July 20, 2007

Battle for Wesnoth is a ton of fun

Author: Jeremy LaCroix

Battle for Wesnoth is an amazingly addictive 2-D turn-based strategy game with some role playing game elements thrown in for spice. It runs under Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. Wesnoth can be played solo, using one of the several single-player adventures (campaigns) available, or over the Internet with other people.

The object of each round of Wesnoth is to complete a mission. In most cases, your goal is to destroy the opposing player's leader. When your leader is moved onto a base, you may call units to assist you which will form your army. Using your army, you must determine the best strategy to crush the opposing army and destroy its leader. Unfortunately, creating your army is not cheap; each type of unit will cost you a different amount of money, and the game gives you a limited supply of cash. If you move one of your units onto a village icon, you will begin drawing funds from that village for the rest of the match, unless the opposing player takes control of it from you. Each unit that you summon into the game will grow and advance as it defeats enemies, and the data for each unit is retained, so you can recall units in future missions in the same campaign or multiplayer match.

There are several different races that you can play as in the world of Wesnoth, such as Men, Drakes, and Undead, to name a few. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses -- for instance, Elves are able to cast powerful magic, but they aren't as adept with weapons as Dwarves. In another example, Drakes are strong against most attacks, but they are weak against cold attacks. As you become familiar with the game you'll likely have a race preference.

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As with all open source programs, you can help improve Wesnoth and help make it better. Even more intriguing, Wesnoth's creators have taken the concept of open source a bit further and created an open source world. The basic history of Wesnoth is already written, but you can tell your own story within its world by creating your own campaign.

A typical game in the world of Wesnoth first begins with each side building its army. Each player uses virtual funds to recruit troops (units) to protect the leader. Since each unit in play deducts funds each turn, the next goal is usually to secure as many villages as possible to increase the incoming cash. Then, once the army is assembled, you concentrate on securing your enemy's base and finally its leader. During the game, if one of your units is defeated, you can recall it by spending some of your funds.

If you get your friends interested in the game, you can run your own Wesnoth server and have a public or private environment of your own in which to play. A Wesnoth server allows you to manage the games yourself; on the flip side, you also have to make sure that the software is running smoothly.

The modules

Wesnoth contains several different "pieces" that make up the entire program, and you can install as many or as few components as you'd like. Some are parts of the main program, while others are campaigns, which are single-player adventures. Most of the campaigns are quite challenging, and many include a difficulty level selection to adjust the game to your experience level. All the components listed in the table below are available as APT packages.

Package Purpose
wesnoth Base game and the data files
wesnoth-music Background music files
wesnoth-server Lets you run a Wesnoth server; most people will not need this
wesnoth-editor Lets you create your own Wesnoth maps
wesnoth-all Installs all of the above, plus extra campaigns
Campaigns
wesnoth-ei Eastern Invasion -- you control a hero named Gweddry and battle against the undead
wesnoth-httt Heir to the Throne -- help Konrad cancel Queen Asheviere's evil rule
wesnoth-trow The Rise of Wesnoth -- a scenario involving the history of the hero Haldric
wesnoth-ttb A Tale Of Two Brothers -- help Arne rescue a mage named Bjarn
wesnoth-utbs Under the Burning Suns -- an advanced campaign that takes place in the future, in a desert where some elves dwell

If you play Wesnoth with others, you can create friendships that may last beyond the scope of the game into real life. You can team up with others for warfare, or have a classic round of one on one.

When it comes to open source gaming, Wesnoth provided me some of the most fun I've had since Frozen Bubble. Although Wesnoth doesn't have the level of graphics found in real-time strategy games like Warcraft III and Heroes of Might and Magic, it holds its own with a great community and a world freely available to all in the spirit of open source.

Jeremy LaCroix is an IT technician and technology hobbyist who writes in his spare time.

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