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How to Play Northerners

A Look At Your Units

An Overview:

The Northerners are one of the factions that can be played by all skill levels. They are for the most part cheap and strong, with a variety of damage types and special abilities. This gives them ways of taking down any faction thrown against them. These strategies are applicable not only to Wesnoth Multiplayer, but also some campaigns, like SonOfTheBlackEye.

Unit Desciptions:

core units

  • Orcish Grunt


--These units are the meat of you army. Costing only 12 gold, they have a strong attack, and the second highest number of hitpoints in the Northerner faction. With no resistances or weaknesses, they are average. Their only downsides are that they have no ranged, making them vunerable to counter-attack, and that they have only 2 strikes, making luck a slight factor if you are trying to kill a greatly weakened unit with one.

You should always have one

  • Troll Whelp


--Troll whelps, although similar to Orcish Grunts at first glance, play a radically different role. When you take into consideration their strengths:

  1. regeneration, allowing them heal 8 hitpoints, or cure poison at the beginning of the turn
  2. 20% resistance to blade and pierce, two of the most common damage types
  3. 60& defense on mountains/keeps
  4. The highest number of hitpoints of the Northerner army

their role becomes clear. Although lacking a strong attack (7-2 impact, which means the best it can be is 10-2, at night with the strong trait), it is an invaluable defensive unit, able to soak up damage, and heal some of it the next turn. Their less common damage type is also a bonus, making them more useful against some factions than others. (e.g, undead) However, their slow speed and weak damage, as well as costing more than the grunt, make them less than ideal to get too many.

Support Units

  • Orcish Archer


--These are you primary support units. At a cost of 14 gold, they are one of the cheapest archer type units in the game, but also the weakest. Regardless, they are a key part of your army. Not only do they have a pierce attack, which is almost universally good against scouting units, but they also have a ranged fire attack. This diversity in damage types makes them good against a variety of units, including ones most archers have trouble against (HI, undead, and dwarves, for example). They have average defenses, resistances, but like all orcs they can move over hills for 1 move, which is shared only by dwarves. This serves to make them more mobile than other faction's units in some cases, such as retreating or pursuing a wounded enemy.

You should always have one

  • Orcish Assassin


--These, although not your primary support unit, are incredibly useful. They are one of the 2 lvl one units in the game that can use the poison ability, which drains 8 hp from the target regardless of the unit's resistances. This makes them very good at forcing units off of good terrain, by having 3 hits it makes it rather likely that at least one will hit. Assassins also have the elusvefoot movetype, giving them a 60-70% defense on most terrains.

  • Goblin Spearman


--These units are often misused. Although cheap, they shouldn't be spammed, and although weak and frail, they have a role and shouldn't be ignored. As level 0 units, they have no Zone of Control, meaning that units can pass by them without stopping. This doesn't make them worthless as walls though. They can still be put on good terrain to prevent other units from taking up a strong position, and can be used at the ends of battle lines to prevent a unit from being attacked from as many sides.

Think of these as 8 gold shields. You can use them not to achieve much, but rather to prevent yourself from wasting even more gold by losing a better unit. Adept use of goblins will greatly improve your game, although finding the exact way to use them is difficult.

Scouting Units

  • Wolf Rider


--These should be your primary scouts. Although more useful in campaigns, these units can serve a useful role on the MP battlefield as well. Their most obvious use is to secure villages. At this task, wolf riders actual have an advantage over some other faction's scouts: they have a 50% defense in villages rather than a 40% defense, making them more capable of sitting in one when attacked, while your army comes to back it up.

Another great use of scouting units is for ZoC. You can use them to trap wounded units (as more moves make it easier to go around a line), and to chase wounded units that would otherwise be safe. Yet another great thing about wolf riders are their upgrades. Although the Pillager can not get up to lvl 3, it has a fire attack, and a slow attack, making them a great niche unit against a variety of factions.

  • Naga Fighter


--Naga fighters are another unit that has a variety of roles. It's primary one is as a water unit/scout, able to take and hold water villages. However, it is also unique in that it is the sole non-chaotic unit the Northerners have. It also has a 4-4 attack, giving it the most strikes of all northern units. Couple this with the fact that it is better than other "water" units on land and you have an ace up your sleeve.

On maps with water, you should always get one

Closer Look at Northerners


  1. Orcs are cheap. This means that you can get more units, and they aren't as hard to replace if one dies.
  2. They are chaotic. At night they do more, which coupled with 3. makes them very formidable
  3. They are in general a blitz type faction. They are able to be very offensive, and gain the control very early on.
  4. They have poison. An invaluable special


  1. They have no "great" units. Unlike the loyalist spearman, or the dwarvish thunderer, orcs have no one really good unit. They aren't especially strong, don't have great resistance, or anything like that.
  2. They are chaotic. At daytime they deal almost no damage
    • grunts do 7-2 at most, whelps do 6-2 at most, etc.
  3. They are in general a blitz type faction. This means that if you attack at a bad time or get bad luck, it's hard to be defensive and still come back.

Playing Style(s)

Disclaimer: This is primarily for 1 v 1 play. Team dynamics are too complex to even TRY to summarize

So as mentioned earlier, Orcs succeed best when played in an aggressive manner. However, like every other faction, there are a variety of ways to play with them:

  1. Aggressive
  2. Defensive
  3. Tricky
  4. Mixed

This section will be a bit about what each style entails.


Using this style, you focus solely on overpowering your enemy using cheaper units, and heavy damage. Grunts are your main force, unless facing undead, where you'll be using trolls, archers. You begin your assault during the afternoon (if player 2) or dusk, and don't stop, using the day to kill off wounded units.

Advantages: At night, orcs are a force to be reckoned with. Especially if you have a bit of luck, your initial charge can handily win you the game.

Disadvantages: If you hit any below EV stats, you are toast. Also If you are playing against lawful units, you have no good way to retreat during the day.


Although one doesn't associate orcs with defense, this style is possible as well. Use trolls and grunts on good terrain to sop up damage, and have an assassin or to to discourage ranged attacks. Run away if you have to, for example against loyalists at day.

Advantages: On good terrain, orcs can still deal damage to attackers even during the day. Also, trolls have decent hp, and regenerate, making them hard to kill on hills and mountains.

Disadvantages: You don't get anywhere fast, and a turn of bad luck will really hurt you. Also, during day, you may lose villages, and be disadvantaged.


Tricky play requires use of the more obscure units: naga's assassins, wolf riders, goblins. You can use these to ZoC units that have overextended, keep the enemy at bay using poison, and uses the water and swamp to it's full potential. The trick to using them is to lessen the chance of EV messing you up: naga's have 4 attacks. meaning they are excellent for killing weak units, even on good terrain. The other units have 3 attacks, meaning they are more likely to hit that trolls or whelps.

Advantages: You don't get screwed as bad by EV. You also make it hard for the enemy to gain an advantage, as you can steal villages, hold several units off with poison, and attack units from behind, making them have to play more cautiously.

Disadvantages: This style by itself takes a long time to win. You can stall them for awhile, and force them to be on the defensive (sometimes even during dawn/morning), but you have no great killing power.


If you can play defensive at day, tricky at dawn/dusk, and offensive at night, you should win, right? The most sound play is to use each style when you need to, so use your heavy hitters at night, and then on the second watch/dawn, use tricky to secure your advantage during day: poison strong units, remove weakened ones using your units with weaker, but more numerous attacks. Then, at day, use trolls to sop up damage, etc.

Advantages: If done well, you can always react to the enemy, no matter what time of day.

Disadvantages: You would need at least 200 gold to fully combine all the styles. Because you begin with 75-150 gold, you need to have less units than optimal for each phase. For example, instead of being able to get 4 grunts, 4 troll whelps+4 whelps, 2 assassins+2 naga, two archers, 2 wolf riders, 3-4goblins, you can only get like 2 grunts, 1 naga, 1-2 assassins, 1 archer, 1 troll, 1-2 goblins.

Miscellaneous (and in some ways outdated) Tips

A Look at the Time of Day

dawn morning evening dusk 1st watch 2nd watch dawn

Picking the right time to attack is crucial to a victory using Northerners. If mistimed, you can't attack at full force, and your enemies get a turn to retaliate before you have your best results. Also, if you attack to long, you let ALL your units be vulnerable during the day, rather than the ones you choose to leave as shields.

When to attack depends on a few key factors:

  1. What faction you are facing
  2. What player you are (side 1, side2, etc)
  3. How your opponent plays

Orcs are kings of the hill

Orcs can move through hills with only one MP, a claim that only dwarves can second. The difference being that dwarves often cost 50% more than orcs, and have less MPs. Therefore, in comparison to cost, orcs have are the best in hills. When possible, use this to your advantage. One way you can capitalize on your greater mobility in hills is to travel through them when a the choice between hills and grassland arises: you will either be in uncontested terrain or, if the terrain is contested, you can use your greater mobility to win on the terrain. Another way you can use your increased mobility to your advantage is to defend from hills as much as possible. Just always remember when playing as the Orcs, that they are the kings of the hill.

Orcs against undead

Against undead you should remember a few things:

Both Skeleton Units as well as Walking Corpses take additional damage from Impact and Fire damage. Thus, its generally a good idea to use Trolls, or in some cases Orc Archers who have a secondary fire attack, to counter these units.

Almost the entire undead faction is resistant to poison so its never a good idea to recruit Orcish Assassins whose primary weapon is poison. The exception to this rule is the Dark Adept and the Necromancer, however attacking these units, who specialize in ranged attacks, with a ranged attack is a bad idea as well, so Orcish Assassins are never effective against the undead.

Ghosts are an effective scouting unit for the Undead as they have high movement and cross over most hexes with only 1 MP. Their weakness lies in that they have a low amount of HP, especially when compared to their cost (18 HP for 20 gold). But, it seems extremely difficult to deal them even a moderate amount of damage as they have resistances of 50% and above to blade, pierce, impact, and cold damage. What they do not have high resistance against is fire, and your Orc Archers can assist in this category. With the changes in 1.1, Orcish Archers have a 7-2 attack that deals fire damage. This means that during the day your Orc Archers will deal 5-2 while Ghosts will deal 2-3, during dusk and dawn your Orc Archers will deal 6-2 while Ghosts will deal 3-3, and during the the night your Orc Archers will deal 8-2 while Ghosts will deal 4-3. This means that at all times, your Archers will deal greater or equal damage to the Ghosts as they are dealing to you. This doesn't seem like a huge advantage, but when observing the Orcish Archers near double HP (32 to 17) and its cost (14 compared to 20) this slight advantage makes Orcish Archers an effective counter of Ghosts.

As for countering Dark Adepts, focus on killing one Adept at a time. Even if you have the oppurtunity to severely cripple 3 Adepts, it is better to completely destroy one because Adepts are devastating to an army featuring as many units without ranged attacks as the Northerners do (Wolf Rider, Orcish Grunt, Troll, Naga Fighters). Leaving all three alive will allow all three to use their powerful 10-2 attack with 70% chance to hit against your units that have no ranged and, therefore, cannot retaliate. The good news is that Adepts have no melee attack, so you shouldn't have much problem swarming them and picking them off. Just remember to always completely destroy them if possible, or if that's not possible on this turn, maneuver so that next turn you will be able to, and on this turn attack other units.

Orcs against Rebels

Most of the Rebels are Elvish units who have large defense in the forest. This can result in a quandary if your opponent doesn't wander past his foresty borders. The best way to counter this strategy is, first, to lure them away from the forest. This can be done by taking as many villages that aren't in the forest terrain as you can. This will force the player to go out and capture the villages as, if he/she does not, he/she will lose on account of your undoubtedly greater income and, therefore, undoubtedly larger army. Then you can use raw melee power in the form of grunts and trolls to kill the Rebels. If your opponent still remains in the forest, recruit a force of orcish assassins. Assassins have the same high defense in forests as elves do, so they are at no disadvantage in this terrain. In addition, once Orcish Assassins hit once, they need not hit again as the poison will continually drain 8 HP per turn. The elves will be forced to retreat to their villages to recuperate, or recruit mages to counter your assassins because, in order to defeat your assassins, they need soldiers with a high ranged attack and a high chance to hit. At this point they have recruited a unit who is as strong in the forest as any of your other units and you can now move in your traditional Grunts and Trolls to fight the mages.

If the Rebels aren't relying on forest you can use a force that consists primarily of Grunts and Trolls, as normal, combined with some Goblin Spearmen initially to take out some of the Elvish Scouts (who take 20% more damage from pierce) and possibly level up in the process.

Orcs against humans

Mounted units receive less damage from crushing attacks (like trolls' fists) so they could kill your whelps easily. On the other hand, they are vulnerable to archers or even to assassins. Heavy Infantry are weak against assassins, because their high resistances won't prevent the 8 damage a turn dealt to them if they get hit, and they are often too slow to get to a village in time to return and be useful.

Orcs against Knalgan alliance

Dwarves are powerful fighters. They are also very resistant to blade attacks. Thus, avoid using grunts if you have to fight against them in hills or mountains. Fighters can be dealt with by a bunch of archers as they are not that immune to pierce attacks. Against gryphons, use trolls, gryphons are very weak against crushing damage. Again, the idea is (unless against gryphons): try to avoid fighting against dwarves on mountain terrain. Try to fight against other units (poachers, bandits, ...) in grasslands if possible.

See Also

This page was last edited on 2 February 2008, at 15:56.