Age of Wonders 4 Discuss-All

I'm around 18 hours in now and loving it.

Chapter 3:


This was the first map I had trouble with and had to concede. Similar to Farscry I decided to go with an evil alignment civ - Chaos Orcs. I found myself just too weak compared to opponents and gave up around 50 turns in. I'm not sure if I should have persevered but I felt too far behind the other civs.

After that outcome I decided to go for one of the Tier 1 maps instead of retrying the story mission. I went with the first Fey-Blessed Realm on Easy:


I went with the Order/Nature Elves instead of building my own race. I found the Order spells easy to understand and ended up winning a Magic victory easily. In this mode you have all the victory conditions open to you and Magic just ended up being the fastest/easiest for how the game developed. I think I'm ready for the Normal difficulty now.

I'm 50 hours into this already, it's everything I wanted out of an Age of Wonders sequel, I'm already at that stage where I'm looking forward to just having more stuff to play with. More Tomes, more Cultures, more Traits, more Units. (Especially the later actually, if there's a thing that feels a little bit slight compared to past games so far, it's the bestiary.)

I loved Age of Wonders 3 after its DLC cycle finished, but found it a bit lacking when it first released, so I'm excited to see what they add to this new game considering it already feels so complete in many ways.

Finally. Finally! A game that does Master of Magic better than Master of Magic did in every way.

Such a beautiful foundation to do more stuff with, too. This one is going to have a mighty long tail.

Most outright fun build I have done is going Shock heavy Dark, sticking mainly to Shadow/Chaos and undead route. Those T1 zweihander units are just so satisfying to crank fools with.

If you want outright broken, go pure archery with High and the T1 archers. Take the accuracy body trait and the overwhelm tactics mind trait, then the swarmer and hunter perks (hunter lets you unlock a bonus rank that gives +1 range). Start with Horde tome, and as soon as you unlock the T2 astral tome that gives you amplified arrows it's a GG. All your heroes should put first 8 or so points into support skills, and all armies are just hero + 5 T1 archers.

I’m not super into these type of games but I thoroughly enjoyed one play through of Total Warhammer 2. Is AoW 4 more like TW2 or Heroes of Might and Magic 3?


It is much more like HoMM3, but about 15 years beyond that in game design. It's very well-designed. If you liked Civ, if you like Planetfall, Master of Magic, anything in those areas, it'll hit that note brilliantly.

The third story chapter was a big step up in difficulty over the second, took me a few tries before I could get past around halfway through without getting overwhelmed. It was in part extra challenging for me since I tend to be anything but a warmonger, and that third chapter (not a spoiler, it says so right up front when you start it) has a world condition of permanent war with everyone. Was also a fun challenge since I played as a custom faction of evil dwarves, which is also against type since I pretty much never play evil in any game. My head canon was that they aren't sadistic evil; they're pragmatic dwarven supremacists. Still evil (they are absolutely "the ends justify the means" about anything that advances their own civilization regardless of the cost to other civilizations), but with enough of a guardrail that I didn't feel 100% icky playing as them.

Continuing my trend of a new faction for every chapter, with the story blurb leading into chapter 4, I designed a faction of isolationist moon elves. They prefer diplomacy over war, but most importantly they prefer to have strong borders and be left alone. Kept the default two elven traits, and High for the political structure, but otherwise magic-focused in their other traits, so fairly similar to the pre-fabbed elven faction but just different enough to be my own.

Something odd I noticed partway into the fourth chapter is that, even though I picked Normal difficulty, all the AI's show as "AI: Hard" in their description. Not sure what's up with that...

Also, despite this scenario looking to be less "warfare with everyone all the time", I've met three factions and a free city so far and all of them are either at war with me or really hate me despite my attempts to be peaceful. Guess I'm gonna have to go all war machine again.

Thank you Robear.

On to chapter 3! I tried my hand at a tier 1 map with 7 total factions and managed a magic victory. That was fun, and I'm really enjoying this. I tend to auto battle everything unless my victory margin is super borderline, but so far that has been fine. I remember playing the first two in the series and enjoying them, but this is everything I want in this style of game.

Is there a benefit to not including everybody in your pantheon? Are there limited slots? I realized I can unlock different traits via the pantheon menu as well as more maps and cosmetics. Now I have to look more closely at it.

Does this game have multiplayer by email by chance? I have a friend in France that I used to play HoMM2 with all the time back in the 90's and we'd love to play another game like that, but the time difference makes live play all but impossible.

Pretty sure the game sold more copies in 4 days than any of the previous games. I think 169K was the previous total, and AoW4 is over 250K in four days.

From a quick google search it does seem to support that. Unsure of the details but based on this it will send an email notification when it's your turn in a multiplayer game which implies you can have a game going on a server for that sort of back and fourth play:

My history with the AoW series is that I played the first one, Shadow Magic, AoW 3, Planetfall, and now AoW4. The only one that I really enjoyed a lot was AoW3, and I probably disliked Planetfall the most - mods are too fidilly and make it cumbersome to see what units have, map was difficult to read. My thoughts on AoW 4 are definitely not as positive as the ones in this thread. My biggest gripe with the game, and the series in general is that I don't like the big multi-stack battles. I enjoy the small battles and would probably like up to about a 10 vs 10 battle. I've collected my posts from the other site I visit and tried to edit them so they make sense...

I finished my first game, the tutorial world bumped up to normal difficulty. I have mixed feelings - no fault of the game as it is well done. First, I liked AoW3 a lot. Planetfall not so much. I’ve been playing 4Xs since Civ 1, probably like many of you. They used to be my bread and butter, but over the years I have gotten less fond of them. Kinda makes me sad as I love the idea of them.

I think I like the more old school approach of city improvement - having my citizens work a tile, that I can improve. It just feels more granular and customizable. I know it’s tedious for some but when I’m only picking ‘this is my farm region, this is my mine region’, I just feel disconnected from it. All my cities felt the same in this tutorial game. AoW has always had less of the ‘city building / optimization’ than Civ - so maybe that is part of it.

That said, they have done a good job at making the map more readable over Planetfall, especially with how easy it is to zoom out to the paper map, click on the icons to get more info.

As expected with an AoW game, the combat is where it shines the most. I still like the early to mid game 1 army vs 1 army battles. I think I didn’t enjoy them as much as I could have because it was the tutorial game on normal difficulty. This being a 4X, it is sometimes hard to get consistently challenging battles because so many factors go into how hard its going to be - what I’ve researched, my economy, etc… Since I just autoresolved if it was expected to be a cakewalk, or later in the game when I was sieging and there were multiple armies, I didn’t play out as many of the battles as I thought I would. Again, a me problem.

Maybe things will gel better on other worlds / difficulties. I’m not giving up on getting into the game more, heck I bought the jumbo edition that comes with the future DLC, but my expectations are tempered as to how much I’ll love it. I wish I could get back to years ago where this would be a no brainer.

I’m getting ready to start the first story realm and figured I’d create my faction this time. I really appreciate the thought that went into defining the races, societies and the society traits.

I think I’m out. After playing the nice limited unit battles in Conquest of Eo, I just can’t get myself to play out these 3 stack vs 3 stack battles. I roll up to a city and see the multiple stacks and I’m just like yuk. Autoresolve. I like the battles, but not with more than a stack. I so wish they would add an option to limit to one stack to satisfy those who do and those that don’t liker big battles. I’d be good even if they bumped up the stack size to 8.

Unfortunately the rest of the game isn’t interesting enough to play if I end up autoresolving too many battles. It’s like the battles are too lopsided in my favor so I autoresolve or they get too big. Maybe if I find the right settings I can have more fun 1 stack battles before autoresolve takes over.

I cringe every time I see the name of a faction in AoW 4 as a Stellaris word salad. Stellaris is one of the last games I want someone to use as inspiration for a strategy game.

This is one of the few games where I think I prefer a military victory condition. I really dislike random ‘crises’ where units just spawn. Seems like another mechanic taken from Stellaris - and Planetfall I guess. I wouldn’t mind taking a rep hit from other factions, but don’t just spawn units.

To me, those alternate victory conditions exist so I don’t need to hunt down each faction on the map, not to throw a random arbitrary mass of units to attack me. The spawning units is just a band aid to cover up the fact that maybe the AI factions are incapable of stopping me.

I’m also OK with the alternate victory conditions being easy if I’ve put myself in a dominate position over the AI. If I go for it while the AI is still strong, then I should have a tough time holding them off (with out spawning random units). If I’ve pretty much cleaned the map of AI factions, then it seems OK that they can’t put up much of a resistance.

For my tastes, the faction progression through the game is too open ended. I think I would be good with having to select from a limited number of random books with the probability based upon my current affinities. So if I started off with a lot of nature, they would have a greater chance, but there’s a chance of anything popping up.

I started up another game, this time a random world playing on hard instead of normal difficulty. My thoughts are maybe if there are more challenging world battles, it may be enough to stay interesting and I won’t feel bad automating so many AI faction battles that have more than a stack per side.

Battles in Ancient Wonders is where the game shines. I went it and took a look what the enemy had, added some higher tier units to my heroes army and was still down 50-75 points on the power rankings vs their army. But I went in and won the battle with no losses, but I had to play carefully and make use of some of my units’ abilities. It was interesting without being a slog.

Public Service Announcement – I’m griping a lot in this post and it’s not AoW4’s fault. Some aspects of the game just don’t line up with my preferences, that doesn’t make it a bad game. If you’re interested, read on.

I finished my first custom world game:
Player Distance: Standard, Players 7, Difficulty: Hard, Continents, World Threat: Normal or Hard (I don’t recall).

Again, I enjoyed the early to mid game and then had diminishing enjoyment as I labored through the magic victory. So, I’m trying to figure out why it’s not clicking with me as much as AoW3 or other games of these types. In part I do think it’s because of the increased number of units in the battles - but I don’t think that is the entire story. Also, my below comments are not a criticism on the game, it is what it is, and if I try to think on it separate from my experience with it it does seem well done. It’s just one of those things where a game isn’t for everyone.

Even though the enchantment system is much less cumbersome than the Planetfall mod system, which is a positive in my view, it still doesn’t have that ease of recognition found in most other games with units. There are many ways a unit can differ from its vanilla self, so I still need to examine one of each unit in a battle to see exactly what it does. It’s not as simple as just remembering how Assyrian Archers differ from English ones.

This is all fine in the beginning - not a lot of units. As the game goes on there are more units in a battle, and the units I’ve seen in prior battles aren’t necessarily the same as they were before. I know in Planetfall people told me to just go with the flow and not worry too much about it, but my brain has a hard time letting go. Eventually I do just say the heck with it, but then I actually care less about what’s going on in the game and I’m going through the motions. I’m pretty much just looking at the overall power to see if the battle is feasible to win and then playing it by ear.

I know I’ve griped about Diablo and how I can’t get into it, and it was explained to me how Diablo is about creating your character and the game play is almost secondary. It almost seems like AoW4 may appeal in similar ways to people like building your Diablo character. Obviously there is a lot more gameplay in AoW4, but it seems like the people who love it are talking about how they just played a High Culture Halfling and can’t wait to try Dark Dwarves with a focus on Growth magic. My brain just doesn’t care about crafting some particular setup - to me all those factors just ends up being a Stellaris word salad faction that doesn’t mean anything to me. I get that that appeals to many people, but it’s not the appeal to me.

Eventually, I’m autoresolving everything and even if I watch the battle play out I’m just not interested. So I’m generally making sure I bring overwhelming force to the battles so I can autoresolve and feel pretty good about not taking many losses. Strangely enough a similar feeling applies to the economic side. There is something about an Old World or Civ game where it is just easy to see how I want to build my city. I know I can do this or that to a hill tile. I know this building may get a benefit from being near this other thing. With the province system in AoW4, I feel like it loses many of the things that make the city building interesting. The AoW series was always less about that part of a 4X, and that’s OK. But there are aspects of how the provinces are done that make it less interesting and readable to me. When the granularity on the map is an individual tile to be worked, it’s easy to decipher. A province in AoW 4 may have multiple aspects to it - forest or farmland or iron that just doesn’t stand out as much. Also, since the provinces are much bigger than an Old World tile, it’s much harder to visualize what I want the city to be. So eventually I just start playing a little more fast and loose about what I build, and then care less. I just see that my gold income is running low and figure I’ll build a mine next. Not much planning.

This following isn’t a complaint about AoW4 specifically, because a lot of games work this way from strategy / tactics games to action, but as the years go by it seems to bother me more and more. Too many games think that adding multiple damage types makes for interesting choices. To me, having a unit that does physical, or fire, or electrical damage and then trying to put that against a unit weak in that area isn’t interesting. Even though I love Dark Souls. I don’t like the different damage types and defenses, because that isn’t interesting to me. I don’t want to fail because I have a cold damage weapon and I’m fighting an enemy with good cold defense. I want to fail because I haven’t learned the way that enemy attacks and my blocking or dodging wasn’t good. Same in my strategy games - well not the blocking or dodging part

Now, maybe there isn’t anything a can do to get past these issues. In the immortal words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam”. Anyone have any thoughts on all this? Anyone have similar thoughts but have figured out ways for it not to bother them? Are some of my observations about how the game works just plain wrong because I overlooked something?

I think in any game of this type, you will experience the growth of the military, along with (in this one) the addition of more heroes (1 per stack, remember), economic growth, city growth, more spells... In many wargames (which is is *not*, really), there are a fixed number of units, perhaps with a few reinforcements/replacements over time. Maybe that's more your jam? If so, we have a thread for you. (As you know lol).

Other than that, I get it. This is the current exemplar of a genre with really two entries - Heroes of Might and Magic, and Age of Wonders. It's not Stellaris (I think you are kind of unfair in that area, since the factions and their traits, skills, spells, etc are not "word salad" but mixes of elements from established fantasy canons. It's not like they called the Dwarves "Specums" and renamed to Elves to "Bittlers" or something. You have an idea of what you're going to get when you pick a species and an archetype.)

But I think a game with one stack, one hero, and a ten unit limit would be both tiny and boring (unless it was one of those "play over lunch break" games). Okay, maybe that's unrealistic - how about "one stack, one hero, ten units" and one stack per fight? But.... What if I've got another stack, like, *right there* adjacent to the fight? Why *can't* they come in...? And so forth. It's kind of a weird approach to a game to put those bumpers in place just to keep tactical battles small.

Stick with your preferences, is my advice. And take a look at more trad wargames, I guess? Or even Panzer General-like games? That's in some ways what this game is like, but without global spells, economies (on the board, anyway) and with massive battles represented by two units pushing up against each other. Much tidier.

And if you want straight turn-based tactical, Battle Academy awaits. Or maybe you know all this. I forget. But those would be my gotos in your situation.

I did mean multiple heroes, each with up to 10 units, limiting battles to 1 stack per side. That way there would be enough unit variety with 10 units, but I wouldn't be fighting battle after battle of 12-18 units per side. There are a lot of battles, most of them I know the outcome before I fight them - give or take, maybe I lose a unit where I didn't think I would, or visa versa. Again, that is just my personal preference. The game isn't bad for taking a different course - it just makes it less of a game for me. Heck, I'd be good (I think) if when there were more than 10 units per side in the area that as one unit dies you could pick 1 to come in as a reinforcement. I don't think it would be weird to limit battles to a single stack - Civ 1 to 4 did that, as I'm sure other games have. Or maybe a solution is to make units more expensive so we can't field so many stacks of units, or give us reason to spread those stacks out? I know, I'm just wishing the game to be something it isn't - but it's because I really do like those battles (when they aren't too big).

I do occasionally play some wargames, mostly on the lighter side - Battle Academy, Unity of Command, Fantasy General 2 (until each battle started having too many units for my taste), Panzer Corps.

There are a lot of games with turn-based tactical battles that I do like - the new X-COMs, Phoenix Point, Trials of Fire, Warhammer Mechanicus, Invisible Inc. I guess in those they do tend to be smaller engagements.

Robear wrote:

It's not like they called the Dwarves "Specums" and renamed to Elves to "Bittlers" or something.

I now need an army of Specums and Bittlers. Sounds like some sort of family owned business. "Specums and Bittlers EST. 1837"

I have only completed the trial realm and about 30 turns into the first story realm, but I feel like the sticking point here is how big the reinforcement range is. In AoW3, all armies had to be touching to join in the same battle, making it a logistical challenge to bring in huge armies to a single conflict. This favored the defenders since you could set up three stacks so that no matter how they were attacked, you always had 18 units, and this limited the attacker to at most 18 units attacking that. From what I have experienced, reinforcement range is now like 2-3 hexes, making it quite simple to create these massive fights. This does help balance out that defenders advantage that existed before, but makes it much harder to have smaller scale fights. Maybe if they dropped reinforcement range to a single hex, it would feel less large scale tactics?

My complaint in the first story mission so far is how the AI expands. Instead of blobbing out, they creep like tendrils toward the juicier provinces, making it really hard to found new cities, and on the first map which is pretty tiny, this is a real issue. The AI also seems to have a massive food bonus over the player, their cities have way higher population than mine, even though I am a faction with increased food income. Overall it's a good idea that AI makes "good" cities targeting higher yield provinces, I just do like that they are 3-4 provinces away in a single direction while still having adjacent provinces unclaimed.

robc wrote:

Many things

All reasonable points. I agree that the early-game, small-scale combat is more tactically chewy than the later parts where it's almost always 3 full stacks on at least one side.

I view this entire game as about maximizing efficiency, and as that's a thing my brain finds deeply satisfying, it works splendidly for me.

Combat is rarely uncertain as to who will ultimately win (exception being late game when your 6-6-6 group is on its 3rd successive defense against a 6-6-6 in the same enemy turn, and you're fighting for your life), but because of how slow out-of-territory healing is, and the high density of encounters, it's about winning efficiently so that you can maintain a high combat power with no downtime. That's what keeps combat interesting even in the late game with the frequent 18v18s, and that's the reason why I almost never use auto-resolve. Even when auto-resolve wins, it generally suffers unnecessary wounds, and that kills your efficiency.

Same things goes for city's not about the Civ-like experience of forethoughtfully planning out exactly how to optimize the tiles so that you eventually wind up with a powerhouse city, it's about maximizing efficiency just over the next few turns. Do you take the Forester now to get the boost on the Granary this turn, or is it better to take a Quarry so that you'll have time to get a second Quarry by the time you'll be ready to build the production building which requires 2? Is it better to take the province that helps your city right now, or forfeit your next two picks on "blocker tiles" with no resource bonuses in order to prevent expansion of the adjacent city?

My cities don't develop personalities the way they do in Civ, because they don't really benefit much from master planning. I like that it's different. It's about small in-the-moment decisions and tradeoffs rather than doing all your thinking up front.

The other part of this quest for efficiency is in figuring out the broken combos and spell book routes that lead to punching above your weight, which is the part I love more than anything, but obviously you eventually get the whole system clocked and then that fun ends. I hope they introduce a Master of Orion-like mode where you get limited book choices and have to adapt.

I'd actually like to see some options for restrictions on the tomes too. Something like either requiring X affinity points to access a certain tier of that affinity, or you can only "jump" up 2 tiers in a given affinity at a time (so if you want to pick a Nature Tier III book, you need to have previously picked a Nature Tier I or II). Something to give each faction a bit more specific personality and/or make generalizing somewhat more meaningful. Being able to go Shadow affinity all the way and then jump straight to a top-tier Nature tome just doesn't quite feel right.

And sure, I as a player can certainly restrict myself that way (and in fact, I mostly already do -- I tend to pick 2 affinities to restrict myself with an occasional dip into a 3rd entering in at a lower point) because I enjoy the thematic restrictions and the challenge it presents. But I want to see my AI opponents following my restrictions too!

I also tend to get the most enjoyment out of battles between armies in the 6-12 unit range per side; once it's more than a dozen on each side, the battles start to get a little cumbersome to me (and really hits my PC hard for some reason; dipping down into the 20-30 frames per second range with some of these 18v18 battles! It's my CPU that's the bottleneck there, which is surprising since I'm on a 9700K which isn't exactly a slouch in the CPU department). I felt the same way in Planetfall, though some of those big battles made for some really epic and fun city sieges!

I wasn't quite as sold on provinces approach to city growth at first, but the more I play the more I find that there's a surprising amount of planning & strategy that can go into making the most of your province choices thanks to the special province improvements you unlock as you go along (so trying to maximize adjacency bonuses, but also trying to make efficient use of hitting the boost requirements for city buildings and also having the improvements you need for building requirements before you find yourself bottlenecked because dammit, I need another mine to build that Mint!). And then much later you can start to build Teleportation province improvements, and now that just threw all my careful planning out the window!

I know I'm still not making the most of Outposts yet -- since an Outpost isn't a city, it doesn't count against your city cap, and you can develop Outposts to a limited degree. I'm good about pushing exploration early but I need to get a lot better about taking advantage of aggressive Outpost-ing.

And I suppose I just suck, but the AI is surprisingly aggressive which has been keeping me on my toes, at least in the story missions. Sure, the tutorial and the first story mission were essentially pushovers, but it's been ramping up nicely since then on Normal difficulty (though again, in the fourth story world, all the AI's seem to be set to Hard difficulty even though I'm playing on Normal, so I really don't know what's up with that).

I also saw that there's some modding documentation and the devs included a couple example mods with the game, which is pretty swell of them to do! I haven't played around with making mods since Ye Oulde Morrowinde back in the early 00's, but this game is just hitting the right notes with me and I could actually see myself taking a stab at making some new content (tomes, for example), even if only just for me to play around with for fun and not to publish to the workshop.

Farscry wrote:

I'd actually like to see some options for restrictions on the tomes too. Something like either requiring X affinity points to access a certain tier of that affinity, or you can only "jump" up 2 tiers in a given affinity at a time (so if you want to pick a Nature Tier III book, you need to have previously picked a Nature Tier I or II).

I believe they intentionally force you up whole tiers at a time for balance reasons. T1 and especially T2 books contain a lot of powerful unit enchantments, and if you could keep picking T1 & T2 books you'd want to keep doing so until you had taken every enchantment for your chosen army mix. By limiting you to two of each tier before you get kicked up to T3, they prevent you from having archers (or whatever) with 5 enchantments on them in the mid-game and completely eating everything.

I mention archers, because the way the books are done, you can actually have them completely eating everything pretty early on, and consequently they're far and away the most dominant strategy I have discovered.

I'm pretty sure you can pick a lot of prior tier books by clicking the button to show all available books and not just pick them from the initial screen.

robc wrote:

I'm pretty sure you can pick a lot of prior tier books by clicking the button to show all available books and not just pick them from the initial screen.

Yes, you totally can. I did it in my last game.

robc wrote:

I'm pretty sure you can pick a lot of prior tier books by clicking the button to show all available books and not just pick them from the initial screen.

You sure can. It seems like a messy way to play, but I could see it being powerful in the right circumstances.

I think even overly buffed up tier 1 stacks are going to quickly get munched by the tier 4 and 5 units unlocked by later tomes though, so it'd likely be a rushers gambit.

robc wrote:

I'm pretty sure you can pick a lot of prior tier books by clicking the button to show all available books and not just pick them from the initial screen.


Well, then I'm going to go do an even more broken High archer game, just to see how far down to the floor we can get the pedal.

25 hours in I have a couple more observations:

1. Unit Enhancement spells are incredibly powerful and synergies with race transformations seem unbalanced in a fun way for a single player experience. In my last game I played necro goblins, incrementally increasing undead damage and life stealing. Then I was able to turn my races into undead and add all of those buffs to them all at once.

2. Decreasing unit costs is very important. There's multiple ways to decrease unit and summon upkeep costs and I've found them all to be worth it. For example there's an astral affinity that decreases summon costs and there's a shadow affinity that decreases undead cost. Summoned undead costs even less!

3. If you have increased vision you can pillage upgrades safely, increasing gold income and moving away when they bring reinforcements.

4. I missed the special province upgrades my first couple maps because they're below the list of buildings you can build. Don't sleep on those! They count as specific types of provinces (mines, conduits, etc) in addition to what they do so that can enable you to get boosts for other buildings. For example I had a city that only had one mine nearby. I was able to convert a farm to a different province upgrade that counted as a mine which then enabled me to boost building the other money making building (Mint I think?).

I caved on this one with the Epic Games coupon - it's amazingly polished. I hope they take the typical Paradox route of tons of (good) DLC, it looks like this game could keep me entertained for quite some time.