A CTF Primer
This guide focuses on the capture the flag gametype, the most popular gametype in organized leagues, and the second most popular gametype in pubs.
Overview of CTF
CTF in Urban Terror is very similar to the real life version of CTF, except you can’t hide your flag up in a tree. If you’ve never played CTF, the gist of it is there are two teams: red and blue. Each team has a flag which is close to their team’s spawn. To score points, you run over to the enemy’s base, grab their flag, and run back with it to your flag. Typically the majority of a team plays on offense, trying to capture the enemy’s flag. One or two players will play as defense, guarding their team’s flag. CTF is played with 5-8 players per team. Anything over that and CTF stands for something else, perhaps involving the word “cluster.” This guide is geared toward newcomers to CTF, and pub play (where half your team will have no clue what’s going on). The original, unposted version of this guide focused more on strategy for organized play, but I decided to change that. I may write a more advanced CTF guide in the future. I am still including advice from a competitive perspective, since I’ve always found it helpful to know what an experience person does in a given situation. It’s difficult to discuss strategy when newcomers may be unfamiliar with the flow of maps. Once you’ve got a few dozen games under your belt, you will be able to apply your experience to your gameplay and become a much greater asset to your team.
Disclaimer: This guide is written by a player experienced with non-wave respawn CTF. There are significant gameplay differences between wave respawn and non-wave respawn, but I don’t feel they are big enough to make this basic CTF guide irrelevant for wave respawn.
There are two primary roles in CTF: offense and defense. The majority of your team should be on offense. Offense should always be pushing up, and should stay in the base as little as necessary. If the offense needs to group back up, this should be done at a forward position, and not in the base (unless you’re getting spawn camped, in which case clearing the base is the #1 priority). How defense is played depends on the map, but generally a defender will sit close to the flag in order to always have a view of it. They will not leave the base or general vicinity of the flag, unless there is a standoff (both teams have the enemy’s flag holed up in their own base), in which case they still might not leave the base, instead choosing to guard their team’s flag carrier from attack (the goal of a standoff is to recover your own flag from the enemy’s base and flag carrier). Defense typically plays from a covered position, such as behind a box, if such a position is available on a map. Defense has the secondary objective of keeping the base clear of spawn campers.
So you’re playing offense
Let’s first decide where you’re going. Have a look at your minimap. Are there any routes which have no arrows? Likely there will be a bunch of arrows going up the middle of the map, and few, if any, at the sides. Whether you want to do something about that depends on what you want to do. If you want to, and think you can, help your team by covering unattended routes of the map, is up to you. By going to undertrafficked routes, you can head off enemies trying to skirt around the main battle in the middle of the map (typically the most trafficked route is the middle, but for some maps this is different) and trying to get a sneaky grab in, and you can also do the same. This is typically referred to as soloing, as you are grabbing the flag with little help. On most servers and maps, it is very easy to reach the enemy’s flag by going through a side route, because few people do this. Your success at grabbing the flag and getting a capture depends on your skill level and whether your teammates are actually making progress with that big firefight in the middle. On more skilled servers, you will probably not find this as easy, as more players will be paying attention to the side routes. A variation of this tactic is called flanking, and all that really means is you’re waiting to grab the flag until your team is in place to help you get out safely. I recommend playing the side routes if you have a decent knowledge of the map and can handle killing enemies without assistance. As I said, this role is typically unfilled or underfilled, so you will be helping your team.
If you are playing with marginally capable players, you may want to consider grouping up with some of them. A group of skilled players in a pub will have a tremendous impact. It doesn’t have to be an official pact, you can just follow someone around and help them out. Two guns are better than one. Having a teammate or two around you is very helpful when dealing with multiple defenders. Often times you wll find several enemy players just sitting on their flag, and it’s hard to kill 3 people shooting at you no matter how bad they are. Finding the competent players on your team is not hard; in any given pub, at least half of the players will never bother to move toward the flag. They just hang around the middle of the map and only occasionally reach the enemy flag. The arrows which are consistently advancing on the enemy flag are the ones you want to be with. If you don’t think you can hang with them in the killing department, take a medpack and keep them full of life. Just don’t be an overzealous medic.
Basic tips for playing alongside another player:
- Keep your distance. Don’t be right behind him blocking him every time he tries to move. On the other hand, don’t be so far away you can’t give cover.
- Split up sometimes. Is he climbing some stairs on Abbey? Stay on the ground and cover him. By taking a different angle, you can provide greater cover by filling in for his weaknesses in position.
- Know his arrow/armband color. Some servers have retarded settings and make everyone the same arrow color, but most don’t, so you can memorize his color.
- Provide cover when he grabs the flag. This applies whether or not you’re grouping up with another player. Any time a teammate grabs the flag, give him cover. I’ll discuss this more under flag running.
Most of the time, on offense, you’ll die before reaching the flag. But sometimes you’ll reach the flag. What do you do?!
If you’re the only person by the flag, take it and go. If you have teammates around, do a quick check of who has the most health. The healthiest player should grab. In an organized match with VOIP, it might be beneficial to do a quick poll of who has the most stamina (= longest initial range after the grab), but I don’t think any clan ever does this.:P Anyway, the healthiest person grabs, unless they’re not paying attention, in which case you should just grab as by reading this guide, you’ll be better equipped to handle the flag run than some random newbie!
First, let’s discuss a teammate grabbing. Have a look at the minimap. If you have teammates in place to cover him back to the base, you should stay at the enemy’s base and hold them back. If your flag carrier has no cover once he leaves the enemy’s base, you should go with him. Keep him safe. The same rules apply as working with a teammate, except you might want to follow closer or go ahead of him. Whether you lead or follow depends on whether the enemy will be on your tail or not. If they’re stuck in their base dealing with your teammates, lead, in case there are enemies waiting to ambush you ahead. If their base is clear, they’ll be able to chase after you full speed, in which case it’s better if you’re the first person they shoot. Oh, and obviously if you have an oblivious flag carrier who doesn’t know any of this, you’ll just have to do whatever you can to chauffer him back. A good knowledge of the map and its routes will aide you in covering your teammate. I often run ahead of my teammate to “checkpoints” where the enemy can converge on our route, making sure any resistance is dead before the FC is in danger.
If you are the one to grab the flag, you have to decide where to go. If you have teammates nearby, head toward them. Otherwise I advise going back the route you came, to be safe. This should be your default exit strategy, which is modified if you’re doing something crafty, or you have teammates holding down an area/exit. If you’re a fast player, you might want to do something really crazy like head past the enemy’s spawn to an exit which leads to greater cover. Typically, though, you will want to either head back the way you came, or go to a low-traffic route (the market on Casa, for example). You should be getting out of the enemy’s base as fast as possible. They have a stamina and range advantage because they spawn with a full health bar. You need to get as much distance as possible between you in order to reach your teammates or reach a diverging path to throw the enemy off your trail. Sometimes you can hide in a corner and let the enemies run past, but experienced players are smart enough to check hiding places. I probably have something like a 95% success rate at killing “crafty” flag carriers who think they can just let me blunder past. Just run home as fast as you can.
What should I wear on offense?
This could also be titled “Do I need a vest?”
Depends on your play style. I guess that’s a copout answer, but it really does. I have always worn a vest in CTF and always will. You are useless if you die or get heavily wounded. CTF is all about speed (not necessarily range), and even if the vest limits your range, you can at least move in bursts. The vest makes it easier to keep your stamina supply up, because your available stamina depends on your health. Sometimes I will drop my vest after grabbing the flag, but this is maybe 15-25% of the time. If I know I have good cover (= enemy is pushed back into their spawn), I drop the vest and go for a fast cap. Otherwise I leave it on because it’s so easy to get legged by some spamming idiot and then your extra range is useless. If I have a vest, I stand a very high chance of killing an attacker. It also depends on the map. For example, on Casa, when I am grabbing the red flag, I prefer to drop my vest as I can make it home at full speed with a full stamina bar and no vest. If I wear a vest, I run to weapon crates from the fountain because my range is too short to make it all the way to the blue flag. On Abbey I also drop my vest so I can make quick caps. Even wounded I can make it from the blue flag to the red flag through the middle in just seconds. Red to blue is just possible with a full bar of stamina and the vest, but it’s such a small map you will probably be wounded once you reach a flag, that you may need to drop the vest to have enough range. If you can’t jump fast, don’t even bother dropping your vest. The only time you should even consider dropping the vest is if you can make more use of the extra stamina than the extra protection. As for going completely vestless (i.e., not even spawning with one), I personally don’t recommend it, but some players might. In my experience, there are no top players who are more effective without a vest than with one. This section doesn’t apply to wave respawn CTF, where dying isn’t such a big deal.
Of course you can play without a vest if you enjoy that. I just assume people reading guides are looking for ways to be more effective and a better player, and my recommendation is to wear a vest.
So you’re stuck on defense
Defense is a thankless job and is most of the time not something people are clamoring to play. It can be really boring and really nerve wracking because you have a lot of responsibility, and sometimes no backup. And most of the time you’re just standing around trying to pick up on any enemies before they know where you are. That said, someone needs to play on defense, and all the better if that person has actually bothered to educate themselves on how.
First off, you’re going to find somewhere to camp. Preferably with some cover. I’ve attached a list of nice/common defense spots for various popular maps. Your goal obviously is to not let that flag move outside of the base. Letting people steal it is fine as long as they are promptly going to drop it on the ground after you kill them. Don’t worry, your team will help you out with this because some of the offensive players will have to pass through the flag area, and hopefully they’re also making a good effort to stop enemies from getting anywhere near your base. As the defender, you are the last line of defense preventing your flag from leaving the base.
Your camping spotS should have good cover and a clear view of the flag. Being oriented so that you are aiming mostly parallel to routes taken by fast grabs (i.e., the runner is traveling at a decent speed) is also good, because you have longer to shoot a fast grabber, and you also get a better target by shooting their back. Your biggest challenge will be the fast grabbers who come from out of nowhere (probably by flanking past your teammates who failed in covering a side route). Ideally, if a large force advances on your flag, it will be because your teammates died, and said teammates will respawn very soon.
If you have chosen a good spot, you will have several seconds before a flag carrier is out of your sight. If a flag carrier gets away, it’s your decision to judge whether or not to give chase. Again, it depends on the map and situation. If you have teammates alive, and in a position to intercept (i.e., they’re not in your base), it’s best to hang back and let someone else return the flag. If you’re the only one alive and you think you can catch the carrier, give chase. It’s very important to wound them as much as you can before they are out of your sight, because that will decrease their stamina and a leg shot will slow them down, allowing you to catch up. It also depends on map geography. A map like Casa will give you a very good chance of catching your prey, as it is very open in the middle. A map like Sanc makes it much harder, as there are a lot of corners and rooms. If you are not right on their tail, you might not ever catch them, especially if they have some stamina and didn’t do something dumb like hiding in a corner. Checking corners does not take a lot of time, and especially in pubs, a lot of players like to do silly things with the flag. If your prey took a bad route which will cost them time, you should take a faster one to intercept. Like if someone runs to market from red base, you can just run to New Alley and intercept them. Once you do catch the flag carrier, you should turn on your tunnel vision and go straight for them, ignoring any of their teammates (unless the teammates are significantly closer to you than you are to the carrier). It’s suicidal, but you will be surprised how many times it works. I’ve done this several times even against top teams. There is a slight delay after standing on the flag to it actually returning. The flag has to fall to the ground first, and during this brief fall, you can’t return it. It must be on the ground. This is such a stupid bug, but it is what it is, and you have to take that into account. It’s still very possible to get a return from a group of enemies, because there is also a delay of sorts for picking the flag up once it falls from a teammate. This might sound a bit kamikaze, but if you take out the enemies one by one, you’ll usually just die unless they’re really low on health.
It’s VERY important to call out which way the flag went. EVERYONE should do this if they see the enemy flag carrier. Have 3 binds, left, right, and middle.
/bind u “say_team FLAG LEFT”
/bind I “say_team FLAG MIDDLE”
/bind o “say_team FLAG RIGHT”
Don’t do radio binds because they’re really annoying.
Even if you are unable to catch up to the carrier (or you were killed in your base before even giving chase), someone else might be able to intercept the carrier. But only if they actually know the flag is coming. I’ve had it happen often that a flag carrier sneaks up behind me and kills me because I was laying in wait for him from another route.
Quick section. A standoff is when both teams have the enemy flag, so nobody can cap until a flag is returned. Unless your team is down on points late in the game, there should always be one person with your flag carrier, to guard them. The defender is of course the natural choice, but especially in pubs, nobody really wants to guard the carrier. If your team is losing late in the game, it’s imperative to return the flag and make a capture. Vice versa, if your team has a small lead late in the game, you should have a stronger defense for the carrier. Returning a flag is quite easy, and I find it works best just to sneak past all the enemy offensive players, so you don’t risk getting shot/killed. The suicidal push I described in the Defense section works well here too. Just run right for the carrier and kill them. If you time it right, the flag will be on the ground by the time you reach it. Just do this over and over until you get a return. If the enemy has really heavy defense, it’s best to wait for some of your teammates to make it across the map, but I find that most of the time, most players just do dumb things like throw smoke grenades or try to kill spawnprotected enemies. Of course if their chaos lets you sneak past…
Useful binds for CTF
/bind x “say_team FLAG LEFT”
/bind x “say_team FLAG MIDDLE”
/bind x “say_team FLAG RIGHT”
/bind x “say_team FLAG FLAG FLAG”
/bind x “ut_itemdrop flag; say_team DROPPING FLAG”
/bind x “ut_itemdrop kevlar”
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