Commanders are special units that can be given orders directly. Any troops under their command will follow their commander's orders.
Since armies in Dominions are very large, it would be too messy to give orders each month to every unit.
Instead, units are grouped into squads; those squads are assigned to commanders, and follow their commanders around the map and into battle.
Not all commanders have the ability to lead troops, but most do; this is determined by their Leadership statistic.
Commanders are the only units that can receive orders directly, cast spells, or use forged items.
Commanders require gold, resources, and commander points to recruit.
Commander points serve to limit the rate at which a fort can produce commanders. Palisades produce one per turn, fortresses and castles produce two, and citadels and above produce three.
Most commanders cost one commander point per turn. Mages and the best troop leaders cost two, and the most powerful mages cost four.
Commanders fall into a few basic classes:
* Mages are the most common and most valuable commanders. Their spells generally decide battles, they can research those spells, they can search for gems, and they can turn those gems into summoned creatures that win games. Some mages can lead troops well and some are also priests; some, like , can do it all. They get a purple name in battle reports.
* Scouts are commanders who generally have no leadership, some combination of terrain survival skills, minimal combat ability, and stealth. They're intended to stealth into enemy lands and observe. They're very cheap (25 gold), and this combined with their stealth often means they wind up with odd jobs: carrying gems around for armies to reload mages, building forts, and suicidally attacking enemy armies to see what they have. They get a blue name in battle reports.
Most of the time, independent s serve just as well as those from forts without taking up commander points in a fort. They tend to be extremely rare in the Early Age and uncommon in the Middle Age, however, so don't count on seeing them in those Ages.
* Leaders (or "commanders", although this is confusing) are commanders with leadership (sometimes high), but no magic ability. They generally have some combat skill, but their main role is hauling troops around and leading them into battle. While it can be tempting to give forged magic weapons and armor to these commanders and use them as strong units on the battlefield, usually there are better chassis to turn into thugs. Typically you will recruit these in large numbers only if your mages can't lead troops well. Independent commanders can often get the job of troop-mules done well, too. Like Scouts, they get a blue name in battle reports.
* Priests are commanders with Holy access, but no other magic. Their main roles are blessing troops in battle, banishing the undead, and preaching. You'll recruit these typically only when you need things blessed and you don't have holy levels on mage-priests, when you're facing a swarm of undead, or when you need to throw a lot of gold into holding back enemy dominion. They get a yellow name in battle reports.