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The Celts are an interesting faction in Civ V, with ties to the land and a tendency towards religion and culture.
Pangaea or Continents. Anywhere with enough landmass to form large forests. Speaking of forests, avoid warm, dry planets as these will give you little succour.
Forests are the key. An undeveloped forest next to one of your cities gives you +1 Faith. Three undeveloped forests adjacent to a city (all three have to be next to the same city) gives you +2 Faith instead. Ideally, each of your first few cities will be founded next to a forest tile. This will give you an immediate Faith boost.
The Celt special unit replaces the spearman. Each time it wins a fight, you get a Faith bonus. I am sure you are starting to see the theme here! This bonus is lost when you upgrade the unit, so going for Bronze Working early is a good idea to maximise your benefit.
The Ceilidh Hall is your special building. Note for non-Gaelic speakers; ceilidh is pronounced kay-lee. No, really.
You have to wait until you research Acoustics but it gives you a dollop of happiness with a dash of culture, and is worth building in every city.
With free Faith points you should be first to both a Pantheon and a Religion, so you will get your first choice of bonuses. Choose wisely! Again, there is no fundamental right answer here, take what will suit your positioning and plan for the game.
When playing a new game to get screenshots for this guide, I took the One with Nature pantheon for the first time. Here’s why:
Bronze Working is good to get early to access your Pictish Warrior. Otherwise, you should feel free to research whatever takes your fancy.
Your first policy
Piety is the obvious first choice, but not a compulsory one. With a free Faith bonus from adjacent forest tiles, you don’t need to build Shrines at all if you would rather focus elsewhere; the Faith comes in regardless. You can choose freely among your starting options, taking whatever looks best based on your starting circumstances.
First 50 turns
You’ll want to scout the surrounding area for good city spaces next to forest tiles. Building aggressively in the early turns ensures you get the spaces to keep those Faith bonuses coming.
At this point you will want to choose whether you’ll take a small empire or expand still further.
You’ll get first choice, and the pantheons will be open to you.
You can tailor the Celts to help you achieve whatever victory you prefer. A small empire will go Cultural. A military force can win Domination as well as anyone else. Choose the Messenger of the Gods pantheon and your empire can be as large as you like.
The Celts may seem like a one-dimensional faction focused on Faith, but in reality they are versatile and adaptable.