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Red Grunt #1: Look unto me! I possess the blue flag!

Red Grunt #2: It's even more beautiful than I 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, 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.

Examples of Capture the Flag include:

Anime & Manga

  • An episode of Keroro Gunsou had the characters playing a capture-the-flag snowball fight with human flags (Momoka and Natsumi, respectively).
  • Chrome Shelled Regios shows the moving cities fighting for rights to various fuel mines in epic Wars to capture each other's flags.


  • 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.
  • 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.

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

Video Games

  • The Ur Example for video games was Rise of the Triad in 1995.
  • The Trope Codifier, for Video Games at least, is the Threewave CTF Game Mod for Quake.
  • A minigame in underground Sinnoh in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl/Platinum.
  • The Castle Wars game in Runescape.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is a rare sidescrolling version.
  • Jedi Outcast, in addition to your normal Capture the Flag, also has "Capture the Ysalamiri", a little reptile that nullifies all the Force within its surroundings, which means you can't use your Force powers but nobody can use them against you either.
  • 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.
  • Final Fantasy XI has this with Brenner.
  • Pretty much all of the "Call Of Duty" games have this mode.
  • 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.
  • 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 a couple seconds.
  • 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 mode[1] is special in that smacking someone with the flag is a One-Hit Kill. However, you cannot use any other weapons (you hold the flag in your hands, after all), so this is your only means of attack. Using the flag as a serious weapon is ill-advised.
  • Red Faction Guerrilla also uses the one hit kill flag.
  • The Unreal series has used this in every incarnation so far. Initially justified by the eponymous competition, but played differently in Unreal Tournament III, where a key element to the story is that the respawner technology from the tournaments has been brought to the battlefield, and resulted in battles which actually resemble tournament games - right down to capture the flag battles, where the flag is a "Field Lattice Generator", and capturing it three times takes the enemy unit's respawner offline.
  • Bioshock 2 has "Capture the Little Sister" as its CTF mode.
  • 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 enemys goal rather than your own. Or in other words, very much like Unreal Tournament 2004s Bombing Run mode, which in that game is considered distinct from normal CTF. Yeah.
  • The shareware game Capture The Flag.
  • Wii Ware FPS 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 Capture the Flag 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.

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 he fear taking it again would result in Tex kicking their asses to get it back again.
      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 saviour).

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.

Real Life

  • Epic Real Life variant: Capture the Flag with Stuff.[2]
  • Popular at many summer camps, colleges, and sundry organizations with sufficiently large space and sufficiently low maturity.
  • A common Paintball scenario.


  1. And Marathon, made by the same company, although that game did it with skulls
  2. Incidentally, the designer of the earliest version of this game was Andrew Plotkin, aka the well-regarded Interactive Fiction author Zarf.
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