It seems to me that the last couple of years have brought something of a resurgence of turn-based gaming. Now, it was never truly dead or completely niche – Civilization remains one of the best-selling games on the planet, and it has (thankfully!) remained comfortably turn-based for all of this time. Meanwhile, most other “strategy” games and role-playing games went real-time (“action!”) around the mid 90′s and never looked back…
Until now. Mostly driven from the indie front, but also in part from the new XCom: Enemy Unknown (also created by the makers of Civilization). While it’s still a long way from becoming the “norm,” it is at least getting a second look. And, among the indie-set, advertising a game as turn-based can actually be a selling point.
But what does “turn-based” actually mean? At it’s heart, it means players take turns taking their actions. It is normally imagined as the polar opposite of real-time or action-based combat, where the game progresses at a fixed pace and players can issue orders to their avatar or units as quickly as they want (but said units also act at their own pace, and can’t do everything at once).
Turn-based, on the other hand, doesn’t depend upon the player’s reaction speed. The game waits for the player to declare their move(s), as in a game of chess. This provides more thoughtful game pacing, but has a pretty significant downside in a multiplayer setting, as inevitably one player must end up waiting for the other player to complete their move. Even in single-player games, there may be stretches where the player is watching the action unfold rather than actually playing the game, which is not generally considered a good thing.