Any Civilization game can prove to be a challenge to get into, especially if you're new to the series. The first turn can be the most daunting endeavor, but with our handy guide you'll have your own empire up and running in no time at all.
Civilization VI features an in-depth tutorial that can help you figure out what's going on and what every icon in the taskbar represents. We would strongly urge anyone, even those coming across from Civilization V, to check out this interactive walkthrough. This should aid in establishing a basic understanding as to how everything works.
The first turn
After selecting which civilization you wish to play as (or going all out with the random choice), you'll be entered into the game. On start, you'll have warrior (or scout — depending on the civilization) and settler units. The immediate plan is to establish our first city, which is what we'll be using the settler unit for. Take note of your surroundings and where resources (icons) are placed.
An ideal choice of settlement for any city, which can be identified by the game to help you out, is one with access to fresh water, be that of a river or the ocean (a handy water availability meter helps you out here), as well as various bonus and luxurious resources. Also be sure to identify any impassible terrain like mountains that can be utilized for strategic purposes should you upset the neighbors further down the line.
It's okay if you don't lay down city foundations on the very first turn, but should you land yourself with a terrible start we'd recommend restarting, unless you want a challenge of course.
Once you have your first city set up and ready to go, it's time to sort out exactly what this location will be building. Each city you control is able to build a permanent building (for various bonuses) or a unit. Initially, you'll want to pick up a scout if you do not already have one. These mobile explorers are able to traverse terrain at a much quicker pace than warriors and will be able to make contact with other civilizations and city states faster.
The round off our very first turn of the game, if you opted to plant your city from the get go, we're going to need to choose what research our civilization is going to focus on. Open up the tech panel and see which available research offers the best return for your empire in its current state.
The next few moves
Exploration in general is an important factor in the early game of Civilization VI. You'll want to analyze potential city spots to expand your empire, see where other valuable resources are, keep tabs on barbarian units, as well as hunting down natural wonders and entering into tribal villages for rewards. There's a lot to do, so don't think you can simply build your first city and call it a day. These initial turns can influence how you're able to approach the later game.
Tribal villages are your main goal with the next batch of turns. Be sure to enter into as many as you can find to soak up research, combat and monetary bonuses that can be of assistance. Not everything is neutral, however and you'll need to be wary of barbarians, especially their scouts and camps that can pump out new units to harass your own or make life difficult for citizens. Don't let the barbarians run riot and control land.
On your travels, you may come across other civilizations who will enter into relations as soon as you come across one of their units. It's worth paying attention to what agendas are available for you to see to better help you remain on their good side, unless you're into warmongering of course. City states are neutral factions that can go to war with civilizations and more. These are worth discovering before any other civilization for a bonus envoy.
With each envoy to a city state in action, you'll receive a specific bonus tied to a tier. Should you have more envoys to a city state than other civilizations you'll receive increase bonuses due to the extra influence. Having three or more envoys (and more than other civilizations) will make you become Suzerain for that specific city state and unlock a unique bonus, as well as resources owned by the state in question. The city state will even go to war with you against your foes.
From here on out, it's worth building up a small defensive force with a few ranged units (upgrade the slingers to archers ASAP to benefit from the additional 1 tile range), as well as making potential allies happy and establishing new settlements. Keep an eye on city amenities and housing so you can alter production and research accordingly.
Do note that when looking to build a wonder yourself, do so quickly as you'll not receive wasted production points should another civilization complete the wonder first. And that pretty much sums up our handy little guide to get you started on new land.