Free cities in Civ 6 arise when a city rebels against its parent civilization due to low loyalty and becomes an independent city-state. As a player, you‘ll want to monitor loyalty closely to prevent losing your own cities, while looking for opportunities to exert loyalty pressure, liberate, or conquer free cities belonging to other civs or city-states. Here‘s an in-depth guide on free cities and how to effectively utilize them in your strategy.
What Are Free Cities and How Do They Form?
A free city is a city that has broken away from a larger civilization and become an independent city-state due to low loyalty. Each city in Civ 6 has a loyalty meter that ranges from 1 to 100. Loyalty pressure from the city‘s civilization pushes the meter upwards towards 100, while various factors can cause it to drop. If loyalty reaches zero, the city will revolt and become a free city.
Some key factors that cause loyalty pressure to drop include:
- Being far away from the parent civilization‘s capital or core cities
- Different culture or religions in the city compared to the civ
- War weariness from combat losses and pillaging
- Lack of a governor or the wrong governor policies
- Nearby opponent civilizations exerting cultural or religious pressure
As you can see, frontier cities far from your capital are especially prone to flipping and becoming free cities. You‘ll need to pay close attention to any distant cities and be ready to boost loyalty with governors, garrison units, and policy cards if it starts dropping too low. Letting your own cities defect freely is something you want to avoid at all costs.
Conquering and Liberating Free Cities
Once a free city emerges, there are a couple approaches you can use to gain control of it:
Military Conquest – You can declare a formal war against the free city and invade it militarily to take it for yourself. However, warmonger penalties will apply, so use this option carefully if aiming for a diplomatic victory.
Loyalty Pressure – Having high loyalty in your nearby cities, deploying governors, building Amenities, running policy cards, and using your religion‘s pressure can cause a free city to peacefully flip and join your side. This avoids warmonger penalties but must be done quickly before other civs influence the city.
Liberation – If an allied civilization originally founded the free city, you can declare a liberation war to return the city to your ally without warmonger penalties. This helps strengthen your alliance.
Free cities want to join a strong power, so they won‘t stay independent forever. Leaving them alone risks a rival swooping in and claiming them, so you need to act fast when opportunities arise. Be ready to apply loyalty pressure quickly and have military forces ready for conquest if needed.
Early Game Free City Strategy
The early game offers some great opportunities for grabbing free cities to jump start your empire‘s expansion. Here are some effective strategies:
Monitor AI settlement patterns – Pay attention to where the AI civs are founding their initial cities. Look for areas more distant from their cores that may flip to free cities.
Send scouts to patrol border areas – Keep scouts circulating around your civilization‘s periphery and near AI civ boundaries to spot new free cities quickly.
Leave room for free cities – Initially settle in a tighter, contiguous block so you have room to snap up nearby free cities. Don‘t spread out too thin early.
Leave weak neighbors alone – Don‘t invade neighboring AI civs. Damaging them will cause war weariness and free city revolts you can exploit.
Be ready to act – Have civilian and military units ready to exert loyalty pressure or attack. Claim free cities before rivals do.
Here‘s a table showing an example build order for the early game to utilize free cities:
|3-5||Settle first 2-3 cities in close proximity|
|6-8||Build 2 more scouts to patrol periphery|
|9+||Settle/conquer free cities as they appear|
With this approach, you forgo early rapid expansion to bait AI revolts and be ready to grab free cities in the first 20-50 turns. This can let you conquer or assimilate up to 2-3 bonus cities rapidly.
Middle and Late Game Free City Tactics
The free city opportunities don‘t dry up in the mid and late game. Here are some tactics to keep using free cities to your advantage:
Sabotage loyalty in rival cities – Use spies to foment unrest or reduce loyalty in an opponent‘s frontier cities. Create revolts you can exploit.
Wage limited wars – Declare short wars against rivals focused on pillaging districts and improvements to drive up their war weariness and city unrest. Withdraw and wait for free cities.
Buy free city allegiance – Use diplomatic favor, gold, and resources to increase your influence with free cities and draw them to your side.
Air drop governors – Use late game abilities like Austrailia‘s outback stations or helicopters to airlift governors to free cities and rapidly flip them.
Tourism bombs – Use spies or aircraft to spread your culture and tourism into free cities you want to culturally assimilate.
With these techniques, you can manufacture free city opportunities rather than just waiting for them. This lets you continue expanding your empire into the late game.
Winning With Free Cities
Here are some key Civ 6 victory conditions that free cities can help you achieve:
Domination – Free cities provide easy conquest targets to grow your empire without warmonger penalties.
Culture – Assimilating free cities grows your borders and number of domestic tourists. More cities = more tourism.
Diplomacy – Liberating allies‘ free cities gives diplomacy boosts. Conquering free cities peacefully avoids angering other civs.
Religion – Free cities often lack strong religious pressure. Quickly convert them to grow your religion.
Science – Rapidly claiming free cities early on snowballs your science and production for the late game tech race.
So utilize free cities in your strategy, and may the loyalty mechanic ever work in your favor!