Battle for Wesnoth was one of the hidden gems I discovered once I stopped spending hours waiting for raids to start or grinding daily quests.
This is the sort of game I first loved PCs for (well after International Karate, Ultima 4 and Bubble Bobble). A turn based strategic game based in a fantasy setting. Think fantasy wargame. It looks good despite only being old school VGA graphics. It is clean and all the elements are easy to identify on the screen. None of that mousing over random scenery to try and figure out if it’s something you can interact with or just eye candy.
The game is free and comes with more than a dozen well written and complex single player campaigns. I must have spent more than 100 hours playing all the way through most of them. If you run out of content there is a healthy modding community which has created hundreds more campaigns and alternate rule sets. There is a variety of campaigns from easy through to quite hard and even within this range you can bump the difficulty if each new campaign up or down as you like. If you any anything but new to these hex based war games I suggest you start at normal difficulty or harder as easy is very easy.
Each campaign follows the adventures of a hero or heroes who gain levels and power as you go. Your units also gain in experience as they fight and as units level up there is usually at least two options for how to develop the unit. Do you want that elven archer to be a ranged powerhouse as a marksman? Or do you want it to be better in melee and able to become invisible in forest hexes? Units can also gain new abilities such as accuracy, elemental attacks (e.g. fire breath), poison attacks, backstabbing, first strike and more. Each of the races develop quite differently and have their own areas of specialisation.
One nice counter balance to the usual maximise everyone’s level strategy is that higher level units cost significantly more maintenance. Do you want one level 3 killing machine or three level 1 rookies? Different battles work better with different strategies (of course). Some units are received free during the story line and these loyal units cost no maintenance even at high level. This can be crucial in the harder games.
There is no turn timer and turns can be saved at any time. PC resource use is low, so you can run it in the background while doing other things. This makes it ideal for those who only have small blocks of time to devote to games in between other chores such as children or work.
There is no city management or resource management other than your troops and heroes. This is a war game with some good roleplaying flavour, not a simulation.
Combat is basically the units taking turns to hit each other until they run out of attacks or health. One nice feature is that the combat confirmation screen calculates the odds for you so you can see potential outcomes of your attacks. Terrain plays a significant part in determining the outcome blindly charging your enemy is usually a recipe for disaster.
I have not tried it but functionality for multiplayer against other humans is included if you are into that sort of thing.
Lots more screenshots are available on the Battle for Wesnoth wiki.
Overall i’d give this game 10/10 and recommend it to anyone who likes hex based war games with a fantasy flavour. It’s not perfect, but being free and with a strong modding community you get a lot for nothing.