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Beginner's Guide

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Welcome to the Cities XL Beginner's Guide! Here you will find all information needed to help you understand the basic game concepts applicable when you start your first cities.


I assume that people reading this are playing the game for the first time, so I will try to keep my explanations as simple as possible (though necessarily not that detailed). If you require more in-depth information about the game, you can find it in the numerous other articles in the Wiki. There are some general game-play concept articles that I would recommend: Transportation, Game economics, Resources and Citizens. You should check them out after you're finished with this guide.

Before we start, I'd like to emphasize first the benefit of going through the Tutorials, included in the game. They are by no means complete, or detailed, but they will greatly help you to understand and visualize the basics, especially when combined with your acquaintance with this guide.

Second, READ THE IN-GAME INFORMATION! Pay attention to the messages displayed in the main menu Interface. Many people just buzz around, clicking on blue buttons, plopping down stuff, admiring their stuff, and then start complaining that their cities don't work and whine that the game is impossible. Well, this is not a Sandbox designer program, where you could do everything you want - this is a game, and as such gives you challenges to overcome! The game gives you plenty of warning when something is wrong, and it also provides you with all necessary informational tools to find out what exactly is wrong, and how to fix it. You just have to look. There are:

- General satisfaction buttons (Upper right corner of the interface), whose color will immediately tell you if there's something wrong with something. It's simple: Green is Great, Red is Danger. You can figure out the rest in between.

- Control Panels (Left upper part of the interface) - here you have the Budget, Population, Resource and Public Transport panels, and clicking on the buttons will call out a window with detailed information about these things.

- Individual buildings panels (Open when you click any building) - all the specific information for the building is found here, and again there are colored dots to help you see a problem immediately.

- Layers (Right edge of the Interface) - these can activate colored overlays on the city map itself, giving you specific information from above of every possible aspect of city management. The most important layers are: Resources; Economy>Freight and Passenger services; Environment>Air Pollution; and Transport>Traffic. In the Economy Layer there is also a legend describing the small icons floating above your buildings.

Finally, pay attention to the details that pop up when you hover above each thumbnail in the Construction menu - they will give you a bunch of necessary information about what will happen if you place that building. Also, when you are about to place a Service building, you can snap it to Roads while still hovering around with its Blueprint, and it will light up the nearby roads with the effect it's gonna have AFTER you place it. Use this to choose the best spot for it, or judge if it will do any effect at all.

Getting started


Start Menu

The first thing you will do after clicking the Play button in the Main menu (which will only happen hopefully after you've gone through all the Tutorials) is marvel at the sight of the Planet approaching out of the Cosmos.

You will notice scores of gray dots on the Planet - these are all city slots, waiting for you to start constructing on them!

On the right-hand side of the screen you will see the Maps menu, where you will be able to select a map of your choice from a list the 62 maps currently available.

Each map has unique features such as different terrain and resources, such as Oil, Water, Agriculture & Holidays/Tourism.

Alternatively, you can click each one of the dots directly on the Planet.



What do you need to know about maps?

Each map has a difficulty degree. This has mostly to do with relief and the availability of resources or City-links. It's good to start with maps with smaller difficulty degree, until you get more experienced.

Each map has different natural features, which translates in different resources available. There are, however, some resources that are very important, because they allow the production of some key components in the game - we call these Map-dependent resources. Each map has one or more of these resources available - Oil deposits (for Fuel production), Arable land (for Agriculture), Water and Holiday zones (for Holiday hotels). If you want to produce any of these resources in your city, you'll need to choose a map with at least one star in the respective map resource. Otherwise, their production will be impossible in this city (with the exception of Holiday zones, which could be created additionally in every city).

Most maps are 'Land' maps - they are either completely landlocked, or have an extensive border with a landmass. These maps can connect with the rest of the Planet via the full spectrum of Inter-city transport options.

Others are 'Island' maps - they are completely detached from landmasses and can only be connected to the Planet via Harbors or Airports. The name of the map usually suggests which one of the two types it belongs to (for example 'The atoll' is obviously an Island map).

Select a map


Map filter and selection menu

Choose one of the maps you like from the Map Menu using the filters if needed or just scroll through each map. For each map selected, you'll see the following information:

- Resources available - marked with 0 - 3 stars for each resource, where 0 means no area and 3 - extensive area

- Difficulty - graded according to the criteria mentioned above

- Flat surface - what part of the terrain is easy for construction

- Available - how much of the border has spots for city links (intercity roads and highways).

- Free slot - shows how many slots of this map are left for construction. Each city you start on a map takes up one slot.

Tip: the Cities XL 2012 maps are highlighted with a red border.

When you have found a map you want to play select it and then click the 'Create your City button.

A dialog window will open, where you will type the name of the city (yes, it doesn't have to bear the name of the map), and select the style of roads you want to use - Default (no National style roads), American, English, French or German. Then press the OK button to Enter your city!



The in-game interface consists of 4 main menu panels. The Main Menu, Top Menu, Construction Menu, and the Layer Bar Menu.


In-Game Interface

Top Menu

The top menu is located in the top middle area of the game Interface. You have your main Budget, Population, Resources and Transport menus on the left with the Pause Game and Increase/Decrease Game Speed Tools underneath the transport menu. Your Cities title and playing tips are located in the middle panel and your Cities' Satisfaction menus on the right. These menus are your main informational tool - they will allow you to keep detailed track of all city activities.


Top Menu

The following menu options are available in the Top Menu:

  • Budget Panel - with the numbers of your total City budget to its right, and your Cashflow under it.
  • Population Panel - with the total population of the City to its right. Underneath will appear numbers when the population is increasing or decreasing (you'll see a zero if it's stable)
  • Resources Panel
  • Public Transport Panel

Satisfaction Panels

General Satisfaction buttons (right side of the top menu), whose color will immediately tell you if there's something wrong with something. It's simple: Green is Great, Red is Danger. You can figure out the rest in between.

Clicking on each panel will call out several additional info blocks underneath.

Main Menu


Main Menu

The Main Menu is located in the top left area of the game Interface.

These are like quick links to the basic options of the game.

Most are pretty self-explanatory, click the menu option links below for more details.

The following menu options are available in the Main Menu.

  • Trade - opens the Trade screen
  • Blueprints - shows Megastructures under construction, or already constructed in this City
  • View Options
  • Trophies
  • Save - opens the manual save interface
  • Menu - opens the in-game Options menu
  • Back - exit to Planet view (with autosave)
  • Quit - exit to Windows (with autosave)

In-game Menu

Main Menu > Menu

InGameMenuButton001 InGameMenuPanel001

This menu contains the following sections:


Click Resume will continue playing the game.


Contains all the in-game settings:

Options menu

You can change the size of the interface icons (CXL 2012) under. Menu > Options > Miscellaneous


Toggle Individual buildings/zoning

This option allows you to place buildings individually or by zoning.

When you have selected this menu option you should see a the Toggle Individual buildings/zoning Icon/button ToggleBuildingsZonesButton at the top of your Construction Menu.

You should also see all the individual buildings now available for individual selection and placement as per below screenshot.



Activate one of the 'official' cheats, such as Unlock buildings, or Add 500 000 cash

Cheat Menu

  • Back
  • Set Cash to 500 000
  • Debug Info (displays paths to buildings, extra info etc.)
  • Unlock Buildings
  • Unlock all Buildings
  • Add 10 Tokens
  • Remove Cheat Tokens
  • Accelerate BP Construction (Speeds up the building process of Blueprints)
  • Remove BP Acceleration Construction.


Exit to Windows (with Autosave)

Construction Menu


Construction Menu

The Construction menu is located in the bottom left area of the game Interface. This is where you will find all available building options at the moment. Note that some buttons here may be grayed out - this means they are locked at the moment. Hovering the mouse above them will show you the Population cap at which they will unlock.

The buttons in the left-most column show the general building categories (for example Housing, Industry, Transportation, etc.).

The building menu has multiple sub menus (second column from the left) for each building type which show the particular options or subcategories of each category. Simply click each menu item to expand any sub menus. Future and existing mods will also display their menu options here.

A third column will show construction tools (if applicable), such as zoning types, different road building tools, etc.


Finally, in the bottom-left part of the screen you'll notice many thumbnails appearing whenever you click a

Menu thumbnail

category or subcategory button - these are the individual items available for the category/subcategory selected currently.

When you hover the mouse over each thumbnail, an info panel will pop up above it, with detailed information on construction cost, maintenance cost, workers needed, effects, etc. Use these information to decide which building or item you need to construct, what are its effects gonna be, and what workers it will need.

The following menu options are available in the construction menu:

Layer Bar Menu


Layer Bar Menu

The layer bar menu is located in the right area of the interface.

These can activate colored overlays on the city map itself, giving you specific information from above of every possible aspect of city management.

The following menu options are available (click on each to bring up their respective options):

Basic concepts

Cities XL is a City simulator, and all games of this genre aim at one thing - constructing a nice enough city for people to live in. So, your basic goal (besides building a nice-looking city) is to keep your citizens satisfied. And since you can't keep running your city and satisfying your citizens without money, making a profit for the city coffers is your second most important goal.

However, there are some other concepts you need to know about, before starting your first city:


Your basic job as a Mayor is to build stuff in your city. You can lay transportation networks, place buildings and zones for Residences, Commerce and Industry, and even construct MegaStructures! But note that the major part of the buildings you zone won't actually grow, unless you've provided them with the necessary incentive (that is good conditions) for them to come.


These are the goods and services in the city. They are measured in units called Tokens. The good balance of resources allows your city economy to run smoothly, so keep that in check via the Resource Panel.

Most of your resources can be traded (imported or exported) with other cities. The trade is one of Cities XL's most innovative concepts, allowing you to create a network of interconnected cities on your Planet!



This is a NPC trade entity, which has massive amounts of cash and resources, and is eager to trade with your cities, Anything you lack, you can buy from Omnicorp, and anything you produce in excess, you can sell to them. Beware of their cutthroat prices!


Cities XL has its own time. It's measured in ticks, not years, or months, or anything like that, but for the purpose of clarity we'll call 1 tick=1 month. The time meter is shown in the middle part of the Top Menu, and nearby you'll also find a small button to accelerate or stop the time. There are several aspects of the game, affected by time, but the most important one is the Financial aspect - every tick your Budget will grow or shrink according to your cashflow.


The citizens you attract to live in your city are at the same time the workers that fill in all the positions in private and state-run buildings. Without enough workers, buildings won't function, and private businesses will quickly go bankrupt. There are four different classes of citizens/workers: Unskilled, Skilled, Executives and Elites .


Your citizens want stuff, and they will only come and live in the city if you provide them what they want. This is called Satisfaction. Key components in Citizen satisfaction are Services, like Education and Security, so make sure to provide these.

Businesses also want stuff - they won't come otherwise, or if they come they won´t be able to make a profit! In first place, they want workers which they will hire from your city population, in the second place they use certain resources for their activities, which they will automatically buy if there´s enough supply in the city.

Normal mode

This is the default mode of the game, and it is characterized by the fact that most buildings are locked (you can´t use them), until you reach certain population in the city. This prevents you from doing something so wrong that your city flounders rapidly. So, be patient and try to master each component of the game-play as your city grows slowly.

The last buildings and tools will unlock around population of 500 000. Note that some high - end Landmarks have an even higher population requirements, so don't panic if you don't see all wonderful buildings we've described in this Wiki!

Starting the city

Establish a connection

The first thing you need to do in your new city is establish a connection to the rest of the Planet.

On land maps you will be asked to select a road and drag it to the edge of the map. There you'll see a purple area, representing the Road City link resource - drag the road to it and it will automatically snap to the edge, creating the City link (you'll see a big sign appearing there).

On island maps you don't have Land City link resources, only Sea and Air ones. There you'll need to place a Small harbor in a zone highlighted on the map (there is usually a very extensive zone, so you shouldn't have problems). Then connect the harbour to a road to complete the connection.

It is essential to use the biggest available road (the Small Avenue) for these connections, because this road will transfer all the Freight and Passenger services that you're gonna use in the beginning of the game, and bigger roads transfer those much better than smaller ones.

Place your City hall

Next you'll need to select the place of the City hall - the center of city administration. Keep in mind that after you upgrade it this building will emit a strong Landmark bonus aura, so place it somewhere where you will be able to make use of this. It doesn't necessarily need to be in the center of the map, but it's good to place it in a place where you will later form a 'Downtown'. Remember that the whole Road network needs to be linked at all times to the City hall.

Place a Resource center

Next you need to place the special resource building called Utility center . This small building produces all four essential resources that every city needs - Electricity, Water, Fuel and Waste disposal. It produces them in enough quantities that you won't lack them until your population has reached about 5000 - 10000. Remember that you need to link this building to the City hall by means of a road.

Place some residences

Finally, before you can start with the real development of your city, you need to place some residential zones for Unskilled and Skilled Workers, which will take the positions in the City hall and the Utility center - otherwise these buildings won't be able to function.

The first considerations

Every good city builder plans his cities ahead of time, or at least decides upon some vital points right in the beginning of each city. This could save you a lot of problems later, and also permit smoother development.

  • The first thing you need to decide is: Am I gonna make a 'Clean or a Dirty' city?

There are many things in the game that produce Air Pollution, and many other things that don't like it (starting with Citizens). The main producers of Air pollution are Heavy and Manufacturing industry factories, and when you build those a lot in a city, you'll eventually get a lot of pollution. Since there is no way to get rid of this pollution (you can only try to counter it), this will turn into the so-called 'Dirty' city. The businesses that don't like pollution (Offices and High tech industry) will wither in such a city, no matter what you do, so you might as well not build them at all. Rather, use the opportunity to stick here every branch of production that pollutes, such as Power plants, Fuel and Waste facilities.

A 'Clean' city is, in this context, obviously one that is not polluted. That is, you haven't build a lot (or better, none) of the polluting buildings. So, here you can build as many Offices and High tech industrial buildings as you want - this will turn into the main tax generator for the city coffers. You can also develop Hotels, tourism, and also Water production (if you have Ground water resource on the map). You could also use Windmills to produce clean energy for this city, just be aware that you'll need lots of these.

  • The second thing you need to decide is: Where are my resource areas and which ones I'm gonna develop?

Each map, as mentioned before, has one of four types of resources: Arable land is used for developing Agriculture (Food Industry) via Farms; Oil deposits can be extracted via Fuel fields for the production of Fuel ; Ground (artesian) water is extracted via Water towers for production of Water ; and finally, Holiday areas are suitable for building Holiday hotels and developing tourism. All these areas are gonna appear on the map highlighted, when you open the Resources Layer. They are PRECIOUS. Because these resources cannot be produced, unless you have these areas on the map! Yes, you could create some Holiday areas on any map, using Landmarks and MegaStructures, but they will never be able to produce enough to satisfy even one city, let alone to permit export of holiday tokens.

So, when you first enter your map, open the Layers and see where exactly are your resources on this map. Then, plan which ones you're going to develop (you don't need to develop all four, or three, etc.), and plan your city in such a way as to leave the resource areas OPEN FOR USE. This is especially important for Arable land, because of the way Farms are build, and the space they take on the map. Other areas are less problematic, because of the size of the buildings that utilize the resource, compared to the size of resource area they ´eat up.

  • Related to the above consideration is also the question Where am I gonna concentrate my main urban centers?

As mentioned before, there are buildings in the game that are not compatible with each other, for example buildings emitting pollution shouldn't be too close to buildings affected by it. With that in mind, you should plan from the very beginning where you are gonna place your main centers of activity.

Usually, ´dirty´ buildings are grouped together (just as in real life, where you have Industrial districts), and they are situated well apart of the main population centers (again, as in real life). So, if you are building a dirty city, such as a Supportive industrial city, you would want to keep your polluting industry within 4 blocks from the edge of the map and your residential area as far away from that as possible.

´Clean´ businesses, such as Offices and High Tech Industries don´t have this problem - you can put them right in the middle of the urban centers (if you think it will look nice). So, basically, if you´re gonna make lots of ´Dirty´ industry, choose a spot on the map well away from where you intend to make urban centers.

Also, don´t forget the role of Resource zones in choosing the future locations of downtown areas.

Finally, always remember that your city will grow. In the beginning of Normal mode you have just a handful of tools to utilize in building your city; as your population grows, you'll get more and more buildings, transportation options, bigger roads, larger zones, etc. All this will need to be added to the zones where you did your initial development, so:

  • Always plan for future expansion!

Leave some space for larger roads and highways, don't fill in every last space in a neighborhood, and always, ALWAYS have your Budget on the green! This will allow you to conduct foreign trade, and give you tranquility of mind.

First goals

Ensure the city is making profit

The very first thing you need to take care of (after doing the first obligatory steps, shown above), is to assure your city is making profit. Since you're not producing anything yet, you can't initiate foreign trade (you have nothing to sell). Which means that you need tax income from private businesses.

The tax-providing businesses available in the beginning of the city are:

  • Farms - which you can only built if you have Arable land on the map
  • Hotels (both business which should be put in office zones and holiday which need to be put in Holiday rich areas)
  • Retail - Shops provide a necessary service to citizens, but they are non-tradeable

Of the above options, you can't rely on Retail and Business hotels as economy boosters, because you can't export their products. This means that when you build too many, their demand in the city will fall to such a point that new buildings won't grow and existing ones will start going bankrupt. That leaves Farms, Heavy Industry, Offices and Holiday hotels. But of these, two are map-dependent (Farms require Arable land resource, and Holiday hotels require Holiday area). Which leaves us with basically two options:

- Heavy Industry and Offices

You should be aware that Heavy Industry is the heaviest polluter in the game, so if you intend to make a 'clean' city you best either refrain from building H. I, or otherwise stick it far away from your first city center. If you're gonna build a 'Dirty' city, you should still separate the Industrial district from the residential one, because there is a concentrated pollution cloud right above industries that will ruin your every effort to make the place habitable. If you keep out of that cloud, you'll have only the General air pollution to deal with (this one spreads over the entire map, but it's only a fraction of the localized pollution).

Now, remember that placing Industrial or Office (or any business) zones is not enough to ensure successful economy. You have to provide the necessary conditions for businesses to thrive! The first one of them is simple:

Always ensure the availability of workers No factory can work without workers, nor an office without clerks. And the workers are the citizens you attract to live in the city. There are four classes of citizens/workers, and every building in the game requires a specific selection of specific classes. For example, Skilled workers and Executives. When you hover your mouse over the building thumbnail in the Construction Menu, you'll see a description box, containing among other things information on what classes and how many of each class approximately will the building employ. Make sure you have the necessary workers available before you build the building/zone, or shortly after. In the beginning of the game you only have access to the first two classes: Unskilled and Skilled workers (Low density zones). Feel free to zone for both, because usually every city needs them right from the beginning. If you're concentrating on Farms and/or Heavy Industry, you'll need mostly Unskilled; if you go Offices you'll need lots of Skilled workers. Hotels use both, while Retail only uses Unskilled (but you shouldn't build too many Retail buildings). Remember - it's always better to build residences first, and later the businesses that provide jobs for them. But ALWAYS build both sectors at the same time, or in successive burst - NEVER build only houses or only businesses for extended periods of time. In the first case you'll end up with huge unemployment and citizens might stop immigrating to the city, while in the second case your businesses will start going bankrupt due to lack of workers.

Provide Freight and Passenger services The second most important factor for business is Transportation, and in-game it is represented by the above-mentioned services. They are provided by your City Link ( the first thing you established in the city). The services spread through the Road network from the source, and dissipate in quality the farther they travel and the more intersections they pass through, until the service disappears entirely. It also matters what capacity the road transporting the service has - the bigger the capacity, the farther along the road the service will travel.

If an Industry, or an Office (or anything else depending on these services) is put somewhere where the service is poor, it's gonna suffer greatly, and most probably go bankrupt quickly. That's why you need to plan ahead of time where  you're gonna place your first business areas - they need to be somewhere in range of your first City Link.

Later, of course, you will establish more City links, but for now, you need to build everything relatively close to the first one.

With these two things covered, you shouldn't have any problems with starting your businesses, and making them profitable. Keep building them, along with the necessary residential zones, until the Cash-flow number turns green (that is, the city starts making money each period, instead of losing money). The process would have meanwhile brought up your population to around 2000. It's time for the first challenge: providing the first Public services.

Public services

As mentioned above, when you first start your city, the citizens will come there out of pure curiosity, without expecting anything great from the government (you). There's only one requirement from the very start of the city - Shops (Retail). This is the first, most fundamental thing your citizens need - a place to buy necessities, such as food :) So, you will need to place some Low density Shops (Commerce>Retail). This is more difficult than it seems - Retail shops produce not only Retail services for your citizens (which you will see as a green layer spreading from the shop through nearby streets), they also produce a Retail Resource. Having too much of this resource in the city will lead to too much competition in the commercial sector, and individual shops' profits may suffer. So, be very careful not to place too many shops in the beginning of the game - the demand in your nascent city is not nearly enough, while at the same time you risk leaving regions without Retail service! The way to go is placing individual lots, spread around all your residential neighborhoods. You can keep track on things with the Services>Shops Layer, and the Resource panel.

As your city grows, people will judge that they now have the right to expect public services other than shops from the administration, and will get angry if you don't provide them.

The first services they require are Health and Leisure services. Again, citizen expectations start really low, so they'll just need basic service - a Health center and a Basketball court (which are also the only buildings unlocked at this point). But be warned that as the city grows further, more quality Services will be required, and new, more advanced Service buildings will be unlocked, so be prepared and keep an eye on things. Clicking once in a while on individual Homes will bring up their Info panels, where there will be noted if a particular Service is lacking (the color of the message will tell you how badly it's lacking).

So, go ahead and place these two buildings in your residential neighborhood. When hovering the blueprint of any service building above the map, you'll notice its projected future coverage on the roads - use this to gauge the perfect place for it. In the beginning it's very easy to spot this, but as the city grows the shades of the coverage become much more varied - many times you'll have to snap a building on and off many times to see if will actually have any effect. And remember that only citizens need Public services, so no need for a Health clinic in the middle of the factories!

Later, new types of Services will be required and become available:

Education at 5000 population;

Security - 10000, and finally:

Fire services - 20000

The next big step comes at 5000 population. Around this point your Resource center will reach the limit of its production and won't be able to serve your growing population anymore. It's time to provide


Utility buildings will unlock at this moment, and you'll be able to start building Power plants, Waste disposal facilities, and exploiting Water and Oil resources (if you have them). Be warned that a single Utility building costs (at least) 5000 c/mo! Make sure you have enough positive cashflow to support this big expenditure, or that you'll be able to soon produce enough tax income to cover it. Also, no need to go on a plopping spree and get a Power plant, Water tower and a Fuel field, just because you can. You'll quickly learn how detrimental this can be for your fragile economy.

So, it's time to decide which of the Utilities your city will be producing, and which ones you'll be importing. Normally a city won't produce more than one or two types of Utilities, because of their great maintenance price. If your map has one of the two Utility resources (Water and Fuel), it's most advisable to specialize your city in one, or both of them. There is an interesting mechanic in the game, which consists of the following:

- When you keep building certain resource and achieve a certain large output, you'll unlock bonus buildings that greatly increase production capacity of all normal buildings, and turn this resource into much more economically viable investment than others. This is called a Resource chain . For Utilities it's very important to use this mechanics, because of the great costs of developing them.

So, instead of spreading your city finances over all four resources, I'd advise you to choose one or two of them, develop them massively, and import the others.

You'll also unlock Manufacturing Industry at population 5000, which is an important business alternative - this industry is more advanced than Dirty factories, and produces less pollution and more taxes. However, it employs higher classes of citizens, starting with both Unskilled and Skilled for low density.

Also, at 5000 you'll be able to build your first Medium density buildings - Unskilled residences. Use with caution, because they cost much more to plop, and attract double the amount of citizens than Low density.


This is the time to get acquainted with CXL's trading system. With the growth of your city, and the various resources produced in it, you'll start noticing that some resources that are not being produced in the city are lacking, just as others that you're producing excessively, are becoming more and more abundant. You have to take this into account and do something about it, or you'll risk disaster.

Open the Resource panel from the Top Menu, and you'll see in the graph the various resources and their current situation. The graphs show the balance between supply (production) and demand (need) of every resource in the game. If you have too much supply of a resource, the indicator will have moved into the 'Supply' half, and the number immediately to its right will be positive, showing how many tokens exactly are you overproducing. At the same time, other resources that are lacking in the city would have moved into the 'Demand' half - their numbers will be negative.

In most cases, you need to keep the supply/demand ration of all resources balanced (that is, near the zero point). Don't think that overproducing resources is all good! As mentioned before, just like in real life, abundance of goods may lead to lowering the market price, and that would make many businesses go under. The 'Golden Middle' is a good rule here, so:

- Sell your excess production, and

- Buy the resources your city is lacking.

To do this, you'll need to start trading - go to the Main Menu and click on the 'Trade' button there to open the trade interface, then select a trade partner (if you have no other cities, that would be Omnicorp) and start trading. The particular mechanics are described in the Trade article.

In the beginning of your city you will generally be trading a single token here and there. Try to supplement your Budget by selling excess goods, so that you can buy sorely needed products. You can easily see which ones are sorely needed by the color of the indicator in the Resource panel - if the indicator is green, you can still get away with no problems, but if it turns orange, or even RED, then you are in trouble.

However, you'll quickly notice that buying from Omnicorp is something almost impossible to do in large quantities - they are thieves! Fortunately, there is another option - buying resources from your own cities!

So, start a SECOND city on your planet, and plan it in such a way as to supplement what the first city lacks. For example:

- If your first city was a 'Dirty' one, producing Heavy Industry, Electricity or Waste, but little Offices, no Water or Food, then:

- Start your second city on a map with Fertile Lands and Water supply, make it 'Clean', and start producing Agriculture, Water and Offices.

Then, continue developing the two cities together, and you'll realize you don't need to buy from Omnicorp anymore! You will have had established your personal trading empire!

Growing the city

So, you have established your city, its basic infrastructure, and you have made your first trading deals. Your population should be around 10 000 by now, and you will have access to more stuff:

- Medium density for Skilled Workers, Heavy Industry

- Some more hotels and Leisure buildings, and

- Large Avenues

The first things give you the ability to grow the city much faster (by building residences with double capacity and Industry providing more jobs), while the last is critical for your road infrastructure. The Large avenue should become the new artery of your city, replacing the Small avenue almost everywhere. It's time to learn how to create an effective road network!

An effective road network

Effective network doesn't mean Large Avenues everywhere. For one thing, this will be too expensive for the city, and then again, Large avenues tend to concentrate more traffic (because of their greater speed limit people prefer them), and thus create more congestion and traffic noise.

However, Large Avenues (and later Expressways and Highways) transfer traffic better than smaller roads, and they also transfer Services better (meaning, to longer distances). That's why I said that they should become the arteries of the city, but not its entire blood network!

Of course, learning all the tricks for creating road networks requires a separate guide. Check the Traffic Flow article for in-depth information, but meanwhile follow these guidelines:

- Never, NEVER connect two distant districts with a single road! Unless it's a Highway, of course.

- Large Avenues are the central streets of the city - put Public services and important buildings on them. Use them in downtown areas, work them like a grid (putting smaller roads in between).

- Use Roads and Small roads exclusively in smaller neighborhoods, or for local transport and in places where you want to evade traffic accumulation and noise

- Run Small Avenues mostly parallel to Large ones, as alternative roads

And of course, all your future City Links should be made with Large Avenues (actually, you would do well to replace your original City link with a new one, made with a Large av.), because they transfer Freight and Passengers better. That is, until Expressways become available.

The next citizen class

At 15 000 population you'll unlock Executives (low density) - the third class of residents in the game. At the same time, you'll gain access to High Tech industry - the fourth (or fifth, if you count Offices) and last type of Industry. This is the most advanced industry, it doesn't pollute, so you can develop it also in a clean city. Its low density factories already employ Skilled Workers and Executives, and together with the Medium density Offices that unlock at 20 000 pop. they'll be the main job providers of the Execs. Later, at 50 000 pop. you'll also get access to Medium density Manufacturing Industry, which is another great job opportunity for Executives.

High tech need freight services, just like Heavy and Manufacturing Industry, but they also are affected by Environment, so put them away from pollution, and preferably in nice parts of the city.

Be warned that Execs are more exigent than Un/Skilled workers - they'll require more services and Leisure, so plan accordingly. The game will unlock more and more variants of these buildings, and you'll find that in order to get good Leisure coverage, it's not enough to spam 5 Basketball courts in a block - you need to mix them with Bowling alleys, and other, more advanced sports buildings, AND Cultural leisure as well.

You will also unlock the last service type - Fire services at 20000 pop, so from now on you'll need to provide all services to your growing metropolis. Always pay attention to the color indicators before plopping a service building, to judge whether it would improve the service in the area, or not.

Resource specialization

You could now start thinking of specializing your city in one (or more) resources' production. Open the Industry>Offices construction tab, and there you'll notice a special button formed as a Star - here you'll find Special buildings. Once you reach certain minimum amount of production of a resource, Special bonus buildings for it will become available, which will boost dramatically overall productivity for this resource. Consider placing one already, since your city should already be able to afford it. For more info, refer to the Resource Chains article.

Mass transport

At 50 000 population you'll unlock the first form of Mass transport - Buses. And with that you'll be able to finally tackle one of the major problems for each Mayor - Traffic. You might have not had any problems with it yet (especially if you've followed the guidelines of this Manual), but will eventually have, especially when you gain access to High Density Residence buildings (first for Unskilled workers at 75000 pop., then Skilled at 100000, etc.). A single building of these adds 5 times the number of citizens as a Low density building, and its footprint is only slightly bigger. The final result is that your road network will get much more saturated with cars. So, it will be time to provide an alternative to the car for In-city transport, and the Buses are the first of these.

Mass transport allows citizens to get to work and back without using their car, thus alleviating the roads. But for the Bus lines (or Metro, later) to be effective, you need to consider carefully how you're gonna lay the network. Different citizen classes have different preferences: while Unskilled and Skilled will take any alternative to car, if it gets them to work, Executives and especially Elites might stick to their cars unless there is simply no alternative. So, when laying down Bus lines, take good care to provide a direct connection between the homes and the workplaces of your citizens! Refer to the Buses and Metro articles for more detailed information on how to build the networks technically.

The Metro - the second form of Mass transport, unlocks at 100 000 population. It's unlikely, thought, that you'll need its much greater capacity for some time yet, so you should stick to Buses until the point when they simply can't take more passengers. I normally use it only after 300 000 pop.

Beyond 100 000

The 100 000 population mark will introduce the last citizen class - Elites (Low density), and also the Expressway - the largest normal road. At this point also you will be able already to build High density houses for both Unskilled and Skilled workers. Since Execs already have Medium density, this means that overall, your city will start growing much faster. Again, be warned that High density residences will start creating traffic problems! To counter this, use the Expressway as link to neighborhoods with lots of movement. You could also try using two parallel Large avenues, each going one way. And, of course, Buses.

Your population still will be comprised largely of Unskilled and Skilled workers, with Execs taking already a prominent part. Heavy density Heavy industry (and also Manufacturing at 150 000 pop.), along with Medium density Offices and High Tech Industry will be the main job provider for them. The new Elite class will work for now only in Medium High Tech, and High Manufacturing a bit later, so no large need for them as of yet. Use the possibility to plan some charming Elite Low density neighborhoods with their nice houses!

Elites are, however, very picky about Services. You'll notice immediately that they require a lot of everything, even Retail. Make sure to place a High density Retail nearby, otherwise they won't be satisfied. Also, pay attention to Education - this service is not like the others, were you could simply switch basic service buildings for more advanced, as they become available. With Education, you need a full network of Elementary Schools and a comprehensive network of Middle schools, and later some High Schools as well. You can start utilizing the Satisfaction Layers to track the reach of your Services, and the potential effects of new buildings.

You would have noticed already how resource deficits affect your city businesses. If a resource the business needs for its activity is lacking, the business' profits will suffer. Open individual building panels to see if any resource in particular is 'Hard or Impossible to find'. The Resource panel should become very important to you - here you could see at a glance the total resource situation, and it woun't be -1, -2 tokens anymore! Keep an eye on the color of the balance indicators - don't allow any of them to become red, because this means critical situation!

And of course you will hit the limit of your trading capacities - the original City Link provides only 20 Freight and Passenger units (40 for an Island map), and you'll need much, much more in the future. So, establish new City Links as needed to increase your trading capacity.

Also at this point you'll notice that the Environment in the city starts slowly to deteriorate. The Air pollution in a Dirty city will be already affecting your more sensitive businesses, so to counter this you'll have your first Landmark available - the Brandenburg Gate. Place it carefully so as to benefit Offices and Hotels. Use all the subsequently available Landmarks the same way.

Into the Millions

Finally, your city will have grown quite a bit. 300 000+ population means that you will have taken over a good part of the map. You might want to 'verticalize' (go vertical, build up instead of out) at that point, meaning to replace Low and Middle density buildings with High density. This will lead to more traffic, of course, but you can't grow indefinitely via Low density houses - you'll run out of space.

So, it's time to plan and implement a comprehensive Public Transport network. You can use both Metro and Buses, keeping in mind that Metro has a much bigger carrying capacity (and much higher maintenance costs), so use it as you would a big capacity Road - to connect major districts in the city (such as the Industrial district with the Residential and Downtown districts). Then use Bus lines to 'feed' passengers to the central Metro line(s). Finally, where you can't (or don't want to) put Public transport, consider making one-way street systems.

At 500 000 population, you'll unlock the Highway - the largest car-transport route of the game. Use it sparingly, since this is the most expensive network (along with the Metro)! Its network is far more complicated to build than others, thanks to the interchanges you'll need to place on flat surfaces, and which are necessary to connect the Highway to the rest of the road network. If you planned ahead and left spaces in the city, you shouldn't have too much problems, though. Later, when you have exhausted the Road City Link resource, you'll need to star making Highway City links - be warned that these are some of the most expensive facilities in the game! A single Highway City link costs 50 000 c/mo, so plan accordingly.

You will notice that Service coverage is diminishing - this is not only due to traffic, but also to the fact the game scales up the requirements of your citizens. Now you'll need to deal with their 'real' needs, not modified by the hype of living in a new city. To satisfy people (and especially Elites), you'll need to use the top Service buildings, like the Police Headquarters, the large Fire station, the Hospital, etc., and supplement their coverage here and there with the lesser buildings. The Education network also will need to be extended, maybe with more than one High School, strategically placed Middle Schools and numerous Elementary Schools. Use the Private School sparingly (since it's very expensive), only to provide coverage to Elite Neighborhoods.

A complex combination of Leisure buildings will also be needed now. You'll need both types - Sports and Leisure, and several tier buildings of both types (for example a Basketball court, a Go Karts, a Swimming pool and a Tennis court). Remember that identical buildings' effects don't stack!

Freight and especially Passenger services will be a problem. If you have established the Industrial district close to the edges of the map (as suggested), then you shouldn't have problems with Freight, but the situation with Passenger services is different. Few people build their Office districts close to the edge of the map, where they could use unlimited Passengers - most will establish it closer to the residential districts, and downtowns, and this means that later in the game when traffic problems kick in, Passenger services quality will gradually drop. You have several options to overcome this problem - check the Freight and Passenger Services article for some tips.

At 500 000 you'll gain access to the "skyscrapers' in the game - Executives High density residences and High density Offices. The later will also boost a lot the need for Elites in the city, so you'll be able to make ample use of Medium density Elite Residences (if you're building Offices at all, that is). Again, try to place Elites in the best neighborhoods, with lots of parks, the best possible Service coverage, and at the same time away from pollution, both Noise and Air.

At 750 000 you'll unlock the last functional buildings - High density Elite residences and High density High Tech industry factories. The latter are the second big job provider for Elites, together with High density Offices. Again - if you're building a Dirty city you won't be building lots of Offices or High tech (if any), so you won't need that many Elites. So, instead of insisting on building Elite Highrises, concentrate on Low or Medium density, and on satisfying the few you have along with the Executives in the city.

At this point you'll be already hard pressed to provide all the resources the city needs - there will be lots of tokens required of everything, especially the goods your Industry and Services require to function. You will need to use your city specializations to acquire lots of spare tokens of production that you could sell to other cities, and finance your needs.

Finally, keep an eye on the Budget at all times - I recommend you keep a healthy Cashflow of +20 - 30000, which will prevent any surprises, and allow you to add expensive Services without endangering your finances. Be careful only when you build 'expensive' structures like Special bonus buildings, or Megastructures - their maintenance will punch your wallet hard, so keep that in mind! Again, it's VERY important to keep a positive Cashflow!

Expert mode

Expert mode can be activated from the Main Menu>Options>Miscellaneous. Its function is to unlock all buildings and roads from the beginning of the game, so once you go through the initial steps (described in the beginning of th Normal mode Section), you'll be able to develop your city practically without restrictions. If you know the intricacies of the game, you can set up a beautiful, well-planned city in under 10 minutes. If you do not know the economics of the game and how to balance the budget, you could go bankrupt in under 5 minutes.


Expert mode allows you to build large roads (even Highways) and High density residences of all classes and all types of industries from the very start of the city. You can also build all types of Services (including Leisure buildings). What you can't build is buildings that follow the Resource chains mechanics, such as a Water Treatment plant or an Incinerator, bonus production buildings such as Institutes, and Landmarks - all of these need to be unlocked either via resource production, or via reaching the required population.

So, Expert mode permits you to start developing the city the way you need from the very beginning, and not having to destroy stuff later just to free up space for more advanced buildings. You can establish your first City Link with a Large Avenue, or even an Expressway, you can build High density residences and also the Industries you mean to develop right from the start. Of course, this means also that your Population will increase many times faster than Normal mode, thus developing the city much faster.

Note that regardless of the fact that you can build all services, the 'Grace period' your citizens give you regarding them still stands - they won't require anything but Shops in the beginning of the game, then some basic Leisure and Health services at 2000, then Education, then Security, etc. So, you shouldn't build any Services in the beginning, until your citizens require them - this will save lots of cash and permit you to concentrate on developing the economy.


The huge possibilities also bring huge dangers, and the biggest of them is a financial meltdown. Simply put, your initial budget can't stand a grand development plan - it's still only 400 000 (as on Normal mode), but here that IS a problem.

You wouldn't have noticed this, of course, during the gradual development forced by Normal mode, but every High Density zone costs quite a lot of cash (much more than Low density) to even plop! The same is valid for Large roads like the Large Avenue and especially Expressway. So, if you're thinking of establishing your road network immediately, and then fill in all the spaces with High density buildings, think again - you'll go bankrupt before you've even realized what's wrong.

So, to summarize - your initial Budget is far from enough to support an 'explosive' development, even if you Pause the game. The very costs of plopping down road networks and High density zones will bring you down before you manage to start making a profit.

Gradual development

So, the best way to go (apart of cheating, of course), is to reign in your enthusiasm and develop more gradually. You will still be able to grow the city many times as fast as in Normal mode! Nevertheless, remember that the fact that all buildings are unlocked doesn't mean that the game mechanics don't apply - you simply have many more possibilities from the start, but you still need to take care of everything.

First, make your first City Link with a Large avenue. True - an Expressway would channel Freight and Passenger Services much better, but it'll also cost much more to maintain, and let's not forget that your first City Link connects through a long distance with the nucleus of your city. An island map won't have this problem, since there distances are much shorter, and you can build Harbors really close to the future city center.

Second, KNOW what your city is gonna be like! In Normal mode, you can afford some time to decide upon a development strategy, but if you had switched to Expert mode you should be sufficiently acquainted with the specifics of the game to be able to decide from the start the general direction your future city is gonna take.

I would recommend in the start building primarily Medium density buildings - they cost less to plop and their potential negative effects are not so bad. You could plop down a High density zone here and there, just don't use it exclusively! And, of course, develop the right types of industries already, with the right Residential classes. Even Elites won't complain from the lack of Services initially, due to the Grace period.

You should be able to bring your budget out of the red before you reach 5000 pop. - just focus on tax-revenue buildings like in Normal mode. Proceed to establish a stable economy, supported by a mature Road network. But refrain from building Highways until much later - you won't be using their huge capacity anyway. Build Services and especially Utilities ONLY after your city requires them!

Of course, there IS another way to dodge the limited Budget problem - build up a positive Cashflow, stabilize the economy and then leave the game running for couple of hours - you'll quickly grow your budget so that you can afford much more. Still, I consider that half cheating.

General comments

All things considered, the difference between Normal and Expert mode is the speed with which you can develop a city in the beginning (until 300 - 400 000 population). You should still follow the same guidelines and techniques in Expert mode as you did in Normal mode:

- Balanced economy (resource-wise)

- Balanced Budget

- Methodical development

I don't advise people to switch to Expert mode before having developed at least 3 - 4 mid-sized cities on different maps, and gotten the 'feel' of the game. And especially don't depend on previous Sim City experience! The economic system of Cities XL is very different, and you'll need to learn it (maybe not from scratch, but nevertheless learn it).

Of course, once you switch to Expert mode, you will start seeing Normal mode as unnecessary restriction - this is normal. Every veteran player uses Expert mode and doesn't even think of Normal.

Final words

I will conclude the guide with some general advices:

  1. Always think before placing buildings. Consider their effects, or their needs. Don't go excited and place stuff without care!
  2. Don't depend too much on Omnicorp to provide you with cash - their capabilities are limited, unless you use mods.
  3. Try to develop your city gradually - that is, take care of problems as they arise, and not when they become impossible to ignore anymore.

Cities XL is a game of many possibilities - for some it's too easy, while for others it's too difficult. But once you get acquainted with its mechanics, you'll appreciate the great freedom with which it allows you to be creative in planning and executing a city, while in the same time providing you with challenges to overcome. Modding is also changing rapidly the face of the game - there is a talented community which is starting to produce more and more mods capable of changing fundamentally the game. Keep an eye on Forums like the Official Forums and the XL Nation Forums for all upcoming stuff!

And, of course, don't stop learning about the game! Check all the other great articles in the Wiki for detailed information on everything there is in Cities XL!

Thank you for reading the Beginner's Guide. Happy city-building!

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