Civ 5 Best Leaders for Domination (Top 10)

Civ 5 Best Leaders
It's time to Dominate; who will you choose?

If domination victories are your goal in Civilization 5, these are your go-to civilizations.

Sometimes we just want to watch the world burn, and in Civilization, itcan be easy to get tired of science, culture, and diplomatic victories.Unfortunately, domination victories tend to be some of the most difficult to achieve, which is why we’ve curated this list of the 10 best leaders for domination victories in Civ 5.

Whether it’s a unique unit that particularly outclasses the competition, a unique ability that supports military advancements, or some combinationof the two, all of these leaders have the potential to give you a serious edge if you’re really looking for a fight.

10. Casimir III - Polish

Prepare the Winged Hussars

King Casimir III was not a wartime King during his 14th-century reign, but he is, without a doubt, a solid choice for a domination victory in Civ. His political flexibility and commitment to socio-economic advancement were a boon to his people in real life and will come to help your conquest in Civ as well. Take your steadfast Winged Hussars and free social policies and show the rest of the world who’s boss.

  • Unique Ability: Solidarity - Receive a free Social Policy when you advance to the next era.
  • Unique Unit: Winged Hussar - Forces any defender to retreat if it inflicts more damage than it receives. Defenders who cannot retreat take extra damage.
  • Unique Building: Ducal stable - Each Pasture in the City produces +1 production and +1 gold. +15 XP for Mounted Units produced in this City.

Casimir III might not have as specific a strategy as the others on this list, but the Winged Hussars certainly make an incredible impact, especially if you can research the necessary technologies ahead of your competitors. Both attack and defense become very easy with their special ability, and they pair well with the UB as well. A lack of available horses, however, and can make Poland can become highly situational if you’re looking for a domination victory.

Casimir III’s Full Details

9. Ashurbanipal - Assyrian

Knowledgable and Deadly

The 7th-century Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, is renowned in history for his vast knowledge of language, literature, and mathematics; he was, by all accounts, a proudly educated leader whose people flourished under his rule. On the other hand, he was also one of the most effective and ruthlessmilitary leaders of ancient history. His Civ personality is no less intelligent and no less ruthless, which is what brings him to number 9 on our list.

  • Unique Ability: Treasures of Nineveh: - When a city is conquered, gain a free Technology already discovered by its owner. Gaining a city through a trade deal does not count, and it can only happen once per enemy city.
  • Unique Unit: Siege tower - Gives you increased defense (33%) against all ranged attacks. Other units within 2 tiles get a 50% bonus when attacking a city.
  • Unique Building: Royal library - Gives you a slot for a great work of writing, which then provides extra XP for units once it is filled.

Assyria is a great civ to choose if you like to battle the entire game, from turn 1 to 500. Their siege tower, which replaces the catapult, is an incredible early game siege tool that can bring your enemies swiftly to their knees. This, in turn, helps which forces the continual discovery of new technologies thanks to their UA. That means you can pick your research topics more aggressively, and rely on your conquering to pick up the scraps along the way. Unfortunately, their UB isn’t much to write home about. It’s nice to have a great work slot, but the bonuses are pretty weak.

Ashurbanipal’s Full Details

8. Washington - American

Always a General

As one of the founding fathers of The United States, and its first president, Washington will always be known as one of few leaders who have actually given gave up executive military power by choice. That said, Washington was a general, first and foremost, who took on powers that were much greater than his own, in a challenging terrainHis Civ personality is similar to his historical personality no different, which is what brings him in at number 8.

  • Ability: Manifest Destiny: You receive a 50% discount when purchasing tiles. All of your land military units have +1 sight (excellent for early game exploring).
  • Unique Unit: B17 - One of only two airborne specials in the game, the B17 is both stronger thanthe bomber it replaces, and comes with two promotions that make it much harder to kill.
  • Unique Unit: Minuteman - You receive no terrain penalties in any battles, and you earn points towards a Golden Age for each enemy unit you kill.

America doesn’t seem like it should be as high as it is on this list, but after playing with them a few times, things seem to go pretty well almost every time, even in higher game difficulties. Their unique ability makes acquiring land and resources easier, which tends to be more useful than you’d think and helps to fuel those incredible mid-game Minutemen and late game B17’s. Play your cards right with America, and you’ll have an unstoppable military force that produces Golden Ages like China produces Great Generals.

Washington’s Full Details

7. Bismarck - German

German can carry some big guns.

Otto von Bismarck is widely regarded as the man who unified Germany and turned it into a major world power. Through shrewd diplomacy and several skillfully managed wars, he managed to take a handful of poorly organized states and bring them together in political harmony. As a leader in Civ, he is accordingly one of the most well-balanced military-centric leaders, coming in at number 7.

  • Unique Ability: Furor Teutonicus - Upon defeating a Barbarian unit inside an encampment, there is a 67% chance to earn 25 Gold and having them they join the Germans. You pay 25% less for all land unit maintenance.
  • Unique Unit: Landsknecht - Brave New World really made them a lot better; they can now pillage without using a turn, and they receive gold for every attack on an enemy city.
  • Unique Unit: Panzer - Faster and stronger than a normal tank, Panzers can seriously put a dent in an enemy army on their own.
  • Unique Building: Hanse - Mildly improved bank that can add some decent production if you have a lot of trade routes.

Bismarck is a great choice if you like having a massive army. You’ll likely pick up a fair amount of units from barbarian conflicts alone, and you’ll pay less for each of them. Combined with the Professional Army perk from the Honor tree, and you’re going to have a highly effective but surprisingly cheap military force at your disposal. Both UU’s are fairly powerful for their time, but the Landsknecht is particularly useful when raiding enemy cities, as you can heal each turn by pillaging.

Bismarck’s Full Details

6. Elizabeth - English

Wanna see my ships?

England is known for having the largest empire in recorded history, and it achieved it primarily through its naval power might, so it should come as no surprise that the English navy is one of the best military institutions in Civ as well. While Elizabeth herself may not have been a great warrior or general, in fact, she was more well-known for her political prowess, and that hasn’t stopped her from making it to number 6 on our list.

  • Unique Ability: Sun Never Sets: All naval units can move an additional 2 spaces each turn, which is huge for exploring. You also receive 1 extra Spy.
  • Unique Unit: Longbowman - Most underrated UU in the game. Longbowmen have +1 range meaning that they can safely fire at cities outside of the cities defensive range, well before anyone else has artillery.
  • Unique Unit: Ship of the line - A highly powerful frigate with +1 sight, the ship of the line dominates the Renaissance era seas.

England would be in the top 5 if they weren’t sodependent on coastal living and sailing as they are. In an archipelago style map, they may be number 1, but even with that exception, they are still a formidable military foe in any circumstance. The Longbowman UU is one of the most useful ranged units in the game, both in defense and offense, providing England with an enormous advantage in from an early era. They have the longest range of any unit until the advent of artillery, and their ability sticks with them as they are upgraded. Play your cards right, and you’ll end up with Gatlingguns and bazookas with a 2-tile range!

Elizabeth’s Full Details

5. Montezuma - Aztec

Victory takes...sacrifice.

Notorious for his ruthlessly efficient political strategies and affinity for human sacrifice, Montezuma was truly one of the great military leaders of the Ancient Americas. While his empire may not have lasted long after his death, he forged bright new realities for the people of his time and brought serious cultural and scientific advancements. His personality in Civ and his unique abilities reflect these qualities, making him one of the fiercest military powers.

  • Unique Ability: Sacrificial Captives - Gain 20 Culture from each enemy unit you kill. Seriously.
  • Unique Unit: Jaguar - A replacement for the warrior that had improved movement and better fighting strength in forests and jungles. They also heal 25 if they kill another unit, making them extremely durable.
  • Unique Building: Floating gardens - A useful replacement for the water mill that increases food production by 15% and provides +2 food for each lake tile in the city’s territory.

Hit them hard early with Montezuma, and you’re going to be off to a flying start. Literally, find the first city-state or civilization other civ that you can easily attack and just go for it. The Jaguarsoutclass most other early game units in the forest or jungle, especially with their healing power, meaning that you can clobber most people in the beginning of the game off that bat. Add in a little culture boost with every kill, and you can easily fill out your honor tree for even more military advantages. Give it a couple of hundred years, and you should be well on your way toward Domination.

Montezuma’s Full Details

4. Oda Nobunaga - Japan

Focus and fortitude

The brilliant and cunning 16th-century warlord who dominated feudal Japan with a ruthless political and militaristic strategy, Nobunaga is one of the most direct domination-style leaders. His focused mind, combined with Japanese culture and weapons technology makes them a truly formidablenation, even when they seem to be outclassed.

  • Ability: Bushido - All Japanese units fight as though they were at full strength, even when damaged. You also receive +1 Culture from each fishing boat and +2 Culture from each atoll.
  • Unique Unit: Samurai - A replacement for the Longswordsman that produces Great Generals extremely fast. Samurai can also build fishing boats!
  • Unique Unit: Zero - The indisputable king of dogfighting in Civ 5. The Zero costs no oil and boasts 33 bonus damage to other fighters, making it both bizarrely cheap and incredibly strong.

If Bismarck is all about big armies, Nobunaga is about elite armies. His special ability Bushido turns every Japanese unit into a one-man-army, capable of taking down enemies long after any other unit would be written off. Combine this with two very capable special units that happen to come at critically important times, Nobunaga is capable of winning against almost any army, even if they are larger and more advanced.

Oda Nobunaga’s Full Details

3. Harun al-Rashid - Arabian

Wealth equals power

Ruler of the Arabian Empire, Harun al-Rashid was renowned for shepherding in one of the largest empires in history through one of its greatest cultural and scientific renaissances. More importantly for Civ, he is also known for acquiring one of its largest fortunes in the game, a quality that will prove its value more than once in your pursuit of a domination victory. Get rich, and watch the world fall to your will in line.

  • Unique Ability: Ships of the Desert (Brave New World) - All trade caravans gain 50% extended range, and trade routes spread your religion twice as effectively. Oil resources are doubled.
  • Unique Unit: Camel archer - A powerful ranged version of the knight that proves extremely useful for attacking cities.
  • Unique Building: Bazaar - One of the best, if not the best, UB’s in the game. Replaces the Market and provides a copy of each luxury resource improved nearby. Also, it adds gold production to oil wells and oases.

Harun al-Rashid will pretty much never go for a domination victory if left as a CPU, which is fortunate because he is undoubtedly one of the best equipped to do so. The trade caravan bonuses are nice, but it’s the resource bonuses that really set them up for success. The bazaar, which you can get pretty early, allows you to sell much higher quantities of resources for gold. Combine this with the absolutely enormous quantities of oil (and thus gold) that you’re going to accumulate in the late game, and the Arabian Empire is more than capable of conquering the globe, with money left to spare. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can buy nuclear bombs.

Harun al-Rashid’s Full Details


2. Shaka - Zulu

Power by assassination

A Zulu Chief who took power by killing one brother and lost his life to an assassination by another brother, Shaka holds a complex place in world history. Revered as a great military strategist who united the Zulu tribesbut also decried as a bloodthirsty warmonger, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he is one of the most combative leaders in Civ as well.

  • Unique Ability: Iklwa: Melee units cost 50% less maintenance and all units require 25% less experience to earn their next promotion.
  • Unique Unit: Impi - Incredibly strong replacement for the pikeman that gets a ranged attack before each melee attack. Also, they receive a 25% strength bonus against gunpowder units.
  • Unique Building: Ikanda - The Zulu barracks bestows Buffalo Horns (a unique promotion that confers movement, flanking, and ranged defense bonuses) on every pre-gunpowder melee unit trained there.

The Zulu Empire is very well-equipped for mid-game wars, which really is the prime time to start taking things over. Their ULA is a fantastic bonus formelee strength throughout the game, but the Impi makes them especially overpowered when as you hit the renaissance era. This unit hits harder than any melee unit in the game (because it hits twice) and receives a bonus against gunpowder units that keeps them relevant far past their expiration date. Used in harmony with their UB, the Zulu army is almost guaranteed to earn valuable promotions faster than any other civilization.

Shaka’s Full Details

1. Wu Zetian - Chinese

And the winner is...

One of the most cunning political masterminds ever studied, 7th-century empressWu Zetian claims a legacy of extraordinary military accomplishments. Her shrewd and strategic approach to government, diplomacy, and war allowed her to vanquish her enemies with ease while establishing one of the most advanced and progressive regimes in ancient history.

  • Unique Ability: Art of War - The Great General combat bonus is doubled to 30%, and their spawn rate is increased by 50%
  • Unique Unit: Chu-Ko-Nu - A version of the crossbowman that fires twice every time.
  • Unique Building: Papermaker - A nifty replacement for the library that produces 2 gold per turn instead of costing 1.

Under Wu-Zetian, the Chinese army is equipped to destroy everyone else on the list with respective ease. Their great general bonus makes them untouchable in war and fast-expanding during times of peace, and the papermaker provides them with a surprisingly helpful amount of bonus gold from a very early era. But, the real game-changer is the Cho-Ko-Nu; equipped with a special ability that permits them to fire twice each turn, they can obliterate almost any contemporary unit on the map. Additionally, if you amass a large army of them before you get the Gatling gun, you can upgrade them all while keeping the special effect, leading to the most overpowered ranged army in the game right up until the very end.

Wu Zetian’s Full Details

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