Well, it’s been a while since I wrote my last Civ VI leader post about Amanitore of Nubia and there’s been a whole host of new leaders and personas added to the game since then. Among these the number of Chinese leaders has increased from two to five. Therefore it’s probably a good time to start writing about one of them, and where better to start than the OG himself, Qin Shi Huang. The recent leader pass has created a new persona for him but today we shall focus on his original version, which is now referred to in-game as his “Mandate of Heaven” persona.
China is mostly set up for large amounts of culture and gold, with a number of unique units and tile improvements which provide additional defence. This version of Qin Shi Huang was available in the base game at launch and he’s always been fun to play.
Eurekas and Inspiration Inspirations provide an extra 10% of the Science Science and Culture Culture cost for researching technologies and civics. Completing a Wonder grants a Eureka Eureka and Inspiration Inspiration from that Wonder’s era.
The additional boost to eurekas and inspirations appears small at first reading, but it really adds up over the course of a game. You can play as any Chinese leader and keep in touch with the AI on the tech and civic trees. Best of all, it keeps going throughout the whole game, so you’re still get extra boosts on the more difficult later on that you have to obtain with spies. That also goes for the boosts that you get from building wonders (which obviously goes well with Qin’s leader ability).
All builders gain one extra charge. Builders can expend one charge to give 15% of the production towards ancient or classical wonders. Canals are available from Masonry onwards.
The extra build charge is great - it means more sections of great wall, more attempts at pushing wonders, more farms, more strategic resources. These all add up over the course of the game. If you’re able to build the Pyramids (one of the wonders you can rush with a builder), you’ll have five charges. With Liang and the Serfdom and Public Works policy cards, you can get this up to eight charges on your builders. This combines nicely with the Royal Society building if you decide to go for a science victory.
Needless to say, rushing wonders is great, though it can come at an opportunity cost to early expansion. (That said, if you have met some other civs and know one of them has nearly finished a wonder, you could dump some builder charges in to building that wonder even though you’re not going to catch up, dumping the inevitable overflow into a settler - effectively turning builder charges into settlers or anything else that your empire needs.)
Those early canals are very early canals, so it looks like an underwhelming bonus at first, mostly because canals are pretty expensive to build at any time, let alone in the ancient era. But no one else can build canals until the industrial era, so that’s a long time to be able to build them ahead of your rivals. It’s very situation-specific, but it’s not out of the realms of possibility that it could be useful.
All Chinese leaders can build the Great Wall tile improvement. Occupying units receive +4 Strength Defense Strength and automatically gain 2 turns of fortification (+6 Strength Defense Strength). The tile receives +2 Gold and +2 Gold for each adjacent Great Wall. With the Castles technology each Great Wall tile receives +2 Culture for each adjacent Great Wall. With the Flight technology, each Great Wall tile provides tourism equal to its culture output. Great Walls can be pillaged by disasters but never removed by them. No corners or junctions can be built into Great walls.
The Great Wall is an amazing tile improvement, the culture that they generate after flight can save a game if you are behind culturally, or, in the more likely scenario that you are barelling on toward a culture victory, it will give you an extra push on the way. The Great Wall also turns the game into a sort of wall building simulator: it’s almost guaranteed that you will end up snaking them all around your territory and settling more cities to extend them. (A fun thing is that the culture the walls generate helps to expand your borders so you can end up with walls that double back on themselves as your cities grow). This is definitely one of the most entertaining meta-games in Civ 6!
Qin - and all the Chinese leaders - have one unique unit. This is the Crouching tiger, a ranged unit that appears at the Machinery tech.
Compared to the Great Wall, the Crouching Tiger is a little bit of a disappointment. It appears at the same time as crossbows but has less range. They don’t replace crossbows per se, but rather augment them. The shorter range is limiting for offensive missions but the crouching tiger does have +10 ranged combat strength. They also work well with the garrison promotion that awards an extra +10 ranged combat strength when receiving a defensive bonus (e.g. while standing on a section of great wall). They are also quicker to build, which also makes them useful for cranking out if you receive a surprise war declaration. For offensive operations you could (and probably should) still build crossbows.
Another interesting aspect of the Crouching Tiger is that it is a standalone unit, there’s no other unit that upgrades into it. Your archers will still become crossbowmen. This means that it is sometimes possible to forget about Crouching tigers altogether and miss out on the associated era score. They are definitely worth building though as they will also increase the ranged strength of your cities.
Victory types and play style
Qin is a very flexible leader, though reading back what I have written about his abilities I would say that he most suits Cultural or Science victories. The Great Wall improvements give you a solid tourism base, while a judicious deployment of his wonder building abilities can help you to get hold of eight charge builders later on in the game to help with space race projects if you have the Royal society building.
Religious victory is also on the table. Stonehenge is fairly easy to pump out early into the game with a few builder charges. Other faith-generating wonders like Jebel Berkal (+4 Faith to all cities within six tiles) can also be built with builder charges, while later into the game the culture from Great Wall improvements will help unlock Faith related governments and policy cards around the Theocracy government.
A domination victory is out of the question either, though this is more because of China’s general abilities. The boosts help you get through the tech tree quickly, and the cultural lift given by the Great Wall can help secure a better range of military policy cards, not to mention the military heavy Level 2 governments. The only poor aspect might the lack of an offensive military unit but at least border cities can be quickly brought up to a high defensive standard.
There is sometimes the danger that you might be over run by barbarians early on in the game because your leader abilities almost demand that you focus on building wonders. Later on, the threat is not just from barbarians but also other civs casting an envious eye on the middle kingdom and all its wonders. In fact, more generally, lots of infrastructure can go missing if you focus too much on wonders. You may find yourself playing catch up for a bit after you lose that ability.
Science can sometimes take a back seat. Because you build a lot of wonders, you may find yourself overlooking campus districts early on. However, you might be able to build some good theatre squares later on into the game and really snowball through the Civics tree. Having various Civics and governments early can help provide additional eurekas in the science tree and because China receives an additional 10% boost that can help you keep in touch.
Diplomatic victory tends to rely on wonders that come after Qin loses the ability to rush wonders with builder charges.
If you get too consumed in the wall building minigame you may find yourself out-teched by the AI, especially at higher difficulty levels. And don’t forget to build a farm once in a while!
Qin is a leader with interesting abilities for a great civ, and is certainly very fun to play with. Just don’t get too caught up building wonders and great wall segments, be sure to also use your extra build charges to exploit the map for those extra powerful boosts.