Updated: May 24, 2008
The Battle for Wesnoth is a TBS (Turn-Based Strategy) game available for Linux, Windows and Mac. This review is based on the stable version 1.2.8 for Linux. It has a huge active community and it is in constant development, with new features added in each new version. A stable version is included in the Debian and Ubuntu repositories, and probably other distributions include it too, since it's licensed under the GPL. Great artwork, great music, does not need a powerful and expensive video card since it's 2D; you can run it in fullscreen mode or window mode.
The game provides six standard factions, and each faction has its own units to recruit, with different traits, attack types, and special abilities. For example Rebels have the Shaman, which heals adjacent units, or the Wose, which can hide and stay undetected in the forest. The Undead have the Ghost, which can heal a number of hit points equal with the damage inflicted to the opponent. The list goes on for every faction. The AI is powerful enough to provide a decent single player game, and you can always play the official campaigns or custom ones downloaded through the in-game menu. There are six official campaigns, which can be played at different difficulty levels, some of them being destined to newcomers and others to medium or advanced players. Newbies can first try the tutorial, which teaches the player the basic skills to understand and play the game. You can download new campaigns, factions and maps from the official server through the in-game menu.
Online playing is cool, except for a few annoying players which set countless labels on the entire map (if you play the game you know what I'm talking about). The best way to avoid these or players who quit often is to make a few friends on the official server, then only play with them. This will ensure a great, undisturbed game. There are always active players on the official server, so usually you will be able to join a game at any time. Forum members often organise tournaments between skilled (or not necessarily) players.
The only thing it does not have are persistent stats, as there is no option to register a nickname yet. I remember a forum thread about this, but I can't recall if there are plans to do a stats system (I'll come back with more info on this as soon as I get to read that thread again).
Don't forget to use one of Wesnoth's strong points: the help system. I always considered that a good software program, no matter if it's an office application, music player or multiplayer game, must provide good offline help and documentation. Wesnoth's help explains everything you need to know to play it well; also read the tips provided by the 'Tome of Wesnoth' each time you start the game.
Community and development
The forums are very active and include hundreds of good strategy guides, more artwork and campaigns. You can also download a lot of new campaigns and map packs using the in-game menu. New versions are released on a regular basis. This game always gives me a feeling like it's developing as I play it (you know, you don't feel like when you play some 3-4 years old game which is abandoned by its developers and no patches or updates are provided anymore because they only focus on the '2008' version of that game). A new development version is released very often (around 2 weeks), and a new stable version is made available once in several months.
Being native for Linux and licensed under the GPL, The Battle for Wesnoth is probably the perfect game for a TBS player running Linux. In my opinion, this game is purely superb. If I am to give a note, it's definitely 10 points out of 10. Great game!