How to play Northerners

From The Battle for Wesnoth Wiki
Factions of the Default Era

Description: LoyalistsRebelsNorthernersUndeadKnalgan AllianceDrakesDunefolk
How to Play: LoyalistsRebelsNorthernersUndeadKnalgan AllianceDrakesDunefolk


Orc units

Orcish Archer is one of two ranged units of the northerners. While weak, orcish archers might use both classic pierce and fire damage.

  • good defense in mountains and hills, but low hitpoints.
  • chaotic
  • strong vs drakes, horsemen and undead; weak vs ulfserkers, mages and ghouls...
  • weak melee attack (blade), strong ranged attack (pierce AND fire)

Orcish Assassin is another ranged units, but very specialised in high defense and using of poison against his enemies. Necessity against anyone except undead.

  • great defense in mountains, forests and villages, but low hitpoints
  • chaotic
  • strong against all living targets; weak against skeletons and ghosts
  • weak melee attack (blade), weak marksman and poison ranged attack (pierce)

Orcish Grunt is the cheapest strong unit in Battle for Wesnoth, that can be recruited right away. Costs only 12 gold and very dangerous as a small group during the night.

  • good defense in mountains and villages
  • chaotic
  • strong vs mages, woses, outlaws; weak vs nobody, useful in every match
  • strong melee attack (blade)

Other units

Wolf Rider is very fast, moving quickly in hills. Good for capturing villages and as a support fighter. Not vulnerable to pierce attacks like other cavalry units.

  • good defense in mountains, very fast in hills
  • chaotic, can be upgraded into 2 useful units (pillager with fire and slow or strong cavalry)
  • strong vs retreating wounded units; weak vs multiple targets and in 1v1 battle
  • weak melee attack (blade)

Goblin Spearman is level 0 unit, so you do not need to pay him gold. Cheap, but weak. Can collect villages if they are not far away. Dies quickly if not careful and does not have ZOC (Zone of Control).

  • good defense in mountains, but low hitpoints
  • chaotic, can be upgraded into 2 stronger units
  • strong against drakes, cavalry and mages; weak against almost everyone
  • strong melee attack (pierce), weak ranged attack (pierce)

Troll Whelp is a small troll with high HP, but poor defenses, that can heal itself. Keep them in mountains, because they are a good target on open ground.

  • good defense in mountains, but with a lot of hitpoints
  • chaotic
  • strong against skeletons, spearmen, saurians; weak when fighting multiple enemies
  • medium melee attack (impact)

Naga fighter is a warrior and scout connected with water. Unlike similar creatures, Nagas fight well also on sand. Only non-chaotic unit in the army.

  • good defense in water (50-70%)
  • Neutral
  • strong on maps with lots of water and swamps; weak on maps with small amount of water
  • strong melee attack (blade)

Starting troops - random opponent

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Northerners does not have many good leaders. Troll can be easily killed in battle, but regenerate out of combat. Slayer with good defence and poison might be useful and you do not need to recruit too much expensive assassins. Against undead, Crossbowman is very good choice with ability to destroy sketelons, ghosts and ghouls.

General Northerner Strategies

In general, Northerners will win by mass. Northerners are the cheapest faction and need to utilize that advantage. Poison will be a crucial strategic element as Northerners have the only ranged poison at the beggining of the game. Grunts and Whelps will be the meat of your army.

Northerners level quickly on the whole compared to other factions, so try to level any unit as they all grow in power quickly. Nagas upon level actually fare rather well on land, and Trolls will double their damage. Levelling Grunts gains you a great number of hp, but they are a tad slower to level than the other units at your disposal. Wolf Riders also do well as Pillagers to slow your enemy, and Assassins become better than Grunts at dealing melee damage. Try to focus your xp alotment to gain an advantage.

Your lack of ranged combat will mean you will be vulnerable to ranged counter-attacks. Plan accordingly and have some Assassins nearby to help defend against retaliation. Trolls are good for frontline blockers for their Regen, but keep them in hills or mountains where they have decent defense. Your archers are cheap and very good against some enemies, so it is a good idea to combine them with even cheaper and stronger grunts.

Northerners have access to blade, pierce and impact attacks, same as any other faction. However, their orcish archers can use fire.



Use goblins or wolf riders to get villages. Defend them with grunts, they are your best unit for this. When not facing someone with magical attacks, use assassins. If assassin is defending a village and he poisons enemy unit, that enemy will have to run a long way to other village, or lose HPs very fast. Whelps do a poor job of holding villages with 40% defense, while they heal the same speed as outside of village (and blocking your wounded units from healing).

Northerners vs Loyalists

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Attack at night, defend at day. This will be a constant theme. Spearmen and HI will be what you see the most of, likely. Don't be surprised to see Bowman as well.

A first turn recruit should consist of a Grunt, an Assassin, an Archer, and a mix of other good units. Take out Mages and Horsemen first, as they will deal you the most damage with the least amount returned. Poison HI and shoot them with Fire. Poison Fencers if you can, or just beat on them with whatever you have at your disposal. Shoot Cavalry down, and deal with Spearmen however you can, using Poison on them often as well. Again, fight off daytime offenses with Poison, and try to keep a Whelp or 2 up in the front in mountains to regenerate. At night, lead with Grunts and use Archers appropriately. Poison whatever is left standing, and be ready to retreat as dawn breaks.

  • Orcish Grunt: Cheap village holders again. Good units to take out Mages and Bowmen. At night you will do 11-2 v. 5-3 against Spearmen, but keep them on villages or mountains during day. These are your big time hitters, so save them.
  • Troll Whelp: Again, a couple of these guys in mountains should survive to deal a good amount of damage. Don't recruit too many, as their damage is too low to justify having a bunch.
  • Orcish Archer: 1 or 2 of these guys will benefit you a lot, as they'll be your best weapon against HI and the 2 mounted units. If you overrecruit these guys Spearmen should take you over.
  • Goblin Spearman: 1 or 2 of these guys might not be a bad idea against Loyalists. You can use these guys against mounted units and Bowmen at night, or Mages at most times. Their low hp makes them extremely vulnerable though, so recruit with caution. Getting 1 on the first turn may free up enough moves for one of your other units to take advantageous frontline positions instead of village-grabbing. Useless against Heavy Infandrymen.
  • Wolf Rider: Good to scout and to trap and attack Bowmen and Mages. If you can level this guy, make him a Pillager to demolish HI and have the option to slow. Otherwise his use is limited to finishing weak units at night.
  • Naga Fighter: The battle of the seas will be tough, as it is pretty even. Recruit water forces appropriately, and know that if they level that they will become even more useful as they can be used even on land.
  • Orcish Assassin: Again, another crucial element to your attack. You'll want to Poison HI, Spearmen, and their ranged attack does a decent 4-3 to mounted units when it isn't day.

Against mass spearmen: Use a combination of Grunts and archer/assassin.

Against mass horsemen: Positioning is very crucial, because strong horseman and knight/lancer can do a LOT of damage even in dusk/dawn. If your enemy uses horseman a lot, use more goblins than usual. They can be killed easily, but if enemy misses, they can do a lot of damage to them. Of course, goblins are MUCH cheaper than loyalist cavalry. Also, it is easy to hit cavalry on any terrain with archer/assassin.

Northerners vs Rebels

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Fight between Rebels and Northerners is common in Battle for Wesnoth Campaigns, including Heir to the Throne and Son of the Black Eye. Northerners are very different and use your strenghts against their weaknesses.

Rebels are pretty fragile units with low hitpoints. There good defense makes up for that, though. Northerners' classical fight mostly happens on elves' conditions, that is they have 60+% terrain defense (and you have a hard time getting along with that unless you get very lucky).

  • Orcish Grunt: Your main fighting force. They do not have ranged attack, so they are easy target for elvish archers. However, they are dangerous during night, very cheap and can take a lot of arrows before falling down. 3 grunts costs less than 2 elvish archers. Also, use grunt to cut down woses. If possible, exchange grunt for shaman. Also use them to guard assassins.
  • Troll Whelp: Another important warrior on your side. They are good against pierce attacks and also cheap. They need a good terrain to defend against multiple attacks and they need to move back and forth. Still, archers will do only 4-4 damage to them. Also they are interesting in fight with much more expensive woses. Another usable shield for assassins nad your archers.
  • Wolf Rider: Needed to get villages. They might be also usable to cut down woses with their teeth (what sound strange).
  • Orcish Archer: Can use their fire against woses, prierce against scouts and they can also do some damage to elvish fighters. Do not over recruit them.
  • Goblin Spearman: Can be killed too fast and they do not have ZOC, what is a big problem against fast elves, who can quickly occupy good terrain. Do not use them against rebels, unless you need to kill mages and few gold is missing to get a grunt.
  • Naga Fighter: Melee attacker, good against anyone who gets to the water. They are very useful, but will take a lot of hits from ranged units. They will not die quickly when attacked by a lot of mermen with ranged attacks.
  • Orcish Assassin: Is your ultimate weapon. People always say "get them out of the forest", but they simply don't leave it... The solution to that is: Make them leave it. Not with the classical approach, but with the strength only northerners have: Ranged poison + high defense = assassin.

The normal situation is that elvish fighters guard the more fragile units like shamans, mages and archers. If the night approaches, you take 2+ assassins and attack the shielding fighters. Chances are high that they both get poisoned and from that time on, time is working for you: either they retreat or they keep shielding and die. Archers will think twice before attacking an assassin as well as shamans and mages at night. If rebels stay and fight, they get owned at night due to poison combined with heavy hitters. If they run, you got what you wanted: They leave the forest.

Despite their defense, assassins die fast to a combined attack. You will probably lose some. But most of the time it's worth the loss, because you turn the fight to be on your own conditions. Woses are an additional problem for assassins.

This is not a trivial to play strategy. The matchup is balanced so rebels have an answer. Poison doesn't make it a no-brainer, but it evens the chances and gives you the opportunity to make the most out of it.

Against classic elvish trio: (fighter, archer and shaman) you can use your own: grunts for raw damage, assassins for poison (and level 1 shaman cannot cure poison) and wolf rider to attack retreating units. Elvish trio costs 46 gold, same as yours. Also you can get some whelps to tank some damage and retreat.

Northerners vs Northerners

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Mirror match between orcs and orcs is a dynamic one. There will be a lot of units on the battlefield and most of the fight will be hand-to-hand. Make sure, that new, fresh units, will be in the front. Try to protect ones with experience, so thay can make havoc as level 2 units. Mirror match might bring some crazy strategies, like using poison on assassins and wolf battles far from main battleline.

  • Orcish Grunt: You need them. Use them. Your enemy will use them as well. They are the classic unit, that can fight against anyone. Also, grunts are more attack-oriented than whelps.
  • Troll Whelp: Good unit, but it might be hard to get to level 2, because their attack is weak. Whelps are good against blade and pierce attack. so they are perfect against archers, but need good terrain. Buy more on maps with more mountains.
  • Orcish Archer: Useful, because they have two ranged attacks, while only assassins and other archers can retaliate. They do not need a perfect defensive hexes to attack, so on flat lands they can be useful. Do not recruit too moch of them.
  • Goblin Spearman: Weaker than grunts, the most important unit in this match. You do not have a good way to use them against orcs.
  • Wolf Rider: Weak in fight, great in mobility. 1-2 should be enough. Can travel long distances when collecting villages or when poisoned units need cover.
  • Naga Fighter: Based on amount of water.
  • Orcish Assassin: Not the best unit. They have many important uses, but their cost is high and grunts can kill them. Poisoning grunts is nice, but they have a lot of HP and can continue fighting for some time.

Northerners vs Undead

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Unfortunately one of your major weapons (poison) won't work against these guys. Also, Undead deal more damage than you do at night. If that wasn't bad enough, you only have one level 1 unit that can attack with Fire. Things are looking pretty grim, eh? Well here's how you fight back:

A first turn recruit should consist of a Grunt, 2 Whelps, 2 Archers, and either a scout, or another Grunt, Whelp, or Archer. Keep your highest hp units in front at night, as you'll be counter-attacking, not attacking, under most circumstances. Surround your opponents attacking forces before they try to retreat at Dawn. Surprisingly you'll actually have the advantage then. With the decreased damage done in the daytime your Regeneration will be far more effective - it will heal the damage from nearly twice as many attacks. Because of this, make sure to replace your Whelps as soon as possible if they die, and do whatever you can to keep them from passing.

Use your archers to kill Ghosts as fast as you can. Their ability to Drain against the rest your units attacks makes them virtually indestructable to other sources. The loss of a 20g unit will also set the player back quite a bit monetarily. After the Ghosts are gone, use your Archers on any Skeletons there are - you'll want to prevent them from using their melee if possible. Also, killing Bats and WCs is always a good way to make a quick monetary gain on your opponent. Your Whelps should go after Skeleton Archers for maximum damage, but you'll really want to kill Adepts before you kill anything else. If your opponent doesn't have any, you can't get to them, or your Grunts already took them out, go ahead and melee some skeletons or a Ghoul. One major thing you'll want to do in defense is put your front units on hexes where your opponent will have to attack you from bad terrain. The reason is you'll want to hit Adepts as easily as possible, and they should always be what comes at you first. Keep in mind that your units are cheaper than your opponents level 1 units, and his level 0 units die extremely easy. Don't be afraid to trade unit-for-unit with Undead if you have to! you'll be on your way to success quickly.

  • Orcish Grunt: These guys are the perfect Adept killers. A strong grunt does 12-2 at night, 3 hits will kill them. They will take 4 hits to kill you unless you get a Quick Grunt without Resiliant. You get 4 Grunts for 3 Adepts cost-wise, but don't buy so many; you'll probably only want as many as 2 at first as you'll need other weapons as well.
  • Troll Whelp: A necessity. These guys are skeleton killers doing +20% damage as well as resisting 20% from them. Their Regen also prevents Ghouls from doing nasty Poison damage to them. These guys are good to attack anything except Ghosts. Whelps is also a way to go, if enemy prefers a lot of Skeleton Archers.
  • Orcish Archer: Another necessity. You'll have to recruit at least 2 of these to account for Ghosts. These guys are also good to kill Skeletons and WCs, and you'll want to use these on Ghouls too. When needed, they might also go to ranged battle with Skeleton Archers, what is good for gaining experience during the day. Orcish Crossbowman is what you should have to effectively fight undead.
  • Goblin Spearman: Surprisingly, these guys can be effective against Undead, and here's the reason: these guys make pretty decent Adept killers. If your opponent loves Adepts and money is tight, or you just want to keep a high income, recruit a modest number of these guys to counter-attack.
  • Wolf Rider: If you need a scout, this is your guy. He will have limited uses outside of scouting, but he will make a decent Adept attacker, a good choice to melee Ghouls as he can run away to heal, and if he levels, the Pillager will cause mayhem for your opponent.
  • Naga Fighter: Only get if you have to have sea-villages. They can't attack Ghosts, but they do counter-attack Adepts well. Even so, they don't counter-attack as well as Grunts, nor will they live as long (and they are more expensive).
  • Orcish Assassin: Simply don't recruit this unit if you're fighting Undead. The adepts damage it so badly that you won't want to poison them. If, by any case, you recruited one, his best use will be to ZoC to prevent bats to fly through your defense for village stealing, and eventually poison them. However, Assassin might be interesting way to weaken Dark Sorcerers, so other units can gain a lot of experience from making the final blow. Orcs need less experience and 16XP from one hit might be very nice indeed.

Northerners vs Knalgans

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You'll want Poison to take these guys down. Take as many hill and mountain hexes as you can, and keep trolls in your front line during day to Regen.

A first turn recruit you'll want a Grunt, 1 or 2 Whelps, 1 or 2 Assassins, and possibly another Grunt, a Rider, or Naga. Don't be afraid to Poison Dwarves even in daytime if you can do so from favorable terrain. If you see Ulfs are nearby, you'll want to take them out with Grunts. You'll want to use Whelps to go after Thunderers, and you'll want to take them out first generally, as they'll be the easiest units for you to kill.

Have your Assassins Poison the Fighters while this is happening. Try to ignore Guardsmen if you can, because they will take too much effort to kill. Don't be afraid to sacrifice a Grunt to take a shot at an open Ulf if the opportunity arises and the CTK is sizable. The 7 gold difference in cost is worth the risk. If you can't finish it with one Grunt, 2 should do the trick. This will be a game of push and pull. You'll have to push at night and prevent them pushing at day with the Poison you plant. You shouldn't need more than 2 Assassins, but you will need to use them a lot.

Outlaws are generally not a threat to you, but they are good in villages. Get there sooner than your enemy with Wolf Riders. Also, your Grunts are effective against them and they are even cheaper.

  • Orcish Assassin: A necessity against Knalgans. Poisoning any Dwarf will add up. Poisoning Guardsmen will add up faster. A couple of these to annoy and drive back Dwarves from their homes are a necessity.
  • Orcish Grunt: 12 gold village holders nighttime siege artists. Their damage, defense, and moves are better than Trolls, so having a few of these to search and destroy are a necessity.
  • Troll Whelp: A good choice against Knalgans for their high hp, 20% resistance to Blade and Pierce, and their ability to Regen. The extra gold will be worth it if you keep these guys on the hill and mountain hexes your opponent will want to take. A rotation of these guys will keep your front line from crumbling, and will keep Thunderer damage to a minimum. Level one of these and your damage will double.
  • Orcish Archer: Recruiting one of these to poke at Fighters and Guardsmen may prove useful, but more frequently you'll want to spend your gold on other units.
  • Goblin Spearman: Do not recruit Goblin Spearmen when fighting Knalgans. Their hp is too low for them to deal any significant damage before they die.
  • Wolf Rider: Your scout unit, you can use these to grab crucial hilly areas before Dwarves can reach them. If you can get him to level, the ability to slow Dwarves may prove exceptionally useful. Recruiting more than one of these may prove too costly though on small and medium maps. They might get to conflict with more costly gryphons on larger ones.
  • Naga Fighter: Recruit if there are important water or swamp areas you can control. Their neutrality and high defense will serve you well for 14 gold. However many dwarves are resistant to blade attacks.

Northerners vs Drakes

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Drakes are fast and lawful. Your opposite. It is very likely, that they will attack first. Orcs are strong and resilient - and what is very important, you can have a lot of them. Orcish Grunt cost 12 gold, while for example Drake Burner 21 gold, almost double. When fighting drakes, make sure your reinforcements are coming to the frontline as soon as possible.

Be careful about villages. Drakes love them and you must use your wolf riders to get them. Drakes are stronger than your wolves, so do not fight them and try to get another village. Drakes can take a lot of hits, but they will quickly move to villages.

Hunt in packs. Good orc party is a good match for few mighty drakes. Combine your units, because drake player can use both drakes and saurians. What is good against one is weak against the another. Drake player does not have enough gold to make a lot of the same unit (with exception of saurians).

  • Against drakes: Use pierce melee and ranged damage (goblin spearmen and orcish archer), poison (assassin) and do not let them take villages (wolf rider). If you do this well, you can expect a lot of saurians.
  • Against saurians: Saurians are fast, but not very dangerous to your units. Kill them with whelps and grunts. Also, your naga fighters are good in fighting them in marsches and water hexes. Saurians are also vulnerable to the fire arrows from your archers. Remember, that saurian healers are very weak. So weak, that you can kill them with combination of assassin and wolf rider (or with two wolf riders).

Northerners vs Dunefolk

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Against a beginner with dunefolk, your strategy is really easy. All dunefolk units are living, so you can poison all of them with assassins. However, more skilled players might press you hard during the day. Dune Soldiers are tough, basically a stronger version of your grunts, that loves sun. Dune Skirmishers can sneak past your units and attack your weakened units, or take village, when they have very good defense. Most of the Dunefolk units have some weakness:

  • Herbalist and Burner - blade
  • Rider - pierce
  • Soldier - impact
  • Skirmisher - blade, pierce and impact
  • Orcish Assassin: You NEED them. Perfect unit against dunefolk. They also have marksman when attacking, so even Skirmishers can be poisoned. You can teoretically play with just assassins, but 33% of the army should be enough. Poison everyone, including enemy leader. If Dunefolk leader is a Dune Apothecary, your poison will be less useful and you need less Assassins. Still, keep some and try to poison this important unit.
  • Orcish Grunt: Great unit. Use them to attack poisoned units and to grab some villages. Also, both Herbalists and Burners are vulnerable to blade attacks. Protect Assassins from level 2 units and cavalry.
  • Troll Whelp: Another useful unit, but you can win matches without using them. Might be used as a shield or to fight Dune Soldiers. They might die, bude they are also cheap and with help of the assassins, your whelps can go to safety for few rounds.
  • Orcish Archer: Good. Generally, not needed in 1v1 battles. Your archers can poke an important targets, like Dune Riders. use wolf riders to block retreat (ZOC), assassin to poison them and archer to do a lot of damage, especially during night.
  • Goblin Spearman: Useful against Skirmishers and Riders. Do not overrecruit.
  • Wolf Rider: They are quick, so use them to collect villages. Fact, that enemy have Skirmisher, lowers the importance of Wolf Riders.
  • Naga Fighter: As in any match, useful in water. They can also be useful to kill units, that have very little HPs because of the poison. 4 attacks against someone almost dead is very nice.


How to play specialists: Horseman - Mages - Skirmishers

This page was last edited on 19 April 2021, at 19:33.