Turn-Based Games

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Games whose state is updated purely by players taking explicit actions.

Interruptible Actions Real-Time Games Time Pressure Space Alert Time Limits Bloodbowl Diplomacy Space Alert Space Alert - the computer games

Turn-Based Games .

to change the game state, and the progress of game time is not tied to the real time

The progress of game time in Turn-Based Games is not directly linked to real time, and it may be up to the players to pace the game.

Example: In Chess, the players take turns to move their pieces on the board. In the basic variant, there is no strict time limit for the players to execute their turns apart from social pressure exerted by the other player.

Example: Laser Squad Nemesis and the Combat Mission serie offer the players modes for hot-seating, switching the player whose turn it is, and sending the turn information via e-mail to the other player.

Related Descriptions

Wikipedia[1] as a section on Turn-Based Games.

Using the pattern

Turn-Based Games may be easily changed to Tick-Based Games by simply introducing Time Limits to the players' Turn Taking. Turn-Based Games can be supported by Dedicated Game Facilitators, especially when the turn is resolved simultaneously, but they are also at least partly Self-Facilitated Games, as completing the turn requires effort from the players, distinct from the actual gameplay.

Combat and Capture in Turn-Based Games compared to Real-Time Games requires more of players cognitive skills, as they have more time to think, and the Timing of actions in Combat and Capture require more Puzzle Solving skills than skills in Dexterity-Based Actions.

Some Turn-Based Games allow players to pass their turn without making any actions, in principle, making one big No-Op action. The actions available to the players during their turn can vary from simple pre-specified actions (such as roll a die and move) to complex action sequences with Budgeted Action Points. An interesting alternative is to have Asymmetric Abilities that rotate out of sync with the turns. Also in some games, these action sequences can have characteristics of Real-Time Games such as Maneuvering, although these have otherwise contradictory characteristics.

Simultaneous turns

Note that Turn-Based Games do not have to force other players


Turn-Based Games almost always have Downtime when the other players have to wait for the active player's turn to terminate during the Game Pauses for Turn Taking, especially in Synchronous Games. This effect of Downtime in Asynchronous Games is often less drastic, as the players have a possibility of some action other than waiting for the other players to complete their turns. It is possible, however, to limit the effects of this Downtime by having the players plan and execute their actions at the same time, and the actions are resolved simultaneously when the players have submitted their actions. If the Turn Taking is sequential, there are Role Reversals when the players change their modes of play from active to passive.


Instantiates: Role Reversal, Downtime

Modulates: Combat, Tick-Based Games, Synchronous Games, Asynchronous Games, Asymmetric Abilities, Capture

Instantiated by: Turn Taking

Modulated by: Self-Facilitated Games, No-Ops, Budgeted Action Points, Timing, Puzzle Solving, Real-Time Games, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Game Pauses

Potentially conflicting with: Maneuvering, Real-Time Games


Using the pattern

Diegetic Aspects

Interface Aspects

Narrative Aspects



Can Instantiate

Can Modulate

Can Be Instantiated By

Can Be Modulated By

Potentially Conflicting With


A revised version of the pattern that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[2].


  1. Wikipedia entry on Time-keeping systems in games
  2. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.