The Battle for Wesnoth

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The Battle for Wesnoth
Old version of a campaign in the desert from The Battle for Wesnoth
GenreTBS, Online
Latest release1.16.2  (Announcement)
Release dateJanuary 17th, 2022
PlatformsWindows, Linux, Mac, Android, iOs, Steam
DeveloperWesnoth team
Code licenseGPL
Media licenseGPL
P. languageC++, Python, WML, Lua
The Battle for Wesnoth is a free game. This means that the source code is available to be studied, modified, and distributed. Most projects look for help with testing, documentation, graphics, etc., as well.
Available as a package in:  
Archlinux-icon-crystal-64.svg Arch: wesnoth


Slackware logo.svg Slackware: wesnoth 
Openlogo-debianV2.svg Debian: wesnoth 
Fedora logo.svg Fedora: wesnoth  
Gentoo Linux logo matte.svg Gentoo: games-strategy/wesnoth 
UbuntuCoF.svg Ubuntu: wesnoth 
OpenSUSE Logo.svg OpenSUSE: wesnoth 
Mageia logo small.jpg Mageia: wesnoth 
Flatpak logo.png Flatpak: org.wesnoth.Wesnoth 
24px FreeBSD: wesnoth 
24px Haiku: games-strategy/wesnoth

The Battle for Wesnoth, or simply Wesnoth or BfW, is a fantasy themed 2D turn-based strategy game started by David White in June 2003.[1] The game is programmed in C++ and its code and media are licensed under the GPL.[2] This game does not require 3D hardware acceleration.


The game features different races: Dwarves, Elves, Undead, Orcs, Drakes (Dragons), Loyalists and Dunefolk (Humans),. Each race has its own unique characteristics along with their own weaknesses and strengths.

The game maps are structured as hex grids. The defensive strength of a unit is affected by its race and the terrain it stands on. For example, Elves have a very strong defense value in the forest while they are extremely vulnerable in water.

It also has some RPG elements. Individual units can gain experience in battles. When they reach a certain amount, they level up and become stronger. With the recall option(Only available in campaigns), it becomes possible to call back veteran units from earlier levels if they didn't die in combat.

The night and day cycle also affects some of the races' power. For example, Orcs are best at night, Humans at day. This is known as the alignment of a unit.

There are single-player campaigns as well as various multiplayer game modes.

Factions and Eras[edit]

A faction is a group of unit types a player can recruit. Players select their faction before starting the game. There is also the possibility to select a "Random" faction, which means that a random faction will be selected for this player. The advantage of playing with a random faction is that with fog of war, the opponent does not know the player's faction until their armies first meet.

An era is a group of factions balanced against each other. An Era is selected before starting the game, and players can choose only factions from this era. The game contains three eras with the download: Default, Age of Heroes, and Great War. The first two eras contain six factions: Loyalists, Rebels, Northerners, Undead, Knalgans, and Drakes; the difference is that Default era allows recruiting only low-level units, where as Age of Heroes allows also recruiting higher-level units. The Great War era contains only two factions: Alliance of Light, and Alliance of Darkness.

Age of Heroes[edit]

  • Loyalists: Mostly Humans of the Wesnoth kingdom; plus some Mermen, and (in Age of Heroes) Ogres.
  • Rebels: Mostly forest Elves; plus Human mages, Woses, and some Mermen.
  • Northerners: Trolls, Orcs, Goblins, and Nagas.
  • Undead: Skeletons and other undead, as well as Human dark adepts.
  • Knalgans: Dwarves, Human outlaws, and Gryphon riders.
  • Drakes: Drakes and Saurians.
Wose: A tree‐like creature in the rebel faction

Great War[edit]

  • Alliance of Light: Loyalists + Rebels + some Knalgans. (Available only in the Great War era.)
  • Alliance of Darkness: Undead + Northerners + some Knalgans. (Available only in the Great War era.)

Players sometimes refer to factions as "races", which is incorrect, because there can be units of multiple races in one faction (such as Elves, Humans, and Woses in the Rebels faction), and units of the Human race appear in many factions.

In single-player mode, each campaign can specify a different set of recruitable units. This set can change during the campaign, reflecting the campaign plot. Although these sets can be similar to multiplayer factions, they do not depend on them.

It is possible to create user-defined factions and eras, or to download them as "Add-ons" from the campaign server.


Wesnoth has extensive support for mods. All contents for the game are stored as .cfg files, which are written in WML, or WesnothMarkupLanguage. This allows any user to edit units, campaigns, races, attributes, savefiles, user interface layout or maps.[3] It also allows a user to create new content, which could eventually change every aspect of the game. Also, there is a Wesnoth editor that allows users to create new maps.


There are many campaigns that are included with the official distribution of the game. Official campaigns for the game change over time. These include[4]:

  • A Tale of Two Brothers: A beginner campaign about a knight who attempts to rescue his brother from an evil mage.
  • The South Guard: An introductory campaign in which a young knight takes command of the South Guard.
  • Heir to the Throne: The first and earliest campaign as well as the most developed and popular in The Battle for Wesnoth. It is about a supposed heir to the throne of Wesnoth, Konrad, against the evil queen of Wesnoth, Asheviere.
  • The Rise of Wesnoth: This campaign features Prince Haldric, the first king and founder of Wesnoth.
  • The Eastern Invasion: A knight of the Wesnoth kingdom, Gweddry, attempts to save Wesnoth from the undead invasion.
  • Under the Burning Suns: This campaign is set in the far distant future of Wesnoth when there are two stars in the sky. The Elves in the campaign are adapted to the deserts. They are different from the other Elves normally found in the game.
  • Son of the Black Eye: The son of a famous orcish chief is attacked by Elves, Dwarves, Undead, and Humans. He must unite all the orcish tribes to defeat them.
  • An Orcish Incursion: The elves defend their forest against the first orcs to reach the continent.
  • The Hammer of Thursagan: An expedition seeks to learn the fate of The Hammer of Thursagan.
  • Descent into Darkness: A young boy uses neocromancy to save his people from orcish invaders.
  • Dead Water: A young merman king must repel an undead invasion.

Development and design[edit]

The game design follows the principle of KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).[5]

The design is influenced by two Sega Genesis games, Master of Monsters and Warsong. David White took some of their ideas and added his own. After the game design was formulated, he then started writing Wesnoth.[6]

The developer community of Wesnoth also attracts a few famous developers from the general Free software and Open Source community such as Open Source Initiative co-founder Eric S. Raymond.[7]

Wesnoth only has two versions out at any time: development and stable. Development is a branch that boasts the latest features and graphical updates while stable is the maintenance release, thus getting only bug fixes and other minor enhancements. Currently, 1.15.x is obsoleted as a development series the 1.16 stable branch has just been released.[8][9]

Wesnoth also has one of the most active and largest development teams in the Free gaming community. Ohloh recorded the Wesnoth team as one of the largest in the world, in the top 2% of all teams on Ohloh.[10] recorded 8098 commits and a commit every hour on average since it started recording 1.24 years ago as of September 9, 2007.[11]

Summer Programs[edit]

The project was fortunate enough to be a mentor organization in Google’s Summer of code program for 2008, 2009, and 2010.

The 2008 program helped creates an API for programming smarter and pluggable AIs and a revamped map editor.[12]

In addition to Google's program, the Wesnoth project set up a summer program for students who want to work on Wesnoth's art projects.[13]

Release history[edit]

The Wesnoth team only releases a new version of the game when it is done. As a result, the frequency of releases tends to vary over the years. 2004 is noted as the most productive year in terms of number of releases.

The earliest known dated version know is version 0.1 which was released on June 18th, 2003.[14]

See Battle for Wesnoth release history.


Other than David White himself, others also play significant roles in the development of the game. However, the contributors to the project are too many to name all of them.

But to name a few:

  • Jetryl, also known as Richard Kettering is the current lead artist of the Battle for Wesnoth project.
  • Aleksi Aubry-Carlson is responsible for much of the music in The Battle for Wesnoth.
  • Nils Kneuper (also known as Ivanovic) is the release manager of the project.

For more, see Battle for Wesnoth contributors.


At one time or another, members of the Wesnoth team sought to raise funds to help the project. One such effort is selling Battle for Wesnoth merchandise via Cafepress. It is unclear how effective this effort is or how many items have been sold. The merchandise appears to have outdated graphics for the current generation of The Battle for Wesnoth. It appears that Francisco Muñoz (fmunoz), is involved with this effort in some way.[15][16]

The Wesnoth project also started taking donations as early as March 31, 2004.[17][18]

Another effort to raise funds was to put up advertisement. David White solicited the Wesnoth community's opinions about advertising on June 28, 2007. The majority of the community seem to give approval on certain conditions that the advertising are not obnoxious. At one time, google ads appeared on the Wesnoth site. However, the ads eventually disappeared.[19]

Another source of funding come from developer Kyle Poole, who ported Wesnoth to the Iphone and Ipad platform. Part of the earning he received from sale of these ports went to the project.[20][21]

The wesnoth project used the funds for their various project needs, including an art scholarship program.[13]


Wesnoth is one of the most famous video games of the Free gaming scene. Over 1.5 million downloads occurred between mid 2004 and mid 2007, including a trailer and various versions of Wesnoth.[22]

Critics from Inside Mac Games, Game Tunnel, PCBurn, and OS Review overall regard the game in a positive light. To some extent, they note the game as having good graphics, despite its retro look. Inside Mac Games rated the game an 8 while Game Tunnel gave them a 7.[23][24][25][26]

It is also one of the highest rated games on, with 205 ratings with an average of 5 out of 5.[27]

The Battle for Wesnoth has also won the 2008 Members Choice Award as open source game of the year.[28]


Many players have criticised the game as being too random, claiming that it often makes the luckier player win instead of the more skilled one. The general consensus among developers is that it is extremely unlikely to ever be changed. [29][30]


Wesnoth has a large active community at the Wesnoth forum with about 10,000 members and over 280,000 posts in their forums as of February 20th, 2009.[31]

It also has a community newspaper called the Wesnoth Observer which was created on the offtopic section of the Wesnoth forum and then moved to the wiki of Wesnoth.[32][33]


  2. Wesnoth copyright file at Debian packages
  3. The WML reference page
  5. The History of, and Philosophy behind Wesnoth which explains Wesnoth's success in reaching release version 1.0
  6. Interview with David White at PCTechTalk
  7. Wesnoth credits page - A very comprehensive list of all the contributors to Wesnoth
  10. Factoids at Ohloh about Wesnoth
  11. Archived Wesnoth stats at
  12. downloadable Google Summer of Code projects for Wesnoth
  13. 13.0 13.1 Announcement for the 2009 Wesnoth Summer Art Scholarship program on June 13th, 2009 accessed on June 20th, 2009
  14. The Battle for Wesnoth's freshmeat page
  15. Wesnoth's cafepress store
  16. Announcement of merchandise availability on August 31, 2003
  17. Donation thread
  18. Wesnoth's page for donation
  19. Discussion about ads
  20. Ipad port wesnoth thread accessed on May 27th, 2010.
  21. Iphone port wesnoth thread accessed on May 27th, 2010.
  22. Battle for Wesnoth download statistics at
  23. Review of Wesnoth at Inside Mac Games
  24. Review of Wesnoth at PCBurn
  25. Review of Wesnoth at Game Tunnel
  26. Review of Wesnoth at OS Reviews
  27. The Game Tome's list of games sorted by rating
  28. LinuxQuestions Members Choice Award Winners thread
  29. Post by a developer on the Wesnoth forums
  30. Post by David White on the Wesnoth forums (see bottom of post).
  31. bottom of Wesnoth forum shows forum statistics.
  32. Wesnoth Observer
  33. Wesnoth thread about The Observer

External links[edit]