Game Breaker / Civilization

Game Breaker items from the Civilization series.

Multiple Games
  • In I and II: The Great Library, which could be acquired early on and gave you a massive tech advantage. Changes in later games make it less overpowered, but it can still be leveraged for some tricky strategies. Like all World Wonders, only one can be built, even if another civ was just about to finish theirs.
  • I and II also had the Republic and Democracy governments in combination with the "We Love the X" Day and trade mechanics. While other governments simply gave resource gathering bonuses to cities with enough happy citizens, Republic and Democracy governments got those bonuses by default, and happiness allowed for instantaneous population growth instead. Meanwhile, trade caravans could be built and sent to foreign cities for absolutely ludicrous one-time cash windfalls. The upshot of this was that a civilization with these two governments could effectively pour the vast majority of its taxes into luxuries and watch as all of their cities turned into economic powerhouses over a few turns, continuously pump out trade caravans, and use the absurd amounts of money they would soon have in order to rush build any and all units and improvements necessary. The only downside (a Senate that would veto war declarations and try to force your civilization to make peace during negotiations whenever possible) was negated by the fact that the AI was already suicidally aggressive anyway, and that the player could use spies and their ludicrous piles of money to subvert enemy cities even when not at war. "Power Democracy" takes a bit of fine-tuning to pull off correctly, but it'll allow you to run away with the game if you manage it right.

  • The original Civilization had the Pyramids wonder. With just Masonry technology needed to build them, they allow you to change your government at whim, to any type of government (even if you haven't yet researched it), without an anarchy period. That basically allows democracy (a game breaker government all in itself) about 3000 BC. And then, if you ever need to kick someone's butt but the Congress overrules it, just start a revolution, declare war, and continue enjoying benefits of democracy the very next turn! The only thing you need to watch out for is to never study Communism, which disables the Pyramids effect, and luckily, it sits pretty high up in the science tree and you don't really need it.
  • There was supposed to be a major disadvantage to Republic and Democracy: you have to accept any peace offers. But there was a very simple counter: just don't ever meet with representatives from other civilizations. In Civilization II, they tried to eliminate this tactic by allowing a civilization to force a meeting with you any time you move a unit next to one of theirs. Since this ability was exercised most commonly after you take an enemy city, the response to this was to eliminate the defenders from several cities, then take over all of them at once.
  • The game had a bug that allowed each Settler to perform any one Settler action each turn (some of them were intended to take more than a dozen turns). You could also, strangely enough, build railroads in the middle of the ocean.

Civilization II
  • The Civilization II Pyramids were also a game breaker as they counted as a free Granary in EVERY city you have from when you build it (right at the start of the game) right up to the end. What's that mean in real terms? Double population growth in all cities and it never expires!
  • There are also a number of game breaking wonders, such as Leonardo's Workshop, which upgrades all your units to more modern equivalents when the necessary technology is researched, allowing the player to crank out a huge army of cheap early-game units and then rush to a key technology to boost them up to powerful, expense late-game units.
  • If another civilization is getting ahead of you technologically, you can take over a city (which allows you to steal a tech), move all of your units out of the city, let them take it back, then retake it before they have time to fortify their troops. Rinse, repeat. Add in some tech-stealing diplomats, and you can eliminate several centuries' worth of technological lead in a few turns.
  • You can produce unlimited Hides caravans and re-home to a city with high trade. With an advanced civilization, this can result in a new tech each turn, and more money than you'll know what to do with. The game designers apparently tried to prevent this by disallowing re-homing of caravans, but forgot to eliminate it from both menus.
  • Having both Railroad and Explosives completely changed warfare. If you had enough Engineers, you could build a railroad across any distance of grassland or plains in a single turn, then use that railroad to transport units across the railroad (all in the same turn). Your artillery only has one movement point? That won't stop you from using it to attack a city a dozen squares away. You can also use a chain of Transports to move a unit across any distance of water in a single turn.
  • If you're going for a conquest victory, the Fundamentalism government type makes taking over the world really easy. Under Fundamentalism you never have any unhappy citizens, and buildings that normally increase happiness instead produce gold (and never require maintenance). You can also produce the Fanatics units, and each city can support up to 8 of them for free. The only downside of Fundamentalism is that scientific research is halved, which isn't a very big deal if you've already researched all the late-game tech or if you're rich enough to just buy technologies from other nations.

Civilization III
  • Civilization III had the Small Wonder "Wall Street". Its effect? Giving you 5% interest on your treasury per turn. After a few turns you had no money issues for the rest of the game, as long as you kept your treasury above zero. It was later fixed with an Obvious Rule Patch, capping the generated income from the building to 50 gold.
  • The Persians are considered by many to be the most powerful civilization in the game because they possess the Industrious and Scientific traits, which grants them bonuses to both production and research. Additionally, their unique unit, the Immortals, are the single most powerful ancient age offensive unit (it isn't until knights come along that a unit possesses more offensive power). For perspective, they have 4/2/1 attack/defense/movement, while the middle ages Longbowman has 4/1/1. The sheer power of the Immortals makes it easy for the Persians to conquer other civilizations during the ancient age and even well into the middle ages.
  • The Ottoman Empire has the same traits as Persia and for its unique unit gets a cavalry replacement with 8 attack strength- the same number Tanks defend at. The tech to unlock them comes in the late Middle Ages, when the strongest non-unique unit defends at strength 4. They're expensive, but you won't need to build anything else until the late Industrial era.
  • The Statue of Zeus World Wonder gives you a free Ancient Cavalry unit every 5 turns. Said unit has 3 attack (when the best Ancient Age defender is the strength 2 Spearman), defends at 2, has 2 movement points, and best of all an extra hitpoint (in a game where the most a standard unit can have is five). Since retreat odds for mounted units are tied to hitpoint totals, they're notoriously resilient as well, both on the attack and defense.
  • Armies. Not the standard troops you march around the map, but the special unit you can create with a combat-spawned Great Leader. Load them up with three of the same unit for an (invisible) +1 attack/defense/movement bonus, and the combined health of all three units (four with a certain Small Wonder). They also heal incredibly quickly, even in enemy territory (normally impossible without a late-game Small Wonder) and the AI will never attack them unless it has a much more advanced units (as in, two eras ahead) or literally no other targets on the landmass.
  • Signing a Right of Passage agreement with an AI, then positioning massive armies right outside the other civilization's cities and declaring war. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle, basically circumventing rules on movement in enemy territory. Even worse if you have Elimination rules turned on, which make it so that the loss of the AI's capital (or even a couple of smaller cities) will remove them from the game completely and instantly. Granted, this will make the entire world refuse to ever sign Right of Passage agreements with you for the rest of the game, and good luck trying to get another human to fall for it. Later games fixed this by teleporting all your military units out of enemy territory the moment you declare war.

Civilization IV
  • Civilization IV still has the Pyramid wonder, with pretty much the same effect as in I - it enables all government civics (Civ IV's equivalent of government types). Combined with stone in one's starting area to halve their cost, this changes them from "hellishly expensive" to "doable", and constructing them gives access to the representation civic, which both allows you to increase the population of your largest cities by around 30-50% for the time period you are in and grants each specialist a research bonus (basically meaning you can treat any specialist like a scientist, and scientists themselves are twice as effective).
  • The Incas also became more laughably imbalanced as IV's expansions were released. Originally, Huanya Capac was Aggressive and Financial, which is a pretty strong combination to start with. Then for some reason he lost Aggressive but got the even more powerful Industrious trait to replace it (letting him build forges for production much faster and wonder-spam while he's at it). However, Quechas still get Combat 1 like they would if the Incas still had Aggressive, and they don't go obsolete as quickly as normal Warriors, so doing a Zerg Rush with Quechas and then upgrading them is viable for longer than usual. On top of all that, the Inca's unique Granary grants the same culture bonus as the Creative trait, and you're probably going to be building them in every city anyway. So now you've got a Civ with effectively four traits to everyone else's two.
  • In every game the AI occasionally beseeches you for gifts or demands you give them tribute, depending on how powerful you are compared to them, and, often, giving into more powerful nations results in them doing it more and more often and gaining a stranglehold on your resources until you become more powerful than them. If you decline, however, the opposing power will become angered and, should you keep doing it, eventually declare war, which is bad if they are more powerful than you. In IV, you can negotiate tribute, essentially attempting to make a trade out of it or lessen the blow... but the game treats this like a normal trade — that is, the game now treats the negotiations as if you started them in the first place, meaning you can exit with no consequences to relationship, basically destroying the entire tribute system completely thanks to an oversight. Since the AI is pretty conniving and cruel when it comes to lording over any advantage in the first place, this seems relatively fair, all things considered.

Civilization IV Mods
  • Fall from Heaven features the All-In Death Magic strategy. Generally, the game balances "training combat units" and "training wizards who summon combat units" against each other by having summoned units be very weak, short-lived, and expendable, whereas combat units are expensive but powerful. A pit demon has base power 5 but the equivalent melee unit, the champion, has base power 8; this balances the fact that if the champion dies you need to train another one, which costs resources, whereas if the pit fiend dies you just summon another one, which doesn't. The problem with All-In-Death Magic is that while the Specter, the mid-level necromancy summon, has only base power 3, it also has Move 2, Fear and Affinity For Death Magic, the last of which gives it +1 base power for every source of death mana you control. It is very easy to get three or four death magic nodes in your empire, at which point the free Specter can fight toe-to-toe with the expensive champion, letting you destroy any enemy army by sitting back and sending in wave after wave of expendable summons while your wizards stay far enough away to be in no danger.
    • Death Magic also gives its users the ability to summon skeletons, which make for excellent Zerg Rush material because unlike Spectres, they don't have a duration limit, so you can field as many of them as you have casters who know the spell. You can even keep building adepts back in your cities but summon the skeletons with your main attack force, so even distance is no longer a problem.
    • This helps make the Sheaim faction a Game Breaker in their own right, since not only are their Pyre Zombies the best early-game infantry unit available, but their Mobius Witches are the earliest unit that can cast Summon Spectre, making them one of the only factions that starts deadly and stays that way throughout the game.

Civilization V
  • Before they were nerfed, China was a monster at warmongering. Their special ability, Art of War, lets them gain Great Generals 50% faster, and before nerf they gave a 20% additional bonus to combat ability on top of a normal Great General's 20%. Combine this with the Chu-Ko-Nu, the Chinese unique crossbowman that dealt more damage per hit and could attack twice. Since you gained Great Generals from combat, the Chu-Ko-Nu's rate of fire fed into the 50% additional Great Generals. And those Great Generals would feed the China war machine further with their massive 40% bonus to combat. Swarms of Chinese Chu Ko Nu could strip even the most massive of cities down to nothing in the blink of an eye, and you'd soon have more Great Generals than you knew what to do with, which would promptly go into feeding you Golden Ages. Combined with an excellent Unique Library and China had almost no weaknesses. Later, the Chukonu were nerfed to deal less damage per hit than a regular crossbowman, and the Great General bonus was reduced to 35% combat bonus rather than 40%.
  • The "reduction in gold cost of items" effects, all combined, are very strong in the right hand. The problem is each absolute value adds with the others instead of multiplying with them. 25% for going 3 social policies into the Commerce branch, 15% for building Big Ben, and 33% for units 2 social policies into the Autocracy branch means a whopping 73% discount for units (would be 58% if the effects multiplied).
  • El Dorado, otherwise known as Skill Dorado, gives 500 gold to the first person who finds it. That's enough to buy an instant settler, which is a massive advantage in the early game. Find it as Spain, you get 1000 gold allowing for two instant settlers.
  • The downside to Gandhi's special ability could (before a patch nerfed these effects) be entirely negated by a social policy and a wonder. With the right buffs, India could have an incredible populace, while maintaining a happiness so high that they would be in an almost constant Golden Age.
  • Although a very late game occurrence, as soon as you unlock the Giant Death Robot and have sufficient uranium, opposing armies are essentially completely and totally fucked, especially if you combine them with Stealth Bombers. The combat penalty against cities is all well and good, but even with that, a percentage off of 150 combat strength is all but irrelevant, especially if you happen across a civ that's still playing with swords and musketmen (and there's always one). It's entirely possible to blitzkrieg your way across about 10 cities in a few turns if you're canny about placement.
  • The "Faith Healers" belief available for religions grants all units +30 HP per turn they spend next to or in a friendly city. For most of the game, this is merely good. Once aircraft enter the picture, it's extremely powerful; aircraft are infinitely stackable within a city, which means any number of them get the healing benefit simultaneously. Other units have to make their way to the target, and don't get the faith healer's bonus until they make it back home, while aircraft always return back to their city after completing their mission. Combined with the air repair promotion, which lets units heal even when attacking, this makes for an entire air force that recovers nearly half of its maximum health every turn. Since there's no "non-air units" qualifier for Faith Healers, this works in practice the same way it does on paper, and can even make spreading your religion a detriment, since enemies following the same religion still get the bonus. Later patches made it only possible to store 6 aircraft (raisable to 10 with an Airport) per city, nerfing this greatly.
  • And now, we have the "Beaker Overflow" exploit. At its worst, one could compound enough "beakers" (or amount of science currently outputted) to 100k+ by the later parts of the Renaissance era; that's enough to buy just about every techs in the game. Even slightly tamer methods yields thousands of free beakers, a not insignificant amount in the same era.
    • This could actually backfire to the other end of "broken", too. Accidentally overflowing past about 210k science output (achievable only through this exploit or modding, actually) will net you a ridiculously large "beaker" deficit, more than enough to halt your tech progress for the rest of the game.
  • Venice is every bit as overpowering in high-difficulty single-player as it is underpowered in multiplayer. On higher difficulties, gold is critical, and you get a lot of it as Venice thanks to their double trade routes ability. High difficulty AI Civs aggressively expand and take most of the choice land, normally forcing players to do the same or fight some very difficult wars that revolve around exploiting the AI, but Venice can simply puppet the most prosperous city states with their unique merchants, side-stepping that issue. Another big problem on higher difficulties is the AI making ridiculous amounts of troops, but that applies to city states too, and you get all their units when you puppet them. Similarly, the AI gets a huge population growth bonus, meaning that when you puppet city states, they'll have an impressive population which is yours to keep. Now, the cities remain puppets which means you can't control them, but on the plus side, that means no micro-management besides workers, no increased culture costs, and the mayors of these cities will focus on getting you even more gold and merchants. Since you have so many extra trade routes, you can have each and every one of these city states deliver food to Venice, making that city a juggernaut, and all the excess gold can be used to ensure it claims all the land within three spaces of it before anyone else can. Just to top it off, their other unique unit, a powerful and fast ship for the midgame, is extremely useful for guarding trade routes, keeping an eye on the rest of the world, and discouraging would-be invaders. On Archipelago, players who have trouble on King\Emperor can win on Deity if they play their cards right.
    • Venice doesn't even have to use its Merchants of Venice to lock down other city-states. Filling out the Patronage policy tree will make your reputation decay slower with city-states and give Venice extra gold from trade routes with them. Combine this with the Treaty Organization level 3 Freedom tenet, which gives you influence each turn you maintain a trade route with a city-state, and you'll build up a huge stockpile of hundreds of reputation points just for keeping a trade route with your partner city-states. And with Venice's doubled number of trade routes, it's easy to keep enough city-states in a permanent alliance with you to secure a Diplomatic Victory, without ever having to spend all the boatloads of money you're making on gifts.
  • In multiplayer, against other human players, no Civ is more blatantly effective than Babylon. The reason is quite clear: no other civilization generates nearly as much science as Babylon does. In a game where staying on top of the Tech race is critical to staying ahead of enemies, particularly those with period-specific unique units, Babylon can make the entire game laughably easy, due to the sheer amount of Science they can generate. Upon discovering Writing, Babylon receives a free Great Scientist, and they earn Great Scientists at a 50% faster rate than anyone else. Since Writing also contains the Great Library, which grants a free Tech to whomever builds it first, this can quickly lead to Nebuchadnezzer outstripping everyone else within 50 turns. For reference, it's entirely possible to have Stealth Bombers guarding your cities while everyone else is still using Musketmen. Coupled with the fact that Babylon's unique building adds extra health to its cities, and has great synergy with its unique unit, and Babylon is assured to survive the critical first few turns it needs before it can reach Writing. There's a reason why Babylon is always ranked very high in Tier lists, and it's not uncommon to see the Civ banned entirely in Multiplayer games.
  • On a similar note due to new DLC, there's Korea. As the only other Civ in the game which adds directly to science, Korea is often as high or higher on the list as Babylon in multiplayer. They may not have the free Great Scientist Babylon gets, but their +2 science per specialist and tech boosts from science buildings makes them snowball hard once they get going. All a Korean player needs to do is to specialize in having as many specialists as possible while simultaneously popping down as many great people improvements as possible, and he will be virtually rolling in science. This combined with the fact that they have a strong naval defense unit from the Renaissance on and a good anti-personnel siege unit in the beginning of the game, and you have a very difficult Civ to take down.
  • How to become an overnight military powerhouse in the early Industrial era: save up a policy and a couple thousand gold, research Industrialization, then quickly buy three factories to unlock an Ideology. Choose Freedom, then use your two bonus first-adopter tenets and your saved policy to choose the Volunteer Army second-tier tenet. This grants you six free Foreign Legion units, which are not only strength 50 but get a combat bonus when in enemy territory, at a time that your most likely competition will be a strength 34 Rifleman or strength 24 Musketman. Now go "liberate" the hell out of your neighbors. (This one requires the Policy Saving game option to be enabled - which, by default, it isn't, precisely to prevent this manner of chicanery. Normally you're forced to buy a policy if possible before ending your turn, meaning you have at least one culture cycle between establishing an ideology and getting a second-tier benefit, giving the general tech level time to catch up with the Foreign Legion.)
  • Prior to the Industrial Era, siege units tend to be weak against city attacks, the very thing they're specialized at attacking. Enter the Artillery - an increased range makes them impossible to hit by a city's attack, and that's not counting the fact that it can shoot over all terrain, including mountains. It's telling that almost all civ players consider the Artillery to be a massively game-changing unit to whoever gets it first.
  • Ranged combat in general is hilariously useful compared to melee combat, due to the ability to have multiple ranged units focus fire on a single target without retaliation. Sure, a swordsman might win handily against an archer in single combat, but none of that matters if he gets shot to bits by five or six archers before he can even close to melee distance. Ring a city with archers and it's only a matter of time before you bring its HP to zero, after which even your weakest melee unit can just stroll in to capture it. And since ranged attacks are risk-free, you can rinse-and-repeat this tactic with the same units against the enemy's next city without having to spend as much time healing and replacing damaged units as you would with melee.
    • This was even worse in earlier versions, where every unit in the game had exactly 10HP, which meant that a squad of ten archers could literally destroy any unit in the game with Scratch Damage; not even Giant Death Robots could survive the barrage.
    • And all this becomes worse if your Civ is lucky enough to have mounted archers, like Arabia's Camel Archer or Mongolia's Keshik. Since mounted archers can move after firing, you're no longer limited by the number of open tiles around a city; all you need is one tile with a clear shot to set up a "carousel of death," cycling your units around so that they can all shoot at the city of your choice and then retreat to safety. No city can stand up to that assault, no matter how well defended.
  • The salt luxury resource. Gives a base bonus of +1 gold and +1 food, and when improved adds +1 production and another +1 food. In the early game, when food is critical to rapidly grow your population (and therefore scientific output and the ability to work additional city tiles), being able to add to your food alongside your production can make a city unstoppable. This is especially the case as no other luxury resource (barring certain Pantheon bonuses) gives simultaneous increases to production and food when improved. Oh, and salt can be improved with only Mining (certain resources require two techs like Mining + Calendar, or even three like Mining + Bronze Working + Calendar), and can be improved in less than half the time of a resource on marsh or jungle. Did your starting location spawn next to two or three salt resources? Congratulations, you will dominate the early game, even on higher difficulty levels. Conversely, did you spawn in the midst of al lot of jungle? Enjoy having practically no production capacity and not being able to exploit any jungle-located resources until you research the three previously mentioned techs, allowing other civs to roll over you as you're just getting started!

Civilization: Revolutions
  • The simplified mechanics provide a number of opportunities to completely dominate the AI even on the most difficult setting. And the Leonardo's Workshop wonder is formidable, since it upgrades all your existing units. Given the right circumstances, you can destroy any AI. First, always produce as many cheap, weak units as possible. As you're doing this, follow the path on your technology tree to discover the internal combustion engine. Time the building of Leonardo's Workshop so that it occurs right after you discover the engine and gain the ability to build a tank. All those cheap warriors you've been building since the beginning? They're now tanks. The game is over in 2 or 3 rounds max.
  • And one way to get those techs to get the tanks? Atlantis. Granted, you need to crank out a galleon at some point. But grabbing this artifact is almost mandatory (especially if nothing else to make sure the opponent doesn't!).
  • Unlike the normal games, Civ Rev only has ONE nuke. Guess what happens when you're the first to get it? And guess how far down the line SDI is?

Civilization VI
  • On release, selling units. When the player deleted units, they were refunded a sum of money that often outweighed the expense necessary to get the unit in the first place. This feature was removed in the first patch, since it led to several exploits ranging from minor to severe:
    • One simple trick during a war was to sell a military unit that was too weakened to possibly survive another attack, using the money to fund more troops. While buying a replacement unit cost more money than what was received from selling the original, it did help with the survivability of an army in the long run.
    • Cavalry units tended to sell for high amounts, and it is possible as early as the Ancient era to accrue several bonuses that improve production values for cavalry units, which made it easy to churn them out in as few as one or two turns and then sell them immediately for profit. When playing as Scythia, who get two units instead of one when building light cavalry, the profit from this method bordered on obscene.
    • In an example of truly broken balancing: in the late game it was possible to purchase multiple units at once stacked together as a corps or army. While an army of three mechanized infantry, as an example, buys for about eight-thousand gold, it could be sold for as much as twelve-thousand. A player with enough money to buy a single army could do so, then sell it back for the money to buy another plus extra, multiple times, allowing them to accrue a truly unlimited amount of money in a single turn.
    • All of these exploits were succinctly dealt with in the first major patch. Disbanded units no longer give gold and damaged units cannot be sold, period.
  • City-States now provide unique bonuses to their controlling Civ, which can seriously impact the game. Valletta allowing its control to purchase encampment and city center buildings with faith. Buenos Aries causing bonus resources to grant amenities like luxury resources. Or Carthage adding an extra trade route for each encampment.