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Color-Coded Armies
Tip: If you ever find yourself sucked into a turn-based strategy game, don't wear red.

Sarge: They must be trying to coax the bomb into rearming!
Grif: Wait, why would they do that?
Sarge: Because they're blue!

In Strategy Games, when a player gazes at the map, it's convenient to know exactly which of the units are yours, which are the enemy's, and which may be unaligned. In order to make this easy for the player, units will be color-coded so that the player can tell at a glance.

Although this can be Justified by military uniforms, this can often apply even to units that are not members of a military force or haven't joined your (or the enemy's) side yet. In fact, an astute player may be able to tell a future ally or enemy by the color of their clothing, before they utter a single line or take any actions.

In single-player games, the side controlled by the player will be a "good" or "heroic" color, while the enemy side will be an "evil" color. Most commonly, these colors will be blue and red, respectively. (Green and red is usually avoided as it's the most common form of color blindness.) Although if there are more than two factions, green and yellow are usually the next colors to show up. This tradition goes back to the early 19th century when members of the newly founded Prussian Military Academy developed Kriegsspiel, the first tabletop wargame and predecessor of all modern RTS and turn based strategy video games. And since the Prussian Army had just adopted the new uniforms in Prussian Blue, blue became the default color for allied troops and red the color of enemy troops, which may even have established the modern Good Colors, Evil Colors.

This effect may be accomplished by a Palette Swap in two-dimensional games, but not always. It's also just as common in three-dimensional games. The colored units can be shown on an Enemy Detecting Radar.

There are generally 4 versions of this:

Type I

All sprites or models are color coded, regardless of if it makes sense for them all to be wearing the same color. In some games, this can even include the unit's hair color.

Type II

Player Mooks are color-coded, but named characters with unique sprites are not.

Type III

Sprites, models, or markers on the overall map or mini-map are color-coded. Individual units are not when seen close up.

Type IV

The sprite or model has a colored ring, HP bar, or other colored means of identifying it as friendly or not. Individual units can be any color or colors. Historical games usually use this style, as they tend to depict uniforms realistically.

Subtrope of Colour-Coded for Your Convenience. See also Color-Coded Multiplayer.


    open/close all folders 

    Everything Color Coded 
  • Almost by necessity, boardgames and classic wargames, with cardboard chits or plastic pieces, are color coded by nationality. Examples include classic games like Diplomacy, Axis And Allies, and Chess.
  • In the early Fire Emblem games, allies are always blue, enemies red, and NPCs green. Some games have yellow in cases it needed another (usually initially neutral) NPC army.
  • Most tabletop strategy games that the players don't paint their own pieces for use this trope, such as Risk.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, the Gallian units wear blue uniforms and are represented by blue circles on the map, while enemy units wear black and red uniforms and are represented by red circles on the map.
  • In Super Robot Wars, your units are blue, enemy units are red, and then there are "neutral" yellow units that may either be your enemies, your allies, or opponents to both you and your enemies. Green is reserved for Shuu, just to prove he sides with no one.
  • Warcraft III has several colours to pick from, but in the campaigns and official art, the Alliance and Night Elves are both blue (the official website for the game depicts the Night Elves as cyan, however), the Horde is red, and the Scourge is purple. While, to this day, blue is associated with the Alliance and red with the Horde, it lacks this connotation in World of Warcraft.
  • Red vs. Blue has this. Non-main characters are, as the name might suggest, colored red and blue depending on their loyalties. The main characters are still color-coded, although not actually as simply as red and blue. The red team usually uses warm colors and the blue team usually uses cold colors, with the exception of Grif's sister. Most of the freelancers have armor colors that are neither.
  • The armies of the Dynasty Warriors games are each associated with a particular color. Wei is blue, Shu is green, Wu is red, Jin is cyan, Yellow Turbans are yellow, the Han and Nanman are purple, and Lu Bu's forces are silver. This overlaps with Color-Coded Characters as the playable officers of each faction dress in the corresponding colors, bar extra costumes and a few betrayers.
  • Also, Samurai Warriors. Oda is purple (symbolizing evilness), Toyotomi is gold (symbolizing wealth), Tokugawa is blue (symbolizing calmness), Takeda is red, and Uesugi is white (preference of their leaders in real history).
  • Team Fortress 2. In fact, the models (before the Devs introduced player hats) are identical except for the colours of their uniform. Also, the two teams are called RED (Reliable Excavation and Demolition), owned by Redmond Mann and BLU (Builders League United), owned by Blutarch Mann.
    • Also color coded are some weapons like boxing gloves, many of the cosmetic items, the sentry guns, the grenades, the critical hit rockets, the player bases, the light that comes from the healing gun, the laser pointers, the briefcases of the capture the flag mode, the energy projectiles from energy guns, the glow when a weapon is crit-boosted,
    • Fire and blood averts this and both are always red, however, when players are on fire, they will glow in the color of the team, and the fire from flare guns is color coded, the fire axe is red on both teams.
    • This game has the function of painting your items with paint can items, however, the red and blue colors come together in one single item, the color changes depending of the team.
  • Drone Tactics takes this one Up to Eleven. The player is red and their computer-controlled alies blue, enemies are grey if they belong to the Evil Army and green if they're on a different team. And then there's the Badlands, where you can find the whole spectrum. Even pink.
  • Units and building in Globulation are player-colored. Then again, they are nearly shapeless — just enough to tell workers from warriors.
  • Battle Isle and its Fan Remake Advanced Strategic Command are mostly colored. Specifically, pixels of unit or building sprites' paint (red-only color) turn into the player's color, but retain saturation and brightness, while pixels of details like tracks or wheels, weapons, parachute, and so on are untouched, so everything is still easy to discern.
  • Age of Empires has this in spades.
  • Z and it's sequel Steel Soldiers sees red robots fighting blue robots. Everything you own is coloured red and anything neutral is grey.
  • A staple of Command & Conquer games:
    • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn had tan/yellow for GDI (to suggest Desert Camoflague ala Operation Desert Storm), while the Brotherhood of Nod in the campaigns had red-colored buildings and white/grey-colored units (a combination not possible in Multiplayer). Subsequent games made them red all the way, while GDI remained yellow.
    • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, the two additional (non-playable) factions, CABAL and the Forgotten, were blue-colored and green-colored respectively.
    • Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars changed GDI's color to orange and introduced a third faction, Scrin, which was colored purple.
    • The Red Alert branch has blue for the Allies and red for the Soviets (of course, having communists as red isn't much of a stretch).
    • In Command & Conquer: Generals, USA uses blue, GLA is trademarked as greennote  and China abuses red (again, Communists), while neutral units (empty vehicles and non-captured resources structures like oil derricks, for example) are white. Civilians and their buildings have no identification marks and can be of any color, but they appear white in the minimap.
  • In Warzone 2100, all units and structures are color-coded by player. In multiplayer, 8 colours are available (10 in the open-source project), while, in the campaign, the player's faction (the Project) is green by default, the New Paradigm gets yellow, the Collective gets gray, and NEXUS gets black. The menu also allows the player to set the Project's colour to red, blue, cyan, or pink.
  • Truth in Television: APP-6A, a widely used NATO standard, uses color as the primary way to denote affiliation.
  • In StarCraft, units are color-coded by player. This makes sense with the Terrans and maybe the Protoss who have armor to wear their colors on, but the Zerg don't have that excuse. Units also automatically change color if they change alliance under some conditions (which, again, makes no sense for the Zerg).
    • Hero units, particularly in the sequel, sometimes have unique models that don't change coloration based on the player (for instance, Raynor always has the matte-black armor he's shown using in cutscenes). In the first game, hero units could only be distinguished by their distinct teal-green coloration.
  • Nintendo Wars uses this in every game, with the colors changing depending on which game you're in. In the GBA games and Dual Strike, the individual countries all had their own colors; in Days of Ruin, the player is typically red, allies blue, enemies black.
  • Battle for Wesnoth has highlights on all units that vary by color. However, the protagonists are usually red in single player, while enemy forces may be green, brown, orange, purple, or, rarely, blue.
  • Aztec Wars does this, and the units may look rather silly with cheerfully colorful things strapped to them; the strangest example is perhaps the Yeti; depending on which side it's fighting for, they give it a different, brightly painted club.
  • Planetary Annihilation seems to be all set for this trope; with yellow and red armies.
  • Achron justifies this by having it be overlays projected by the visualization, which can even be turned off during a game.
  • Total War, especially Rome, tend to do this quite heavily for a game based on reality. The Roman families especially get this, with the Julii being bright red, the Brutii being green, and the Scipii being blue, and the Senate being purple. However, it isn't just regulated to the Romans, as all factions have representative colors to easily identify them.
  • Machines Wired For War has this. All sides are exactly identical but for color. Slight subversion in that, during the campaign, the player controls the red team against the blue instead of vice-versa.
  • Street gangs in Los Santos are marked by what color they show off the most: Grove Street Families are green, Ballas are purple, Varrios Los Aztecas are aqua, and Vagos are yellow-orange. Ballas and Vagos will shoot at CJ on sight. When fighting turf wars, the map of Los Santos is divided into sections, shaded according to who controls it (barring the Aztecas, with whom GSF have an effective alliance thanks to Cesar being Kendal's boyfriend and later forging a friendship with CJ).
  • One of Cracked's 31 Life Lessons You Can Only Learn From Video Games is that "somebody being the wrong color is a perfectly okay reason to attack them."
  • Player's units and captured mana crystals in Genjuu Ryodan are blue/purple while the opponents are red.
  • In League of Legends, the team at the west side or southwest corner of the map uses cyan for its spawn point, minions and defenses, while the team at the east side or northeast corner is purple.

    Color Coded Mooks 
  • Final Fantasy Tactics is a partial example. The units weren't uniformly color coded, but allied units tended to have blue accents while enemy units tended to have those same accents colored red - but not always.
    • Specifically, ally White Mages have red highlights (as the traditional FF White Mage), while the enemy had blue or green highlights. Enemies in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and its sequel are all palette swapped, leading to the extremely confusing situation of enemy Red Mages being blue, Blue Mages being red, and Green Mages being purple.
    • And made even better in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 where you face a bunch of mages all named after the color of the class they are, but because of this, they're NOT their color. So Rouge is blue, for example. Hilarity Ensues.
  • OgreBattle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber is like the Tactics examples above, with blue bits on the characters on the player's side being red on the enemies.
  • Before the advent of rapid fire rifles and smokeless powder, it was more important for each side in a war to know what side every one else was on than staying hidden. Therefore every one wore brightly colored uniforms all the way up till world war one. Colors were specific to each country, e.g. British redcoats and Prussian blue.
    • Averted during the American Civil War, especially early on, when persistent supply problems led to some battalions wearing whatever colors they could get their hands on. It wasn't unheard of for a unit of Union troops, say, who had picked up gray-colored coats somewhere, to be mistaken as an enemy and fired on by another Union force. While Union forces did eventually settle on dark blue for most of its soldiers, it remained a problem for the Confederates throughout the war as they lacked the industrial capacity to produce enough uniforms.

    Color Coded on Overview Map 
  • Starting with the sixth Fire Emblem game, there was some of this and some Color Coded Mooks. In battle animations, player-controlled characters had different individual colors, but enemies and NPCs were always red and green, respectively. After the sixth game, unique enemies (such as bosses) could also have individual colors. Up through the latest Fire Emblem game on the 3DS, however, all overview map sprites have been color coded except in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn.
  • In the DS remake of Disgaea, unit icons on the mini-map are colored blue for allies, red for enemies, and yellow for "neutral" (specialists and summoned cannons), but units on the map were only distinguishable by the color of their HP bar, as in Type IV.
  • The various Call of Duty games use colored markers on the mini-map to show which side is which, usually green and red (but with an option to switch it to yellow and purple for color blind players).
  • Samurai Warriors/Dynasty Warriors uses the blue-ally/red-enemy/yellow-other scheme for the HP bar and mini-map, and the clans themselves were further color coded. (For example, in Dynasty Warriors: Wei = Blue, Shu = Green, Wu = Red, Yellow Turbans = Yellow.)
  • Soldiers from the three house armies in Dune II: The Battle for Arrakis wear sensible greenish-brown fatigues and matching armor when seen up close and most vehicles sport a tan paint job, but on the main map, units from the three houses are all either blue (Atreides), green (Ordos), or red (Harkonnen). (This color scheme annoys purists who read the book, as the Atreides are canonically green, the Harkonnens are canonically blue—and have a griffin, not a ram, as their emblem—and the Ordos canonically don't exist; red, or more accurately scarlet, is the color of the Imperial House Corrino.)

    Color Coded Indicators 
  • Jeanne d'Arc, with HP bars. Ally units' bars are blue, enemy unit bars are yellow.
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and Path of Radiance use colored rings to indicate the alignment of units - friendlies have a blue ring, enemies have a red ring, AI-controlled allies have a yellow ring, and neutrals a green ring. In Radiant Dawn, color-coded HP bars were also used.
  • Civilization II used a type IV, a colored shield with the lifebar on top. The first game had units on a colored background.
    • Civilization III had colored patches on their uniforms or vehicle bodies. Civilization IV had flags with the civilization's emblem rather than a solid color (the emblems were colored; e.g. England with white and red St. George's Cross, Egypt with a purple Eye of Horus on yellow, etc.). Civilization V replaced the flags with floating buttons (round for non-fortified combat units, shield-shaped for fortified combat units, and triangular for non-combat units), with the design on the button representing the type of unit (e.g. a rifle for a Rifleman, a shovel for a Worker, a tank for a Tank) and the color scheme of the button of the civilization to which the unit belongs (e.g. yellow on green for the Arabs, white on dark blue for America, red on white for Japan...). In each incarnation of the game since at least III, each city has a tag below it indicating its population, whether it was growing (and in later installments, how fast), what it was building and when it would finish it, etc. Civilization borders are of course purely color-coded, but that's to be expected.
  • Most of what goes for Civilization II also goes for Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri: a shield (albeit a fairly futuristic-looking one) indicates the unit's affiliation, experience/morale (with weird addons to the "shield") and health (in a vertical bar on the shield's right). Some unit designs also have spots for additional faction-coloring (e.g. the tops of a Chopper's landing skids are in the faction's color). A base's affiliation is indicated by the color of the info text below it; the shape of the base isn't a perfect indicator, since although each faction has its own style, captured bases remain in the style of their previous owner for several turns until the conquered citizens "assimilate" to their new faction (at which point the base changes shape).
  • Day of Defeat has little circular sprites over the heads of soldiers in the game: green with a white star for Allies, red with a black Iron Cross for the Axis. These conveniently match the capture flags. In earlier versions, the player had to recognize the helmet shape, uniforms' tone — frequently amid the rubble and half a street away through fog — or the tactical situation before shooting, while bots knew everyone's allegiance instantly.
  • Nippon Ichi games use color-coded life bars: green (or blue) for allies, red for enemies, and yellow for neutral parties (which are not necessary to defeat).
  • In Battle for Wesnoth, colored "carpets" under sprites are of player's color, while health and XP bars and movement orb are color-coded with their own meanings.
  • Rondo of Swords uses health bars to determine who's on what side; blue for the player, red for enemies, yellow for non-player allies, and green for everything else, from panicking civilians to what both sides call an enemy.
  • Impossible Creatures uses coloured spots on the back of creatures to show ownership.
  • Company of Heroes uses icons and circles not just to tell which side a unit's on, but which equipment each is carrying.
    • Well, apart from that, anyone with at least minimal knowledge of WW2 could tell apart German, American, and British soldiers on the battlefield. German soldiers generally wear dark-grey-pine-green and white uniforms, Americans wear light-green and green-brown ones, and the British wear Khaki (as well as colour-coded headwear).
    • As well, large units (tanks, armored cars and buildings) all have color-coded trim: Blue for your units, yellow for units belonging to your allies, and red for Hostiles.
  • World of Tanks uses small icons above tanks as well as outlines when targeted. Red for enemies, green for allies. This is important because tanks of different nationalities (usually color coded as a Type I: grey for Germany, olive drab for USA, red-brown for Russia, blue for France) can be on the same team.
  • In City of Heroes, when you target an NPC, if the box that appears around the NPC is red, it's a villain and you can fight it; if the box is blue, its an ally; if the box is gray, it is neither; if the box is yellow, it is neither but you can fight it anyway (which turns the box red).

Color CharacterAmazing Technicolor IndexColor Coded Characters
Color-Coded MultiplayerOlder Than the NESCommand And Conquer Economy
Class Change Level ResetVideo Game TropesColor-Coded Multiplayer
Color CharacterColour-Coded for Your ConvenienceColor-Coded Characters
Casting a ShadowImageSource/Video GamesDragon Rider

alternative title(s): Colour Coded Armies
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