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I'm new to Civ V but have played Civilization since the beginning. I recently won my first prince level game as the Egyptians, beating England with a time victory. From the onset, bankruptcy was my greatest threat. I maintained a small enough army not to suck my treasury dry. I built markets, banks, stock markets, several customs houses and spent most of the game with cities focused on gold and producing gold. Only the necessary roads were built while the commerce policy tree offered little. I won but had my cities been focused on production, my economy would have collapsed. Once I invaded England and created puppet states, I built trading posts rather than farms without success. In the earlier versions of Civ, advanced civilizations cranked out the gold even with huge millitaries and all city improvements built. Civ V seems geared to bankrupt you.

Am I missing something big? How do I avoid going bankrupt?


I appreciate everyone's help. If cities aren't designed to build every improvement, that will take some getting used to. I've started a new game and will try to specialize each city accordingly. But one difference from previous Civs is the amount of gold received from trading resources. My opponents have never offered a large GPT for anything. This combined with diluted wonders is frustrating.

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5 Answers

Expenses

The top two things that cost you money in Civ 5 are:

  • Buildings
  • Military

To reduce the first one, be strategic about what you build where. Cities should be focused on a task. Pick terrain, tile improvements, and buildings that compliment this focus. For instance, if you are building a production-focused city, build it near hills and forests, and focus on military and production enhancing buildings. Don't build science or cashflow generating buildings, since you won't be producing much of those in this city.

Likewise, if you are building a science focused city, don't build military or other production enhancing buildings there. The city's focus should be on science or economic enhancing buildings instead.

The only exception is happiness - in order to maintain a positive balance on the happiness scale, you'll likely have to build some happiness generation buildings in most or all of your cities. This tends to be one of the largest trade offs economically in most of my games - do I make the people happier, or do I bank some extra gold?

You can also guide each city's governor to focus on a particular area, and this can help your citizens understand what they need to do in order to support your vision for the city. If you leave the governor alone, the city may ignore some of your tile improvements in order to work tiles that create something you're not interested in, but which makes the city's output more balanced.

Also, don't let your workers run free - focus your tile improvements on whatever works best for the city the tile is in the radius of.  Automated workers don't always pick the best terrain improvement for you.  They may destroy forest or plant farms around a city that is going to be production focused, for instance.

Every unit you produce costs you money every turn as well. Try to focus your attention towards a small, but mobile army, and don't fight on multiple fronts if you can avoid it. Mixed unit tactics involving ranged artillery units and close-up front line fighters work best. The AI is terrible at war, and they will generally start on the offensive, even though you've likely got your army massed and ready to funnel them into a meat grinder.

If you find yourself with a strong surplus of units, gift some to an allied city-state. You'll gain influence with them, and if you declare war, those units are likely to still benefit you indirectly.

Income

You gain money via citizens assigned to money-generating tiles, trade agreements with other Civs, and by trade routes between cities. Any duplicate of a luxury resource does you no good - it is there to trade.

If you end up with 2 of a luxury, or more of a strategic resource than you need, find someone rich and sell it to them for a tidy profit. Suppling your possible enemies with strategic resources might sound like a bad idea, but since you control the flow of that resource, if they start doing something you don't like, you can cut them off and drastically reduce the effectiveness of any resource-requiring units they produced in the meantime.

There's also a glitch that I don't believe has been patched whereby if you destroy a luxury good improvement (thereby reducing the amount of that luxury good available) you can end a trade agreement early at no penalty, and then rebuild the improvement and sell the good back to that same Civ for another sum of money. This could be considered cheating, and I imagine someday it (will be/has been) patched however.

Roads between cities are generally profitable, but you want to try to minimize the number of redundant road links you have, as having 2 roads between 2 cities counts the same as having one, and costs you extra.

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+1 This is a brilliant answer (should be the accepted answer too) and I can't wait to try out the different strategies. I'm quick in attacking other states early in the game but then end up bankrupt not being able to support my Army. –  François Wahl Jun 16 at 8:25
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Don't forget trading as a source of income. A good sized empire should have several extra resources. Find some friends and trade them for gold per turn. Watch for the messages when the trade deal expires and start them up again. Each resource you trade can easily net you a several hundred gold over the course of a 30 turn deal.

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preface: I play king level difficulty (I hate ridiculous AI bonuses (and would probubly lose ;) ) Trade if AI have money and you have strategic/luxury resource you don't need now, sell it to AI for cash upfront, sell open borders too. And if you want declare war, try to get paid for it.

Roads: Connect your cities by roads. YOUR Harbors with KNOWN sea route to another YOUR harbor counts as connection too. Don't cover land with roads and don't connect luxury resources to road network. Once they are upgraded and in your territory, they are yours. Income from internal trade for every city except capital = Capital size * M + City size * N. Exact numbers are shown in game. M

Build cities to size equal to ammount of happiness from standart happiness buildings you have there (to get all happiness from them and build trading posts where you can and still have non negative net food. With enough policies, city is now happiness neutral or positive and brings money and research, so if you don't mind CP cost, stop growing it and build another city.

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What I usually do is focus on gold early in the game. Later, when I get better military units under my command, I focus on getting cities.

Also, whenever you build a trading post, try to replace them by custom houses. That's how I get the $.

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Build world wonder which has been available for some turns. Make your judgement to make sure that your civilization are beaten by another civilization for the wonder. When your civilization lose the race to complete that wonder to another civilization you will receive 1 gold for every 1 production expanded in the wonder.

So far i know of one world wonder which it is likely not to be built until very late in the game - the pyramid.

So far i have played only the domination victory rule.

I have just realized that this method may not be available to earlier version than Brave New World.

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