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:

You can sell buildings in the city interface.

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.

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!

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:

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:

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.

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:

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.