Civ 5 Happiness Guide
Golden Ages & Managing Unhappiness in Your Empire
Civ 5’s Happiness allows Cities to grow and Empires to have Golden Ages
Happiness is an essential resource in Civ 5 which allows Cities to grow and Empires to enter Golden Ages. Having a negative Happiness score results in Unhappiness and greatly slowed City Growth, Production, and Combat Penalties for your Military. Sink too far and Rebels may pop up in your lands, or, far worse, you could lose Cities to another Civilization once Ideologies are chosen. This Guide’s focus will be to first help you understand where Happiness/Unhappiness come from, then teach you all the different methods of acquiring Happiness and managing Unhappiness in order to avoid penalties and keep your Cities growing.
How Happiness and Unhappiness WorkUnhappiness is subtracted from the Happiness that your Civ produces. Going into the negative by even one point results in Unhappiness penalties which are Empire-wide. No one City ever experiences Unhappiness alone – the Unhappiness it generates adds to the Global total. Each City you found will produce 3 Unhappiness, and +1 per unit of Population. So, founding a City will immediately produce 4 Unhappiness. As it grows, it will produce more and more Unhappiness, +1 per new Citizen. Therefore, utilizing means of acquiring Happiness is essential to keep your Cities growing, as is stopping growth if you are about to experience Unhappiness. Citizens in Occupied Cities (any City acquired through Trade Deals or Peace Treaties that is Annexed without a Courthouse) will produce 1.33 Unhappiness per Citizen. Building a Courthouse will make the Unhappiness go back to that of a normal City. Puppet Cities are not Occupied, though Cities you Raze do count as Occupied until they are completely burned down. Regardless, taking on a new City through War, whether through conquest or a Peace Treaty, can instantly make a major impact on your Civilization’s Happiness level.
Global and Local HappinessHappiness-generating buildings like the Circus, Pagoda, Colosseum, and Stadium generate what is known as Local Happiness. Cities may not create more Happiness than there are Citizens in a City. A City with 5 Citizens, a Pagoda (+2 Happiness), Colosseum (+2 Happiness) and Circus (+2 Happiness) can only generate 5 Happiness. In this case, the example City can grow without impacting your global Happiness score – the City would go to 6 Population and immediately get +1 Happiness while generating -1 Unhappiness from the extra Citizen. These cases are rare, but it may be worth your while to consider where you are purchasing a Happiness-producing building if you want it to provide Happiness immediately.
Other sources of Happiness, such as those from Wonders, Social Policies, Mercantile City-States, and Luxuries, produce Global Happiness. This type of Happiness is simply added to your total Happiness score. So, if you rush-built Notre Dame in a City with 5 Population, it would give all +10 Happiness to your Civilization because the Happiness benefit is Global. A City that connects a new Luxury will add it to the Global Happiness, as well.
Knowing where Happiness comes from, you can seek new sources to avoid Unhappiness
Determining Happiness SourcesYou can mouse-over the Happiness total at the top of the game interface to see all sources of Happiness and Unhappiness for your Empire. This will show you what Luxuries are contributing to you Happiness, so that you can seek out those that you do not yet have affecting your people. Additionally, you can click the drop-down menu in the top right, go to Economic Overview > Resources & Happiness to see even more detailed information about what each City is generating. You can also see the distinction between local and global Happiness there. With this knowledge, you can Ally with City-States that have Luxuries you don’t yet have or construct a missing building that provides Happiness (more useful for spotting missing buildings in Wide Empires). Spending Gold to Ally CSs that have a Luxury you do not will make your Gold go further and provide additional benefit to your empire rather than the base +Culture, Food, or Faith you may get from a City-State.
Unhappiness PenaltiesDipping even to -1 Happiness results in Unhappiness Penalties. Cities will grow at 1/4 normal speed and have Production/Gold output reduced by -2% per Unhappiness. Units also get a -2% per Unhappiness Combat Penalty. Reaching -10 Unhappiness will stop Cities from growing entirely and cause Rebels to pop up around your lands from time to time. Fixing this is a high priority, as Rebels can make it even worse by pillaging Luxury tiles and destroying City Connections.
Once Ideologies are chosen, it gets worse. Civs that produce high levels of Tourism will affect Civs with low Culture and cause them to want to be like the more dominant Civ, resulting in an Unhappy population. The more Influence levels that Ideology has in the world, the harsher the Unhappiness becomes. It may be too much for your Policies and Tenets to counter. If you are experiencing high levels of Unhappiness from pressure from another Civilization due to Tourism and Ideological Differences, Cities may even leave the Empire. If you’ve sunk that far due to pressure, there’s little you can do to fix it and should change Ideology through the Ideology menu so that you do not lose a City to a Civ with the dominant Ideology. If you want to fully understand this system, see the Ideology and Tourism sections of the Guide.
Of course, this works the other way around too. Being a Civ that produces heaps of Tourism and having a stubborn Civ fail to change Ideology, you may get free Cities and turn their Empire into swiss cheese. These situations are rare, however, as most Civilizations will give in and change Ideology to the dominant one. It is an occurence I have only seen once in my many hundreds of hours of gameplay.
Happiness Sources & Managing Unhappiness
Luxuries and TradeEach Luxury Resource you connect to your Empire will give you +4 Happiness, no matter how you do it. A City-State that has a Luxury you do not will contribute it to the Empire at Ally status. Mercantile City-States provide +2 Happiness early on, +3 Medieval and later, regardless of their Luxuries, so can give your Civ up to +7-11 Happiness from Allying with one of them as they may have Luxuries that are only available to that type of CS. Also, you may Trade extra copies of Luxuries you have to other Civs for their Luxuries. It’s also possible to Trade using your income and get a copy of a Luxury for 9 Gold per Turn from the AI. They will also accept 5 copies of a Strategic Resource for a Luxury, or combinations of Strategic Resources and Gold.
Importance of ScoutingScouting is important for finding new lands to settle, as you need to know where new Luxuries are. Find areas that can help you to offset the Unhappiness penalties associated with founding a new City, so that you can continue to grow. Look also for places that have Horses/Ivory for Circuses (+2 Happiness) and Stone/Marble for Stoneworks (+1 Happiness) Having extra copies of Luxuries does not help aside from Trade Deals and tile bonuses from Improvements. Another benefit of Scouting is that finding a Natural Wonder will give +1 permanent Happiness to your Empire. If you didn’t know some of this, I highly suggest you read my Beginner’s Guide to the Early Game as well as my Civ 5 Tips pages.
Managing HappinessYou need to balance Happiness and expand such that Cities can grow. Workers are important for connecting Luxuries quickly as you settle new Cities, and forming City Connections if you are using Liberty as it will give +1 Happiness per connected City. If you have 2-3 Cities and are only using one, you need to get another Worker out ASAP. This allows you to quickly connect Luxuries and secure Trade deals. The sooner you trade with an AI, the more likely you are to get their Luxuries. They trade with each other, and as each deal comes to an end you will get an opportunity to renew it if the relations between your two Civs are still good. Check the Diplomacy tab > Relationships panel to see what Luxuries Civs have to offer and see if they wish to trade with you.
If you want to Settle an area with really high growth potential (Bananas, grassland, cattle) that has no Happiness bonuses – no new luxury, no stone/marble, or no horses/ivory, you have to offset that somehow. Make Colosseums throughout your empire and try to get a Circus Maximus National Wonder. When you’re low on Happiness (less than 2-3), you may also disable growth in some Cities to allow others with more potential to continue to grow. For example, if you’re playing with Tradition Social Policies, every other unit of Population in the Capital generates -1 Unhappiness, so you essentially have half Unhappiness from Citizens in that City. Stopping growth in other Cities can let the Capital grow much more, while the others await a surplus of Happiness to let them grow. It’s also more useful to have more Citizens in the City with your Guilds and National College – that City generates 50% more Science, so ensuring it gets to use your Happiness is more beneficial to the Empire overall. Do keep in mind Local Happiness, as a City may be able to grow without lowering your Happiness Score. Overall, STOP GROWTH when you are low on Happiness as opposed to dipping far into the negative. Set those Cities on Production or Gold Focus and take measures to fix your problem by constructing buildings, allying a CS, Trading with another AI/player, or adopting a new Policy. Since Cities still grow at 25% of normal rate, they can indeed make Happiness issues worse once you hit -1.
The following lists all Buildings and Wonders that generate Happiness. Note that Circuses and Stoneworks require resources within 3 tiles of the City on land that is owned by your Civilization. Also remember that Wonders generate Global, not local, Happiness:
Regular Buildings that Generate Happiness NameHap +Tech Required (Era)Notes Circus2Trapping (Ancient)Requires Improved Horses or Ivory. Stone Works1Masonry (Ancient)Requires Workable Marble/Stone. Colosseum2Construction (Classical)Prerequisite for Circus Maximus Nat’l Wonder Zoo2Printing Press (Renaissance)Requires Colosseum Stadium2Refrigeration (Modern)Requires Zoo Wonders that Generate Happiness NameHap+Tech Required (Era)Notes Circus Maximus5Construction (Classical)Requires Colosseum in every non-Puppet City, National Wonder buildable by every Civ. Chichen Itza4Civil Service (Medieval)Also increases length of Golden Ages by +50% Notre Dame10Physics (Medieval)Also provides +4 Faith, +1 Great Merchant Points. Forbidden Palace%Banking (Renaissance)Requires Patronage, -10% Unhappiness in Non-Occupied Cities. +2 Delegates in World Congress. Taj Mahal4Architecture (Renaissance)Instant Golden Age upon completion. Neuschwanstein2Railroad (Modern)+1 Happiness, +2 Culture, +3 Gold from every Castle. Prora2Flight (Modern)+1 extra Happiness for every 2 Social Policies you’ve adopted, grants one free Policy. Requires Coastal City, adoption of Autocracy Ideology. Eiffel Tower5Radio (Modern)Also grants +12 Tourism Civ-Specific Buildings that Generate Happiness NameHap +Tech Required (Era)Notes Burial Tomb2Philosophy (Classical)Egyptian Temple Replacement. Satrap’s Court2Banking (Renaissance)Persian Bank Replacement Ceilidh Hall3Acoustics (Renaissance)Celtic Opera House Replacement
Social Policies and Ideology Tenets that affect HappinessThere are many Social Policies and Tenets that affect Happiness or your ability to get it in some way. Here are the Social Policies’ major impacts on Happiness: Tradition focuses on Growth in all Cities and Unhappiness via the Capital. Liberty allows for less Unhappiness per City and additional Happiness for Connected Cities. Honor will give Happiness for Cities that have a Unit stationed within. Patronage allows you to more readily secure Alliances with City-States and thus generate more Happiness. Commerce can give you +2 Happiness per Luxury Resource. That is a huge bonus, given it affects those within your lands AND Luxuries gifted by City-States. Exploration will give Happiness for Coastal buildings, for those times when you are playing an Archipelago map or have many Cities along the coast.
Ideology also plays a major role in Happiness generation, although in the late game. Freedom, Autocracy, and Order have several tenets that reward you for specific types of buildings or reduce Unhappiness in some way. Take advantage of your Tenets by constructing the buildings that give the additional Happiness. Utilizing the means available to you is key in keeping your Empire happy and very useful late-game Golden Ages that may come to you.
Religious Beliefs and Buildings that raise HappinessReligion can play a major role on your Civ’s Happiness, whether it is a Religion you Founded or another Civ’s Religion that is spreading in your lands. Take advantage of those Beliefs! Buying up Religious buildings with Faith, whenever possible, is very wise, whether you plan to keep that Religion in the City or not, as it will continue to provide positive effects for the City. This is doable when the AI sends missionaries or Great Prophets to your lands and temporarily converts one of your Cities to their Religion.
- Goddess of Love (Pantheon Belief) – +1 Happiness from Cities with 6 Population
- Sacred Waters (Pantheon Belief) – +1 Happiness from Cities on Rivers
- Peace Loving (Founder Belief) – +1 Happiness for every 8 Followers in non-enemy foreign Cities.
- Ceremonial Burial (Founder Belief) – +1 Happiness for every 2 Cities following this Religion.
- Pagodas (Building/Follower Belief) – +2 Happiness/Culture/Faith
- Cathedrals (Building/Follower Belief) – +1 Happiness/Culture/Faith and has a slot for Great Work of Art/Artifact.
- Mosques (Building/Follower Belief) – +1 Happiness, +2 Culture, +3 Faith
- Asceticism (Follower Belief) – Shrines provide +1 Happiness in Cities with 3 Followers
- Peace Gardens (Follower Belief) – Gardens provide +2 Happiness in City
- Religious Centers (Follower Belief) – Temples provide +2 Happiness in Cities with 5 Followers
Civs can have a Golden Age when their Happiness has been high enough to reach the first goal of accumulating 500 Happiness. Every additional Golden Age costs +250 more, so having a third Golden Age would require you to generate 1000 Happiness. The counter will go up for every Golden Age you have, whether it comes from Happiness, a Great Artist, Wonder, or newly-adopted Social Policy. However, these ‘free’ Golden Ages keep the counter where it was. It would simply cost 250 more to get the next. Unhappiness does not subtract from the total, but merely slows down the process.
Golden Ages cause all Cities in the Empire to generate +20% more Production, and all tiles that generate at least 1 Gold will get +1. This is substantial, as that is before the extra Gold is multiplied by Markets, Banks, etc. Therefore, Golden Ages can cause an Empire to generate a LOT of extra Gold for a time. Additionally, the total Cultural Output of the Empire is increased +20%. This means you’ll acquire new Policies faster while in a Golden Age, but it will not cause your Cities to grow their borders faster.
Golden Ages by default are 10 Turns, with Great Artist-produce Golden Ages lasting 8. If you are close to a new Golden Age and plan to use a Great Artist to start one, it’s smart to wait until the Golden Age hits from the counter to use the Great Artist. Chichen Itza, a World Wonder, increases the length of Golden Ages by 50% and is unlocked with the Civil Service Tech, which comes early. That Wonder can make Golden Ages’ impact on your Civilization in the long-term more important. Freedom’s Universal Suffrage Tenet increases Golden Age length by 50% as well. These both combine additively, so may double the length of Golden Ages. For Persia (who get 50% longer Golden Ages) it would increase them to 2.5x by having both.
For most Civs, Golden Ages don’t do much in the long-term but may help a bit in the short term. In general, if you’re in the early-mid game and have 20 Happiness, you could have another City or 20 more Population and all the benefits that come with that. In that case, you should get Food Trade Routes to your Cities or have them focused on Food to use the Happiness – Happiness to me is more a resource to allow my Cities to grow, rather than something I want to be stockpiling for Golden Ages. Each Citizen produces Science, and that Science is important for any type of win in Civ 5.
Golden Ages are also something that are better to have later in the game, just because you’ll have so much more Production, Cultural Output and workable Tiles producing that +1 Gold. You’ll also have Banks and Stock Exchanges to help improve income from that +1 Gold per tile. I would rather use my Happiness early on to grow, then get more Golden Ages through Social Policies and Tenets in the mid to late-game so that they are more potent. This is especially helpful for Diplomatic Victory, which relies heavily on Gold to allow you to Ally as many City-States as possible.
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