Summary of the expansion

This expansion is discussed on the official forum.
Six videos have been released:

Seven articles have been published revealing information about the expansion:

Item Status Developers
Layer 1 new layer, the Shadow Realm layer Charlatan, Gloweye & HousePet (RMG integration)
  • 2 new spawners
  • 11 new treasure sites (including 3 from Decodence), including a new Heart
  • 3 new visit sites
  • 6 new Mystical City Upgrades
Charlatan & lordoflinks (3D models)
Race 1 new race, the Shadow Elves (31 units, 9 Leaders, 10 heroes, a full Racial Governance, etc.) Qwaeb/Dr_K & Bob (modding), vfxrob (3D models)
Dwellings 1 new dwelling: the (living) Archons Qwaeb/Dr_K
Non-racial, non-Dwelling units 5 new units: the Shadow Demons roamers on the Shadow Realm and the Archon Legionnary vfxrob (3D models), Qwaeb/Dr_K & Bob (modding)
Abilities More than 40 new abilities
Campaign 1 new campaign featuring 3 scenarios and 5 maps (multiple endings) Refineus & Draxynnic

Team and skills:

  • Charlatan: 3D models
  • vfxrob: 3D models
  • Lordoflinks: 3D models for strategic map structures, icons
  • Gloweye: coding for mods
  • Qwaeb/Dr_K: coding for mods
  • Bob5: particle effects, coding for mods
  • Draxynnic: lore
  • Hiliadan: coordination, 3D model rigging
  • Bagas: Shadow Elf race icon
  • Refineus: campaign maps
  • The Mentat: abilities' icons
  • HousePet: clb optimization

Layer - the Shadow Realm

The expansion introduces a new wild and dangerous layer, the Shadow Realm.

Inhabitants of the Shadow Realm

The Shadow Realm layer is inhabited by the Shadow Elves (Race), the (living) Archons(Dwelling) and the Shadow Demons (roaming units), who are all "native" Shadow Realm dwellers and are not affected by 20px Shadow Sickness.
Many magical creatures from Athla also inhabit the Shadow Realm.
DraconianIcon.png Draconian and ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf cities can be found in the Shadow Realm, as well as Dragon.png Dragon, Revenant Archon and (living) Archon Dwellings.

Shadow Sickness and Shadow Walker

Non-Shadow Realm natives are Vulnerable to Shadow Sickness. When they are in the Shadow Realm, they suffer from -1 Defense, -1 Resistance, -1 melee damage (they are unaffected when outside the Shadow Realm). They can also get affected by abilities related to the Shadow Realm, like Shadow Artifact.png Shadow Artifact, which will give them Shadow Sickness.png Shadow Sickness, thereby weakening them even when outside the Shadow Realm.
Draconians and other Shadow Walkers are not affected by the Vulnerability to Shadow Sickness.

A partial immunity to the effect of the Shadow Realm can be acquired through a few sources like Shadow Walker Aura, Shadow Weed Decoction or Shadow Weeds. This partial immunity is called Lesser Shadow Walker and protects only from the effect of the Shadow layer, i.e. the Vulnerable to Shadow Sickness.png Vulnerability to Shadow Sickness. It is inefficient versus the stronger form of weakness, i.e. the Shadow Sickness.png Shadow Sickness, which will still affect Lesser Shadow Walker.png Lesser Shadow Walkers.


Shadow Elves

A entirely new race native from the Shadow Realm has been developped.

The story of the Shadow Elves (by Draxynnic)

The Sealing of the Shadow Gate Much of this introductory section is a summary of relevant background lore that has previously been published by Triumph: see for more details

The defeat of the All-Devourer in the year 382 of Queen Julia’s Rule (236 years before the start of Age of Wonders 3) precipitated an exodus of armies from Athla into the Shadow World. First to leave, having no claim on Athla itself, were the archons (who had formally relinquished their claim on Athla during the final battle against the All-Devourer) and the syrons. Shortly afterwards, delegations from this initial wave returned to Athla, requesting assistance from Athla’s wizards in claiming other worlds that had been discovered in the Shadow World. Many of the wizards respond to the call, including Meandor.

While those who know the truth have not spoken on it, it is clear that something went wrong. Within fifty years, as viewed from Athla, and possibly over a thousand from the perspective of those in the Shadow World, most of the wizards that had entered the Shadow World had been lost. A century after the founding of the Commonwealth, a delegation of archons arrive seeking reinforcements, but are largely ignored by the Commonwealth Synod, and leave with few additional recruits. Thirty years afterwards, Meandor returns.

Having remained distrustful of humans, Meandor refuses to divulge his news to the Commonwealth, speaking only to Merlin and Julia. Nevertheless, a rumour spreads that a new power has been found in the Shadow World, sparking a second exodus into the Shadow World by wizards seeking to claim it. Whatever the reason for Meandor’s return, it was evidently enough to spark drastic action.

While Julia stockpiled supplies to tide Athla through the cataclysms to come, Meandor gathered a large army and used it to destroy Sunbirth Citadel, the city which had been built close to the last remaining Shadow Gate on Athla. He drives the population of the area away before direction his army through the Gate. Before anyone else could react, Merlin enacted his ritual to seal the Gate, protecting the people of Athla from whatever might have been happening beyond the Gate… but leaving those who had already passed through stranded.

Here ends the summary of official Age of Wonders lore. What follows is extrapolation from official lore for the purpose of the mod, and may vary from the direction Triumph takes in future instalments.

The reinforcements from Athla, led by Meandor, made the difference. Whatever dire threat to Athla had prompted such drastic action was held off for long enough for the gate to be sealed, and with the sealing of the Gate, efforts to seize Athla through the gate slackened, the attacker or attackers instead seeking to influence agents within Athla to reopen the Gate from Athla’s side.

The Shadow Elves:

In order to gather an army quickly without attracting the notice of the Commonwealth, Meandor could afford to recruit only those that he trusted implicitly. Dead men tell no tales, and in a twist of irony, the army that Meandor led to reinforce the archons in the Shadow World included the largest gathering of undead seen in Athla between Julia’s coronation and the resurrection of Melenis. However, despite having been absent from Athla for over a century, Meandor retained allies among the living as well, and the most numerous of those were the Dark Elves he had once ruled. Many of the eastern Dark Elf fortresses were emptied, their garrisons departing to march hundreds of miles through the caverns beneath the earth, emerging into the light only after they had gathered at the rallying point close to Sunbirth Citadel.

The majority of the Shadow Elves were part of this army, or are descendants of those that were (time passes strangely in the Shadow Realm). Some Wood Elves that were also part of the army have been assimilated into the fold, and other Shadow Elven groups are survivors of previous expeditions into the Shadow Realm by Serena, Arachne, and even Meandor’s initial forays.

While elves have traditionally preferred to dwell in the forests, they are capable of adapting to life in a new environment within a matter of decades – a talent that allowed the Dark Elves to adapt to living underground after the fall of Inioch’s court. This gave the Dark Elves a head start in adapting to the Shadow World – some, in fact, had already learned to exchange their physical bodies with the essence of shadow, and arrived in the Shadow World already immune to the nausea and disorientation that strikes most mortals on arrival to that plane. While forfeiting their natural form was too much of a sacrifice for most, the Elves that were now stranded in the Shadow Realm devised a ritual to infuse themselves with enough shadow essence to inoculate themselves against the debilitating effects of the Shadow World.

This ritual, applied to Wood Elves and Dark Elves alike, served as a kind of mirror to the Mending, although at the time this symmetry passed unnoticed on both sides of the Gate. Since the reopening of the Shadow Gate, some have claimed that the development of this ritual occurred too close to the timing of the Mending to be coincidence, although the difficulty of accurately tracking the passing of time in the Shadow Realm makes such claims difficult to verify. However, while the High Elves of Athla clearly resemble the Wood Elves more than the Dark Elves, in the Shadow World it is the other way around: in part because the ritual is derived from Dark Elven magic, and in part simply because the majority of Shadow Elves were Dark Elves to begin with. Nevertheless, while many similarities remain, the Shadow Elves remain very distinct from what they were: their wounded souls have been healed (some would say by filling the void inside them with shadow), the spider cults of Arachne have been eradicated from most of their holdings, and they are no longer as motivated by old hatreds as they once were. Instead, their society has been shaped by the needs of survival in the Shadow Realm, and by the need to retain control of their side of the Shadow Gate should it ever reopen.

While the Shadow Elves have stood watch over Athla since the sealing of the Shadow Gate, this does not mean they necessarily welcome the lords and representatives of Athla within their realms. Some remember the direction in which the Commonwealth was heading when they left, and word of the exile of the Elves after they left and of the fighting between the Commonwealth and the Court will only confirm their prejudices. Others are suspicious – and rightly so – that whoever opened the Shadow Gate is likely in league with their enemies, and are wary of being attacked from both sides. Still others tire of a life of constant conflict in the Shadow Realm, and may seek to desert their posts and seek safety in Athla, taking new holdings by force if need be. While Meandor and the Torchbearers seek to keep such incidents to a minimum, the potential for misunderstanding and conflict remains high… and the Shadowborn would like nothing more than to spark another war that will leave Athla ripe for the taking.

Specific gameplay of the Shadow Elves

– of course, very good on the Shadow Realm, but less so in other layers
– not very good aggressive fighters
- strong to use but also fight magic

Inherent traits

ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf Laboratories are 50 Gold cheaper Cities generate -10% Population Growth

Racial units

A few more details on the units can be found on a dedicated page.
Night Guard
Arcane Archer
Storm Priest
Umbral Weaver

Racial Governance

Racial Governance is part of the Eternal Lords expansion.
Note that only ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf units are affected

Racial Governance Military Economic
Patron Your ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf Irregulars gain Shadow Concealment.png Shadow Realm Concealment and +2 Movement Your ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf cities and units are indifferent to Blighted and Subterranean terrain.Shadow Elf Reanimators are 20% cheaper
Protector Shadow Elf Exterminator's gain Athletics.png Athletics Your Leader and all your ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf heroes receive +5 Casting Points each.
Champion Shadow Elf Infused now has a 1 Turn cooldown on Shadow Shift.png Shadow Shift Class specific buildings are 10 Gold cheaper and produce +5 Mana
Prophet All ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf Support.png Support units ignore ranged penalties with their attacks and Umbral Weavers's Invoke Darkness.png Invoke Darkness gets +2 frost and +2 physical damage Laboratories in your ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf cities now provide an additional medal to all units, not just Supports.
Deity All your ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf units get +1 Defense. Your ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf Archer.png Archer and Support.png Support units get Inflict Marked by Shadows.png Inflict Marked by Shadows. Your ShadowElfIcon.png Shadow Elf Pikeman.png Pikeman, Infantry.png Infantry, Irregular.png Irregular and 20px Cavalry units get Exploit Shadows.png Exploit Shadows. Shadow Elf cities with a Grand Palace give +10 Casting Points

Class racial units


More details on the units can be found on a dedicated page.

Monster Hunter
Mounted Archer
Manticore Rider


More details on the units can be found on a dedicated page.

Shrine of Storms


More details on the units can be found on a dedicated page.



More details on the units can be found on a dedicated page.


Arch Druid

More details on the units can be found on a dedicated page.



More details on the units can be found on a dedicated page.



More details on the units can be found on a dedicated page.

Lightning Cannon

Heroes / leaders

Each class needs 2 heroes and 1 leader of that race.

Arch Druid







Racial buildings

Tenebrous Citadel.png Tenebrous Citadel
Storm Tower.png Storm Tower


Archons as a Dwelling

The living Archons are back! Dedicated page of the Dwelling.

Archon Footsoldier
Archon Archer
Archon Paladin
Archon Saint
Archon Avenger
Archon Titan

Non-race non-dwelling units

Shadow Demons

The expansion introduces some Shadow Demon units as roamers or defenders on sites. The Shadow Elf Shaman will be able to take control of some of them.


The following structures are added to the Shadow Realm:

Link between layers

The Shadow Gates link the surface layer to the Shadow Realm (design by lordoflinks).

Spawn sites

Structure name Effect Original idea Status
Larva Pool Spawn Shadow Demons esvath Designed by lordoflinks + brainstorm idea: have inhabitants instead or in addition to defenders so you can only use one army to clear it.
Warband Campfire Spawn Shadow Elves and brigands esvath Designed by lordoflinks

Treasure sites

Structure name Effect Original idea Status
Forgotten Throne (Mythical)
Once, a Wizard King reigned here. Now, only Shadow Demons lurk in the ruins left.
See description.

Implementation issue: in order to have a +1 domain range when the site is controlled, it would have to be categorized as Terrain Painting and not Treasure Site. However, this would also allow them to project a radius of different climate around them.

esvath Designed by lordoflinks (but model needs to be reworked)
Hollow Grove (Legendary)
There are traces of nature magics which formed this grove and moulded it in a likeness of Athlan groves. The twisted powers of this realm subtly twisted and corrupted the enchantment, however, leaving the grove as dark mirror of Athla.
See description

Income to determine.

esvath Designed by lordoflinks
Beacon of Light (Epic)
Constructed by the united forces of Dark Elves and Archons, these beacons mark safe areas of the Shadow Realm free from much of the horrors that plague the plane, shining light over the shadows. Remnants of fallen armies have gathered here to survive in the middle of this blasted realm. They are not interested in your offer of alliance, however you can try to subjugate them and take whatever resources they have.
See description

Defenders: increase the mix of racial units maybe Humans, Dwarves, Elves… and decrease non racial
Reward: gold, units

lordoflinks Designed by lordoflinks
Archon Fort (Strong)
A group of Archon fighters have chosen this place as base. You are sure that there are a lot of supplies needed by your army. The question is how you can convince them in sharing the valuable goods with you.
See description
esvath and lordoflinks Designed by lordoflinks
Gemstone Mine
While normal metals are rare in Shadow Realm, valuable and magical gemstones are common.
See description
HousePet Charlatan did a model in Decodence; lordoflinks also designed a model
Forge of Dreams
In places where reality wears thin, artisans and researchers gather to make their dreams solid.
See description
HousePet lordoflinks designed it
Mithril Mine
Description to add.
See description
Underground only (not on the Shadow layer). Triumph already provided a model (see Gold Mine .clb)

The following treasure sites from the Surface layer would also be present in the Shadow Realm (defenders in brackets):

  • All mana nodes (non-racial guardians)
  • Ancient Ruins [retexture done by lordoflinks]
  • Crystal Tree (different guardians)
  • Flowrock Quarry (different guardians)
  • Forbidden Sanctum (different guardians)
  • Sunken City [Charlatan has models already: colored ones, black and white]
  • Tomb (non-racial guardians) [retexture done by lordoflinks]
  • Vault of Knowledge (non-racial guardians)
  • Wizard Tower Ruins (non-racial guardians)
  • Mealstrom
  • Castle of the Lich King

The following treasure sites from the Decodence mod will be included:

  • Wicked Flames of Grauth
  • Sword of the Ashen Rose
  • Raven Home

Gold, Research and Recruitment structures also need to be added.

The following treasure sites from the Surface layer would NOT be present in the Shadow Realm:

  • Animal Den
  • Brigand Hideout
  • Flower of Solace
  • Gold Mine
  • Great Farm
  • Haste Berries
  • Haunted Boneyard
  • all Hearts (except Heart of Shadow)
  • Lucky Cloverfield
  • Magma Forge
  • Necromantic Circle
  • Spring of Life
  • all Shrines
  • Well of Souls

Visit structures

Structure name Effect Source Status
Shadow Weed
A beneficial herb growing in the
Shadow Realm.
See description

Other proposals: restores MP on visit and gives +5 gold and +20 happiness.

Gloweye Confirmed
Glass Furnace
Glass made in the Shadow Realm is much tougher than Athlan glass. It can be used for weapon or construction.
See description

Idea: battle enchantment = custom Weapon Kit firing up every turn to give Fire Blunderbuss, Sabotage and Throw Net until the end of turn to 1 unit every turn
Technical issue: should also give gold when cleared (like Magma Forge) but can't because it's a visit site

HousePet Designed by lordoflinks
Celestial Pool
A pool of powerful holy water. Bathing in it is said to cure all illness and restore youth.
See description

Initial idea: Visit to restore Ghouls to life
Other idea for the battle enchantment (to replace Mass Bless): Great Healing Shower (probably too strong for such a site)

HousePet Designed by lordoflinks

Recruitment structures

Structure name Effect Source Status

2 recruitment sites, one with Archons and Dark Elves, in theory from the period when Meandor entered the Shadow Realm and sealed the Shadow Gates, and another with units from Athla, that have entered very recently following the latest opening of the Gates and are seeking adventure, gold and glory?


Structure name Effect Source Status
Heart of the Shadow
See description

Other idea: Battle enchantment: “Shadow Paralysis”: all units without Shadow Walking gets a further -1 def, -1 res, -1 melee damage and each turn, a random enemy unit without Shadow Walking has to pass a physical strength 9 check or be immobilized for 2 turns. But Hearts do not have battle enchantment, so idea dropped.

HousePet Designed by lordoflinks


No new item are planned.

Changes to the base game

Seal victory

Seals do not spawn on the Shadow layer.



New skill: Shadow Weed Decoction


Racial Governance

The following Racial Governance upgrades are modified:


  • Protector Economic: to be confirmed is added to the list (20px Magma Forge not on the SR)



  • Protector Economic: to be confirmed is added to the list (20px Great Farm not on the SR)


  • Protector Economic: to be confirmed is added to the list (20px Great Farm not on the SR)


  • Champion Economic (living): Shadow Weed is added to the list (bonus to confirm).
  • Champion Economic (Undead): the new Tomb model is added to the list (invisible for users)

Arch Druid

Animistic Knowledge.png Animistic Knowledge: all the new treasure sites are added to the list of sites affected by the bonus.


Steam Powered.png Steam Powered: Gemstone Mine is added to the list.


Magical Structures.png Magical Structures: all the new treasure sites are added to the list of sites affected by the bonus.


Sanctified Sites.png Sanctified Sites: all the new treasure sites are added to the list of sites affected by the bonus.


A new campaign follows where Triumph's Eternal Lords campaign ended and lets you explore the story of Athla and the Shadow Realm through three deep scenarios, with multiple possible endings.

Art and visuals

Forgotten Throne by lordoflinks (textured version) (initial version, reworked since)
Beacon of Light by lordoflinks
Dark Elf Dwelling by Charlatan (Dark Elves have been abandoned since)
Shadow Gate and Warband Campfire by lordoflinks
Larva Pool by lordoflinks
Gemstone Mine by lordoflinks
Archon Fort by lordoflinks
Heart of Shadow and Hollow Grove by lordoflinks
Glass Furnace by lordoflinks
Lost City retextured (work in progress) by lordoflinks
Raven's Home by Charlatan
Grauth Flames by Charlatan
The Shadow Elves:
Race icon
Storm Priest
Rogue units
Full racial line-up
Umbral Weaver


How to activate the Shadow layer?

I don't see a checkbox to activate the Shadow layer, how can I get it in RMG map?

First you need to activate the Shadow layer mod when you launch the game.
Then, if RMG maps do not generate the Shadow layer, just click on "Restore Default" on the first screen of settings for RMG maps.
20181124 SR restore-default-in-RMG.jpg Modding tools do not allow to modify the User Interface (UI) so it is unfortunately not possible to add a checkbox to add the Shadow layer, sorry.

How to play without the Shadow layer?

You want to play the expansion without the Shadow layer?
Just de-activate the Shadow layer mod at launch and you'll enjoy the expansion's content without the Shadow layer.

Is the expansion compatible with other mods?

This is open beta. We hope beta testers like you can help us test whether there are incompatibilities. Currently we are aware of no incompatibility.
In any case, what incompatibility means is:
If mod A changes, say, Mark of the Heretic and increases its cost to 50 CP, and mod B doesn't change Mark of the Heretic, then both mods are compatible. But if mod B changes Mark of the Heretic too to decrease cost to 10 CP, then they are "incompatible" (but that word is not really appropriate as it's confusing and let people think it will cause troubles) in the sense that the contradictory changes can't be applied simultaneously. What the game will do is that it will pick the change from the mod with the highest priority, or from one of them if they have the same priority level. So in the end, you'll end up with 10 or 50 CP depending on priority. But you won't get any error or any issue.

My game is crashing when I generate a new map, why?

As of 24 November 2018, two things can currently cause crash for RMG maps:
1/ you recently activated or de-activated the Shadow layer mod and then tried to generate a new map. The game will try to generate the Shadow layer without the mod and crash. This was supposed to be fixed in 1.802 but wasn't. It will be fixed in a future official update of AoW3. Meanwhile, please click on "Restore Default" on the first screen of settings for RMG maps to solve the issue.
2/ you are generating a large map with the Shadow layer. We currently have a bug which usually appears on large map and is quite rare. Sorry about that, please try again on a smaller map and it should work. We are working on it.

Why do Shadow Elves lack Forestry?

1) Shadow Elves mostly stem from Dark Elf stock, which did not have Forestry in previous games.
2) While it can be presumed that Shadow Elves still enjoy dense vegetation environments, their focus has probably been more on surviving the Shadow Realm in general (where forests are rarer than in Athla) than forests in particular.

How to start in the Shadow layer?

Of course, you need first to activate the Shadow layer mod.
Only Shadow Elves and Draconians can start in the Shadow layer. If you pick Default or Surface in the last screen of the Leader selection, you should start on the Shadow layer with Shadow Elves. For Draconians, you'll have to be lucky.

Can I play Dark Elves?

No, it was planned at some point but in the end, the community expansion does not include Dark Elves.
You can play them through this mod for instance. Other races can't start on the Shadow layer.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.