Culture represents the advancement of a civilization in ways that aren't scientifically or technologically oriented, and have nothing to do with day-to-day survival, or any other practical purpose (such as growing food and making things). In this respect, culture is one of the things that best defines a civilization and differentiates it from Barbarians (who also progress scientifically, for example). It is measured in Culture Points (CPs).
Culture has two main applications in Civilization V:
- It expands the borders of your empire by acting in each city you found, and
- It allows you to buy new social policies by accumulating empire-wide Culture Points (CPs). Perhaps even more importantly, when you acquire enough culture and complete five social policy trees, you may win the Cultural Victory after constructing the Utopia Project in one of your cities.
In the Brave New World expansion pack, Culture's role is a little different, especially when it comes to the victory conditions of the expansion. It now has the added purpose of defending against other civilizations' Tourism, making their way to a Cultural Victory more difficult. Tourism is a new feature, introduced in the expansion - it is another, more offensive side of Culture. For more info on Tourism, go here.
The cities you found define your empire's territorial borders. When founded, each city occupies its tile, as well as all tiles immediately adjacent to it (if not already taken by another civilization or city-state).
Once established in this way, your empire's borders are expanded by each city individually, according to the amount of Culture produced by it. Note that only culture points produced specifically by a city will count towards border growth! Any other CPs you gain for the whole empire (for example, those gained by a Cultured City-State Friend/Ally, or the bonus gained from an Ancient Ruins) will go to the main Culture pool, but won't help border growth. There is a certain amount of accumulated CPs needed for the occupation of each tile, and each subsequent tile costs more (according to a certain formula). To find out how exactly how much Culture you need to occupy the next tile, mouse over the Culture stat in the city screen. Certain Wonders and Social Policies may diminish the amount of Culture needed for acquiring tiles - either empire-wide, or in this city specifically. For more info on the principle of cultural border expansion, check this article.
Culture can be gained in several ways: cultural buildings, specialists working in those buildings, wonders, and acquiring Great Works (in Brave New World). Cultural City-States will also contribute to your each turn when you befriend them. Of those, the most important - and the first one available, in fact - is the first source: buildings. The following is a comprehensive table of all the buildings that produce culture, valid for the Brave New World expansion:
|Ancient||Stele||2||Ethiopian unique building; replaces Monument. Also produces +2 Faith.|
|Classical||Burial Tomb||2||Egyptian unique building; replaces Temple. Produces Faith instead of Culture.|
|Classical||Mud Pyramid Mosque||4||Songhai unique building; replaces Temple. +2 Culture; also produces Faith.|
|Classical||Temple||3||Requires Monument. Requires Shrine. Produces Faith instead of Culture.|
|Medieval||Monastery||*||+2 culture from each nearby Incense and Wine. Only available via a religious belief.|
|Classical||Amphitheater||3||Requires Monument ( 1 Culture + 1 Great Work slot)|
|Medieval||Mughal Fort||2||Indian unique building|
|Medieval||Wat||3||Siamese unique building|
|Renaissance||Opera House||5||Requires Temple/Amphitheater ( 1 Culture + 1 Great Work slot)|
|Industrial||Museum||5||Requires Opera House ( 1 Culture + 2 Great Work slots)|
|Modern||Broadcast Tower||3||+33% Culture in this city. Requires Museum. ( 1 Culture + 1 Great Work slot)|
All wonders also produce at least 1 culture per turn, but a few produce or may produce more:
|Ancient||Stonehenge||6||Calendar||Produces Faith instead of Culture|
|Classical||Oracle||3||Philosophy||1 free social policy|
|Medieval||Angkor Wat||1||Theology||Culture cost of new tiles reduced 25%|
|Renaissance||Sistine Chapel||1||Acoustics||+25% Culture in all cities|
|Industrial||Louvre||4||Archaeology||2 free Great Artists|
|Modern||Sydney Opera House||4||Mass Media||1 free policy, +50% Culture in this city|
Note that in Brave New World, the World Wonders' Culture production is significantly different. For more info, see below.
The following may also help you acquire more culture:
- Ancient Ruins - Provide a small, one-time bonus.
- Specialists - Each Artist Specialist (as well as Writers and Musicians in ) produces +3 Culture.
- Social Policies - See below.
- Landmark improvement - May be created by a Great Artist; adds +6 Culture to a tile. In Brave New World this improvement is made by an Archaeologist, and doesn't have a fixed amount of Culture.
- City-States - Each Cultured City-State gives you Culture per turn when befriended. The amount grows each era.
The Piety Social Policy tree is designed to enhance cultural growth considerably. In Gods and Kings, this is a bit mixed up with religion enhancements, but it still provides considerable cultural bonuses. In Brave New World, however, the Piety tree is focused solely on religion. So instead, the new Aesthetics policy tree is included as a major source of culture.
Also, the Liberty tree has some nice effects, especially if you intend to build a larger empire. Finally, the Tradition tree's opening effect influences positively border growth, besides giving you bonus culture in the Capital. You get these benefits simply by unlocking this tree, so you don't need to actually complete it - its main purpose is different.
Finally, note that all Puppet cities suffer a 25% penalty to culture production.