In general, there are two different types of strategy games. In real-time games time advances steadily therefore requiring the player to act quickly. Turn-based games, however, allow the player to carefully plan his actions as there is no constantly ticking clock. The Battle for Wesnoth is such a turn-based game, in the spirit of proprietary titles like "Battle Isle" or "Panzer General".
Wesnoth is a fantasy kingdom where battles between good and evil are happening frequently. Each of the four official campaigns tells a different story, however only "Heir to the Throne" and "The Rise of Wesnoth" are considered finished by the development team. The others have a complete storyline and scenario list, but some re-balancing is being expected in future versions.
"Heir to the Throne" tells the story of Konrad, a young human who is the nephew of the last king of Wesnoth. Several years ago, the king was betrayed by his wife, Asheviere. She proclaimed herself queen of Wesnoth and tries to kill Konrad because he is the legitimate heir to the throne. Konrad was sheltered from the queen by the mage Delfador by sending him to the Elves who are now under attack of the queen's forces. This is were the first scenario of 26 starts.
Each scenario begins with the hero waiting at the castle, which is the base he can recruit units or recall them from previous scenarios can be recalled. The money required for buying units and paying them afterwards is collected by occupying villages spread all over the map of the scenario.
Wesnoth's playing screen
Controlling your units is dead easy. Moving and attacking is done via a single click, only buying units takes a second one. This is all that is needed to play Wesnoth and allows to quickly rush through a turn if there isn't much to do.
A turn in Wesnoth represents a part of a day. Six turns make up a whole day and the time of day plays a crucial role. Lawful units (most humans) fight better at daytime while chaotic units (orcs, undead and other nice little fellows) inflict more damage at night. This leads to many exciting tactical situations, with periodic attacks and retreats. A skilled player can often decide a battle by choosing the right time of day for the final attack.
Delfador casting his attack spell
Units can attack when they are positioned next to an enemy unit. An attack menu pops up and requests to select an attack type. There a two basic types of attack in Wesnoth: melee combat and ranged attacks. Obviously, the different units have different strengths and weaknesses, so a spellcaster with a powerful ranged attack will do poorly against a brute-force creature in melee combat, and vice versa.
Experience points are awarded for fighting and killing enemy units. If a unit passes a certain threshold, it gets leveled up and becomes more powerful. In some situations there are multiple options for what new powers the unit shall receive. This offers additional options to build a powerful army where the mix of the different units is optimal.
Playing the campaigns is a great fun and gives the game a very good long-time value. The scenarios are fairly balanced (much better than in earlier versions), but of course some scenarios are meant to be harder than others. The scenario authors have done a great work by trying to make every scenario unique instead of always requiring to kill all enemies. However, in the first phase of most scenarios, there is a lack of excitement where not much is happening besides occupying villages and getting new units. If the map is small, this phase takes only a few turns, however for larger maps this can become a bit dull.
Wesnoth not only offers a campaign mode but also single scenarios playable against the computer or in multiplayer mode. New scenarios can be created using the map editor.
Altogether, The Battle for Wesnoth is certainly one of the best open source games ever created. Its appeal comes from the clever combination of well-known strategy game concepts with unique features. People interested in strategy or fantasy games will simply love Wesnoth.