Old World – New Player Guide

New Player Guide

Note: Credit goes to Voqar

OW vs Civ / Others

OW has a lot in common with Civilization and other 4X, but it’s not necessarily a “Civ clone” or attempt at redoing Civ. It’s definitely its own beast. It covers a short period of time (Antiquity). The consensus is that one should not try to play this game like Civ because it is NOT Civ.


OW in early access as of this writing is a hard game. There is no difficulty level where one can walk all over the AI or play casually/lazily (compared to the easiest Civ diffs for sure). Bumping difficulty both gives the player fewer starting and yearly resources and pumps up the AIs. At diff 3 and up the AIs start with more and more cities. As a new player you will most likely want to start on the lowest 1 or 2 difficulties unless you are very confident in your abilities and/or are willing to take your thrashings while learning.


OW is a deep game with a lot going on and many ways to play it, but for a new player, it can easily feel like “a war game with Civ elements” – and military is a bigger part of OW than it often is in Civ. Be prepared to build more units and do so immediately compared to how you would in Civ – even on the lowest difficulty. Expect wars and conflict while you learn the game. Playing peacefully is generally more challenging in OW and still requires you to carry a big stick – more so than in civ since combat is very different and the AI is competent enough to make your life difficult or end your game if you’re weak.


The UI is guide worthy itself. There’s tons of hover tool tips and every thing you need to get started is right there in your face. A few things to note. The 5 icons top right side of the UI – toggles display of your “people”, families, opponents, city and unit lists. The upper left part of the UI has buttons/icons for all the game systems and nice summaries for each via tool tips. The leader portrait at the bottom left has a few actions you use regularly and is worth a hover to familiarize. This guide mentions tool tips a lot – OW has a robust and excellent tool tip system. Middle click to “lock” a tool tip so you can then hover and view its linked content, and repeat as needed to drill into info.

AI in General

No AI will match a human any time soon. We’re devious, can see, analyze, and plan big picture in a blink on the fly, etc. The AI in OW is very good. It’s very good at city management, empire management, expansion, and war, and more. The AIs beat up each other, barbs, tribes, and you if you’re weak. They play to win – on all difficulty levels. Turn times rarely bog down and are usually very fast bordering on instant, especially early (on a decent contemporary gaming rig).

Combat AI

The AI in OW is pretty good at hex based combat too. It will focus down units, aggressively retreat to heal, scout you, hide its strength, and more. It plays more like a player in many ways than some AI.


One turn in OW represents one year.


Can be achieved several ways – by score, by completing 10 Ambitions, and more. F1 opens the victory screen – check it for details and progress. (it’s one of those game systems menu buttons – top left bar of UI)


Are goals for your empire that tend to be things you’d be doing anyways or that fit game mechanics and flow (vs feeling like random quests). You pick your first one very early. You get a new one every time you have a new leader. Incomplete ambitions (leader dies off before you finish it) become “legacy” and still give you something for finishing them. Completing 10 is a way to win.


Legitimacy is basically a measure of your power and accomplishments. The biggest immediate impact of it is that it affects how many orders you get per turn. More is better. The crown icon/value on the leader portrait is legitimacy.

Legitimacy How do I get more?

You gain legitimacy, and thus more orders per turn, by completing ambitions, building or taking cities, building wonders, having good relations with your families, event outcomes, some tile improvements, governor skills, and more. There’s a lot of ways to lose it too, like having your prized ruler die off.

The Order System

In many 4X and in Civ, you have the option to move every available unit every turn. In OW you have a limited pool of “orders” (parchment/scroll icon/value on your leader portrait). Orders are shared between all of your units – civilian and military – and used to to make them move and take actions. A large part of OW is managing and prioritizing how you use your orders each turn. It’s a complex topic but know that it’s common to not use all of your orders up each turn. It’s also common to not have enough orders to do actions with every unit you have, especially if you’re actively fighting. Unused orders convert to gold at the end of your turn, you usually cannot bank or save them (there are exceptions).

The Order System – Undo

Part of the order system is unlimited “undo” – it’s a tiny button on the leader portrait just above the “end turn” button. You can click it repeatedly to undo almost anything. You can even undo events, settling cities, attacks, etc.

The Order System and unit fatigue

Related to orders, units have a fatigue limit (tiny dots above the unit icon, not to be confused with “fortification” which also shows as pips above a unit – units can only do so many actions per turn. Moving causes fatigue (uses up stamina). Some actions do not fatigue (use up stamina), like chopping wood with a worker, but still costs an action. Sometimes you need to balance both.


It’s typical in that you generate points empire wide to research things. Where it’s different is you are presented with 4 to choose from at a time, and it’s deck builderish, if you pass on a tech you may not see it again for a few selections (possibly many turns). This makes each choice important, especially early on. Some techs, like lumber mills to generate much needed wood do not come early and this can be painful if missed. You will occasionally be presented with one-time options to “research” that give you a pile of resources or a free unit.


OW features a robust event system (akin to Crusader Kings is what some liken it to) that can impact all facets of the game. It’s common to have several events per turn. Early on these can dramatically impact your game. There are also plenty of events that push you and the AIs into wars that aren’t necessarily the AIs themselves screwing with you – you have all these families, your heir, your court, random citizens, etc – many events involve things you have no direct control over and you have to choose from a limited number of outcomes that often involve immediate war as one choice.


Maps are procedurally generated using scripts, similar to Civ. As of this writing the default map script is “Seaside” which guarantees the player is centered on the map – meaning you most likely have to defend all sides – generally a tougher start in any 4X. The “Continent” script gives you a more Pangaea style map (one big island continent) with more of a chance to have some natural borders to start with (coastal start, for ex). Many new players get crushed on Seaside on even the lowest difficulty. You’ve been warned.


Each civ offers a different package of bonuses and more – you can see it all in the UI when starting a game (note you can change tabs on some of those screens for more details) and it’s beyond the scope of this guide to cover them in depth.


Unlike Civ, and more like some grand strategy, your leader is not permanent. They marry, they have kids, they die, and there is succession. Leaders/people can gain xp, level up, and gain new traits, and gain/lose traits and more thru events. Many events tie into this “people development.”


Families – You are not alone, so to speak

Each civ is made up of 3 out 4 four possible families unique to that civ (there are 8 family archetypes shared by all). Each family is good at some element of the game and provides a set of themed bonuses/perks. Each civ starts with one or two families good for military – as a new player you probably want to be sure you always use a military family and use its cities to crank units. These families compete for your favor and are basically your court and royalty, and their status affects how their troops perform, your legitimacy, and other things.

Families – Pick 3 of 4

You “pick” your 3 families by settling them in cities – every city is represented by a family. In the early game you will want to settle one of each until you get all 3 settled as there are large penalties for failing to do this (the game steers you to this). Over time you can be somewhat flexible but failing to balance your cities between the three usually causes impacts relations.

Families – Seating

Each family has a “seat” bonus that fires the first time you settle them – these are usually significant. View them in the game setup screen (or hover the city (house looking icon top left bar of UI) to recap in-game.

City Placement

City Placement – Open sites and general

City sites are static in OW. Each city site has several tiles, and you can settle any of them. Hovering over them with a settler selected shows you how your borders will look for each tile. Like in Civ, settling next to fresh water is a good thing (growth boost, rivers give lots of tile improvement bonuses, etc).

City Placement – Barbs and tribes

Both barbarians and tribes (kind of in between barbarians and full on civs) are a bit more involved than the simple barbs of Civ. The initial thing to know about them is that ALL of their locations are also city sites. Clear them and you can settle them. The AI are often very aggressive with this (depends on map, how much they can expand, etc). Note that as barb/tribes occupy city spaces, they build stuff – units – forever. They pile them up to a point. There’s a chance (based on diff) for them to try to raid you and it’ll be a small army when it happens. If generic barb camps sit long enough they “graduate” and become part of a tribe. Unlike civ, you don’t have barb camps spawning randomly all over creation thru the game – they’re limited to the existing city sites.

City Placement – Reserving

If a barb/tribe spot is cleared, one can park a unit on the “city” tile itself, and “reserve” that spot – nobody else can settle it (without attacking or otherwise moving your unit). The AIs love doing this and they are very good at it. It’s common to see them wiping out a tribe and reserving the city sites as they get around to rolling out settlers. If you do not “reserve” a barb/tribe spot after clearing it there’s a 10 turn countdown before they re-appear, reclaim the site, and start building units again.


Cities – Specialization

It is a very good idea to specialize your cities in OW and as each family has a strength, it’s often an semi obvious choice (military families good for building units, for ex). As a new player having a growth city spamming workers/settlers and at last one dedicated unit spamming military city is highly advisable Early growth can be had by improving certain food-related specialty tiles (pastures/camps/wheat/barley farms/nets). Understand that there is an icon for growth that’s similar looking to food. A generic farm produces food but does not produce growth without a specialist. To get military training early build mines on iron – there are fewer +training improvements. Barracks are available early and can help.

Cites – Production

OW does not do a shield/hammer/production unit style for building stuff. Open a city and notice things are divided into growth, training, and civics – three different types or ways to produce. You need more of each to build the stuff within each category.

Cities – Building units and upkeep

Building units takes time – depending on which source is required (growth or training) AND units cost resources. You need food to build settlers, slingers, etc. You need wood for archers, metal for melee units, access to horses for mounted, and so on. Structures and units usually have resource per turn maintenance costs too.

Cities – Water tiles

Your workers and units can walk on water within your borders, so you can improve water tiles, and build some structures (harbor for ex) and some wonders are built ON water tiles.

Cities – Culture

Each city can produce culture and the immediate impact of that is that raising it (in tiers) allows for building/doing more with the city (more building unlock, more structures for workers to build, and so on).

Cities – Civics

The bottom “production” section of cities is “civics” which is a mix of structures “built” by the city itself so to speak, and repeatable projects. Note the difference. The structures tend to have upgrade-able tiers as your city culture level rises. The is an forum is a civic structure that speeds up civics “production” – it’s not a bad idea to build it before other buildings, and civics is what’s used to determine the length of time it takes to place specialists on tiles..

Cities – Specialists

Your cities contain “citizens” as a measure of population. Growth leads to more citizens. You can only place as many specialists as you have citizens. Specialists are relatively expensive to place and count as a “civics” action, so remember that forum structure. A specialist greatly improves the production of a tile, and when you place a specialist you get a civ-like “culture bomb” effect on the city border – it expands your border one tile in every direction from that tile. Some specialists (urban, placed in worker built structures) can be improved or leveled up to be even more potent (officers in barracks for ex). Be aware, this is not like Civ specialists. You can’t move them around and you don’t juggle them constantly. It’s basically a permanent choice.

Cities – Expanding your borders

There are several ways to expand your borders. The “culture bomb” effect described above for specialists is one. Some tile improvements like hamlets also do the culture bomb thing. Some governors can buy tiles similar to Civ (requires gold and a worker on the tile and uses an order) and similarly some laws (colonization) allow you to buy tiles the same way. The AI’s make good use of this concept, especially tile buying, to grab resources connect cities strategically expand borders. Some event outcomes yield tiles. And more.

Citees – Discontent

On difficulty 3 and up, cities generate discontent every turn, which accumulates over time to “tier up” and give you a variety of penalties if not handled. Certain events or laws (slavery law for ex) can impact discontent. The easiest early way to deal with this is the repeatable festival project, but it takes longer and longer to do. Religion, more advanced structures (amphitheater for ex), governors, and more can all help with this (not really a factor much on difficulty 1 or 2 but it’s something to be aware of).

Cities – Connections

Your cities/families want to be connected to your capital or you get a variety of penalties if there’s no connection. Connections are made by rivers, roads, and harbors for coastal cities. There’s an easily missed icon under a city name on the main map to show this, or you can see it lower left corner in the city screen, or hover the growth bit down there. Hold V to see your “connection network.” Cities founded by “riders” (family type) are always connected.

Cities – Governors

With appropriate tech, culture, and structure(s) you can add a governor to a city. This is your leader/family/court so it’s a limited supply. Different leaders have different kits and some are better as generals vs governors. This can give some hefty boosts to a city. This is not an automation style governor, there is no worker/city/any automation in OW. Some governors have special abilities or perks that only work if they are actively governing (vs sitting in your pool of unused people). Some have simple +xp/+level to units build kind of things, some have unique abilities you don’t find elsewhere – like the ability to redraw your “hand” when picking tech.


Your workers can build roads – it’s a turn ending manual action that also requires some stone per tile. You need to a mix of urban/road/river to make a connection but may want more road robustness as it helps you move units around faster. The AIs tend to build decent road networks.


Wonders in OW are different that in Civ in a few ways. They are all tile improvements built by workers (not built by the city itself). You need ALL of the resources in your possession to start construction. Once construction is started nobody else can build the wonder – it’s yours hassle free once the 10 turns or so are done. Wonders of each tier come from a pool that’s different every game. The AI builds wonders in OW and is competent enough to buy/plan resources for them.


The game recommends and shows you some things your workers can do, but you are not limited to that. As a new player the recommendations do suggest to you how tile/adjacency bonuses work Remember that undo button too.

Tiles – improvements

In OW ALL improved tiles in a city border produce something regardless of how many citizens the city has. Adding a specialist to a tile (civic action) makes them better. Thus, it’s a solid idea to have workers improving tiles. The AI does this aggressively and well.

Tiles – special tiles

Early on, it’s difficult to get growth (settlers/workers) and training (military units). Special resource tiles will often give you those resources just by improving them, where generic tiles never do. Example, a generic farm tile on a river with other adjacency might yield a lot of food – but it won’t produce “growth” without a specialist. A farm on barley however, produces both just for being improved. Few tiles yield +training, look for specialty mining tiles.

Tiles – workers

In OW, workers do a lot more than just tile improvements. Road building is a manual tile by tile worker action. Unlike Civ, in OW much of what you “build” for cities, your wonders, many structures, and more – are built by workers on tiles, not built “in the city center or districts (civ 6) by the city” – there is much more of a balance between “city actions” and “worker actions” to develop cities, tilted towards workers.

Tiles – buildings

OW has more emphasis on workers building structures around your city (compared to Civ 6 for ex). Sometimes these structures need to be adjacent to one or more “urban” tiles – your original 2+ city tiles that look like groups of houses, and other urban tiles you build around them. Some civs start with the ability to build some stuff – most of you you get to thru tech.

Tiles – shrines

Each civ can build 4 shrines unique to them (not super clear during game setup but they’re viewable via tool tip freezing on that screen), and you can only build them all once, and they can’t be built adjacent to each other. This rule can be broken – ex, the polytheism law allows one to build unlimited shrines in all cities. Shrines take ~6 turns to build and can be a good early way to gain culture, difficult resources like military training or growth, and other nice bonuses (+50% to all mines in that city, for ex). You need the super early “divinity” tech to build shrines.

Tiles – adjacency, bonuses

In OW there are a lot of adjacency bonuses, terrain bonuses, and more that can impact the effectiveness of improvements/tiles. Play and hover to get a full feel, there’s a lot to it! Some immediate things to know:

  • rivers are generally amazing just like in Civ – many improvements get a bonus on a river
  • many resource producers benefit from being next to each other – simple adjacency bonus – AIs love this – they often have a city plastered in quarries to get stone for wonders, for ex.
  • farms next to food producing pastures get a nice bonus, camps and lumber mills similarly interact – these not so so obvious relations can be discovered looking at the worker recommendations in game and by playing
  • as with Civ, the quality of generic land varies – for ex, arid tiles suck for food but are good for stone
  • many structures come later via tech that can add bonuses – granary near farms, for ex
  • quarries/farms next to mountains/volcanoes get a large bonus
  • lumber mills next to rivers get a huge +60% bonus


Resources – Basics

There are 4 basic resources – top middle part of the UI. It’s all as you’d expect – farms for food, mines for metal, quarries for stone, lumber mills/chopping for wood You mostly gain these per turn from improvements, consume them to build structures, units, wonders, consume them for building/unit maintenance, and have some other options and means. You can gain and lose them thru events/treaties/etc. You can gain them from one-time techs. And more.

Resources – Harvesting

The scout unit can use “harvest” resource tiles outside of your borders – the UI shows you how much you’ll get via hover before you move. It costs an order but doesn’t cause fatigue.

Resources – Chopping

Wood is a critical resource in OW, and lumber mills to harvest wood per turn come fairly late compared to your needs. Workers can do a “light chop” on forest tiles such that the forest grows back after a few turns, AND they can do this outside of your city borders. It’s advisable to have an extra worker chopping away as early as possible. A worker in a nicely forested area can move and chop 3 times to gain 60 wood. Archer upgrade/creation costs more than that.

Resources – The market

If you hover the basic resources in the UI two values drop down – a buy and sell value for the resource. You can sell to gain gold, or buy to gain resources (UI has the info on how via hover). Prices shift due to demand, so for example, wood is usually insanely high priced in a hurry and forever because everybody needs it, lumber mills come painfully late vs need, and the AIs use the market. Wonders require hundreds of stone and few civs start with quarry tech (but it’s usually there to grab early) and unless you’re Egypt (starts with a bunch of stone), you’ll most likely be buying stone to build an early wonder.


Combat is worth a guide of its own. Here’s some basics.

Combat – families

As each city is controlled by a family, so is each unit tied to the family that builds it, and that can impact their combat effectiveness and other factors.

Combat – movement

In OW your military units can move MUCH farther than in Civ 5/6, and can attack after any amount of moving. Attacking ends your move (unless you have rout, common on mounted, see the tool tip). One “move” can be several tiles depending on terrain, roads, and more. So one unit might move MANY tiles (compared to Civ) and attack all in one turn. It’s very different from Civ 5/6 feel.

Combat – march

In addition to the bigger moment allowances, units can “march” – activated by “paying” some of your training pool (red shield top of UI with resources). This allows units to spend more orders to move ANY distance you can afford and still attack/settle/whatever. (cost 100 as of latest test build, up from 50 at release)

Combat – unit types

You get melee units, ranged units, and mounted units. Scouts are included too even though they are not technically military “training” units – they play a crucial role.

Combat – attacking and retaliation

In OW, depending on the units involved, there may or may not be a retaliation strike after an attack. But, even if a unit can retaliate, it only ever does minimal damage, so it’s generally best to be attacking to deal damage instead of hunkering and retailing only.

Combat – healing

Units can only heal inside of your borders. There are no healer units. Units tend to take a while to build and the rushing options are usually cause discontent, so even though you will lose units, you generally don’t want to do so if it can be avoided. The AI aggressively retreats units to heal and if you fight near their borders, they rotate units intelligently as they can.

Combat – types of attacks

Some melee units get interesting side effect attacks – spears pierce thru and damage the unit behind, mace do an AE cleave damaging the 2 units next to your main target, for ex. Infantry ranged units quickly start having more than 2 range via promos or on anything after the starting slingers. Most melee units and some ranged exert a form of zone of control (ZOC) and most mounted, who have even more movement potential, ignore ZOC entirely.

Combat – upgrading

Units can almost always upgrade to a higher tier once you unlock the tech, have appropriate resources, and in some cases the right city culture (for unique units mostly). Upgrading requires an order and ends a units turn. For example, slingers cost food to make and can upgrade to archers but it requires a fair bit of wood. Upgrading requires you to be within city borders and in some cases may require a city of a particular culture level “requires a city of type XYZ” – the UI tells you.

Combat – promotions

The promo system in OW is similar to the one in Civ with some notable differences. You “buy” promotions using your military training power pool, the first one costs 100 and the cost goes up by 100 until you max out. Every attack a unit makes gives them xp, which reduces the cost of their next promotion such that you can wait you can get “free” promotions, or you can dump your military training resource into units and promote them for full/partial cost at any time. Promoting costs an order and ends a unit’s turn. The promos available are somewhat random so you often don’t get exactly what you want.

Combat – barracks/ranges/free xp

Some city structures built by workers both gain you military training resource per year AND if you park an appropriate unit on them, that unit gains xp per turn (the tile will highlight green when you have a suitable unit selected). You can put the unit to sleep/sentry and it’ll wake once it levels up to let you know you can do a free promotion. As cities gain culture they can have multiple such structures.

Combat – cities

Attacking cities is a little different compared to Civ with all the movement and different mechanics. It’s unlikely that a city with a single defender will last very long against any army. You kind of need to “defend” with “force” – deter attackers by having a lot of units, and, you probably want some type of army/armies in the vicinity of likely barb/tribe/AI approaches.

Combat – unit cost and maintenance

Mentioned before but worth restating – units are built with “training” (red shield resource, as generated by the individual city itself). Units also cost resources – food, metal, wood, whatever. Units tend to have maintenance costs in terms of resources – wood per turn for archers, for example. As such units are more “expensive” than just time and generic production.

Combat – unit HP

All units have 20 hp. The only way to make them more durable is with defensive promotions, using terrain, and not doing goofy things like leaving them alone in the open with multiple AI units in range. The strength of the unit impacts its defense too. It can take quite a bit of effort for low tier units to gang pile a higher tier unit with decent defense bonuses.

Combat – Generals

You can add a general to any unit – this is your civ’s leader, family, or court – something you usually have in limited supply. The unit can gain a wide variety of perks/promos depending on the leader’s kit. Leaders gain xp and level up and can gain perks similar to unit promotions, which stack with the units promotions where they can, to make for some very strong units. Generals do not add HP to units, they still have 20 HP. If a general is slain, it is dead and gone. OW does have a kind of great person system and you can sometimes hire great generals to train your kids in war or to use in the field as generals.


Scouts – Exploring and map visibility

OW has a “goodie hut” kind of thing like Civ, and your scouts are your best explorers, although any unit can “pop a hut” and the outcomes are the same (triggers events). In OW your “map knowledge” is whatever you last saw. There are no magic updates for things you can’t see (ex, in Civ 6, if an AI settles or a city changes hand, you can see it on the map, not so in OW, you must get “eyes on”). You have no idea where AI units, barb units, or tribe units are unless a unit of yours can see them. Military units generally have very limited visibility range. Scouts have very large visibility range.

Scouts – actual scouting

What scouts do the most importantly for you is…scout! Scouts are invisible if they’re in forest tiles. It’s a good idea to use scouts to monitor likely avenues of AI approach, watch over barb/tribes you might want to take out, watch AI cities, etc. If you attack an AI city without scouting you may think the AI is spawning units in on you since the AI’s often put one strong unit IN the city and “hide” the rest of their force behind and/or slightly at range. The AI is as blind as the player, unlike in some games where the AI is omniscient. They have to scout or probe to “see” you as well. Scouts as growth units don’t gain xp or promotions and they don’t attack (but do have health and take damage).

Other unit considerations

Settlers and workers and that kind of unit can’t fight, but they do have HP, and may not die instantly to one attacker. They also don’t get captured as in Civ, they just die.


The game has a robust religion system that warrants a guide of its won. Some civs have a family that can found a religion upon seating, which sounds fabulous until you realize you have no clue how or what to do with religion as a new player.


Varies from the simple and always available war declaration to vastly more complex systems of ambassadors, spies, with deeper actions like assassinations and more – the more complex stuff is guide worthy on its own. As a new player you may not even notice the deeper elements here at first.

Heirs and Families

…have been glossed upon in this guide and could also be a guide unto themselves.

Helena Stamatina
About Helena Stamatina 3203 Articles
I love two things in life, games and sports. Although sports were my earliest interest, it was video games that got me completely addicted (in a good way). My first game was Crash Bandicoot (PS1) from the legendary studio Naughty Dog back in 1996. I turned my passion for gaming into a job back in 2019 when I transformed my geek blog (Re-actor) into the gaming website it is today.

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