Mohandas Gandhi. Icon of Indian independence, purveyor of peaceful protests, and one of the few reputed 'nice guys' of great global leaders. Then there’s Civ Gandhi: a volatile madman with a long-running propensity for using nuclear weapons.
Gandhi's always a tricky customer to play against, but as the old Civ adage goes, ‘If you can't beat them, be them’. Here I'll show you how. Wrap yourself in a Khadi (bed linen will do), hover your finger menacingly over that red button, and prepare for DEFCON 1 as we show you how best to win the game as the Indian leader.
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Before talking about Gandhi's relevant features that actually impact the gameplay, can we take a moment to admire the sheer weirdness of his appearance? Obviously, Firaxis wanted to go for more 'character' in the leaders this time round, but the guy looks like the offspring of a mild-mannered Boglin hand-puppet and Yoda - albeit with his ears so far down his head as to make Yoda's look veritably lupine. Given the spiritual lifestyle of Yoda and, er, Boglins, it's kind of fitting that Gandhi's unique abilities lay in Faith.
You know you've made it in life when you can make up your own words and they become globally accepted. Satyagraha was Gandhi's form of peaceful resistance which helped banish the Brits back to their own country. Naturally, the Civ-verse has its own mysterious interpretations of real-world historical stuff, and in Civ VI Gandhi's unique ability means that he gets +5 Faith for every civilization he's met that follows another religion (and that he's not at war with). In a standard-sized game, that's a possible total of up to +25 Faith per turn, just for not indulging your war-mongering nature.
In addition, the ability causes extra war unhappiness for anyone at war with India. Essentially, Gandhi's abilities mean that you have an edge over your rivals in times of war and peace.
Indian Empire features
Whether or not you choose to pursue a religious victory as Gandhi, this ability is a great way to generate some freebie bonuses. Dharma grants you the religious follower bonuses of any religion that has a presence in any of your cities. So if, say, Mumbai is a predominantly Hindu city, but also has a couple of followers of Catholicism and Islam, then you'll also pick up follower bonuses of those two religions as well.
With that in mind, if you're going for a religious victory with Gandhi (a good idea), you could try to keep one of your peripheral cities as multi-faith as possible, so you can pick up those follower bonuses while you spread your religion on other fronts.
Gandhi wasn't actually alive in the classical era, but if he was then it's fair to assume that he would've loved War Elephants (based on absolutely nothing). These beasts are India's unique unit, replacing the Horseman and having a substantial melee strength of 40 (as opposed to the Horseman's 35). In addition, all enemy units adjacent to it suffer a -5 combat strength penalty, so a good strategy is to get these big bastards into the thick of enemy lines and surrounded by enemy units so you can debuff as many of them as possible, while your other units chip away at your foes from different angles.
Jack of all improvements, the Stepwell is India's unique building, which gives you +1 food, +1 faith (if you've discovered Feudalism) and +1 housing if built next to a Holy Site. You also get an extra +1 food if you've unlocked the Professional Sports civic, so it's a district that gives more the later you build it in the game. If you build it next to a Farm, on the other hand, you just get +1 food from it.
Considering how the benefits of the Stepwell increase the further you get into the game, there's no hurry to build this one, as various district upgrades, clusters of farms and so on will generally give you more bang for your hexes early on.
India - Victory Goals
The beauty of Civilization is that there is no singular path you need to go down to win as any particular Civ, and you're just as entitled to go on a classical-era Blitzkrieg with Gandhi's elephants as you are to turn India into the tourist capital of the world. But each civ/leader combo has its natural leanings, and for India and Gandhi those are, without question, religion.
It's rare for any civ in the game to have its unique traits so focused on one particular kind of victory, so Gandhi's pretty special by having three of his four traits granting various degrees of faith bonus. He screams for a religious victory, and when Gandhi screams, you damn well listen.
Naturally, you'll want to be first in on all the religious wonders in the game, but other handy ones to get nice and early that'll keep your civ flourishing are The Hanging Gardens, which grant 15% extra growth in all your cities, and the Great Library, which will give valuable boosts to all your ancient and classical era tech research, as well as +2 science, +1 Great Scientist Point, and 2 Great Work of Writing slots - who says science and religion can't go hand in hand?
Once you're out of the Ancient era, you should focus on researching the Theology civic. It lets you build Temples (which in turn let you recruit all-important Apostles), unlocks the Scripture policy, and unlocks building the Mahabodhi Temple wonder. The conditions for building this are strict (needs to be on a Forest next to a Holy Site), but that means it's less likely that other civs will be competing to build it at the same time as you (and there's nothing worse than missing out on a Wonder by one turn). The temple gives you two free Apostles, and +4 Faith per turn.
Rounding off the essential wonders is Mont St. Michel, which grants you +2 faith per turn and two Relic slots. The best aspect of this wonder, however, is that it endows all your Apostles with the Martyr ability, which means that when they die they give your civ relics that boost your faith and tourism output.
India - Governments and Policies
Once you've got beyond the savagery of the Chiefdom government, you should aim for governments with the most economic policy slots (so Classical Republic, then Theocracy), because that's where you'll find most of the boosts towards Faith. Theocracy is particularly handy, because as well as giving you two Economic Policy slots, it smacks down a 15% discount on all faith purchases (so not just religious units, but later Great People and even military units). You should get Theocracy as quickly as possible and hold onto it for as long as possible, because its Legacy Bonus (which carries over to all your future governments) is a discount on faith purchases.
Democracy is a good shout for a late-game government, because it has three economic and two wildcard policy slots, giving you plenty of flexibility to focus on religion but still switch things around as and when you need to. That said, there's also a case to be made that if you're pushing hard for the religious win and you're nearly there by the time Democracy comes about, then it's worth sacrificing the couple of extra policy slots and stick with Theocracy so you keep getting those big faith discounts.
One of the most important policies you can pick up as a religious civ is Scripture, which doubles all your Holy Site adjacency bonuses. Mountains offer the best adjacency bonuses for Holy Sites (+1 faith per mountain), so try to build your cities near them where possible (mountains are great for science as well). Another policy that gives your Holy Site big boosts is Simultaneum, which doubles the faith output of each building in your Holy Sites.
Given that there aren't many religious unit types or promotions for your theological warfare, you'll need to take every statistical advantage you can get. To that end, Religious Orders is a must, as that'll give your units +5 religious strength when taking on their heathen enemies.
India Victory Strategy
You'll want to start building up your faith as quickly as possible, so make sure that at least one of your early cities is well placed near a mountain range to get those precious Holy Site adjacency bonuses. Also, to really make the most of Gandhi's Satyagraha ability, send at least two Scouts off in opposite directions on auto-explore so you can discover other civilizations as quickly as possible. The more you discover, the more chance you'll get those big +5 Faith boosts when they found their own religions.
All your religious aspirations will be for nothing if you don't get a Great Prophet first, so start building up those Great Prophet points with a Holy Site and Shrine, and fast-track your Civics Tree to Mysticism, when you gain the 'Revelation' policy which gives you an extra 2 Great Prophet points per turn. Doing all this should set you on the path to found your own religion (alternatively, you can try beelining it straight for the Stonehenge wonder, which will give you a Great Prophet on the spot).
Once you've founded your religion, it's worth building a couple of Apostles (you'll need to have a Temple for this) as quickly as possible so you can 'Evangelize Beliefs' and grab those extra religious perks nice and early. Apostles are, for me, the most useful religious units in the game because of their attacking capabilities and the fact that you can promote them. It's also worth keeping a couple of Inquisitors patrolling your home territories in case of foreign apostle invasions. Missionaries are best saved for emergencies (not that you need to worry about such things now that you're in my safe hands), and I find them too vulnerable to Apostle attacks to be of much use.
Whether defending your religion from heathens on the home front or spreading your good word abroad, you should always escort your religious units with a military entourage. This will ensure that your guys can't get attacked by other religious folk, and that you're engaging in battles on your own terms. It will prevent your Apostles from getting killed in divine warfare too, which means your enemies won't get those all-important religious swings in nearby cities (+250 their religion, -250 your religion) from winning religious battles.
Try spreading your religion as quickly as possible, particularly if your neighbours have rival religions. You could even head straight for their holy city with an Apostle with the 'Proselytizer' upgrade, which completely eliminates the rival religion from the city. Make sure to send them with an Apostle with the 'Debater' promotion too, who has +20 religious Strength in theological combat and can defend your Proselytizer. If you send more than one Apostle, you can even plonk one of them down on the rival's Holy Site, which will prevent their own Apostles from spawning there. It's always worth focusing your religious spread particularly on cities with Holy Sites nearby, because those cities will then spawn religious units in your name, who'll go on to autonomously spread your religion around the world.
Something the game inexplicably doesn't tell you is that your Holy Sites are the only way you can heal your benevolent Spreaders of Truth, so you should use this as much as possible. If your Apostle is at death's door and a rival Apostle has just spread their religion to a contiguous city, then instead of spreading your religion right back and expiring your Apostle, head back to a Holy Site, heal them up and bring them back to fight another day. Many of the followers you gain in cities will be through winning battles, rather than just using the 'Spread Religion' ability.
The AI in Civ VI continues to be prone to all kinds of bizarre tomfoolery, though there's no reason you shouldn't exploit this to your advantage. Keep your eyes on the Religion menu to get an early idea of which civs have the most cities converted to their beliefs so you know who your main rivals will be. You should then expect those civs to barrage you with Apostles in mindless waves. If your Apostles are outnumbered, hunker down, link them up with military units, and pick off enemy Apostles. When your guys are low on health, get them out of there and heal them up at Holy Sites. Remember that enemy Apostles have no way of healing in your territory, so you'll grind them down eventually. It can even be a good idea to stay defensive in areas where rivals send tons of Apostles, keeping them distracted while you spread your faith in other parts of the world.
So there you have it. With Gandhi being such a religious guru in Civ VI, who even needs nukes, eh?