In Age of Wonders 3 there are a number of classes that leaders or heroes can be that all hold their own on the battlefield and in empire management but go about their business with their own strengths and weaknesses.
While no single class can easily defeat another in single combat there is a more complex engagement web to consider when attempting to overcome an enemy leader or hero. No battle is the same as another over the course of a game as many different situations can arise from a simple scenario with the large number of spells, enchantments, abilities, troops, equipment, upgrades and all of this before considering the battle terrain itself and the readiness of both of the combatants. It's the mark of a true tactician to consider all the facets of a battle before meeting on the battlefield.
This is to say nothing of the wide array of empire upgrades available to each class, these are powerful passive elements that either augment troops, upgrade territory or make your cities more efficient. Some upgrades even influence the game outside of the leaders control such as improving diplomacy with neutral parties.
"Dreadnoughts work in a world of pulleys, boilers, engines and gears. They are inventors and engineers. The Commonwealth esteems their machines because they can automate everyday chores. Their tanks and battleships allow the common man to safely slay monstrous creatures. However, the power of steam doesn't come without its price, so Dreadnought lords have pioneered new ways of stripping resources from the earth. I once heard one proclaim that when they ran out of fertile lands, they'd invent an alternative fuel. From what I've observed, he is probably right." -- "Gifted Lords of the Third Age" by Ralinstone Pedant, Chronicler
Dreadnoughts are the most resilient class in the game with good defensive options and upgrades focused on becoming even more resilient. Outside of the leader or hero themselves, dreadnought units are mostly machines and firearms so it's important to learn the various strengths and weaknesses of your armies because the reload time of your units can leave your army vulnerable at inopportune times.
The various abilities and spells of a dreadnought are mostly area of effect abilities focused on disabling or damaging your foes with the strongest being the destabilized mana core, a massive explosion that affects the entire battlefield dealing high fire damage to all units both enemy and friend alike. This focus on area of effect fire damage and physical damage spells means that dreadnoughts do benefit from high fire resistance units and summons as they can then use their most powerful abilities without worrying about friendly fire.
The end-game units that the dreadnought can roll out like the ironclad warship and juggernaut are some of the most unstoppable units in the game with a variety of abilities and immunities. The mechanised nature of the troops does mean that they require active maintenance during combat in order to regain hitpoints but the reassemble ability makes them functionally immortal as long as a dreadnought is on the field.
"Because theocrats tend not to wield many offensive powers, it is tempting to believe that territories ruled by theocrats are easy to conquer. History has proven this to be foolishness. Theocrats lead the masses by the heart. They heal, persuade, minister and convert. Their zealots are fiercely loyal, convinced to the core that any action they perform will earn them a greater reward in the afterlife. Theocrats bestow power upon their most faithful from two theological sources: the Mandate of Heaven or the terror of the Underworld." -- "Gifted Lords of the Third Age" by Ralinstone Pedant, Chronicler
The theocrat is a class that revolves around careful buff and debuff placement that relies more on strategy and cunning than most other classes. They do benefit for their strong and very synergistic unit compositions but their weakness is their mana use as they rely on it to accomplish their most important victories. This means that a theocrat can have their wings clipped early by denying them important mana sites.
Although there are many strengths and weaknesses among the races when it comes to class choices the most benefit can be found in the goblin race when selecting to play a theocrat as their cheap cost units and fast expansion does fill in the gaps in the theocrat early game very well.
The end-game unit: Shrine of Smiting is perhaps one of the best city defense units in the game and as such is often to be found in cities before anywhere else as it does suffer a little on an open battlefield from cavalry charges and other quick approaches. Fortunately the exalted troop has a mechanic called resurgence which resurrects the unit if it fell during the last combat as long as its army went on to win, this makes it an amazing expeditionary force as they don't need to fall back to replenish troops. This bonus is extended to all of a theocrat's troops at the end of the research tree but this is so far off that it would only see major use in a very long game.
"Rogue Lords are masters of propaganda. Any foolish citizen who refuses to accept their lies disappears without a whisper of protest in the middle of the night. Rogues employ political scandal, poison, assassinations, theft, blackmail, and bribery to appease their subjects and manipulate rival lords. Rogues often have two faces: one they show the public, the other is a ruthless schemer directing their secret police force to brutalize his enemies. Rogue troops rely on stealth and speed, patiently waiting in shadow for the perfect moment to strike." -- "Gifted Lords of the Third Age" by Ralinstone Pedant, Chronicler
Rogues are the most careful of the leader and hero classes as they can have the highest pay off but also the greatest risk due to their mechanics. They rely on flanking and wide troop movements and ambushes in order to fully benefit during combat and on the strategic map. This kind of game play means that they can be difficult to deal with without an overwhelming force moving in and crushing them. This also inconveniently leads to the rogue's units moving in as your force moves out and capturing your own city in revenge.
A careful commander is wary of fielding their leader on the forefront of battle as the journey back from the void can be a real vulnerability but with the rogue this is less of an issue as a rogue can more than hold their own even at the start of the game, they start with good statistics and their backstab ability makes them very dangerous.
Rogue upgrades make them powerful expanders but leave their cities vulnerable to prolonged sieges from other classes so it is usually wise to recruit dwelling units for base defense. Their shadow stalker summon is a pretty strong siege unit but should be used en-masse if possible as they are not as tough as other elementals.Still shadow stalkers can dominate against racial units and units that don't deal elemental damage.
"Arch Druids lead from natural sanctuaries in remote locales. Their cities are natural self-sufficient places founded on the bedrock of natural balance. Their lands burst with life, sweet springs overflow bringing lush wilderness to arid wastelands. Their domains are well guarded by hunters, shamans, and wild beasts. Even the trees appear to bend to the Arch Druid-s will. The Arch Druid Lords I encountered ruled with unquestioned power that at times seemed cruel, but upon reflection is justified by their need for constant balance. To master the forces of nature, they do not blindly protect life, for death is the natural consequence of life." -- "Gifted Lords of the Third Age" by Ralinstone Pedant, Chronicler.
The summon-heavy druid class is a very versatile class that is vulnerable to banishment and other such spells during combat. The hunter and shaman units along with racial units and dwelling units make the backbone of your forces with powerful summons being the more front line elements of any druid army due to their somewhat temporary nature.
Druids are good expanders and have strong upgrades that help against a variety of issues, but overall they use their map presence and mix of units to control of the flow of battle with strong defensive play and powerful spells.
A druid's weakness is their reliance on summoned units so to counter play you simply need to deny them any dwellings or mana sites to force them into more reliable play styles. This can cripple their offensive capabilities and open the way for frequent city assaults without worry of summoned or powerful dwelling based repercussions.
"After the ascension of the ancient Wizard Kings at the end of the Second Age, a new breed of magicians, called Sorcerers, claimed power. Seeking to unravel the mysteries of cosmos, they've learned to directly tap into the mana currents and wield magic in its purest form. Sorcerers are capable of summoning magical creatures ranging from shock Wisps to extra-dimensional Eldritch Horrors. Being the most magically focused of all the classes, the Sorcerer wields a wide arsenal of combat invocations and unit and domain enchantments. Sorcerer's domains tend to be loaded with protections such as anti magic domes and guarding glyphs, while they cast corrupting magic on their enemies. Needless to say, Sorcerers favor mana over gold and rely on spells instead of brute force. With their arcane knowledge, they strive to restore the dominance once held by the Wizard Kings."" -- ""Gifted Lords of the Third Age"" by Ralinstone Pedant, Chronicler
While all of the classes in AoW3 can cast spells it is the sorcerer who is the true master of this craft with their superior casting point pool and increased mana production upgrades. With powerful summons and a wide array of spells they can make full use of their casting points with impunity while also protecting their cities with enchantments and upgrades.
Naturally the support units of a sorcerer are truly to be feared as they can deal a large amount of varied damage and have a number of class upgrades devoted to making them even more dangerous on the battlefield.
To counter a sorcerer you need to focus on magically resistant units and upgrades. Spell jammers and various dwelling creatures are some of the strongest approaches to this but various enchantments and hero upgrades can also aid in this task. Denying sorcerers the mana to cast their magics can also help but with their increased mana upgrades this can sometimes but more difficult than it is worth.
"Warlords see safety in war. One warlord told me that a nation at peace was a nation breeding cowards to be enslaved. Warlords rule by the Law of the Sword, establishing leadership based upon annual bloody tournaments of battle. Many warlords are clever tacticians, while others are legendary warriors unto themselves. Though they tend to trust the power of their well-trained arms over supernatural powers sacrifice, Warlords will sacrifice everything to protect their homelands. They train in strong armor, with an assortment of weapons, and view scars as badges of honor." -- "Gifted Lords of the Third Age" by Ralinstone Pedant, Chronicler
They are the front line specialists of the game with strong melee damage and survivability. Warlords are offensive focused powerhouses with units that reflect their enemy crushing nature. They excel at fighting monster and other creatures that need to close to attack but they also have units that can adapt to defensive situations namely the monster hunter and mounted archer.
Warlords are not without spells and indeed they have some of the most situational but most powerful in the game with buffs to their own troops to increase their damage or utility and debuffs to the enemy in the form of fear or morale or with steadfast ward they can make a temporarily immortal unit. It is important to remember that while a warlord is best when right on the enemy's doorstep, they are vulnerable to ambush and guerrilla tactics due to their unit structure, not to mention more powerful magics.
When fighting a warlord you need to be sure that they cannot get too many troops on the field at once. Try to ambush their production cities and keep them tied up in defense because if they manage to mobilize into a fully offensive state then they are very difficult to stop without massive firepower and units.
A new class released by Triumph Studios as part of the Eternal Lords DLC on April 14th.