Battle For Wesnoth Is Still Free, Still Getting Better

A quick search reveals that we’ve only written one post about venerable, free, turn-based strategy game Battle for Wesnoth. One! One. Burn down RPS right now. It’s Fantasy Battles by way of Advance Wars, it’s open source, it offers a vast selection of user-created campaigns and the latest update vastly improves the interface, the map editor, adds a new faction, and more. Let’s increase that post count by 100% right now.

For a free and open source game, Wesnoth is frighteningly well-maintained. It’s been fun to play for a decade, but it’s been slowly becoming more professional in presentation ever since, to the point now where it’s prettier (and better explained via its tutorial) than many paid-for counter-parts.

This new update improves the minimap, so it offers more useful information for players as they command their armies across hexagonal terrain. It also improves the add-on browser which is imperative, because while there are bundled official campaigns that come with the main game, most of your time is going to be spent playing on one of hundreds of user-created maps and campaigns, many of which have complete storylines to go with their battles.

The new faction is multiplayer only, but sounds interesting – a faction of humans which “lacks magic users, and instead specializes in using terrain features to coordinate attacks at dawn or dusk.” High-accuracy melee fighters and horse-riding archers with high-mobility stats.

Of course, if you’ve never played Wesnoth before, none of this matters much. All that matters is that this game is great, free, and now a bit better. There are download links at the bottom of the v1.12 page.

35 Comments

  1. Poppis says:

    I’ve been checking this games progress for years and every once in a while I download it to play a few campaigns. And every time I am amazed that this is a free game. It feels very professionally made.

    Too bad it’s not on Steam, as that would give it soo much more visibility.

  2. rustybroomhandle says:

    This is actually the game that got my former wife from being game-loathing to one-more-turn-ing till dawn. Good times, great game!

  3. wearedevo says:

    This game really is very, very, good. Not much else to say about it. I got hooked on the Android port, but soon found myself spending hours and hours on the windows version as well. I was amazed I hadn’t heard of it before.

    • Valkyr says:

      I am interested on installing it on my Android as well. Which port do you play on? I have heard there exist several and their quality varies.

      • wearedevo says:

        This was a good year or two ago now, and the port I used stopped being updated as far as I know. Not up to date with the situation so I probably can’t be of much help. I paid for the Android version though – I think it was $5 at the time. Certainly worth it.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          I’d be wary of them after getting stung by the iOS version. These aren’t “official” apps, they are done by fans/opportunists porting over the code of the current build, charging a couple of quid and not supporting or updating the app in line with existing builds.

  4. Thurgret says:

    I use this game to pass the time on long train journeys. I have also lost a few weekends to it, which I can’t say for most games.

  5. mattevansc3 says:

    I love this game, I’ve sunk more hours into this game than most AAA games. The only issue I’ve got is my shit luck means that a 75% chance to hit means I’ll hit one in four times so I have to save scum quite often.

  6. Anthile says:

    There’s also plenty of mods that add more factions (I have been playing with the Khalifate for years although I never found them very interesting), as well as completely new game modes such as horde survival which used to be a blast to play in multiplayer.

  7. Kaeoschassis says:

    Man, I was just thinking the other day I should start this up for another spin, and now there’s a new update. Most excellent.
    RPS, your failure to give this gem the coverage it deserves is noted, but I will generously let it slide this time.
    This time!

  8. Alien says:

    This game is best played with 2-4 friends for hours and hours and hours.

    Out of curiosity: Are there any other games like this with a non-fantasy setting?

    • mattevansc3 says:

      If you go to the Wesnoth website there’s links to a few more games built off of the same open source engine.

      The name escapes me at the moment but they’re are some old school hex based strategy games involving tanks, Panzer Generals I believe, there’s also the WH40K Rites of War game which was made by the same devs as that tank game.

  9. Reapy says:

    This game is like the cover story for open source development, it really is quite excellent from top to bottom.

  10. mukuste says:

    One really has to respect how well this game is made, but… the horribly RNG playstyle just puts me off too much. It seems the only way to get through the harder missions is to savescum extensively, and that just doesn’t appeal to me.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Some of the missions are a little over the top if you don’t know how to abuse the AI routines. Really the game shines the most in multiplayer.

      It is a wonderful game and the best open source project there is/was. The main downside is that even a shortish game lasts a hour or so, and the long ones can take multiple hours so it is not a hobby for the low on time. I loved it in college and just after when my schedule was fairly open.

      A great game if you have little money and lots of time and are looking for interesting things to fill it with.

      • happygrue says:

        What Josh failed to mention here is that he created (IMHO) the best of the multiplayer maps that are still in the game. They have morphed somewhat over time but Path of Daggers and Loris River are among my favorites still. ;)

        There is some really, really great content that is still being created by users and is available on the in-game add-on server. We haven’t had a stable release in almost three (!) years, and as such there is a bit too much under the engine tinkering that was crammed into this release. I would expect some bugs still, but there will be continued stable patches (eg new releases) until it gets smoothed out.

        The chrome flagging issue is new, and I would expect would go away once chrome notices us getting enough downloads and investigating. In the short term you can either trust it or compile the game yourself. Or use an OS other than windows.

        If you haven’t played Wesnoth before you should give it a try! It’s the kind of game that looks so simple and yet has a lot of depth. Also: FREE!

        • Soif says:

          According to the game forums the flagging problem went away when the user tried a mirror site (i.e. not sourceforge). Interestingly on the Google forums another program author is saying their program was being flagged as malware and they are also hosted on sourceforge. Perhaps its a Chrome/Sourceforge problem.

    • clockworkrat says:

      I can never work out what RNG stands for. Rear-Naked Game?

      • Valkyr says:

        Random Number Generation. Basically the hit/miss and damage dealt are randomized (with probability measures), so if you’re not using a unique seed for your game, you can load an earlier save to your advantage (avoid losing a unit etc.)

    • Banyan says:

      Wesnoth isn’t more variable than poker or many tabletop roll-playing games. Once I learned that the game demands a few sacrificial units, a willingness to pull back to defensible hexes to survive through a day-night cycle assault, and an an absolutely terror of being flanked, I very rarely found myself in impossible situations, and those resulted from bad decisions made earlier. RNG can add unexpected stress to a game, but I can’t remember ever having a game where I felt that I was making all the right tactical decisions and was forced to fail by a bad run of luck. This game is amazing.

  11. Emeraude says:

    I love that game so much.

  12. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    A real gem that I played the heck out of 8 or so years ago, then got my son hooked on it. Was the first TB strategy game he got into. Satisfying, tough combat, and you come to rely on those upgraded units, and cry when they are lost. An awesome project, and kudos to the folks working on it to keep it free, open source and continuing to enhance it.

    @clockworkrat RNG = Random Number Generator

  13. Shardz says:

    Yup, thanks for the notice. I was about to check the other day for a new version and got sidetracked. Wesnoth and Stone Soup are on the top of my list of definitive must-have free games.

  14. Soif says:

    I can’t believe I missed this before since it hits all my happy points. Sadly Chrome is flagging the 1.12 windows download as malware. Any ideas why?

  15. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Great game. I haven’t played quite enough of it the last.. few years.

  16. InternetBatman says:

    It’s an absolutely awesome game. I highly recommend. The first day / night cycle is an experience in itself.

  17. Gomisan says:

    Fantastic game and deserving of so much more attention. If you like turn based games then this is pretty much guaranteed to please. A colleague and I have played many a battle, and making your own maps is easy and lots of fun.

  18. The_Sleeve says:

    To those of you who haven’t played this game and are even remotely interested in it, I’d really strongly recommend giving it a try. This is probably my favorite tactics/strategy game.

    By the way, labeling this a strategy game is kind of a misnomer, I think. This is much more a TACTICS game than a strategy game… very similar to chess. When you are playing chess, 90% of what you’re doing is individual pieces moving around (capturing, blocking, pinning, sacrificing)… that’s tactics. You might have an overall game plan (your strategy), but 90% of the time your focusing on tactical decisions.

    On every single turn in a game of Wesnoth, there is an interesting tactical decision to make. And that is what makes it great.

    That’s not to say that there’s no concept of an overarching strategy in Wesnoth. On the contrary, at the beginning of each map, you can spend a bit of time coming up with an overall strategy of where you want to position your units to meet the enemy. There is also a very deep strategy of how you deploy your units in battle and set them up to be promoted to the next level (by gaining XP, they can be upgraded to a much more powerful unit). So, there is strategy, but that’s only 10% of the game. The other 90% is all tactical execution.

    I also love, love, love the fact that there are no buildings, construction or resource gathering in this game at all. There is a single type of resource – villages. You capture and control villages, and they become strategic points that you need to defend. No worrying about gold, wood, oil, building farms, barracks, or any of that stuff. This game focuses purely on the fun stuff: tactical combat. It focuses on that one thing and really gets it right.

    I enjoyed Warcraft 2 and Starcraft in my younger days, but after playing Wesnoth, going back to resource gathering just doesn’t seem fun anymore. It’s tedious, frankly, to spend 90% of your time gathering resources and building stuff, with only 10% of your time spent fighting. That’s why I shy away from RTS games now.

    A lot of people complain about the element of luck in Wesnoth, but I really don’t agree with their arguments. Yes, there is a random number generator that can occasionally give you an unlucky streak and spoil your plans, but I think this is actually a great element of the gameplay, because it introduces the concept of RISK. This means that when planning your attack or defense, there is no sure-fire thing. You can’t just simply crunch the numbers and figure out when you have a sure victory. You have to factor in the risk factors of the random number generator when making your plans.

    That being said, in the end, the random number generator will screw you just as often as it screws your opponent, so it evens out. In my experience, the best tactician will almost always win.

  19. happygrue says:

    I commented briefly about the chrome flagging issue above. If you’d like to follow that discussion on our forums there is a thread about it here: link to forums.wesnoth.org

    • Soif says:

      Thanks for the heads-up happy, I will keep track of that forum and see if something else comes up. I work in the field of computer security so I am familiar with false positives but I sure would like to know exactly what was triggering it and why.