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"Scythian" is a term that refers to any of several groups of pastoral nomadic Iranians who inhabited Eurasia in areas north and east of the Caucus Mountains between the 9th century B.C. and the 1st century A.D.. The Scythian peoples lacked a written tradition, and so very little is known about them beyond the archaeological finds and the writings from other cultures (such as the Greeks and Persians) about the Scythians. Even the exact origin of the people is disputed. Were they immigrants from Central Asia or Siberia? Or did their culture arise from combinations of earlier cultures around the Black Sea coast? What is known is that they were among the first groups to become experts in mounted warfare, and at their peak, they controlled a span of territory reaching from Black Sea and stretching as far as the borders of China. Though they lacked written word, archaeological evidence has revealed their culture to be rich in metal-worked art and opulent kurgan tombs.

Various Scythian tribes engaged in frequent raiding and warfare against Middle Eastern empires such as Assyria and Persia. Around 529 B.C. Cyrus the Great attempted to conquer the Scythians. He first sent a proposal of marriage to the Scythian warrior queen Tomyris. According to Greek historians (such as Herodotus), Tomyris rejected the offer, and Cyrus then invaded her land to subjugate her kingdom by force. His army laid a trap for the Scythian army, leaving a poorly-defended camp stocked with wine (which the Scythians were unfamiliar with). When the camp was captured by a Scythian war party, lead by Tomyris' son, the Scythian soldiers became drunk on the spoils of wine, and were overrun and captured by the Persians. Tomyris' son, disgraced by his capture, committed suicide. Upon learning this, Tomyris personally lead an all-out offensive on Cyrus' army, cut off the Persian escape routes, and slaughtered the army. The Persian emperor fell, and his head was returned to the Scythian camp, where Tomyris submerged it in a pool of blood, hollowed out the skull, and used it as her personal wine goblet for the remainder of her life.

Herodotus' account is the most contemporary, and generally accepted account of Cyrus' death. Other historians, however, have disagreeing accounts. In some accounts, Tomyris was the wife of Cyrus, and murdered him. In yet other accounts, Cyrus was killed in a different battle in which the Scythian Sakas were aiding him against the tribal Derbices people. Regardless, Tomyris is one of the earliest recorded warrior queens, and children in Central Asia are still named after her to this day.

Civilization VI is still very early in its life-cycle. Strategies for the game (and for specific leaders and civs) may change as Firaxis applies balance patches, introduces new features, or expands the game through DLC or expansion packs, or as the Civ community discovers new strategies. As such, the following strategy guide may change from time to time. I will try to keep it up-to-date, and will make notations whenever changes are made. I'll also post links in the official 2K forums and CivFanatics, where I'll also report any changes made. If possible and practical, I will try to retain the original content of the strategy for posterity.

I welcome any feedback or suggestions that readers wish to offer. Feel free to post on the linked forums, or by posting a comment at the bottom of the page.

This guide is up to date as of the "Austrialian Summer" 2017 patch (ver. actual Summer 2017 patch (ver. (Nubia DLC)

Tomyris is a highly-aggressive leader in Civilization VI. Any neighboring civilization will have to stand the early test of time against Tomyris' massive mounted armies.

Civilization VI - Tomyris of Scythia

Tomyris' uniques in Civilization VI

Capital start bias: flat grasslands and plains, with horse resources.

Civilization VI - Scythian flag

Scythian civilization unique: People of the Steppe

"Receive a second Light Cavalry or Saka Horse Archer each time you train a Light Cavalry or Saka Horse Archer."

Scythia receives double light cavalry (including Saka Horse Archers), which allows them to rapidly train a massive horse army early in the game. This highly-mobile army can be used to perform some early war rushes in the classical era, or it can be used to scour the map for barbarian outposts. Either way, this large army can be quite expensive. Make sure you can afford the upkeep of all these units. If the army becomes too expensive, you can disband some units or adopt the Conscription policy in order to cut costs. Conquering cities or barbarian outposts can be another way of funding your large army.

Remember that this ability only applies to light cavalry (and the Saka Horse Archer unique unit). This includes Saka Horse Archers, Horsemen, Cavalry, and Helicopters. You will not receive a free copy of heavy cavalry units like Heavy Chariots, Knights, or Tanks.

This ability also only applies to units that are trained via production in your city's build queue. Units purchased via gold or faith are not duplicated. Spend your gold or faith on other unit types or on infrastructure instead.

Tomyris' leader unique: Killer of Cyrus

"All units receive +5 Combat Strength when attacking wounded units. When they eliminate a unit, they heal up to 30 Hit Points."

Civilization VI - Tomyris portrait

Tomyris' ability allows her to be extremely aggressive with her units. Tomyris can use ranged strikes to soften up units in order to get the combat bonus for subsequent strikes with other ranged or melee units. But Tomyris doesn't need to be quite so timid and can afford to take a lot more risks, as her units also heal 30 HP when they kill an enemy unit. This allows her own damaged units to press attacks in situations that would be suicidal for other leaders or civilizations.

This ability applies to all military units, including naval and air units. It also applies to religious units that engage in Theological Combat. This means that Tomyris' Apostles are particularly potent at proselytizing in foreign lands, and at defending your own cities from rival religious units.

Unique improvement: Kurgan

Civilization VI - Scythian Kurgan

Game Info:
"Unlocks the Builder ability to construct a Kurgan, unique to Scythia.

+1 Faith, +1 Gold. +1 Faith for each adjacent Pasture. Cannot be built on hills."

Requirements: Animal Husbandry technology. Cannot be built on hills.

Effects: +1 Faith. +1 Gold.
+1 Faith for each adjacent Pasture.
+1 additional Gold from Guilds civic.
+1 additional gold from Capitalism civic.


Civilization VI - Kurgan adjacent to 3 pastures
Kurgans get +1 faith for each adjacent pasture.

The Kurgan is best when built in the middle of clustered pasture resources. Each adjacent pasture adds 1 faith to the Kuran, so managing to squeeze one in between three pastures results in a yield of 4 faith per turn, which is about the best you can probably expect. Kurgans also generate gold and can also become good sources of wealth later in the game, as it is buffed with additional gold after researching the Guilds civic, and then again after researching the Capitalism civic.

Kurgans do not actually have to be built next to pastures. There's also no prohibition against building Kurgans adjacent to each other. You can spam them all you want if you have tiles that aren't being used for anything else.

Civilization VI - Scythian Saka Horse Archer icon

Unique unit: Saka Horse Archer

Game Info: "Scythian unique classical era unit. Ranged unit with 4 movement and 1 range."

Civilization VI - Scythian Saka Horse Archer portrait


Requirements: Horseback Riding technology.
Obsoleted: Ballistics technology,
Upgrades to: Field Cannon.

Cost: 100 Production / 100 Gold [Standard speed].
Maintenance Cost: 2 Gold per turn.

Attack Type: Ranged, Promotion Class: Ranged,
Ranged Strength: 25, Melee Strength: 15,
Attack Range: 1,
Movement Speed: 4.


One of the most important things to remember is that the Saka Horse Archer is considered a ranged unit rather than a mounted unit. It therefore does not receive a production boos from the Maneuver policy, nor is it vulnerable to anti-cavalry units such as Spearmen. The Saka also doesn't require horses to build. So in the unlikely event that Scythia doesn't spawn near horses, Scythia will still be able to train this unit.

The Saka Horse Archer is fast, but only has a range of 1. This means that it will have to move adjacent to an enemy and will be subject to zone of control, preventing it from moving away after attacking. This can leave the Saka vulnerable if over-exposed and un-supported. The unit has low melee strength, so even though it isn't affected by the anti-cavalry bonuses of a Spearman, the Spearman's raw strength alone will allow it to easily defeat the Saka Horse Archer if the Saka cannot get away after attacking. Warriors will also deal a lot of damage to Saka Horse Archers.

Unleashing the wrath of a vengeful mother against your foes!

Civilization VI - horse resource

Despite having a unique unit that does not require horses to build, Scythia has a horses start bias, which means that you should expect to have a couple nearby horses and probably some additional pasture resources near your capital. If these pasture resources are clustered together, then you should definitely try to spend some early Builder charges on some Kurgans placed adjacent to multiple pasture resources. This will provide a steady stream of faith and should grant you one of the first few pantheon choices (depending on how many other religion-themed civs spawn in your game). God of the Open Sky should be an obvious go-to pantheon for most Scythia games, but take whichever pantheon best suits your local resources.

Since the Saka Horse Archer is technically a ranged unit rather than light cavalry, the Military Tradition civic and Maneuver policy won't be quite as beneficial as they might seem. Sakas do not benefit from the production bonus of Maneuver, nor do they receive flanking bonuses when attacking. However, you'll likely want a large contingent of Horsemen to accompany your Saka Horse Archers, which means adopting Maneuver to pump a couple pairs of Horsemen early is still helpful. Saka Horse Archers can also still benefit from flanking bonuses when defending against melee (it's called "Support Bonus" in this case). Military Tradition is, thus, still worth it early on.

Civilization VI - Saka vs Hoplite
Saka Horse Archers are ranged units, and thus immune to anti-cavalry.

Since both Horsemen and the Saka Horse Archer cost maintenance, you will almost certainly want to also develop State Workforce civic and adopt the Conscription policy once you've got a large horse army out in the field. You don't want to have to disband that army due to budget deficits.

Civilization VI - Great Zimbabwe wonder

Since Scythia has a strong bias for starting near horses and pasture resources, and since you'll likely be settling near pasture resources, the Great Zimbabwe can be a no-brainer wonder. You'll likely be near a lot of cattle, and the Great Zimbabwe's requirements are strict enough that there generally isn't much competition for it. Just try to build one of your Commercial Hubs adjacent to a cattle resource, put a Market in that district, and you should be a shoe-in for building the Great Zimbabwe. The extra trade route will certainly help you afford the maintenance of your large army.

Civilization VI - Preslav flag

Also, if you find the city state Preslav, you may want to invest some envoys in becoming its suzerain. Preslav will grant both your light and heavy cavalry units a +5 bonus on hills. This can be a good bonus to have if you're going to be fighting a civilization like Greece, which has a hill start bias. If you won't be fighting in hilly areas, then it's not worth the investment if better city states are available.

As the game goes on, don't stop creating units. When you get to Nationalism and Mobilization in the civics tree, you'll want to start grouping your units into corps and armies. By the end of the game, you should have many large armies of Helicopters that can sweep across the map pillaging enemy lands and picking off enemy units. Make sure that you build other unit types as well, so that you'll have support for these Helicopter armies. Your enemies will likely train a lot of anti-cavalry units to protect themselves from you, so you'll need some infantry and ranged support to soften the enemy up.

Civilization VI - Scythian helicopter armies
Mass Helicopter armies can sweep across the map, pillaging enemy lands back into the stone age.

You can also train a large navy and/or air force to control the seas and skies. These units will also heal 30 HP whenever they kill enemy units. Just make sure that you have enough income to support all these units. Hunting down barbarian outposts and pillaging enemy lands can be good ways to bring in some extra gold if you're strapped for cash.

Tomyris' is also a good theological debater

In addition to having a dominant military, Tomyris can also be a potent theological combatant. The Kurgans provide decent early sums of faith (as well as some gold). If pasture resources are clustered very close together, then Scythia will be generating enough faith to rapidly produce Missionaries, Apostles, and Inquisitors.

These Missionaries, Apostles, and Inquisitors are buffed by Tomyris' "Killer of Cyrus" ability. They gain a +5 bonus in theological combat against damaged religious units, and they will heal 30 HP if they completely destroy the rival unit. The bonus will help you to more quickly destroy rival Missionaries, Apostles, and Inquisitors, which will weaken their religion in nearby cities and strengthen your religion in those same cities.

Civilization VI - Apostle winning theological combat
Apostles and Inquisitors get +5 theological combat against damaged opponents, and heal when they kill a rival.

The ability to heal will also help keep your religious units alive longer, reducing (if not completely preventing) you from losing religious influence from dying in theological combat. The downside is that the "Martyr" promotion becomes much less valuable for Tomyris' Apostles, as they are much less likely to die. You can still take the promotion, but if you want the relic, you may have to go out of your way to get your Apostle killed. Prior to the winter 2016 patch, this ability was particularly strong, since religious units did not (by default) have the ability to heal at all. However, all religious units can now fortify until healed; Tomyris' units just get a head start on healing if they kill an enemy.

Civilization VI - Hagia Sophia wonder

The Hagia Sophia can be a worthwhile wonder to pursue. It will grant 1 extra spread to your Missionaries and Apostles. Since they have higher survivability from Tomyris' ability, they are more likely to survive long enough to use all those spreads.

With the extra faith from Kurgans and the increased survivability of religious units, Tomyris can be a force to be reckoned with in the religious landscape. If you don't want to play for a domination victory (or your domination plans are foiled), then a religious victory can be an excellent fall-back position. Be sure to work to found a religion before they are all taken up, and make sure a civ like Arabia doesn't beat you to the last prophet.

If you fail to found your own religion, then you can also use your improved religious units to keep rival powers' religions in check. Try to get one of the smaller religion's followers in one of your cities with a holy site, and produce Apostles and Inquisitors to fight off the most dominant religions' influence. This will hopefully keep you in the game long enough to achieve another backup victory.

Playing against Tomyris: if you can't marry her, be sure you can beat her

Tomyris' A.I. agenda: Backstab Averse

"Likes civilizations who are their declared friend. Hates civilizations who backstab and declare surprise wars."

Scythia can be a devastating war-rusher in the early game. They can train a massive army very quickly, and Tomyris' ability for units to heal after killing an enemy allows Scythia to press forward with attacks that would be futile to other civs and leaders. If you are a neighbor to Tomyris early in the game, then you should rage quit and start a new game ... just kidding ... or am I? You'll need to train your own large army in order to defend yourself from their aggression; otherwise, Tomyris will likely overwhelm you with her cavalry units. Since her army is predominantly horse-based, you should put priority on Bronze Working and build Spearmen as the basis of your army. Use those Spearmen to provide cover for a back line of Archers that can soften the Scythian units up, and then move in with the Spearmen for the kill.

If the battlefield is mostly flat terrain, then you may also want to train some Heavy Chariots in order to chase down retreating units and finish them off. Otherwise, you'll have to wait till you research Horseback Riding and can train your own Horsemen to pursue Scythia's retreating units. Just don't run your own horse units into ambushes.

Soften Scythia's units up with ranged strikes, then pursue with your own mounted units for the kill.

Move your wounded units out of the front line (or heal them) whenever possible in order to neutralize the +5 combat strength bonus against wounded units. Using a Medic unit, or an Apostle promoted with the Chaplain ability, will help keep your units healed up. Remember that zone of control works differently in Civ VI! Units can move across an enemy's zone of control as long as they attack an enemy unit. Thus, the speed of horse units may still allow them to reach your retreated back-line units. But doing so will prevent the Scythian unit from retreating, likely leave those units over-exposed and vulnerable to counter-attack from you. Scythia's units can seem overwhelming, but they are kind of glass cannons. The Saka Horse Archer only has a melee strength of 15, so it is very vulnerable to Warriors, Spearmen, and Swordsmen - so long as that melee unit is undamaged.

Civilization VI - Chaplain
Retreat your wounded units,
and heal them with Medics or Chaplains.

Never count Scythia out in a war. They can raise a sizable army ridiculously fast. If you're at war with her, then keep the pressure on and don't let her replace her killed light cavalry.

Placing a walled Encampment between your cities and Tomyris' land will also be a great help in fending off any potential invasion. This is especially true if the terrain features some choke points that you can funnel her units through. Chokepoints will negate a lot of the speed and mobility of her forces, and will allow you to more easily rotate your own damaged units out of the front line without making them vulnerable to pursuit.


Scythia can also be a formidable religious threat. Kurgans provide solid early-game faith that will allow Scythia to create lots of Missionaries, Apostles, and Inquisitors. And those religious units will get the bonus of Tomyris' "Killer of Cyrus" ability when they face other religious units in theological combat. This makes it much harder to kill Tomyris' religious units, and leaves your own units vulnerable to being focus-fired by multiple Scythian Apostles or Inquisitors.

If Tomyris is pumping out lots of religious units, then your only counter is to try to outproduce her, or to declare war and kill her religious units with your army. Of course, she usually also has a sizable and powerful army of her own, so don't start a war that you can't finish. The best way to neutralize Scythia's religious threat is to not let her found a religion. Alternatively, if you can convert her cities early, then you can turn her improved Apostles and Inquisitors into a force for your own religious victory. At the very least, converting her cities will force her to spend her faith on weaker Inquisitors in order to convert her cities back, rather than training Apostles to spread her religion to other civs.

Civilization VI - convert Scythia's cities
Converting Scythian cities with holy sites might transform their religious advantages into your advantage.

Discussions & Change Log

Thanks for reading. I hope this guide helps you to build a Scythain civilization that will stand the test of time!
Feel free to comment and share, or discuss this strategy in the CivFanatics forums at:

or on the official 2K forums:

[Show Change Log] [Hide Change Log]

May 24, 2017

Saka Horse Archer's description said it was a "Sumerian" unique unit. Oops. Corrected that to say "Scythian".

27 July 2017

Summer 2017 patch (Nubia DLC) changed Tomyris' heal ability from 50 HP to 30 HP.

This is a reasonable nerf that makes Scythia not quite so militarily overpowering, but which (in my opinion) does not dramatically change the overall strategy for (or against) Scythia. Scythian player should be a little bit less gung-ho with combat than they maybe were in the vanilla release, and opponents will now have a slightly easier time defeating Scythian units.

8 August, 2018

Added start bias.

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