Age of Wonders 4

Age of Wonders 4

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Tips for Beginners
By アンジェル
General tips and race setup suggestion for beginners
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About this Guide
If you have not played similar games before, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information the game has to offer. Here are some basic tips to help you get started.
The Tips
1. Play the realms in order, as they are sorted by difficulty.

2. Do not be afraid to use the easy mode and then increase the difficulty as you get better.

3. Pay attention to several aspects, here are some hints

- you can queue build orders, but it is better not to; this way the gold is not "reserved" and you have a better overview
- level your hero with easy prey, as you would in a MOBA; seek out the easy NPC enemies for early levels and loot
- heal your troops and hero properly by letting them rest in your (friendly) domain
- focus on a playstyle as a beginner; do you want to go with spellcasting, strong units, summoning, undead and so on - the idea of how to play is important while you enjoy creating your race
- overwhelm the enemy in numbers; it is less about a 1:1 army, and more about placing multiple armies next to each other and then attacking strong enemies or picking on weak enemies.
- manual combat gives better results in difficult terrain where auto mode would fail; you can also learn a lot by watching the PCs replay.
- being a "good do-er" can make some scenarios easier; having NPCs on your side instead of having to fight through everyone.

4. My take on recommending you a beginner race setup

The race itself does not matter, as it is purely cosmetics and the gameplay relevant traits can be changed as you like. Noble High Orcs who wield magic and made out of peaceful diplomats? You got it. Cannibalistic Chaos Dwarfs with super buff astral bodies? Possible. Pick any "race skin" you like and pay attention to these gameplay traits.

Body: Keen-Sighted (+20% Accuracy for ranged physical attacks)
Mind: Overwhelm Tactics (+20% Critical Hit when units standing next to each other)

Feudal origin: great synergy of Standing Together (+20% Damage when units standing next to each other) with Overwhelm Tactics - this is easiest as you can pair archers/rangers and defenders/shield bearers well for straightforward combat

Ritual Cannibals - free healing during battle by eating corpses
Gifted Casters - great pick for beginners as spells are very strong during battle and can change the tide
alternative choice for Ritual Cannibals (if you dislike the evil alignment): Adapt Settlers

Good starting tomes
Tome of Roots (allrounder)
Tome of Enchantment (good unit focus)
Cryomancy and Pyromance - strong, but depending on enemies

I have seen some suggests the Tome of Horde, which I do not recommend for beginners. It can be good, but asks for a certain specific playstyle. Hence my more general/allrounder recommendations for beginners.

Tome of Roots, Enchantment and the elemental ones are great for unit enhancements while they also offer powerful offensive magic. You might be surprised how strong a weapon with poison, fire, freeze damage can be!

Whether you choose Champion or Wizard King is of little importance at first. Champion is more beginner friendly, but both are quite strong, with Wizard King being much more powerful in the offence.

Weapon for your hero
Sword and shield, spirit orb, bow - avoid crossbow and the rest as a beginner. You can still have fun by recruiting more heroes or changing your weapon.

Reason for choosing these weapons: they have multihits, which makes them more friendlier in regards of accuracy overall, especially as a beginner when you need to get used to which weapon type does what and how it works.

5. Last but not least, remember the advice you were given at school every day: read, read, read.

Take your time to read. The game will explain everything to you at a very comfortable pace, as long as you follow the "progression path" and take your time to read what does what.

In fact, much of the tutorial mission is so basic that you may even recognise some tips from other games such as Civilization.

Good luck and have fun!
A Fun to Play Beginner Scenario
Features
- relaxed allrounder playstyle with sheer unlimited time
- challenge can be adjusted by changing AI and world threat difficulty
- enough space to explore and expand
- overall plenty of time to learn the basics while also facing a challenge fitting for beginners

I named the realm Zetsugara - you may name it whatever you like

Realm Traits
Islands
Overgrown Realm
Rampant Undeath - works great with Curse of Undeath to give a challenge by hostile NPCs; alternative: Megafauna
Wonderous Past
Bannerlords
Regenerating Infestations
Curse of Undeath - alternative: Gigantism

Realm Settings
Player Distance - Far
Players - 4, you and three NPC rulers; alternative 5
Difficulty - Custom, set by your choice of NPC rulers which I recommend is made of 2 normal and 1 hard AI; adjust the difficulty here and with the world threat to your liking!

Factions
I recommend you create all factions, as part of your starting fun! You can also choose that "Rulers are generated" Random.

Game Flow
World Threat - Normal; can be adjusted to high if you like, but Curse of the Undeath is a great compensator, keeping aggressiveness of independants "normal" while also giving a good challenge

Victory Conditions
Disable everything - that way you can play "last ruler standing". You still get to do the content of the other victory conditions. They just will not trigger victory. That way you can get a feeling for e.g. how long it takes to build for Magic Victory.

Combat
Do not shy off of giving yourself as many retrys as you want while learning the game.

This realm setting is especially fun since you have three significantn difficulty sliders, which are world threat, AI ruler and Curse of the Undeath - while at the same time you have plenty of room to build and some sort of "geographical borders by sea". Give it a try and have fun!
Increase City Cap
Want to expand your empire? Not sure how to do it with a 3/3 city limit?

There is an Imperium perk that is often overlooked, called Expanded Governance.

Often overlooked is not because people simply miss it. People overlook the fact that they can use it more than once at an increased cost to the empire.


You can see here with its increased cost for a fitfh city.
Whispering Stone Extra Usage
Wondering what to do with a Whispering Stone when there is no Free City to convert?
Well, they are not entirely useless. You can use them bring happiness to your cities!

Healing Your Units


A common question from new players: How do I heal my units/armies? The answer is easier than you might think! Yes, there are spells and support units that can temporarily and permanently heal your units. But all you have to do is make your units and armies rest in your domain.

Aka make them stand in your area at the end of your turn.

All units generally have a very small passive health generation over time. However, it is so small that you will hardly notice that it is there at all. If your unit is resting in your domain at the end of your turn, it will get a significant boost to its health regeneration. As simple as that!
Auto-explore is Your Friend
It is highly recommended that you have at least two scouts. Not only will they help you with intelligence, but they can also collect resources lying around the map for you. Best of all, you do not have to do anything. Just leave them to their own devices with auto-exploration!



On larger maps it is recommended to have more scouts. I recommend 1 + 1 for each additional ruler (5 rulers = 5 scouts), as the number of rulers also determines the size of the map.
The resources they collect will make up for the investment in them.
Quest Tracking
Got a quest but have no idea where it is? There is a button in the Quests tab that will focus your camera on the target to help you find what you need for your quest.

Harbor for Naval Units
The very first coastal province (sea bordering land, not vice versa) your city annexes will have a Harbor. Every other gets a Fishery. With a Shipyard you can have specialised naval units.


Noteworthy Empire Skills


Lure of the Horde
Helps very good with replenishing your army during a campaign. And if you are lucky: kill a roaming single enemy scout and get a tier II unit. 50% chance is very high!



Wild Expansion
Free units with every provice. You can get powerful and special units this way.
This cool unit I got from a Magical Resource node!

Noteworthy Spells


Amplified Arrows
From the Tome of Amplification: Additional 30% damage to another target? Nothing could make your rangers more deadly! Combine it with Seeker Arrows and Zephyr Archer and make everyone fear your rangers!

Tomes of Magics Selection
Did you know that when you choose your next Tome of Magic in the research window, you can choose something other than the recommended tomes?

Yes, you can! The recommended tomes are usually just next in line for your overall progression towards a Tier V tome. If you would like to choose a tome that is not listed, click on the Show Tome Library button.



The Tome Library view provides you with an accessible list of all available Tomes of Magic, including detailed information on their effects and the requirements you need to meet to unlock them!



Tier I tomes are always available. To unlock a higher tier tome, you need to have two tomes from the previous tier. For Tier IV, you'll need six Affinity of the corresponding magic, while Tier V will require eight Affinity. You can only have one Tier V tome in a game session.
Choose your Tier V tome wisely!
Army Upkeep and Happiness
As your empire grows, so does your army, and the happiness of your citizens can suffer. These are two important aspects to keep in mind, and the game gives you helpful tools to do so.



Tip: You can cancel active enchantments to reduce mana upkeep for specific units. This is especially useful if you have several turns where you are sure you will not be going into battle with units that have that enchantment.

To check the stability of your cities, click on the city and then mouseover the opera mask, which shows whether your citizens are happy or not. Mouseover the links for more details.





Unit Rank
In the army overview, each unit's rank is represented by a medal on its portrait. Details you can see when you inspect a specific unit by right-clicking on their portrait.



When you mouseover the unit's rank - for this one "Soldier" (next to Tier III and the upkeep costs right below its name and type) - you can see details about the boni the unit can get with higher ranks.
Heroes and Units Experience Points
Ever wondered what determines how much experience your heroes and units get?



The amount of experience points awarded to your victorious heroes and units depends on the strategic power value of your enemies. Each unit you defeat has a value defined power value, according to their type and level - a bounty if you will - and when you win, the total value gained from the defeated enemies is divided between your heroes and units.

Additional experience points gained through special modifiers are added to this.

Here are some extra tips for You:
- the strategic power value is only an indicator of how strong and valuable a unit is compared to others; it is not a guarantee that a more powerful army with a high strategic power value will win against an army with a lower rating - in fact, I once won a battle via auto-resolve without any losses, even though it was shown as a High Risk Battle for me

- as the amount of experience points is shared between the participants in a battle, you can always opt out of armies you do not want to participate in by clicking on the checkboxes next to the army in the battle preparation screen (I have marked them for you in the screenshot above as they are easy to miss)

- considering the amount of experience required to level up a hero or unit, it is safe to say that the hero skill Experienced Leader, which gives your army units +2 experience per turn, is not worth it at the moment
Disband a Unit
Right-click on a unit to inspect its details and press the tiny disband button at the top right.



This action is useful if you no longer need a unit and want to reduce the overall cost of maintaining your army.
Combat Spells
Did you know that you can change your favourite combat spells? The GUI makes it easy for you to select the three spells you rely on most in battle. Do not forget the other spells!



Hero's Skills Exceeds Actionbar
If you find yourself in combat and your Hero has more skills than the visible action bar can display, use your mouse wheel! The action bar will automatically expand and you can scroll through all their skills, no matter how many they have!

Battle Inspector


Walked through some strange flowers? Your unit is distracted but you have no idea what it means aside from seeing that tiny status symbol? Time for an inspection!

All you need to do is double-click on the unit you want to inspect -> then you can mouseover the status you want to know more about



Same procedure when you want to check out how is the status of an enemy unit

Camouflage
A demo clip how Camouflage is perceived



Watch out for army leaders like this one, which will give you an extra advantage.

Flanking an Enemy
Flanking an enemy is always beneficial as it gives your unit a 25% attack boost. On the battlefield, the direction from which an enemy cannot be flanked is indicated by ground icons. The white eye icons represent the direction in which the unit is facing, and therefore cannot be flanked from that direction.



If the enemy unit has a retaliatory attack ready, these eye icons will change to red sword icons.
The best way to deal with these is with shock troops, which will cancel the retaliation, or with ranged attacks.
Split & Merge Armies
It is actually easier than you might have expected. That is probably the reason why it is easy to miss.
  • click on the army you want units to split from
  • click on the units you want to move
  • the units which you want to move out are highlighted
  • right-click on a target army or on a vacant tile as if you would move the army normally
  • only the highlighted units will move, leaving the rest of the army behind as another army
  • that was it

Casualty and Spawnkin/Supergrowth
A frequently asked and often misunderstood question is how Casualty works and how Spawnkin/Supergrowth affects the number of units in a formation. To get you started, take a look at these two screenshots:


The left screenshot shows the formation in its vanilla numbers. The right is after the Spawnkin transformation.

Spawnkin increases the number of units in the formation and increases the race's damage by +20%. Supergrowth reduces the number of units in the formation and boosts the race with +10 Health and an extra retaliatory attack (if the formation has one).

A common misconception is that the number of units in a formation has something to do with the mentioned boni. It just makes your formation more or less robust. This has to do with the Casualty mechanic, where a formation deals damage proportional to the number of units.

A full formation deals 100%. If a formation has five units when it is full and one goes down, it will only deal 80% damage proportionally. And the unit lost during battle cannot be restored by temporary health from combat healing.

So how does it affect your gameplay whether you use Spawnkin/Supergrowth or not?

Taking the Dark Warrior from above as an example, if it loses about 20-30% ~ of its health, it loses one unit, the combat power of the normal number of units in formation would be reduced by 1/3. If it had five units instead of three, it would still lose one unit, but with a higher combat power of 4/5. This makes the unit more robust overall.

Without Spawnkin the remaining attack power would be circa 66%.
With Spawnkin the remaining attack power would be 80% - a difference of 14% in this example.

While Supergrowth gives a boost to health points and retaliation, the reduced number of units makes the formation more vulnerable to losses - the opposite of Spawnkin.

The concept of Casualty in this game can be compared to how it works in Advance Wars.



In Nintendo's Advance Wars, the Casualty system works very similarly to Age of Wonders 4. They are still different, but the display of formation attack power and formation health is comparable.
Vassal Army Occupies Resource Node
When you annex a province that is close to a Vassal that was formerly a Free City, you will often find Vassal units occupying certain resource nodes. And they will continue to occupy them even after you have annexed the province, preventing you from making full use of them.



The screenshot shows friendly Vassal units occupying an Iron Vein. Note their banner, which clearly distinguish them from Marauder units (Vassal = castle icon | Marauder = skull icon).

So what do you do? Wage war because the Vassal does not seem to know what they are doing?
Well, not quite. By taking your army to the occupied resource node, you can convince them to vacate the place. Without a battle. Without war.

Build Your First Outpost
To do so you need to move your army, led by a hero, to the vacant tile where you want to create the outpost. Simply click on the tile and the option will become available.



The tile on which the outpost is built must not be directly adjacent to an occupied tile. Apart from that, you can build outposts anywhere.

Tip: Once you have triggered the build order, you can move your hero away from the tile.

Outposts are great for gathering resources and making claims without actually settling in a new town. They can also serve as frontline bases during a long campaign - helping your armies to rest in friendly territory. Whether temporary outposts or foundations for new cities.
They are one of your major tools towards map control!
Automate Production
Have you grown your empire to such an extent that it is difficult to manage it all on your own?
Try the Automate Production feature! The cities you have enabled in Automate Production will be taken care of by the AI.



You can choose a focus, for example if you have a city that was founded solely to produce gold, but is otherwise useless to you because it is too far from the front lines. By default, the AI will take a balanced approach.



Tip: as a beginner you can make it so, that your first outpost which turns into a freshly founded city is being managed entirely by the AI from the beginning. That way you can observe and learn from how the AI is doing the basics.
City Automation
When you absorb a hostile city and its provinces into your empire, instead of razing it or vassalising it, remember to check the city automation!

After absorbing a city, it will not default back to manual, but will most likely stay with "Balanced Income". This leaves the decision ofabout which province to annex next for the city entirely to the AI.

Replace Province Improvement
Most improvements for your provinces can be replaced if necessary.



You can choose a replacement either from the overview or directly by selecting a province and then clicking on the "cycle" button.

Also note how useful the summary is, which can be found in the bottom left-hand corner, giving you useful information to help you decide which improvement to build next.

Later, when you are able to build province improvements as a build order from your main city screen, the projected income information will be very useful in giving you an idea of how the changes you wish to make will affect your economy. Making best use of the adjacent boni.

Access Resources from Build Order
In case you missed my tip about not placing build orders, you can still cancel your build orders to get your resources back. Anything other than the build in progress will return all resources when cancelled.



This is an important action to remember for those times when you suddenly find yourself in dire straits, but still have build orders waiting to be processed. Same applies for recruitments
Find a Ruined Province Easier
After a long war, it can be difficult to find damaged improvements in the provinces, especially when there are so many or so little. So it is easy to miss one. Try using the Economic Overview for extra help. If a province's improvement is damaged, you can tell by the missing icon above the province.

Cut Off the Enemy's Income
On the other hand, cutting off an enemy's resource income by pillaging their province improvements is a very effective tactic to reduce their resistance. I recommend fast Tier I units, which can be used to spread out and pillaging province improvements with remarkable speed.



Even if you lose a few units in the process by letting them run alone, weak and unprotected, you can still cripple the enemy very effectively, making it extremely difficult for them to produce reinforcements while they face economic ruin.
Ancient Wonder too hard?
The difficulty of the challenge is indicated by the rank of the Ancient Wonder. Bronze, Silver or Gold - by the number of skulls in the description. You can also get a good idea of the guard's army composition by exploring, before deciding whether to take on the challenge or retreat and return later with a stronger army.





Tip: If an Ancient Wonder is too difficult for you, do not despair. You can have as many tries as you need. And each time you deal damage to the guardians, the damage done will persist until the next time you challenge them. They simply do not recover. In this way, you can wear them down over time, no matter how strong they are.

Making Decisions
When making dialogue decision, you can mouseover the potential options to see the possible* consequences and more details - such as: what is that unit you can get as reward?



If an option is greyed out, that means that you do not fulfill the necessary requirements to use it.

* most options have a fixed outcome - but there are events where you only have a chance of success, which is also affected by your moral alignment





Yikes...!

If you are wondering if you could try again and get a better result by reloading the same turn - it will not work. The probability is correct, but the outcome is fixed for each turn with an information seed. If you want to try again, it is best to reload your save game and try again sometime in the future. Stronger affinities (the example above is dependant on Astral Affinity e.g.) and a good moral alignment can improve the odds in your favour.
Price of War
Often overlooked is the cost of war, beyond the obvious resources and manpower you bring to the battlefield. If you go to war without good reason, you will suffer a penalty to your Imperium income and your reputation with the Free Cities.

On the other hand, if you declare a war that appears to be justified, it can be a boon to your reputation and your Imperium. All what is left then is to win that war.



Fabricated justifications work as good as actual fact-based reasons...
Spending Strategic Spells Points
Strategic Spells cost Mana, Souls, Strategic Spells Points or "Map Spell Points" and eventually preparation time in turns. Spells that take only one turn to prepare are ready immediately, provided you have enough Strategic Spell Points available. If not, it will take as many turns as necessary to reserve enough Strategic Spell Points to meet the requirements.

Take a look at this example.



I want to summon a Phase Beast which costs 200 Mana, 200 Strategic Spell Points, ready to go. As I have already have spent some of my Strategic Spell Points this turn, I have 105. By clicking on the spell the 105 points are now reserved. Since my income is 355 Strategic Spell Points per turn, the spell will be definitely be ready by next turn at the latest.



This is what happened in this example.

In early stages of a session, you will often find yourself more likely in a situation where a Strategic Spell costs, say, 250 points, but your income per turn is only 70. So casting the spell would need to reserve the Strategic Spell Points worth < 4 turns, making the spell ready by the beginning of the fourth turn after triggering.

You can also create a spell queue and prepare spells in advance, as in paying the cost but holding off on casting them. This allows you to use otherwise unused Strategic Points well into the future.

For example, if you have 200 of your 300 Strategic Points left and you do not use them, they will be gone next turn. However, if you already know that you will definitely cast this or that in the future, you can reserve the points now. But only if you can afford to reserve the other resources!
Affinity Tree Growth
The growth of the Affinity Tree is affected by how many Affinity Points you have for the corresponding affinities.





Although the image above is a late-game screenshot, with almost everything unlocked, you can still see that the Materium branch has not yet grown out, corresponding to my low Materium affinity by number and the fact I have unlocked it much later than everything else.

The allocation of Affinity Points starts at the faction creation and is affected by the Tome of Magics you choose, culture, origin, event choices, world actions, province improvements and buildings, and heroes.





You can see in the image that the Thundercats start with a Materium/Shadow (2/2) and Chaos/Nature (1/1) mix. Lacking Order and Astral.



An example of a hero who provides Affinity growth

Only the trunk, in grey, does not require Affinity Points for general empire perks. For everything else: the growth rate of the branch is directly affected. If you have no Affinity Points in a particular branch, it will not grow at all.

Having a strong affinity also unlocks event options.



Make Vassal Cities
Need some extra income, but the city cap is preventing you from expanding further? Make Vassal Cities is the solution ! You will not get as much out of them as you would from a real city. But with the right Imperium perks and the fact that Vassal Cities do not count towards your city cap, you can still get a lot out of them.

Simply create an outpost and and settle a city. You can vassalise the city as soon as it is built. Soon they will be producing an extra income for you while they manage themselves.


Faster Units Movements
Did you know that you can increase the speed at which your units move around the world map by simply double-right-clicking? Right-click to move your unit to the tile you want. Double-right-click to speed them up.

Tip: When exploring the fog of war, it makes sense to move "slowly", tile by tile, without using up all your action points at once. This way you can avoid being ambushed by enemy forces. Especially during wars it is the better tactic for not running your army into forces which might be stronger than you thought. The Scry Enemy spell can be very useful!



Scry Enemy lets you see what the hostile unit sees.
When you are lucky and use it right, it is an awesome tool for intelligence gathering!


Also, the AI leaders seem to be shy about moving their units.
If you zoom out to the world map screen during their turn, they will move their units faster.



Feels weird that it works. But it works. Especially when their units are otherwise visible for you.
Adjusting Hero Appearance
You can change the appearance of your ruler and heroes during the game.

To do this, right-click on their portrait in the army and select Adjust Appearance.



Heroes recruited from the Pantheon are an exception. Theoe have a fixed appearance and cannot be changed.

Please note that it is currently not possible to change the appearance of heroes and rulers during a multiplayer session.

Also: when your ruler ascends, they will ascend with their original appearance, before any changes or alterations were made mid-game. It is unclear whether this works as intended at the moment.
Reset Hero Skills
Make good use of the Reset Skills feature for heroes. Especially later in the game, you may want to check which new useful skills have become available due to advanced research.



Tip: A hero's first skill reset is always free. This gives you maximum flexibility when recruiting. For example, you could take a hero that started out as an archer and train him to be a two-handed melee fighter. After the first time, each skill reset will cost 50 Imperium per skill point spent.
Exempt Ruler from Transformation
Champions will always transform with their original race.
Wizard Kings, on the other hand, can always be exempted from transformation.



The option which is easy to miss can be found above the drop-down-menu for race selection when applying a transformation
Encyclopedia
A lot is taught through the game's built-in tutorial mechanic. Much more is learned by doing. For everything else, there is the very helpful Encyclopedia, which you can open to look up information and details you may have missed.



The "i" you can find pretty much on every screen.



Here I looked up the effects of happiness on my empire.

Tip: take your time. The game is not meant to be rushed. Here are some details that are easy to miss if you do not know to look for them:



The Library access in the Affinity Tree overview allows you to review the Tomes of Magics



Many Tomes of Magics come with instant-boni which are unlocked immediately. Here is a special hero skill highlighted you can train your hero for - a powerful mage trait.
About AI Rulers
An excerpt from my other guide
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2976522470
Omnious AI
The AI/NPC opponents in Age of Wonders 4 are rudimentary, with very limited "personality" priorities. Okay, Okay - let us take a step back here! What I mean is that the AI has no strategy. None at all. It is a very rudimentary "construct" that focuses on making the "best decision possible at the moment", regardless of what a human would consider logical in the long term. For example, if the best choice for the AI right now is to build a gold mine, even though it would actually need mana to be successful, it will still build a mine, simply because it is "not thinking about tomorrow". They do not remember, they do not dream, they do not plan. Keeping this in mind will help you identify questionable AI decisions that lead to the results you are seeing.

At first this may sound repetitive and eventually boring, if that is what the AI has to offer. It is... no doubts. But it can still be fun, thanks to the "personality" priority sets. On top of the AI's core behaviour, you can find "personality" patterns that they use, depending on how their faction's culture and origin are configured, and maybe a grain of luck. A barbarian AI leader who is a ruthless raider is more likely to adopt a warlord personality pattern, while a high origin AI leader who is a chosen uniter is more likely to adopt a diplomat personality pattern.

These patterns influence the AI's aggressiveness and decisions on a superficial level, but can still have a strong impact on your overall experience, giving you a huge number of possible variations. They will also try to achieve the victory condition that suits their personality best within a default victory conditions game session.

Does the AI cheat?
Yes, they do! But contrary to popular belief, the way they gain advantage, depending on the difficulty level you set, is entirely in the form of discounts. They cannot create units out of thin air. They do not have unlimited resources. And, for the sake of fairness, they do not have handicaps that can be applied to human players. Without these discounts, the AI would end up economically bankrupt, as it would always be at a disadvantage to a human player who simply uses foresight in their gameplay.

Hm? The AI should be able to do better when you think of AI for chess? A very common misconception. Reasoning: even the best AI capable of playing chess uses the same rudimentary basic behaviour. The difference lies in their ability and access to data to calculate countless possibilities many moves in advance. But they can only do this because chess is severely limited in its complexity compared to a modern computer game. I shudder to think how long it would take the AI to make its move if it had to calculate every possible next move, with X number of players, random "probability" seeds and - well - human behaviour, which is infinite in its potential to deviate from the most optimal path.

In short, there is not much to expect from an AI here. Thankfully, the game does offer multiplayer.

If you ever see the AI do something that surprises you, such as manifesting units out of thin air, remember that if the AI can do it, you can do it too. But they just got a discount. No god mode. And the magic of e.g. concealment effects can easily be mistaken for units appearing out of nowhere ~

Oh, and since the AI is incapable of planning and therefore unable to trade realistically, it uses set templates to skill and equip its heroes. While a player can equip this and that and skill their heroes manually, the AI only has access to certain hero builds that come with certain item sets. As a result, it is common to see multiple AI heroes with the same items, even items that you would not expect to see more than once in the course of a game. This also leads to multiple heroes and therefore armies with concealment rings.
Official AoW4 Wiki
Check also the official Age of Wonders 4 Wiki hosted by the publisher and created by the developers and great community! A great and easy source for details about the game - together with the ingame Encyclopedia a powerful knowledge combo!

https://aow4.paradoxwikis.com/Age_of_Wonders_4_Wiki

Pantheon and Story Progression
Pantheon Progression unlocks ruler cosmetics among other things. Rewarding you for exploring the game as much as possible while also giving you means for a more extended replayability of the game.



The laurel symbol tells you that that culture origin Mana Addicts is a Pantheon reward. One of my favourites, which allows spell users to enable Life Steal for their units during combat. Making it a very powerful culture origin.

As you progress through the Story Realms, more Story Realms will be unlocked until you complete the game's "Introductory Story". A sort of campaign, if you will. The special Story Realms are very different from normal gameplay, as they come with special quests that are not normally available in normal gameplay. Completing them will also grant you additional pre-made factions for your roster.

Please note that the Story Realms are designed to be very beginner friendly. As you become more experienced with the game, they may not be as rewarding as a custom realm. However, they provide a safe and easy environment in which to learn the ropes and build your Pantheon Progression.

Tip: If you open the menu during a session by pressing Escape, you can see how much Pantheon experience your current session is worth.



Each game played will grant the following amount of experience to the Pantheon:
  • 500 per victory
  • 250 per defeat (surrender does not count)
  • 100 per empire defeated
  • 25 per Ancient Wonder cleared
  • 25 per Infestation destroyed
  • 25 per Tome unlocked
  • 10 per Hero level gained
  • 10 per Hero defeated
  • 10 per Free City allegiance improved
  • 50 per Free City vassalized
Additional experience will be given for the difficulty of the realm, unless cheats have been used



Once you have enough Pantheon points, you can unlock the rewards listed next to each other. There are no "prerequisites" or anything like that - you can go down, left, right, up and down the reward tree and unlock what you want first.
Pantheon Ascension - Never Surrender
In order for your ruler to ascend to the Pantheon, you must win a game. If you surrender or lose the game in any way, reloading a previous save game will not help. Yes, it is a sort of "Ironman mode". Only sort of, as the trigger only reacts if you have actually lost a game. Not a battle.



If you want to pause your session, just save and exit.
Do not touch the Surrender button. That is for multiplayer.
Create Factions without Starting a Game
Currently, in what may be a design flaw in the initial release, it appears that you cannot create a new faction without starting a new game. Well, this is true if you are trying to get to the faction editor from the pre-made realms.

If you start with a custom realm, there is a tab where you can create as many factions as you like without ever starting a game. This is how you do it:

Start by selecting New Game -> Create Realm

There you select Advanced Settings




Switch to the Factions tab and there click on an empty portrait for Random Ruler



et voila ~ you are at the faction creator



Now when you confirm with Onward, you get back to the Factions tab of the realm creator



You can repeat the process as often as you want - either by clicking on an empty portrait or clicking on the portrait of the ruler of the faction you just created! - each faction created this way is completed and properly saved in your Custom Factions selection available for you next time you play



Enjoy!

Tip: Did you know that you can choose a custom title for your ruler?

Economic Superiority
I would like to remind you not to underestimate economic superiority as a viable alternative to strong military power. Under the right conditions, you can instantly spawn large numbers of units or occupy territories and make incredibly powerful strategic moves.



What you see above is a city I created from an outpost, bordering an opponent far away from my throne city. What is special about the scenery you see is that it is only two turns since the city was created from an outpost.

How did I achieve this? I saved Imperium . There was no perk I needed at the time, so I held back to use the special perks for instant spawns if needed. Since I had so much, I invested the unused Imperium to attract population to this new city. In two turns, my city grew so large that it effectively cut off my opponent's ability to expand in that direction.
Boost with Gold
If you need to speed up your production, you can spend a significant amount of Gold to immediately complete a build order.

Camera Basics
Not really a tip, but more of a refresher.
Remember that you can rotate your camera with Q and E, zoom in and out with the mouse wheel, and reset with R. Enjoy the beautiful views of your realm!

Hotseat
Want to play multiplayer the old-fashioned way with just one PC? No problem. The game has you covered! All you have to do is select two human-controlled rulers in the advanced settings when you create your custom realm/game session. Then you can jump straight into multiplayer, just like before the internet.



Great for when you get bored on your travels but have a laptop with Steam Offline and the game with you! And of course: superb on Steam Deck!
Sign-Up Content
Free cosmetic for subscribing to the Paradox Age of Wonders 4 newsletter!
https://www.paradoxinteractive.com/games/age-of-wonders-4/about
After subscribing and confirming your subscription, you get a Steam code via email which unlocks the item as free content add-on.

The newsletter subscription can be cancelled at any time and is of course free!



A simple non-gameplay-affecting cosmetic for your Wizard King* to pick as decoration.

* Champions cannot use it as they are technically no Godir yet before they ascend to the Pantheon -> hence for Wizard Kings only

This is what it looks like in the welcome email once you have confirmed your subscription:





Redeem the code either via your Steam client or via this page on the Steam website:
https://store.steampowered.com/account/registerkey?key=

In case you have not received the code by email:
Originally posted by Paradox:
It seems that due to a backend issue we've had some keys end up in a bit of a "magic" state meaning they won't be sent out via mail nor show up on your account page ><. We can fix this manually but you need to reach out to our helpdesk ( support.paradoxplaza.com ). It uses your Paradox account so sign in with the same account that placed the order, tell my team you're missing your pre order key and we'll get back to you as fast as we humanly can!
Auto-Skip Intro Video
Whenever you choose to Resume your ongoing session via the Paradox Launcher, you will not see the video. But it will appear every time you launch the game by normal means. Unfortunately, Steam's Remote Play pop-up tends to be in the way of the skip button.

How about you skip it indefinitely? Does it sound good to you? If yes follow these steps:

Right-click on the game in your Steam Library -> select Manage -> Browse Local Files



Find the video file in the subfolder

..\Age of Wonders 4\Content\Title\Videos\Frontend\IntroVideo.webm

Rename that file to e.g. IntroVideo.off

or (if you have the file extensions hidden)

IntroVideo -> NoIntro


That will disable the intro video from showing up in the future and instead you might spot a faint message of the developers saying You shouldn't be able to see this :D

Playsets - Quick Mod Switch
This tip is useful if you play multiplayer with different people, or if you use mods in multiplayer that you do not use in singleplayer (or vice versa). You can use the Paradox Launcher to create "playsets". These are saved setups that allow you to start the game with your desired selection of mods. This saves you from having to manually turn them on and off each time. Simply select the playset you want to use with your favourite setup and you are ready to go!


This might be of interest for you as well
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2980797677
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2978680677
Mods from other Sources than Steam
To use mods from sources other than Steam, all you need to do is copy the mod folder to

..\Documents\Paradox Interactive\Age of Wonders 4\Mods
(if it does not already exist, you will need to create the Mods subfolder)

You can then use the launcher to add any mods you put there.



Save Game Location
An excerpt from my other guide for Age of Wonders 4
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2971219684
But since it is frequently asked by beginners, I share this information here too:

Cloud: https://store.steampowered.com/account/remotestorageapp/?appid=1669000

Local: ..\Steam\userdata\YOURID\1669000\remote
(replace YOURID with your personal actual Steam ID number)

My Steam folder is located on a special SSD dedicated to games only. If you kept the default settings during installation of Steam, you might find yours at your OS storage drive within

C:\Program Files (x86)\

It would be something like this

C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\userdata\YOURID\1669000\remote

In addition to that Game Logs and Global Settings (e.g. video options) can be found here
(the other profile settings you find in the Save Game Location)

Logs
..\Documents\Paradox Interactive\Age of Wonders 4\Logs

Global Settings
..\Documents\Paradox Interactive\Age of Wonders 4\Config
Good Overview Videos
The official Age of Wonders 4 YouTube channel has good "tutorial videos", which give you a good overview of all features the game has to offer. Like this one


For the whole playlist, check this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRTXwMeejg4&list=PLWGWMn-MF2zJkk0-R-9tBsavYW0Qf5CGO
Link Tip
Age of Wonders 4 Database
https://minionsart.github.io/aow4db



Pretty cool presentation. Best viewed in a desktop browser.
Getting Started, Getting Better - Part I
WIP - Work in Progress
Hello everyone, you are probably wondering about this section of the guide and what it is supposed to be. I was very reluctant to write this and I am still not sure if it is of any value to any of you out there. This is because the content is pretty redundant to my original tips. However, I have seen people on the forums asking how to get better at the game. And each time I feel sorry for them, as I get the impression that they are either being inundated with contradictory or confusing information, or even being given what I consider to be bad advice*. I am going to write and tell you a lot about what I think is a good way to enjoy the game as a beginner, while also giving you some pointers on what to look out for at the start and how to make good use of my tips. I hope this is useful. For anyone? Anyroads. Onwards, Godir!

*everything that follows is biased by my own personal preferences - it does not mean that everything is right, or that there is an absolute way to do it - best way to enjoy the game: play the game your way!

Frequently Asked Question by people who want to improve: how should I build?
Builds & Meta. Two words I despise as a veteran gamer, because their very existence implies that "there is only one way to play this" or "this is the strongest possible". The term "meta" should not even be used in this context.

Before I disgress too much already: there is no exact standard build order/order queue that you can always use. Simply because the start of each game session is influenced by a number of factors that require adaptability. Yes, there are some standards - simplifications - but going into the game with a fixed build order and not taking into account the starting conditions is a big minus.

Factors which influences builds/build orders are:

Number of players
The more players there are, the more strategies and tactics you will have to adapt to. The map generator, unless you are playing Story Realms, gives you a semi-fixed starting position. Knowing this can give you a vague idea of how many dangers you have to deal with and where they come from. At this point, a player can start to think about what kind of victory they want to achieve.

The rule of thumb is:
Military Victory is easiest with a small number of players.
Score Victory is easiest with a large number of players.
Magic Victory is the most difficult, as it requires the most tactical finesse in terms of timing and execution.
Important note: Playing against the AI is different from playing against humans -> so Magic Victory is often the easiest way to win, as building towards it also counts towards Score Victory.

Starting Location
As the maps are randomly generated with only a few guidelines, every game start can be slightly different. The exception to this is the Story Realms, which follow a stricter pattern to allow scripted quests to work properly.

Have a look at this



You can see provinces which features
  • Pastures
  • Gold Vein
  • Iron Vein
  • Forests
  • Coast
  • Plains
  • Mountain Edge
  • Rocky
  • even some Snowfield

It is not always that simple/difficult. At least here you have the freedom to choose which province to annex next. But you also have to consider the wider environment, which brings us to the next point.

Exploration - Where are we?
Simply looking at the starting point, or rather the visible parts of the map that are not hidden or obscured by the fog of war, is not enough. Fortunately, figuring out the basics of the map is not too difficult, as long as you pay attention.



No. I did not mean the overview map where you can see everything with symbols and stuff. That works best when you have actually explored more. But it can help with visibility if you need it - for example, you can see that we have an infestation nearby. The red border is a little more visible for me than on the normal map with its glow.

What I mean is this view



Beautiful! Is it not? Even without having these parts of the map revealed, moving the camera and looking at the map will give you clues about the map borders, geography and special landmarks. If you listen carefully, you can even hear the difference in the ambient sounds, allowing you to tell where the coast or sea is, where jungle or mountainsare, without seeing them!

Allowing you for planning you expansion and your heroes' adventure.



Information gathering and getting a feel for the lay of the hand is one the main purposes of your scouts. The other is: treasure! The world map is full of loot just waiting to be picked up. First come, first served!



These loot caches are one of the main reasons for sending out your scouts as early as possible. Fortunately, you do not have to control them all yourself, as they do a good job of auto-exploration. Even picking up loot caches is something they can reliably do on their own. As mentioned in a tip above: I recommend one scout per player for the map. If you are playing with two additional AI/human players, that would make three scouts (the one you start with + two extra).
Getting Started, Getting Better - Part II
Next, let us take a closer look at our starting buildings.



The basic setup is usually the same for everyone. Some building choices may vary depending on your faction's culture and what you have researched. You will also never see the full selection at once, and some upgrades are hidden until you have built the buildings they require. The Town Hall upgrades, for example, are the most important for your city's developement on the long run.

Let us focus on the very basics about what you see there first. From top to bottom:

Blacksmith -> Draft
Library -> Knowledge
Shrine -> Mana
Stonemason -> Production

Town Hall -> city is not meeting the needed requirements yet

Vendor -> Gold
Worker's Farmstead -> Food

Produce Merchandise is a "placeholder", in case you decide that your city should not build anything for the time being. Ideally, this will be rarely used and your city will keep producing whenever it can. Never stop improving until everything is the best of the best.

Now... let us see how we can make this information beginner friendly... each building generates corresponding points, Draft points, Knowledge points and so on. I will leave out the "points" part to make it easier on the eyes when reading.

Draft
Draft cannot be stored. The amount of Draft you have affects how fast you can build army units.

Here is an example:
If a unit costs 80 Draft and 100 Gold, and your city produces 50 Draft, it will take two turns until the unit is ready.

T1: 50/80 Draft
T2: 100/80 Draft -> earliest when the accumulated Draft suffices to fulfill the needed 80 for that unit.

Note: the full cost of the Gold will be deducted immediately.

Knowledge
Each field of research "costs" Knowledge. Similar to the Draft it needs to accumulate. But other than Draft, this resource gets stored automatically (which means: in theory you can pause your research but will not lose the Knowledge), as this is a global resource, while the Draft is only for the city itself.

Mana
Another global resource which gets stored automatically. Rule of thumb: global resources gets stored. Local ones have to be actively used to accumulate. Mana is needed for combat and world map spells, enchantments and the costs and upkeep for units of magic origin.

Production
Production cannot be stored. It is a resource similar to Draft, but used for buildings instead of army units. The higher your Production is, the faster you can build buildings and Province Improvements.

Gold
Gold is used for buildings, army units and many events. Apart from being an essential resource, its main use is to speed up the production of army units and buildings, as well as the Rally, where you can hire troops from Ancient Wonders to join you.

Food
Food cannot be stored and, like draft and production, is a resource limited to the city that produces it. Its only active use is to increase the population of the city, allowing you to annex more provinces and gain more resource sources in the process. Despite its limited tactical value, it is your second most important resource for growth.

Imperium and Souls
Buildings that generate Imperium and Souls are not available for construction at the start of the game. Imperium is your most valuable resource for growing your empire, as it is needed to access the empire perks you cannot afford to ignore. It can also be used to significantly increase the population growth of a city.

Souls are an optional resource for necromancy. Its value depends on your play style and can vary from "useless" to "great advantage" as Souls can replace other resources.

Summary
Food , Production and Draft
are resources which are used by the producing city itself - local

Imperium , Gold , Mana , Knowledge and Souls
on the other hand are shared throughout the empire - global

For simplicity's sake, I will not go into detail about additional special buildings for now, as this introduction is intended for beginners. I have not forgotten about World Map Spell Points , Spelljammers and so on. It is just not the right time for them when you are still learning about the game.

Remember that the city overview always provides you with easily accessible information about the city's resource output, structures and province improvements.

Getting Started, Getting Better - Part III
Every resource is valuable, with their actual value depends heavily on your current / long-term strategy and needs. Therefore a fixed build order from the start makes no sense.

At the beginning of your game session, when you start with a single city, Food and Production are your most valuable resources, as it is in your best interest to expand and acquire more resources as quickly as possible.

Knowledge is of continous importance, as higher Tiers of Tomes of Magics grant you access to more powerful units, spells and benefits.

Gold , Mana , Souls and Draft are particularly important when it comes time to take up arms. Maintaining combat spells and magical units requires large amounts of Mana , while a good Draft is necessary to maintain a stable military supply.