Wondrous: The Civilization V Community Patch Project

The last big official update to Civilization V [official site] came in 2013 with its second large expansion, Brave New World. Three years later, and almost six years after the game’s original release, there’s another big new release expected, but it’s not an official expansion. It’s the Community Patch Project (CPP; to be named Vox Populi on release), a community-made mod that overhauls and improves a majority of the game’s systems in an attempt to make Civilization V the best game it possibly can be.

I’m relatively new to the patch myself, having only discovered it in late 2015 thanks to the YouTuber Arumba, but by that time it had already been in the works for over a year. How did it come about? I spoke to CivFanatics forum user Gazebo, largely considered the face of the project.

“Back in 2014, I started a wish list of things I felt I had the c++ competency to design. The biggest features I wanted to implement were resource monopolies, late-game corporations, a new happiness system, and a random events system. Together, these aspects really do feel like an official expansion of civ. I also wanted the project to incorporate as many community suggestions, ideas, and criticisms as possible, as the combined brain power of the community is much more than I could ever hope to muster on my own!”

What the community have created is nothing short of amazing; a complete overhaul of Civilization V that completely revived my interest in the game long after I’d drifted away from the original. Although I can’t possibly go through every little thing that’s been changed (a complete changelog and guide can be found here) I’m going to at least give you the rundown of the major changes, the reason they’ve completely reinvigorated Civilization V for me, and how the game feels with the Community Patch Project installed.

Wants and Needs: The New Happiness System

The biggest change to the CPP is the one that best summarises how it feels to play. The new happiness system is so much more organic, in depth and natural, and that feel ties into how the rest of the mod plays as well.

The old, static happiness modifiers are completely done away with and replaced with a system of needs which are evaluated on a city-by-city basis. Each city demands a certain amount of yields per population, and if they don’t get enough, they generate unhappiness based on how much they’re missing. This unhappiness feeds back into the global happiness system of course, and so multiple unhappy cities without enough happiness modifiers will lead to an unhappy empire.

The way the needs are named, though, feels more organic, and makes the system more than just numbers. Your citizens don’t cry out for “more culture” or “more science”, they complain about “boredom” and “illiteracy”. Got a city with a high illiteracy rate? Better build some Libraries and Universities. Citizens getting bored? Entertain them in the Amphitheater!

There are other sources of unhappiness too, such as being isolated from the capital (no city connections) and Religious Unrest (not enough religious followers), so it’s not just about managing a few percentages, it’s about actually making sure a city has everything it needs. Or as close to the ideal as possible.

I haven’t quite got the happiness system figured out yet. I understand it, mostly, but my empire always seems to be in some minor state of unhappiness due to a lack of money, or defenses, or this or that. I think mostly it punishes me for over-specialising, ignoring culture in favour of science for example, and that’s great! Now I have to choose between happiness and specialisation in a way that makes me feel less like a strategy gamer and more like a ruler.

Ignoring your population’s state of happiness isn’t wise. Besides the revolts that can occur at severe levels of unhappiness, even minor unhappiness leads to a loss of science and gold, while your units take combat penalties due to low morale. On the flip side, positive happiness can actually boost these numbers, so letting yourself drop too low is a double loss of resources. A wise ruler makes sure their citizens’ needs are met, or pays the consequences.

New Uniques for Everyone (Except Poland)

The more immediately exciting changes from the CPP are the adjustments made to each of the civilizations. I always thought that the way Civilization V handled Unique Abilities (UA) was exciting. Rather than the trait system of earlier Civ games, each Civilization now got to be truly unique with abilities based on its historical position in the world.

Unfortunately, a lot of the UAs ended up being either too one-dimensional, arbitrary or just plain unhelpful. Although you could often see what the intent behind them was, many required very specific scenarios to be worthwhile, or shoehorned you into strategies that you either weren’t comfortable with, or just weren’t possible given your position in the world. The CPP overhauls basically all of that, making every UA dynamic, interesting and almost always relevant.

The one exception is Poland, whose ability remains untouched. Poland was used almost as inspiration for the rest of the overhauls, and you can see its benefits reflected in almost everyone else’s new uniques. Poland’s extra social policy per era is relevant no matter what your starting position, dynamic enough to allow you to approach any victory condition, simple to use and effective throughout the entire game. Now every civilization can say the same.

A large reason that the CPP feels so fresh is that it allows you to diversify without punishing you for the decisions you make. In fact, as the happiness system proves, it even punishes you a little for not diversifying. Everything is tied to everything else. Now there are multiple paths to the same victory, and good reasons to invest in almost anything. The new unique abilities are great at capturing that sensibility while still being genuinely unique, interesting and diverse.

As well as the changes to abilities, each civilization has been adjusted to make sure that it has at least one Unique Unit and either a Unique Building or Improvement. A lot of the old one-dimensional civilizations were made even more one-dimensional due to lack of a unique building. If you aren’t going to war, a special unit is kind of useless, and having two is even worse. Now, if you’re a pacifist, you’ll still have something to build that should help you out in some way.

Of course, many of these units, buildings and improvements have been adjusted to match the feel of the CPP, so they’re diverse by themselves, and often help create a secondary goal for each civilization. Even if your unique ability hasn’t come into play much, your unique building or improvement might help catapult you towards your victory condition if you use it right.

Victory Conditions

The victory conditions themselves haven’t been overhauled (much), but winning the game certainly feels like a very different task nowadays. The focus on generalisation helps a lot with that. It’s not that you don’t have to specialise to win any more. Rather, you can’t specialise as much so victory comes less quickly and often with less overwhelming unbalance as in the base game. Gone are the days of launching a rocket to Alpha Centauri without ever researching the Rocketry technology, or buying out all the City States just before the game-winning UN Diplomatic Leader vote.

The technologies needed for the science victory come right at the end of the tech tree, so you actually need to research everything in order to win through science. Tourism comes from a wider variety of sources, and trickles in throughout the game, giving you a chance to be ready for a sightseeing revolution when tourism really kicks off in the Modern era. The World Congress requires more steps to reach the Diplomatic Victory, not to mention that city state diplomacy is completely overhauled. Resistance to your military becomes naturally stronger the more enemy capitals you hold.

These aren’t the reasons that victory in the CPP feels so different than the base game though. They’re just balance changes. Victory itself is changed by the path to victory. You’re no longer tied down, from the beginning of the game, to focusing on one specific victory type and then half-praying that you have the tools you need to reach it. Some civilizations will still naturally favour one victory or another, but there’s enough variety in their abilities – and in the gameplay, tech tree, buildings and other options available – to offer you multiple paths to victory every game. Sometimes you won’t even need to decide what you’re doing until much later in the game, because you’re naturally hedging your bets anyway.

This is core to what makes the CPP special. You’re no longer playing a game with a specific, pre-planned path to victory. You’re building and managing an empire, steering it roughly in the direction you need it to go but ultimately unsure of what exactly will happen. Victory isn’t just a choice you make, it’s an organic growth of your civilization, a natural conclusion to your story. This is exactly what Civilization has always meant to me. With the Community Patch Project, Civilization V finally reflects that, bringing flexibility to your rule.

Those major changes to the way the game functions are backed up by extensive changes to AI and balance that tweak just about every element of the game.

The Community Patch Project is unofficial and entirely fan made. It’s still undergoing tweaks and changes, but it’s hoped that it will be considered complete and finalised as Civilization V: Vox Populis this summer. If you want to try it out in the meantime, head on over to the Community Patch Project forum on Civ Fanatics. To run it you’ll need Civ V with both major expansions (Gods and Kings, Brave New World), all of the leader DLC and the Ancient Wonders DLC.


  1. Zenicetus says:

    Sounds very interesting, but I guess the big question is: how well does the AI handle all these changes?

    It’s a little hard to imagine how the AI could be as competitive as a human player in managing all of this, without some deep-level access to the AI code. But maybe some of the AI abilities are exposed to modding? I don’t know anything about the Civ 5 modding situation.

    • Gazebo says:

      The article does not mention it, but the overhaul described above is built upon an entirely new AI that can leverage all of the new elements added to the game, and performs much better in all aspects of the game (especially war). The DLL for the project is almost completely new.

      • Samuel Wicks says:

        Aye, the new AI is superb. Still has its AI moments, but it definitely handles the patch well

    • dontnormally says:

      The AI is much, much better. Everything is much, much better.

      Seriously: This is by far the best expansion for this game.

      I would have been happy to pay full price for it were it an official release.

    • falconne says:

      Like with Civ IV, the entire gameplay code (aside from the engine) is released as part of the mod SDK so every aspect can be completely re-written.

      I believe the Civ IV BTS expansion’s AI pretty much took the “Better AI” mod’s changes into Firaxis’ own codebase, which is why its AI was so much better than vanilla.

  2. Shar_ds says:

    Blah, really interesting until this bit:

    To run it you’ll need Civ V with both major expansions (Gods and Kings, Brave New World), all of the leader DLC and the Ancient Wonders DLC.

    The rest of the leaders and the Ancient Wonders is a good £20 of extra content to have to buy :/

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yeah, there’s that. I have the two major DLC’s but only picked up a few leaders that interested me, and passed on the Ancient Wonders.

      OTOH, I can understand that with a project this big, it probably had to be tested and balanced with all the extra content in place.

      • dontnormally says:

        Keep in mind that this is easily as big as Brave New World and worth at least as much (and is free).

        • battles_atlas says:

          What’s the All Leaders DLC? Steam lists a bunch of DLC, none of which makes any reference to leaders

          • Neurotic says:

            Some of the map and scenario packs include new civs, which have their own leaders. For example, ‘Denmark – The Vikings’, ‘Polynesia’, ‘Spain and Inca’.

            I managed to sweep up 90% of the DLC for less than ten euros in a Steam sale, so keep an eye out for that.

          • clom says:

            I asked the same question at civfanatics. It’s not clear this way. Better if they just listed the required DLC’s one-by-one.

    • Trinnet says:

      For what it’s worth, the DVD version of Civ 5 complete edition is currently £13.68 on Amazon, and includes everything.

      Obviously this is a better deal for people who don’t already have some of the DLC.

    • BTAxis says:

      Same boat, basically. Might bother if there’s a sale on, otherwise it goes to the back of the mind.

    • badmothergamer says:

      I own G&K and BNW but purchasing the leader and wonder DLCs will cost me over $30. It looks like they get knocked down to $1.25 each during the sales though so I’ll reconsider during the next one.

    • Someoldguy says:

      Yeah, that’s a bit unfortunate. Requiring both major expansions is understandable. I’m surprised the mod community couldn’t seperate out any elements that required additional leader DLC.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Maybe, but think about what you’re saying.

        I’m fairly confident that if I was willing to commit enough of my time and energy to a project like this, I’d want it to be a total conversion of all of the official content, not bits and pieces for “convenience,” which would likely not be my convenience. Anybody this concerned with rewriting the game’s code would have been very motivated to try all of the game’s options and modes, not just the basic game, in hopes that the expansion packs were able to fix whatever it was they weren’t quite satisfied by.

        Even more so, after six years it’s pretty hard to feel bad for anybody complaining about mods not supporting *only* original Civ 5. This game’s DLC is marked down on every steam sale and has been on humble bundles at least twice in the last two years.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Although I mis-read your second sentence, oh well.

    • carewolf says:

      That had me worried for a while. But now I am again glad I didn’t buy CivV when it came out, because I apparently got all the expansions and DLC when I bought on a steam sale it 3 years ago.

  3. X_kot says:

    You’re no longer tied down, from the beginning of the game, to focusing on one specific victory type and then half-praying that you have the tools you need to reach it.

    I’m not sure why this is cited as a drawback in comparison to the mod. In vanilla, you decide on a victory condition to pursue early on and try to build toward that goal more efficiently than your opponents. The article suggests that the CPP means you must build all aspects evenly as you go until you find a way to secure one in the late game before anyone else. They’re different experiences, sure, but I don’t see how one can be weighed as better than the other.

    Also, organic organic organic.

    • Gazebo says:

      I actually disagree with the article on this point – most users of the mod note that the improved AI requires you nail down a specific strategy sooner rather than later.

      • X_kot says:

        Thank you for the clarification!

        Btw, I like how the mod is pitched to accommodate wide and tall empires, something I wish the review had touched on because it is such a long-running issue in the Civ series.

        • Gazebo says:

          Indeed! There is no ‘one true strategy’ in this mod, unlike vanilla civ. Wide, tall, either can work.

      • Samuel Wicks says:

        My experience has been that ignoring culture buildings in favour of science, for example, leads to some significant problems. I guess it’s not quite right to say you can change direction at any point, but it certainly feels like I have more freedom nowadays

    • DThor says:

      I haven’t played it, but it seems to me that a more elaborate version of happiness would tend to hamstring your strategy, requiring constantly buffing certain aspects of play so everything doesn’t go downhill. Doesn’t this lead to a sameness of approach?

  4. Taear says:

    The Mayan ability is still the same as well – you get a new Great Person at the end of each long count.

    The rest are all changed, but that’s identical just like Poland.

    • Gazebo says:

      It was altered slightly – moved to Mathematics (was at Theology).

  5. BluePencil says:

    I’d really like to try this but am anxious about downloading a file to my computer from a forum. What is the best way to assess whether I’m getting the genuine mod rather than a random users malware?

    • thanosi says:

      Well it’s a reputable forum linked too from a reputable website but you could also scan the file after downloading it with malware bytes or similar just to make sure. Simply downloading the file/package isn’t going to release malware onto your system.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Civfanatics has been around a long time. There’s never any guarantee that a reliable source hasn’t been hacked, but between the rep of that site and my system’s anti-virus protection I’d feel safe downloading it.

      I’ll probably wait for the final version this summer though. Stellaris is about to drop, and that will probably eat up a chunk of my strategy gaming time.

    • BluePencil says:

      Thanks guys. I wasn’t thinking of something so complicated as a forum hack. And I know the forum is a hive of genuine Civ fans and has been around ages. I was thinking of something simpler: forum member posts a link not to the mod but to a nasty file. But I suppose I could best check by finding a post with the link and then checking how many posts the user has made and whether they’re genuinely talkative and knowledgeable about Civ and the mod and so on.

    • Quintillus says:

      Every mod at CivFanatics has an official thread (and in the cases of larger ones like this, an official sub-forum). If you download it from the official thread – in this case, link to forums.civfanatics.com – you’re about as safe as you can get on the Internet. There’s also a very active moderator community, and suspicious external links are reported and removed very quickly.

      Having been a member there for close to a decade, I’ve rarely seen external spam links, they’ve always been removed quickly, and I’ve yet to see a dangerous link from anyone who’d been involved with the community a long time. So unless the poster has a very low post count, there’s not really anything to worry about.

  6. Branoic says:

    is there a particular reason the mod isn’t available through the Steam Workshop?

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      Because it rewrites the game engine. The mods in the steam workshop typically only change xml files.

      • fearandloathing says:

        Not exactly, already there are other dll mods on Workshop. IIRC the author intends to publish on Workshop once the mod nears completion. Considering that after the last addition (events system) mod is feature-complete, soon it’ll be published there too.

    • Kohlrabi says:

      Apparently that means it will _not_ work with Aspyr’s versions of Civ5, that is, the Mac and Linux ports.

      • hungrytales says:

        Does anybody know the reasons Aspyr ignores requests to release source code for modders? What’s the point in keeping it for ports if it’s already released on the original platform?

  7. pelwl says:

    The CPP is really excellent work. Personally I don’t like it though, purely because the AI, being so much better than previously, will now war with you constantly if it’s in their interests to do so. And, if you defeat them they will sue for peace, wait 10 turns while they build up their army then declare war again. And you’ll often be facing this on two fronts.

    I tend to prefer relatively peaceful games, mainly because having to move around so many combat units each turn just bores the hell out of me.

    For anyone who likes playing Civ with a warring strategy then it is a really excellent game changing expansion.

    • Samuel Wicks says:

      I find that if I build up my military in the very early game, the AI will probably leave me alone for a while, sometimes after a single early war. Being strong makes the AI more likely to be friendly with you in my experience.

  8. Thats no moon says:

    Sounds great but every time I try to install I get an error for a drive I have never installed.

    C:etc for the MOD directory and S:etc is my steam folder. Keep getting G: as a drive the mod wants to do stuff to. Don’t have a G: drive so it won’t work.

    • Thats no moon says:

      Installed without the EUI and it seems to have gone OK. For us thickies with similar problems, there is a drop-down menu which does not install the EUI.

  9. Raoul Duke says:

    There are other sources of unhappiness too, such as being isolated from the capital (no city connections) and Religious Unrest (not enough religious followers)

    Ugh. One of the bad things about Civ V, IMHO, was the fact that religion gave you such specific advantages. Whereas reality demonstrates that pluralistic societies thrive and have much higher levels of happiness and cultural output than ones with a dominant religion. It’s a shame this mod doesn’t reflect that, or at least give an atheist/pluralist bonus as an alternative.

    • pelwl says:

      Religion in Civ V is pretty gamey, but historically I’d say that societies with dominant religions should gain bonuses through war/empire building. If you think of the Holy Roman, Spanish and British empires their colonisation attempts were boosted by the notion of converting heathens, increasing happiness at home and the will to defeat the enemy. Also, while cultural output may not be greater per se, the spread of culture to other nations of the same faith probably was.

      It doesn’t make any sense that a civ which gets converted to another religion gets bonuses too – if anything they should get hits to happiness or even rebellion, unless they completely let go of their own religion and lose the opportunity to resurrect it.

    • Eightball says:

      >Whereas reality demonstrates that pluralistic societies thrive and have much higher levels of happiness and cultural output than ones with a dominant religion.

      That’s… an interesting assertion to make.

  10. Kevin Wells says:

    As best I can tell, this mod is a Windows-only mod. Is that correct, or is it playable on Linux? If not, anyone know if it will be in the future? It sounds really exciting!

    • fearandloathing says:

      The mod uses a custom dll, hence not playable on Linux. I heard there are some dll-emulators on Linux, but don’t know if they work with this.

    • hungrytales says:

      Actually Aspyr not caring for full mod support for their Linux ports was a sole reason I went back to Windows recently

  11. fearandloathing says:

    Well I’m sure all CPP fans will be thankful to Sam&RPS, recently there were talks on getting Firaxis’ attention for the mod, so good job.
    What is missing in the article though is that the CPP is actually a two-tiered project, which encompasses the Community Patch and the Community Balance Patch. The latter includes whole new mechanics and complete rethink of the game, which the article discusses; but the former incorporates only the AI improvements&bug-fixes, hence it is more like “a patch”, really. As it stands, it is compatible with almost any non-dll mods and provides a great ground for further modding. While changes introduced in the CBP might not attract some, frankly I cannot see any reason not to use the CP, AI really hits its limits in that one.
    Special thanks to Gazebo for making this happen, the amount of work put into this mod should make Firaxis question themselves.

    • Samuel Wicks says:

      Indeed, I wanted to mention the existence of the CP as well, but was somewhat constrained by space. I hope that people who are interested will still find it through this, though

  12. IonTichy says:

    Awesome mod!

    Too bad that Firaxis had to botch the multiplayer part of Civ5 so that we can’t play multiplayer with mods enabled.
    Because I seldom play civ singleplayer anymore and this would be a welcome refreshment for the sessions with my friends.

    • Sentelin says:

      In fact you can play CPP in MP. While MP version of project is not directly compiled by Gazebo, he and rest of the team had done number of technical improvements and stability tweaks by using link to forums.civfanatics.com as basis.

      Now Community Patch – Modpack (Multiplayer Compatible) is lagging behind current version of project (latest beta) and instead is based upon last stable build of project (which was in Mart).

    • Sentelin says:

      I also forgot to mention that I played CPP with my friend recently and Community Patch – Modpack (Multiplayer Compatible) was stable enough. Though you should probably be aware that CPP team has made bunch other tweaks to improve MP in latest version of beta, so you might as well wait for final release of CPP and update of Community Patch – Modpack (Multiplayer Compatible).