impi, I recommend building loads of Archers and Composite Bowmen to begin the upgrade process and get them closer to the really powerful upgrades. Get at least a few Spearmen to cap Cities and get their Buffalo line going. The mobility will help a lot in early combat.

The Zulu's Unique Unit, Bonus, and Unique Building all lean toward Domination
Shaka's Zulu are amazing at Domination Victories. My experience is summarized below

In writing for Shaka and the Zulu, I played a Large Pangaea on Emperor difficulty and found it to be a very easy game. I do not recommend starting with Honor. Liberty is the best starting social policy choice for Shaka. This lets you focus on expansion to a few Cities early, while your Cities don't need to build a Settler until after you've got the free one for the production bonus. I suggest you go Scout > Monument > Worker > Archer and consider building the Pyramids in your Capital after you've expanded to 3 Cities. Get Ikanda in all those Cities and start producing Archers/Composite Bowmen and Spearmen to conquer your first opposing Civ. Leave City-States alone, for their bonuses will be helpful when you're rich later on. Tech straight to Civil Service while you wage war, and when you can pull out the Impi most Civs will be at a loss to stop you. Get important buildings like Libraries and the National College as soon as you are able without compromising your war plans.

After getting Civil Service, I went to Guilds and was able to build Machu Picchu with the free Great Engineer I chose after finishing Liberty. The next Social Policy tree for me was Commerce, for the extra happiness for luxuries, less road maintenance, purchasing Landsknechts, along with the reduction in gold purchasing costs and ability to build Big Ben for even cheaper purchasing in Cities. Landsknechts work great with Buffalo Horns and can greatly aid you when many Civs have declared war - they are able to move right away after being purchased, and are the best unit to use when conquering a City due to the bonus gold you'll get for the cap. Great Merchant purchases with Faith will also help get City-State alliances in key locations (between you and your next target) and help with unit upgrade costs. I made heavy use of Trading Posts in all grassland spots that were not next to a river. At times, I could shift all Cities to Gold if needed, but mostly focused on Food when not in a Golden Age (shift to production to catch up on buildings like Libraries, Markets, and Banks).

Great People are still important. I got a writer's guild as soon as my army was capable of attacking while simultaneously defending my lands. I wouldn't bother with any Academies from Great Scientists because they wouldn't be coming until fairly late with such a strategy and it helps you immediately get toward a Wonder you might want or a new military/economic technology. I used Great Artists for Golden Ages, through Writers were used for Great Works of Writing to help borders expand and gobble land, to prevent annoying land grabs in my controlled territory's gaps by AI. Moving Great Works around will help with this, when you can afford to buy/build an Amphitheater.

At one point in my game, literally every Civ declared War on me and I was able to easily fight them back with my huge army. It was ultimately a help, because on the defensive you can set up your ranged in good positions to rack up the experience and get those key upgrades (+1 range, then extra attack, then March). I gradually annexed my puppeted Cities as happiness allowed, and used gold to buy City-State allies, focusing on Mercantile, then Maritime. Eventually, all but my next target were willing to sign peace treaties, and some even handed over Cities for free just to get out of it. During that time, I simply defended my lands while pushing for the next target, all the while continuing to build up my forces knowing the importance of those melee keeping the Buffalo line of promotions. When you have about 20 Cities, puppets or not, you'll have plenty of Science coming in to stay competitive. At no point was I more than 8% behind in literacy despite the fact that I did not get a national college out for a very long time. When you have a large, sharp army and walls/castles on border Cities, AI are often too scared to DoW you.

Winning as the Zulu
Shaka rocks. I could have won any Victory Condition but Diplomatic

I did not choose Honor at any point. Gold was more important to my war efforts and the Zulu already have that XP reduction to help their military, while the Gold from Commerce was more than enough to make up for the high cost of upgrading units throughout the ages. I would never need to buy a Great General with Faith and the Gold from kills is paltry when you have a massive empire. On smaller maps I would think otherwise. Most everything I could get from Honor could come from Commerce because of all the buildings that I could stand to buy, plus the huge boost you get when +2 Happiness from all Luxuries kicks in when you control a massive chunk of the continent. Another reason for Commerce is the huge amount of road maintenance you'll pay with such a wide empire. Impi worked well until Riflemen were available, but at that point the game was decided... I just had to go through the paces and continue pushing west to finish off the rest of the Capitals. I didn't bother totally eliminating Civs, just left them in horrible positions and unable to compete with me. I had several Crossbowmen with all the good upgrades, which were about as good as Artillery and even good against Cities with 40+ defense.

Discussion of Ideologies is pretty pointless. In most games as Shaka, it will barely matter because if you're going to win, the outcome will be clear and the victory will come too early for you to max it out. Every Civ will hate you and you'll simply want to pick something that helps shore up some weakness in your Civ, whether it be money or happiness. Autocracy immediately comes to mind, however.

I never bothered with Making a Religion but did build Faith-generating buildings to take advantage of buildings like Pagodas that can be built with Faith. I did some spreading of a Religion I liked, which luckily had Itinerant Preachers. Anything you can do to make your inevitably wide empire happier or increase income is to your benefit. Happiness will let your Cities grow and bring about a few Golden Ages throughout your game.

Civilization Bonuses, Unique Units, Strategies and Openings
Sid Meier's Civ 5 is a deep strategy game. I created these individual Civilization Guides to highlight the strengths of their specials and unique units. If you have an opener or tip for playing this Civ that you would like to share with other readers, please use the comments form below. Some Guides are in need of update and will be improved to a new standard of quality or altered to reflect gameplay changes in G&K and Brave New World.
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Comments (4)

Shade says...
Thanks I've been trying to play as the Zulu just to see how I can be when playing aggressively. This guide definitely broadens my perspectives. I'm definitely exing out Religion. It'll be a waste of time.
21st August 2014 6:02pm
Enoch Wong says...
Helpful guide, I hate getting raped by the Zulu early game.. Been trying to win on King without getting rushed early on but with Shaka that's impossible.
6th August 2014 9:22pm
SteveC says...
" Impi do not upgrade to Lancers as the Pikeman does, but rather the much later Rifleman (note it even skips muskets), upon which time you will keep all the upgrades you've acquired."
Before riflemen were researched, I had an Impi come across the Ruins (that give a random bonus) and it turned the Impi unit into a Lancer :\ Just something to be aware of.
2nd October 2014 12:18am
Rilyharytoze says...
As a side note Impi get a 25% cs bonus against gunpowder units so even though you skip Musketmen they're still plenty strong when facing Musketmen and even Riflemen
9th October 2014 6:15pm
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