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Some of the DLCs just give new civilizations. I realize there's a good chance the "DLC" is already downloaded for everyone, it just needs to be activated by throwing more money at them.

So, if I buy a new civilization, but I'm playing with someone who hasn't bought that civilization yet, can I still use it?

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+1, but the mere fact that this question is actually necessary is one of the reasons why I loathe DLCs, no matter what the answer actually is –  Zommuter Jul 21 '12 at 7:30
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

All players are required to have the DLC according to this Steam forum discussion. I believe DLC wasn't usable at all for multiplayer until a patch early 2011; see this discussion.

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I can confirm this (at least the part about all players being required to own X DLC for it to be able to be used) from personal experience. –  Rilgon Arcsinh Jul 30 '12 at 13:44
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A DLC can only be used if all players own it.

But you can then simply deactivate that DLC for this game and still play together.

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Unfortunately, you cant use it. You can have it activated in the multiplayer game, but the moment that you try to use one of those civilizations, and someone else on your game doesn't have that DLC, the game won't be able to launch.

Like Sentry said, in the game setup, the host can choose which DLC are activated in a multiplayer game.

As another note, if you try to join a public game, there is a column that shows which expansion packs and DLC are active for that specific game, so there won't be any confusion later. Since private games, are invite-only, you don't get the luxury of seeing that before joining the game, so I suggest that you communicate with the other players before hand.

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