Understanding Civilization: Beyond Earth Terrain and Features

The world is not plain, nor is it even, nor consistent. The diversity found gives us plenty of strategic and general perks and difficulties, and it is up to us to adapt and evolve according to our environment.

Civilization: Beyond Earth recreates that very fact even when you are attempting to colonize alien planets – you’ll come across a wide variety of terrains with varying advantages and disadvantages, and it is up to you to deal with them in the best possible way.

For more help on Civilization: Beyond Earth, read our Resources Tips, Beginner’s Tips and Technology Guide.

Civilization: Beyond Earth Terrain

Understanding how Terrains and Features work is one of the most important parts of playing CivBE, as your key to success lies in how well you can adapt to your environment. The entire “board” or world of the game is divided into hexagons or tiles.

Each tile has an identity of its own in the form of terrain and feature, and according to the variations it will have its own City Yield.

When building your city, it is important to be aware of the different terrains and their tactical advantages and disadvantages. For this reason, this guide will educate you on the different Terrains and Features each hex can possess, along with what type of resources they provide.


The deep chasms that scar the terrain in the form of canyons are impossible for ground units to go across, and can make it tactically challenging for any aggressive military presence near your city to attack you if your state is surrounded by them.

While Canyons offer good protection against ground military assaults, they are somewhat of a double-edged sword as they greatly limit the ease of exploration, which can make it difficult to search and excavate different sources.

One should always nevertheless try to create a settlement close to canyons to give themselves a tactically advantageous position for defending against aggressive foes; this will allow you to bottle the enemy forces and fend off any offense quite easily.

Coastal terrain hexes differ from the ocean because they are near the shore or land. If your city is located near them, they will provide food and energy when the tiles are improved. In CivBE water tiles are embarked in the same manner as land tiles, so there is no need for worker boats.

Coastal terrain can be crossed only by naval units, air and hover units, and embarked land units. Do note though that coastal terrain will have a moderate amount of alien traffic every now and then, so you should always have some kind of ranged defense mechanism.

This is an easy and effective way of earning Experience by defending your cities from range. Coastal hexes will provide +1 Food and +1 Energy.

Unlike in Civilization V, Deserts offer little to nothing in Beyond Earth. If anything, they have a penalty to combat as you can be easily exposed in such terrain. For this reason, it is usually advisable to avoid Desert terrain for your settlement.

If you have no choice but to build your city near or in a desert, then you should consider buying a vivarium as soon as possible.

If your city is in a grassy area, it will grow fast since Grasslands tend to provide the most food. However, they are considerably easy to traverse, and for this reason cities in grassy regions are vulnerable to attacks from ground and air.

If you are building a city in a grassy region, make sure you set up defenses all around the parameter or at least have a canyon or mountain-like terrain that protects a large part of your state.

Grassland hexes will provide +2 to Food.

Hills are difficult terrain hexes to improve upon and fairly difficult to move on, but they offer excellent combat advantage, good resources, and bonus to production.

Ranged units on hills excel with the additional defensive and offensive combat bonus, and have a greater line of sight compared to those on ground level. It is usually recommended to build a city that is partially surrounded by hills for a tactical advantage.

Hexes with hills will provide +1 to Production, and grant +25% Combat Modifiers.

Lakes are large bodies of water surrounded by land, and provide a lot of benefits to cities near them. Cities that are developed near lakes grow quickly and aggressively, and often end up having strong economies.

However, this also means that there is a likelihood of other enemy territories near lakes. If there is such a case, you might need to consider establishing a naval army that could harass your foes and defend your state.

Lake hexes will provide +2 to Food and +1 to Energy.

Craters and Mountains fall in the same category because both have extreme altitude differences from the normal plains. Mountains and Craters are both extremely tough to traverse, and neither provide any kind of bonus to food, production, or energy.

In fact, cities that are built near mountains and craters will generally grow slowly. However, one massive tactical advantage to having a city near a terrain of mountains or impact craters is that it will be extremely hard for enemies to attack.

They act as major barriers and allow heavy retaliation from your end to anyone foolish enough to assault your city. Mountains and Crates provide 25% Combat Modifiers.

The deep lying water hexes may not look like the most beneficial tiles for you to take use of, but if you have a coastal city you can benefit from the limitless sea by constructing a water refinery.

These buildings will raise the resource factor of the water tiles by a great margin and make the seemingly useless and endless waters very useful, helping your city to grow faster than it would otherwise.

Like coasts and lakes, oceans can be traversed only be a specific set of units. Ocean hexes provide +1 to Food.

Plains are simple, and so are the revenues of having a city in one. Generally, cities in plains grow slower than those in grassy regions, but have large productivity. However, like grasslands, plains are also fairly exposed and vulnerable to assaults from aggressive enemies.

If your city is surrounded by plain regions, you should be spending a good amount of resources on your defense. Plain hexes provide +1 to Food and +1 to Production.

Snow and Tundra
No one wants to live in a frozen environment (sorry fellow Canadians), and snow offers little to no benefits. Unless there are huge amounts of resources available in the Snow and Tundra, there is no reason to build a city there unless there is nowhere else to go.

Later on, if you manage to discover mass digesters you can expand your settlement to the Tundra and benefit from the hexes there, but for that you should be heavily investing in organic Technology from the start.

Terrain Features

Features differ from terrain because they are elements that appear on top of a terrain hex.

Basically, the Terrain is the canvas, and the Features are the different paints used to paint the art. There are six different Features that a terrain can possess, though it is not always necessary that a terrain hex has to have a Feature at all.

Like Terrain, Features have a large effect on the Productivity, Food, and Energy output of the hex, and can also influence combat.

Flood Plain
Flood Plains are those terrains located near rivers and other water bodies, but slightly below sea level. This allows floods to occur each year in the area, allowing for richer vegetation and nutrients.

Cities located in Flood Plains tend to grow very fast because of the bonuses provided by flood plains, and are usually adept at agricultural trade. Flood Plains provide +2 to Food.

Forests don’t have the same importance they did in previous Civilization games, but they still do play an important role in protecting against ground offense, and also increase food supply and productivity.

You can cut down forests for a temporary bonus to Production, but only do so when you are assured of a safe surrounding and do not expect any kind of invasion. Forests provide +1 to Food, and +1 to Production, and also Modify Combat by 25%.

Ice will mostly form on ocean and water bodies, and has no use whatsoever. It is almost completely impassable and serves little to no purpose to your city.

Marshes offer more troubles than benefits to cities built near them. Despite being rich in biodiversity, marshes have significant combat and food penalties associated with them.

Generally workers can work in marshes to improve productivity, but it is hardly advisable since they will eat up your food resources fairly quickly.

It is not recommended to build a city near a marsh, and only expand into one when you have enough workers to convert those tiles for better productivity. Marshes have a -1 penalty to Food and -15% Combat Modifier.

Miasmas are more like infestations of a terrain by spores, and can co-exist on top of any other feature. They happen on all kinds of terrain except terrain and ocean. The spores are hazardous to both humans and machines until they are either completely removed or certain Technology is developed to counter their effects.

Any unit that ends its move on a tile with miasma suffers 10% of their maximum Health in damage. Workers get Technology to protect themselves quite early in the game, making it slightly easier to develop terrain infested with miasma.

Generally, Harmony players will find it easier to deal with miasma terrain than others.

Rivers are an important Feature that provide a large amount of benefits, out of which the most evident one is their bonus to Energy to all the tiles they run along.

Building a city along a river will give you combat advantage as well, since enemies attacking through rivers will have a 20% penalty to Combat Strength. However, this tends to go both ways, so you should always make sure you take necessary measures to counter this penalty.

Rivers provide +1 Energy to all tiles that they run along.