I'm playing Civ 5 for the first time, in the "learn as you play" tutorial.

How can I improve or work resources that are at sea, far from any city?

As an example I found the natural wonder Krakatoa, and the popup text says that there is an extra bonus if it is worked. How can it be worked? Are we meant to send out a settler and found a one-tile city?


Here is a screenshot:

Krakatoa screenshot

Krakatoa is the island to the upper right.

I would also like to get my hands on the marble on the island in the center, but it seems to be too far from land.

Is it possible to work either of these two resources?

  • 2
    Since the world is randomly generated, it is possible that natural wonders could be on an island by themselves, which could make it impossible to actually work the tile. But the next time you play, it will be in a different spot.
    – bwarner
    Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 0:13
  • @bwarner OK, thanks. So you are saying that none of the two resources in the screenshot I just added are workable? Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 1:16
  • 2
    Yup. That natural wonder is useless except for the +1 happiness it's discovery brought. Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 1:28
  • You can get the marble by building on top of it, but it isn't really worth it. You can't build on Krakatoa (volcanoes are picky like that), so its only use was the happiness bonus as Raven said.
    – bwarner
    Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 3:13
  • I accepted Oak's answer as the most thorough. For others new to the game, there's plenty of useful info in the other answers and the comments as well. Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 19:22

3 Answers 3


Notice there's a difference between improving a tile and working a tile. Usually you will improve tiles around your cities and then send citizens to work these tiles, but this connection is not necessary.

Improving a tile

To improve a tile, you need it to be within your cultural borders (the tinted area) and reachable by a worker/work boat, and you need to have the appropriate technology. Once a tile is improved by the worker, you get any luxury or strategic resource on it, but that doesn't mean you get the tile benefits (e.g. +production, the small hammers) - you have to work a tile for that.

Pay attention: cultural borders can reach practically everywhere, since cities can expand these borders up to 5 tiles and great artists can expand it arbitrarily further. I once used 3 great artists to reach a far away tile (Aluminum...), it takes time because there's a cooldown between cultural bombs, but it's doable. "Culture bomb" is the name of the great artist's ability which does it. However, in practical terms, if you want access to any resource the best way is to build a city up to 3 tiles from it. Usually when I build a new city I only consider things in radius 3 to be interesting, anything beyond it just usually takes a lot of turns to get.

Notice that some worker actions, such as cutting down a forest or building a road, do not require the tile to be within your cultural borders.

Finally, if you build a city directly on a tile it doesn't count as improving the tile (the tile benefits won't change) but you do get whatever resource is on it.

And as Raven mentioned, to improve tiles at sea you must construct a work boat from a coastal city. Unlike workers, work boats are consumed when they construct an improvement, but they are otherwise very cheap.

Working a tile

To work a tile, you need it to be within 3 tiles of one of your cities, and then that city gets the benefits listed on the tile. In your screenshot, Krakatoa is unworkable, and no civilization will never get the benefits listed on the tile. Notice that even tiles in range 3 are not automatically worked, a citizen must be allocated to it. You can manually allocate citizens from the city screen but the computer takes care of it by itself, if you're new to the game you don't need to worry about it at this stage.

Your puppet cities also send their citizens to work nearby tiles, but you cannot change that allocation.

A tile doesn't need to be improved in order to work it, but most tiles benefit from improvement so ultimately it pays to improve any tile within range 3 of a city. Improving a tile beyond range 3 which doesn't have a resource on it offers no benefits (unless you improve it to a fort or something).


In terms of "working" a tile, all it means is to have a citizen from a city gathering resources from that tile.

In terms of improving sea-based resources, you need to instruct a coastal city to build the "Work Boat" unit, which is unlocked with sailing, afterwhich you can move them onto an ocean resource and "create fishing boats" (which will consume the unit).

  • Thanks. I tried the work boat, but it would only let me "create fishing boat" within my own territory, and it doesn't look like I can control the fishing boats. The part I don't understand is resources far enough from land to not be part of any player's territory at any point in the game - more than five tiles from the nearest city center. Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 0:05
  • The fishing boats the work boat makes are sorta like plantations for land based resources. They just show that the resource has been developed (and can be pillaged by enemy naval ships).
    – Rapida
    Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 0:07
  • @j-g-faustus - yup. Sometimes the random map generator generates un-useful resources (like bonus silver in a tundra surrounded by ice). Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 0:12
  • I see. So Krakatoa in the screenshot above is unavailable? How about the marble on the other island, is a one-tile city workable? Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 1:28
  • @j-g-faustus - it'd get you the marble, sure, but it'd be a piddly little city due to the dearth of workable land tiles around it. Marble's other benefit (+wonder production) isn't going to do much for the city either. Seek an alternate source if possible, as that marble is pretty much useless. Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 1:30

EDIT: You could get the marble, just build a city on it. However, unless you really need the happiness it isn't going to be a super stellar city. Marble's benefit of cutting wonder construction time only benefits the city that is working it. Since the one land tile city's production is going to be low, it isn't going to be a great wonder builder.

I don't think there is a way for you to benefit from Krakatoa beyond the free 1 happiness for finding it.

Further EDIT: You could also build a city on the shore. Max expansion for a city is five tiles, you can only work the first three, but luxury resources inside of your borders (that are enhanced [plantation, quarry, etc.]) still provide the happiness bonus.

This is an example of a tile being worked, in this particular example that tile provides Wine (+1 food, +1 production, +4 Gold). You should see something similar on your natural wonder.

Free hand Circle

  • Thanks, although I have figured out how to do it on land. Krakatao in particular is a one-tile island in the middle of the ocean, too far off to be within the territory of any land-based city. So my question is: Do I need to found a city there to improve/work it, or is there another way? Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 0:02
  • Yeah, it would need to be in your territory to get the resources. I don't think you can found a city on Krakatao, but a nearby city (3 squares) would work.
    – Rapida
    Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 0:05
  • Re the marble - you can't buy out to 5 spaces (I think?) so it'd be very time-consuming to even get it with a coastal city spamming culture. Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 1:29
  • @RavenDreamer I completely agree, but if you really wanted that marble it is possible
    – Rapida
    Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 1:31
  • @Rapida - decidedly less so since you can't landbuy out to it. Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 1:33

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