All the leaders so far - and what we know about them
Civilization VI sees a few old faces return - but mostly it's all change, with both new civilizations and new leaders for civs we know from previous editions of the series.
America: Replacing George Washington from Civilization V, America gets Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, the robust 26th president of the United States. With a nod to the history of his time in office, he gets a unique cultural bonus from National Parks and a unique unit in the Rough Riders - the cavalry outfit that Roosevelt gained fame from commanding in Cuba.
In addition, you'll be seeing the P-51 Mustang piston-engined fighter as another unique unit, and of course the Founding Fathers civ special ability, allowing for faster gains in the civics tree. Also new is the Film Studio building, adding to culture output. All in all, the US will be a powerful mid to late game civ.
England: Queen Elizabeth I is replaced by Queen Victoria, the most powerful of all British monarchs. Reflecting England's reliance on naval power to enforce its influence, the Ship of the Line from Civ V is retired. Instead the Seadog comes in - looking like a more powerful Privateer unit, and reflecting England's piratical tendencies. Queen Victoria also brings the Redcoats as a unique infantry unit.
England retains the Sun Never Sets civ special ability, giving that valuable +1 movement for all ships. It seems like the extra spy unit is still in Civ VI too. The Royal Navy Dockyard, a new building - or more accurately, district, adds to the civ's maritime theme by giving England an upgraded version of the harbour.
Arabia: Arabia gets the mighty and famous Saladin as leader. His ability, righteousness of the faith, lowers the cost of his religion's faith building and gives it bonus output of faith, science and culture. His unique unit is the Mamluk - a mounted unit that replaces the knight. It heals at the end of each turn, even if it moved, defended or attacked. The Madrasa is the unique structure, reflecting the religious nature of the civ. Interestingly, it generates more science than he building it replaces, the university - which is a nod to the flourishing of arts and science under Saladin's rule.
Keeping the religious theme, Arabia has The Last Prophet special ability. This means the civ always gets the last prophet generated if it didn't as yet have one - this means Arabia will always be able to found its own religion.
Greece: Alexander the Great is out and Pericles is in. While he was an Athenian general, he is better remembered as a statesman and orator. Greece retains its ability to influence city states, with the Surrounded by Glory ability - means Greece produces more culture for each allied city state it is has. As while as retaining the powerful early game unit, the Hoplite, from Civ V, Greece also gets a civ ability in Plato's Republic - an extra slot no matter which civic is chosen.
The there's the Acropolis District, which replaces the Theatre District of other civs and benefits from being built close to the city centre. It can be built early in the game, once again making Greece a civ that can build a runaway lead from the start.
Sumeria: A new civ, Sumeria is headed by the semi-mythical Gilgamesh. He brings the special ability Adventures with Enkidu, which lets Sumerian units share both combat experience and pillage booty with the nearest allied unit within five tiles. And the Sumerians are keen on being allied with other civs, for certain. With its unique building the The Ziggurat - which increases both science and culture - being available from the start of the game, Sumeria can certainly give the Greeks a run for their polity in the early play.
Sumeria's special ability is called Epic Quest and makes breaking those barbarian encampments important - each one put to the sword grants a tribal village reward. You'll have the early game units to do it too - the War Cart is a unique cavalry unit that has no penalty when fighting Spearmen or other similar units.
Norway: New to the Civilization struggle is Norway. Led by Harald Hardrada, the final king of all the Vikings, you'll be pleased to know that its unique unit is the Berserker, expert at attacking and pillaging, if a little less effective in defence. But hey, they're Vikings! King Harald brings the Thunderbolt of the North special ability, meaning his units can perform coastal raids. Allied to Norway's other unique unit, the Longboat, which heals in neutral areas, any rival civ building coastal cities better be careful to reinforce them properly.
Norway replaces the Temple with the Stave Church, which produces even more faith if built next to a forest. Adding to Norway's threat from the seas, the special civ ability, the Knarr, allows all units to embark on water from the start of the game.
Germany: Germany is back with a new boss in the shape of Frederick Barbarossa, better know as Frederick I of the Holy Roman empire. He brings a bonus military policy - they're still the Teutons after all - as well a combat bonus against city-state units. There's a nice reflection of German industriousness too, in the unique district, the Hansa. Replacing the industrial area of other civs, this gets further increased production if placed next to resources or commercial hubs.
Germany's unique unit comes in the shape of the U-Boat, a powerful and stealthy sea combatant which you can use to gleefully disrupt trading routes. Additionally, the civ gets Free Imperial Cities, which allows the building of one more district over what the population of a city would generally allow.
Scythia: Also new to the game is Scythia. Another powerful early-mid game civ, it is headed by Tomyris, vanquisher of Cyrus the Great of the Persians. The Scythians were a pretty merciless bunch (they had reason to be) and get a bonus when they attack wounded units and also heal when they win an engagement. Scythia provides a unique unit in the shape of the Saka Horse Archer, a strong ranged and mobile cavalry that requires no horse resources to build.
A unique structure is available in the shape of the Kurgan, which increases faith and also gold income and gets an additional bonus ofr being built next to pasture. Keeping with that theme is the People of the Steppe ability, which sees the creation of two units instead of one when Scythia builds light cavalry or those dangerous Saka Horse Archers.
Brazil: Civilization V's cultural powerhouse from the Brave New World expansion is back in the latest game, still led by the commercially-minded Pedro II. Brazil gets the Minas Geraes as unique unit, a naval unit with both a strong defence and a powerful ranged attack. The civ's special ability is simply called Amazon, and provides bonuses for districts constructed next to rainforest. Pedro also brings his own bonus in the shape of a powerful attraction for Great People to join Brazil.
Brazil's unique district is Carnival. This replaces the entertainment district in other civs and allows a city to build a special project that turns production into amenities. Once complete, Brazil gets extra Great People points.
Russia: The surface area hogging empire returns for Civ VI, with the dandily-dressed Peter the Great as leader. He brings the Grand Embassy, which, in a reflection of history, sees Russia gain science and culture from trading with more advanced cis. And guess what? Russian's civilization ability allows it to gain extra territory when founding a city. Also, with a tundra stat bias, Russia gets additional faith and production from such tiles. The Cossack is Russia's replacement for Cavalry, with a movement bonus after attacking.
Finally, the Lavra forms Russia's unique district. There's a further expansion theme here, with each Great Person used in the district expanding that city's cultural border.
Japan: Japan always felt a little one dimensional in Civ V, but it's looking like Japan in Civ VI will be something quite different. Led now by Hojo Tokimune, the 13th century de facto ruler of the islands, his ability Divine Wind - better known as Kamikaze - gives Japanese land combat units bonuses near coasts and naval units bonuses on coasts.
Japan retains the Samurai unique unit - which still fights at full strength even when damaged - but moves away from the martial focus with the Meiji Restoration special ability, which buffs city districts based on the number of adjacent districts - meaning a tightly packed city is more powerful. A further nod to modern Japan comes in with the Electronics Factory. Replacing the factory of other civs, it increases both production and culture to all nearby cities to its tile, not just the city that builds it.
France: Replacing Napoleon, France now has Catherine de Medici as leader, the 16th century queen from the infamous de Medici clan. Catherine was noted for political intrigue and France now gets additional information on new civs it meets - as well as an extra spy unit once Castles are researched. It's still a powerful cultural civ, and also gets a new unique unit in the Garde Imperiale, a later military unit than the Musketeers of Civ V. These get a bonus for fighting on the home continent and produce Great General points for defeating opposing units.
France's unique structure is the Château which gains a bonus for being built near a rivers with gains an adjacency bonuses for Wonders while also providing additional culture. The civ's Grand Tour special ability is most powerful mid-game, and provides tourism for wonders, meaning a cultural victory is always a good option.
Aztecs: Led by Montezuma I, the Aztecs are another civ that seems to have benefited from the greater depth of Civilization VI. Jaguar Warriors have been replaced by the Eagle Warrior, which have the added bonus of turning defeated units into workers. Slaves in other words. This doesn't work with barbarian units however. The civ has the special ability Legend of the Five Suns, which it allows it to speed construction of districts with builder units. In addition, the leader ability Gifts for the Tlatoani makes luxuries exploited by cities give extra power to military units.
The Aztecs' unique structure is the Tlachtli. Replacing the arena, it provides faith, amenities and Great General points.
Egypt: Cleopatra leads Egypt, bringing a buff that increases gold from outgoing trade routes and gaining food and more gold from incoming ones. Egypt gets the Maryannu Chariot Archer unique unit, which is highly mobile with a strong ranged offensive ability. Egypt also gets the Sphinx, a unique improvement rather than a Wonder. Multiple Sphinxes can built, just not next to each other. They provide added faith and culture, and are even stronger when built close to a Wonder.
Egypt's natural geography is also celebrated in the Eteru special ability - which makes Wonders and district built next to a river faster to construct.
China: China's 3rd century emperor Qin Shi Huang heads up the Asian nation in Civilization VI. He brings the ability to use workers an extra time and to speed up the construction of Wonders in the Classical and Ancient periods of the game. China has the wonderfully named Crouching Tiger Cannon as its unique unit, a powerful ranged unit, it requires no special resources to build.
The civ's special ability is Dynastic Circles, which provides China with greater benefits from the new Eureka and Inspiration events, which give faster access to technologies. China also gains The Great Wall. This is not a Wonder as normal, it starts with its usual defence bonus, but also gains gold. However, in the later periods of the game it provides bonuses to both culture and tourism. Which is pretty tidy.
Spain: Spain, now led by Philip II, still retains its old faith evangelising ways. And how powerful they were in Civilization V. In Civilization VI, Philip's El Escorial unique ability gives Spanish units an attacking bonus when fighting units from rival religions and lets Spanish inquisitors to remove heresy from one extra tile. So yes, expect the Spanish Inquisition.
Spain's unique unit is the Conquistador, which gains power if an apostle, an inquisitor or a Spanish missionary is located on its hex. Additionally, if a Conquistador unit is next to to a city when it's captured, the poor citizens will also automatically convert to your religion. Spain's unique improvement is called the Mission. This generates faith and provides increased faith when constructed on a foreign continent. Also a science bonus when built next to a Campus district. Finally, the special civ ability Treasure Fleet yields extra gold when these are placed on trade routes between continents. Ships can also be made into fleets earlier in the game than other civs.
India: India's independence leader Mahatma Gandhi returns in Civilization VI. His unique ability is Satyagraha, which gives India a faith boost for each country the player meets that is not at war and has founded a religion. Opposing civs suffer happiness penalties for fighting wars against Gandhi. India's unique unit is the Váru - a war elephant unit that so demoralises adjacent enemy units, their combat abilities are reduced. Hear that trunk trumpet agressors!
The Stepwell is the civ's unique improvement, requiring Sanitation to be researched, it provides both food and housing amd has a food bonus if near a farm, or a faith addition if near a Holy Site. Finally, and this is a big one, the special ability Dharma allows India all the follower beliefs of every religion present in its cities.
Kongo: New to Civilization VI is Kongo - and not before time for any African history fans. Headed by Mvemba a Nzinga, one of the first significant African leaders to convert to Christianity. The civ has the special ability of Nkisi. This means all Relics, Artifacts and Great Works of Sculpture produce food, production and gold for their city in addition to culture and tourism.
Kongo gets the Ngao Mbeba as its unique unit. Replacing the Swordsman, the Ngao Mbeba gets a defence bonus against ranged attacks. It can also has no movement penalty in forests and jungles and can see through them to other units. They also have no resource demands. It's unique improvement is the M'banza, which replaces the Neighbourhood districts of other civs. This brings additional housing, gold and food.
Rome: The mighty Roman empire is led by the Emperor Trajan in Civilization VI - one the "good guys" of Roman history. Although try telling that to the barbarians. He brings the leader ability Trajan's Column, giving all Roman cities one free building in the city centre. Rome retains the Legion as a unique unit, yet it is now enhanced with an ability to build roads and forts - not a small bonus. The civ benefits from the special ability All Roads Lead To Rome, which sees all cities start with a trading post. All trade routes going through Roman cities earn bonus gold, and any new city within range of the Capital will automatically be granted a road going to them.
Rome gets the Baths district as a unique improvement, which ironically replaces the Aqueduct, fond of them as Romans where. This improves both amenities and housing and is unlocked with Engineering.