RISC World


An Introduction to Freeciv


To start a multi-player game, type "civclient" in a shell. Then click the "Metaserver" tab and the "Update" button there. Look for game in "Pregame" state, possibly with nonzero players, connect and wait there for more players. Type "/create name" to get a computer enemy and "/start" to begin.

The goal

The goal of Freeciv is to build cities, which in turn can build armies to attack the other players. You get 2 settlers and 1 explorer. Using the numeric keypad, move the settlers to a good location (see below) and build a city by pressing b. You can move diagonally, by the way. Freeciv is turn based; every unit can move once per turn. The turn ends when everyone clicks "Turn done" or when a timeout is over.


Cities extract resources from the square they're built on plus one nearby square for each inhabitant; you start with 1 inhabitant. The resources are: Food (to grow cities), Production (to build settlers/armies) and Trade (for research and money). Click a city to bring it up for management. Click on a used square on the small map to remove your worker (and turn him into an entertainer, see below), then click on an unused square to place your worker. However the default placement is usually good.

  • Food: All food from the used squares is added to the granary. Every inhabitant uses two food per turn though, and settlers built by this city require one or two also. When the granary reaches 20 food, the city grows to size 2 and can use an additional nearby square. Settlers can irrigate (press i) nearby squares if there is water adjacent, which increases food by one for some square types, see table below. The square under the city gets a free irrigation.

  • Production: The production you get from a square can be used to produce military units or settlers. Producing a settler reduces the city size by 1 and can only be done in cities of size 2 and larger. Some units require one production every turn (upkeep) for as long as they're alive. You can change the unit or building to be produced in the city report, or buy unfinished units. Settlers can mine (press m) some square types, which increases their production; see table below. The square the city is on gets one production if otherwise zero.

  • Trade: Trade can be turned into tax, luxury or science. Science lets you research new military unit types. Tax yields money, which you can use to prematurely complete a cities production. Luxury creates happy inhabitants. You can select the distribution of your trade by pressing shift-R). Corruption reduces the amount of trade that a city delivers; the further away from the capital, the more corruption. Settlers can build roads (press r) which add 1 trade to some square types, see table below, and allow for faster movement. The square the city is on gets a free road.
Inhabitants can be happy, content or unhappy (shown by different icons in the city window). If there are more unhappy than happy inhabitants, the city falls into disorder and stops producing anything. The first four inhabitants of a city are content. Additional ones are unhappy and must be made content either with temples in their cities, with wonders (see below), with luxuries or with entertainers.


In the Reports menu you find the Science report. There you can decide what to research. You can select an immediate thing to research and a long term goal that the next immediate will be selected from. Most research items require others to be discovered already. After discovery of knowledge, you can build new types of military units, new wonders or use new governments. This window pops up whenever research on one item finishes.


The type of government you have affects how many resources your cities can extract from the land. You can change government by researching the new government type and then starting a revolution (in Kingdom menu, will take a few turns). The most important ones:

  • Despotism: This is your initial government type. Each square that yields more than 2 of anything (food, production or trade) has that yield reduced by one. Settlers use one food per turn for upkeep, military units are free unless there are more built by a city than the city has inhabitants. Science rate can only be set to 60%. High corruption.

  • Monarchy: No more resource reduction. Settlers use one food. The first 3 military units per city are free of upkeep. Maximum science rate is 70%. Corruption is small.

  • Republic: Each square with trade gets another trade unit. Settlers use two food, and one production. All military units use one production. Only one military unit is tolerated abroad (not in city), additional units create one unhappy inhabitant. Corruption is small.


Each wonder of the world can only be built by one player and only in one city. Other cities can build and send caravans (after you research Trade) to help in building wonders. The most important wonders are:

  • Magellan's Expedition: Sea units can move 2 squares further per turn. Requires Navigation
  • Leonardo's Workshop: 1 obsolete military unit upgraded per turn. Requires Invention
  • Michelangelo's Chapel: 3 unhappy inhabitants become content in every city. Requires Monotheism
  • J.S.Bach's Cathedral: Creates 2 happy inhabitants in every city. Requires Theology

Square types

Tile F/P/T Name Irrigation Mine Road Defence
Ocean - - - -
Grassland F - T -
Plains F - T -
Desert F PP T -
Tundra F - - -
Forest - - - +50%
Jungle - - - +50%
Hills F PPP - +100%
Mountains - P - +200%
Swamp - - - +50%
Glacier - - - -
These are the food, production and trade yields of all squares under Monarchy. Note that the fields in the second and third column are rare. For the initial government type, reduce all numbers above 2 by 1. For Republic, add 1 trade to each square with trade. Irrigation/Mine/Road shows the increases in food, production, and trade when those are improvements are performed by a settler. Defence is the increase in defense power you get when attacked on such a field. Rivers add 1 trade and 50% defense power; they also ease movement along them. Squares with increased defense power are harder to walk fast (horses get slowed down) except for explorers. You can identify any square (or unit) by middle-clicking it.

Military units

Unit Name A D M Requires Remarks
Explorer - 1 3 Seafaring No slowdown by rough terrain
Settlers - 1 1 - Builds cities, improves land
Diplomat - - 2 Writing Can subvert cities and bribe units
Caravan - 1 1 Trade Carries production to wonders
Phalanx 1 2 1 Bronze working OK defense against most land units
Horsemen 2 1 2 Horseback riding Good invader of emptied cities
Trireme 1 1 3 Map making Carries 2, turn must end at coast
Caravel 2 1 3 Navigation Carries 3 units
Ironclad 4 4 4 Steam engine Strong attacker of coastal cities
Destroyer 4 4 6 Electricity Like ironclad but faster
Cruiser 6 6 5 Steel Much stronger than destroyers
Military units are characterized by three numbers: attack power, defense power, and movement speed. Those three numbers plus the production cost are what you see when changing production. When unit A attacks unit B by moving onto B's square, A's attack power is matched up against B's defense power. If A has attack power 2 and B has defense power 1, then A has about a two-thirds chance of winning (more info in the Freeciv manual). The survivor often becomes veteran, which increases his attack and defense power by 50%. Being built in a city with Barracks makes a unit veteran, too.
Rivers and some terrain types increase the defense power of the defender, see table below. Units in cities enjoy a 50% defense power increase as well. Damaged units have red bars in the bottom left corner, they move more slowly and have their attack power reduced. They recover slowly (faster in cities or when fortified).
Pressing f will fortify the unit, which increases defense power by 50%. Pressing s will put the unit on sentry; they will wait until healed or until an enemy unit moves to an adjacent field. Pressing g lets you select a destination to go to. If an enemy is there, it will be attacked. Military units can take enemy cities when there are no defenders left. Defended cities have a little flag in their top left corner. If you lose your capital, you get very high corruption and your kingdom may split.
If several military units are on one square, the strongest one defends. If it is defeated, all units die (except in cities). Sea units can attack land units but not vice versa. Some sea units can carry land units, just move onto them at the coast. Loaded units have a + in their bottom right corner.
Diplomats are very powerful. They are easy to defeat but can incite revolts in enemy cities (the city becomes yours), steal technologies or bribe enemy units. Diplomat actions can be performed directly from a ship. Defending diplomats in cities may prevent them.

Winning strategy

Most multi-player games are played using "/set generator 2". This creates one island for every player plus some small empty additional ones. Here's standard strategy to play these.

  1. Find good settling spots. A good settling spot must at least yield 4 food (from the two squares used) and as much production as possible. Don't look longer than, say, for 3-4 turns. Whales and pheasants are the best resource to be close to. Grassland and plains are good to settle on, wheat/oasis/buffalo even better.
  2. Once you built the city, set its production to settlers. Bring up the science report and set research to Alphabet and the goal to The Republic.
  3. As soon as any city reaches size two, click it and set all workers on production fields using the little map. As soon as you can afford it, buy the settler.
  4. Keep producing nothing but settlers and have them build nearby cities. There should only be 1-2 empty squares between the cities. Don't build irrigation, mines or roads.
  5. When The Republic is only one step away, set goal to Navigation. When Republic is reached, set research to Map Making and immediately start a revolution (from Kingdom menu). Once you're a republic, build roads on used squares. See image for an example.
  6. VARIANT: If you get discovered by an enemy, build ships as soon as you can, and defending units like warriors and phalanxes if necessary. You may choose to collaborate with neighbours, use Players menu to find out who to talk to.
  7. When Navigation is only one step away, set goal to Steam Engine. When Navigation is reached, build a couple of caravels to explore your neighbourhood and settle nearby islands. VARIANT: It's often useful to research Trade before Steam Engine so you can build wonders.
  8. Once most spots on your island are taken, start building roads, preferably on grassland and plains. Use the roads to move faster and gain trade.
  9. As soon as Steam Engine is reached, build lots of ironclads. Increase tax rate to buy them. Accompany them with horsemen on caravels. Find neighbours, kill their city defences with the ironclads and invade their cities with the horsemen. Place ironclads in conquered cities for initial defense.
  10. After Steam Engine, you may want to research Electricity and Steel to get even better ships, destroyers and cruisers. Once you got Steel, set tax rate to maximum and put everything into war.
If you play on the default generator, there are three possibilities:
  • If you have your own island, play like above.
  • If you have a shared island but your enemies are far away or you can have peace with them (which usually is preferable), you can play mostly like generator 2, just research horseback riding and bronze working right after republic (gives horsemen and phalanx).
  • If your neighbours are close and you can't have peace or alliance, research horsemen, monarchy and feudalism to defend. Then play like generator 2, only try to attack cities just after you got the new offensive unit (horsemen, knights). Consider building some Barracks. VARIANT: Research horsemen and the republic. Now build diplomats and bribe enemy cities of size 1-2 and attacking units. Also research map making to allow for surprise attacks off the boat. When your opponent is no urgent threat anymore, set your science back to maximum and research gunpowder or navigation.

Further reading

A lot of documentation is found on the Freeciv home page, namely the Freeciv manual and more tutorials (some outdated). And once the game is running you can check the help function for a complete list of wonders, military units, science advances and government types. Also check the Orders menu to see what a unit can do.


This article was reproduced from the website. This website is a definite must see for anyone who wants to play FreeCiv, learn more about the game, or wants to best strategies.

RISC World