Civilization V City Spacing

City Spacing

When you start a new game the map is small. Most new players, or even veterans, will forget about the maximum city range. Even the game will try to misinform you of optimal city placement!

civ v brave new world city placement

If you space cities too closely together you will not notice something directly. However as cities grow they will eventually start to overlap. Since you cannot move cities you are usually better off with optimal city spacing!

What happens if you ignore city overlap?

civ v brave new world city placement tile in use by another city in your nation

The city simply cannot use the tiles! In this city there are 4 tiles currently in use by surround cities. You could press the button to force this city to work that specific tile. However this means the other city will no longer have access to the tile.


Let’s look at the range of the current cities Lotz and Warsaw. Eventually all cities can work tiles in 3 rings around them.

civ v brave new world city placement tiles overlap when building a new city

From this image we can conclude that Warsaw and Lodz are not overlapping. And Indeed the new city is outside of the influence range of both.

However what happens if this city grows?

civ v brave new world city placement tile overlap when your city grows

Now you notice that the city spacing shown above is not ideal. As soon as the new city would grow 6 tiles could be in use by Warsaw and 1 tile by Lodz.

How to prevent overlap

Method 1:  Count to 7

civ v brave new world city placement counting to prevent tile overlap when building a new city

It is really easy to optimize your city spacing. All you really have to do is count to 7. This ensures there are 6 tiles between all cities and there is no overlap!

Method2: Use Paint

If you find it hard to count when there are multiple cities just take a screenshot and paste it into paint and draw some lines (it does not have to be pretty!)

civ v brave new world city placement using paint to prevent tile overlap when building a new city

This literally took me one minute (note that the double one results from that tile touching the orange border). And your city spacing problems are solved!


Thanks for reading this article, if you have any additional questions feel free to post them in the comments.


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  • Stuart Smith

    While I wouldn’t place a city in the nearest hex the AI suggested, the overlap with existing cities isn’t a good reason to do that – a non-overlapped city has 36 hexes to work, which needs a population of 36 (or more once you account for specialists) to work all of that, so spreading your cities out that far will only pay off in very limited situations (such as getting the maximum benefit from certain Wonders that only benefit a single city), and even then only very late in the game, and basically just means most of the hexes in your empire are unused for nearly the entire game.

    Even with the 4 unworkable desert squares, a mountain, and 4 virtually useless sea spaces (given the city is non-coastal), that still leaves 17 new useful hexes for the city to work, which will support a population of about 22 (working spaces or specialists), which is unlikely to seriously restrict the city much during a normal game. If it didn’t have the sea spaces and desert nearby the amount of overlap with existing cities would be completely irrelevant for the entire game.

    I would settle either of the next two AI suggested options, next to the coast and river (depending mostly on whether I planned settling again in the north west and whether moving one space close would tend to push that back from a good spot). The middle one looks best for the city itself – starts next to Deer which would be first worker improvement in the area, which gives you okay production starting boost, the AI will expand to the sugar which will allow the city to be cost neutral for the first 6 or 7 buildings, and I would be tempted to buy the hex SW of the Deer which will persuade the AI to expand to the Fish and (with a Lighthouse) get the population growing reasonably fast (especially with Granary to boost 3 Food (with the Deer in range) and Watermill another 2 Food (and 1 more from work boats on the Fish whenever a space in the production schedule appears).

    You are giving up Cotton as a workable title (Warsaw will get it for the Luxury boost soon enough either way, so that isn’t a factor), which costs you some gold, and the Iron tile (eventually!) – but you already have one connected, so unless you are warmongering early that probably isn’t too bad (plus with the City State there, if you are playing culturally you might even reach it before the CS depending on where the CS actually is, at least for the Strategic Resource count anyway), but you gain Salt workable, and if you take the furthest option the AI suggests Sheep, although that isn’t likely to be for a couple of thousand years so they only matter for the later part of the game unless you buy up a load of hexes manually (rarely worth it when you aren’t close to a CS or enemy civ you don’t mind annoying before they snaffle it).

    When locating the next city in a direction my main concerns are not overlap but:

    1) how will this city grow to a reasonable size and build its necessary buildings quickly and start helping my empire as soon as possible without needing food/production trade routes or buying buildings

    2) What resources does it get within a reasonable time frame that I am not going to get either with existing cities or other future planned cities – mainly considering new luxuries (or duplicates for trading), and new strategic resources,

    3) build next to river and/or coast if it doesn’t completely mess up the positioning (and if they are even present in the area) – plus in some circumstances being next to mountain (for science boost) or desert (for solar plant)

    4) strategic issues, like border cities on hills and ideally with hill/forests/rivers and mountains adjacent to funnel and limit attackers and as defensive locations to place defenders on if needed (keeping any rivers towards the outside of your empire where possible), Suez/Panama locations to connect bodies of water (such as the bottom left city space you suggest, although that looks too near a City State to settle there, plus those bodies of water might be connected just off the screenshot shown and thus not really need a water connection particuarly), or a good Petra location (lots of desert hills, oasis and desert resources) if playing Emperor or below and getting that Wonder is feasible

    Overall I would say it is rarely worth it to place cities either 4 or 7 spaces apart, mostly for me they will be 5-6 spaces apart, unless you are deliberately playing a fast/early/tight game (say you added more than the default civs/city states for map size) and need to make the most of the space you have early in the game (sacrificing late game maximum size), whereas in the opposite case, or tall cultural games you might have 7-9 spaces apart just to get optimal placements for each city knowing they will grow very large (although watching out for the AI to sneak a settler into the gaps that tends to leave where a city can still be settled).

    Obviously this can’t be taken to extremes – if a city was surrounded by 6 cities at range 5 it would only have 6-12 non-overlapped hexes to work (depending on whether the other cities were on a straight line, or along a “side”). It is probably useful to note that two cities 6 squares apart can overlap as little as 1 space (if you could built a straight road between them, ignoring rivers/mountains/lakes), and at most 3, while cities 5 spaces apart can either overlap 4, 6 or 8 spaces, and at the closest 4 hexes the overlap is 9, 12 or 13. If a city lost 10 hexes to overlap/mountain/desert I wouldn’t consider that at all in placement. Losing 20 is where I would normally reconsider if other constraints or advantages don’t limit options. Future city placement, possible AI or CS encroachment have to be considered as well as existing cities when doing this check of course (so your option in the bottom left while having possibilities to connecting two bodies of water has too much ocean, desert and CS territory for me to consider it, even if it is 4 spaces from the CS city – as CS grow their borders quite slowly being close to them is not nearly so bad as being the same range from your own cities, but still needs to be considered).

    • Sebastiaan de Kooter

      Thanks for the extensive reply :).

      Obviously Warsaw is the Polish capitol so the Cotton would not have been visible through the fog of war (If I remember correctly I already moved the settler the first turn).

      I guess you have a point that you can take into account that a city usually grows to 20-25 and therefore will not need full range. Overlapping can also create a strong religion. Then again spacing your cities out like this when you can ensures your cities have access to the best tiles, rather then having to compete. At the same time Civilization V is aimed towards fewer cities, at least in the early game, due to the policy and happiness mechanics.

      As a rule of thumb I only settle a city if there is at least one (new) luxury resource and try to do my best to avoid overlap (Although I do not mind a few hexes of overlap). At some point I was writing a guide about “good” city placement but it was cancelled because there were hardly any views for Civilization V.