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Capture the Flag
And by flag we mean a glowing briefcase.

Red Grunt #1: Everyone, everyone! Look unto me! I possess the blue flag!
Red Grunt #2: It's more beautiful than I ever imagined!

Capture the Flag (CTF for short) is a game played by two or more sides, each of which is trying to capture the other's flag and return it to their base. The first side that accomplishes this a certain number of times, or scores the most captures within a designated period of time, wins. Variations include requiring that your flag be in your base before you can capture the enemy's, having a single flag that can only be captured by one team at a time, having multiple "bases" that must themselves be captured, and/or allowing players to be captured (or killed) as well as the flag.

As a game mode, this is found in nearly every First-Person Shooter with multiplayer capabilities, many Real-Time Strategy games, and even some MMORPGs. The objective being fought over isn't always a flag, but can be any object that can be picked up and moved by players. If the developers in an FPS or RTS game don't include a Capture the Flag mode, you can bet that the community will quickly whip one up via Game Mods. In fact, this is how CTF was first introduced to video games.

The flag generally has no capabilities of its own; it's not a weapon and brings no particular advantages to the team that holds it. In fact, many games will restrict the movement of the flag carrier, make him highly visible, make him unable to use a weapon while holding the flag, and/or increase the damage he takes, to encourage pursuit and discourage "keep away" tactics in which the carrier simply hides with the flag in order to deny victory to the enemy. In some games, the latter is even considered a form of Griefing.

If the "flag" moves on its own and one side is protecting it, that's an Escort Mission. When the flag brings instant victory to the team that captures it, it's a Golden Snitch.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • An episode of Keroro Gunsou had the characters playing a capture-the-flag snowball fight with human flags (Momoka and Natsumi, respectively).
  • Chrome Shelled Regios shows the moving cities fighting for rights to various fuel mines in epic Wars to capture each other's flags.

    Film 
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief actually provides a filmic example of the protagonist warriors engaging in a practice mode of this game at their home base.
  • In Buck Privates, with Abbott and Costello, they 'volunteer' for the army (the recruiting station was a theater, and they thought they could hide from the cops and watch a movie). Their unit is participates in a war game in which their side wins if they blow up a blockhouse. They win.

    Literature 
  • One of the Star Trek Star Fleet Academy novels has a training exercise like this as its premise.
  • The kids at Camp Half-Blood play Capture the Flag, but with the addition of magic items (such as Annabeth's Yankee cap of invisibility) that they've received from their Greek god parents.

    Live Action TV 
  • Salute Your Shorts had a Day in the Limelight episode centered around a Capture the Flag game with a rival camp, where the unathletic Donkeylips wanted to prove his mettle as a Strategist.
  • An episode of Hey Dude had the ranch hands engage in a covert, late-night game of capture the flag where the object was to run the enemy team's flag up a flagpole. It ended in a draw when the team captains ran headlong into each other at the finish line, knocking themselves out, and a sleepwalking Mr. Earnest forced them to call things off.

    Newspaper Comics 

     Professional Wrestling 

  • WCW opened their Great American Bash 1991 PPV, July 14, 1991, with a CTF Scaffold Match with Bobby Eaton and "The Rapmaster" PN News vs. "Stunning" Steve Austin (his PPV debut) and Terry Taylor. The whole point of a scaffold match is seeing guys falling 20 feet to the floor. They put wrestlers on a scaffold and didn't even have them get knocked to the floor. Eaton won the match for his team by claiming the flag and walking back to his end of the scaffold. This PPV is infamous as the one to first earn the label of Worst PPV Ever.
  • Capture the flag is a standard Gimmick Match, through the flags for each side are typically on opposite sides of the ring.

    Video Games 
  • An early shareware game portrayed the actual outdoor sport, with the player running a team of kids in a field strewn with trees and rocks. It incorporated line-of-sight mechanics, and the goal was the same as in a real game: to reach the other teams hidden flag, steal it, and return it to your side while preventing the other side from doing the same to you.
  • The Ur Example for video games was Rise of the Triad in 1995.
    • Bungie's Marathon (December, 1994) was planned to have this mode, but it was cut due to taking too much time. In Marathon 2, it's Capture the Skull.
  • The Trope Codifier, for Video Games at least, is the Threewave CTF Game Mod for Quake.
  • A minigame in underground Sinnoh in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl/Platinum.
  • The Castle Wars game in RuneScape.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is a rare sidescrolling version.
  • Jedi Outcast, in addition to your normal Capture the Flag, also has "Capture the Ysalamiri", a little reptile that nullifies the Force when in close proximity to it, which means you can't use your Force powers but nobody can use them against you either.
  • Star Wars Battlefront II has Capture the Flag among its modes. There are two versions: Single-flag, where there is one flag in the middle of the field that both sides fight over, and two-flag where each side has a flag at their home base that the other side must capture and bring home. The one-flag version is available on space maps.
  • World of Warcraft has a few CTF battlegrounds.
    • Warsong Gulch and Twin Peaks are fairly straightforward CTF, with the rule that you can't capture the enemy's flag unless your flag is at your base, and a time limit to prevent games from going on forever.
    • The Eye of the Storm battleground combines this with control point gameplay, which makes it a resource race with the flag being a bonus; statistically you're better off taking and holding three or all of the four points than attempting a flag capture. Eye of the Storm is also different as there is only one neutral flag in the middle, rather than each side having one.
  • Final Fantasy XI has this with Brenner.
  • Pretty much all of the Call of Duty games have this mode.
  • Fat Princess has a rather odd take on this: as the title might suggest, the "flag" in this game is a princess, and you can fatten her up to make it harder for the opposing team to capture (or re-capture) her.
  • The most popular type of game mode in Team Fortress Classic, with the flag room and the capture points being in two different parts of the team's base.
  • Team Fortress 2 uses an intelligence briefcase with unknown contents. Unlike most FPS games, a team's own intel doesn't need to be in the base to capture the enemies'. It also can't be returned as fast: it needs to be guarded where it was dropped. It also provides a brief buff for the team that manages to take it to their base: guaranteed Critical Hits for 10 seconds.
  • Gang Garrison 2 , a Retreaux Video Game Demake of the aforementioned Team Fortress 2, also features Capture the Flag as its most popular game mode.
  • Halo, like most modern FPS games, features it as a multiplayer mode. Later games introduce an inversion in the Assault gametype (teams trying to deliver a bomb into the enemy base) and the option of a single flag that the teams take turns guarding and attacking.
    • Halo's CTF modenote  is special in that smacking someone with the flag is a One-Hit Kill. However, you cannot use any other weapons (you hold the flag in your hands, after all), so this is your only means of attack. Using the flag as a serious weapon is ill-advised.
    • Starting with Halo4, the Flag Carrier has access to an M6G Magnum with infinite ammo. However, there's a slight accuracy penalty (considering you're firing it one-handed while carrying the flag in the other hand), and when carrying the flag you can't Sprint or use Armor Abilities. Also, if attacked you can no longer voluntarily drop the flag so as to better defend yourself like you could in previous games. Melee attacks with the flag are still one-hit kills, though.
  • Red Faction Guerrilla also uses the one hit kill flag.
  • The Unreal series has used this in every incarnation so far. Unreal Tournament III has a two-in-one Lampshade Hanging and Hand Wave: Reaper, the main character, is initially confused as to why their mercenary team is apparently playing a game. His sister and fellow merc Jester explains that the flags are actually Field Lattice Generators which power the teams' respawners, and if they capture enough of the enemy's FLaGs, it'll shut down the respawners for good and let them kill the enemy soldiers for real. Reaper's response? "It looks like a flag, it waves like a flag, it's a flag."
  • BioShock 2 has "Capture the Little Sister" as its CTF mode.
  • S4 League has Touchdown mode, which is a variant of CTF designed to look more like soccer. There's only one flag (or "ball" as the game calls it, in keeping with the ball game theme), placed initially in the center, anyone can take it, and it has to be taken to the enemy's goal rather than your own. Or in other words, very much like Unreal Tournament 2004's Bombing Run mode, which in that game is considered distinct from normal CTF. Yeah.
  • The shareware game Capture The Flag.
  • WiiWare FPS Water Warfare has a "Capture the Treasure Chest" mode, with the provisos that you can't use items if you're carrying a chest, the chest slows you down, and you cannot capture the chest if the enemy has your chest.
  • Day of Defeat games typically require the sides to capture territory, each territory having a white neutral flag which changes to the side holding that territory upon capture.
  • Guild Wars has relic run, which sometimes functions as a normal Capture the Flag game, and sometimes functions as a race to see who can take their own "flag" to a shrine in the center of the map more times than the enemy teams.
  • Atari 2600 example from 1978: Flag Capture.
  • The Wii remake of GoldenEye features a rather odd take on CTF. In this mode, called Black Box, one team has to pick up the eponymous Black Box and capture it. However, the other team is trying to find and destroy the same.
  • The early RTS game The Ancient Art Of War had capturing all the flags as an Instant-Win Condition.
  • Dungeon Defenders has Downloadable Content that adds a (semi-working) CTF mode.
  • Online game Bearbarians has this as one of its four playable modes. It has an interesting bug in which your AI teammates have trouble actually getting the flag to the drop-off, and everyone respawns an infinite number of times, meaning that it can also be used to Level Grind so long as you prioritise the guy who just picked up yours (since the enemy AI does not have this bug).
  • Timesplitters has this mode, called Capture the Bag instead. The bag's appearance varies to match the level's theme.
  • Loadout has Jackhammer mode, which presents an odd twist on the formula. The "flag" in this case is a massive sledgehammer, which is perfectly capable of being used as a weapon itself. The more kills the hammer racks up, the more points the team that captured it earns. It can only be used five times before it's depleted though.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • An early plot point in Red vs. Blue. Asking why the flag matters is apparently considered insubordination.
    • After the Blue Flag is recovered near the end of the first season, the flags of the Blood Gulch bases are only ever brought up once later, when the Reds consider asking for it in a hostage negotiation but decide against it when he fear taking it again would result in Tex kicking their asses to get it back again.
      However, it's later parodied further with a group of Red and Blue grunts eternally fighting, dying, and being resurrected to fight over a flag, which is held as an object of religious worship, particularly by the Red Zealot (he was once stated to have asked someone if they've accepted The Flag as his personal savior).
  • The Achievement Hunter guys created a version in Minecraft called Capture the Tower, played twice so far in their Let's Play Minecraft series and for an additional game at RTX. The two teams play on an arena, each holding two of the four pieces of the Tower of Pimps. First team to erect a complete tower at their base wins. They also played a Minecraft version of Halo Capture the Flag on 4J Studios' recreation of Blood Gulch in Episode 117.

    Western Animation 
  • A Rocket Power episode had a game of freeze tag style Capture the Flag. Otto's team cheats, but Reggie outsmarts him and her team wins anyway.
  • It happened in an episode of The Simpsons when Bart and Homer tricked the other team by making a decoy flag out of Homer's underpants.
  • The Secret Saturdays starts one episode with the family playing a 3-on-3 game. Wadi is able to defeat the opposing team at least six times in a row. By herself. With a new time record every time.
  • In a non-Videogame example, there's the short-lived cartoon Skeleton Warriors, which had a Power Crystal split in two instead of flags, with each side trying to obtain the other half of the crystal.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar episode "Penguinner Take All" featured a high-stakes game of CTF between the penguins and the lemurs.
  • The Legend of Zelda cartoon effectively featured this, as every episode revolved around Link and Zelda trying to get the Triforce of Power away from Ganon while he tries to steal the Triforce of Wisdom away from them.

    Real Life 
  • Epic Real Life variant: Capture the Flag with Stuff.note 
  • Popular at many summer camps, colleges, and sundry organizations with sufficiently large space.
  • A common Paintball scenario.

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