What is TBS? [Gaming Definition, Meaning]

What is TBS? You Need to Wait Your Turn!

Just recently we went over in great detail the meaning behind RTS, or Real Time Strategy, which focuses on more real time mechanics being implemented for a seamless experience. On the other end of the spectrum is TBS, not to be confused with the Japanese television station, but rather it refers to Turn Based Strategy. A lot of the gameplay stems around waiting for your turn to begin, planning out a strategy during that turn, and executing it with hopes your plans run smoothly. Not every attempt will fall in your favor, but the great aspect about turn based strategy games is that for many of them, there’s no countdown timer as to when you have to give up your turn. TBS, or turn based strategy games, rely heavily on very tactical thinking much like RTS, but you’re given certain stipulations that must be met in order to progress, whereas in RTS games everything gradually evolves over time. The only way to evolve and progress in turn based games is to ensure you’re thinking one step ahead and taking out the enemy before they get a chance to retaliate. Let’s take a closer look at what TBS means, and of course provide you with some concrete gaming examples along with it.

Thinking One Step Ahead

Any game that requires some form of strategy will encourage you to think beyond what is currently showcased in front of you. The battlefield may be swarmed with enemies ready to flank you at any given moment, but keeping a cool head and coming up with a plan to execute is imperative. We say this because, many turn based games encourage you to take your time and plan accordingly, since there’s no timer involved. So spending a good amount of time thinking through your approach is paramount when it comes to advancing not only on your opponent, but to the next stage. As we mentioned earlier, thinking ahead of the game is crucial because there will be plenty of moments where the game will overwhelm you, and options will feel limited. It’s in those pivotal moments where your brain must be clear of all distractions so that the best plan of action can materialize. One game in particular does an exceptional job of maintaining a very fun and expansive experience, but will really put the pressure on you when you fail to pay attention and that’s XCOM 2.


  • System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, OS X
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Developer: Firaxis Games
  • Release Date: February 5, 2016

When the first XCOM arrived on store shelves, we immediately were drawn to its artistic class while the gameplay was the creme de la creme. It offered a very satisfying challenge that was full of depth, and really allowed you to come up with unique ways of clearing out an area chock-full of enemies. Fast forward to XCOM 2 where much of XCOM: The Enemy Within’s gameplay stayed intact, but with a lot of changes to certain elements to provide a much more challenging experience. Upgrading your weapons is of utmost importance, along with gathering the necessary resources in order to build better facilities so that engineers could develop the right tools efficiently. The challenge of course lied very much on the battlefield where every shot matters, but perhaps it’s making sure your income is substantial enough that gives XCOM 2 that extra added difficulty. We say this because if your income is low and resources are scarce, not only will you suffer severely in battle but it leaves no room for any equipment to be upgraded, or soldiers to be recruited. In the long run the entire team will start to deteriorate because soldiers will start to panic in battle, health resources are low so healing is rare, and the enemy will slowly devour you due to this weakness.

Another thing that becomes even more challenging in TBS games is being constantly aware of your relationships with other nations. As you progress through the game and take on missions for these nations, your rapport builds and so you’re more likely to receive funding along with workers to help speed up the research. However, if you continue to take heavy losses in battle such as failing to save a scientist from enemy captivity, or collecting specific items to carry back to base, all of that rapport will start to diminish and enemy invasions will happen more frequently in that area. Once that area hits the red zone and you have no way of stopping it, that nation is toast. Choosing a team of elite soldiers is very important, but more so choosing their skill set is even more imperative. Going with an all out assault squad may work in some scenarios, but you’re going to need versatility in order to make it out alive. As you successfully clear missions and keep your recruits alive, they level up and take on new abilities such as being able to snipe, or take the flank position. All of these will influence your next plan of action, so always thinking one step ahead in XCOM 2 will surely save you in the long run.

Official XCOM 2 Launch Trailer

Every Decision Matters

We can’t stress enough how much your decision matters in turn based games (TBS). Since you’re essentially taking turns you’ll have to plan out what you want to do ahead of time, so that way you’re not making rash decisions on the fly. There’s no timer in the sense that, you don’t have to worry about a clock counting down before the turn ends. In XCOM 2 for example, there were some missions that you had to complete in a certain amount of turns and, so every turn you had was to be well thought out and concrete to ensure that objective is met. You have all the time in the world to strategize but there’s never always a guarantee that your plan will successfully pan out, so consistently conjuring up new plans is essential. It’s not so much a yes or no decision either, but more of a who, what, where, why and how type of procedure. You’ll need to know who’s the best character to take out the target, where they need to be placed to avoid being seen, what the outcome may be, why you’re doing it, and just how everything will pan out once everything is set in stone. One great game that exemplifies this is Fire Emblem: Fates and so we’ll dive a little deeper into what makes it so satisfying to play.

Fire Emblem: Fates

  • System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Intelligent Systems | Nintendo
  • Release Date: June 25, 2015

One sure fire way to find yourself on the other end of a sword is to rush your way in without much reason or concern. In Fire Emblem: Fates, the sequel to the very popular Fire Emblem: Awakening, much of the tactical prowess that you used in previous titles becomes even more important in this 3DS title. With a variety of modes to choose from, Lunatic being the most demanding, Fates catered to just about anyone whether you had experience in TBS games or not. The rich story and gameplay were enough to lure you in from the get go, but it was surely the strategic thinking that kept eyes glued to the screen for hours. It wasn’t so much planning on the battlefield but it was also learning how to develop better relationships with other characters, since a lot of it was quite deep and complex.

While not as over the top as Path of Radiance for the Gamecube, Fates provided a meaningful setting in which players could adapt quickly to while still providing enough challenge for everyone to enjoy. Your fallen characters still receive the permanent death treatment in classic mode, but compared to its predecessors it doesn’t pull at your heartstrings too much. Be that as it may battles are still fierce and so, throughout the course of the game you’ll need to decide what the best course of action is in order to prevent casualties from dying carelessly. The cool thing about Fates too is that it was released in three versions meaning, every experience is always different with a fresh story to fasten things together. For those looking for a real good challenge then playing the Conquest version is the best, since there are a lot more scenarios that will certainly test your wits. Birthright is perhaps more catered to those unfamiliar with TBS titles, while Revelation combines both worlds to create a nice balance. Whatever your preference, Fire Emblem: Fates is sure to test you in some way and so we recommend trying it out.

Fire Emblem: Fates - E3 2015 Trailer

Patience is Important

Patience is perhaps something a lot of people lack nowadays, but it’s a considerably important trait to have when playing a turn based strategy game (TBS). There will be moments where you’ll be sitting back in your chair thinking about your next turn for a good five minutes, before initiating the action. There will be plenty of moments when you’re on the losing end and very little resources are left in your inventory, so everything that was once a small detail now becomes this enormously defying moment of whether to approach or defend. So what happens now when you throw players into a world where turn based is still encouraged, but now the extra element of roguelike is thrown into the mix? You get the next game on our list and that’s none other than Invisible Inc.

Invisible Inc.

  • System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, OS X
  • Publisher: Klei Entertainment
  • Developer: Klei Entertainment
  • Release Date: May 12, 2015

Invisible Inc. is a turn based tactical stealth game which incorporates elements of roguelike play for an even more challenging experience. This is why we say patience is so important because, unlike in regular turn based games (TBS) where the game will most likely autosave for you, Invisible Inc. requires that you save at every opportunity possible. This is because with the roguelike function implemented it now takes the challenge to an entirely new level since you can’t risk dying too much, otherwise you’re right back at the beginning. Another thing is that while saving a lot may have its benefits, you just never know what may lie ahead of you and so saving too frequently could pose an even bigger threat. When we played through Invisible Inc. last year we got a little greedy at times, and tried to save at every opportunity that presented itself. Unfortunately this game will test you quite frequently and throw curveballs at you, so we ran into a new room confidently thinking we’d be fine only to run into security cameras at the worst point possible.

While our characters were in good health, we saved at the point where our ammo was starting to run dry and our special skills were low. This posed an ever bigger challenge in an already demanding game because now we had to work around what we had, not knowing what dangers were about to jump out at us and cause even more struggles. So to the lesson we learned there was that, it’s never always a good idea to save too much, especially when you have little resources with you. There will be a lot of backtracking in Invisible Inc. as well, since you may need to shut down a security system in one room three doors down, but then you realize there are guards wandering around with their flashlights and if you make even one false move, they’ll shoot you down without hesitation. So making good use of your tools is very crucial, but using them creatively is where the game will reward you.

Invisible Inc. Trailer

Final Thoughts

Turn based strategy games (TBS) are honestly some of the most engaging titles out there because, unlike action games where you can simply hold down a button and clear the stage, turn based titles punish you for that style of rash play and really encourage you to use your brain. There’s always an element of surprise waiting for you on every turn since not every plan will ensure a victory. Sometimes those plans often put you in a terrible position, far worse than what you expected, so then going back to the drawing board is where the fun happens again. Not everyone will be a fan of TBS but we suggest you give it a shot if you want to be challenged because these games don’t fool around. Some other honorable mentions are Disgaea 2, Total War: Warhammer, Hitman Go, and Chroma Squad. Which turn based strategy games (TBS) do you like? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to show some love on social media by sharing our articles to keep the community growing!

As always for all things sweet, be sure to keep it locked here on Honey’s Anime.

XCOM-2-game-wallpaper-700x394 What is TBS? [Gaming Definition, Meaning]


Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.

A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!

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