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Turn-Based Combat

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"No matter how scary monsters may look, they will not attack you until you input a command. They are polite like that."
— A computer terminal in the SNES game, ''G.O.D.''

A form of Tabletop/Video Game combat where players and their units act in turns. Combat time is split into chunks (turns), during which individual units can act in a more or less fixed order. While a player contemplates their next action, Time Stands Still for everyone on the battlefield.

Turn-based combat is one of the most glaring Acceptable Breaks from Reality: while utterly unrealistic, its major appeal lies in the ability to abstract the chaotic mess that is Real Life combat into a few concise gameplay rules. Furthermore, its implementations tend to go easier on video game hardware than real-time combat, and it also allows for more gameplay complexity, since the players have all the time they need to review all options and to choose the best course of action.

Turn-based combat will often but not necessarily feature some of the Common Tactical Gameplay Elements. For additional classification see its analysis page. Compare Real-Time with Pause, which is sometimes used to hide a turn-based move and attack resolution behind seemingly real-time gameplay. See also Sliding Scale of Turn Realism and Out-of-Turn Interaction.

All War Gaming, Tabletop RPG, Turn-Based Tactics, and Turn-Based Strategy games feature turn-based combat by definition, making it an Omnipresent Trope in those media/genres, so please put those examples directly onto the respective genre page.

Turn-based combat is often confused with another, less popular but distinct video game combat system — the Combatant Cooldown System. The rule of thumb to tell them apart is that in a turn-based combat, every unit gets to act at least once per turn (unless killed or otherwise disabled) and their speed mainly determines who goes first (see Action Initiative); in a Combatant Cooldown System, faster units can act more often than slower ones, so it can occur that a latter has only moved once in the time it took a former to move, cool down, and move again.


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    Eastern RPG 
  • In Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World, each battle turn begins with player inputting commands for the Player Party and then watching as party members and enemies duke it out in order based on their agility stats.
  • In Earth Bound, everyone's actions are chosen at the start of the round, then they act in Speed order. The game does not tell you in advance which one of your party members will go first (other than manually checking their stats).
  • Earthlock features turn-based combat with units fighting in pairs. When the characters are damaged by enemies, they accumulate support points, which can be used to activate other moves. Pairing different combinations of characters unlocks different moves and tactics, greatly affecting the flow of battle.
  • In Epic Battle Fantasy, orders are not given at the beginning of a round but individually, making it easier to react to battle events (particularly useful against a boss whose resistance changes after every attack).
  • Dislyte's combat system is based around your units and the enemies taking turns though units with higher Speed/Action Points (AP) get more 'turns.' This applies to both allies and enemies, meaning that if your SPD stat is much lower than the enemies, you won't get a turn in edgewise. However, at the start of battle where neither allies and enemies are buffed or debuffed barring Captain Abilities, the fastest unit goes first.
  • The Dragon Quest series uses turn-based combat and, from DQ4 onwards, included a limited party member AI (it is possible to order them to automatically heal allies, enemies, etc.), which can speed up the combat considerably but is best to turn it off for boss battles.
  • Final Fantasy, II, and III used turn-based combat before the introduction of the Active Time Battle system in later titles. However, it is also used in Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (which is also a spin-off of the core Final Fantasy series) and its Spiritual Sequel Bravely Default (which also takes some elements from the FF series), mostly because these two are throwbacks to classic Final Fantasy (4 Heroes of Light, to the NES era FF and Bravely Default, to the SNES era FF sans ATB). Final Fantasy X uses a modified turn based combat where not only you can see who will attack in what order, but certain status effects or actions can switch turn orders. As an example, using an item can sometimes grant the user an extra turn before the enemy's turn comes up.
  • This is the main gameplay mechanic in Granblue Fantasy. The players will have the first turn for most of the battles, though some unique enemies can act even before the starting turn.
  • In Golden Sun, actions are made at the beginning of every round with each party member going after the other. In some cases a party member can act twice.
  • Octopath Traveler has a turn-based system where each character has a distinct turn contained within one round, such that faster party members and enemies will go before slower ones, and you can see the upcoming turn order for the current and next round at the top of the screen. Certain party abilities adjust the field by either forcing enemies to go last or jumping a party member ahead. Blocking always sends a party member to the front of the turn order, while enemies coming out of Break will go first no matter what to avoid being stun-locked.
  • In Pokémon, the one with highest speed goes first. There is also a hidden property called "priority"; most moves have a priority of 0, while others can have a priority as high as 5 or as low as -7. This takes precedence over speed so long as the moves used don't have the same priority number.
  • Ring Fit Adventure is a mix of a turn-based RPG along with being a sports and fitness game where in-game moves are done with real-world exercises.
  • The main Shin Megami Tensei series tends to a be variation of One Side, One Turn where your party members act in order (based on the position in your party) until you run out of actions, and then the enemy goes in the same fashion. While they fit into the basic One Attack formula, the twist is that you can have more actions per turn than you have party members, and can gain or lose them based on what you do during the turn, generally gaining extra actions for critical hits and targeting weakness, while losing them for missing or targeting resistances. You don't have the freedom to choose who uses which actions, so the extra actions go to people further up on your party list, making formation very important. There are no out-of-turn actions except basic reprisal attacks on some characters.
  • All of the games in the Trails Series use this, though each one introduces new mechanics to keep things fresh.
  • The Uncharted Waters series switches to turn-based combat mode during naval battles. In Uncharted Waters: New Horizons, sword duels between fleet captains are also fought like this, with each combatant attacking and defending in turns.
  • Valkyria Chronicles: Enthusiasts of Save Scumming may be interested to hear that you can save during your turn, as well as after it.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon flips the series from a 3D Beat 'em Up with RPG elements, to a turn-based RPG with Beat 'em Up elements. While action happens in turns, with orders given individually, party members and enemies move about the battlefield in real time, with the position of both important for your attacks. An enemy in the way between a character and their target might throw a punch and prevent your characters action, or a nearby ally might follow up an attack for some free extra damage. Other brawler elements include enemies potentially getting knocked down, with regular attacks on downed enemies before they get up being guaranteed critical hits, and clutter around the battlefield being usable in attacks if a combatant passes by it on the way to their target.

  • While most scenes in Otakon LARP are conducted in Real Time, when timing becomes an issue (usually for combat), characters act in turn order. Turn order is determined first by their Dexterity stat, with ties broken by Intelligence. If characters have the same dexterity and intelligence, their actions are simultaneous.

    Strategy RPG 
  • The Disgaea series uses a pure One Side, One Turn system, with more freedom than most. Because of the emphasis on a combo bonus for multiple attacks on the same target, you're encouraged to move all your characters into position before making them attack, and in fact there's an "execute" command you need to use in order to make anything actually happen, upon which the actions occur in the order you selected them. There's also some meta-fiddliness you can do involving placing characters into position to support attackers, executing, and then canceling the movement. Since the support character never actually acted, they can then move again to support other attackers repeatedly until finally acting themselves. This doesn't make much logical sense in terms of movement rates, but it's a very "gamey" series that encourages clever abuses of game mechanics like that. As inferred, it uses One Move And One Attack and a Field Grid. Some other Nippon Ichi games have experimented with Continuous Terrain but have always felt awkward. Sometimes they also use a non-turn based initiative system like FFX.
  • Soul Nomad & the World Eaters is similar to Ogre Battle in that you construct parties that, for tactical purposes, acts as a single unit. Whenever this unit comes into contact with an enemy unit, themselves a full party, on the tactical map, it zooms in and has a little mini-battle plays out where each member of the party goes through their predetermined and limited action set (i.e. no more micromanaged player choices happen at that point). After that, the mini-battle ends regardless of whether or not any party-unit was fully destroyed, and the tactics game begins again. There's often a lot of complicated fiddling you can do with formations or side attacks or whatever. Ultimately though, it's no different from the One Move and One Attack thing combined with Field Grid, except each "unit" and each "attack" is a slightly more complicated array of mini-units with their own mini-actions.

    Western RPG 
  • Bug Fables: As part of it being a Spiritual Successor to the first two Paper Marios, the game utilizes turn-based combat.
  • Divinity: Original Sin and Divinity: Original Sin II feature tactical turn-based combat with initiative, action points, and free movement (no grid). A portion of the action points can be preserved by ending the turn early, so you can perform more actions on your next turn.
  • Fallout and Fallout 2 are played in real-time but switched to turn-based when initiating combat. Then Fallout Tactics went the full-blown Turn-Based Tactics game route. Starting with Fallout 3, combat can be performed either with the turn-based VATS or in real time. In Fallout 4, VATS no longer pauses time like in previous games, but only slows it down, and is the only way to trigger a critical hit.
  • GoldenLand switches between real-time exploration and turn-based combat similarly to the Fallout series.
  • Invisible, Inc. has not so much turn-based combat as turn-based stealth, but its gameplay is very similar to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with a one-side-one-turn rule, a square grid, and action points. The amount of the latter is based on the respective character's Speed stat and cannot be carried over from turn to turn.
  • Quest Arrest: The combat system plays out like the Pokémon games' system. You're given the option of either pepper spraying, tasing, or shooting your opponents to either whittle their health down low enough that you can slap the cuffs on them, or down to zero to kill them.
  • Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan: The game utilizes this combat method. During Billy's turns, he can listen to his opponent's words, engage them in conversation to try and calm them down, and even send out other friends to shoot colour at them in a little Rhythm Game.
  • Rainbow Skies has turn based combat on a grid. The grid determines movement, and the area of effect of fancier attacks.
  • Shadowrun Returns uses a similar system to the classic Fallout games, having the majority of the game being exploring in real time before switching to turn based combat. Unlike Fallout however you don't move just diagonally and cover is much more important.
  • Skyhill has a turn-based combat system that also has you targeting certain body parts of opponents.
  • Star Traders: Frontiers uses turn-based combat for both ship and crew combat. The crew combat has an initiative system, which effectively functions as an action point system. You can spend more action points than you have, so long as you have at least one left; but if you spend too much, you will suffer a penalty come the next round. The ship combat, on the other hand, includes Subsystem Damage, as well as several different methods by which to end it, such as Sniping the Cockpit or going Straight for the Commander.
  • TOME, based on a web series, is set in an MMORPG-inspired world but is an offline RPG that uses turn-based combat for all encounters, with some techniques requiring multiple party members to work in tandem.
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera features turn-based combat, which is tied into the (likewise turn-based) Dialogue Tree system.
  • Ultima IV featured a simplistic turn-based combat wherein the player could perform a single action (move one square, attack in one of the directions, cast a spell, or skip turn) with each party member in the order they were recruited, after which every enemy got to act in the same way, and so on.
  • Underrail is similar to the classic Fallout games, but with a larger complexity reminiscent of the Jagged Alliance series.
  • Undertale uses this in combination with a Bullet Hell mechanic. It's Played With during the final boss fight of the Genocide run: Sans's much hyped up special attack is literally nothing. But because he never attacks you, his turn never ends, locking you both in a stalemate until you give up and go do something else. You have to actively break the rules of the game to beat him, by waiting until he falls asleep and using your SOUL to push the bullet box over to the FIGHT-button.
  • Unhappy Ever After utilizes a turn-based combat system, though which character goes next is determined by each characters' swiftness.
  • Wasteland 2 has tactical squad-based combat with a square grid, action points, and initiative (which determines turn order and turn frequency).

    Video Games (other) 
  • Songs of Conquest: Fights occur on a hexagonal battlefield where sides take turn by giving their units commands.
  • Spell Swap is a real time fighting game... except when you turn on one of the numerous modifiers, turning the game into a turn-based combat.

  • Destroy the Godmodder: The game is divided into turns, with the players acting and ending when the GM responds to player actions and resolves entity actions.