The Battle for Wesnoth is a turn-based wargame played on a hex map. The strategy of battle involves trying to fight on favorable terrain, at a favorable time of day, and, if possible, with units that are strong or well suited against the enemies. Other concerns are capturing villages that produce gold for unit recruitment, and positioning units to restrict enemy movement. Games of Wesnoth come both in the form of single-player campaigns and multiplayer matches.
Each unit in Wesnoth has its own strengths and weaknesses. A unit's defense (which means in this case dodge chance) is based on the terrain it stands on. Elves, for example, are difficult to hit when fighting in a forest. Different types of attacks (melee and ranged), weapon types (pierce, blade, impact, arcane, cold, and fire), and a day-night cycle that alternately favors lawful and chaotic units, alter the amount of damage a unit deals. Throughout the campaigns, units can advance to higher level counterparts and become more powerful.
A central design philosophy of the game is the KISS principle; for a new idea to be accepted, it should not complicate gameplay. Another important facet of the game is randomness and its manipulation: it is never certain a unit's attack will fail or succeed, only likely or unlikely. Developers have stated that the potential for a skirmish to go better or worse than expected adds excitement, replayability and strategic depth to the game.