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Age of Wonders 4 Dev Diary #21 - Watcher Update: Research and Magic Victory

Hi champions, wizard kings and dragon lords! I’m Bas, a game designer at Triumph who has written some Development Journals in the past about Sieges and Ancient Wonders. Today we’re going to be taking a look at some of the major changes we’re working on for the upcoming Watcher update. In particular updates to the Research system, and a shiny new Magic victory system featuring Gold Ancient Wonders! Some of these changes were put into the open beta last week, while others will be coming some time today. Make sure to keep an eye for when that goes live!

Tome requirements and research speed

Since the release of Age of Wonders 4, lots of players have made all kinds of combinations and builds using the tome system. Stacking all kinds of bonuses and sometimes reaching incredible research incomes in order to make the most powerful builds! While this is where a lot of the fun lies for players, we also identified some issues:

  • Many early tome unit enchantments increased damage for units, which when stacked by researching a lot of early game tomes, you could create incredible damage output on early game units for little mana, research and gold.

  • After players have built up their research economy. Low tier tomes become incredibly quick to research. This also meant that players who had finished their tier 5 tomes would be able to go through the rest of the tome library fast. And some would even have completed the entire tome lineup in a single realm, let alone finish up several tomes in a single turn!


By stacking early-game damage unit enchantments you can essentially double a unit’s damage output

In order to fix these issues but keeping the flexibility and fun of the tome system, we’ve made the following change:

  • Skills in a newly picked tome increase in research cost, based on how many tomes you’ve already picked.

  • We’ve paced the overall speed of completing tomes a bit slower.

  • We’ve added separate game settings you can set in a realm for Research Speed, which is separated from the Game Speed setting.

This means rushing through early game tomes can still be done, but comes at a cost of delaying access to high-tier tomes. Vice versa for when you rush through high tier tomes. Coming back to low tier tomes will have increased the research cost so you no longer will complete that tome in a few turns. 

It paces research a lot better, and makes sure that within a normal playthrough you don’t rush through the entire research system, so that in the next playthrough, there’s plenty of unexplored tomes to pick from!

We also included some other rules to change the availability of certain tomes:

  • Instead of requiring 2 tomes of the previous tier, new tome tiers are unlocked by simply having completed 2 more tomes of any tier. So to unlock tier 3, you can simply have researched 4 tier 1s, instead of 2 tier 1s and 2 tier 2s.

  • In addition, Tier 3 and higher tomes require a small amount of affinity of the associated type in order to become available.

These changes present a tome lineup more in line with your current empire affinity, but still allows you to make all kinds of tome combinations! The change in tier-specific unlock requirements makes sure that you can still progress to higher tier tomes by researching low-tier ones. Giving you more freedom in which tomes to pick without sacrificing the ability to unlock higher tier research.

With these combined changes. Your tome picking preferences might’ve really changed, so make sure to check out the open beta and tell us how you feel about these changes!

Magic Victory with Golden Ancient Wonders

In the current version of Age of Wonders 4, players can achieve magic victory by building 3 specific affinity special province improvements. Then upon unlocking your tier 5 tome, the Age of Affinity spell would become available. Casting it will bring a global effect to the world and start a final countdown which wins you the game. Other empires, including some marauders, will try to stop you in the meantime by launching assaults against your special province improvements!

However, what we found is that this magic victory could feel rather boring and would often have players stumble upon it:

  • By having enough affinities, you’d automatically see one of the new province improvements available in your cities. Which besides being required for victory, also grants several spell casting buffs, it was worth taking just for these buffs.

  • While requiring to be built in different cities. Players can easily hunker down and place all three improvements adjacent to one another. Making it incredibly difficult to reach and take when the final countdown has started.

  • It was the most defensive of all the victory conditions and didn’t require you to interact with other empires or explore.

  • AI would often also stumble upon this victory condition, especially on harder difficulties would start building the improvements early. Which made players feel like they were behind.

It was clear to us that the Magic Victory required a revamp, our main goal was to lure the players out into the world, require active steps to get on the road to magic victory, and to include more of the research and spell casting system into the victory.

In the end, we came up with using the Gold Ancient Wonders on the map as points of interest for Magic Victory players. These Gold Ancient Wonders are full of powerful ancient magic, and by bending that power to your ruler’s will, they are able to cast powerful magics capable of transforming the world and ascending your ruler!


  • Upon reaching your first tier 3 tome, a new research skill is available in addition to your normal research skills: the Bind Gold Ancient Wonder spell.

  • This slot does not rotate skills and does not disappear until you have researched this spell.


  • Once unlocked, you must cast and sustain a number of these spells on Gold Ancient Wonders that are annexed to one of your cities.

  • The number required is based on the amount of Gold Ancient Wonders in the realm.


  • Upon reaching your first tier 5 tome, similar to the Bind Gold Ancient Wonder spell research skill, the Age of Affinity spell becomes available to be researched in addition to normal research skills. The affinity of the spell is determined by the affinity of the tier 5 tome you have unlocked.


  • While channeling the final Age of Affinity spell. You must make sure to keep a sufficient amount of Bound Gold Ancient Wonders under your control!

Claiming a Gold Ancient Wonder is in itself no easy task. They contain powerful enemies and other empires won’t take a liking to you claiming them if they are near other territories. 

Researching and casting both the Binding and the Age of Affinity spells also cost a lot more mana, research and casting points. So having built up a good research and mana economy makes these gargantuan spells a lot faster to cast.

This creates a much more active and interesting path to achieving Magic Victory, exposing you to a lot more of what the realm has to offer in boons and threats as you explore to find those wonders and build up a robust magic economy.

In conclusion, these new research and magic victory changes are going to change up your magical journeys! With now a more exciting journey in case you’re going to cover the world in a blanket of your arcane glory! Good luck on your new magical conquests and we hope to hear from you in the upcoming open Beta!

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