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Age of Wonders 4: Free Cities, Explained

Age of Wonders 4 is a turn-based strategy game set in a fantastical, multiverse-style setting. In Age of Wonders 4, players develop their empires to traverse procedurally-generated realms where they’ll often encounter Free Cities that are home to AI-controlled factions.


Free Cities in Age of Wonders 4 are significantly more complex than in Age of Wonders 3. There are many new systems in place to encourage the player to interact with Free Cities. This guide will help players get the most out of those interactions.

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How Free Cities Work in Age of Wonders 4

free city diplomacy

Free Cities are NPC settlements with modest potential. They can be powerful in their own right but never quite as powerful as a proper faction. They develop units, build structures, and take part in diplomacy, but they don’t create new cities or develop themselves into superpowers.

Similar to other factions, Free Cities have a Relations value that measures their opinion of the player’s faction. The Relations value determines how much Allegiance they’ll gain or lose every turn. When their Allegiance reaches certain milestones, their diplomatic state (Neutral, Pact of Loyalty, etc.) will change. If it gets too low, the Free City will declare war.

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Diplomacy with Free Cities

meeting a free city

When the player discovers a Free City, they’ll introduce themselves with some dialogue. How the dialogue is worded gives the player a sense of their initial impression. This is determined by how similar the Free City and the player’s faction are. If their rulers have Affinities in common and their Alignments are similar, they’ll start off with a positive impression. If they’re dissimilar enough, the Free City will immediately declare war.

Selecting a Free City on the World map opens a window that gives the player the following options:

  • Boost Allegiance: If the player has given the Free City a Whispering Stone, they can spend Imperium to boost their Allegiance immediately.
  • Make Peace: If the player is at war with a Free City, they’ll have the option to spend gold to improve their relationship to Neutral.
  • Give Whispering Stone: Players start with one Whispering Stone they can give to a Free City or to their own cities. If given to a Free City, the Whispering Stone will infer a bonus to Allegiance gained every turn. It can be taken back at any time.
  • Trade: Players can exchange resources with a Free City over a set number of turns. These trade agreements count as treaties.
  • Declare War: Declaring war on a Free City will make it hostile. If the Free City is a vassal of another faction, the player must also declare war on that faction.

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How to Improve Relations with a Free City

accepting a quest from a Free City

To begin improving Relations and, therefore, Allegiance, the player must give the Free City a Whispering Orb. By default, players may only have one Whispering Orb, but this can be improved through the Empire Development tree or with certain faction traits.

After the player has opened negotiations with a Free City, there are many ways to improve their Relations. Here are a few of the most impactful methods:

  • Accept and complete quests given by the Free City, such as those requiring the elimination of enemies.
  • Agree and adhere to agreements made with the Free City, such as territorial disputes.
  • Choose a Tome or take an action that develops an Affinity that matches the Free City’s Affinities.

Free City Diplomatic States

age-of-wonders-4-free-city-diplomatic-states

As the player progresses in their relationship with a Free City, they’ll move through a few phases. Here are those phases, along with their details:

State Description
War
  • Armies can engage in Combat, and Cities can be attacked.
  • Free Cities will occasionally send armies to attack.
Neutral
  • The player and Free City are at peace.
  • The Free City won’t offer any trade agreements or Recruitment Points.
Pact of Cooperation
  • The Free City opens its borders.
  • Trading is enabled for up to two resources.
  • Magic Materials can be traded.
Pact of Loyalty
  • Vision is shared.
  • Building is allowed in claimed provinces.
  • Contributes two Recruitment Points to the Rally of the Lieges.
  • The Free City will join battles against hostile armies that they’re also at war with.
Pact of Vassalage
  • The Free City becomes a vassal of the player’s empire, unlocking new Diplomatic States that improve its usefulness.
  • Income and Magic Materials are shared.
  • Other factions can no longer increase their Diplomatic State with the Free City.
  • The Free City will join any wars the player is engaged in and assist in combat.

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After a Free City becomes a vassal, new Diplomatic States become available. A new vassal starts at the Vassalage stage. As they gain Allegiance, they’ll move toward a Supreme Vassalage. If they lose Allegiance with the player, they’ll move toward a Denying Tributary.

age-of-wonders-4-free-city-vassal-states

Here are all the vassal states for Free Cities:

State Description
Denying Tributary
  • No income is shared.
  • No Magic Materials are shared.
  • No contributions to the Rally of the Lieges.
  • Trading costs are increased by 100%.
Minor Tributary
  • 10% of income is shared.
  • All Magic Materials are shared.
  • One Recruitment Point is contributed to the Rally of the Lieges.
  • Trading costs are increased by 50%.
Tributary
  • 20% of income is shared.
  • All Magic Materials are shared.
  • Two Recruitment Points are contributed to the Rally of the Lieges.
  • Trading costs are increased by 25%.
Vassalage
  • 30% of income is shared.
  • All Magic Materials are shared.
  • Two Recruitment Points are contributed to the Rally of the Lieges.
  • Trading costs are at default.
Bonded Vassalage
  • 40% of income is shared.
  • All Magic Materials are shared.
  • Three Recruitment Points are contributed to the Rally of the Lieges.
  • Trading costs are decreased by 10%.
Flourishing Vassalage
  • 45% of income is shared.
  • All Magic Materials are shared.
  • Four Recruitment Points are contributed to the Rally of the Lieges.
  • Trading costs are decreased by 15%.
  • The Free City can be integrated into the player’s empire.
Supreme Vassalage
  • 50% of income is shared.
  • All Magic Materials are shared.
  • Five Recruitment Points are contributed to the Rally of the Lieges.
  • Trading costs are decreased by 20%.
  • The Free City can be integrated into the player’s empire.

Age Of Wonders 4 is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows.

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