Movement (Civ5)

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This article considers the rules of movement in Civilization V.


Moving is the act of a unit changing its position across the map's tiles. As in every game in the Civilization series, units have Movement Points, or MP 20xMovement5, which determine how far (how many tiles) they can move across terrain for 1 turn. It is generally assumed that 1 MP allows a unit to move 1 tile, but there are many exceptions - some hinder movement, while others help it. Note that all other actions (attacking, building, etc.) require the unit to have at least a fraction of an MP remaining in order to execute them. Most actions consume all of a unit's remaining MP, but there are exceptions:

  • Pillaging action only consumes 1 MP, after which the unit may perform another action.
  • Most mounted and armored units may perform a move AFTER attacking, if they have any MP left.

Terrain features play a large role in determining how far the unit can actually move. 

Different units have certain domains in which they naturally move:  

  • Land units move naturally on land, but after researching the Optics technology they gain the Embarkation ability, through which they may also move on Water (see more below). This is valid for both Military and Civilian units.  
  • Sea units, aka Ships can only move on Water. There are no exceptions.  
  • Air units can only move from base to base; for them terrain doesn't actually matter - what matters is where are there available bases for them to land.  

Moving on LandEdit

Moving on land is generally much more difficult than moving in the sea. Many terrain features act as obstacles, as follows:

  • Hills - Require 2 movement points to pass.
  • Forests, jungles and marshes - Also require 2 movement points to pass. Certain civilizations' units enjoy special rules for moving through forests and jungles.  
  • Rivers - End the unit's turn if crossed. 
  • Mountains - Normally impassable, except for the Carthaginian military units under certain circumstances, and air units, as well as Helicopters.
  • Lakes - They count as water tiles, meaning that your units need the Embarkation ability to cross them.
  • Oases - Count as normal, flat terrain (normal land movement).
  • Natural Wonders - They are considered impassable, just like mountains.

Roads and Railroads greatly ease movement across land. Initially, Roads negate all above-mentioned movement penalties, while also giving a small movement bonus to the unit using them. Also, after you research Engineering, bridges are built automatically wherever Roads cross Rivers, allowing unhindered passage at those points. Upon researching Machinery, the movement bonus on Roads increases.

Railroads act as even faster Roads, with the same rules applied to them.

Helicopters are special units, which are a hybrid between air units and land units. As such, they have their own movement rules. They may move through all land features as if they were flat terrain (1 MP) except as airplanes, and they may cross mountains. However, for all other purposes (including Embarkation), they are considered land units. Also, because Helicopters are not considered Land units, they do not benefit from Roads/Railroads movement boost.

Moving in the SeaEdit

Initially, you can't move in the sea at all. You need to research Sailing to acquire your first ships, and then Optics to allow land units to embark onto water tiles. The process of Embarkation and Disembarkation each ends the unit's move in the current turn. In the water, all Embarked units have initially only 2 movement points, regardless of how many they have on land. Their MPs increase in later Ages with certain technologies.

Moving in water is much easier than on land, in the sense that there are hardly any obstacles. All water tiles take 1 movement point. For the sake of simplicity, storms and reefs aren't included in the game.

Note also that initially all ships and units can only move in water tiles marked as Coast. You need to research Astronomy to allow Embarked units to enter Deep Ocean tiles, and also unlock the first ship capable of doing the same. Also, Astronomy and later Steam Power increase embarked units' base movement points (regardless of which unit exactly is Embarked), allowing them to move much quicker than on land without road systems. Note that Triremes and Galleasses, and also their special substitutes, can never move onto ocean tiles, regardless of your technological advancement (unless you're playing as Polynesia).

The only obstacles in the sea are islands and ice - the first ones are land tiles, and subject to relevant rules, while the second ones are impassable (save to Submarines and Nuclear Submarines). Atolls are reef tiles which are deemed normal water tiles, because vessels can navigate in between the reefs.

Moving in Another Civilization's TerritoryEdit

You can't enter territory that belongs to another civilization AT ALL, unless you have an "open borders" treaty with them, or you declare war. Once inside, your units are subject to all normal terrain penalties. However, if you entered peacefully (thanks to an "open borders" treaty) you can use their Roads and Railroads normally.

The same rules apply to territory belonging to city-states. The difference is that you can enter it at any time - but if you aren't friend or ally to them, there will be political repercussions if you end the turn on their territory.

Sight and reconnaissance Edit

Every unit, be it combat, civilian, land, sea or air, has a certain sight range, or how far the unit can 'see' on the map. Tiles that the unit may see on the map are revealed, and all they contain becomes visible (with the exception of Submarines whose sighting is done under more special rules). That includes all tiles within the sight range in all directions from the current unit's positions, IF they are unobstructed. For example, a unit with a sight range of 2 may see all tiles around him within two of its current tile.

Land features may obstruct sighting. A unit may not 'see' past a tile with an obstacle; for example a unit with a sight range of 2 which is standing right next to a hill, will see the tile with the hill, but not the tile(s) past the hill. All "tall" land features, such as hills and mountains, obstruct vision. Forests and jungles also obstruct vision, but only if they are on the same level as the unit. For example, if the unit is on the ground level, forests and jungles will obstruct vision, but not if it's on a hill. However, if the forests are found on top of another hill, they will obstruct vision even if the unit is itself on a hill. Mountains always obstruct vision, being even taller than hills.

When in the sea, vision is usually unobstructed, unless the unit is close to an island with any obstructing features on it. They will block its sight in the tiles beyond.

Mountains are interesting in terms of sighting, because, despite acting as a big obstruction to sight, they themselves may be seen from an exceptional distance. Any unit, regardless of its position and level, will "see" any Mountain within, and up to one tile further than its usual sight range. This includes all natural wonders which are classified as mountains, such as Uluru or Mount Sinai. This is especially useful in the early reconnaissance stage, when Natural Wonders are first found, and subsequent bonuses gained. Use mountain sightings to modify your early reconnaisance movement pattern, so that you could avoid getting stuck and losing time to pass around such big obstacles as mountain ranges.

Sight and vision are very important for early game ranged units. For more info, see this article. Also, certain Promotions and special abilities enhance sight, which is important strategic advantage in many circumstances.

Reconnaissance Edit

This term is used to denote the revealing of the map throughout the game. When you start, the entire map is hidden with clouds, and all diplomatic entities (including other nations and city-states) are unknown. All players need to "reveal" the terrain, as well as "find" all these entities, using their units. A unit specifically sent out with this mission is usually known as an "Explorer." There is even a specialized game unit, the Scout, whose sole purpose is to explore the map, and which even has special, appropriate Promotions.

While moving, these Explorers (or any normal unit for that matter) reveal the map tile by tile, within their sight range. This removes the cloud cover, and (as mentioned above), shows all terrain, features and units on the tile. Note that once the unit moves away, the Fog of War will cover the revealed tiles again, hiding all units, but not terrain and its features, cities and national territory. Those will appear immediately upon foundation, even though none of your units is currently there to "see" them. New Strategic resources, revealed after you have discovered the relevant technology, will also become visible in the Fog of War. All other "strategic" changes to territory, including removal of forests and jungles, and new improvements, will only become visible once a unit "updates" your info of the relevant tile.

There are other methods to reveal, or to keep vision, of locations on the map.

  • First, you "see" all tiles up to one tile away from your territory. (We may consider that people always travel in all tiles of your territory, and report what they see.) Note that obstructing features play no part here - you see all tiles without exception.
  • Second, all City-States you become Friends with reveal (but do not maintain constant vision!) their territory and all tiles up to one tile further. What's more, if you become Allies, the City-State gives you total vision of its territory, as if it belonged to your nation.
  • Finally, Spies and Diplomats sent into foreign cities give you vision within two tiles of the city itself.

Reconnaissance is an integral part of the game. First, you need to explore the map, so as to find suitable locations for cities, and to "meet" the other diplomatic actors in the game. In order to meet any of these actors, you have to come within sight either of one of their units, or of one of their cities. (Note that simply seeing part of their territory is not sufficient!) Meeting City-States also nets a 20xGold5 Gold reward (and 20xfaith5 Faith reward, if the City-State is of the Religious type). Also, it is not possible to conduct any diplomatic activity with an actor you have not met. Finding Natural Wonders always conveys a +1 20xHappiness5 Global Happiness for your empire...and even more rewards, in special cases.

Later in the game, you should try to regularly update your info on the map, so as to know what your adversaries are up to. For example, having a unit in the right place in the right time may give you an advance warning of an impending attack, when you see an army advancing towards your borders!

Air fighter units, such as the Triplane (and its upgrades) have a special Reconnaissance feature which enables them to give your nation permanent vision of all tiles within their operational range. This is extremely useful.

There is a late-game technology, Satellites, which instantly reveals (but does NOT give vision of!) the entire map.

Unit Stacking and Units as ObstaclesEdit

You are allowed to stack several units on the same tile, so far as they belong to different classes. They are organised as follows:

  • Military units - All land soldiers are counted here, including the Helicopters.
  • Civilians - These include Workers, Settlers, Missionaries, Inquisitors, Archaeologists, and Great People.
  • Sea vessels - They are seaborne military units, stackable with both civilian and land units (in the case of Embarkation, or in a city). The Great Admiral and the Work Boat are considered civilian units, which may stack with any military vessel and any embarked military land unit, but NOT with an embarked land civilian unit.

So, you can stack a maximum of three units from different classes in a tile. If for some reason you happen to have more (for example, when you've just built a unit in a city that already has a garrisoned unit), the game will prompt you to move one of them before the end of the turn.

Many times, either your own units or your enemy's may act as obstacles to land or water movement. In the case of your own, or allied/neutral units, you are allowed to move directly crossing the tile they occupy, if you have sufficient MPs left to reach the further tile, and if you're able to "see" (have vision of) it. In the case of enemies, though, you will be forced to go around.

Note that civilian units may not enter tiles occupied by other civilizations' or city-states' units, even if they are your allies. They are always forced to go around, even in your own territory, and even when they are on a road. It is unclear whether this is by design, or is a bug in the game which has remained unnoticed for such a long time. Because of it moving Religious units, Archaeologists and Great People to distant locations may prove a real challenge.

Maneuvering around Enemy UnitsEdit

Each military unit possesses what is known as a "ZOC" (Zone Of Control), which extends to all tiles surrounding its immediate tile. The same is valid for cities.

When military units maneuver in enemy ZOC (move from one tile adjacent to the enemy, to another adjacent to it), they can only move ONE tile per turn, even if they have more MPs remaining, and that move also prevents them from attacking! This is quite realistic, since in battle a formation has to be preserved when it's threatened from one side, and can't allow to move as fast as they otherwise could. Note that when you move into or out of a ZOC, this rule doesn't apply. So for example, if you were 2 tiles away and choose to move to the enemy's adjacent tile, you will use all your MPs; the same holds true if you are next to an enemy, and choose to move to any tile 2 tiles away from it.

Finally, note that some fast units, such as Cavalry, may avoid the ZOC rules by moving out of and back into the ZOC, then attacking. They will need space to do that, however, and sometimes terrain and other enemies prevent such maneuvers.

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