The Cultural Victory requires you to bring three cities to legendary culture status, i.e. 50,000 . While this can take a long time when you are getting caught up in wars, it is still manageable with the right approach.
There are various ways of earning a city culture:
- Culture buildings: Here there are those with a fixed income, as Obelisk or Theatre, and those that give a percentage bonus, as the various Temples or Carnival. Obviously, the former will be of more importance during the early game while the latter are more important at a point where the city is already producing base to enhance upon. It may pay off to have Temples of various religions to profit from each one's 20% bonus. Also, Octopus Overlords as a state religion is well suited for a cultural victory, as their Temples provide the highest bonus.
- Culture rate: Here you can set a rate of your rough trade to be converted into culture the same way as with the research rate. You need a very strong economy to set this high, but it will add culture to every city you own.
- Build culture: 25% of get converted to culture. Due to the 75% loss, this is a very inefficient way of wasting your which can nevertheless speed up the victory by a few turns. Still you should consider having the cities produce instead so you can up the culture rate.
- Culture wonders: Almost all wonders provide either a fixed bonus, or a percentage bonus to culture, to various degrees. But remember you have to up the culture in three cities, so you want to distribute your wonders across those three. An exception to this is Syliven's Perfect Lyre, which can be relocated by a unit and is therefore a must-build if you want a cultural victory. To a lesser degree this is also true for the The Dragon's Hoard which you get when you defeat Acheron the Red Dragon.
- Civics: Especially Liberty, and Republic provide a bonus.
- Specialists: Bards and Great Bards are of the most interest here. To develop a specialist economy, the city must have enough income to support non-working inhabitants, and second it must allow for Bard specialists. Buildings such as the Theatre permit one additional Bard, many wonders have a similar effect. The Guilds civic lets you assign unlimited specialists, however, it is worth considering to use Liberty instead, which only allows for unlimited Bards but frees the Labor civic line for Caste System, which adds 2 for each specialist. The Theatre of Dreams (+2 for Bards) and the Hall of Kings (+2 for all Specialists) wonders are also worth mentioning here. Unless you play as Sidar, you will most definitely also want to max your Great Person producing city so that it gives you Great Bards but that is entirely a different topic.
Civilizations well suited for cultural victories:
- Balseraphs have good synergies with the culture research path and with culture buildings.
- Kuriotates have only 3-4 (depending on map size) real cities which can grow very large, so they are well manageable for a Specialist strategy.
- Sidar can have their units Wane after they have reached level 6, so they can added as free specialists to their cities. With the right wonders (see above) this can get you tons of .
- Ljosalfar can develop freakishly huge cities due to and boni, so they can either employ specialists or turn their or into