Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation explained and how to beat the Sea Peoples

Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation explained and how to beat the Sea Peoples
Finlay Cattanach Updated on by

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The Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation mechanic is one of the key mechanics you’ll meet in Creative Assembly’s newest entry to the strategy series. Despite that importance though, it’s not always very clear just how the mechanic functions, and what influences it.

Alongside the Pillars of Civilisation come the endgame events it’s tied to, most evidently the invasion of the Sea Peoples. So here, we’re going to explain the Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation, as well as how to beat the Sea Peoples, and the best ways to manage crises, collapses, and natural disasters. If you’re still coming to grips with the basics of the game, and want some help with how to get resources, how to win battles, or some basic tips and tricks, we’ve got you covered.

What is the Pillars of Civilisation mechanic in Total War Pharaoh?

The Pillars of Civilisation mechanic is a world-state mechanic, which determines the general state of stability during a campaign and the intensity of negative events that lead up to the Bronze Age Collapse.

The mechanic name specifically refers to Cult Centres, major cities of the region and era that were historically seen as the ‘pillars of civilisation’ at the time due to their wealth, influence, culture, and size. In the game, there at least nine Cult Centre Cities, which we came across in our playthrough for our Total War Pharaoh review. These are:

  • Ugarit
  • Gubla
  • Ashkelon
  • Iunu
  • Mennefer
  • Khemenu
  • Akhetaten
  • Tharhuntassa
  • Gordion

These cities are larger and more significant than other settlements in the game, and it is their prosperity that will determine how well you are able to navigate the Bronze Age Collapse.

Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation explained and how to beat the Sea Peoples: A funeral barge carrying a deceased Pharaoh sets sail from the Egyptian capital.

The Pillars of Civilisation metre

The mechanic itself is indicated by a metre at the top of the user interface, partitioned into three sections. Prosperity, Crisis, and Collapse. The frequency of disasters and the strength of the Sea Peoples are both tied to this metre.

When the Cult Centres are stable, war is less common and regional stability is high, the metre will linger in the “Prosperity” section. This requires a score of 480 points or higher. Prosperity means that disasters will strike regions less frequently – events that inflict harsh penalties on provinces they occur in for a set amount of time. Blessings will more commonly occur – events that provide significant bonuses to provinces, such as resource production buffs or workforce growth buffs. The Sea Peoples’ invasion fleets will also be smaller and less well trained while the world is in this state.

Crisis typically begins following the death of Pharaoh Mehmet and the first outbreak of civil war in Egypt. It requires a score lower than 480 points, and higher than 344 points. In Crisis, blessings become significantly rarer, disasters become more frequent, and the Sea Peoples will start invading with stronger armies.

Collapse is the final state of the world, brought on by significant world events such as severe damage, mismanagement or destruction to Cult Centres. It requires a score of 344 points or lower. During a collapse, blessings are almost non-existent, disasters are much more common, and the Sea Peoples will be at their strongest, invading with fully capped armies of 20 units and well-trained, well-supplied forces.

Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation explained and how to beat the Sea Peoples: Sea Peoples besiege the Cult Centre of Ashkelon.

How to improve the Pillars of Civilisation metre

Keeping your Pillars of Civilisation score high is key to surviving the Bronze Age Collapse that the campaign ultimately focuses on, but it’s not easy. There are two points of contention in regard to controlling the metre.

Firstly, you can’t really fully control it. This is the Bronze Age Collapse after all, and part of the campaign is simply managing the trials and tribulations of the time period and damage controlling as best as you can. Eventually, the metre will degrade. Whether programmed into the game or simply the result of the activities of AI, we can’t say for certain.

While total control isn’t really feasible, you can slow the degradation, and to some degree stop it from slipping into total collapse. To do this, you need to control as many Cult Centres as possible.

Good management and defence is key here. Make sure to keep provinces with these cities as happy as possible, and try to strike for a good balance of resources where you can. Building up forts and garrisons is also a great idea, as they’ll be priority targets for enemies, and sacked or razed Cult Centres will severely impact your Pillars of Civilisation points score.

Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation explained and how to beat the Sea Peoples: The Cult Centre of Iunu, straddling the banks of the Nile.

How to beat The Sea Peoples in Total War Pharaoh

One of two types of crises you’ll face in-game is the Sea Peoples, disparate hostile clans of sea-faring raiders hailing from the Agean, Ionian, and distant western mediterranean islands. The Sea Peoples will become an escalating threat throughout your campaign, so it’s important to know how to deal with them. As we’ve touched on, maintaining a high level of Pillars of Civilisation score is the best way of all, since this will dramatically weaken the Sea Peoples’ potency. But it’s not the only strategy available to you.

Did you know?

The Sea Peoples are thought to have been a real people. Though its uncertain where they came from or who exactly they might have been, they’re popularly credited as one potential factor that may have led to the Bronze Age Collapse, which is the period Total War Pharaoh is based on.

Crush smaller armies

Early-game, you’ll mainly have to deal with smaller armies of Sea Peoples, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a threat. Left unchecked, these armies can infiltrate deep into your territory and attack unprotected settlements. As soon as you encounter an army, aim to smash it and preemptively solve the issue.

Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation explained and how to beat the Sea Peoples: A fierce battle between the forces of Rameses 2 and the Sea Peoples rages through the streets of a minor settlement.

Check what tribe they belong to

By hovering over the Sea People’s invasion status shown on the turn timer in the bottom right, you can get some valuable information. This will tell you which tribe is approaching or invading. Each tribe will have different behaviour, and different priorities. Some will seek glory, and so try to attack Cult Centres. Others will be cautious, and only aim for small settlements. Make sure to check this information and use it to adapt your strategies accordingly.

Garrison your cities

Later in the game, you’ll be hit with a Great Wave. This will represent a massive and cohesive invasion by the Sea Peoples, and can easily overwhelm the unprepared. Your best course of action here is to fortify your cities, garrisoning your armies within your most important holdings. Playing from the defensive will grant you a position of strength when facing down the large and powerful armies of the Sea Peoples.

If you’ve got the manpower, consider placing one army within a city and one just outside it. Whichever target the Sea Peoples’ choose to attack, you can then call in the other army as reinforcements. Alternatively, you can wait for them to get close, then counterattack with one force and bring in the other one as a backup.

Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation explained and how to beat the Sea Peoples: A warning on the event screen informs about a nearby natural disaster.

How to deal with natural disasters in Total War Pharaoh

The second type of crisis you’re going to have to deal with is natural disasters. These will escalate in frequency the lower your Pillars of Civilisation score gets. They can include:

  • Plagues
  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • Famines
  • Sea Storms

These disasters will affect one province at a time, and inflict different negative effects depending on the disaster. Most of the time, this will be a reduction to the resource production of a province, or a reduction to workforce growth. Most disasters will also damage a provinces’ happiness.

There’s unfortunately no direct ways to beat a natural disaster, which makes sense all things considered. Your two best options are to keep your Pillars of Civilisation score as high as possible, and to optimise your provinces for production, so that when one is afflicted by a disaster, others can subsidise its loss in production until things improve.

That covers everything you should need to know about Total War Pharaoh Pillars of Civilisation and how to beat the Sea Peoples and natural disasters. Another factor we didn’t mention is who you’re playing as, since different leaders have different benefits and starting positions. If you want to know our choices for the best leaders in Total War Pharaoh, or how to win a civil war so you can at least prioritise which opponents to bring down first, we’ve got you covered.

Are the Pillars of Civilisation in Total War Pharaoh important?

The Pillars of Civilisation in Total War Pharaoh are one of the most important mechanics in the game, and a low score on the metre will lead to a state of Collapse, making the game far more difficult.

What are Cult Centres in Total War Pharaoh?

Cult Centres are a unique series of important settlements in Total War Pharaoh, representing cities of such great importance that their status and wellbeing can control the state of prosperity and stability within the region.