What’s the best culture in Humankind? With 60 options spread across 6 eras, it’s really hard to say, but we got you covered. Humankind developed by Amplitude Studios is a 4x Strategy game released in 2021 on PC and Stadia and here you can find our review.
Humankind has a unique mechanic where players choose a new culture every time they advance to a new era, gaining new abilities as well as unique districts and units for their arsenal. Once a culture is selected, no other player can choose it, meaning that it can be advantageous to advance to a new era earlier to be sure you get the one you want – albeit at the risk of missing out on victory points – known as Fame – in your current era.
Selecting your culture is arguably the most important set of decisions in any given Humankind run, so here are our picks for the 10 best cultures in Humankind.
10 – Ming (Early Modern Era)
Influence and Stability are both extremely important throughout a run, and picking Ming means never having to come up short in either of those areas. The Grand Teahouse is one of the rare districts that actually increases the Stability of its city, and it generates lots of additional Influence, particularly in large, sprawling cities. That, combined with the Ming’s affinity granting them a 25% discount to enact or repeal Civics, means they’ll have plenty of Influence for other things like founding cities and assimilating Independent Peoples.
Ming are particularly effective for players who previously chose Builder cultures like the Egyptians or Khmer, or who plan to further boost their Influence by taking Austro-Hungarians or Contemporary Egyptians down the road. Militarily, the Ming Rocket Cart is a fantastic (if expensive) weapon both offensively and defensively, causing Suppression on its hapless targets and preventing them from moving. Ultimately, Ming are a great choice for players who want to maintain a balanced approach, since they provide lots of adaptability in the back half of the game.
9 – Chinese (Contemporary Era)
Like in real life, there aren’t many problems in Humankind that can’t be solved with enough money, and the late-game Chinese are positively rolling in it. Not only to they get a flat 10% bonus to the income of all their cities, but their Emblematic District, the Congress, generates additional cash for each District in its home city and grants four additional population slots (one for each type of specialist).
Ideally, a Congress is surrounded by Market Quarters, since it gains +3 Influence for each one adjacent, and since it counts as a Market Quarter itself it also boosts the income of its neighbors. Although the Chinese are best if you’ve already got economic bonuses from previous eras to snowball off of, they’re also a great backup if the Contemporary culture you were hoping for is taken since any build can make use of more money.
They also make for a solid choice offensively as their Guardian rocket launchers can bombard twice in a turn, allowing your units to assault enemy cities quickly and efficiently – so long as you have the uranium, oil and aluminum necessary to build them, that is.
8 – Achaemenid Persians (Classial Era)
While Expansionist cultures are still generally regarded as among the weakest even after a massive buff to their preferred Era Stars, the Achaemenids have arguably the best affinity bonus in the game if used effectively. Under Cyrus’ Shadow, the Achaemenid Persians get their City Cap increased by +2 – no ifs, ands or buts. There is simply no other way in the entire game to get that much cap that quickly, and Humankind rewards having multiple cities, which is precisely why City Cap exists in the first place.
Being able to comfortably have five cities on the board before the Medieval Era is a huge advantage – oh, and those cities all get +10 Stability as well, allowing the player to build a Satrap’s Palace or another district of their choice at a net loss of zero to their overall happiness. The Satrap’s Palace is a decent source of Money and Influence at a point in the game where both are just starting to become readily available, and it will help fund your armies of Immortals.
The Achaemenids’ Emblematic Unit is a better Spearman that becomes available with the Standing Army technology, and gets a significant +3 to its combat strength when fighting on high ground or from behind walls. It seems a bit odd for a culture that was notoriously aggressive in real life to have such a defensively-minded unit, but with the Immortals in your retinue once you have your vast numbers of cities settled or conquered you should have little trouble keeping them.
7 – Huns (Classical Era)
The Huns have been feared by Humankind players since the game was in beta, and it’s easy to see why. Their Nomadic playstyle, which is only available to them and their Medieval successors the Mongols, allows them to quickly raise massive armies from well-fed outposts, and their Hordes can spawn new units by ransacking enemy districts. The Hunnic Horde uses a ranged attack to strike without fear of reprisal, and they can also move after firing to further frustrate their foes.
While recent updates have weakened the Huns somewhat, they’re still an extremely powerful militaristic culture. Though the Hunnic Horde’s base combat strength has been reduced, they still benefit from their culture’s affinity bonus, which grants +2 strength to all cavalry units under the player’s control. This bonus remains until the end of the game, so a Hun player with an eye towards the future can look forward to extraordinarily powerful knights, dragoons and, if they choose the Poles in the Industrial Era, absolutely devastating Winged Hussars. If you’re all-in on powerful units, starting as the Hittites will give you a further +1 to the combat strength of all your units, as will the Professional Soldiers civic which is typically unlocked in the Ancient Era.
If the Huns have a weakness, it’s that their Ordu outposts can’t be upgraded or attached to cities, so urban expansion will have to wait until you progress to a new era and clever enemies can ransack your Ordu before it has enough Food to spawn a Horde. It’s also important to remember that cavalry can’t cross unbreached city walls, so infantry and siege weapons still have a place in the armies of Atilla. Even if you aren’t playing a militarist build, it can be worth taking the Huns in the Classical Era just to keep yourself from being attacked by them – that’s how dangerous they are, even after their nerf.
6 – Franks (Medieval Era)
The heirs of Charlemagne have a lot going for them in the Medieval Era. Ostensibly an Aesthete Culture with a focus on generating Influence, the Franks actually excel in multiple areas (though the 10% bonus to Influence gain for the rest of the game is certainly nice). The Scriptorium generates Science, Faith, and Influence all at once, and can be surrounded with Research Quarters to keep your tech advancement on track while also generating still more Influence.
The Faith gain is also a nice boost, since the Medieval Era is usually when higher-tier religious Tenets start showing up and getting the right one for your build is a big advantage. If you’ve got the money and the resources, armies of franci milites will shatter most opponents in open terrain, especially units who get caught out of formation – just be sure to watch out for pikemen, and bring some infantry along for siege battles.
Players should pick the Franks if they have stable production and economy and want to compound the gains they have already made – doubly so if they need a little extra Faith or Influence to convert enemy territories.
5 – Mexicans (Industrial Era)
An agricultural powerhouse with a powerful Emblematic Unit, the Mexicans are highly valued by the AI so you may need to rush the Industrial Era for a chance to play as them. Straight off, the Mexicans gain a 10% boost to every city’s Food output for the rest of the game. This is compounded by their Hacienda, a supercharged Farmer’s Quarter which gains a base of +3 Food output for every adjacent food-producing district. This bonus is quickly increased by late-game infrastructure like Factory Farming, and a Mexican Empire that spent some time as the Harappans or Haudenosaunee will likely never see starvation in their cities ever again.
Naturally, with all that surplus population, the player can enhance their economy and research with lots of specialists while also consistently recruiting military units. The Mexican Soldadera is a dangerous guerilla fighter, capable of fighting at range and in melee and hidden from enemy view even when attacking. She can even enter enemy territory without Open Borders, allowing a cunning general to position their troops without having to formally declare war or negotiate passage.
4 – Harappans (Ancient Era)
The early game is absolutely critical in Humankind, and if you have a safe position from which to build the Harappans can provide a rock-solid foundation. Otherwise known as the Indus Valley Civilization, the Harappans are the earliest settled civilization known to the archaeological record. From the get-go, they gain an additional +1 Food from any tile that already produces it, plus a further +1 Food from rivers.
Better still, their Canal Network counts as a river so it always gains the full benefit of their affinity. All that extra Food goes a very long way over the course of a game, and it’s not uncommon to see Harappans with double-digit populations in their cities, producing Money and Science from specialists while their neighbors are still struggling to get their economy online. The Harappans’ Emblematic Unit, the Runner, is a slightly stronger Scout. This doesn’t seem all that exciting at first, but remember that in the early Ancient Era most battles will be skirmishes between Scout groups.
Having the advantage in these fights helps give the Harappans their choice of the best land, and possibly forces their opponents to think twice about going for a fast war. Ultimately, if the Harappans are still available when it’s time to leave the Neolithic Era, they’re always worth at least considering – and virtually a must-pick if you have lots of rivers nearby.
3 – Egyptians (Ancient Era)
If the Harappans are always worth considering in the Ancient Era, the Egyptians are almost always worth taking outright. Unless you have a very good reason to choose another culture, such as favorable terrain or the need to protect against an aggressive neighbor, the Egyptians will give you the start you need to build an eternal civilization.
Any tile that produces Industry for the Egyptians and their successors will always produce one more, and their districts cost 10% less for the entire campaign. By rushing out Egyptian Pyramids surrounded by Maker’s Quarters early, the Egyptians can produce just about anything they want, especially once they have their Lumberyards, Stoneworks and Watermills online as appropriate to the terrain.
A successful Pharaoh will remember to also build Farmer’s Quarters, though – the workers need to eat, after all! Admittedly, the Egyptians did get a minor nerf in the Fabius Maximus update, as their excellent Emblematic Unit, the Markabata, now requires two horses and a copper to recruit. If you can manage it though, getting access to a ranged cavalry unit in the Ancient Era just makes the Egyptians that much better.
2 – Japanese (Contemporary Era)
If you’re looking for a strong finish to your game, the Japanese have everything you could possibly want. For starters, they receive a whopping 20% discount on all their tech costs. Coupled with the fact that they are a scientist culture who can convert a city’s Industry into Science if they choose using the Collective Minds ability, they can easily race to the end of the tech tree and finish the game at the time of their choosing. Now, if only there was a district that produced both Industry and Science so they could double-dip with Collective Minds… but wait, the Japanese have that too!
Not only does the Robotics Lab count as both a Maker’s Quarter and a Research Quarter and provide the usual adjacency bonuses those designations entail, but each Robotics Lab also increases by +2 the yield of every Maker’s Quarter and Research Quarter in its city! Sure, it adds some Pollution to the global count, but that’s a small price to pay for progress – in fact, a particularly cold-hearted player can even get Fame for being the top polluter. If the Japanese have any real downside, it’s that they don’t get to deploy Gundams in combat, settling instead for the Reisen, a patrol aircraft best used intercepting enemy bombers.
1 – Khmer (Medieval Era)
How powerful are the Khmer? Let’s put it this way – they saw their power significantly reduced in the Fabius Maximus update through a nerf to their Baray district, and they’re still the best culture in the game. Despite no longer having quite the Industry output they previously had, the Khmer are still unmatched in mid-game city growth. Their Maker’s Quarters, including Emblematic ones like the Egyptian Pyramid, the Cothon and of course the Baray, all get a +3 to their output, granting the Khmer a gigantic boost to their production over the course of a game.
The elephant-mounted Dhanvi-gaja sports a powerful ranged attack that can move after firing, which is useful both for defending your magnificent cities and acquiring new ones. The star of the show when playing the Khmer, however, is the Baray. A combination Farmer’s Quarter and Maker’s Quarter, this Emblematic District provides synergy with plenty of cultures and civics and is intensely powerful on its own – especially when placed on a river, where it grants +4 to the Industry output of river tiles it exploits. All this combines to make Khmer easily the best culture in Humankind.
French (Industrial Era) – Prior to the Fabius Maximus update, the French would easily have made this list. While they’re still powerful, the Exhibition Hall now only unleashes its full potential while Collective Minds is active, forcing the player to slow industrial production to get the most out of it. Still, a 10% Science boost is nothing to sneeze at.
Mycenaeans (Ancient Era) – The Mycenaeans have powerful units and a strong Emblematic District in their Cyclopean Fortress, and are a good pick if you have an aggressive neighbor you need to defend against, but if you’re playing defensively from the get-go you’ll miss out on crucial buildup in the early game. Mycenaeans are best taken by players who want a military-heavy game regardless of starting situation.
Norsemen (Medieval Era) – Despite their militaristic bent, the Norsemen are best thought of as a Food-producing culture. Their Naust is a harbor that provides plenty to eat, making the Norse a solid growth choice if Khmer are taken. Their lackluster Emblematic Unit, the Langskip, is a glorified transport – useful if you plan on doing some naval invasions, but not particularly exciting.
And now let us know your opinion, what’s the best culture in Humankind for you?