PWP: Unit composition

From The Battle for Wesnoth Wiki

WSNPP – PWP Edition #7 Unit Compositions:

Unit compositions are vital to the success of any Wesnoth player. What is unit composition? To put it simply: ‘What units make up your army’ or ‘What is your army made out of?’. Generally most people go with a simple, basic and straightforward composition such as:

  • 1 scout
  • 1/2 melee
  • 1 archer
  • 1 healer/support

Whilst some other people might go for something different such as:

  • Skeleton archer and dark adept spam

Let’s take these two builds and compare them. The first build is a fairly balanced build which should be able to deal everything moderately. The second build, is very effective against plenty of units if not almost every unit in the game however this build costs more than the first, is less versatile and individual units lacks the ability to support itself.

For each race there is a specific unit composition that is the best which a person would use over and over, however Wesnoth is a TBS (Turn-Based-Strategy) game not an RTS (Real-Time-Strategy) game. In RTS games (I.e. Stracraft 2) you can use the same unit composition and build order almost every single game and win each and every one of them. In Wesnoth however this is not possible. An effective player would use certain unit compositions based on his race and the map. Taking the two above builds again as examples, on a large scaled map the most effective build would be the first one. This is because this composition has higher versatility than the undead ‘skeleton archer/dark adept’ spam thus being able to take more villages faster and reinforce significant positions thanks to fast moving units. Not only that, but the units will generally be cheaper than the adepts or even in price with the skeleton archer thus more can be recruited with the high income.

On the other side of this battlefield, the 2nd unit composition whilst strong and deadly it is slow and is only effective in groups. In a large map they lack the ability to split up, take and hold outlying villages. In a small map however where there are little outlying villages and significant locations the undead army would thrive. As a one large group this unit composition would be able to kill literally anything in seconds. Both (compositions) sides would have no advantages when it comes to speed or reinforcing speed as well as versatility. So it all comes down to who has the most power and it most effective at killing the other which to no surprise would be the undead ‘skeleton archer/dark adept’ spam.

So far we’ve looked at good to the best unit compositions. Let’s look at the bad or less useful compositions:

  • Horsemen spam – Believe it or not but just spamming horsemen is not effective at all except for rushing the enemy leader.
  • Bats/ghosts/zombies – It’s a unit composition… not many use this… can work… if lucky.

..... .....

To be truthful there is no bad composition and really there is an unlimited list of compositions. (spearman spam, heavy infantry/mage etc….) Just think of a group of units that you would use, group them and walla you got a composition. The question is: “How effective is your composition? What are the advantages? And what are the disadvantages?”

For example let’s take the one of (in my opinion) not so effective compositions. Horsemen spam… if you remember one of my recent posts it was a FCW challenge =P. List of disadvantages and advantages:


  • Little versatility when it comes to killing enemy units
  • Specialises in pierce only (Try using this against undead ^^)
  • Charge ability has knockback (in the sense that when charging a targeted unit that unit get’s the charge ability back)
  • Expensive per unit
  • Low defences, resistances and no support units (except it’s friendly horsemen)


  • Good Hp per unit
  • Fast movement allowing quick village capture (or scouting), thus high income for a quick game transition (Will elaborate in later guides)
  • Effective at dealing large amounts of damage (Good at taking out enemy leaders)

As we can see the disadvantages outweigh the advantages and when it comes to choosing the right composition, we generally want to have lots of advantages and no disadvantages. So in theory a build with positive aspects that outweigh the negatives will always win every battle. Realistically that isn’t likely going to happen. Just to show you what I mean I’ll list the positive and negative aspects of the undead skeleton archer/ dark adept spam:


  • Little versatility (regarding speed and the need to rely on other support units)
  • Relies on groups of units rather than individual units


  • Very effective against many units
  • Covers four different types of attacks (Cold, Arcane, Pierce, Blade)
  • Can easily hold significant positions and replenish armies with temporary and cheap reinforcements
  • High resistances and defences
  • When in mass groups able to create many ZoCs positions and traps or flanks
  • Allows for smooth unit transitions to other units (bats, ghosts etc) to support the main army or conduct special missions
  • Can implement a fair amount of strategies (although the most common is a giant moving wall of death)
  • (EDIT) Fairly Cheap [Dark Adept = 16gp, Undead Skeleton Archer = 14gp]

Intimidating? Yes? But the horsemen spam can still win against this build. Why? Well we all know that undead archers have the advantages of pierce but the horsemen have the advantage of mobility. They can be used to quickly take out the enemy leader, ending the game. Meh… anyhow what I’m trying to express is that there are good and not so good compositions but it really depends on how you use the build. A build can only go so far but to bring a build to its best you have to create a strategy that will make the build effective.

Well that’s all for now… I do realise I seem to have skipped ‘The power of FOG’ so I’ll do that next. Look forward to it ;) There’ll be a very nice trick I will reveal that sound obvious however, not many use it. (Note: I probably missed something in the advantages and disadvantages. Hard to know everything, feel free to edit it but do notify me of the changes you make)

Previous Edition: Edition #6 Flank the Flank

Next Edition: Edition #8 The power of FOG

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This page was last edited on 6 April 2014, at 19:17.