A video game expression of Strategy Versus Tactics, wherein long-term strategic gameplay takes place in turns (often on a "Risk"-Style Map of some sort), while localized tactical engagements occur in real time, in an actual battlefield.
The turn-based strategy campaign is where the player deals with the necessary economical and political decisions that will allow their troops to function properly (forming alliances, gathering supplies, etc.), while also mobilizing them around the overworld into key positions. In contrast, the real-time tactical element of the game involves the player assuming direct command of their soldiers to engage enemy forces in battle, the outcome of which may be affected by a variety of factors like terrain, weather and morale. This combat sequence is often automatic, with some games even allowing the option to ignore the real-time segment and skip straight to the likely results of the skirmish, but manual gameplay is not unheard of.
Such dualistic gameplay is justified by a large discrepancy between the time scales of strategic and tactical conflicts: strategic decisions play out over months if not years of in-game time, so it is justified to give the player a lot of time to think about them; tactical decisions, in the meantime, are based on the current situation on the battlefield—which changes almost every second, leaving no room for long deliberations.
Contrast Turn-Based Tactics.
- This is the trademark style of the Total War series: the strategic gameplay takes place on a "Risk"-Style Map, with the in-game turn duration ranging from a few months to a few years; battles, meanwhile, play out in real time and are usually over before the end of the day.
- A system similar to Total War is used by the King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame title and its sequel—armies have a certain amount of movement points (variable by some factors) per season to move on the strategic map (seasons having some differences between another), but clash in real-time combat.
- The Dawn of War Expansion Packs Dark Crusade and Soulstorm likewise augment the series' core real time combat gameplay with strategic turn-based maneuvers on a "Risk"-Style Map.
- The Battlefleet Gothic: Armada single player campaign, also set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, mimics this from the Dawn of War series: ship-to-ship engagements take place in real time, whilst strategic gameplay occurs on a "Risk"-Style Map.
- Used in the original Sword of the Stars game. Strategic movements, research, and builds were all turn-based, but tactical battles were done in real time, each battle lasting up to 4 minutes before the battle is ended by the timer. Battles can conclude faster if one side is annihilated, or both sides abandon the fight, but there is always a hard timer for the length of the battles.
- In Project X Zone, all units move in turns and can either choose to attack one unit, multiple units, or use a special supportive ability. Once you choose to fight, it shifts into battle mode where you have to time your attacks well for massive damage.
- Campaign mode in Rise of Nations has strategic maneuverings take place on a "Risk"-Style Map, with the various AI nations and player nation operating in turns. However if the player wishes to direct an army in person, the game shifts to a real-time battlefield.
- Space Empires V uses a turn-based system for ship movement, construction, research, etc, with real-time combat occurring if two objects owned by different factions are positioned in the same hex.
- The Global Conquest mode of Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath shows the world like a game board where units can move a certain distance, resources are gathered, and bases are built or upgraded each turn. When enemy forces meet, you have the option of letting the computer simulate a fight, or enter the usual Command & Conquer battlefield and fight it out yourself.
- In Lords of the Realm 2, all the high-level property management is turn-based, but anytime you enter combat, it becomes real-time.
- The 1980s era game Archon may be the originator of this trope, as it had chess-like gameplay augmented with tactical battles when pieces attempted to capture each other.
- The even earlier 1980s game Battle Chess features this as an Unbuilt Trope. It's chess, but the sequences had (often comical) animated violence. The violence was not interactive, which is the addition that built this trope.
- Inverted in the original X-COM: Strategic gameplay (Geoscape) took place in real time but battles switched to Turn-Based Combat.
- In Divinity: Dragon Commander, the strategic level plays out akin to Risk, while the battles, if you direct them personally, take place in real time.
- The campaign mode in Wargame: Red Dragon uses this model to simulate several hypothetical wars. The turns represent about a day, and each battle takes place in real time. Interesting in that the status of the tactical map changes depending on which neighboring territories are held on the strategic map, such as which reinforcement zones are available at the start.
- Fear Equation does this in the form of having the scavenging portions play out in an automated real-time format, while everything else is turn-based with a clock feature designed to be fast-forwarded to various degrees.
- In Mega Man Battle Network games, the "virus busting" missions take place in two-phase turns: first, you Take Your Time to select your weapons (Battle Chips), then you use them in real time engagements. Weapon selection thus adds a strategic aspect to tactical real time gameplay.
- The fifth game has special "Liberation Missions" that add more to the turn-based gameplay, where you "liberate" the areas of the Internet that had been overtaken by the enemy. In the overworld map, you move around and try to liberate dark panels into normal ones; each of the playable characters have special abilities that help them liberate more than 1 panels at once. The strategy here is to pick the fastest way to reach the boss to end the mission, by liberating the right panel from the right side and using your characters' special abilities at the right place and time. When you start actually liberating the dark panels, however, the gameplay switches into the "virus busting" gameplay detailed above, which happens in semi-real time; when you finished busting the enemies, the dark panels you chose to liberate will turn into normal ones, allowing you to progress further.
- In Namco × Capcom (the Spiritual Predecessor to Project X Zone), individual units are moved around levels in turns until they attack, at which point the game shifts into action-based, Fighting Game-like combat mode. After the battle is concluded, it goes right back to turn-based.