There are few more difficult ways to win Civilization VI than to score a Culture victory (which is kinda busted) on the game’s hardest difficulty setting. Hats off to Tater596, then, for not only pulling it off, but managing to do so without going to war.

Figuring that to win with such strict conditions wasn’t “possible, or was at least improbable”, Tater set about building a game that would give him the best possible shot. Playing as Mvemba a Nzinga on a tiny map with two AI opponents, he turned off religious victory and barbarians and got to work.

Tater’s start position. Not bad.

The win was all about optimisation, squeezing as many cultural points as can be wrought from the game without the AI going nuts. That meant the early game was all about stuff like Suzerain bonuses to generate relics upon the discovery of natural wonder and racing to complete Mont St. Michel, which gave all his apostles the ability to create relics upon death.

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Tater’s midgame was all about consolidation, as he built out an army to protect his burgeoning empire, as well as constructing wonders like Great Zimbabwe that may not seem like the best idea to generate culture, but instead provided indirect bonuses, like powering an economy which could then pick up culture via other means, such as being able to buy museums to store archaeological finds.

Look at Mr British Museum here.

Of course, as with any other great Civ game, to get this far required not just skill, but some luck as well. Tater’s AI opponents were located on a different continent and hadn’t even made direct contact with him until the medieval era, and by the time he’d begun to really flex his muscles they’d hampered their own development by fighting against each other.

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By the endgame, the AI was left in his dust, and Tater was kicking back and watching his rivals continue to wage war against each other while he crept towards victory. He was doing so in the most luxurious circumstances: his cash reserves were “ridiculous”, and he’d spent decades building extra wonders just for fun, a position you don’t normally find yourself in at any point in a Deity game.

Or so he thought. As you can see, just before the end of the game Tater lost the Suzerain bonus that had afforded him a cultural boost, and one of his AI opponents had made a mad dash to the finish line (building Broadway, Cristo Redentor and Sydney, all big Culture earners, all in succession). More than anything else, this underscores how tough it can be to win a Culture victory at this difficulty: the AI clearly knew what was going on here and almost pulled off an improbable comeback.

Almost. Tater held off until the end, managing to not only win under the normally difficult circumstances of Culture + Deity, but even more impressively (or luckily, depending on your stance) doing it without “a shot fired or a blade drawn”.

It’s the latter half of the achievement that I find most amazing. Turning off barbarians certainly helps, sure, but to go an entire game on Deity without having to resort to violence is crazy.

If you’d like to take a more direct look at Tater’s game, you can download his save files here and poke around. Anyone after a more detailed account of exactly what he built and when, check out this direct account of the game.

I’m sure some people are probably reading this and thinking, well, he got to build the world, set his opponents, turn off a victory condition and eliminate barbarians, so this isn’t actually that impressive.

To that I’d say that Civilization VI, for better or worse, is a game entirely about optimising strategies, build orders and placement. It’s a huge part of the game’s strategic play, determining everything from where you put your Districts to how you relate to the City States.

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What Tater did in setting up his game, then, wasn’t about making things easier. It was about making them possible at all.

Zulu’s cultural output by the end of the game.

Civ VI’s Cultural victory is an obscure, difficult way to win, and even with such a generous map Tater still got very lucky in that he was placed on a continent away from his opponents, and even luckier that over the course of an entire game neither of them declared war on him.

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Luck can only get you so far in Civ VI, though. The rest is knowing what to build next, where to put it and what that does to let you build something else, and in pulling this improbable win off Tater showed how much of that knowledge is required to beat Civ at its toughest settings.