The Glowing Fish Guide to Abilities

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The Glowing Fish Guide to Abilities

Post by Glowing Fish » November 4th, 2006, 5:11 am

For the new, and not-so-new, player of Wesnoth, I wanted to put together a short guide to the different abilities that units could have, and how they can be used. This guide is meant to start discussion, not to be the absolute word. Some of my personal prejudices will show up in this document. Ignore them if you want.

First, abilities fall into two categories: general and weapon. A general ability affects everything that unit does, while a weapon speciality is specific to that weapon. I will start with general abilities.


Leadership Gives a bonus to adjacent units of a lower level. The bonus depends on the difference in Levels, with the lower level unit getting a bonus of 25% added to damage per level. The boost can therefore be from 25% up to a high of 125% (in the case of the Fire Dragon leading Level 0 troops). It will usually be only 25% or 50%.
Those Leadership bonuses add up, even if they are just a point or two. However, Leadership is not a magic button for increasing damage, the way Backstab or Charge are. Also, units with leadership tend to be powerful units, and using them for maximum leadership doesn't always allow them to shine themselves. You will often have to decide between putting a leadership unit on the line, or behind the line.

Ambush Can be a great ability, although not as great as it could be. If you have an unbroken ocean of forest, the location of ambushing units is indeed a mystery. However, if you have a map with the forest scattered into three or four hex wide areas, it isn't too hard to figure out where an ambushing unit is. Also, although your units can hide for a while, they still have to come out to fight. You don't win battles by hiding!

Cures, Heals, Regenerate I put all these together because there is one fact about healing and regeneration of your units that is different in Wesnoth than most TBS games I have played: it is of strategic, but not tactical value. Units get 4 or 8 points regenerated a turn. This means that even the weakest units in Wesnoth can cause about as much damage as you are healing! A walking corpse can do 8 points of damage a turn! So the point of healing in Wesnoth is not that you can put a unit on the lines and it will be able to recuperate all the damage and keep fighting. The point is, once you are done with one phase of your battle, you can use your healers to prepare your units for the next phase of the battle. I think this actually comes in more in campaigns than it does in multiplayer: in multiplayer, the rhythm of the battle is fairly straightforward, but in campaigns, you might fight various pitched battles in one scenario, and need to recuperate between them.

Illuminates Much like leadership, this can be an important factor in optimizing the damage you inflict, and it can really add up. And much like leadership, the bonus it gives, letting Lawful forces fight at 25% better than they would during twilight, night and dawn, is not something that makes a unit much stronger than it normally would be. The halo only goes out one hex, so your Royal Guardsman might be fighting like it is twilight, be he is still facing a Death Blade that is fighting like it is pitch dark. So this ability can give an advantage, but it doesn't totally overcome having to pay attention to time of day.

Nightstalk This ability is like Ambush, only a whole lot scarier. It only works one third of the time, but during that time, you have have to deal with getting swooped down on from nowhere. I suppose Nightstalk by itself wouldn't be so scary, if the Shadow didn't also have good movement and a backstab attack. At night, out of nowhere, a pair of Shadows can show up out of nowhere and do up to 120 points of damage. And that, indeed, is scary.

Skirmisher I would say that Skirmisher is perhaps the greatest non-weapon special. One of the benefits of Skirmisher is it can be used both offensively and defensively. You can slip through and kill wounded, valuable units, and you can also get your valuable units away when they are threatened. Skirmishing is a great way to assassinate leaders. Also, in campaigns, when you have to move a unit to a certain location, skirmishing is a great way to do that. The biggest problem with skirmishing is that while they might be good at chasing down fleeing units, most skirmishing units aren't powerful enough to win those battles in the first place.

Steadfast Steadfast, a fairly rare ability, is great on the defense. Especially against an opponent who might not want to send waves of units in to kill your Dwarvish Stalwart or Merman Hoplite in their mountain/water fortress, there is not much way to get around the places these units hold. On the other hand, for the most part, defense doesn't win battles. (Unless, of course, it is a scenario where you have to hold out...these units would be perfect for those.)

Submerge Is kind of like Ambush, only it only applies to Undead as they go in deep water. The thing is, this often isn't that much of a surprise, since when they are in deep water, they are moving pretty slowly.

Teleport I think I said up above that Skirmisher was the best ability. I was wrong. It is teleport. Well, at least Teleport LOOKS the coolest. You won't come across teleport very often in multiplayer, since only the Silver Mage gets to use it. In a campaign, having Silver Mages to teleport brings up strategic possibilities that transform scenarios. Instead of slogging through water or mountains to get to a fortress, you can just send a Merman or Gryphon to capture a village, and then teleport in a Silver Mage to assassinate pesky enemy leaders. Also, much like skirmisher, this is great on the defense. The minute your Silver Mage is in trouble, teleport him to safety. This special is almost too unbalancing.

That is my guide to non-weapon specials. My guide to weapon specials will come out...soon!
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Post by Clonkinator » November 4th, 2006, 3:36 pm

Hm. Great. I agree that teleport is one of the coolest abilities in Wesnoth :D

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Re: The Glowing Fish Guide to Abilities

Post by Thrawn » November 6th, 2006, 2:57 am

Glowing Fish wrote:For the new, and not-so-new, player of Wesnoth, I wanted to put together a short guide to the different abilities that units could have, and how they can be used. This guide is meant to start discussion, not to be the absolute word. Some of my personal prejudices will show up in this document. Ignore them if you want.

First, abilities fall into two categories: general and weapon. A general ability affects everything that unit does, while a weapon speciality is specific to that weapon. I will start with general abilities.


Leadership Gives a bonus to adjacent units of a lower level. The bonus depends on the difference in Levels, with the lower level unit getting a bonus of 25% added to damage per level. The boost can therefore be from 25% up to a high of 125% (in the case of the Fire Dragon leading Level 0 troops). It will usually be only 25% or 50%.
Those Leadership bonuses add up, even if they are just a point or two. However, Leadership is not a magic button for increasing damage, the way Backstab or Charge are. Also, units with leadership tend to be powerful units, and using them for maximum leadership doesn't always allow them to shine themselves. You will often have to decide between putting a leadership unit on the line, or behind the line.

Ambush Can be a great ability, although not as great as it could be. If you have an unbroken ocean of forest, the location of ambushing units is indeed a mystery. However, if you have a map with the forest scattered into three or four hex wide areas, it isn't too hard to figure out where an ambushing unit is. Also, although your units can hide for a while, they still have to come out to fight. You don't win battles by hiding!

Cures, Heals, Regenerate I put all these together because there is one fact about healing and regeneration of your units that is different in Wesnoth than most TBS games I have played: it is of strategic, but not tactical value. Units get 4 or 8 points regenerated a turn. This means that even the weakest units in Wesnoth can cause about as much damage as you are healing! A walking corpse can do 8 points of damage a turn! So the point of healing in Wesnoth is not that you can put a unit on the lines and it will be able to recuperate all the damage and keep fighting. The point is, once you are done with one phase of your battle, you can use your healers to prepare your units for the next phase of the battle. I think this actually comes in more in campaigns than it does in multiplayer: in multiplayer, the rhythm of the battle is fairly straightforward, but in campaigns, you might fight various pitched battles in one scenario, and need to recuperate between them.

Illuminates Much like leadership, this can be an important factor in optimizing the damage you inflict, and it can really add up. And much like leadership, the bonus it gives, letting Lawful forces fight at 25% better than they would during twilight, night and dawn, is not something that makes a unit much stronger than it normally would be. The halo only goes out one hex, so your Royal Guardsman might be fighting like it is twilight, be he is still facing a Death Blade that is fighting like it is pitch dark. So this ability can give an advantage, but it doesn't totally overcome having to pay attention to time of day.

Nightstalk This ability is like Ambush, only a whole lot scarier. It only works one third of the time, but during that time, you have have to deal with getting swooped down on from nowhere. I suppose Nightstalk by itself wouldn't be so scary, if the Shadow didn't also have good movement and a backstab attack. At night, out of nowhere, a pair of Shadows can show up out of nowhere and do up to 120 points of damage. And that, indeed, is scary.

Skirmisher I would say that Skirmisher is perhaps the greatest non-weapon special. One of the benefits of Skirmisher is it can be used both offensively and defensively. You can slip through and kill wounded, valuable units, and you can also get your valuable units away when they are threatened. Skirmishing is a great way to assassinate leaders. Also, in campaigns, when you have to move a unit to a certain location, skirmishing is a great way to do that. The biggest problem with skirmishing is that while they might be good at chasing down fleeing units, most skirmishing units aren't powerful enough to win those battles in the first place.

Steadfast Steadfast, a fairly rare ability, is great on the defense. Especially against an opponent who might not want to send waves of units in to kill your Dwarvish Stalwart or Merman Hoplite in their mountain/water fortress, there is not much way to get around the places these units hold. On the other hand, for the most part, defense doesn't win battles. (Unless, of course, it is a scenario where you have to hold out...these units would be perfect for those.)

Submerge Is kind of like Ambush, only it only applies to Undead as they go in deep water. The thing is, this often isn't that much of a surprise, since when they are in deep water, they are moving pretty slowly.

Teleport I think I said up above that Skirmisher was the best ability. I was wrong. It is teleport. Well, at least Teleport LOOKS the coolest. You won't come across teleport very often in multiplayer, since only the Silver Mage gets to use it. In a campaign, having Silver Mages to teleport brings up strategic possibilities that transform scenarios. Instead of slogging through water or mountains to get to a fortress, you can just send a Merman or Gryphon to capture a village, and then teleport in a Silver Mage to assassinate pesky enemy leaders. Also, much like skirmisher, this is great on the defense. The minute your Silver Mage is in trouble, teleport him to safety. This special is almost too unbalancing.

That is my guide to non-weapon specials. My guide to weapon specials will come out...soon!
pretty good, but a couple of comments:
Leadership: They are weaker than comparative units of the same level, not stronger, FTMP (for the most part).

Cure/Heal/Regenerate:
you forgot to mention the healing of poison....cure and regenerate cure poison, but casues the unit not to heal the same turn. This is of importance as you as the defender can not lose the 8 damage from poison, but as attacker you can use it to prevent them from gaining 8 health...

Skirmisher: most likely your valuable units won't be skirmishers, unless you value fencers or saurians, or have leveled assassins. Also, units with skirmisher generally have low hp to compensate for such a kick-@$$ ability.

Submerge: so true---has anyone ever used it in a practical situation?

Otherwise, nice guide, thanks for spending time on it!
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Post by TheLost1 » November 10th, 2006, 8:20 pm

I think that submerge is more for flavor than anything else.

And when he said that leadership units are generally more powerful, he means that they are more powerful than the majority of your units. This is because they are higher level, not because of any ability.
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Post by Trygvasson » November 12th, 2006, 9:50 am

... But what does the 'steadfast' trait give? I'd like to know, I've got 5 merman warriors inching close to level-up...

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Post by Xandria » November 12th, 2006, 10:57 am

Steadfast doubles your resistances on defense, e.g. when your opponent initiates combat with a steadfast unit. This meaning, a dwarvish guardsman who has a 20% blade resistance will have 40% when attacked. Vulnerabilities are NOT doubled... not that any steadfast unit I am aware of had any.
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Post by Zhukov » November 12th, 2006, 11:17 am

Little extension on what Xandria said:
Steadfast doubles your resistance on defense to a maximum of 50%.
This means that if a unit has steadfast and, say, 40% resistance to blade, when it is attacked that resistance will go up to 50% - not 80%.

Trygvasson, you could have just checked the manual.

PS. Where did your alias come from? I'm curious.

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The Glowing Fish Guide to Abilities: Weapon Specials

Post by Glowing Fish » November 13th, 2006, 12:13 am

After the somewhat successful reception of the Glowing Fish guide to abilities, here is the guide to Weapons Specials. As I said before, this isn't the ultimate word, but merely a brief introduction. Discussion welcomed!

Backstab Backstab is a great ability. When you have two units on either side of the unit you are attacking, the backstabbing unit does double damage. This is a great ability, because if you look at most Wesnoth units, it takes going from Level 1 to almost Level 3 to increase your damage. So with backstab, it is almost like you are going up two levels!
The only thing about backstab is, don't get too tempted by it. Often, to surround an enemy unit, you have to move out beyond your lines, and you will be sacrificing that unit. Only do this if you are using it to attack a unit that you really want gone.

Berserk Berserk is a possible game ender. Berserk means that instead of the normal set amount of attacks, the combat keeps going until one unit is dead.If you are sending a berserk unit against a weak enemy leader (like a Mage), you will almost certainly win. There is a reason why there is only one mainline unit with berserker. It could be too unbalancing! In the unit with berserker, The Dwarvish Ulfserker and Berserker, they have lots of disadvantages. They have no ranged attack, and low defense. This way, they are used once, and then discarded. Berserk units are expensive, so choose the targets you send them against well.

Charge: doubles damage taken and received on attack. Much like Backstab, it can turn a Level 1 unit into doing the type of damage that Level 3 units do! Of course, this comes with a price, that these units also die quicker. The main unit that has Charge, the Horseman and its line, are expensive. Also, they only have two attacks, (except forthe Lancer, with three), meaning that they have a good chance of missing. They also have low defense. If you send, say, a Horseman against an Elvish Fighter in forest, its quite frustrating to miss both hits, and take enough damage to possibly die. And that is a 23 gold unit against a 14 gold unit. So, use this unit wisely, against primarily ranged units, and against expensive units.

Drains Returns half the hitpoints you do in damage back to you. In old versions of Wesnoth, you would continue to gain hitpoints beyond your normal total, until you had a Wraith with something like 200 hitpoints. The ability now only returns you to your original HP total. Right now, only certain undead units have this ability. It can be powerful, especially at night. However, much like what I said about Curing abilities in the non-weapons special section, this ability has to be used strategically, not tactically. Your Wraith can regain hitpoints over a night by attacking isolated units, but if you put it in the middle of good units during the day time, you won't be able to drain fast enough to stop from dying.

First Strike Means that this unit hits first, even while defending. I find this ability doesn't come in handy often, because striking first would only be of benefit when you have an injured unit being attacked by another injured unit. Which might come up sometimes, but not too often. Unless, of course, you are a Halbierder defending against a charging Horseman, in which case you can kill it in one turn.

Magical is one of the best specials. It gives you 70% chance to hit on offense and defense. I have some personal bias towards it, because I like having some certainly in my attacks. With three attacks at 70%, you have something like a 97% chance of hitting at least once. Of course, when you miss all of those, it becomes even more frustrating! Magical units are usually expensive, and they are fragile in melee, so they should usually be sent against high priority targets. Recruit them if your enemy has lots of elusive foot units, or has lots of favorable terrain.


Marksman is like Magic-lite. It hits 60% against all units, on attack. I feel that the difference between 60% and 70% is a significant difference. Especially since one of the major usages of the Marksman is the Elvish Marksman and Sharpshooter against various mounted units and drakes, most of who have low defense anyway. I usually reserve Marksman to attack enemy leaders in their keeps.

Plague Turns slain enemy units into units of your side, usually walking corpses. In the mainline units, it is possesed by the Walking Corpse and the Necromancer. I don't think it is that potent of an ability. It is a nice bonus to get an extra unit, but it is not like having an extra walking corpse is going to turn the tide of your battle. It might be good in certain situations, but in general, I don't think "swamp the enemy with Walking Corpses" is the best strategy.

Poison causes a unit to lose 8 hitpoints a turn, down to a minimum of one hitpoint. I find it one of the two best specials. I call it "the gift that keeps on taking", Even the strongest enemy units will have to run back to a village, even after taking a single strike. Another thing about poison is that it ignores time of day. For example, you can sneak your Orcish Assassin in to poison an enemy Orcish Warlord during the day time, when he won't be able to retaliate, and then run away and wait for the poison to come into effect. Poison is less effective when there are many villages, or units that can cure poison. It is also totally ineffective against undead.

Slows Is my favorite special. It makes the opposing unit inflict half damage. This means that even Level 3 units will be doing about as much damage as a Level 1 unit! In addition, it halves the movement of that unit. This makes even gryphons about as fast as your foot units, and it makes slow units almost immobile. If you can slow a unit on unfavorable terrain, you can attack it, then slow it on its next turn, and continue to slow it and attack it. If you can catch most units in water with a Merman Netcaster, they are about gone.


Stones When you stone a unit, it stops worrying about fighting, and instead stares at its ceiling, giggling hysterically while wondering why they are called triscuits, since they aren't triangle shaped. Wait, no. A stoned unit turns into stone, and then doesn't do anything. Its like an instant kill, only besides in campaign, you get the units back. There is only one unit with Stone, and it isn't recruitable in multiplayer (AFAIK). If you are in a campaign, you might find them, and they will give you trouble. Although it should also be noted that Stone can be helpful. If you have a unit that is about to die, and you manage to get stoned, your unit will survive that scenario!

Swarm is the only attack special that is bad to have. A unit with Swarm does less damage as it is damaged. Its important to keep these units healed. It is only available with one unit, the Cuttlefish.
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Re: The Glowing Fish Guide to Abilities: Weapon Specials

Post by Elvish_Pillager » November 13th, 2006, 10:42 am

Glowing Fish wrote:This is a great ability, because if you look at most Wesnoth units, it takes going from Level 1 to almost Level 3 to increase your damage. So with backstab, it is almost like you are going up two levels!
The only thing is, a backstabbing level one unit (Thief, 4-3) only does about as much damage as a normal level ONE unit. (8-3, like a strong Spearman.)
Glowing Fish wrote:Your Wraith can regain hitpoints over a night by attacking isolated units, but if you put it in the middle of good units during the day time, you won't be able to drain fast enough to stop from dying.
Glowing Fish wrote: Marksman is like Magic-lite. It hits 60% against all units, on attack.
No, it has a minimum of 60% - attacking a Heavy Infantryman in water with magical has 70% chance to hit, but with Marksman, it has 90% chance to hit (just like with normal attacks.)
Glowing Fish wrote:If you can catch most units in water with a Merman Netcaster, they are about gone.
...or with any other level 2 merman...
Glowing Fish wrote: Swarm is the only attack special that is bad to have.
Berserk has a big disadvantage, Charge is pretty disadvantageous; Magical and Plague are also each sometimes bad for you. Swarm is just the only one without an advantage to make up for it.
Last edited by Elvish_Pillager on November 13th, 2006, 9:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Xandria » November 13th, 2006, 8:59 pm

Oh yes, when shooting a wose (intelligently placed on grassland by his caring commander) with a mage, the magical special is actually disadvantageous :)
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Re: The Glowing Fish Guide to Abilities: Weapon Specials

Post by Baufo » November 13th, 2006, 9:13 pm

Elvish Pillager wrote: Berserk has a big disadvantage, Charge is pretty disadvantageous; Magical and Plague are also each sometimes bad for you. Swarm is just the only one without an advantage to make up for it.
I fail to see how Plague could be disadvantageous?
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Re: The Glowing Fish Guide to Abilities: Weapon Specials

Post by Elvish_Pillager » November 13th, 2006, 9:23 pm

Baufo wrote:
Elvish Pillager wrote: Berserk has a big disadvantage, Charge is pretty disadvantageous; Magical and Plague are also each sometimes bad for you. Swarm is just the only one without an advantage to make up for it.
I fail to see how Plague could be disadvantageous?
The created unit can get in the way of your other units.
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Post by Baufo » November 13th, 2006, 9:26 pm

Ah, I see. True.
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Post by Glowing Fish » November 13th, 2006, 9:55 pm

I was almost totally wrong about the thief.

I thought its damage was higher, for some reason. A strong Thief at night would have a base damage of 6-3 (I believe!), or 12-3 with backstab. 16-3 does indeed compare favorably with, say, the Level 2 Swordsman's neutral attack, (8-4, unless I am wrong about that as well), but its kind of a cheat to compare the two.
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Post by Elvish_Pillager » November 13th, 2006, 10:02 pm

WIth Strong and Backstab, they become comparable with level 2s. By the time they get to level 3, when backstabbing, they become comparable to... other level 3s. :roll:
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