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Capture the Flag

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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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Chrome Shelled Regios shows the moving cities fighting for rights to various fuel mines in epic Wars to capture each other's flags.
  • An episode of Sgt. Frog had the characters playing a capture-the-flag snowball fight with human flags (Momoka and Natsumi, respectively).
  • An episode of Gundam Build Divers revolves around the titular team challenging a team of SD Gundam pilots to a match of Capture The Flag for the right to buy an expensive island base as their unit's home base. Notably the match was set up by the island base's previous owner, as he figured it was the only way to balance the Build Divers' higher firepower versus the SD Gundams' superior mobility.

    Comic Books 
  • Be Prepared: ORRA hosts plenty of these games over the course of the book. The boys and girls must steal each other's flag, and whichever side wins gets to come up with a Cool and Unusual Punishment for the losers.
  • The first issue of KOL's Princess Natasha comic (published by DC) centered around a school contest to capture an opposing team's flag. Natasha participates in the search while trying to recover the Zoravia national flag, which her evil uncle Lubek has stolen.

  • In Motherland three guys celebrate a birthday by donning fatigues and going into the country for a Paintball Game variation of Capture the Flag in which you shoot the "enemy" team with paintballs on the way to infiltrating their base and capturing their flag. Things get weird when they seem to time warp into a real shooting war.
  • 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.

  • One of the Star Trek Star Fleet Academy novels has a training exercise like this as its premise.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: 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.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: The Winter War—a mock military campaign at a military academy—is a variation form of capture the flag, with a bunch of flags rather than the standard two.
  • Divergent: Yet another example of capture the flag being used as a military exercise.

    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.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Capture the Flag, an early shareware game, portrays the actual outdoor sport, with the player running a team of kids in a field strewn with trees and rocks. It incorporates line-of-sight mechanics, and the goal is the same as in a real game: to reach the other team's hidden flag, steal it, and return it to your side while preventing the other side from doing the same to you.
  • 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.
  • Pokémon Conquest: Grass-typed fields have flags in each corner of the map; capturing a flag (called a "banner" in-game) grants a constant passive healing effect—and if the enemy captures all banners, you lose instantly regardless of how well you're doing.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is a rare sidescrolling version. The Capture The Flag multiplayer levels revolve around a blue team and a red team trying to steal each other's flags and bring them to their base. The first team that catches the required number of flags wins.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Jedi Knight II: 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.
  • 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, in the Bungie-made games you cannot use any other weapons (you hold the flag in your hands, after all), so this is your only means of attack. Aggressively using the flag as a serious weapon is ill-advised.
    • In the 343 Industries-made games, the Flag Carrier has access to an M6H 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 use any Armor/Spartan abilities (especially Sprint, for obvious reasons). Melee attacks with the flag are still one-hit kills, though. While in Halo 4, the carrier could no longer voluntarily drop the flag so as to better defend themselves when attacked like they could in previous games, Halo 5: Guardians restored the ability to do so in response to fan outcry. Halo Infinite gets rid of the "Flagnum" and introduces a new feature: You can now sprint while holding the flag, but doing so reveals your position to the enemy, giving you a choice between a slower flag run vs. a faster but more visible one.
  • 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. Holding her prevents you from using your physical weapons because you're too busy holding the clawing, hissing kitten, but you can still use plasmids.
  • 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.
  • 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 CTF 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.
  • Splatoon has two odd variations on the formula with its Rainmaker and Tower Control ranked modes.
    • In Rainmaker, the eponymous Rainmaker sits on the center of the stage as a single "flag", with the objective being to take hold of it and carry it to the enemy base. The Rainmaker gives its holder access to a slow but powerful Charged Attack; however, it slows the holder down severely, constantly marks their location to opponents, and it self-destructs if they hold on to it for too long, doing it faster if they try to retreat. If no team manages to carry it all the way before time runs out, then the team that made the most progress to the enemy base with it is the victor.
    • In Tower Control, the flag takes the form of a mobile tower at the center of the map. If a player jumps on top while there are no enemy players on it, the tower will move along a fixed path toward the goal; if no side occupies the tower for a few seconds, it will move back to the centre. As with Rainmaker, if neither team makes it all the way to the goal, the winner is whoever gets further.
  • Warframe offers Cephalon Capture as a possible type of match for Conclave. The Cephalons, being AIs, will chatter with players throughout the match.
  • Pirates Vikings and Knights has a slight variation on the gamemode, in which several chests full of Booty have to be carried back to your base and kept there until your team's ticket counter reaches zero. The more chests you have in your base, the faster it goes down. Of course, the more chests your team has, the more likely it is that the other two teams are going to try and take them from you.
  • Nexuiz, as a multiplayer game has this. However, the rules are different to most of the other incarnations of the gametype: your team can score both by capturing flags (25 points) and by fragging enemies (1 point per frag). This comes in handy at some maps such as Eggandbacon, where, in spite of its simple design, it's near impossible to get flags, so teams must rack up frags in order to increase their score.
    • The same is true of Xonotic, its Spiritual Successor, although the game uses a classic flag-based scoring system instead of Nexuiz's frags+flags score system.
  • LEGO Dimensions had Capture the Flag as one of its first four 4-player modes.
  • Atlas Reactor has a variant called Extraction: Both teams are competing to capture a single, neutral 'flag' (a briefcase) and bring it back to their extraction zone to win. Each team's extraction zone spawns when that team reaches 10 points (holding the flag for one round is a point, and killing an opposing team's freelancer is two points) on the opposite side of the map of their current location, and the flag has its own health bar which, when depleted, causes the carrier to drop it in his/her current square, allowing the other team to pick it up (this means you can't constantly heal/shield a single flag carrier ad infinitum).
  • Overwatch didn't launch with one, but added "Capture the Rooster" as its featured mode for the Chinese New Year event in 2017 (which, despite the name, used the traditional flags), then playable only on Lijiang Tower and can be playable during the event only; it has since been added to the full game on the Bastion rework patch on March 2017, with the addition of other Control maps (Oasis, Nepal, and Ilios) as official CTF maps. The reason it lacked one to begin with was because mobility based heroes would have been Game Breakers, however the mode got around this by requiring a player to stay on the flag for a few seconds to capture it (giving the opposing team a chance to knock them off the point, instead of allowing Tracer or Genji to rush in and out with it).
    • The Lunar New Year of 2018 (Year of the Dog) brought the mode back as part of the event, but this time with an official CTF map to go with it (previous versions were just reused Control maps). Along with this, the mode received balance changes so that the flag can now be picked up instantly, but using any movement abilities (Tracer's Blink, Lucio's Wall Ride, etc) would drop the flag.
  • An Untitled Story features the "heist" mode in which two players try to get all the money bags from the opponent's base (including a lone one found on the map) to their own in one of twelve maps based on areas from the main game.
  • Midtown Madness: Multiplayer Cop & Robbers mode. Take the gold and head it up to your or team hideout.
  • One of the three game modes (and by far the game mode with the most stages) in LEGO Brawls is a team based mode where the main objective is to capture a central area.
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn and Command And Conquer Red Alert: Skirmish mode adds a CTF win condition where a land vehicle can pick up an enemy flag and wins by bringing it back to their base (but their speed is greatly reduced).

  • xkcd; "This is the worst capture-the-flag server ever."
  • Awaken: Nyl uses a three way game of capture the flag between herself Piras and Faen to train them in creative use of their flux abilities. She does seem like she might be slightly more interested in kicking their butts than seriously training them though.

    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 the fear of taking it again would result in Tex kicking their asses to get it back like before.
    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.
  • SCP-1776 of the SCP Foundation uses Mind Manipulation to get people to play Capture the Flag, but makes them think it's real rather than a game. Anyone who's been a member of a military force, been a Private Military Contractor, or been a member of La Résistance will view SCP-1776 as a flag of their country or unit, and believe that anyone near SCP-1776 is a real-life enemy who intends to destroy the flag. Those affected will use any means necessary, including very real violence, to get the flag, and then will find the closest flagpole to hoist it on, spreading the effect to others.

    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.
  • The Clarence episode "Capture the Flag" features a truly epic game, full of double crosses and secret alliances. Clarence goes rogue and leads a mission to free all the prisoners.
  • Capture the Flag: The main protagonist Mike and his two friends Amy and Marty frequently engage in Capture the Flag surfing competitions, but so far never managed to win. And of course, the main plot is about Mike, Amy and Mike's grandfather Frank going to the moon to secure the flag from the original Apollo XI team before Corrupt Corporate Executive Richard Carson can get it.
  • Craig of the Creek: It's revealed that in "Ancients of the Creek" that the first game since the foundation of the Creek, a Capture the Flag game, ended up Gone Horribly Wrong to the point where it became an all-out war between different Creek kids, the Founders left the Creek, and the result of it became a mystery, which lead to Craig finding the flags used for the game in "The Last Game of Summer" before keeping them away from everyone. This all comes back in the Season 3 finale "Capture The Flag" special, when Craig uses the flags in form of a Godzilla Threshold to challenge King Xavier in a winner-takes-all for the liberation of the Creek from his tyranny.
  • Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: In "I Am Winston Churchill", the gang travels back in time to meet a young Winston Churchill, who is playing capture the flag with his new schoolmates. It's through this game that Winston teaches Brad the importance of speaking up for yourself.

    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 combat-simulation scenario, present at paintball, airsoft, Nerf wars, and even sometimes LARP-style events for melee enthusiasts.