This is the third edition of the "best mods of AoW3", following polls in 2016 and 2017. A handful of significant mods (and in total about 100 new mods) have been released since and a new poll was needed to update the list of top mods. All 20 mods of this ranking are excellent mods, even the lowest ranked ones, as they were selected through a shortlisting process. They include two of the four entirely new Races created by modders, 1 balance mod, 1 new Dwellings, several DLC-worth mods that significantly reshape the game (including a community expansion with a new campaign) and a handful of mods adding new visuals or improving current ones.
As already mentioned in the articles presenting the results of the first and second polls about the best AoW3 mods, AoW3 is a very rich game with about 400 units, more than 400 techs and 400 unit abilities and few players have played all its class or races. And for those who managed to get bored despite this immense replayability, a plethora of mods designed by the community further improves graphics or increases their customization, adds new units/spells/buildings/abilities/etc., improves the ease of use of the game or improves existing assets of the game by making them more fun and more balanced.
Chart of the Age of Wonders series in numbers, compiled by Tibbles (full chart can be found on the old official Triumph news)
How to navigate all these mods? In early 2019, a shortlist of 20 of the best mods was drafted with the help of the community on the Steam forum, and building on the results of the previous such polls. These 20 mods were then put to a poll open to everyone for two months until 21 June 2019. 80 votes were cast, electing the best mods of AoW3! Voters could rate each mod on the following scale:
To be avoided! (-2)
Bad mod (-1)
Good mod (+1)
Must have! (+2)
This list should help you to find the best mods and select the ones most appropriate to your style and wishes. Keep in mind that the 20 mods listed in this article are already among the best for AoW3 and are already the result of a shortlisting process, so even the mod ranked #20 is very good. And also keep in mind that there are many more excellent mods outside of the list: with only 20 spots on the list and 600+ mods available, even exceptional mods could not make it.
The table below presents different statistics from the poll (full table):
Simple average: average quality of the mod
Average of the ratings (for example: 10 'Good mod' votes and 10 'Must have!' votes translates into (10*1+10*2)/20=1.5);
% of 'Good' and 'Must have!' votes: helps distinguish mods that are judged by the majority of the community as really good, even if others dislike these mods
Proportion of voters who rated the mod 'Good mod' or 'Must have!'
% of 'To be avoided!' votes: highlights mods which may be bugged, have some balance issues, or other problems
Ranking: this section orders mods from #1 to #20
'Must have!' votes: helps distinguish the top of the top, the mods you HAVE to always use, if you want to improve your AoW3 experience, with no hassle attached
Based on the proportion of voters who rated the mod 'Must have!'
All the indicators exclude "Don't know" answers. The darker the green, the best the mod is ranked.
The 2nd mod on the Steam Workshop (by subscribers) with more than 31 400 subscribers (only topped by the Chinese language mod), the Racial Class Unit Reskin comes first of our ranking for the third time in a row (it topped the previous polls in 2016 and 2017)! More than simple reskins, this must-have mod from Tibbles significantly improves the appearance and icons of all race-specific class units (so machine and non-racial Undead excluded), making each race's units really unique and recognizable.
72% of voters rated it as 'Must have!' and none gave him negative ratings: you can subscribe to this mod with your eyes closed.
One of the reasons for the rerun of the poll, Chivalrous Intentions is the meteor which blazed through the sky of AoW3 in recent months. Released in October 2018, it has very rapidly conquered the hearts and minds of hordes of players. It is the only mod released in 2018 which reached the top 30 mods by subscribers (most top 30 mods are very old ones, from the days when more people played AoW3). With 100 updates when these lines are written, it is very regularly improved with new content by his creator, Tasty Buttcream (with support from Iguana-on-a-stick). As its "only" 26 votes and 1.50 rating show, Chivalrous Intentions is not yet well known among players but has a core of die-hard fans.
The mod adds more than 300 units to the game (and still counting), adding a lot of variety to races and class-race combinations. It has a strong focus on balance and lore.
The mod adds a Flying unit for Goblins but it requires a Grand Palace to be unlocked - an example of the attention paid to balance and to making all buildings and Mystical City Upgrades more useful (by Tasty Buttcream)
The mod started with a focus on Human chivalry orders, hence its name - it has since expanded to all races and beyond chivalry (by Tasty Buttcream)
This mod is the result of extensive and long-term work by the AoW3 community to improve the game by making it both more balanced and more fun to play with all races, classes and specializations, started in early 2016. It includes many new and reworked ability and techs (e.g. a Fortifying Meal for Halfling Brew Brother that synergizes with Halfling Farmers by allowing them to Throw Chicken again, a new Cloaked in Shadows tech for the Partisan specialization which makes units Invisible for 1 turn, etc.), making Dreadnought and Halfling more enjoyable and interesting to play, Necromancer more balanced, lacklustre specializations such as Partisan, Earth, Air Master, etc. more interesting. The full changelog is available on a dedicated page.
Three branches of the mod co-exist: a beta-branch to test new versions, a main branch which receives versions successfully tested in the beta branch, and a Tournament Edition sometimes used for tournaments on the Battlefield website. Users can stick to the main branch. The balance mod is not complete without the Strong Defenders Normal Rewards mod if you play with Strong defenders. It was technically necessary to break down the mod in two to avoid affecting players playing with the Normal (or Very Strong)t defenders settings.
Changes are designed both by (through a discussion process with many players which ensures only needed and coherent changes are brought) and for the AoW3 community, with both Single players and PBEM players in mind. With Triumph having stopped balancing the game, this mod aims at being the new "base game" for all players. As such, it includes the Racial Class Unit Reskin and Racial Watchtower mods (#1 and #8 of our ranking) with the permission of their authors, which means players using the balance mod benefit from their visual improvements without needing to separately download and launch them: only 1 mod needs to be launched. Other must-have mods will be added to the balance mod on a case by case basis. The balance mod also includes more than 30 clarifications or corrections of in-game descriptions, and is available in French, Polish and Russian (though the two latter have unfortunately not been updated for some time).
Resulting from the hard work of Charlatan to bring new visual content to the game, the Decodence suite of mods contains three mods: Decodence Map Editor Content, Decodence RMG Integration Patch and Decodence Leader Customizations. Only the first two were shortlisted and they should be used together. Decodence Map Editor Content contains all the 3D model assets, and can be used by map makers to create incredible maps (it is for example used in the Shadow Realm Community Expansion, see #10 below). The RMG Integration Patch brings some of this new content to the game by including it in randomly generated maps:
2 new terrain types (overlays) in addition to Fertile Plains, Wetlands, etc.: Tundra and Autumn
6 new sites to clear and absorb in your cities' domain
Please note that this content might not be balanced and that it is necessary to set all the terrain overlays to maximum in the settings of new maps to equilibrate them with Tundra and Autumn (otherwise the maps will contain too much Tundra and Autumn in comparison to the other overlays).
One of the two new terrain types introduced by the Decodence mod: Autumn (by Charlatan)
One of the new site introduced by the RMG Integration mod - the Raven Home (by Charlatan)
One of the most successful mod adding new content to the game (others include Chivalrous Intentions - #2 in the top -, the Empire Building mod â€“ #7 in the top -, City Building mod â€“ not in the top â€“ and the Hero mods from the same author), the Racial Heritage Mod deepens the alignment concept and brings two sub-factions for each race, one good and one evil. Each sub-faction brings two new units to the game, as well as a production chain including in general four new buildings. In total, the mod thus brings 4*9 = 36 new units to the game, which you will face at independent sites and that you will be able to build in your cities. Each faction has a very specific gameplay and flavour, greatly enhancing the game experience. Together with the Hero Development (#17), the Hero Profession (#18), the Old Man & the Sea (#13), the Beastman Dwelling and the Archon Race mods, Eomolch created content worth a new DLC for the community. All these mods featured in at least one ranking of the best mods for AoW3, which demonstrates the quality of his work!
An old mod, which features for the first time in the ranking, the Extended Settings mod allows to go beyond the lower and upper bounds set by Triumphs for most of the variables of Random Map Generation. You are frustrated and would like to play Gigantic maps? With this mod, you can (though it may cause crashes in later stages of the game, as AoW3 is not made to handle the huge memory loads associated with extra large maps). You've always felt games ended up too fast and you want to take hundreds of turns to finish maps? Try the Ultimate Slow game speed which makes research and population growth 8 times slower than at normal speed. You can even tweak city growth and research time separately now!
For players wanting more customization of starting resources, starting income, defenders, maximum number of heroes, etc. this mod is what they need. If you're happy with base settings though, this mod won't bring you much as it's all about additional settings.
Not afraid to feel alone on a Titanic map size? This chart shows how large it is compared to the Large maps (by Samurai190)
This rich mod from Der Mentat brings content almost worth a new DLC. It includes new building chains (also modifying existing ones), new units, a revamped hero upgrade system, new combat spells, etc. The Empire Building mod really provides a new experience of AoW3 and increases the "empire building" part of the game. It is very well developed with a very complete and well-illustrated (and mostly updated with latest changes) manual and a translation in German. Regularly updated over 12 months in 2016-2017, this mod is one of the most carefully crafted available, with a great care to details. In the previous poll, it ranked #3 and despite an improvement in its rating (from 1.06 to 1.13), it lost some ranks due to one user (probably unfairly!) rating it as "To be avoided!".
Der Mentat created compatibility mods to perfectly integrate the Empire Building Mod with two other specific mods and with all the mods that modify heroes:
This mod by iHunterKiller replaces the standard Watchtowers on the strategic map by race-specific Watchtowers, embellishing the strategic map. Simple and efficient, it also consistently made it to the top 10 (#3 in 2016 and #7 in 2017). Since v1.8 Poseidon, the Racial Watchtower mod suffers from a bug that prevents Builders from building water Fortresses. This can be fixed by using the PBEM & Single Player Balance mod, which contains a fixed version of the mod, including an improved Goblin Watchtower (see #3 above).
Always part of the rankings (#11 in 2016, #4 in 2017), the mod does a very simple job and does it well: it adds 32 colours for the coat of arms you choose for your Leader and which colours your cities and units on the strategic map.
The other main reason for running the poll on the best mods again is the Shadow Realm Community Expansion. Released in open beta on the Steam Workshop in November 2018,Â it is a coherent and relatively large package of additional content for AoW3 built by a team of more than 10 volunteers for over 3 years. The expansion includes a new race (the Shadow Elves), a new Dwelling (the living Archons), a new layer (the Shadow Realm), over 15 new structures and 40 new abilities. It also includes one of the only two custom campaigns designed for AoW3 by the community, with 3 scenarios and 5 maps (the campaign has 3 endings and thus 3 maps for the third scenario). With all this new content and the amount of work put into it by the community, it's almost worth a new DLC!
A manual describing all the new units, abilities, structures, etc. can be found on a dedicated page of the AoW3 wiki. It also includes a FAQ section explaining, among other things, how to activate the Shadow layer.
Its name might be slightly confusing but this mod is relatively simple: it adds new reward sets for the following sites: Great Farms, Springs of Life, Dungeons, Brigand Hideouts, adding new units to the list possible rewards, thus increasing the diversity of rewards. The mod also adds more diversity of items to several sites.
Dungeons no longer reward racial units, instead holding Tier 3 Animal/Monster/Giants and Lesser Elementals (by Godzillamancer)
The favourite Dwelling mod of the AoW3 community, the Old Man and the Sea has a poetic name and a lot of very flavourful new content! It adds 4 new water structures, 3 Mystical City Upgrades associated to these water structures, 4 new water-borne units (including the monstrous Sea Serpent!) and 1 new Dwelling with its 5 new units: the Nynevians.
This mod significantly increases the interest of maritime exploration and warfare, a welcome addition that tackles one weakness of AoW3.
It was without doubt an inspiration for the official Poseidon update which copied its Water Fortress concept.
The new Nynevian Dwelling, surrounded by some of the new water structures (by Eomolch)
In terms of compatibility, this mod will not be compatible with other mods adding Dwelling, except the following ones if you use these compatibility mods: - Dark Elf Dwelling and Beastman Dwelling - Beastman Dwelling
A less well-known mod, Movement Orders First does a very simple job: it changes the order in which notifications are shown to players each turn. In the official version, you are first shown the "Select production for city xx", which can be counter-productive when you want to first explore the map to get some stashes of gold, or clear sites to receive rewards, etc. which will all increase your available gold and mana to build things in your cities. Similarly, you may clear Ancient Ruins or a Lost Library and get some research points during your turn, so you generally want to choose your research after you have moved all your units.
The mod thus lets the notification be displayed in a more effective order: 1/ unit movements, 2/ research, 3/ city and Dwelling production. Thanks Leon Feargus!
Another old mod which made it to the shortlist for the first time, Legendary Units adds a T4 for each race. This "Legendary" racial unit can only be accessed through the Evolution at Elite level of the racial T3 unit. It starts as the equivalent of the Champion I unit it evolved from but then acquires additional abilities to become even stronger.
In the base game, the Lost Library's reward is one unresearched skill from the player's Research Book. This mod changes that so that the skill is now taken randomly from a pool of skills including all classes and specializations. The pool includes only tier 1 to tier 3 skills, with 3 from each class and 1 from each specialization. The defenders are also modified to include more supports and more supernatural creatures.
Eomolch cleverly revamped the hero upgrade system, adding 3 specialization to each class and race-dependant upgrades, which means that each hero is now more unique, having both race specific upgrades and a specialization (melee, range or support) which can lead for instance to 2 Rogue heroes in your army with totally different skills and roles, one being an Assassin, and the other a Duelist or Trickster. A manual is available. The mod includes many new unique abilities, for instance Teaching of Humility, a Theocrat Monk touch ability which grants Monk abilities to one allied units: it gains Spirit damage but cannot attack for the next three strategic turns, or Beast Within, an Arch Druid Shaman ability that lets you shapeshift into a random animal.
Another mod, Hero Profession mod, is ranked #18 and is also worth a look, in combination with this mod.
All heroes now have 3 choices to further specialize, for Theocrat, they are Monk, Paladin or Priest
This mod expands and refines the Hero Development Mod (#17, above): it creates 3 "professions" or sub-races for each race, increasing further the diversity of heroes' development paths. The Hero Professions Mod requires both the Hero Development Mod and the Racial Heritage Mod (#5) to be played. You will now be able to play a Goblin Blight Doctor Rogue Trickster or a Goblin Pyromancer Rogue Duelist for instance, and not just a simple "Goblin Rogue"! A manual is available, describing briefly most of the new abilities and paths. The manual was updated in 2021 to include the addition of Archons through a compatibility mod (see below).
One of the new ability available to Draconian Nest Warden: Lizard Ancestry! (by Eomolch)
Released in December 2017, New Arsenal was too recent to feature in the previous ranking. The mod does what many had begged Triumph to do for AoW3: add racial T4. Each race gets a second T3, unlocked by a new T3 building, and a final T4 building unlocking the ultimate racial T4 unit. Balanced with the community of live MP players, the mod reached its v1.4 in May 2019 and should be well balanced. A table listing all the units and their stats is available.
ATTENTION: this mod was removed from the Steam Workshop by its creator, Liberty Valance. He then made the files available again. You can now download the .taf file through this link (old dead Steam Workshop link) . Put it in your C:\Users\[Windows user name]\Documents\My Games\AoW3\UserContent folder (for Windows users), then execute the AoW3 launcher: this will unpack the mod and you'll be able to use it afterwards. While we are speaking about Liberty Valance's mods, here are links for his other mods: the Spider's Gift mod, Witch Hunter mod and the Shinobi Race mod.
This mod of Liberty Valance really pushes the boundaries of the Mod Editor of AoW3 and proposes an entirely new race with very unique game mechanisms and visuals, the Insectoids! This mod deserves a lot attention: check it out! The video below shows some gameplay, after a short animated introduction.
You might be interested in these other compilations of information about AoW3: