HUMANKIND™: How to Win on Humankind Difficulty

A guide on beating the game on the highest difficulty setting, Humankind.

 

Humankind Difficulty and General Strategy

As described here: https://humankind.fandom.com/wiki/Difficulty
Though the player suffers no penalty themselves, on the highest difficulty the AI are given the following bonuses:+3 Food per Farmer on all Cities
+3 Industry per Worker on all Cities
+3 Money per Trader on all Cities
+3 Science per Researcher all on Cities
+60 Stability on all Cities
+2 Strength Combat Strength on all Units

Note that the FIMS bonuses are all flat values that scale with workers. Because these bonuses are flat rather than percentage based, they tend to do not scale well. For example, early on in a city with with 9 population with 3 workers, the +9 industry would require potentially 3+ Industry Districts to offset. In contrast, if a late game AI city has 60 population, 20 of which are workers, that would amount to a +45 industry bonus. A +45 industry bonus is easily offset by half of a Strip Mine or a single Jama Masjid. What this means is that the player will be at a severe disadvantage early in the run, and due to the way the FIMS bonuses scale the run should in theory become easier over time.

The combat strength bonus is significant, and comparable to the difference between a given culture’s emblematic unit and a normal unit(ie. swordsmen vs Shotelai) and basically impossible to offset during the neolithic/ancient era, and thus essentially means combat should be avoided during the first two eras. As the game progresses, electing to use the Professional Soldiers Civic and leaning towards the Homeland ideology axis will balance this deficit out.

Stability’s effect on a game is difficult to measure – but it almost certainly scales in such a manner that the effect decreases at the game progresses. The strategy to compensate for this is by trading for luxury resources.

The general strategy is thusly:
1. Do not engage in war early on(until classical at the earliest, usually medieval).
2. Establish trade for luxury resources.
3. Grab Agrarian and Builder cultures early on and scale into late game where AI FIMS bonuses fall off.
4. Win the game by acquiring as many stars/fame as possible. Please note that because of the way Fame works it is generally not optimal to immediately transcend cultures, as you will likely only earned a fraction of that era’s available stars and thus miss out on opportunities to earn fame. It is very possible to end the game in a dominant position but still lose due to lack of fame.
5. After acquiring the most fame, trigger the end game condition(https://humankind.fandom.com/wiki/End_Condition). The fastest and most consistent is generally the science ending, whereby the game ends when all technologies are researched. If mid game conquest has progressed well, ensuring all other cultures have been eliminated or vassalized can arguably be faster, especially if the number of AIs is low.

Map Settings

Because of the outlined strategy chosen to compensate for the bonuses given to the AI, the following map settings will be optimal. The author has however beaten the game on Humankind difficulty on a variety of settings. In order of importance:

World size: Huge
The actual answer is dependent upon the number of players, but generally speaking larger is better. Having a large amount of landmass also allows for more expansion before war is likely.
Minor cultures can also more easily spawn, allowing for a more diverse way to claim territory. Thus, if you’re in a situation whereby you’re forced to choose a non-optimal culture(such as a merchant culture), you can still use money to assimilate them.

World shape: Large Pangea
Facilitates ease of scouting and procurement of potential trading partners. The way deep and shallow waters works in this game often gates the player from interacting with other continents until at minimum Cogs are researched.

Land Percentage: 70-80%
Same reasoning as having a large pangea world shape with the caveat that you want enough ocean such that trading routes by ships is easily accessible. Not enough water and it can be easy to become land locked and unable to access trading partners to offset the stability bonuses.

Climate: Avoid cold/dry
Cold/dry territories tend to have smaller yields, particularly food, which is what you care most about early. The AI FIMS bonuses are more impactful on terrain with smaller yields. Dry grass with +1 food would become +4 food with the AI bonus, a +300% increase. Prairie with a +2 food would become +5 food with the AI bonus, only a +150% increase.

Elevation: Flat
Flat elevation increases the speed at which scouting is done, and thus discovery of potential trading partners. Flat elevation however does tend to decrease flat industry yields which makes the AI FIMS bonus comparatively better.

Game Speed: Slow/Endless
I’ve played most of my games on standard speed, however I’ve also noticed that the slower game speeds seem to be easier. A sample size of a few games however is difficult to make a convincing recommendation on, but is noted nonetheless.

Neolithic Era

General Strategy

1. Set your scouts to auto-explore. The AI at the moment does a fantastic job of finding stars. Feel free to interrupt auto-explore if you need to build an outpost or are hunting a nearby animal that only take 1 army to kill.
2. When your hunting party grows, turn off auto-explore, then split the party into two separate armies and send them in different directions. Turn auto-explore back on when they are sufficiently far apart. By the end of this era you should have 3+ armies minimum.
3. When you reach the influence threshold for being able to place an outpost, do so in an area with a minimum of 10 food. Ideally with strategic/luxury resources on or adjacent to the area. It is okay for you to spend several turns looking for an appropriate place, but you want the outpost to be completed by the time you choose your first culture.
4. Avoid hunting animals that take more than 1 party to kill unless you are out of things to explore(which can happen on small continents/islands, but should never happen if you’re on a pangea), or if you’re close to getting the hunter star.
5. Generally avoid ransacking sanctuaries unless they yield food(hover over a tile when selecting the tile to ransack to see what they yield). They spawn animals which can potentially net you a faster hunter star.
6. Food is king this early on. When events occur, prioritize the choices that give bonus food or if you’re lucky and entire extra army.
7. DO NOT transcend to the next era without getting your neolithic legacy trait (https://humankind.fandom.com/wiki/Culture#Legacy_Trait):
Choose one from below
+1 Industry per Population on City or Outpost
+1 Food per Population on City or Outpost
+1 Science per Population on City or Outpost

I generally choose science, as science yields from terrain are basically non-existent and are difficult to compensate for early on. However if the locations you have scouted are low on food, the food option is suitable as well. Industry is less important than food in the very beginning and can easily be generated by exploiting the terrain.

Ancient Era

Cultures
High Priority:

Harappans: Food is key this early in the game, as most things this early on are gated by population. Of note, Agrarian Era stars seem to be the easiest to get, and by picking this culture you will be able to get them a rate fast enough to ensure an early pick of the next era’s cultures. The runner is also a fantastic emblematic unit for the strategy we’re using. It should be noted that the AI seems to prioritize the Harappans as a pick.
Olmecs: Again, food is key. Also, so is expansion, which the bonus influence points helps promote. In fact, the Olmecs might be a better choice than the Harappans on maps in which you anticipate early wars, as the Javelin Throwers are more useful than Runners during wartime. But if you’re playing on the recommended settings this should not occur.
Egyptians: While not as important as food early on, industry overall is probably the most important FIMS resource as a whole. Both the emblematic trait and emblematic quarter are fantastic. The Markabata emblematic unit is solid, but requires horses which is not readily available this early in the game.Middle Priority:
Babylonians: Food is king during the ancient era and this culture provides some. Science is okay early on, providing no direct way to expand/grow our cities but opens up options faster. The emblematic unit works well as a defensive tool as well. The real issue is the emblematic trait scales terribly. At +2 science in the capital per researched technology, you’re looking at something like +150-200 end game, which is worth a single Swedish Research Institute or maybe 4-5 research quarters. Another comparison for how poorly it scales is the fact that a lot of the end technologies cost between 15k-20k science to complete.
Zhou: Provides no bonus food or industry, but their emblematic trait is arguably the best of the Ancient Era ones. Stability is hard to come by until you can establish trade routes for those luxury resources, which is unlikely to occur this early. In fact, if you’re playing on map settings whereby trade partners are very difficult to come by I would move Zhou up to High Priority. Also to be noted, the Zhanche with the high stability bonus have 26 strength(23+3) making them the most powerful ancient era unit in the game.
Nubians: I think gold is generally the worst FIMS resource, however if you end up in the rare situation whereby you can feasibly get 8-10+ resources between your first two cities, that translates to +40-50 gold per a turn via the emblematic trait, which would allow you to purchase a new district every 5-10 turns or so(depending on game speed). This ability also opens up a real possibility to go for the 2nd and 3rd tier merchant era stars for the classical era, which are normally out of reach for non-merchant cultures. A solid emblematic unit in additional to some production from the Meroe Pyramids makes this culture a niche middle tier.
Mycenaeans: Provides no food or Industry, but if you happen to settle close to AIs with the aggressive personalities, or are anticipating something akin to an early Hun attack, this is a viable defensive option. The cyclopean fortress is an incredible defensive tool and the emblematic trait scales well too(-20% unit industry cost). The Promachoi does not require any strategic resource to build either.

Low Priority:
Assyrians: The +1 land movement is actually really good for scouting, which is important as we want those trade routes asap. Their emblematic unit requires horses, but can be useful for raiding, which can yield benefits without being at war. However, the emblematic quarter is not useful and provides no food or industry bonuses.
Hittites: The only real reason to go with the hittites is emblematic trait(+1 strength). Their emblematic unit is powerful, but requires horses, and you shouldn’t be going to war this early anyway. Their emblematic quarter is pretty bad considering this early on you’ll unlikely have more than 2 cities. The strengths of this culture just do not align with our strategy.
Phoenicians: Probably the worst culture for the strategy we’re using. Money is the worst FIMS resource, we’re playing on pangea so the bireme is useless, it’s just really bad.

Wonders
1. Prioritize Pyramid of Giza if possible. District building on a pangea map makes this particularly good.
2. Hanging gardens if you have access to a resource that boosts industry/food.
The other two aren’t worth the cost of their culture and industry.

General Guidelines
1. Upgrade your outpost to a city, and if able immediately attach available adjacent outposts. SWAP ALL CITIES FROM BALANCED POLICY TO CITY GROWTH. Disband nearby armies to increase city population, leaving 2-3 armies to auto-explore.
2. Continue to expand, prioritizing horse/copper if your emblematic units require those, followed by luxury resources. Food is key followed by industry. Expand towards neighbors if their AI traits are passive(try to cut them off), expand away if they have aggressive traits.
3. Makers quarters(or its equivalent) should be built first if settled area industry production is low(vice versa for food).
3. Any event choices should prioritize shifting the geopolitical axis towards Homeland. The rest are largely optional. Maybe prioritize Progress if you want to end the game via science.
4. When you receive the option to pick your faith, opt for shamanism if you were able to get one of the food producing cultures/get good food producing cities. In general, you can choose to engage with or avoid the religion mechanic as you see fit. Having your own religion allows for easy avenues to declare war later(oppressing the faithful), however if you just completely avoid the religion mechanic you can save whatever resources you might’ve spent on religion and will have an easier time forming alliances once you’ve changed religions to another culture’s. Both options are viable, but I tend to at least build the first few early stone circles for the easy stability.
5. If you happen to find another culture, greet them and attempt to establish any sort of treaty if possible. This will given you a diplomacy bonus in the future and help you avoid war. Try to sign a trade agreement if possible. Do not engage in war.
6. When you trade, prioritize resources that give a flat bonus rather than a % one this early on. Prioritize food and industry bonuses.
7. DO NOT transcend until at minimum tier 2 of your affinity stars have been reached. The stars that match your affinity yield bonus fame, skipping out of them is a terrible. While you can transcend when you reach 7/21 available stars, aim for 9/21 before doing so. If you do not, you run the risk of ending the game without enough fame. You’ll probably have 3 scientist stars, and 2+ agrarian, so typically the focus on expansion/builder is what nets you the extra 2 stars. The AI FIMS bonus is the strongest at this point, you will likely be in the bottom third in terms of Fame.

Classical Era

Cultures
In general at this point you’re looking for industry/influence/stability, and food if you didn’t manage to secure any during the ancient era. Science is probably third on the FIMS priority list, followed by gold.High Priority:
Maya: During the classical era, industry overtakes food as the most important FIMS resource. And the Maya delivers in spades. Fantastic trait, fantastic quarter, mediocre emblematic unit(though requires no resource) solidifies the Maya as a high priority pick.
Rome: Gives no industry bonuses, however has arguably the best classical era trait(specifically the +1 unit slot this early on going from 4 to 5 units is fantastic), and a very good emblematic quarter that offers lots of stability and influence. Praetorian Guards also are fantastic for their industry cost(the strongest non-cavalry unit in the Classical Era), but do require iron. If you’ve made trading a priority however, this can be obtained reasonably consistently.
Celts: While food is no longer as important in the classical era, it’s still second only to industry. The early faith on the emblematic quarter also virtually guarantees you’ll reach a minimum a tier 3 religion tenet. The Gaesati is rather mediocre, however requires no strategic resource.

Medium Priority:
Mauryans: A very good trait combined with an very good emblematic quarter makes it easy to expand with the Mauryans. It should be noted that their Saṃnāhya has the potential to be very good for their cost, but should be used in conjunction with melee units. Like with the Celts, the bonus religion virtually guarantees you’ll reach tier 3 religion tenet, and it even gives a bit of science to boot. However, giving no industry/stability/food prevents this from being top tier choice.
Achaemenid Persians:
The trait is fantastic. In fact, +2 max cities/+10 stability is actually probably better than the Roman trait period if you can avoid situations where war is necessary(IE expand through assimilation of the neutral cultures). The issue is that everything else is mediocre.
Greeks: Offers a lot of science, which is mediocre this early on with this specific strategy. What prevents the Greeks from being lower on the list are the Hoplites. They require copper, which should be easy to procure by now, however they beat every single cavalry unit in this era due to their anti-cavalry trait. If you get a set of 3 phalanxes that are adjacent to each other(which can be done consistently), that pushes their strength to 29(27+2), meaning they only really lose to the Praetorian Guards(30) who require Iron, which is more difficult to obtain than copper. This gives them an avenue for war-driven expansion if needed.
Huns: Fantastic emblematic unit and trait. In fact, if your starting position dictates that you must go to war early, and you have access to horses, the huns would be a high priority pick, especially if you have the Zhou emblematic unit already available. The lack of anything else of use however makes this series of options not optimal for our strategy.

Low Priority:
Goths: Gives really nothing we’re looking for except some influence. The gothic cavalry has the potential to have the highest combat strength classical era unit by fighting in enemy districts(29+3), however requires a massive 2(!!!) iron, which can not be procured consistently this early in the game.
Aksumites: Money focused culture, no bonuses to industry/influence/stability. Trait scales terribly. The Shotelai I think is underrated though, which saves the Aksumites from being lower on the list.
Carthaginians: Bad/niche emblematic trait(only useful if you have lots of money, which is unlikely at this point), and an emblematic quarter that is used as a port, terrible on a pangea map. War Elephants also are likely to be bad for their cost, as despite being the strongest classical era unit, as the AI will probably be ahead and thus the elephant trample ability will unlikely trigger.

Wonders
1. A weak recommendation for Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. The rest are not worth building period.

General Guidelines
1. Leave cities on Growth. You can help new cities grow by creating cheap units in a high population city and disbanding them in the newer cities. This generally has a net positive effect, as the amount of food required for 20 population city to grow 1 more population is much larger than the amount of food required for a 4 population city to grow 1 more population. The amount of food saved is usually worth the opportunity cost of a few turn’s worth of production. If you’ve prioritized food during the ancient era, this should be common.
2. Again, continue to expand. You should not be cornered at this point, especially if you’re playing on pangea. If you aren’t playing pangea and are cornered, consider making a port and seeing if there are islands to settle. When expanding start prioritizing industry over food. Keep a look out for relevant strategic resources.
3. The way you handle diplomacy in general is the same here, look for trade deals, avoid war. Prioritize trade deals that give flat bonus to industry. One caveat is that if you’ve successfully locked out a passive culture from expanding, do not sign an open borders treaty. You want to keep them small.
4. If you’ve gotten access to horses at this point consider recalling and disbanding all your scouts and replacing them with horsemen. Horsemen set on autopilot at this point in the game can still yield a lot of resources.
5. In general you should avoid building military units at this stage unless you have an aggressive AI as a neighbor.
6. If war is declared on you at this stage, build palisades ASAP. A single palisade is worth more than any single unit at this stage and costs only 200 industry. In comparison a Praetorian Guard costs 180. Build enough units to survive, but do not try to take enemy territory. The way war works in this game is that the attacker will constantly lose war support every turn unless they win battles/hold enemy territory. Just outlasting them is enough to net you a win.
7. If you meet a minor/neutral culture(Independent People), feel free to spend money to start the process of assimilating them into your empire. Avoid spending influence on this pursuit.
8. Stars should be easier to come by at this stage. Again, I would not transcend to a new culture until my affinity stars have reached tier 2, preferably tier 3. The exception here being expansionist stars, which I rarely get further than tier 1. Avoid transcending until around 10-12 stars have been earned. You’ll likely still be in the bottom third in terms of fame by the end of this era, which is okay.

Medieval Era

Cultures
Again, at this point you’re looking for industry/influence/stability, and food if you didn’t manage to secure any during the ancient era. Science is now probably tied with food in terms of priority. The reason why is because a lot of the technologies in this era yield very real benefits for expansion/war, look specifically for the ones that give +1 to army size and +1 to city cap. Money is still the worst of the FIMS. You are looking to be aggressive to keep the high fame cultures in check.High Priority:
Khmer: Fantastic trait, the best emblematic quarter of this era, and a very solid emblematic unit. Hands down the best choice unless stability starved due to lack of trade, or playing an island map. but even so in the top 3 easily.
Franks: Mediocre trait, very good emblematic quarter(science/influence/religion), and quite possibly the best medieval era unit, the Franci Milites, when used correctly. The Franci Milites has a base strength of 39, but can get a gigantic +6 when charging, which can easily be triggered consistently when not fighting in a choke point. For comparison, a strength of 45(39+6) is comparable to several of the emblematic units during the Early Modern Era, such as the Rocket Cart(45), the Conquistadores(43), and the Janissaries(44).
Aztecs: My favorite back up choice if the game plays out in such a manner that I have few luxury resources/trades and no access to strategic resources. Their combat unit requires no strategic resources, they have arguably the best trait of this era(+2 land movement, -20% unit industry cost), and their emblematic quarter gives some influence/stability to boot. Really the only thing that’s missing is industry.

Medium Priority:
English: My second favorite back up culture of choice if the game develops in such a manner that I lack luxury resources. A strong trait(though admittedly scales rather poorly), often generating 28-35 food per a turn per a city by the end of this era, a strong emblematic unit(borderline overpowered if terrain permits abusability), and a lackluster emblematic quarter. Of note, the English are the only agrarian culture for the Medieval era. Because agrarian stars tend to be the easiest to accumulate, this often leads to a quicker transcendence.
Teutons: Their trait is actually deceptively good, in that even though the Money and Science resources are not really what you’re looking for, if you’ve prioritized food early on, your population total between all your cities will be in the triple digits by the end of this era, making it so that at minimum you’re getting +100 money and science per a turn from this trait. The issue is that the teutonic knights can often times have difficulty triggering their Proselyte bonus(+3 against enemies with different State Religion). The thing is that if you’ve been following this guide, you’re likely trading with a lot of people, since the Teutons generate a lot of faith, your Religion Pressure/Influence will be very high. This means neighbors/trading partners, will all often times be followers of your state religion.
Ghanaians: The better of the two gold-centered cultures during the medieval era, especially if you’ve been following this guide and prioritizing trade. The flat bonus per number of access to resources is just much better this early in the game. Unfortunately the emblematic unit is niche/mediocre and offers no industry/influence/stability.

Low Priority:
Umayyads: A science centered culture that probably has the bad science-related trait. On a good run, 3 alliances at this juncture would be considered good, meaning if the run goes well, you’re looking at a +15% bonus to science(+5% science per alliance on all cities). The Haras is weak for its cost, and the enforcer ability tends to not have an appreciable effect on Humankind Difficulty, as the AI gets a gigantic +60 stability bonus.
Byzantines: A gold centered culture that probably has the worst gold-related trait for the same reasons as the Umayyads. It should be noted that their Varangian Guards have the highest base damage in the game for this era, however require 2 Iron, which is not a given.
Mongols: This is basically the Hun without the +2 to cavalry trait. The actual Ransacking bonus is largely only useful if you aren’t strong enough to overcome the enemy in a siege at this point, as the goal here is to prevent the high fame cultures from winning, and ransacking alone isn’t enough to do that.
Norsemen: A culture designed for naval dominance will do poorly on pangea maps.

Wonders
1. Forbidden City. The way war works this game makes War Support incredibly useful – and now is the time whereby war will be the most common.
2. Angkor Wat if you’ve chosen to engage with the religion mechanic, otherwise ignore.
3. The other two are probably not worth building.

General Guidelines
1. Get the Professional Soldier civic(+1 to combat strength of all units). This combined with skew on to the homeland axis should yield +2-3 combat strength to all units, enough to offset the AI +2 bonus. Once this is accomplished, war becomes a realistic option under most circumstances.
2. Build up an army of your unit of choice and go to war. Targets whom have high fame or hold resources you need but refuse to trade should be prioritized. It is okay to leave targets that are difficult to access alone at this stage, but work towards carving a path to them. You NEED to go to war with high fame targets to give yourself time to catch up.
3. Technologies which yield +1 to maximum units per army should be prioritized, if not outright beelined, an example being heavy infantry. Also be on the look out for the technologies that unlock your emblematic unit. Having 6 units available vs an enemies 5 will make a big difference.
4. Cogs are unlocked at this era with Sea Faring Mastery. If you have access to a port, consider making one early to auto-explore the ocean, especially if the map has islands. Cogs will occasionally be able to sail across to entire new continents by hopping from island to island, which can be useful if the New World option is on.
5. In terms of diplomacy, start seeing if you can ally with other cultures that have low fame, or one of your neighbors if you are surrounded. This can help prevent you from fighting multiple fronts. Usually by the end of this era you can secure at least one.
6. If you have enough cash, and are close to unlocking an emblematic unit, consider stock piling the precursor unit of the emblematic unit so you can upgrade all of them once the research finishes. This sometimes yields a powerspike that the AI will not have enough time to react to.
7. Again, do not transcend until you’ve gotten your two affinity stars. This time aim for 12+ before transcending. If you’ve won a few wars you should be in the middle of the pack in terms of fame by the end of this era.

The rest is coming soon(probably within a week). I want to test out a few of the late game cultures before publishing my thoughts on the open forum.

This pattern should continue into the early modern era after which you should be near or at the top of the fame list. The pacing in this game is such that the last two eras essentially do not exist. Prioritize science cultures during the last two eras to get the fame associated with the end game tech research(should be worth 1000+ fame), unlocking the space tech projects, and trigger the ending using your preferred method.

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