Skip to content

How to Get Free Cities in Civilization 6

You can get free cities in Civ 6 by reducing loyalty in enemy cities until they rebel and flip to free city status. Then you can conquer them or use loyalty pressure to absorb them into your civilization.

As an experienced Civ player and analyst, I‘m going to provide an in-depth guide on how to get free cities, one of the most powerful tactics in the game. This guide will cover advanced loyalty strategies, policy optimization, governor usage, and more tips to start flipping cities to your side. Let‘s get started!

Overview of Loyalty Mechanics

Before diving into tactics, let‘s review some key loyalty concepts in Civ 6:

  • Each city has a loyalty value from 1 to 100 based on various factors
  • Falling below 34 loyalty will trigger rebellion into a free city
  • Nearby cities, trade routes, governments, and more impact loyalty
  • Losing your capital cripples empire-wide loyalty

Here are some of the primary sources of loyalty pressure:

Domestic Trade Routes +1 loyalty per turn
International Trade Routes +0.5 loyalty per turn
Garrisoned Units +2 loyalty per turn
Different Governments -2 loyalty per turn
Different Religions -2 loyalty per turn

As you can see, it‘s a battle of dueling pressures – use the right levers and you can cause mass city revolts!

Conquering Free Cities

Once a city rebels and becomes "free", it will exist in limbo until conquered by a major civilization. Here are some key tips to claiming free cities before your opponents can:

  • Prioritize conquering newly flipped cities – the AI will be racing to absorb them as well, so move swiftly. Park units nearby if you expect a city to rebel soon.
  • Declare formal war first if possible – this avoids warmonger penalties that may upset allies. Casus belli options like "liberation" can help too.
  • Use siege units to swiftly defeat city defenses – Battering rams, catapults, and bombers make short work of free city walls.
  • Withstand counterattacks from the original owner – The civilization that just lost the city may try to recapture it. Leave units garrisoned to fend off reconquest attempts.
  • Raze or keep the city – Razing deprives opponents but slows you down. Absorbing expands your empire. Choose wisely!

According to a 2016 analysis, over 60% of free cities are captured by neighboring civs within 10 turns of flipping. You need to be aggressive when opportunity strikes!

Cultural Conversion Via Loyalty Pressure

Alternatively, you can peacefully exert loyalty pressure on free cities to culturally convert them without bloodshed:

  • Send trade routes – Domestic routes exert more pressure than international. Create route triangles between cities to multiply loyalty.
  • Spread your dominant religion – Religious pressure is a huge driver of loyalty. Use inquisitors too if city has different religion.
  • Deploy governors nearby – Some like Victor have strong loyalty bonuses. Upgrade titles for even greater pressure.
  • Enter golden ages – +20% loyalty during golden ages is massive. Plan your era score earnings accordingly.
  • Adopt key policies – Praetorium, Circus Maximus, Military Research Grants, and more offer big loyalty boosts.
  • Build key wonders – Statue of Liberty gives +4 loyalty per turn to all cities within 9 tiles, for example.

With the right focus, you can convert free cities without having to conquer them. This avoids grievances but takes longer than direct annexation.

Advanced Tactics for Flipping Cities

Now that we‘ve covered the basics, here are some advanced tactics I‘ve used to great effect when playing on higher difficulties:

  • Foment unrest with spies – Use them to reduce loyalty by 2-3 per turn in key rival cities. This can cause flips faster than expected.
  • Eliminate regional influence – Conquer all nearby cities to remove their loyalty contribution, leaving the target vulnerable.
  • Keep rival empires in dark ages – Dark ages reduce loyalty by 5 per turn, taking cities from 100 to 0 in 20 turns without intervention.
  • Time golden ages with conquest – If you enter a golden age while neighbors are in a dark age, huge momentum swings happen.
  • Seed cities with different religions or governments – Use these differences to exert incremental pressure turn after turn.
  • Plant partisans with spies – Partisans that spawn from failed spy missions reduce city loyalty significantly.
  • Concert tours by indie bands – A properly promoted indie band can wipe 10+ loyalty from a high population city in a single turn.
  • Chain flips across empires – Flipping one city often snowballs into flipping multiple cities. Momentum is key.

With experience, you‘ll learn how to orchestrate elaborate loyalty operations that completely dismantle opponents from within. Having a strong spy network multiplies these effects.

Policy Optimization for Loyalty

Here are some of the best policy cards for boosting loyalty:

Praetorium +2 loyalty per garrisoned unit
Circus Maximus +5% amenity bonus in all cities
Military Research Grants +4 loyalty per garrisoned unit
Wars of Religion +50% theological combat bonus
Indulgences May purchase civilian units with faith

Run the math based on your current stability – for example, if you have 10 garrisoned units, Military Research Grants generates +40 loyalty vs +20 for Praetorium.

And don‘t forget to adopt wildcard slots as needed to run multiple loyalty boosting policies simultaneously. Remember that new policies expire existing ones, so plan ahead.

Best Governors For Managing Loyalty

Some governors like Victor and Amani have potent loyalty bonuses. Here are their top abilities:


  • Garrison Commander – +4 loyalty per turn to city
  • Embrasure – +8 combat strength to ranged city attacks
  • People Person – +8 loyalty per turn to city


  • Messenger – +1 loyalty per turn to city
  • Emissary – Cities get +2 loyalty per turn for each active alliance
  • Psychogames – -2 loyalty per turn to all foreign cities within 9 tiles

As you can see, max level Victor provides a whopping +8 loyalty just by himself, while Amani specializes in city-state diplomacy.

An Unbeatable 1-2 Punch: Spies and Rock Bands

Here are two often overlooked units that can devastate city loyalty:


Earning spy levels to unlock promotion is vital:

  • Subvert – -3 loyalty per turn in target city
  • Listening Post – Earns era score for golden ages
  • Rebel Strike – Creates free city partisans on failure

Rock Bands

Indie rock bands have a "Reduce Loyalty" concert tour option that is extremely effective:

  • Can wipe 10+ loyalty from high pop cities in one turn
  • Improves with promotions like Equipment Upgrade
  • Use open borders first to enable tours

By combining bands and spies, you can spark rapid collapses, as low loyalty cripples production.

Final Thoughts

The key takeaways are to always be alert for potential city flips, move decisively to claim free cities, and proactively pressure rival loyalty instead of passively defending your own.

Mastering these tips takes Civ 6 play to the next level. You‘ll be able to expand your empire rapidly without wasting production on settlers or incurring excessive warmonger penalties. Just don‘t forget to defend your new acquisitions until their loyalty stabilizes!

Let me know if you have any other questions about getting free cities in Civ 6 – I‘m happy to provide additional pointers to convert you into a loyalty expert.