Top 10 Hardest Civs To Play in Civilization 6This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Civilization VI is a reasonably balanced game.
You can win a game as any civilization if you make the right choices – both in single-player and multi-player matches.
That said, it’s easier to win with some leaders than with others.
Trajan’s Rome or Barbarossa’s Germany are absolute powerhouses. Even someone who just booted up the game for the first time might somehow lead them to victory thanks to their potent and straightforward abilities.
Others take a lot more effort and careful planning to shine.
In this ranking, we’re looking at the toughest civilizations that’ll push your skills & knowledge of the game to the limit to get a win.
10. Philip II’s Spain
If I had to describe playing as Spain in one phrase, I’d say: it’s “Spain,” but without the “s.”
Philip II makes playing as Spain a challenge because the bonuses are too dependent on finding different continents and establishing naval dominance.
If you manage to recreate the Spanish Empire, colonize a continent across the sea, and start raking in the coin with their tripled Gold, Faith and Production bonuses, you’re good to go.
Fail to do just that, and Philip II is worse than Tamar on release day.
9. Mansa Musa’s Mali
I love playing as Mansa Musa due to his insane Gold-producing potential. But the early game as Mali is absolutely hellish.
Mali’s starting bias means you’ll start in the desert. This is good for your bonuses, all of which have to do with desert tiles, but it also means you’ll have to found your first city in hard-to-work territory.
While City Centers get some extra Food and Faith for every adjacent desert tile, it’s not enough for potent growth. Mines on desert hills also produce less, so you can see why starting as Mali takes skill.
If someone decides to rush you, you’re pretty much done.
8. Jadwiga’s Poland
Poland has many solid bonuses but seemingly no synergy between them.
Their Sukiennice unique building requires you to build a Commercial Hub, their Encampments can culture bomb tiles around them when built, and they need a Holy Site to start accumulating Relics and getting extra yields from them.
That’s three distinct districts you must build to get the most of Jadwiga – and that doesn’t even count the Campuses you’ll need to beeline the Winged Hussar UU.
Practice and learn how to embody the female King of Poland, though, and she can be one of the most potent leaders in the game.
7. Lautaro’s Mapuche
Lautaro is a leader who either dominates the game or fails miserably at everything.
The Mapuche are a warring civilization meant to destabilize other civs and take their cities amid the chaos. They achieve this by lowering enemy city loyalty through military victories near their territory.
One of the biggest problems with this is that trying to actively take a city becomes a numbers game. If you overdo it, it’ll turn into a Free City and spawn even more defenders when your army is already damaged from your fight against the city’s original owner.
That said, if you learn to deal with this and leverage your bonuses – such as 5% extra Culture and Production yields from cities with governors – Lautaro can be a force to be reckoned with.
6. Wilfrid Laurier’s Canada
Canada presents a unique challenge for new players because it plays into two of the most confusing systems in the game: Tourism and Appeal.
Wilfrid Laurier can’t declare (or be the target of) surprise wars, making a Domination victory almost impossible. Canada also lacks any bonuses for Science or Religion victories – leaving only the Culture war to be won.
To do this, you must leverage your Ice Hockey Rink tile improvement’s ability to increase the Appeal of surrounding tiles and the Mountie UU’s ability to create National Parks to boost your Tourism.
Easy on paper but surprisingly challenging in practice.
A tip? Build Preserves. You’ll thank me later.
5. Shaka’s Zulu
Shaka’s Zulu is a warring civilization through and through.
Their ability to dominate the battlefield thanks to early Corps and Armies can’t be understated, and their unique Pikeman replacement – the Impi – is one of the best Medieval units you can ask for.
The problem is, if you fail to utilize the Impi correctly and suck at warfare – which is common in beginners and mid-level players – you have no tools to pivot and will suffer a slow, humiliating defeat.
4. Gilgamesh’s Sumer
Something similar happens with Gilgamesh’s Sumer – except you’ll be doomed to failure much earlier in the game.
Gilgamesh can lead his allies in epic campaigns against their common enemies thanks to their ability to declare wars without warmonger penalties, share pillage yields with their allies, and increase the allied units’ combat strength by five.
They also have the War Cart unique heavy cavalry unit, which easily dominates battlefields in the early game.
Going to war in the early game is always a gamble. Fail, and you’ve wasted a ton of turns building units that are now dead or useless. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever catch up to your rivals.
3. Harald Hardrada’s Norway
Harald’s inclusion in this ranking will surely be a source of controversy among our readers.
Some people feel Norway is useless in anything but Archipelago maps, while others just think everything will be fine if you abuse their coastal raiding capabilities.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
The Norwegians can quickly establish naval dominance on any map with at least some oceanic water thanks to their 50% increased production toward naval melee units and unique Viking Longship.
If you’re unlucky enough to spawn near other naval civs, or your neighbors detect you early and fortify the coast in an MP game, you will have a bad time. Your victory depends on your ability to take the seas by force.
2. Gandhi’s India
Gandhi’s India is a conflicted religious civilization whose abilities progressively worsen the more they approach a Religious victory.
You’ll get +5 Faith production for each civilization you meet that has founded a religion and is not currently at war. In addition, Indian cities profit from Follower Beliefs of all faiths with at least one follower within their borders.
This is all reasonably powerful at first glance, but “keeping worldwide peace” and “promoting religious diversity” are simply not a route to either Domination or Religious victories.
Considering Gandhi gets no bonuses toward any other victory types either, you can begin to see the problem here.
1. Tamar’s Georgia
Georgia’s uselessness in the early days of Civilization VI is the stuff of legends.
Recent updates and rebalances have given Tamar’s Georgia much more of a fighting chance – but it remains pretty lackluster.
You’ll notice playing as Georgia isn’t really that hard. Thanks to their 50% increased production toward walls, you’re basically unconquerable in the early game, and the Khevsur Man-at-Arms replacement is not bad at all.
Now, winning as Georgia?
That’s a whole other story.
While your survival is granted, you can’t lean into any of their abilities to advance any victory conditions – you can only rely on your own skill, and that’s hard on main.