Best mod of AoW3, as of the end of 2017 (Community)

A "best mods of AoW3" poll had already been run a bit more than one year ago, but several significant mods have been released since and the need for a new poll was clear. This new ranking is more detailed as mods were rated on a scale from 'To be avoided!' to 'Must have!'. All 20 mods of this ranking are however top mods, as they were selected through a shortlisting process. They include the first 2 entirely new Races created by modders, 1 balance mod, 3 new Dwellings, several DLC-worth mods that significantly reshape the game and a handful of mods adding new visuals or improving current ones.

An Article by Hiliadan

As already mentioned in the article presenting the results of the first poll 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 official Triumph news)

How to navigate all these mods?
In late 2017, 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 poll. These 20 mods were then put to a poll open to everyone for two months until 22 January 2018. 83 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)

  • Neutral (0)

  • Good mod (+1)

  • Must have! (+2)

  • Don't know

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 500+ 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 20 best mods for AoW3 according to the voters

The top 5 mods
#1 - Racial Class Unit Reskin - average rating: 1.56 (64 votes) - Must have!

: Visuals

The top mod on the Steam Workshop with more than 20,600 subscribers, the Racial Class Unit Reskin comes first of our ranking for the second time (it also topped the previous poll in 2016)! 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 only 2 gave him negative ratings (probably by mistake!): you can subscribe to this mod with your eyes closed.

New racial models of the Warlord Warbreed (by Tibbles)

High Elf Shaman before and after the improvement (by Tibbles)

#2 - PBEM and Single Player Balance Mod - average rating: 1.20 (44 votes) - Good mod

Category: Balance, New content, Visuals

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.

Two branches of the mod co-exist: a beta-branch to test new versions and a main branch which receives versions successfully tested in the beta branch.

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 #7 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 Polish and Russian.

Two articles explain why PBEM players and single players should use the PBEM balance mod and introduces its latest v1.23 version.

The following mods have compatibility patch to work better with the balance mod:
- Empire Building Mod
- Weapon Resize
- The League of Extraordinary Builder

A video showcases the improvements brought by the balance mod:

Dreadnought heroes/Leaders have been boosted and can choose Lava Walking, while all 'xx Empire' spells received bonuses, as illustrated by Temperate Empire (+1 defense, +1 resistance)

#3 - Empire Building Mod - average rating: 1.06 (49 votes) - Good mod

: New content

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 updated with latest changes) manual and a translation in German. Regularly updated over one year, this mod is one of the most carefully crafted available, with a great care to details.

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 (without the compatibility mod, some changes of either the EBM may overwrite or be overwritten by the other mod, but the game will remain stable in any case):

- Triumphant Heroes
- PBEM and Single Player Balance Mod
- all heroes mod

Shadow Witch, one of the 27 alternative racial unit of the mod (by Der Mentat)

Some of the new buildings deepening the empire building aspect of the game: Market and Academy (by Der Mentat)

#4 - More Colors for Coat of Arms - average rating: 1.09 (44 votes) - Good mod

: Visual, Customization

Ranked #11 in the previous poll, More Colors for Coat of Arms' popularity has grown: 77% of voters who rated the mod ranked it 'Good mod' or 'Must have!'. Given what the mod does, that may be no surprise! 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.

#5 - Racial Heritage Mod - average rating: 0.96 (51 votes) - Good mod

Category: New content

One of the most successful mod adding new content to the game (others include the Empire Building mod – #2 in the top -, City Building mod – not in the top – 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, the Hero Profession, the Old Man & the Sea, the Beastman Dwelling and the Archon Race mods (see below in the ranking), Eomolch created content worth a new DLC for the community, and he managed the feat of having ALL these mods in the top 20, which demonstrates the quality of his work!

Tigran Battle Priest, from the Moon Cult Tigran sub-faction (by Eomolch)

Halfling Gardener, from the Good, The Vigil Halfling sub-faction (by Eomolch)

Rest of the top 10
#6 - Decodence - Map Editor Content + Decodence - RMG Integration - average rating: 0.95 (39 votes) - Good mod

: New content, Visuals

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. 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)

Decodence also has several compatibility mods (see #3 above for explanations about compatibility mods):
- Empire Building Mod
- Old Man & the Sea
- Corrupt the Source (not in the top)

#7 - Racial Watchtowers - average rating: 0.69 (51 votes) - Good mod

: Visuals

This mod by iHunterKiller replaces the standard Watchtowers on the strategic map by race-specific Watchtowers, embellishing the strategic map. Simple and efficient, it ended up third in the first ranking of the best mods for AoW3, and is now #7.
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 #2 below).

Draconian Watchtower (by iHunterKiller)

Orc Watchtower (by iHunterKiller)

#8 - The Old Man and the Sea - average rating: 0.79 (42 votes) - Good mod

: New content

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 monstruous 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.

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 (#18) and Beastman Dwelling (#16)
- Beastman Dwelling (#16)

#9 - Extra Support Units - average rating: 0.85 (46 votes) - Good mod

: New content

Tibbles, the author of the Racial Class Unit Reskin mod (#1), added 1 new T3 mounted Support unit for each race, unlocked by a new Chamber of Mystery building, unlocked by Temples. The units are:

  • Draconian Ascendant Elder

  • Dwarf Forge Lord

  • Frostling White Rider

  • Goblin Blight Surgeon

  • Halfling Brandy Brother

  • High Elf Storm Maiden

  • Human Inquisitor

  • Orc Black Priest

  • Tigran Ancient Mystics

The mod is available in English and German. This nice mod can enliven games by bringing some novelty, without changing too many things.

One of the 9 new T3 racial units: the High Elf Storm Maiden (by Tibbles)

#10 - Hero Development Mod - average rating: 0.67 (48 votes) - Good mod

: New content

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 #12 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

Compatibility mods:
- Triumphant Heroes (not in the top)
- Empire Building Mod: see #3

The rest of the shortlist of best mods
#11 - Movement Orders First - average rating: 0.61 (28 votes) - Good mod

: New content

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!

#12 - Hero Profession Mod - average rating: 0.59 (37 votes) - Good mod

: New content

This mod expands and refines the Hero Development Mod (#10, 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. It should however be noted that the manual is not complete and the mod has not been updated or balanced for a very long time.

One of the new ability available to Draconian Nest Warden: Lizard Ancestry! (by Eomolch)

#13 - Archon Race Mod - average rating: 0.47 (38 votes)

Category: New content

One of the only three full Races designed by modders for AoW3 (actually two, since the Dark Elves of Shaithias are mainly an improvement on the race template provided by Triumph and not an full entirely new race), the Archons are also the result of work by Eomolch, the authors of 5 other mods in the top 20!
The mod contains new visuals, a complete roster of units, heroes and Leaders for the race. Some features remain to be completed (racial defense building, names for cities and fortresses), but Eomolch has not been modding for AoW3 for most of 2017 so the current version should probably be considered final.

The addition of an Archon race actually conflicts with the Shadow Realm Community Expansion, which is in alpha phase as of February 2018. The Expansion will indeed adds Archons as a Dwelling (see article about the alpha tests for more information).

Archon units at fight (by Eomolch)

A small minority of users may experience issues with this mod causing AoW3 to load for ever (apparently happens to a few users using the Russian version).

Compatibility mods:
- Racial Heritage Mod (adds two sub-factions for Archons)

No compatibility mod is available for the Hero Professions Mod yet, which means Archon heroes do not get three sub-races as the other races.

#14 - Army Mod - Spiders Gift - average rating: 0.46 (35 votes)

Category: New content, Gameplay overhaul

A mod very difficult to categorize, and probably one of the most under-rated mod of AoW3, the Army Mod or Spiders Gift is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship by one of the most creative AoW3 modder, Liberty Valance (also known as vfxrob). The mod adds some very impressive content to the game (it does not modify much the base game) and creates a unique and very refreshing experience. Here are some of the most noteworthy additions:

  • Possibility to build new structures on the strategic map, both classical things like Gold Mine, but also Embassies to settle Dwellings and Vendors to get extra research "on the side" or recruit an alchemist to build you an armour, etc.

  • Tactical combat structures! Some units can throw barricades or place bombs to detonate!

  • And of course new units, roamers, etc.

A short video introduces the mod:

#15 - Structure Reward Variety - average rating: 0.59 (34 votes) - Good mod

: Ease of use and improved game mechanics

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)

#16 - Beastman Dwelling - average rating: 0.33 (30 votes)

: New content

The 6th mod of Eomolch in the top 20, this mod introduces a new Dwelling with 4 new units and the Kobold.

#17 - Dark Elf - average rating: 0.33 (30 votes)

: New content

Not to be confused with the Dark Elf DWELLING (#18), this mod by Shaithias, adds a new race, the Dark Elves.

#18 - Dark Elf Dwelling - average rating: 0.23 (35 votes)

: New content

This mod by the AoW3 mod veteran Gloweye adds Dark Elves not as a Race but as a subterranean Dwelling.

#19 - Insectoid Race - average rating: 0.18 (36 votes)

: New content

This second mod of Liberty Valance to make it into the top 20 (the other being Spider Gifts, #14) 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 more attention than it got so far (it is much more recent than others, having been created in August 2017): check it out! The video below shows some gameplay, after a short animated introduction.

#20 - Brave New Units - average rating: 0.14 (29 votes)

: New content

This mod by alexej adds one T2 Irregular for all races (except Orcs and Frostlings) and is best played with the Empire Building Mod (#3).

One of the new T2 Irregulars, the Dwarf Besieger (by alexej)

You might be interested in these other compilations of information about AoW3:
- library of tutorial, PBEM and live MP videos
- strategic and tactical guide by community

If you want to learn more about the, the community website for AoW3, please read this article.

Feel free to leave some comments at the bottom of the article!

Created on: 09.02.2018 at 08:33:31