Video Game / Age of Wonders

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Age of Wonders is a turn-based strategy PC-game released by Triumph Studios in 1999. Originally titled World of Wonders, the game incorporates elements of a fantasy RPG with 4X strategy. It has often been compared to Heroes of Might and Magic and considered the Spiritual Successor to Master of Magic. Age of Wonders was followed by sequel Age of Wonders 2: The Wizard's Throne and a stand-alone expansion AoW: Shadow Magic.

Age of Wonders 3 was released 11 years after Shadow Magic on March 31, 2014, and has its own TV Tropes page.

The elves once ruled a peaceful empire over the other civilized races in the Valley of Wonders. This Golden Age ended when hordes of humans arrived from across the sea, conquering everything in their path, killing the Elven King Inioch and his court, and claiming the Valley for themselves. Years passed; the evil races began to spread unchecked by the Elves, warfare became constant, and the Undead were awakened in a desperate attempt to win a war.

During this time, two organizations came to power, led by the half-sibling heirs of the Elven kingdom. Inioch's daughter Julia becomes the leader of The Keepers, an organization attempting to foster cooperation and diplomacy while containing the belligerent races. Her half-brother Meandor, Inioch's firstborn son, founds the Cult of Storms, dedicated to reclaiming his throne by force and exterminating humanity.

The game features kingdom-building similar to Civilization: developing cities, constructing infrastructure, and creating armies. In addition, there exist neutral structures around the map such as gold mines or watch towers, often guarded by independent forces, providing ongoing income or one-time benefits like new spells. Tactical combat involves stacks of units performing basic movements, attacks, and special abilities like spells or fire breath. Any forces in overworld map hexes that are adjacent to the defending units will be included, allowing for multiple stacks to fight a single battle.

A list of races, characters and their tropes can be found at the character sheet.


The Age of Wonders series provides examples of the following tropes:

Age of Wonders 1:
  • Actually Four Mooks: A stack is composed of one to eight creatures. On the game map, the current strongest creature in the squad (or a hero unit, if that's the case) is the only member visible and represents the whole.
  • Age of Titles: Naturally.
  • Analogy Backfire: In one of the short stories, one human notes that another man fights worse than a nymph does. He then gets a story about what nymphs can do to people.
  • Battering Ram: Rams are the most basic way to get past enemy walls and even small villages can build them. However, their slowness makes them difficult to use, and they suffer from a form of Crippling Overspecialization in that they can only attack walls and not other units.
  • Beneath the Earth: Caves allow you access to the underground map layer. Taken Up to Eleven in that maps can have two underground layers in the Caverns and the Depths.
  • Breast Plate: Julia's form-fitting armor, seen in the page image, is basically her visual trademark.
  • Cain and Abel: Meandor and his half-sister Julia.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: Inverted. The Humans decided to say Screw You, Elves!, killing the Elven King Inioch and kicking the elder race out of the Valley of Wonders to claim the fertile lands as the heart of their new empire.
  • Character Customization: Occurs as the players' leaders and heroes level up, and depending on the options, can be done when the scenario or campaign begins
  • Combat Medic: The Cleric, and other races' equivalents thereof (Shamans, Saints, Storm Priests, Doom Priests, etc.) is a capable combat unit in addition to their healing abilities, to the point that it's debatable whether they're medics who can fight, or mystical warriors with healing on the side. While their actual attack and defense values are usually low, they have a useful magical ranged attack, and infuse their melee strikes with magical (or elemental, depending on the race) energy to strike hard. They're especially useful against pesky units with high defense or against those which are flat-out resistant or immune to physical damage (like Undead Wraiths).
  • Dual-World Gameplay: Two to three levels. The Surface world has varied terrain and mimics the real world, albeit with Patchwork Map tendencies. The (one- or two-levelled) Underground is a vast warren of caves that restricts movement and visibility for most races, giving an edge to natural burrower factions like the Dwarves or Goblins. Shadow Magic adds the Shadow world, a bizarre astral plane that allows rapid movement, but inflicts a debilitating shadow sickness on most races, giving a huge combat advantage to units that are immune to this effect.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Subverted in the early campaign mission which requires the player to go through an underground tunnel under a broad mountain range. If you try to go over the mountains instead, you'll run into several very aggressive red dragons, which at this point are much stronger than the best units the player can field. Also, even if you somehow managed to defeat the dragon(s), it actually takes longer then going through the cave system, because mountains give you a movement penalty.
  • Easy Logistics: Each unit costs a small amount of gold each turn, or mana in the case of summoned creatures. If you cannot pay, their morale will suffer and they may desert you to wander the map, with summoned creatures disappearing immediately. However, it only matters that you have the resources at all, while supply lines are not addressed.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: Averted. The Dwarves and Elves are ancient and steadfast allies, especially against the Human invasion. The default relation between the two races is "Polite", which is standard for races of the same alignment, one step below the best, "Friendly" (which is generally the default only for your own race).
  • Enemy Exchange Program: You can mix units of any faction in a single stack, but it generally causes issues due to morale penalties if you try to mix units of different alignments. Units might abandon your cause, and cities might rebel unless a sufficient force is garrisoned in it to keep them "Oppressed" or "Enslaved". However, the game also gives you the option to convert cities to allied races, or just Rape, Pillage, and Burn them to the ground.
  • Enemy to All Living Things: A unit with the "Path of Decay" ability will degrade tiles in its path, turning them to wasteland, while the spell "Darkland" will gradually produce the same effect on all tiles within your spellcasting range. This can have in-game impact, as certain races get economic and morale bonuses or penalties on certain terrain types. Most cities' income will be affected, as only the Undead can place outlying fields (graveyards, in their case) on wasteland tiles.
  • Fallen Angel: The High Men, called Archons in later games, are allegedly descended from angels who lost their wings and divinity due to some past crime, and now serve the gods in hopes of redemption.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The various Storm spells play pretty much like this, having an impact on a geographical scale.
  • Fantastic Racism: It's possible to be friendly with both good and evil races, but put them in the same party and you may end up with deserters in short order.
  • Fantasy Axis of Evil:
    • Savage: Orcs
    • Eldritch: Undead
    • Fallen: Dark Elves
    • Crafty: Goblins
  • The Farmer and the Viper: The Keepers attempt to raise some goblins to be good in a small, isolated village on the Keepers' home island. The Cult of Storms has no trouble convincing the goblins to riot and help kill the Keepers' leader, kicking off the evil side of the campaign.
  • Fertile Feet: The Elven Nature Elemental possesses the Path of Life ability, which acts opposite to the Path of Death in that it regenerates the hex tiles in the Elemental's path to fertile grasslands. While no unit in the sequel has the ability, it's still available as an item property. Wizards with at least one Life Sphere can have a similar magic effect active in their domain that slowly restores terrain, or can cast a spell to rejuvenate an area immediately. All of the elemental wizards can turn their domains into an embodiment of their element: for example, air wizards can turn verdant grasslands into frost bitten tundras, and freeze over rivers and even the ocean.
  • Field Power Effect: Several, depending on the spell being cast.
  • Five Races:
    • Mundane: Humans
    • Stout: Dwarfs
    • High men: High Men (Archons in the sequel)
    • Fairy: Elves
    • Cute: Halflings
  • Flavor Text: Generally included for every unit, and quite serious in the first games, while much more snarky in the sequel and its standalone expansion.
  • Garrisonable Structures: This primarily comes from walled cities, as well as watchtower structures whose only purpose is monitoring a wider range of the map. Terrain such as encampments, old temples, and even resource structures can be considered "garrisonable" due to providing cover, the high ground, chokepoints, or beneficial magic effects.
  • Geo Effects: Certain races get bonuses on certain types of terrain, such as Frostlings' morale being better on icy land (and correspondingly worse in deserts).
  • Healing Spring: The healing springs on the map can also become dangerous poison springs if the land around is changed into wasteland.
  • Heel–Face Turn/Face–Heel Turn: A player on the good or evil starting factions (The Keepers or the Cult of Storms) can join either of the good or evil new factions that spring up halfway through the game (the High Men or the Undead), although the ending will show either switch in sides to be a temporary state of affairs.
    • In any case, the change is often opportunistic and/or situation-based. An evil character who chooses to side with the High Men, for example, is just doing it because he thinks only they can stop the undead, who are presumably way more evil than even he is. On the other hand, if he picks the Undead, it's because they offer lots of power or seem to be unstoppable. There are more than two sides in the campaign.
  • <Hero> Must Survive: The death of a race's leader means the defeat of their whole empire. No matter how badly you're losing, you can make it all better with one assassination. Conversely, one stupid mistake with your own leader can avert what would be a winning game.
  • Hero Unit: Leaders and their subordinate heroes.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: A few units can deal Holy damage, which is a useful damage type in that it has a chance to cripple enemies with the Vertigo debuff. Most spells that deal Holy damage are from the Life sphere of magic, and the incorruptable, quasi-angelic High Men/Archon race has several units that deal holy damage in melee or from afar, the earliest example being the Saint unit, which can fling Holy Bolts as an effective ranged attack.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Most mounted units ride horses or wolves, but the Lizardmen are the most unusual, riding giant frogs and mounting catapults and ballistae on turtles. There are also specialized units which ride giant eagles, wyverns, giant moles, and giant beetles.
  • Instant-Win Condition:
    • If you can take out the enemy's leader, you win instantly, even if they controlled 90% of the map and were about to crush you next turn. Semi-averted in the sequel and standalone expansion, in which you need to raze or conquer all enemy cities containing a wizard tower before destroying said leader unit becomes possible.
    • The first game also has a "leaders disabled" mode outside of the single-player campaign, for those who want to avoid this issue.
  • Kill It with Fire: Used quite a bit. Numerous units enjoy the Fire Strike ability, letting them deal fire damage to foes, while the Fire school of magic does exactly what you'd expect. The first game also featured flamethrower siege engines, originally invented by the Dwarves but accessible to anyone in possession of a Builders' Guild.
  • Massive Race Selection: 15 as of Shadow Magic, not counting races that were removed between games.
  • Multiple Endings: Six of them depending on whether the player began on the good or evil faction, and which of the final four factions he ends up supporting (you can end up leading any faction except the one you started out opposing):
    • Status Quo Is God: If the good elves win, everything stays much the same. This is the ending that leads to the sequel games.
    • The Magic Goes Away: If the High Men win, Humans inherit the earth and only the player remains of the magical races (revered as an oracle if good, outcast as Cain if evil).
    • Pyrrhic Villainy: If the evil Dark Elves win, their king Meandor vanishes in the last battle, and the player (the Dragon Ascendant and immediate successor) is unable to prevent the civil war that will destroy him.
    • Downer Ending: If the Undead win, an evil player will become one of them, but a good player will realize their error and try to run, only to be hunted down by roving demons.
  • No Experience Points for Medic: Averted, as healers have a ranged attack.
  • One-Man Party: A properly customized hero is basically invincible. It's possible to beat the entire single player campaign, as well as most AI skirmishes, using only a single unit.
  • Our Elves Are Better: The regular good-aligned Elves are Wood Elves and their subterranean, green-skinned evil cousins are Dark Elves, both in name and in fitting the trope to the tee. The role of High Elves is (somewhat) filled by the "Pure Good" but ultimately creepy and of questionable morality High Men.
  • Place of Power: The magic nodes. A given node might not provide you any benefit if it's not a school of magic you control.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Averted. Cleric-type units, which boast the Healing ability, can only do so once per strategic game turn and thus only once per tactical battle, or not at all if they already used it that day. They tend to be targeted anyhow, because they boast a reasonably powerful ranged magical attack. More advanced units with Healing also tend to be targeted quickly because they usually possess other, more dangerous, abilities. Finally, Leaders are always targeted first as they tend to be the most dangerous units on the field, regardless of whether the leader can or can't cast multiple healing spells.
  • Short Cuts Make Long Delays: A major aversion occurs in the Keeper campaign. If you can remember the way through the Underground Path, you can literally walk straight past an entire map of enemies. If you have the Haste spell and click fast, you can complete the entire mission in under 30 seconds.
  • Shout-Out: To The Bible; Humans were expelled from their "garden", while the angelic Gabriel shows up in the campaign, and the mark of Cain is alluded to in one ending.
  • Standard Fantasy Setting: Take a wild guess.
  • Super Drowning Skills: You can use transports and certain enchantments to move troops across water. If the transport is destroyed or the magic is dispelled before they reach land, any of them lacking an innate ability to swim will immediately drown.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: There is a maximum of eight units per hex, and each unit on the battle screen is merely one person, creature or siege engine. This leads to battles over large cities being fought between armies of around 20 to 30 people.
  • Take Cover!: Objects or buildings in the way of a ranged attack have a chance to block it.
  • Token Super: The character you created can be made to start with super powers that no other hero has. This includes giving your character Doom Gaze, an ability otherwise unique to the Beholder and Basilisk units, the Dominate ability, and other very unique powers.
  • Turn Undead: An ability that every Cleric-type unit has by default.
  • Universal Poison: Poison is both a damage type and stats-weakening (but not life-sapping) Status Effect. A unit can be hit by a Poison-type attack and suffer Hit Points damage, but then becomes "Poisoned" only if it's also hit on second resistance check.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Gold and Mana.

Age of Wonders 2: The Wizard's Throne and Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic

  • Most of the above tropes apply again, of course.
  • Antimagical Faction: The Phobian Empire is on a crusade against magic, or so they say, since their commanders actively use it.
  • Artificial Stupidity: You can negotiate with rival wizards and trade them spells, resources or locations - and they will trade for a watchtower in your territory right next to a stack of dragons that can retake it at a moment's notice. Even better, you can give them a magic item with a serious drawback (like The Halfling's Ring which gives invisibility (which many high-level units can see through) but increases physical damage by 50%) and the wizard will always equip it.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Spirit of War may reward quests with some useful spells like Hellfire and Fireball but his quests are often Stupid Evil Violations of Common Sense and he'll put you at odds with the far more practical Spirit of Order.
    • The spells Hellfire and Tremor damage everything on the battlefield, including city structures you might have planned on using. The former is useful in moderation, though, as machines are weak to fire.
  • Damage-Increasing Debuff: Handicaps inflicted by attacks include Cursed (from attacks with Death damage), Poisoned (Poison damage) and Vertigo (Holy damage); these are defense reduction overlapping with elemental weakness. And of course, there are many debuff spells. Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic adds Shadow Sickness, forced on most normal units visiting Shadow World without protection.
  • Damage Typing: set of flags for an attack (may stick Standard Status Effects): Fire (Burning), Cold (Frozen), Lightning (Stunned), Magic, Poison (Poisoned), Death (Cursed), Holy (Vertigo), Physical, Wall-crushing (2x for machines and gates, affects walls and other map objects)
  • Dark World: The Shadow World.
  • Deadly Upgrade: The Martyr enchantment doubles one unit's HP, but this unit dies once the battle ends.
  • Death World: According to the archons in the final scenario of the Shadow Magic campaign, the world started out as this until they found it and made it habitable.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: As in the first game, items can be created in the Map Editor, but Shadow Magic enables the player to make them within the game, subject to some limitations that prevent overpowered equipment being made - no Physical Immunity, only one level of bonus Wizardry, no more than 3 enchantments per item, and some enchantments can only occur on a particular body slot, limiting what powers can stack.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Courtesy of the Design-It-Yourself Equipment. In a campaign game you can bring equipment and heroes across scenarios. Lingering on the first level to build superior equipment for later scenarios.
  • Firewood Resources: Small wood bundles were terrain items that gave your closest city an instant structure building bonus
  • Giant Flyer: In the skies of the Shadow World swim the whale-like Skwahl. They aren't present as a playable unit but the description of the Syron Forceship says they are made from hollowed carcasses of old Skwahl.
  • Glass Cannon: Any 1-level unit with Poison, Lightning or Cold range attack is very fragile, but even 2-3 of them can hurt a lot. The nastiest is Syron Lightning Catcher whose attack covers 7 hexes and stuns; Frostling Snowscaper is a cheaper basic unit, but with a single Frost Bolt is more luck-based.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Heroes can get this as a skill.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Burning unit have -1 HP/round and -2 Attack. Not counting special qualities, Human Infantryman recruit has 12 HP, attack 7 dam 5, Knight has 20, 14, 9. With up to 3 strikes/round, it's quite possible to cut down few weaker units while aflame.
  • Instant-Win Condition: A bit more complicated this time around, as a slain Wizard can respawn at any town he owns with a Mage tower built in it, so winning this way is only possible if you have already taken most of his territory or if he lacked the funds to build a backup tower.
  • Javelin Thrower: "Throw Spear" ability allows a single rather strong ranged attack.
  • Our Genies Are Different: Fire Wizards can summon an Efreet.
  • Mage Tower: A critical mechanic and serving a dual purpose. Wizards who sit in a tower will have their domain (spell range) extended, and can cast adjacent to allied heroes. Even more importantly, if a wizard dies, he or she will be resurrected at a tower on their next turn. And if there's no tower to resurrect at...
  • Magikarp Power: Shadow Magic allows you to buy dragon hatchlings. They start off rather weak and are often targeted by the enemy, but if you can build their experience to gold medal rank they will grow into full size dragons.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin / Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Shadow Magic's campaign messages and unit descriptions have a few proofreading slips. Nothing bizarre or hilarious, but they made it to release just the same.
  • Shout-Out: There's an artifact giving the wearer invisibility for the cost of raised vulnerability to attacks. Does This Remind You Of anything? Hint: its name includes the words "ring" and "halfling".
  • Squishy Wizard: Attempting to prevent the One-Man Party in the first game. The player character is no longer "super" hero unit and must be stationed in a tower to use global magic across your territory. While your wizard can still equip gear it's usually better in the hands of your recruited heroes who are in the field and end up as one man armies anyway.
  • Static Stun Gun: Lightning damage may leave the target stunned for a round.
  • Storm of Blades: One of the most powerful spells in the series features a volley of sharp projectiles raining on the entire field. The spell appears in the second game, but this time, it rains actual swords, that only hit enemies. It is also the most powerful spell that can be used by heroes, which means you can actually use this spell several times in a single fight.
  • Technophobia: Technophobia is a negative trait that be attached to Wizards at creation. It lowers that Wizard's production points in all cities.
  • Word Sequel: Age of Wonders, Age of Wonders II, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. In this case, Shadow Magic is a corrected and expanded version of II they were too decent to present as a fully new generation.
  • Wreathed in Flames: Ignition ability and Fire Halo enchantment. Anyone who isn't immune to fire is set aflame upon striking such an unit.

Alternative Title(s): Age Of Wonders 2 The Wizards Throne

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