Sid Meier’s Civilization 6 has as many different ways to play as you can possibly imagine, but who should players turn to as the Best Leader when they decide to play?
Originally released in 2016, even four years later the consistent updates and persistently quality gameplay has caused Civilization 6 to endure as a favorite on multiple platforms. On top of the core game, Civilization 6 has had multiple piece of downloadable content and three full expansions.
Gathering Storm and Rise and Fall are out in full, while New Frontier Pass is available and still has more content to release until it’s complete. Civ 6 will boast 54 different leaders across 50 different civilizations once New Frontier Pass is complete, more than any other installment of Civilization has had before.
That means there are more ways to play than ever, but who are the game’s Best Leaders? Who stands out from the pack as the Best Leader when it comes to each victory type and each of the game’s Expansion Packs?
Who is the Best Leader for beginner players? Who is best for gold, production, World Wonders, or an Ocean-heavy Naval map?
The Best Leader for Every Victory Type in Civilization 6 (2020)
There are six different ways to win in Civilization 6. These six victory types require different styles of play, and certain leaders excel above most others when it comes to one specific victory type.
Some players may aim to knock out one of the game’s many achievements by starting a game with a specific victory type in mind, but who is the Best Leader to turn to in each of those moments? As some of these are DLC specific, there are Non-DLC Honorable Mentions below those DLC choices.
Best Leader for Domination Victory in Civ 6: Shaka Zulu (Rise and Fall)
If you want to blitz your enemies out of existence, there’s no better choice than the fabled Shaka Zulu, introduced in the Rise and Fall Expansion. As a leader, Shaka’s bonus Amabutho makes a significant difference in creating a dominant military before other civilizations can.
The ability allows you to form Corps and Armies earlier than normal, but you will still need some culture to get the needed Civics to create them. Once your army is bolstered with Corps and Armies, they’ll also gain additional combat strength from Amabutho.
As the leader of the Zulu, you’ll also have access to the unique Impi unit and Ikanda district. Impi replace the Pikeman, and brings with it lower production cost, lower maintenance cost, and improved flanking and experience bonuses.
The Ikanda district, which replaces the Encampment, is also key to turning out Corps and Armies faster than other civilizations. The one weakness for the Zulu is naval combat, as most of their bonuses come on land.
However, if you’ve got a largely land-based map, you can’t go wrong with Shaka Zulu for a powerful path towards a Domination Victory. Remember that you don’t need every other city in the game, you just need to take the capitals from other civilizations, and you’ll want to send out scouts early to discover them and know where to send your military.
- Non-DLC Honorable Mention: Tomyris of Sycthia
Your best option outside of Rise and Fall will be Tomyris of Scythia, a consistent favorite for those pursuing a Domination Victory. Scythia’s unique Saka Horse Archer is a great unit, and the civilization’s ability to get a free second copy of Saka Horse Archer or any light cavalry when built can help amass a large military with speed.
Best Leader for Science Victory in Civ 6: Seondeok of Korea (Rise and Fall)
No civilization is more perfectly suited for the pursuit of a Science Victory than Korea, and Seondeok is the leader that will take you there. Seondeok’s leader bonus Hwarang gives a boost to Culture and Science for cities that have an established governor, so you’ll want to be sure to get them in place.
Korea’s Three Kingdoms civilization ability boosts the benefits from Farms and Mines placed surrounding their unique Seowan district, which replaces the Campus and puts you on track for the Science Victory that Korea should be going after. You’ll want to keep that in mind and place your Seowan near tiles that can be turned into those improvements.
In order to keep yourself on track, leverage the scientific advancements that will provide access to technologies earlier than other civilizations. As you continue to build out your empire, additional cities will provide additional Seowan districts, further boosting your Science and putting you on track to victory.
- Non-DLC Honorable Mention: Gilgamesh of Sumeria
A great choice if you don’t have access to Rise and Fall would be Gilgamesh of Sumeria, almost entirely because of the unique Ziggurat tile improvement. Avoid locations with too many Hills tiles, where the Ziggurat can’t be built, and focus on building them next to rivers which also boost your Culture.
Best Leader for Religious Victory in Civ 6: Mansa Musa of Mali (Gathering Storm)
Introduced in the Gathering Storm Expansion, Mansa Musa of Mali needs to be near the desert, but can rake in unparalleled benefits from having that prime location. City Centers gain bonus Faith and Food from adjacent Desert and Desert Hills tiles, which should tell you where you want to settle.
On top of that, their Mines have a unique loss to production in favor of a significant gold boost. Their unique district, Suguba, replaces the Commercial Hub and you can purchase its Commercial Hub buildings with Faith rather than Gold.
Boost your Faith early and found the Desert Folklore Pantheon once you’re able, which will boost Faith output for Holy Site districts that have adjacent Desert tiles. As the game progresses, continue to settle multiple cities in desert locales, boost your Faith, and spread your religion far and wide.
As you’re working your way through, the dual benefit of Mansa Musa is significant boosts to gold output, especially from International Trade Routes that come from your desert-heavy cities. This will keep you on track, make up for a lack of Production, and help build military units if they’re needed at any point.
- Non-DLC Honorable Mention: Gandhi of India
If you don’t have Gathering Storm, a great fallback and a classic for Religious Victory is going to be Gandhi of India. As a leader he’ll gain bonus Faith for meeting Civilizations that have a Religion but are not at war, and bonus Follower Beliefs of other religions that have at least one follower in their cities, even if they aren’t the majority.
Best Leader for Culture Victory in Civ 6: Qin Shi Huang of China
If you want to pursue a Culture Victory, they can be challenging but have lots of different paths. While many leaders can help achieve this goal, Qin Shi Huang of China has a combo of unique builder boosts and the Great Wall that can make a huge impact when on this path.
Thanks to the leader bonus of Qin Shi Huang, all builders receive an additional build charge and can spend a charge to complete 15% of the Production cost for Ancient and Classical Era World Wonders. Building Wonders is key to a Culture Victory because it can make a huge impact on your Tourism.
On top of that, China’s unique Great Wall tile improvement is used on the border of your territory and can’t be built on top of resources. While the defense strength from units in those tiles can help, it’s the Gold and Culture boost from adjacent Great Wall tiles that really comes in handy.
You’ll want to be sure to unlock the Castles technology as early as possible to get that Culture boost, and then focus on expanding your empire, building more Great Wall, and turning out World Wonders. Even with the challenge of a Culture Victory, Qin Shi Huang can help take you all the way.
Best Leader for Diplomatic Victory in Civ 6: Wilfrid Laurier of Canada (Gathering Storm)
If you’re playing without the Gathering Storm Expansion, you won’t have to worry about a Diplomatic Victory because it wasn’t introduced into Civilization 6 until that Expansion provided the new World Congress. To seek a Diplomatic Victory, you’ll want to leverage Diplomatic Favor and rack up enough Diplomatic Victory Points to take the win.
Fortunately, Gathering Storm comes with an ideal choice to seek that style of win in the lovely Canadian leader Wilfrid Laurier. You’ll want to focus on earning Culture as well, as this will go hand in hand with Canada’s Diplomatic Victory.
Due to the civilization’s unique ability Four Faces of Peace, Wilfrid can’t declare surprise wars, can’t have surprise wards declared on him, and gains additional Diplomatic Favor from Tourism and completed Emergencies and Competitions. You’ll see these come into play through the World Congress.
You’re also likely to want to stick to the top and bottom of the map to be near Tundra and Snow tiles that will give boosts to the unique Ice Hockey Rink tile improvement. Building them will help the Appeal of surrounding tiles, key for Tourism boosts, and add to Culture, and even Food and Production once you’ve got the Professional Sports civic later in the game.
While you’ll definitely want to focus as much as possible on getting Diplomatic Victory points, also keep an eye on opposing civilizations in case one is too close to you and leverage some of your Diplomatic Favor to keep them from staying in the running for a Diplomatic Victory.
Best Leader for Score Victory in Civ 6: Frederick Barbarossa of Germany
Getting a Score Victory is usually not going to be your main focus in Civilization 6. Instead, you’ll probably focus on another path, and have a potential Score Victory in mind should the game go long.
The only time the game’s Score matters is if you play until time is up. The amount of turns allotted in a game can vary based on play speed, and whoever has the highest score if you get through every single turn without someone else securing the win will take the Score Victory, which is why it’s also often referred to as a Time Victory.
Most things you complete in the game will boost your score, whether it’s Great Persons, total citizens, buildings, technology and civics researched, World Wonders, or districts. For this reason, Frederick Barbarossa of Germany stands above the rest because of his significant Production ability.
Germany’s unique Hansa district replaces the Industrial Zone and makes them the Production powerhouse of Civilization 6. On top of that, the Civilization ability Free Imperial Cities allows each city to build one more district than the population limit would normally allow, which will help with progress and your final score.
Best Leaders from each Expansion Pack in Civilization 6
While the core game of Civilization 6 was released in 2016, it’s seen new expansion packs in 2018, 2019, and now in 2020. Rise and Fall, released in February 2018, added the gameplay features of Loyalty, Great Ages, and Governors. It also added nine leaders and eight civilizations.
Gathering Storm, released in February 2019, brought the environmental impact and affect on global warming into the game in an all new way. New weather, the World Congress, the new Diplomatic Victory type, and nine new leaders joined the fold.
Finally, we have the New Frontier Pass which is releasing over a period of several months. The new content first started in May, and we can still expect more all the way to March of 2021, ultimately giving us eight new civilizations, nine new leaders, and six new game modes when it’s complete.
Along with each of these has come a slew of new leaders, but who stands out from the rest? Who is the Best Leader from each of the game’s expansion packs?
Best Leader in Gathering Storm in Civ 6: Mansa Musa of Mali
Covered above as the chosen Best Leader for Religious Victory, Mansa Musa of Mali is a powerful new option introduced in Gathering Storm. While his bonuses pair best with a Religious Victory, the truth is that the versatility of gold makes Mansa Musa viable for many different play styles.
On top of that, not having to rely on heavy production in later parts of the game from polluting buildings like the Coal Power Plant, thanks to the usage of Gold over Production, can help mitigate environmental impacts as things progress which feels all too fitting for Gathering Storm.
Best Leader in Rise and Fall in Civ 6: Seondeok of Korea
Covered in more detail above as the chosen Best Leader for Science Victory, Seoneok of Korea stands out among several unique leaders introduced in Rise and Fall. Also, not unlike Mansa Musa, Seondeok feels perfectly fitted to the expansion that introduced her.
With Rise and Fall bringing governors into play, the unique bonuses provided by Seondeok’s leader ability Hwarang from having an established governor really do utilize this new expansion in the best way.
Best Leader in New Frontier Pass in Civ 6: Lady Six Sky of Maya
Introduced in the first pack for the New Frontier Pass, Lady Six Sky of Maya introduce an entirely unique style of play that feels different from just about any other leader and civilization in the entire game. Lady Six Sky thrives on having a closely clustered civilization, wanting to keep cities close together rather than expanding outward.
Using areas heavy in flat Grassland or Plains tiles, especially if they’ve got Plantation resources, the Mayan civilization crafts a dense and truly powerful empire that can focus on a Science Victory and leverage major boosts to housing despite the lack of land owned by your civilization.
Civilization 6: Beginners, Wonders, and More
While not specific to a Victory Type or an Expansion Pack, there are a few other leaders that deserve recognition for specific circumstances. Civilization 6 can be a daunting game, so it’s key to know where to start if you’re a beginner.
On top of that, Gold, Production, World Wonders, and Ocean-heavy naval maps all have leaders that stand out from the rest as perfectly suited to handling those things in the best way possible.
Best Leader for Beginners in Civ 6: Saladin of Arabia
If you’re new to Civilization 6, the reality is you’re going to want to try multiple games and different leaders to get a feel for lots of different play styles to figure out what works best for you. If you need someone to start with, Saladin of Arabia is one of the game’s most versatile options.
You don’t have to fret over getting a Great Prophet before they’re all gone because the game will automatically give you the last one if the others are claimed. Once you’ve got your religion founded, spread the good word because you’ll get Science bonuses from foreign cities following Arabia’s religion.
You’ll also benefit from the unique Mamluk unit, which heals at the end of every turn, even if it also moved or attacked in that turn. This can be a great help, as one of the biggest struggles early on can be fighting a difficult war. Mamluk make that challenge a bit more forgiving, which is great for beginners.
Best Leader for Gold in Civ 6: Mansa Musa of Mali (Gathering Storm)
As covered in detail above in the Religious Victory entry, Mansa Musa of Mali can leverage Faith and Gold to make up for a lack of Production. Between the bonuses you get from mines and the Golden Age boon of an extra trade route, Mansa Musa can quickly become the richest civilization around.
- Non-DLC Honorable Mention: Mvemba a Nzinga of Kongo
If you don’t have access to Gathering Storm, an interesting choice to boost your Gold output is Mvemba a Nzinga. The Kongolese civilization ability Nkisi boosts gold for Relics, Artifacts, and Sculptures. This puts a pursuit of gold hand in hand with an aim towards a Culture Victory that thrives on producing Great People.
If you’re going to be on a map that’s ocean-heavy and light on land, your best option is going to be Harald Hadrada of Norway. Unsurprisingly, Norway comes with a civilization ability that gives an early edge by allowing you to enter Ocean tiles after researching Shipbuilding, instead of having to wait until you’ve researched Cartography.
On top of that, the Viking Longship unit, unique to Harald Hadrada, has a higher combat strength than the Galley it replaces, is cheaper to produce, and can heal much better. Utilizing the Viking Longship for Coastal Raids can give you an early edge on an ocean map that becomes too much for opponents to overcome.
Best Leader for Production in Civ 6: Frederick Barbarossa of Germany
Mentioned above as the Beast Leader for Score Victory, the thing that makes Frederick Barbarossa so powerful is his ability to leverage Production output like no other. Production can come in handy in a lot of ways while playing Civilization 6, and gives a versatility to most play styles.
Whatever your ultimate goals are, significant Production is going to help it. Look to Germany’s unique Hansa district, replacing the Industrial Zone, to push you above the rest in pure Production.
Best Leader for World Wonders in Civ 6: Qin Shi Huang of China
It can be fascinating to build unique World Wonders while playing Civilization 6, oftentimes pairing seemingly incomparable things like the Statue of Liberty and Petra in surprising proximity. If you’re interested in building as many World Wonders as possible, Qin Shi Huang is your guy.
His unique leader ability The First Emperor will allow builders to use build charges to complete 15% of the Production cost for Ancient and Classical Wonders. Those builders also come with a baked in extra charge, making them key as the Chinese seek to amass as many World Wonders as possible.