How to play Rebels

From The Battle for Wesnoth Wiki
Factions of the Default Era

Description: LoyalistsRebelsNorthernersUndeadKnalgan AllianceDrakesDunefolk
How to Play: LoyalistsRebelsNorthernersUndeadKnalgan AllianceDrakesDunefolk


Elvish units

Elvish Archer is important unit for rebels with powerful ranged attack.

  • maximum defense and speed in forest (70%), but low hitpoints
  • neutral, can be upgraded into 2 useful units (stealthy ranger or very offensive marksman)
  • strong vs drakes and anyone with no or limited ranged attack; weak vs ulfserkers, skeletons, mages...
  • average melee attack (blade), strong ranged attack (pierce)

Elvish Fighter is a cost efficent warrior of the rebels. Similar to Elvish Archers, but much better in melee combat.

  • good defense in forest, mountains etc
  • neutral, can be upgraded into 2 useful units (leader or very good fighter)
  • strong vs mages, woses, outlaws; weak vs nobody, usable in any match
  • strong melee attack (blade), weak ranged attack (pierce)

Elvish Scout is very fast, moving quickly even in forests. Good for capturing villages and as a support fighter.

  • good defense in forest, mountains etc
  • neutral
  • strong vs retreating wounded units; weak vs spearman or anyone good in fighting cavalry
  • average melee attack (blade), average ranged attack (pierce)

Elvish Shaman is a great support unit, that can heal, slow down enemies and block others in forest hexes.

  • maximum defense and speed in forest (70%), but low hitpoints
  • neutral, can be upgraded into 2 useful units (sorceress with strong ranged attack or to become better healer)
  • strong when well protected by other units; weak in 1vs1 fighting and on terrains with low defense
  • weak melee attack (impact), weak slowing ranged attack (impact)

Other units

Wose is a tree-like creature with high HP, but poor defenses, that can heal itself.

  • low defenses everythere, but with a lot of hitpoints
  • lawful
  • strong against skeletons, spearmen, saurians; weak in fight against multiple units with fire or blade weapons
  • strong melee attack (impact)

Merman Hunter is a warrior and scout connected with water.

  • good defense in water (50-70%)
  • lawful, can be upgraded into 2 useful units (slowing netcaster or spearman with better ranged attack)
  • strong on maps with lots of water and swamps; weak on maps with small amount of water
  • weak melee attack (pierce), average ranged attack (pierce)

Mages are in both rebel and loyalist armies. They provide fire damage in their magical ranged attack.

  • good defense in mountains and villages, but low hitpoints
  • lawful, can be upgraded into 2 useful units (white mage is a good healer, while red mage provides excellent damage)
  • strong against skeletons, saurians, ghosts; weak when not protected by other units
  • weak melee attack (impact), strong magical ranged attack (fire)

Starting troops - random opponent

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On the maps with a lot of water, recruit one or even two mermen hunters in the first turn.

Choose a leader wisely. Good leaders might be someone with good abilities, if you wish to use him/her on the frontline in small maps. White Mage, Druid or Elvish Captain will do just fine. Good healer is more effective than shamans and can also remove poison. Leadership will make your units more powerful. You can also pick up Elvish Ranger if you are on map with lots of forest hexes.

General Rebel Strategies

Rebels have excellent defense in forests. A primary consideration for your strategy should be holding and leveraging available forest hexes. Your faction is largely compromised of the neutral Elves, but the Mage, Wose, and Merman are Lawful. You will be strongest in the day, but if your opponent is also lawful it is usually best to fight at night.

Rebels have an abundance of ranged attacks in addition to the Dextrous trait on Elves. This enables frequent chances to attack without taking retaliation damage; it also guarantees any opponent attacking you will take some damage in return.

Second only to the Drakes, Rebels have good mobility. The Scout has the highest level 1 movement in the game, and all of your Elves have the efficient woodland movetype. Attempt to take an early village advantage and later ZOCing your opponent's weakened units.

The Elves bring multiple special abilities to the table. The Elvish Captain provides access to the Leadership trait, which can prove the difference when fighting an enemy at their chosen time of day. Shamans provide +4 healing and the ability to slow enemy units, a cornerstone of the Rebel strategy; their 70% defense in forests even allows them to provide effective front line support.

Rebels have access to blade, pierce and impact attacks, same as any other faction. However, their mages can use fire, while level 2 units (white mages and elvish sorceress) can use arcane attack.



Generally, elves does not have a lot of hitpoints, so healing in villages to full health is quick. Use scouts to get to the distant villages. Fighters are good for holding them. Use woses more often on maps with limited number of villages, because they do not benefit from them and cannot defend them effectively.

Rebels vs Loyalists

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Your main problem when fighting loyalists is their spearmen. Relatively cheap, relatively tough, solid damage dealers (with a ranged attack and a special ability to boot) spearmen are difficult to defeat without woses. But with woses, the battle changes: it will be the loyalist opponent who will need to find ways to defeat the woses’ massive pierce resistance, high HP, damage and regeneration. Therefore, your tactics will be centred around the wose; your other units will provide the necessary mobility, village holding, and special extras to make up for the woses’ disadvantages. If it’s not already obvious: the wose is slow, and has abysmal defence on villages.

Your enemy will spam a mix of cavalry and mages to deal with your woses, and spearmen (along with horsemen) against your other units. You may also see some heavy infrantry or fencers thrown in. Your prime target will be horsemen, as they are expensive, vulnerable to archers, but extremely dangerous to all of your units (barring the wose of course). Fighting at night is obviously a good idea; at day you should play neither defensively nor offensively, instead making use of forest and slow to survive the loyalist onslaught, and keeping the pressure on your opponent. Remember that your woses are also lawful, and will easily slaughter spearmen/bowmen/HI in the absence of mages and cavalry. The latter can easily be killed by your neutral elves, even at day.

  • Fighter: Solid unit for the money, with a pretty good melee attack—a strong one will do the same damage as a strong spearman—and a pretty decent ranged attack as well. Your opponent will attempt to beat them with two strategies: either rush at you with spearmen and cavalry, at day, in order to overwhelm your fragile units with sheer force; or they may go down the heavy infantry route. Either strategy will succeed, so you will need other units to counter it. The best use you will generally have for fighters will be to hold villages and attack enemy ranged units (primarily mages).
  • Archer: Very effective against cavalry, good for attacking spearmen, and difficult to get off forest—mages will hurt themselves trying to kill it. (A dextrous archer may even kill a full health mage, with luck.) This unit is great; the downside is that it’s very vulnerable to horsemen charges, especially outside of forest. Spearmen will also overwhelm them without wose backup.
  • Shaman: Shamans are useful for their healing, and their ability to slow heavy infantry, spearmen, and horsemen. On forest they even act as frontline units: they will dodge non-magical attacks and counter with slow against mages. The downside is that they’re weak, and you can’t slow every unit your enemy will throw against you.
  • Mage: Not that effective in this match-up. Mages are useful for attacking heavy infantry (although woses and shamans are perfectly capable of doing that) and have magic. But the archer remains a much better choice: the mage is significantly slower, its attacks aren’t as effective against cavalry, and of course it is both more expensive and more fragile than the elf. Recruit maybe one, no more.
  • Wose: Against loyalists, this guy is a monster. He destroys spearmen and bowmen; he crushes heavy infantry. Even mages are vulnerable to him—two strikes from a wose will kill a mage, while three hits from a mage will not kill a wose, despite the wose’s grievious weakness to fire. Therefore, the enemy will protect his mages with impact-resistant cavalry; it will be combined arms that brings this unit down. You will need to use your other units to hold villages, destroy cavalry, and make up for this unit’s poor mobility.
  • Merman Hunter: This unit is okay against the enemy’s merman fighters, and it’s effective against cavalry. Recruit according to the water.
  • Scout: Useful for its mobility and ranged pierce attacks; its main use will be grabbing villages, and providing the extra hit to kill a cavalryman or mage. That said, they are torn apart by horsemen and spearmen.

Rebels vs Rebels

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Mirror match is always dangerous. Enemy can use the same units and strategies. Forest is great for both. If you cannot reach a forest hex, try to make sure your opponent will not get there any time soon. Use ZOC to make sure your enemy will not get to the forest hexes. Some units, like woses, can be dangerous, but they can be easily killed with fire. Make a scout or two to know what is your enemy doing.

  • Fighter: Figter is needed, because he have all the strenghts and still a good price. use them to fight everyone, but you should know, that they can be overpowered by much more expensive mages or (still more expensive) archers.
  • Mage: Mages are very good for attacking woses. They are also strong against archers. If your enemies does not use woses, this unit is good for only one thing - attacking archers in forests. However fighters are too much of a thread to them.
  • Wose: Good, if no mages are near. Woses are slow, expensive and vulnerable on flat lands. Woses is so slow, that important forest hexes will be allready captured by your or enemy elves.
  • Archer: Archers are not very good here. They are weaker then archers in this match, while woses are immune to their arrows. Also mages can defeat them. However, archers are fast and great in forests.
  • Shaman: Shamans are good with fighters and you need a lot of fighters. Shamans can help your fighters to fight longer and get experience. Also, combination of fighters and shamans can kill mages, woses and cripple everyone else.
  • Merman Hunter: If there is a lot of water, use them.
  • Scout: One or two of them are enough to know what your enemy is doing and to capture villages. Also they can prevent enemy from getting to forest hexes. Scouts are weak against pierce attack of fighters, archers, other scouts and mermen hunters.

Rebels vs Northerners

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The Northerner units are your antithesis: tough instead of weak, melee orientated instead of range orientated, and fast where you are slow; slow where you are fast. When fighting them, you need to be aware of their ability to outmaneouvre you on hills and mountains—but conversely, they will struggle to reach forested hexes. Your strategy will require careful use of leadership and unit traits: without them you will not be able to do sufficient damage to kill an orc or troll outright. A strong/dextrous archer/fighter will do 20% more damage over base, and this rises further with leadership. Since grunts have 38 base HP, the extra damage will often mean the difference between a dead grunt and a still-dangerous grunt (to your shamans, mages and archers).

The Northerner units have two special abilities you will need to counter: poison and regeneration. You need to recruit shamans and keep them behind your front lines—that way the assassins’ poison won’t activate. Since poisoned units lose 8HP per turn, while shamans heal only +4HP per turn, this is a good trade-off. As for trolls, the trick is to take out their supporting units first, and then focus your attacks on them en masse.

  • Elvish Fighter: A staple unit. Their blades will kill orcish archers and assassins, and defend against grunts, wolves and trolls. They are the most cost effective unit in your arsenal; this is important when fighting Northeners, as their units are very economical.
  • Elvish Archer: Another staple unit. Their arrows will kill any Northerner foe that’s not an assassin or an archer. They are fast; they are hard to take off forest. The only real downside is their low HP, which make them vulnerable outside of good terrain.
  • Elvish shaman: Their healing is invaluable against poison; their slow finds excellent targets in grunts, trolls and wolves. Low HP remains a problem though.
  • Elvish Scout: This unit is usually quite crummy, and while its attacks remain rather weak, they serve some very important uses in this matchup. Their extreme mobility often allows them to attack from a fourth hex; this can make the difference between a dead orc and a live one. They are fast enough to grab mountains and deny it from your enemy. They are reasonably effective against enemy wolves, and will harrass most Northerner units with their bow. Still not as good a buy as your other units, but don’t dismiss him either.
  • Mage: The mage is invaluable for their ability to kill trolls and assassins; grunts and wolves also make great targets. It is often preferable to kill an assassin even if your mage gets poisoned: you can keep the poison from damaging them by placing a shaman next to them, and their ranged attacks will allow them to wound (and kill) even with 1HP. The downside to this unit is that’s very vulnerable—at night it needs to be carefully protected, or even just kept out of the way behind your lines.
  • Wose: Not the best buy for this matchup. Only recruit him if the enemy goes overboard with trolls—otherwise he is burned by orchish archers and cut down by grunts (and even wolves). His poor mobility and lawful alignment work against him: he’s too slow to press the attack at day, and likewise too slow to retreat at night.
  • Merman Hunter: Not a bad unit. His throwing spears will harass the enemy’s numerous melee units—sometimes this will even be enough to let one of your land units make the kill, particularly if your merman is the 4th hex attacker. He has two downsides: he fights terribly on land, and his attacks are quite weak. That’s why you should give XP to your landlubbers; it’s much more useful to have a Druid, Captain, Marksman, etc. over a unit that’s only good on water. Beware of assassins’ poison, and float the hunter next to a shaman if he does get poisoned.

Rebels vs Undead

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The Undead have very specific resistances and vulnerabilities, so many of your units are less useful. However, undead have multiple different units that can be used against you. Fighting dark adepts and skeletons is much different. Skeletons are resiliant to pierce and blade attacks, while dark adepts can fight elves in the forests. Undead can also attack your units with poison, so you need to eliminate all the threats.

  • Mage: This will be your primary ranged unit. It's one of your most expensive units, but it's worth it for its fire attack. It has a ranged magical attack as well, so you can hit units even when they have good defense. You do have to remember that this unit is lawful, so you have to use it during favorable times, and keep it out of the way when unfavorable...
  • Shaman: This unit is always helpful, because it has the healing ability. Although it isn't much, it can sometimes save your other units, especially when operated in pairs behind your lines. They also have the Slows ability, which can be used against their Skeletons. You can also slow Ghouls, however it won't be as effective because the Ghoul's main weapon is Poison, not its attacks. Their weapons are impact, too, so they'll do more damage then normal...
  • Wose: Even though Woses look awesome against the undead, with their high damage impact attack and regeneration, fight the urge to spam them. They're so slow that a good player will be able to outmaneuver you and kill you easily in the night.
  • Fighter: These guys have a blade attack and a secondary pierce attack. Against undead, you want a couple for village holding and damaging Dark Adepts, however don't go overboard with them.
  • Archer: This unit has a good pierce attack and a decent blade attack. Normally this unit is excellent, but against undead he doesn't do near as much damage. The only reason to recruit this unit would be for it's high movement points.
  • Scout. Don't recruit this unit, spend your gold elsewhere.
  • Hunter: This unit normally has fairly bad attacks, and then since they're both pierce, the undead's resistances make them even worse. They can be used to quickly grab water villages and hold them, but other than that they're just cruddy against Undead...

Rebels vs Knalgans

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Terrain denial is the most important aspect of this matchup. His Poachers will be trying to take your forests, while denying his hills and mountains is critical. Note that although you enjoy maximum defence on forests, it is generally preferable to occupy a hill/mountain hex even if there is forest nearby: dwarves have only 30% defence on forest, whereas you have 50% defence on hills. If you occupy forest instead, you will have the same defence as the dwarves—and they’re tougher.

Shamans and Mages shine against the Dwarves. A Shaman in a forest hex has the defense and health of a thief with no physical vulnerabilities, and if she ever slows an Ulfserker you get a free kill - not that her slow is wasted on Fighters or Gryphons.

Speaking of which, another effective strategy is attrition: use your slow to cripple the enemy’s hard hitting melee units, make use of healing to recover from the damage you receive, and feel free to take pot shots at your opponent when you can.

Priority levelups continue to be Druids and Captains. Healing and Leadership greatly enhance the Elves' capabilities; the captain essentially negates the Dwarves' armor. The Knalgans don't have access to these abilities, so they will provide a large advantage.

  • Shaman: Shamans, as always, are very useful for their healing and their slowing abilities. Gryphons and fighters are the best targets for their slow; whereas guardsmen are much weaker, and you don’t want to risk slowing a thunderer. A slowed ulf is a free kill, but beware that if the shaman fails to hit, she will be vulnerable to counterattack.
  • Mage: Very useful for finishing off dwarves on good terrain, also effective against gryphons and outlaws. However, beware of ulfs.
  • Fighter: Good staple unit; you need a couple of these to hold the line and guard your shamans/mages. They are superior to poachers—they deal more damage and, importantly, can grab forest hexes faster—and they are also effective against thunderers and fighters, provided that the latter are slowed. Still, without the backup of shamans and mages these guys will succumb to your opponent’s tougher units.
  • Archer: Perhaps not as effective in this matchup. You’ll want to focus on tougher and cheaper fighters (which can hold those important hill hexes better). You’ll also be making use of slow a lot; there is less need for the archers’ ranged attacks. Still, 70% defence on forest and 6MP give them some important uses.
  • Wose: The main use for this guy is attacking thunderers; he is also very effective against slowed gryphons. However, Dwarvish Fighters are cheaper, have much better defence, and deal 7–3 against your wose’s 10–2. Woses are also very slow—they’re not good for terrain denial. A utility unit, no more.
  • Merman Hunter: This unit is weak, and a gryphon will beat it even in water. Only recruit if there’s a lot of water on the map; and if so, recruit at least 2 or 3 in order to surround a gryphon. If the knalgan player does commit to a water battle, rejoice: your cheap units will tie up his gryphons and eventually deliver victory.
  • Scout: A weak unit, but may be necessary to grab far-flung villages. Elvish archers deal significantly more damage, and quick ones will double up as scouts; however, the mounted elf’s extremely high mobility (9MP) does sometimes allow it to grab hold of a mountain, which can be very strategically useful.

Rebels vs Drakes

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Drakes are an incredibly offensive opponent: be careful of their extreme mobility and high damage. They want nothing more than to fight you on open ground, where they will massacre your fragile Elves. Denying terrain from Drakes is irrelevant in this matchup, but ensuring that you have the best possible terrain for key fights is critical. Their Saurians bring additional threats - magical attacks to force you out of the forest, and Skirmisher allows them to assassinate wounded units in your back line.

Fortunately, you have the tools to turn the tide: your Mages, while impotent against the fiery Drakes, are a key counter to their Saurian underlings. You have an abundance of Piercing damage, which the Drakes fear. Your incredible defenses can turn the tide as the easily hit Drakes fall under a flurry of arrows as their blows fail to strike your forces of the forest. You will likely aggress at night, unless he has a horde of Saurians.

  • Archer: Pierce is the best physical damage type against all Drakes, and the Archers bring that in bulk. Be judicious where you expose them as they are the most expensive unit you'll have on your front line most turns, but you need their raw damage to shred through the large health pools of the Drakes.
  • Fighter: The most efficient unit on your side in terms of stats/gold, the Fighter is your best answer to his Burners, and will cut up Saurians if no Mages can safely do the job. Be careful as it is slower than the average Drake. If you need to sacrifice a unit, the Fighter will deal decent retaliation damage to any drake that hits it, weakening them for a counterstrike. Finally, if you get one to Captain, that will be a significant advantage in holding off the Drakes' chosen time of day.
  • Shaman: You need their slow, pure and simple. A slowed Drake is likely a dead Drake. Quick Shamans might be able to snipe a Clasher on the retreat and force a favorable engagement. You don't need their defensive abilities as much as Archers should be occupying most of your front line forest hexes, but their heal is always a welcome addition. If you can slow a Burner from a forest hex, that will significantly reduce retaliation from an Archer (though it's not worth it if that Archer must then attack from a flat hex, as the reduction in defense from 70% to 40% essentially doubles the damage you will take).
  • Merman Hunter: These fish will provide cover at sea. High defense, pierce, good movement - what's not to like? Recruit these as necessary for the map you are playing.
  • Mage: Completely useless against the fireproof Drakes, one or two of these can still be a key recruit against a Saurian threat. If the Saurians never leave excellent cover, a Mage will be needed to efficiently dispatch them. Be careful, as Skirmishers are a high threat at night. Don't allow a Skirmisher to attack a Mage at night from good terrain if possible - you may not be able to safely counterattack the next turn.
  • Scout: While their ranged attack is satisfactory, they are not worth their cost in combat. One can be useful for scouting or ZOC; on a larger map you may require one simply for efficient village acquisition. Two is likely one too many unless you have separated fronts.
  • Wose: Only recruit this unit if you have a cluster of villages under constant Saurian threat. Too slow to catch Saurians, extremely vulnerable to Burners, and chopped down by Clashers and Fighters, your money is better spent elsewhere. At least it will absolutely murder any Saurian it manages to actually reach.

Rebels vs Dunefolk

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Dunefolk is similar to Rebels in many ways. So, gameplay might be very similar to playing rebels. Dunefolk is very dangerous in desert hexes, but they are good in other terrains as well. Dunefolk can use their cavalry, as well as other units against you. Some of their units are not very dangerous against rebels, while others can kill your woses with fire or defend important hexes against your attacks.

  • Shaman: Slowing down enemies is useful, mostly for your fighters. And you will need a lot of them. They can also be used against Dune soldiers and rowers. Also shamans can be useful to get to the enemy healers.
  • Archer: Pierce attacks are good, but Dunefolk is not vulnerable against pierce. So, while you can make archers on maps with lots of gold, other units can work better. However, archers can be useful in fighting strong, melee oriented soldiers, but pierce is not very harmful for them.
  • Fighter: Elvish fighters is your main unit in this match. They can fight everyone and their cost is good. Only few units, like dune soldiers, are more powerful in battle.
  • Mage: Expensive, with good ranged attack. You can use them to focus fire on important units. Mages are a priority target for rowers and skirmishers.
  • Wose: Good, if enemy does not use burners. If your enemy find out, that you use woses, he will surely make some of them.
  • Mermen Hunter: Use them, if there is a lot of water hexes. Your mermen hunters are very similar to naga dirkfangs.
  • Scout: Use them to grab villages and quickly move through difficult terrain. Dune riders are very similar and will try to do the same.


How to play specialists: Horseman - Mages - Skirmishers

This page was last edited on 19 April 2021, at 19:35.