At a Glance
- Tactical gameplay, Many scenarios, Lots of options
- AI is relatively predictable
Turn-based tactical fantasy with many campaigns, 200 units, and an active community… for free.
Battle for Wesnoth is a free, tactical, turn-based game in which
you command fantasy armies in a variety of scenarios. The game
follows a familiar pattern: Beginning with a few units, you must
acquire resources, summon troops, and accomplish pre-determined
goals, such as “Kill the orc chieftain” or “Escort the caravan
across the map.”
Each unit in Battle for Wesnoth represents an individual, not an
army, unlike in similar games, such as most iterations of Heroes of Might and
Magic. This distinction matters, because units gain experience
and advance, becoming more powerful and unlocking new abilities. In
many other games, this is something only ‘leader’ or ‘hero’ units
can do. This, in turn, adds a twist to tactics: Whoever gets the
killing blow on an enemy unit gets the bulk of the experience
points. If you let just anyone strike without paying attention to
their current XP, it’s harder to get a unit to level up…but
manipulations to ensure that the level-up-likely unit attacks can
lead to serious blunders. You can “recall” experienced units from
prior scenarios in a campaign, so experience accumulated in one
scenario is not lost, and scenarios in long campaigns are written
assuming you will bring advanced units with you.
A typical Battle for Wesnoth campaign begins with one or more
leaders (the only characters who can recruit new troops), a small
amount of gold, and a straightforward goal explained by a sequence
of dialog boxes featuring a conversation… sort of a storyboarded
cut scene. You recruit troops in a fortress, then start exploring
the map. Moving a unit into a village flags the village, causing it
to start producing gold, which you will need to recruit more units.
You find roads, forests, mountains, and, eventually, the enemy.
Then the fun begins.
To battle, you command a unit to move adjacent to a foe. Terrain
and time both matter–an elf in a forest has a huge defensive
advantage, cavalry is potent on the open road but hindered in hills
and swamps, orcs fight better in the dark, and so on. Learning how
to strike when you’re strong and the enemy is weak is the key to
victory, as is learning how to position troops and protect key
units. Due to the turn-based nature of the game, you can ponder
your moves–and Battle for Wesnoth has a menu item which shows
likely enemy moves to aid in your planning.
Combat itself consists of strikes and counter-strikes. The ideal
situation is an attacker with a ranged weapon against an enemy
without one–the enemy cannot strike back! Be warned, though, that
once the turn is done that unit can’t move until the next turn. If
your archer fails to kill the enemy troll, the troll may very well
rend it in the next move.
Several linked scenarios form a campaign, and most scenarios
contain triggered events which advance the story. For instance,
finding a group of besieged soldiers who will be your allies
(computer-controlled friendly units) or locating a critical NPC who
will unlock a new scenario goal.
There’s very little to complain about in Battle for Wesnoth, if
you enjoy this style of gameplay in the first place. I encountered
no glaring bugs. The starter scenarios I found to be very easy once
I’d mastered the basics, but more advanced scenarios proved much
more challenging, so don’t be put off if your first few games seem
too simple. There’s an active development and player community.
Battle for Wesnoth is an open-source game without a major
company behind it. I didn’t encounter any glitches, but I have in
other games with the same kind of development model. If this
occurs, the online forum
is the best place to go for help.
If you like turn-based tactical games, it’s hard to find a
reason not to download the free Battle for Wesnoth.