War Is Hell: attempting a Conquest victory, while the specifics vary between games, can be very difficult and frustrating. You'll have to pool your civilization's production resources into an army, you'll suffer civil unrest from loyal citizens that disapprove of the war, enemy cities you conquer are going to resist you and may rebel and overthrow you, and you'll have your work cut out for you rebuilding them since the terrain around them is probably damaged and the city itself has lost its infrastructure. It's liable to become a Pendulum War as dozens of units for either side take turns lasting several minutes of real time fighting and killing each other, and with an enemy of strength comparable to yours this will almost certainly happen. Finally, you can expect other civilizations to look upon you with suspicion, especially if you were the aggressor, and if you manage to negotiate peace with your enemy they'll still never trust you again, regardless of who the aggressor was. Ultimately, unless you specifically play as a fascist Evil Overlord dedicated to world conquest who ignores all these problems in the name of trying to Take Over the World, war is fairly unsustainable, counter-productive, and even self-destructive if you manage it badly.
In Civ 5, UN Resolutions can be passed banning any luxury resource for any reason if it gets enough votes. This can lead to strange alternate universes like one where whaling and ivory hunting are still legal, but chocolate is banned because of a measure spearheaded by Montezuma (the fiend!) The potential Aesop? Resource bans and regulations may have more to do with punishing the producers or users of that resource by proxy than any real ethical concerns with the resource itself, which is an argument that can be applied to the War on Drugs and elsewhere.
The other civilizations love to butt in while you're deep in thought, planning, or an all-out war. There is no isolationist option for the game to play uninterrupted. In IV you could set up a game with no AI to play against, but this was again dropped in V.
If you accept an offer of friendship from Civilization A just to make them go away, you often find yourself immediately contacted by civs B, C, and D one after the other, each saying "I see you've become friends with A, I have done the same. Perhaps great things can come from this alliance in the future!", or conversely "I hate A, don't get too friendly with them or we'll have problems getting along" (not helped by the fact that you can't check diplomatic status when asked to declare friendship, and rejecting prevents you from proposing friendship with them for quite a few turns).
The logic routines used by UI in V to decide which units you should give orders to first is... Well, suffice it to say that you should get used to giving the wrong orders to wrong units, and to watching your screen go whizzing halfway around the globe. Sometimes twice, if you managed to give a command to the unit you actually care about while the game tries to foist some Worker Unit on you instead. It's actually very annoying how often the game will announce you have a new unit ready and then activate a different unit instead of the one it just told you about, making you send warriors to resources and workers into warzones. An option to disable this has since been added.
The advisers in Civilization I come with a bug wherein if they can't come up with a suggestion on what you should build, the game freezes. Hope you saved recently. Fortunately however they can be turned off.
Artificial Stupidity: The AI just doesn't seem to "get" the Loyalty system introduced in Rise and Fall. It will happily settle cities on the other side of the continent from their closest settlement... and since settling far away from your cities and close to enemy territory will cause a massive drop in Loyalty, the AI will lose those cities to rebellion a few turns later, perhaps in the player's favor. The saddest part is that there's not much the player can do not to exploit this: they can refuse to accept rebellious cities into their empire, but that doesn't make it much less of a loss for the AI.
Author's Saving Throw: Firaxis announcing two new civilization DLC packs for VI with leaders from Africa and Southeast Asia and extending the Deluxe Edition to include them helps assuage both those disappointed with the Eurocentric nature of the base game and its initial DLCs and those annoyed by the Deluxe Edition not being particularly priceworthy.
Base-Breaking Character: Gandhi's become this to a degree; he's one of the most famous characters in the series and one of the most memetic, to the point that many players say it's not a Civ game without Nuclear Gandhi. At the same time, though, veterans of the series dislike him for his relatively passive strategies of peacemaking and religion focus without much variance between games, and ask for a different leader from India's very long history (especially since Gandhi, though important, technically never ruled India). VI has alleviated this a bit by adding the concept of alternate leaders, and sure enough, Chandragupta was added as an alternate in Rise and Fall.
The inclusion of Venice and its unique role has broken the base in many places. Some dislike it for being another European civilization when the continent is already heavily represented, others are fine with more European civs but would rather have seen a unified Italy and/or feel that Venice has had too little impact on world history, and even some who like the idea of a Venetian civilization aren't fond of its unique ability that prevents it from founding cities, instead having to rely on a unique unit to puppet city states.
The fact that Adolf Hitler has never been a playable leader while both Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, the other two leading competitors for causing the highest death tolls the 20th Century, are series regulars is very controversial among the fanbase, many of whom would enjoy seeing Hitler included due to his impact on history despite his crimes. Possibly related is the fact that V is the first game in the series to feature neither Stalin nor Mao, with Russia and China instead being represented by Catherine the Great and Wu Zetian respectively, their greatest female leaders. VI follows up on this with Peter the Great of Russia and Qin Shi Huang of China.
The playable civilizations and their leaders introduced in VI have been controversial for two main reasons:
The first is concern that Firaxis has been Eurocentric in its choice of civilizations, as the base game has a high density of European leaders with more civs from other parts of the world locked behind DLC. The debate tends to flare up anytime a new civ from Europe is introduced, as many feel that the non-European civs that have been introduced aren't numerous enough. This is also a bother to players who enjoy games on a true-start-location map, as Europe gets crowded very easily while places like Africa and South America do not.
The second revolves around how many of the new civilization leaders are women, and whether Firaxis is picking leaders to be gender-inclusive instead of finding "more qualified" male leaders with greater accomplishments. This topic in particular tends to result in a lot of debates, ranging from genuine historical analysis and discussions of qualifications to accusations of sexism and ignorance about the role women have played in history.
On a more individual level, the inclusion of the Cree in Rise and Fall has received divided reactions among actual Cree people. Some, such as the singers who performed the civilization's theme song, one of whom is a direct descendant of Poundmaker, were overjoyed to see themselves in the game; others, including notable chief Milton Tootoosis, felt including them was inappropriate in a game based around imperialism, something they were victims rather that perpetrators of in real life.
Cliché Storm: William of Orange's diplomacy text in III was filled with cliches about the Netherlands (Tulips, clogs, windmills, etc).
Every game in the series has its fans and detractors, but by far the most controversial is V. So many staple mechanics of the series as a whole were either significantly retooled or dropped entirely that some fans of the older games refuse to buy it on principle, and an extremely bug-ridden first release didn't help matters for the rest.
Within V, the second expansion, Brave New World, made the game feel a little more like its predecessors by offering trade routes, a UN-style World Congress, a culture victory based on influencing other civs instead of merely building up your own (the latter now a means of preventing other civs from influencing you), and trade caravans that enable trade between cities, even ones outside of your civ. While celebrated by much of the fanbase, all of these features add a great deal of micromanagement and, depending on who you ask, don't do enough to make the game more interesting, and may even water it down. Certain elements that were slowly balanced in patches over the vanilla game and the first expansion were thrown out of balance (e.g. the Tradition policy is indirectly much more powerful than before because of trade routes and AI behaviour), and patching activity was minor after the release of BNW, presumably because the dev team was busy with Civilization: Beyond Earth.
Civilization II was so beloved that it became a Tough Act to Follow for III. While III was rarely considered to be bad, it wasn't until IV that enough time since II had passed for the fandom to unite on a game again and the franchise to start picking back up (and a memorable menu theme and narrator certainly helped).
Crazy Awesome: Nebuchadnezzar's quotes (such as "Are you real or just a phantom of my tortured senses?") are sometimes a bit funny. This is the guy who went crazy for a bit, according to The Bible. When he learns of his defeat, he finds it "very interesting".
Critical Dissonance: V has been and still is lauded by the vast majority of critics, while fan opinion is much more mixed, at least with fans that played IV extensively, as V plays differently and generally has less features than IV with expansion packs and mods does. The dissonance was especially obvious when V had just launched; before patches, it had far more bugs and weird mechanics which have since been removed and changed, but most critics loved the game right out of the box.
Critical Research Failure: In VI, the Dead Sea makes an appearance as a natural wonder which provides bonuses to culture and faith. Another benefit of it is that it can provide fresh water to cities founded near it. This ignores the fact that the real Dead Sea is ten times saltier than the ocean and nothing besides minuscule traces of bacteria and microbial fungi can survive in it.
The Civilopedia entry for Writing in V claims that logographic writing systems have a separate character for each and every word, and require tens of thousands of characters to work.note ("There's a symbol for sheep, and another symbol for a thousand sheep, and yet another symbol for the sound a sheep makes when falling off of a pyramid.") In reality, they don't need nearly as many characters as characters can be combined for compound words. For example, you only need to know around 4,000 characters to understand virtually all modern Standard Chinese writing, and the most common 500 make up three-quarters of written text.note (technically, there are over 100,000 characters, but the vast majority of these are obsolete or minor variations)
Demonic Spiders: Barbarian tribes can get this way pretty easily, especially in V and VI. Because they come from all directions, you need a competent garrison around... and because unit-stacking was discontinued starting with V, having one becomes that more complicated. You have to keep an eye out at all times for incoming barbs who have designs on your settlers and workers. And finally, because units of similar strength are weighted to typically not lose more than half their health in any given battle, it requires two units to take out a single encampment quickly—during the early-game phase, where sparing even one unit for scouting is an imposition. Taking the Honor social policy track in V gradually leans barbarians to the Piņata Enemy side of things, as it gives you 33% more strength against them and gives a culture bonus for defeating them.
In VI, though, they Took a Level in Badass and became even nastier. They send a scout first, and if it finds your city and gets back to an encampment, they will spawn a war party of multiple units. Furthermore, the Discipline civic, VI's rough analogue to the Honor policy tree's combat bonus against barbarians, only provides a fixed bonus of 5 combat strength, which is less than 33% of the basic warrior unit's strength (which stands at 20) and becomes ever more meager with new and improved units, and doesn't provide the culture boost. America and Japan's combat bonuses (an additional 5 strength for fighting on the home continent and on shorelines, respectively) become lifesavers when paired with Discipline. Finally, your cities can't attack on their own until you research masonry and build walls, meaning that, for much of the ancient era (i.e. the time when the barbarian threat is greatest), your cities are at their most defenseless. In short, keeping barbarians from pillaging your improvements and carrying away your builders now requires a near-constant garrison.
Philip II of Spain has proven to be the by-far best received Civ VI leader announced so far, with many players anticipating playing him or playing against him. Unlike the more divisive leaders, he's clearly had a large impact on Spain and is viewed as a very good representation of a leader for the country. While he's replacing Civ long-time-returnee Isabella, rumors that she will return in DLC have limited backlash to that. His leader ability and civ bonuses are geared towards the new religious victory and appear exceptionally powerfully. Finally, Philip's character design has proven to be among the best received of the game.
If the comments on his theme are anything to go by, Genghis Khan seems to be one of the most well-liked leaders in V, for his charming personality, straightforward dealings, and being surprisingly easy to befriend (even, hell, especially if he's already fought you) and rare to turn his back. The fact that it doesn't take much effort at all to convince him to declare war on your rivals just makes him even more useful. The announcement he would be returning in the first expansion to VI, after being absent from both the base game and its first round of DLC for the first time in the series (and now with abilities that make him a historically-accurate Genius Bruiser instead of merely a warmonger) was greeted with delight.
Despite being just one of many leaders in the original, Gandhi's memetically quirky AI has made him by far the most recognized leader in the series. The majority of jokes about the series involve him in some way, and as a result, he's appeared in every game since.
Epileptic Trees: In V, from the starting narration it seems all of history's great leaders were put on an Earth-like planet to be given a second chance to rule.
While most sequels in the series are contested, II is the true Trope Codifier for the 4X genre, taking everything that had been a hit in the original and refining it into a classic that's still widely-played today.
Broken Base of V aside, everyone seems to agree that the expansions massively improved the experience in general. The first one, Gods & Kings, made naval combat not suck, added a much-needed layer of complexity with the religion system, tightened up city-states, and just made the whole thing better overall. The second one, Brave New World, added plenty of new features to increase players' enjoyment of the game, most notably overhauling the culture system to make a cultural victory into an actual competition.
May He make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you
May He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
As it turns out, this blessing is delivered while making the sign of the letter Shin in a specific way... a way upon which the devoutly Jewish Leonard Nimoy (who did the voice work for the tech quotes in IV) based the Vulcan salute ("Live long and prosper!").
The leader defeat screens? Some of them, like William of Orange's and Pedro II of Brazil's were actualFamous Last Words!
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Poles Love Civilization, to the point that Word of God says that they were the chief reason why Poland was added to V with the Brave New World expansion. When the game was in development, there was a fan petition to add Poland as one of the Civs. It managed to collect 7351 signatures; while it failed to reach the goal of ten thousand, the developers did notice it.
Barbarians are usually this if they're not Demonic Spiders, forcing you to always send garrison with settlers and having to construct and send out military units to destroy their camps if they get too close to your borders and start killing your workers and destroying your terrain improvements. Even on the first rounds of the game, they are never going to be able to fight their way past any city defender unless they outnumber you some 10-to-1 (and even then depending on levels), but again, killing workers and destroying terrain improvements, they're still going to annoy you. Barbarians are kicked up a level in the Brave New World expansion for V. There are more of them, and if they are anywhere in the path of a trade route and no civilized unit is watching them, they will plunder the trade route, take the unit that took ~8 turns to build, and convert it into another barbarian!
If there's ever a square of terrain in your general territory that is not technically in your civ's borders, every AI opponent will attempt to send a Settler and garrison to it through your borders. They will do this even if the area isn't worth building a city on, and if you tell them to get out of your territory they'll comply only to try again next turn. This can go on for turns on end.
Apostles under CPU control. They waltz in, convert your cities, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it, because the Civ will promise to not convert them — then do just that. Cassus Belli doesn't help because you still get hit with the Warmonger penalty even though you've done nothing wrong.
Technical Pacifist Gandhi (who starts the game at the lowest possible aggression level) + India becoming a democracy (which is supposed to lower said aggression level) + underflow error (creating a large negative number that gets erroneously interpreted as a large positive number) = Nuclear Gandhi. To put it another way, on a scale of 1 being least aggressive to 10 being most aggressive, Ghandi becomes 255 points of pure nuclear rage.
There have been reports of Achivements in V unlocking when other players trigger the needed conditions.
In VI, you could set the turn limit to 1, play as Russia (who gets more land, and therefore more points, when they settle a city), and win a victory on points after completing the first turn, even on the highest difficulty.
In an eerily literal example, one of the expansion packs to III includes a fascist government type; immediately after a civilization adopts fascism, it suffers a slight population loss for a few turns, presumably as 'undesirables' are, ahem, dealt with by the Secret Police.
Forced labor (present in several forms of government in the same game, and under the Slavery civic in IV) has pretty much the same connotation. More liberal forms of government replace this method with the standard option to rush-build things by throwing enough money at it.
Razing towns kills its entire population. Although capitals can never be razed, so it's not possible to kill off entire races... in V. Before that, the games allowed, even encouraged genocide. Of course, you could always just assume that the displaced citizens are merely cast out into the countryside as their homes are burnt to the ground, which is still not all that great either.
It's Easy, So It Sucks!: V got some of this attitude because it streamlined a fair amount of gameplay nuances. A big part of why the expansion packs were well-received was the re-insertion of many mechanics.
Memetic Badass: Real Life Gandhi is the defining image of a pacifistic leader. Civilization Gandhi is a bloodthirsty warlord who will churn out nukes like no tomorrow and will not hesitate to nuke your civilization into the stone age if you ever so slightly covet his lands.
Gilgamesh in Civ VI has earned himself a reputation as something between this and a Memetic Sex God.
"Spearman beats Tank."Explanation A very annoying phenomenon in all the games, but most noticed in III, is for supposedly obsolete units to get very lucky with the Random Number Generator and survive wave after wave of technologically superior units.
"Never trust an Aztec with nukes!" As discussed here, this one probably dates back all the way to the BBS days. Explanation The Aztecs have, in every game, been a very aggressive civilization who will seemingly use nuclear weapons at the first provocation, or even without any warning whatsoever.
V: "Montezuma's peace theme doesn't actually play in-game."Explanation A tongue-in-cheek "bug report" based on the same phenomenon as the above.
TV Tropes is a hypercube wiki. Explanation Venice in the Brave New World expansion was first hinted at as a civ that was not just "outside the box" but outside the entire hypercube. It turned out to be fairly unique but still subject to pretty much all of the rules. Now any civilization/tactic/thing that's even remotely non-standard is given the hypercube label by fans.
"WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN A TRADE AGREEMENT WITH ENGLAND?" As trade quotes are often reused whenever a player asks what the AI is offering, Queen Elizabeth's quote has become one of the more recognizable and memetic quotes from Civ V. Doesn't help that she's one of the few leaders to speak English.
I am fond of pigs.Explanation One of the first techs you could research in Civilization VI is Animal Husbandry, and one of the two quotes it uses is from the Churchill quote. Due to how frequent it is researched as first and how people often skip the text, as well as how Sean Bean reads it, people are indeed fond of this meme.
FUCKMOUNTAIN DEATHMONSTER. Explanation A Tumblr post regarding the change in mechanics to barbarians in VI decided to describe the new barbarians in remarkable Purple Prose, something that took off.
Memetic Psychopath: "Nuclear Gandhi". In particular, his threat that "Our words are backed by NUCLEAR WEAPONS!" Aggressive civ leaders, especially Montezuma, Attila, and Shaka, get this treatment as well.
The technology quotes in VI have gotten flak for either lacking gravitas, being lame attempts at humor, or having bizarre sources (including Scott Adams and random bloggers), made even worse by Sean Bean's somewhat bored sounding delivery.
In VI every time a leader denounces you, they throw a hissy fit at you, without any words to be spoken despite having subtitles for them. This end up making it awkward and loses much of the impact that you would have gotten from a leader that just denounce you as a warmonger.
Nightmare Fuel: IV had a mod for Beyond the Sword called Next War. It's pretty much Nineteen Eighty-Four in video game form, with superpowers at constant war with each other and mind control centers (Ministry of Love and Room 101, anyone?), for instance.
Player-Preferred Pattern: In V, the Rationalism Social Policy track, since it improves Science output that is so vital, is taken by almost everyone regardless of intended victory type.
Power Creep: A risk that every expansion runs. As new mechanics are added, older civilizations may not be able to perform the same playstyle as effectively.
From V, there's America's unique ability, "Manifest Destiny", which cuts the cost of buying tiles in half (and gives all land units +1 sight, a comparatively minor buff). Come the Brave New World expansion, you have the Shoshone's unique ability, "Great Expanse", which gives every newly-founded city eight free tiles and gives military units a combat bonus when fighting on friendly territory (i.e. on the home front). This thoroughly outclassed America's unique ability, which many fans felt should have been beefed up in Brave New World to make up for it. America's unique unit, the Minuteman, did get a minor buff (it now generates Golden Age points from victories), but not enough to compensate.
Also from V, the Aztecs did not get a rework in Brave New World. Before that, their unique ability, "Sacrificial Captives", giving them Culture for kills meant that they could be used to pursue a Cultural Victory, counterintuitive though it might seem. Under the Tourism system introduced by BNW, that is no longer possible.
The big one in V, though, is India. Their unique ability, "Population Growth", is the only one in the vanilla game that carries a penalty: namely, it doubles unhappiness from number of cities, with the fact that it halves unhappiness from total population (a very powerful buff) making up for it. It was crafted with the intention of building a very "tall" nation with a small handful of very densely-populated and built-up cities, which was optimal for a Cultural Victory in the vanilla game (more cities increases the culture cost of social policies). BNW, however, changed Cultural Victories such that now, a large empire is preferable, precisely the sort of thing that India's unique ability pulls against. The result is that one of the best empires for a Culture Victory in the vanilla game and G&K becomes a Tier-Induced Scrappy in BNW.
Retroactive Recognition: Averted. Strange as it may seem to have actors in a Civilization game, there were some in Civilization II, playing the advisers who had their own screen, five across telling you how you were doing. A few of the actors had other minor roles here and there, but most didn't go on in an acting career. You can see them all on the IMDB here.
The adviser videos are on YouTube, too. They would sometimes argue with each other.
The biggest is by far Maria I, primarily for being chosen as Portugal's leader. The only highlights of her rule were fleeing with the rest of the royal family to Brazil during the Napoleonic invasions (which ironically makes her a more revered figure in Brazil, since the family taking residence there led to the country's independence a few decades later) and descending into literal screaming insanity during her last 21 years of life (which led the aforementioned Brazilians to dub her "Maria the Mad"). Needless to say, almost the entire fanbase agrees the developers probably could've selected a less embarrassing and incompetent ruler for Portugal.
The removal of unit stacking in V has had a mixed reception, but one headache resulting is that it kills unit pathfinding. If you tell Unit A and Unit B to both make for the same hex tile, and Unit A gets there first, Unit B will ask for new orders. Imagine if you did that to your entire 15-unit army. The micromanaging is a nightmare, especially when combined with an interface bug that makes Fortified units unselectable once auto-move orders have been executed.
The warmongering penalty in V can be ridiculous. Even after hundreds of years of being a peaceful and generous nation, you can still be seen as a warmonger and treated poorly because of it, thus making it even harder to atone or play. Once you become a warmonger, you're pretty much forced to keep conquering if you want to go anywhere.
Unit stacking is problematic for military units, but it completely kills management of your civilians, most importantly workers. From I to IV, it was possible to stack your workers so they could finish tile improvements faster, meaning that laying rails or expanding in later stages of game could be done very fast, if not instantly with sufficient numbers of workers. By V, you can only use one worker per tile, meaning that no matter how advanced you are and how big your empire is, tile improvements take (sometimes literally) ages. It's even more glaring when you consider that some backward Iron Age civ is building its improvements almost at the same rate as the Next Sunday A.D. empire spanning two continents.
This can be alleviated considerably by building the Pyramids wonder (Workers build improvements +25% faster, and spawns 2 new Workers for free) and unlocking the Citizenship policy in the Liberty tree (Also +25% faster improvement speed, and 1 free Worker at your capital).
Trade routes being plundered in Brave New World. The unit for a trade route moves by itself. If a barbarian or enemy unit reaches the trade unit with any moves remaining, they can plunder it. If a trade unit runs into a barbarian or enemy unit, it can be plundered automatically. Upon being plundered, you lose the trade unit, which takes 10 turns or more to build in the early game. On paper, this makes sense; can't have a caravan or cargo ship moving around undefended. The scrappy part is that it's not enough to have a unit nearby that can see your trade unit; it must be right on the same space to keep it protected. Just escorting a normal civilian unit with a military unit is more work than it needs to be (both units have to be manually moved turn-by-turn to make sure they don't split up), but with an automated trade unit, the problem becomes worse. Oh, and if barbarians take your trade route, it turns into a barbarian military unit!
VI finally fixes this by allowing units to "escort" non combatant units, which makes them move in a stack.
The Agendas introduced in VI were meant to give each Civ their own personality and motivations. In practice this usually ends with the AI being unhappy with the player most of the time. As failure to meet or adhere to their beliefs results in declining relations. Often leading to war, when the player has done nothing to actually warrant it. Forcing you to play in a way that satisfies your neighbors and potential allies rather then how you desire in order to avoid war. In addition to their main agenda every Civ has a secondary secret agenda which cannot initially be seen, making it possible to anger someone by unknowingly conflicting with this second agenda and ruining relations with them even though their primary agenda means they should like you.
The menu theme for the BTS version of Rhye's and Fall of Civilization (which shipped with the vanilla game) was one to Pink Floyd's "Shine On, You Crazy Diamond", which was the menu theme for previous, non-commercial versions of the mod.
The Hoover Dam Wonder video in Civilization II has music eerily similar to Race Against Time/Arkham Bridge from MechWarrior 2.
"Conquest of the World" in V, which requires you to win via a Domination Victory as Greece by 350 BC. Even if you play on a Duel size map (which is highly recommended for this achievement), there is still a lot of luck involved in what resources your city spawns near, what enemy you get and their playstyle, and how fast you can build up your military so you can both destroy your enemy and meet the deadline, all while ensuring your own civilization's economy doesn't collapse.
Unless, of course, you play one of the five tutorial maps, which technically count as a Domination Victory upon completion. You still have to keep restarting until you're randomly assigned Greece, though.
While fairly luck-based, a Domination Victory is NOT actually required for the achievement: the criteria to complete it reads "As Alexander, defeat every known player by 350BC". 'Every known player' refers only to the players whom you have met at any point in the game. So if you were playing on a Continents map and found yourself sharing it with a single other civ, then provided you're lucky enough to not meet anyone else before you can conquer them, it counts.
"Kamikaze Attack", also from V, requires you to defeat an enemy unit with your attacking unit having only 1 HP left. It's somewhat doable if already a Luck-Based Mission in vanilla, where health maxes at 10, but Random Number God give you the good luck you'll need to get it in G&K or BNW where health maxes at 100.
In BNW, "Pyramid Scheme," which requires you to have 1) the Louvre 2) in Paris 3) with a Full Set Bonus, which involves 4) two Artifacts and two works of Art, all from different ages and civilizations. The Art is easy to swap, but the only way to get an artifact that isn't from the Ancient age is to engage in a war of conquest or run into barbarians that haven't been killed off yet, fight a bunch of battles, and then cross your fingers. (At least your ruler is renowned for his warfighting abilities.)
Also in BNW, "Raiders of the Lost Ark", which requires you to play as America and have one of your Archaeologists extract an artifact in Egyptian lands while a German Archaeologist is within two tiles. While it is a nice homage to Indiana Jones, its ridiculously specific requirements usually means that you'll probably never achieve this through normal gameplay without the help of other people online through multiplayer playing along with you to help you gain the achievement.
In BNW again is the achievement "Here's Looking At You Kid", referencing Casablanca. It requires you to play as Morocco with an enemy Portugal. You have to capture Portugal's starting city/capital Lisbon. You then need an Airport there to airlift a worker from there to Casablanca (Morocco's starting city/capital). You can already see the annoyance in getting this.
Thankfully, plenty of the achievements that could be seen as this can be alleviated with Hot Seat mode (a multiplayer mode where different players share the same computer). With that said it can still feel a bit grind-y.
That One Side Quest: Any City-State request can be this depending on how one is playing at the time. Being asked to generate a great writer while focusing science, or train a galley when you have no coastal cities for example.
Tier-Induced Scrappy: Once civilizations started having unique qualities and traits (which started in III), this became inevitable. It tends to boil down more to which play style people should pursue as them. Many civs have unique traits and units that help a lot early on and then taper off into nothingness, which encourages aggressive expansion or conquest in those early stages and building off of that advantage in the later stages.
As of vanilla V, the losers are Napoleon of France, whose "Ancien Regime" trait, while very useful in the early-mid game, has an expiration date (though Napoleon is unique among playable leaders for his career ending in defeat...), and Suleiman of the Ottomans, whose "Barbary Corsairs" ability to convert Barbarian boats to your control looks lame in comparison to the German ability to do that to land units (though a patch balanced things out by giving the Ottomans greatly reduced naval maintenance costs as well).
In Brave New World, France and the Ottomans were both reworked. France loses one of their unique units (the Foreign Legion, which becomes a unit only available for civs following the Freedom ideology), but it get a unique improvement, the Chateau, that boosts Culture and Gold and doubles as a fort. Their new trait, "City of Light", plays off the offensive cultural system, instead of giving passive bonuses until an arbitrary cutoff date. The general opinion is that this makes them far more useful for a cultural victory. As for the Ottomans, "Barbary Corsairs" is buffed so that they have a chance of capturing any ship they defeat, including those owned by another civ or city-state.
Theodora of Byzantium's unique ability in Gods & Kings, "Patriarchate of Constantinople", is one bonus belief when founding a religion. It can be fun to see what combinations of beliefs become possible with this on lower difficulties or noncompetitive games, but on higher difficulties or competitive multiplayer, it's outweighed by how much work it takes to found the religion in the first place and to keep it thriving. It does not help that both of its unique units can go obsolete quickly and the promotions lack firepower. The uniques also have very poor synergy with each other. If you want to enjoy the religion bonus, you're busy building shrines and temples and have less time to build the units before they go obsolete. Bad synergy doesn't automatically make them bad overall, but doesn't help their case when they're already underwhelming.
In Brave New World, India's "Population Growth" trait was not reworked to take advantage of the new offensive cultural system. The old Culture Victory system rewarded civs with a small number of well-developed cities, a strategy India was specifically geared towards: it has its penalty for population halved and its penalty for number of cities doubled. The new Tourism system is dependent on generating large numbers of Great Mediamakers, which is easier with... many cities. Its unique building does get a modest boost so that it now produces Tourism, but in the end it's not nearly enough to compensate. It is possible to play wide empires with India, albeit slowed downnote To wit: once the city reaches beyond 6 in population, the decrease in unhappiness from population more than compensates from the increase in unhappiness from number of cities., but India remains one of only two civs that actually receives a penalty from its unique abilitynote The second one, Venice (added in BNW), was specifically designed around a radically different play style, namely the "one city challenge"., and as of BNW, the strategy that this penalty pushes the player towards is substantially less viable. In particular, getting the "Bollywood" achievement, winning a cultural victory as India with three or fewer cities, is now almost impossible without turning off the BNW expansion in the DLC menu.
When playing multiplayer in V, Venice and Sweden's unique abilities can easily be countered. Venice's "Serenissima" ability is geared towards a diplomatic victory, which is all but impossible in multiplayer (it requires the consent of the other civs, which is never going to happen with human players), leaving them with an inability to directly control any city other than the capital and a large number of trade routes (their specialty) that are easily plundered or embargoed. Sweden's "Nobel Prize" ability, meanwhile, can be countered by other human players refusing to sign friendship agreements with Sweden once they remember that, while they're getting a 10% bonus in Great People production by doing so, Sweden is also getting that bonus.
The Iroquois is often regarded as the worst civilization in all versions of V. Their unique building, the Longhouse, loses the 10% production bonus of the Workshop in exchange for a highly situational production bonus for each forest tile. Its unique ability, the Great Warpath (units move through forest and jungle in friendly territory as if it were road), is also very situational (and buggy on top of it), as is their unique unit, the Mohawk Warrior, a replacement for the Swordsman that gets a combat bonus when fighting in the forest and doesn't require iron (but upgrades to the Longswordman, which does need iron). About the only time people will play the Iroquois is if they're playing an Arboreal map, which is a map covered in trees.
Ethiopia is a top tier Civ for one reason and one reason alone. Their unique Monument replacement the Stele, which provides faith on top of culture. Allowing them to begin generating faith before anyone else can even complete the research and construct a Shrine. Guaranteeing that Ethiopia will get the first Pantheon, and maybe even religion in any game they are in. Getting to choose whichever traits suit their needs. The only thing that can prevent this being the Celts, who can generate faith even faster and claim them first.
The Rationalism policy in Civilization V is practically a necessity, especially on higher difficulties, due to the fact that its theme, science, is one of the foundations that makes you win the game.
Woolseyism: The SNES version of Civilization I changes the traditional opening to a goddess charging the player to make his civilization greater than all others. If the player wins by wiping out all other nations the goddess reappears and congratulates the player.