This is a continuation of a series of guides discussing which cultures are the best in a couple of scenarios. We will only consider the highest difficulty, that is the Humankind difficulty, and playing against the AI. Since the last guide, I have won a Humankind game on the Humankind difficulty 4 or 5 times and I have around 120 hours in the game. Please take a look at the first guide in this series for a description of how the difficulty works on Humankind as well as the two scenarios we will consider: ancient era best culture tier list. We’ll start off with a recap of the scenarios, give an overview of the classical era and then discuss the best cultures in each scenario.
Let’s quickly recap what the two scenarios were. The first scenario is where you pick a medium difficulty game setup, such as Pangea with 60% land mass and the recommended number of competitors. The second scenario is where you pick an easy game setup where you are on a continent on your own or enemy empires are far enough away from you.
Let’s dive into the first scenario and discuss the medieval era. We will assume that you have either finished off your last neighbour or have spent the classical era building up your economy. In the medieval era the yields will start to come mostly from building quarters, such as the makers and research quarter. The impact of population on your yields will diminish. You will also have met most of the empires in the world and are able to trade with them. The medieval era is about continuing to build your economic and scientific advantage over the other empires. You may still be expanding and adding new cities, although this is happening less and your existing cities will be much better than the newly founded cities. War yields a lot less compared to earlier in the game because you will miss out on trade and won’t be able to focus on your economy. The AI is also less likely to attack you starting in the medieval era due to the advantage you will have been able to build over them by now.
First, let’s broadly discuss any militarist and expansionist cultures except the Mongols. This is the Norsemen, Teutons and Aztecs. At this point of the game, these cultures are very weak because you need to be building up your economic engine so you don’t fall behind the AI. With enough of an advantage, you can pick these cultures and roll over some neighbours, but unless you are planning to defeat everyone you will have a hard time keeping up. You will also likely still not be able to defeat your strongest competitor and they will keep building up their economy.
Let’s now discuss the merchant cultures, the Byzantines and Ghanaians. Their bonuses are nice, but money is, overall, a bit less than 3 times worse than good industry because of the higher buyout cost. Compared to the industry cultures in the medieval era, the money bonuses provided by these cultures does not stack up. If you are able to build alliances, the Byzantines are nice, otherwise the luxury based scaling of the Ghanaians are better.
Let’s now look at the Franks. Similar to the classical era, influence is quite powerful early on, but, starting in the classical era, you won’t be able to use influence for much, other than gaining era stars, and what you can use it for, such as expansion and civics, has a diminishing impact on the game. The Scriptorium is also a quite weak research quarter.
Looking at the English, similar to the Celts, the impact population has on the game diminishes starting in the medieval era. The benefit of population is limited by only being able to grow at most 1 additional population per turn and not being able to keep up with enough slots to get yields from the population. Serfs’ Labor is also not very strong, adding perhaps 2 or 3 additional population to your cities, and the Stronghold is nice because you can place it anywhere, but it won’t make a huge difference to your game.
Let’s move on to the mongols. They are one of the most powerful militarist cultures in the game. I have discussed them in much more detail in a guide already: early war with mongols. With the Mongols you will easily be able to take over a few of your closest neighbours. However, you will have to keep your entire empire focused on war and you will fall behind economically. It is still possible to win whilst picking the Mongols, but it becomes much harder if any of the empires that are left are able to build a significant economic edge over you. The additional territory will help you catch up quickly, but will draw out the game longer than an economic pick.
The Umayyads are a nice pick, especially if you have a lot of allies already. However, if you are unable to get alliances yet or not many empires are left in your game, the Learned Friends trait won’t be that valuable. The Grand Mosque is also not a very good special research quarter, the 3 science per attached territories is marginal at best.
The best pick are the Khmer, although again it won’t have the biggest impact of all the cultural picks you will make in the game. The Baray synergises well with the Harappans, if you picked them in the ancient era, because it scales with population in your cities. It also provides a nice food bonus which helps grow population in your cities. The extra industry per maker quarter is also a nice boost, although it is on the weaker side.
Let’s discuss the second scenario, which is where you essentially setup the game so you don’t have any AIs to compete with by putting every competitor on their own continent. In this case The Mongols are not particularly good, but the Umayyads and Khmer remain the best cultures in the medieval era.
In summary, regardless of setup, the Khmer will get you through the medieval era and boost your economic advantage over the AI. The Umayyads are also good, assuming you were able to establish alliances with foreign empires. The Mongols are fun but put the game at risk because your economy will be in hibernation whilst you go to war.