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Firaxis has released the final update for its "New Frontiers" DLC Pass for Civilization VI. I have attempted to create guides for each new civilization included in the packs, but there is one civilization that I just didn't have time to cover when it was first released. That civilization was part of the September 2020 update, and it is the Byzantine Empire, lead by Basil II.

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It looks like "New Frontiers" represents the end of the Civilization VI life cycle. If that is true, then don't fret. If I get enough demand from my Patrons, I'll also write guides for the "New Frontiers" game modes, or go back and create / update guides for legacy leaders. We also have new games such as Old World and Humankind coming out. I'll be playing both games when they release on Steam, and can also write guides for those games, if my supporters ask for it.

By the third century AD, the Roman Empire had expanded to control much of Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean. The cities in the eastern Greek, Asia Minor, and eastern African provinces tended to be larger and more developed than settlements in the west, owing largely to the Greek and Macadonian empires that had preceeded Rome's occupation of the regions. This made these cities far wealthier than most western cities, and in 330 AD, Emperor Constantine relocated the Roman capital to the city of Byzantium due to its strategic location at the epicenter of trade routes between Europe and Asia, and between the Mediterranean and Black seas. The empire was later split into Western and Eastern administrative partitions, each with its own emperor. When Rome was sacked in 476 and the Western Roman Empire collapsed, the Eastern Empire in Constantinople continued to thrive.

It can be argued, thusly, that the Roman Empire survived until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. However, even though the Byzantine Empire can trace its authority directly to Imperial Rome, and it retained much of the legal and administrative framework inherited from the Roman Empire, eastern culture had begun to diverge from western culture before even the fall of Rome. Most citizens of the Eastern Empire may have considered themselves to be "Roman", but they spoke Greek instead of Latin. The architecture utilized ornate domes and spires as opposed to the austere columns, arches, and triangles of Latin architecture. Religious practices in the east also gradually transitioned away from the dogmatic practices of the Catholic Church until the Schism of 1054 formally established the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is, thus, equally accurate to say that the Byzantine Empire came to represent its own unique culture, independent of the Western Roman Empire.

Basil II Porphyrogenitus was a life-long ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire. He was coronated as co-emperor along with his brother when he was just two years old, and ascended to the status of senior emperor at the age of 18, ruling until his death almost 50 years later. For most of his reign, he personally lead his armies into battle against Anatolian rebels, Bulgaria, the Fatimid Caliphate, and the Kingdom of Georgia, securing the empire's borders in both the west and east. Despite being away from Constantinople for so long, he also found time to distinguish himself as an administrator, reforming tax and property laws to protect poor land-owners from exploitation by wealthier elites. He also married off his sister to Vladimir I of Kiev, securing an alliance with the Kievan Rus and converting them to Orthodox Christianity. His reign was so successful, that the Empire prospered for decades after his death, despite his successor emperors being considered largely inept by both contemporary writers and modern historians. Though he is considered a national hero by the Greeks, he is known as "Basil the Murderer" by Bulgarians.

DISCLAIMER:

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 release of the [final] "New Frontiers" April 2021 Update (ver. 1.0.12.9) It may receive updates if Firaxis applies any additional content or balance updates.

Basil II favors aggressive religious play backed up with a powerful mounted army and navy. He should seek to convert or conquer rival holy cities as soon as possible, then crush or convert his remaining rivals.

Civilization VI - Basil II of Byzantium

Basil II of Byzantium's uniques in Civilization VI

Civilization VI - Byzantine flag

Byzantine capital start bias: none.

Byzantine civilization unique: Taxis

"Units receive +3 Combat Strength or Religious Strength for each Holy City converted to Byzantium's Religion (including Byzantium's Holy City). Byzantium's Religion is spread to nearby cities when defeating units belonging to an enemy civilization or city-state. +1 Great Prophet point from cities with a Holy Site district."

Byzantium backs up its religious convictions with military force. Each Holy City converted to Byzantium's religion will grant a strength bonus to all military and religious units, making further conquest or conversion easier. At the time of writing this guide, it appears that air units might not receive the combat bonus from Taxis. It also appears that defeating an enemy unit with an air unit might not spread Byzantium's religion to nearby cities. I'm assuming that this is a bug, and hope that it will be fixed at some point. In the meantime, I advise trying to soften up the enemy with air units, then finish them off with ground or naval units, or focus using your air power against cities and encampments.

Note that Byzantium must found its own religion in order to get this combat bonus! Conquering another civ's holy city does not make their religion your religion, even if their religion is your dominant religion. Byzantium will get an extra Great Prophet point per turn from Holy Sites to help them with founding a religion.

Byzantium gets its combat bonus vs Free Cities and Barbs,
but no religious pressure when killing their units.

Byzantium also spreads its majority religion to nearby cities whenever one of their units defeats an enemy civ or city state unit in combat. The effect is similar to having killed another religion's unit in theological combat. Based on my testing, it appears that Byzantium will spread its founded religion, even if the majority of its cities have been converted. This can be a way of re-converting your cities if your holy sites have already been converted. If Byzantium never founded its own religion, Taxis will cause military victories to spread Byzantium's majority religion, whichever it is. From what I can tell, this effect only activates if a Byzantine unit kills an enemy unit. Defeating invading units with bombardment from walls does not spread Byzantium's religion.

As the description indicates, Taxis does not apply to barbarian units or free city units, but it does include city-state units. You cannot farm religious pressure from barbarian outposts or border cities that repeatedly lose loyalty, become independent, join another civilization, then lose loyalty and become independent again. It's a bummer for Byzantium, but probably a good thing for overall balance.

Basil II's leader unique: Porphyrogénnetos

Civilization VI - Basil II portrait

"Heavy and Light Cavalry units do full damage against cities following the same religion as Byzantium. Gain the Tagma unique unit when the Divine Right civic is discovered."

Basil's leader ability is pretty simple and straightforward. Basil receives a unique heavy cavalry unit that replaces the Knight, but which is located on the religious branch of the civics tree.

All of Basil's light and heavy cavalry do not deal reduced damage to walled cities, if the city follows Byzantium's religion. Normally, walls reduce the damage dealt by any attacking melee unit, but Basil's mounted units deal full damage to the city itself, as if it were attacking a unit of the same strength, if that city follows Byzantium's religion. This allows Byzantium to quickly conquer cities without necessarily having to bring multiple siege units and spending multiple turns sieging the city to destroy its walls.

Notice that the Man At Arms has higher strength, but does not defeat the walls;
whereas the Tagma's attack is projected to defeat the walls.

Unique district: Hippodrome

Game Info:

"A district unique to Byzantium. Replaces the Entertainment Complex district, and provides +3 Amenities, and cheaper to build. When the Hippodrome and buildings in this district are constructed, receive a Heavy Cavalry unit. Units granted from this district do not have a resource maintenance cost. Cannot be built in a city with a Water Park."

Civilization VI - Hippodrome
 

 

Requirements: Games and Recreation civic,
city must not have a Water Park district.

Cost: 27 Production (-27 from Entertainment Complex).
Maintenance Cost: 1 Gold per turn (standard game speed)

Effects:
+3 Amenities (+2 from Entertainment Complex).
Grants a free Heavy Cavalry unit when the district or a building in the district is completed.

 

 

All else being equal, the Hippodrome's +3 amenities are enough to make a city happy (as of the August update that increased the thresholds for city happiness). Being happy or ecstatic grants yield bonuses to the city, which makes the Hippodrome a powerful multi-disciplinary district that can noticeably increase the total output of its city.

Byzantium is also rewarded with free Heavy Cavalry units (including its unique Tagma) when a Hippodrome is completed, or when a city completes a building within the Hippodrome. So not only does the Hippodrome boost the yields of a city (by making it happy or ecstatic), it also has strong military output. If combined with an Encampment with Stables, the Heavy Cavalry units will also have bonuses to experience gained. In the meantime, the city is free to train other units or build other infrastructure, while also sparing Byzantium from needing to adopt the Maneuver, Chivalry, or Lightning Warfare policies. There are three buildings within the Entertainment Complex (Arena, Zoo, and Stadium), so the each Hippodrome has the potential to grant Byzantium up to four free heavy cavalry units over the course of the game.

These heavy cavalry units granted by the Hippodrome will also not consume resources as maintenance, nor will they deplete your reserves of a resource. This perk is retained if the heavy cavalry unit is upgraded, or if it is merged with another unit to form a corps or army. The lack of resource maintenance is especially notable for Tanks, since they will not consume oil, and therefore will not contribute to global carbon emissions or climate change.

Unique unit: Dromon

Civilization VI - Dromon icon

Game Info: "Byzantine unique Classical Era unit that replaces the Quadrireme, that has additional range and receives +10 Combat Strength against units."

 
 
Civilization VI - Dromon unit portrait
 
 

Requirements: Shipbuilding technology
Replaces: Quadrireme.
Obsoleted: Square Rigging technology.
Upgrades to: Frigate.

Cost: 120 Production | 480 Gold | ?? Faith [standard speed].
Maintenance Cost: 2 Gold per turn [standard speed].

Promotion Class: naval ranged,
Attack Type: ranged,
Attack Range: 2 (+1 from Quadrireme),
Ranged Strength: 25,
Melee Strength: 20,
Movement Speed: 3.

Bonuses:
+10 strength against units.

The Dromon is a powerful classical naval ranged unit that can attack from range 2 instead of range 1, allowing Galleys to shield the Dromon from enemy counter attack. In fact, this extended range and ability to be shielded by friendly units makes the Dromon largely invincible against other coastally-locked navies, where naval units are often funneled along snaky paths of shallow water only one or two tiles wide. Enemy Quadriremes won't be able to hit a shielded Dromon unless they have somehow managed to get the tier IV Coincidence Rangefinding promotion (+1 range) already. The sizeable bonus against units allows the Dromon to more efficiently clear out enemy units, including enemy land units within range 2 of the coast. This can be useful for hunting barbarians or for supporting your armies against other civs.

The Dromon will however be vulnerable to ranged fire from land-based ranged units and districts. They can be useful for sieging coastal cities if you have enough of them to rotate out damaged ones before they die, and will be much more efficient if Byzantium has one or two Holy Cities buffing the Dromon's combat strength via the Taxis ability. The extra range means they won't necessarily have to cross adjacent to the city center, which means they won't get trapped by zone of control and can more freely escape to the open sea if they need to.

Byzantium does not have a coastal start bias, so it may not have early access to water for building the Dromon. By the time you found a city on the coast or build a Harbor, the Dromon's window of usefulness might already be half closed.

Unique unit: Tagma

Civilization VI - Tagmaicon

Game Info: "Basil II's unique Medieval era unit that replaces the Knight. Land units within 1 tile of the Tagma receive +4 Combat Strength or Religious Strength."

 
 
Civilization VI - Tagma unit portrait
 
 

Requirements: Divine Right civic
Replaces: Knight.
Obsoleted: Ballistics technology.
Upgrades to: Cuirassier.

Cost: 220 Production | 880 Gold | ?? Faith [standard speed].
Maintenance Cost: 4 Gold per turn [standard speed].

Promotion Class: heavy cavalry,
Attack Type: melee,
Melee Strength: 48,
Movement Speed: 4.

Bonuses:
+4 Combat Strength to friendly land units within 1 tile.
+4 Religious Strength to friendly religious units within 1 tile.

Depending on how fast you are generating culture compared to science, the Tagma may become available earlier or later than the Knight that it replaces (which is normally unlocked by the medieval Stirrups technology). The Tagma has the same base strength as the Knight that it replaces, and it doesn't receive any combat bonuses of its own (except for those granted by Byzantine and Basil II's unique abilities). Instead, the Tagma grants moderate bonuses to adjacent friendly units, including religious units. Be sure to move your Tagma along with the rest of your army as they attack and advance in order to ensure that the Tagma remains adjacent to the attacking unit(s). The bonus is also granted to adjacent ranged units (including siege weapons), so be sure to time your attacks and movements accordingly.

The Tagma also increases the strength of religious units in theological combat. With an open borders treaty, you can move one or more Tagma into another civ's territory along with your Missionaries and Apostles to support those religious units if they encounter resistance from rival Apostles or Inquisitors.

Fighting the holy war: strategy for Basill II of Byzantium

Byzantium is similar to another New Frontiers civilization, Ethiopia, in that both are built for using religious play to pivot to another victory condition. Instead of pivoting towards tourism (like Ethiopia), Byzantium is built to use its religious abilities to pivot towards conquest. Except, Byznatium's religious and military abilities feed back into each other more, allowing the pivot to go either way.

Constructing a Holy Site should be a top priority for Byzantium. On higher difficulties, the religions can go quickly, so you have to act fast. Producing multiple Scouts at the start of the game and scouring the map for a natural wonder will activate the eureka for the Astrology technology, will shave a few turns off of the completion of a Holy Site. You can also adopt the City Patron Goddess pantheon (faster production towards a city's first specialty district) to further speed up the production of your first Holy Site. The Religious Settlements pantheon (free Settler and faster border growth) can also allow Byzantium to get an extra city founded early to produce units, builders, and other infrastructure while your capital is busy constructing that Holy Site. Alternatively, it can be used to settle a nearby natural wonder or mountain range (if you discover one), which will provide an excellent location for a Holy Site.

Check the Great People panel, and use gold or faith to buy a Prophet, or run Holy Site Prayers, if need be.

Once the Holy Site is built, the Revelation social policy (+2 Great Prophet points per turn) and working on the Holy Site Prayers city project is highly recommended to ensure that you get a religion founded before the other civs beat you to it. You can always check the Great People panel to see how the other civs are progressing towards a Prophet, and spend faith to buy a Prophet if it looks like another civ might beat you to the last one.

Civilization VI - Stonehenge wonder

If you're playing on the King difficulty or below, and have a source of stone near your capital, then you can also take a chance on constructing the Stonehenge world wonder (free Prophet). On higher difficulties, this wonder can be prohibitively difficult to complete before the A.I.s, so it's generally safer to stick to beelining towards a Holy Site and using Revelation and the Prayers city project to speed up Prophet acquisition.

Don't get too friendly with your immediate neighbors, since they will be ripe targets for early conquest. Pick a city state or vulnerable neighbor civ as your first target and focus the efforts of you Missionaries on other civs and city states in other regions of the map. Your military will be the ones spreading your religion to your unfortunate victim and neighboring cities. After you have your religion founded, declare war on your chosen victim and kill their units near their city(ies) in order to spread your religion. This works best against closely-clustered cities, since the religious pressure will apply to multiple cities simultaneously.

Taxis feeds back in on itself, converting enemy cities and giving a combat bonus as holy cities are converted.

If your first target is another civilization that is building Holy Sites and generating Prophet points, then you should wait until they have also founded a religion before you start your attack. This way, they will have a holy city that you will be able to convert and start reaping the rewards of the Taxis combat bonus. Taxis feeds back into your combat bonus, since you can kill enemy units in order to convert their nearby holy city, then use the extra strength from having converted their holy city towards capturing additional capitals and holy cities. The Porphyrogénnetos leader ability of Basil also allows mounted units to attack cities without penalty, which will make a horse-based army much more effective. Having Byzantium's holy city and another civ's holy city captured early in the game will grant a passive +6 combat bonus to all military and religious units, which will help with both military and religious expansion later in the game.

Early in the game, you can even use border skirmishes and the Taxis ability to convert your own cities without having to invest in Missionaries. Spend your faith on other things, or send your Missionaries out to foreign cities while your army converts your own cities.

The Crusader belief will further stack with your other combat bonuses.

If an A.I. opponent is hiding its units away in cities or districts where you can't kill the unit directly, you can consider bringing along civilian units as bait to lure garrisoned units out of cities or encampments. Move a Builder or Military Engineer (un-escorted) into range of the garrisoned unit with your army waiting nearby. If the unit leaves the city to capture the civilian unit, you can surround it with your heavy cavalry and counterattack it in order to kill it, spread your religion, and rescue your captured civilian. This will likely not work against human opponents.

When you have an opportunity to take an enhancer belief for your religion, Crusade is a very good option to consider (extra combat strength near foreign cities that follow your religion). As you defeat enemy units in battle, you will convert their cities, which will give you an even bigger combat advantage against any remaining units, encampments, or the city center itself. This can turn Byzantium into a nearly unstoppable military machine, and the bonuses will only get stronger as the game goes on.

Don't forget to adopt Maritime Industry and mass-produce some Galleys and Dromons early in the game if you have coastal access. Using your navy to pick off enemy naval units can be a great way to apply religious pressure to their more distant cities -- possibly converting their holy city before your land army even gets there! Dromons are also great at attacking coastal barbarians. They can't disperse the outpost, but they can easily pick off the garrisoned units on the coast or even a tile inland. Embarking a Warrior (or even a Scout / Skirmisher) to land and disperse the actual outpost will provide some easy gold.

Dromons can be used to siege enemy cities or kill their naval and land units and potentially convert the cities.

Alternatively, if you do not feel like your military is strong enough to capture the other civ's capital right away (probably because you spent so much time building Holy Sites and Shrines instead of military units), you can delay any potential conquest and try converting their holy city with Missionaries and/or Apostles first. Once their holy city is converted, the combat bonus may be enough to tip the scales of battle in your favor. Don't bother converting the enemy's other cities, just focus on converting and holding their holy city. Your military can do the rest.

If you have open borders with another civ, and you have Tagma available, you can send those Tagma into other civs' territory along with Missionaries and Apostles to boost their theological combat strength if they encounter rival Apostles or Inquisitors. By defeating the other civ's religious units, you can potentially convert their cities prior to launching an invasion.

Conversion through military force will generate lots of era score.

Converting enemy cities to your religion through force is also a great way to generate recurring era score towards golden ages. You get a large sum of era score for converting another civ's holy city to your religion. But you also get moderate era score for converting enemy cities during wartime, which is something that your units will be doing as you defeat enemy units near their cities. This can be done multiple times.

Civilization VI - Valletta flag

Beyond the sword and pulpit

Byzantium is built for going for both a Religious Victory and a Domination Victory at the same time. Depending on how many units you kill, you may trip over the religious victory on your way to a domination attempt. But they can also pivot in other directions as well.

Since warfare spreads religion, Byzantium is more free to spend its faith on things other than Missionaries and Apostles. Adopting the Monumentality dedication bonus for a golden age will allow you to purchase builders, settlers, and traders with faith. Constructing the Grand Master's Chapel in your Government District will allow you to purchase military land units with faith. Adopting the Warrior Monks follower belief will allow you to purchase Warrior Monk units with faith. Jesuit Education will allow you to use faith to purchase Campus and Theater Square buildings. And becoming the suzerain of Valletta city state will allow you to spend faith to purchase city center buildings and walls. And of course, there's always the option to use excess faith to purchase great people.

With all the free heavy cavalry units that will be granted to Byzantium which do not consume resources for creation or maintenance, Byzantium is also more free to trade away its iron and/or oil. Keep enough iron and oil for other units like Swordsmen, Artillery, Battleships, and Planes, but don't worry about keeping a stockpile to fuel your Knights or Tanks. Selling away strategic resources can be a great way to earn large chunks of gold for purchasing infrastructure and keeping your military up-to-date.

Hippodromes will provide lots of free mounted units.

It's also very possible to trip over a Culture Victory while attempting to conquer the last capital or two with even just a modest investment into culture and toursim, depending on which order you defeat your rivals and how heavily they've invested in culture and tourism. Since Theater Squares get a major adjacency bonus from Hippodromes, and since you'll want to be building lots of Hippodromes for the extra amenity and free units, it's a good idea to plop Theater Squares adjacent to many (if not all) of your Hippodromes -- especially if you can tuck some world wonders in there too. With this many Theater Squares, Byzantium will likely be generating a large amount of points towards Writers, Artists, and Musicians. If you hold onto those great works, Byzantium will be very competitive towards a Culture Victory.

Byzantium's military can also be applied towards liberation of other civ or city state cities, or towards resolution of military and religious emergencies. Resolving emergencies can be a good way to earn Diplomatic Favor and points towards a Diplomatic Victory. By converting other civs and making alliances with them, Byzantium can also generate a good amount of passive Favor, which can be used to vote on the winning resolutions in the World Congress to earn additional Diplomatic Victory points. Having so many free units also frees up some of your cities' production to be applied towards disaster relief emergencies, late-game carbon recapture, Olympic athlete training, and other projects as well.

Byzantium can also use that spare production towards city projects, including Research Grants if you wish to acquire more Great Scientists in pursuit of a Science Victory. As mentioned earlier, the Jesuit Education belief is also a great way to boost your science and/or culture. Extra amenity from Hippodromes can also help push your cities into "Happy" or "Ecstatic" status, which will provide passive bonuses to science and culture yields in the city, and the governor Pingala the Librarian can further boost the science and culture yield of your single happiest city. Spare production can also go towards Industrial Logistics to earn Great Engineers that might be used to boost the production of world wonders, which can be applied towards any victory type that you chose.

Playing against Basil II of Byzantium

Basil II's A.I. agenda: Divine Guardian

"Likes civilizations who follow the same religion. Dislikes civilizations who don't predominantly follow his religion."

Obviously, Basil II is going to go for a religion early and is very likely to found one of them, thanks to the extra Great Prophet points. If he's successful, this will give all his military and religious units a small combat bonus. If you start out as an immediate neighbor, these bonuses can immediately be used against you. If Basil starts out on another continent so that you don't meet him till later in the game, he might control multiple holy cities and have an even larger combat bonus, a bunch of free units from Hippodromes, and be even more dangerous.

As such, it is best to try to eliminate Basil earlier rather than later -- or at the very least, pillage his infrastructure back into the stone age and make him incapable of waging war or affording swarms of Missionaries and Apostles. You don't want to be too cavalier about this though if you have your own religion. Each unit of yours that Basil kills near your cities will spread his religion. If you go to war against Byzantium, and start losing units, you may see your cities converted.

Basil can be a powerful ally and trade partner -- as long as you worship the same god.

If you didn't found your own religion, you likely won't see yourself as an early target of a human-controlled Byzantium. A human-controlled Byzantium will probably prioritize other civs with founded religions in order to kill their units, spread pressure to their cities, and potentially convert their holy city to get better combat bonuses to use against the remaining civilizations. But if you give him too enticing a target, he'll go for you regardless.

I'm not sure if the Basil A.I. is programmed to prioritize conquering holy cities, but I suspect not. If anyone knows the answer to that, please post in the comments.

Civilization VI - Yerevan flag

With a large army of free heavy cavalry that do not get penalties against cities, and a strong unique early-game naval unit, Basil can come for you from either the land or sea. So be sure to protect your shores in addition to your borders.

If Basil isn't coming after you with Tagmas and Dromons, he will likely send swarms of Missionaries and Apostles to your cities. If you have your own religion that you are trying to maintain or spread, you'll want to generate enough faith to buy your own Apostles and Inquisitors. The Debate promotion (+20 Theological combat strength) will be very helpful at countering Basil's bonus strength from Taxis. Being the suzerain of Yerevan city state will allow Apostles to chose any promotion, which will be helpful against Byzantium.

Discussions & Change Log

Thanks for reading. I hope this guide helps you to build a Byzantine civilization that will stand the test of time!

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These strategy guides for Civilization VI have been taking longer to research and write than I would like. Part of this is due to the fact that I'm not as familiar and experienced with Civ VI as I was with Civ V when I started writing strategy guides for that game, so I have to spend more time trying to learn the different mechanics and rules associated with each new civ that I play. I also have a lot more things competing for my time.

If you enjoy this strategy guide, and would like to see more like it, please consider making a contribution and become a Patron on Patreon. As a Patron, you'll have the ability to vote on which civilization(s) you'd like to see a strategy guide for next, will receive early previews of certain content, and will have an opportunity to discuss or contribute to its development. With some additional funding, I could dedicate more time to writing guides like this one, and can maybe even branch out into more video content on Youtube.

In any case, feel free to comment and share, or discuss your Byzantium strategies in the CivFanatics forums at:
https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/
a-general-strategy-for-basil-ii-of-byzantium.672418/

on the official 2K forums:
https://forums.2k.com/showthread.php?4385428-
A-General-Strategy-guide-for-Basil-II-of-Byzantium

or on Steam:
https://steamcommunity.com/app/289070/
discussions/0/4263206669452231292/

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