There is no such thing as a “+1 sword” in Illyriad. The bonus that equipment gives is dependant on who you are, where you are, and what you are doing with it. If you wish to use equipment, you will have to collect equipment that gives you bonuses in specific situations – like when attacking, or when defending, or when in mountains, or when in the arctic or in a desert. This is way more interesting than blanket bonuses, but requires some thought….
The most obvious route is to go for items with high attack or high defence, depending on whether you expect to attack or defend.
War Spears are quick to research, and can be built without any highly unusual ingredients. The % bonus isn’t huge, but cavalry are so strong in attack anyway that +6% to their huge attacks are worth having if the weapons can be made or bought cheaply, especially for Human Knights.
War Axes (considered a sword) gives +12% to Dwarf Swordsman and +8% to Orc Swordsman attacks, making Dwarf Stalwarts an impressive attacking unit.
Composite Bows provide a bigger % bonus for archers, but with the constraint that they lose their benefit if you try to use them in extreme biomes: +15% for an already formidable Elven Trueshot is absolutely worth having – so long as you aren’t in Desert, Jungle or Arctic areas.
Silversteel Swords are looking like the ultimate attacking weapon (for swordsmen, of course), and arguably make the Dwarf Stalwart the best attacking unit in the game. But don’t rely on getting your hands on any Silversteel any time soon – so Silversteel swords and spears (like the armours) may not be available to most players.
Heavy and Extra Heavy armour are obviously attractive. Heavy armours give smaller % bonuses, but require no unusual ingredients. The Extra Heavy options are more impressive, but are harder to make. The +10% bonus on easy-to-make Heavy Leather armour is especially attractive (particularly for Orc Clan Guardsmen or Elven Trueshots).
Iron Bound Spears are also worth considering. They don’t give a + in all circumstances, but give +8% (or +10% for Orcs) against the most common attacking units – cavalry and swords – and also has a big bonus if you’re ever attacked by Monstrous NPCs.
Three Wood Bows (for archers) are probably the best defensive weapon, especially for Elven Trueshots. Elves get +8% against allcomers, so long as they are in the default, temperate areas of the map (the bonuses are lost in Desert, Arctic and Jungle).
But these numbers are not actually all that impressive. You will do much better if you pick your fights more carefully. And the more carefully you pick your fights, the better the bonuses that you can get.
So, based on terrain:
Every weapon and armour type has a piece of equipment that works on each of the terrain types. There’s a sword for hills, a sword for mountains, one for plains, another for woods, for example. That means that if you know what terrain you will be fighting on, you can get a +12% weapon and +12% armour bonus for a total of +24% bonus on all attacks and all defences in that terrain. For example, if you have a city on a mountain, surrounded by mountains, mining resources from mountain squares, then you can get the mountain equipment and be sure that you’ll get a +12%+12%=+24% in each fight you’re likely to get into. That +24% is way more impressive than the bonuses you’ll get for equipment that sets you up for any eventuality.
And if you are defending, you can get bonuses depending upon your foes:
Every weapon and armour type also has a version that works against a particular foe, when you are defending. This only counts in defence, but the point is that if you know who is going to be attacking you (including what troop type they will use) you can get +16% from a weapon and +16% from armour, giving an impressive +32% bonus.
So, there are the obvious options. The rule is that the more specialised you go, the bigger the bonuses you’ll get. And of course, there is weirder equipment – but that would be a subject for another post