Age of Wonders 4: How to Excavate the Underground

It’s a long tradition for fantasy 4X games to have an underground layer that’s almost as extensive as the surface. Age of Wonders 4 is no exception, and players can find free cities hiding in the darkness and even build some of their own cities in the empty corridors.

However, Age of Wonders 4 adds a wrinkle to this formula by forcing players to excavate if they want to get access to every last province and resource hidden in the underground map. Some races can excavate at the start of the game, but any faction can eventually learn to dig through the underground and fully explore the map.


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Where to Unlock Excavation as Any Faction

Age of Wonders 4 Excavation Skill

Players can customize their faction abilities by spending the Imperium resource on the Empire Development screen. There are six branches to choose from, one for each affinity, but there’s also a tree trunk called “General.” This trunk combines all the affinity scores together, both from the faction’s start and from every tome players get, which means each faction has equal access to the general abilities. The first of these abilities is Basic Seafaring, which lets armies enter and leave water hexes. The second ability is Excavation, which is the subject of this guide.

The other way to get Excavation is to start the game with a race that has the Mind Trait called Underground Adaptation. This trait makes it easier to move across underground tiles, it lets the race build farms on underground provinces, and it lets them start with Excavation. The Molekin get Underground Adaptation by default, but players can swap the trait when choosing any of the physical forms.

How to Dig Underground

Age of Wonders 4 Excavation Hero Option

When players first enter the underground map, they’ll see several types of provinces. Some start pre-cleared, some contain underground rivers or magma flows, some are filled with solid rock, and some are filled with dirt. Factions with Underground Adaptation often start on this map, but others will have to find an entrance on the surface.

That last province type is the kind that players can excavate. Bedrock provinces are too hard to dig up, and nothing players can do will destroy them. Fortunately, players don’t have to. If there’s something hidden in a corner of the underground map and there’s bedrock in the way, players can reach it by using a different underground entrance.

Once underground, players will see a shovel icon next to the unit portraits when selecting an army. Click this button to see which provinces units can excavate. To actually do some excavating, have a unit stand next to a dirt province, click the shovel, and then click on the pin that appears over the province. The unit will lose all its movement, and on the next turn, the province will be open air instead.

It’s worth mentioning that every unit can excavate, not just heroes. This means players can bring an army underground, have all its members split up, and have each regular unit excavate while the hero builds an outpost by the entrance. However, this can be risky because sometimes an excavation will reveal an aggressive monster that will attack players’ units. So avoid splitting an army too much to keep its units safe.

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

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