Battle of Wesnoth Review and Tips

15 12 2008

With only one final left to study for, I’ve had enough free time to get addicted to a new game. The game is Battle of Wesnoth, a totally free Open Source game that has versions for both Windows and Linux.  I had actually tried it once before, but I lost interest before I learned how to play well. That is a risk with this game, the easy level is sometimes too easy and the normal/hard levels are frustratingly difficult, at least to someone new.

First off a description of what this game is. It’s a turn based strategy game that’s simple to learn how to play, but difficult to master. It’s based in a fantasy realm where you’ll encounter elves, humans, orcs, and various other factions wandering the lands of Wesnoth.  There are over a dozen campaigns to work your way through and also a multiplayer mode and tons of user content if you finish all that. The graphics aren’t extremely impressive, but aren’t so old and clunky that it’s a big turn off. It does mean you can play this game on practically any computer without worrying if your 3D shadowing and refresh thingamagjig is good enough.

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Campaigns consist of multiple scenarios, which have an objective often as simple as eliminating a boss on the other side of a small map. The map is divided into hexagon squares which your troops can inhabit. Also scattered around the map are villages, which you can claim by placing a soldier;  these villages increase your gold income.  From your Keep you are able to recruit your army, consisting of ranged attackers, melee attackers, scouts, healers, and mixes of the previous. Once you recruit your army, moving and attacking is as simple as clicking on the unit, and then clicking where you want him to go or what you want him to attack.

The strategy of the game is in small details which are sometimes hard for beginner players to notice.

First off, each turn changes the time of day. During night some factions fight better, while others fight better in the day. If you’re fighting Orcs for instance, they benefit from the cover of darkness. This means that timing your attacks to hit at dawn and hopefully weaken or destroy the enemy by nightfall is often crucial when you are outnumbered and outpowered. If you can’t defeat the enemy by nightfall, it may be better to sit idle and let your units heal or retreat rather than continue to let your units fight to their death. Even if you’re adjacent to an enemy, if you’re going to loose more HP than you can deal damage, it’s often better to just sit and get the +2 heal from being idle at the end of the turn instead of loosing most of your HP in an attack and then being quickly killed when the enemy attacks back.

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A second major factor is the terrain which your units are placed on. Some terrain provides your units with defensive bonus, enabling them to dodge more attacks. An elf archer in the forest can easily fend off and defeat a far more powerful foe that is fighting from inside a river, making the formation of lines of units along river banks with some healer behind them extremely effective. Another important factor is keeping key units alive throughout the campaign. Each time a unit attacks it gains a small amount of experience. When a unit kills an enemy unit, it gains a large amount of experience. Eventually units can level up and gain more health, special skills, and more powerful attacks. In order to level units it’s often necessary to attack an enemy with several units, and then finish them off with someone who usually wouldn’t do well in a fight, like a healer. A small force of high level units can make a huge difference in battles. When the enemy is strong, they can often kill your low level units in a single turn. I’ve found a small force of elite units really come in handy to kill bosses and other powerful foes.

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Another tip, don’t underestimate high level healers, and try to keep them traveling in pairs because they can’t heal themselves.

Overall it’s a highly addictive game once you get into it and start coming up with strategies. My first impression wasn’t quite so glamorous because I hadn’t learned anything except how to play. Playing is easy, and even boring, but winning by outmaneuvering your enemy is hard, and quite enjoyable. If you get bored, try playing at a different difficulty level or a different campaign before you give up.

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