Civilization 5: Achievement Guide (Part 1)


Civilization 5 is easily my most-played game on the PC. Steam claims I’ve played over 300 hours, although there was a considerable stretch of time there where I was playing in offline mode, so I doubt those stats are 100% accurate.

Still, in over two and a half years of play I’ve yet to get even half of the achievements for this game. Given my love for both achievements and Civilization, this cannot stand! Over the Steam Holiday Sale I snagged all the expansions and DLC for a song. I have been working towards some of the thornier achievements in the game, and I’m here to share my secrets and strategies.

In this round, I’ll be covering mostly achievements available in the base game. In future installments, I’ll go over thorny achievements from scenario packs and the expansion pack.

Do note that there are many achievements that are much easier with the expansion pack – Gods and Kings (G&K) – installed. I’ll try to note when I’m speaking about G&K specific stuff, and offer alternate strategies if possible.

General Achievement Tricks

Here are a few tricks you can use across most achievements to make the whole process go a bit easier.

The Achievement Debug Log

The achievement debug log was supposed to be a developer-only option, but word of it spread, as it is useful for determining where you are with respect to certain achievements. There’s a lot of useful info in there. For a while it was turned off, but then Firaxis turned access to it back on in a later patch.

You can turn it on by:

  1. From your My Documents folder, open “My Games” and then “Sid Meier’s Civilization 5”
  2. Open the file “config.ini” in a text editor
  3. Find the line called “LoggingEnabled” and change the 0 at the end to a 1
  4. Save the modified file

This will cause the game to create a file called “achievements_debug.log” in a folder called “Logs.” This Logs folder is in the same folder as config.ini above. This file is rewritten when you exit the game, and when you launch it and get to the main menu.

Do note that a lot of the entries in this log only update when the game is first launched. If you want to see your changes, make sure you quit the game completely and restart it. Once the game gets back to the main menu again, you can Alt-Tab out and refresh the log to see the changes.

The “Hotseat Trick”

One trick here is that you can actually play without the AI, if you so choose. If you start a Hotseat game from the Multiplayer menu, you can choose to have all human players. However, now you’ve got to manage the game from multiple perspectives, and on a large map or a slow computer, the game really lags.

I haven’t tested this with all the counting achievements, so I’d suggest starting up a hotseat game, testing the achievement you’re working towards, and then saving and quitting. Reload the game, and see if the achievement debug log registers the changes. It takes a couple of minutes, but that’s better than wasting hours with nothing to show for it.

Do note that winning a game in Hotseat mode counts for Last Man Standing.

Achievement-Specific Strategies

With that out of the way, let’s get down to business and discuss the particulars of some of the more complex achievements.

The Counting Achievements

There are a set of achievements that rely on you to get a crazy number of a bunch of things:

  • Paul Bunyan – chop 1,000 forests. If you have G&K, you can speed this up by playing the Skirmish map, setting the terrain to Forests, turning off Barbarians, and starting in the Information Age. You’ll spawn with a couple of workers, and they chop forests in one turn. Send them out to obliterate the entire world’s supply of trees.
  • Forty-Niner – create 1,000 mines. You can only mine on hills in your own territory, so remember this when choosing your world generation settings. Some maps are more predisposed to having hills than others.
  • Land Baron – buy 1,000 tiles. Tiles get more expensive the more you buy, and you can only buy so far away from your cities. Found new cities in unsettled areas late in the game, and then buy up land like crazy.
  • The Appian Way – build 1,000 roads. You can build and remove a road from a tile repeatedly, so build a bunch of workers and have them stand on useless tiles, building roads to nowhere over and over again.
  • Merchant King – trade 100 resources. One trick to note here is that if you have 2 of a resource, you can trade one of them for lump-sum gold and then destroy the resource improvement. The 30-turn timer will cancel, and you’ll keep the money. Rebuild the improvement, and then you can resell it for another lump sum. It’s cheap, but it works!
  • The Explorer – discover 100 natural wonders. There’s only so many to find per-game, and you’re guaranteed to find them if you explore enough.
  • God Is Great – build 1,000 temples. This sounds terrible, but remember that you can sell buildings in the city screen. Just sell and rebuild your temple over and over again when your city would otherwise be idle. It is possible to get credit for several hundred temple buildings in a single game this way.
You can sell buildings in the city interface.

You can sell buildings in the city interface.

  • Ruler of the Seas – as Elizabeth, sink and destroy 357 enemy naval units. Technically this is civ-specific, even though it’s also a counting achievement. For this, you’re probably going to want to play on a waterlogged map, and have Raging Barbarians turned on. Go dominate the oceans for fun and profit!

Panzer “Shafernator” General is the monster of them all. You have to win 100 times, build an army of over 100 units (simultaneously), and spawn 100 great generals.

  • Winning 100 times is just going to take a while. Do note that it counts victories after the first, so if you’ve got the enemy’s army on the ropes and you’re about to win culturally, win one way and continue playing, and then you can win your second (or third) victory in peace.
  • Great generals spawn when you win military engagements, and you get a free one on the Honor track. There are other wonders and social policies that can spawn great people, just keep your eyes peeled and always pick a general.
  • 100 units in a standing army. Yikes. This is going to destroy your production – past a certain point, unit upkeep will impact your production civilization-wide. The easiest thing to do is build missiles. Save your gold the entire game, and then mass-buy missiles as fast as you can. They’re cheap, and they stack, so you don’t have to find 100 tiles to store your units on.

Master of the Universe & Civ Specific Achievements

For this achievement, you’ve got to win a game as each of the leaders, DLC leaders excluded. There are 18 leaders total. It doesn’t matter how you win, you just need to complete the game.

Here’s my first fast track to achievements – play “quick” games, at settler difficulty, on duel size maps, against 1 AI opponent. I’d also suggest playing the Pangea map type. (Skirmish is better, but only available if you have Gods and Kings installed.) The fastest way to win is almost always Domination – capturing the enemy capital(s) – and nothing slows you down faster than having to cross water.

As far as the enemy AI Civ is concerned, I’d pick Egypt, at least until you have Tomb Raider. You’ve got to wait for Egypt to build burial tombs, and then take a city that has one. Sometimes the burial tombs are destroyed when you siege the city, which means this one can take a while to get. You’ll likely be playing a lot of games for both this, Panzer “Shafernator” General and possibly Model of a Modern Major General, so you’ve got a lot of chances.

Here's a sample custom game setup for Alexander.  Get used to this screen!

Here’s a sample custom game setup for Alexander. Get used to this screen!

For the fastest road to victory, rush to siege units, and in the meantime crank out warriors. Take the Honor policy track for the free Great General, although you might consider taking Liberty for the free Worker and Worker improvement speed bonus. Don’t bother founding a second city. This is easier with Gods and Kings, since it removes the Iron requirement for building Catapults. Otherwise, you’re going to have to go get Iron Working first, and find Iron and mine it. If you lack the expansion, I’d almost suggest cranking out Archers instead, since this is likely to take a long time.

While you’re doing these games, you might keep a couple of other things in mind:

  • Model of a Modern Major General requires that you build every unit type, including the unique units for each civ. If you can, try to build some of these at the same time. I’ll cover this achievement and ways to farm it later, though.
  • It may be easier to start later in the game – for instance, try jumping ahead to the age where that civ’s unique units are in play. This can also help with cranking out siege units – there’s no need to research as many techs or hope to get lucky with resource placement later in the game.

Each civ also has a unique achievement. Some of these may require that you take a less-speedy route to victory. Most of these should be pretty clear or easy to get, but there’s a few that I will point out for special consideration:

  • From Archaemennid to Safavid – for this achievement, the only golden ages that count are those that are started from happiness. Starting one through policy, wonders, great people, etc, does not count. Try to maximize your happiness early in the game to get this one.
  • Barbary Pirate – This cannot be done with Gods and Kings enabled. They changed the way the unit capture works in the expansion, and it breaks this achievement. You can disable the Gods and Kings expansion pack from the main menu, and then you can attempt this. An island-focused map with raging barbarians also helps.
  • Conquest of the World – I attempted this several times before I got it, even though each time I won a Domination victory before 350 BC. I believe the problem was playing on “Quick.” Set your game to normal speed and start from the ancient era. If you have Gods and Kings, you should be able to do this easily on the Skirmish map by rushing Catapults and cranking out Warriors. Without G&K, you’ll need iron to build Catapults, so it might make more sense to build a ton of archers instead.
  • Kamikaze Attack – Another one broken by G&K. It used to be that units only had 10HP, and so 1HP wasn’t too terribly difficult to get. G&K takes this to 100HP, so this is virtually impossible. I’d suggest turning it off for the purposes of this achievement. I got this by getting a Warrior injured at the start of the game by fighting Barbarians, and then keeping him close to my city until they came near. Make sure your Warrior doesn’t stop moving, or he’ll heal. Then get the Barbarian within an inch of his life by bombarding him with your city, and take him out with your limping Warrior.

Do note that the “hotseat trick” does not work for any of these. You’ll have to play versus the AI to get the civ-specific and victory achievements.

Model of a Modern Major General

For this achievement, you’ve got to build at least one of every unit in the base game. The only difficulty here is that you also must build all the unique units for every civilization. This means you’ve got to play a different game as each of the civilizations. That’s all well and good if you do this at the same time as Master of the Universe, but mopping up what you missed can be a serious pain.

From the main menu, choose Options, then Civilopedia.  From here, you can browse leaders and from there, get info on their unique units.

From the main menu, choose Options, then Civilopedia. From here, you can browse leaders and from there, get info on their unique units.

The unique units are generally most of the problem. The easiest way to view the units they replace is in the Civilopedia. I set the game to a low-resolution windowed mode, and opened the Civilopedia. In another window, I had the achievement log and an empty text editor, where I made notes on the ones I was missing, which civ they belonged to, and what era they came from.

Once you know what units you’re missing, I strongly suggest the “hotseat trick.” I actually finished this achievement in a hotseat game and the achievement notification popped up then and there. I would suggest trying to limit yourself to 2-4 civilizations per game if your system starts to slow down. Pick civilizations that have unique units from the same era to group together. Then, set the start age to that era plus one – that way, you don’t have to wait around to research technologies. Build the units you need, and then end the game.

Deity Difficulty

I don’t usually play Civilization games at the higher difficulty levels. I find them to be frustrating that way, and I’d rather just steamroll the AI for the laughs. If you’re like me, and/or you’re just terrible at Civ at the higher levels, you can still win pretty easily at Deity under the right conditions.

At Deity, the AI gets significant bonuses to almost all areas – its research speed, economy, happiness, production, and military might are all boosted by comparison to yours. Thus, the easiest way to win is where all of those bonuses mean as little as possible.

It’s my opinion that the easiest way to win is to start in the Information Age, on a very small map. Pick an AI opponent who gets bonuses in the early game, and pick one for yourself that has atomic or information age bonuses. I typically match up the Americans with the Egyptians. A Duel-sized Pangea or Skirmish map works well. I did this in a “Quick” game, although that’s more personal preference than anything else.

Once the game starts, send your initial units out to find the enemy capital, and try to establish cities to monopolize the uranium. If you think you’ve got all that you can, try to found cities that will help you push your assault. Pick policies and techs that give you military bonuses – go for nuclear missiles, mechanized infantry, and stealth bombers.

From here, the keys to winning are:

  • Siege units. Build a ton of artillery and rocket artillery, and these units are going to be your primary damage dealers. Build front line infantry (and mechanized infantry) to protect them as needed.
  • Air defense. The AI is terrible at air combat, and often won’t attack if there’s any chance of interception. Build fighters and set them for Interception, and make sure you’ve got at least one anti-air unit travelling with your army.
  • Air offense. Bombers also do massive damage, and they can strike most of the map if it is small enough. Don’t forget to do an Air Sweep with a fighter to clear any intercepting units the AI may be fielding.
  • Nukes. Rush nuclear weapons (especially nuclear missiles!) and control the sources of uranium. Before you declare war, make sure that you know where the uranium is and you can either control it or deny access to it. Nukes are the key here, since they can take out entire armies, pillage enemy uranium stores, or significantly weaken a city’s defenses.
The Nuclear Option.  Literally.

The Nuclear Option. Literally.

From here, it’s just a matter of establishing your cities, cranking out units, and then declaring war as soon as possible. Plan to lose units, but keep your production focused and you’ll eventually come out on top. I was able to do this with about 4 or 5 nuclear missiles, a good dozen bombers, and a land army of about 5 rocket artillery and 5-10 mechanized infantry, which required reinforcements periodically.

Depending on the map layout, it might make sense to found a city strategically to station bombers and other units at for healing. I personally wouldn’t call off the assault if the AI is begging for mercy, since they’ll just have time to rearm, and you’re just going to make it harder to destroy them.

Sadly, winning on Deity doesn’t unlock the lower level difficulty versions of this achievement. Plan to play a set of games if you want all the difficulty level achievements.