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Does anyone have any insight into what rule the cultural border expansion follows?

Weakest tiles first?
Strongest tiles first?

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You can see which tile your city is going to go for next by opening the city screen and looking for the hex with a purple border. It definitely isn't random, it tries to pick the "best" tiles. Generally it seems to go for resources first, but it also doesn't seem to go for tiles that are 3 hexes away until it has gotten all the ones that are two hexes away. Of course, you can always purchase a tile yourself if it is one you really want.

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You can only purchase tiles up to distance 3, though, while border expansion is up to distance 5. – Oak Feb 27 '11 at 20:35
@Oak While purchase capability is up to distance 3, I have personally expanded far beyond distance 5. Of course, I was only using one city at the time. Incidentally, I believe that culture plays a factor in the rate of border expansion. – Yuuki Oct 25 '12 at 4:22
@Yawus yes, cultural border expansion depends on the culture output of the city (open the city screen and hover over the culture output on the left to see details). Cultural borders will never expand beyond range 5, though. The only way to claim tiles that are further away than range 5 is by a culture bomb (or a citadel, in the expansion). – Oak Oct 25 '12 at 8:35

It acquires tiles in order of "shortest distance" in terms of how many movement points it would take to get to that tile from the city. So a flat tile two (or even three) squares away would be acquired before a hill/forest two squares away. I don't believe that it uses the tile value, but it may favor resources against resourceless at the same distance.

You can see which tile it's going to acquire on the city screen as it will be colored magenta on the city tile map.

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Would the downvoter care to elaborate on why they think this isn't how it works? – Mark B Jan 12 '12 at 14:26

Most of automation in Civ5 is based upon the city "orientation" you select in the upper right corner of the city management screen.

For example if you select gold, then your automated workers will build trading posts everywhere around the city, but you should get mines instead if you go for production. I think that the cultural selection follows the same rules

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Do you have any evidence to show that this has an effect on cultural selection? – bwarner Jan 11 '12 at 22:54

I've noticed in the games that I've played that, especially at the start of a match, it goes for whatever you have researched or are researching.

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