For some reason I give a very high preference to hexes that put my cities on a river. But I'm asking myself if I'm overdoing it for Civ5.

Given a city planted in the middle of 7 Grassland hexes...

How much more value is there if a river runs directly down the middle?
Any difference if they're all "plains" hexes?

  • Good answers, so far the tally is: more gold, more building, research bonus comes sooner.
    – Strategem
    Commented Nov 1, 2010 at 7:26

5 Answers 5


I want to stress out a difference between building a city near a river and close to a river. River tiles are great, as they give you additional gold and production. That is especially useful when a golden age kicks in, as even a tile with one production/gold yield will give you an additional one, thus increasing income from that tile two times.

The thing is your city doesn't necessarily have to be next to a river to work those river tiles. It can be a tile or even two away and still have access to them.

The only reason you would want your city to be next to a river are then available buildings, which are: water mill, garden and hydro plant. Water mill (+2 food) is a very low priority building, especially with maritime city states and taking you would still have an option of granary. Garden (+25% Great people) is useless unless you specialize that city specifically for great people generation. Hydro plant (+25% production) is not that necessary, as you would still have options of other type power plants.

So basically when settling try to get access to river tiles, but not necessarily settle right next to a river if otherwise you could get access to some resources or other valuable tiles.

  • +1. Also if I am not mistaken. Settling next to a river will mean you effectively loose the river bonus for the tile your city is placed on. (City tiles will generate the same food/gold/production regardless of the underlying type)
    – Akusete
    Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 22:33
  • there used to be a "fresh water" health bonus if the city was immediately on the river; is that now defunct?
    – Strategem
    Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 6:29
  • @John Mee, where is no health concept in civ5 anymore
    – Adj
    Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 11:57
  • I think the answer should be updated to include defensive bonus of rivers and the Aztecs UA -- Floating Gardens. Other than that great answer.
    – Mike
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 15:27

A river in the capital makes a very big difference in the early economy. If you like to have a maritime city state ally very early for growth, or something similarily expensive, a river start is extremely beneficial.

Gold is very useful in Civilization 5, and a river gives you one gold/turn for each hex adjacent to the river. That is quite a lot of gold for a city that can work those tiles.

If you build near rivers you can also accelerate your growth significantly by slingshooting to Civil service. Then farms near fresh water produce 1 food more, which is a huge bonus. The technology which gives more food for farms not near a river is Fertilizer, which comes significantly later.

Building near rivers is very powerful, I think you're doing it just right. Of coure, sometimes you just need that strategic or luxury resource that is not near a river, so you have to build there first. But prioritising cities near rivers is a good strategy.


Rivers give increased commerce to every square they're touching. It basically ammounts to free money -- you're already going to be working the hills / grassland / plains for food or production, but this way you get commerce without having to build trading posts everywhere.

Additionally, watermill and hydroelectric plants can only be built in cities with rivers (and maybe other buildings as well? Gardens?).

If you value those buildings (which depend solely on city position) than shoot for the river every time.


Note that with the Brave New World expansion rivers have been nerfed.

  • They no longer proved gold.


  • They still enable a Water Mill if the city is directly next to the river.
  • They still provide fresh water which increases food for farms with Civil Service.

It seems a little stingy to be honest. They could have done something to compensate for this loss.


With the Hydro Plant, every tile on river produces 1 extra hammer. No matter what terrain or improvement. With maybe 12 tiles on each side of the river, that's 24 production. I'd say it's a lot. (You can only build a Hydro Plant if your city is adjacent to a river)

  • On the other hand, Hydro Plants are a very lategame building and use up Aluminium. But there´s another early-midgame building that requires Fresh Water: Gardens (Bonus to Great People Generation), so it might be a good Idea to use specialists in river cities compared to other cities (especially the writers/artists/musicians guilds in BnW, and especially if you want to go for a cultural victory) As for the rivers´ gold nerf in BnW: Ocean tiles still give gold if I remember (correct me if not), which would make a city on the coast adjecant to a river quite worthwile.
    – Xypheos
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 13:06

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