The Anti-turtling Issue

There seems to be a popular opinion that claims turtling is bad, and that hacks should implement incentives to discourage or even prevent the player from turtling. My question is, why? Why are these incentives necessary, and why is turtling a problem to begin with? Why should a playstyle be punished, as long as it’s not cheating?

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For a game meant to require strategy, turtling is generally seen as the exact opposite of employing strategy. Most people in the community prefer an FE experience that forces them to be tactical and optimize their movements, and if they can get away with turtling, it makes that work seem invalid and pointless. In general, good game design generally means it can’t be easily cheesed by one easy strategy of some form, you should have to be flexible (that also doesn’t mean that just one solution is the right one, though)

Turtling is seen as cheesing a map and, therefore, poor game design. At least, that’s the way I tend to see it.

EDIT: To add to this, anti-turtling isn’t necessarily just forcing the player to play quickly. Sometimes you can accomplish this by putting certain tough enemies in certain places with effective weapons to counter whoever you use to turtle. Also designing maps that are a bit more open with fewer choke points can help offset this as well. You don’t want to force the player to play every chapter super quickly, because that can prove exhausting. There’s a lot of ways to prevent turtling beyond just “hey there’s a thief here” and I think that relying too much on one way is just as bad game design as making every chapter cheesable.


It’s an easy and mindless strategy many people will default to that works incredibly well yet makes the game fairly boring when it’s all you ever do. Much of the appeal of Fire Emblem is, among other things, seeing if your unit placement works and doesn’t get your units killed in the enemy phase. Sending Oswin into a narrow hallway to protect Lucius isn’t as interesting as using Sain to rescue Lucius.

A good chapter to examine is FE7’s penultimate chapter, Life and Death. It’s an easy to chapter to turtle, and turtling works on every major part of the chapter until you reach Limstella. Yet, the game knows this and puts a recruitable unit, the ultimate incentive, as your anti-turtling incentive. Renault’s not the best unit, but he’s still a unit that marks your save file.

You might be tempted to send super tough enemies to chase the player army to prevent turtling.

Don’t. This is difficult to pull off in a fashion that is enjoyable for the player.
(Okay, it’s possible, just be careful, please! :slight_smile: )

Anti-turtling is oftentimes a good thing, but I wouldn’t go overboard with it.
It’s also important to know that “good design” is entirely subjective. Personally, I’ve never held too much resentment for lack of an anti-turtle. If anything, I feel more resentment for an anti-turtle that’s done poorly or asks too much. Like… the Raven chapter in FE7. Am I really expected to be able to get those chests on hard mode? And the Caelin soldiers oftentimes suicide on enemies a turn away from me rescuing them. Battle before Dawn? WTF, FE7?
I think there’s a time and place for any given design choice. I’m not saying at all to avoid anti-turtles. Having thieves go for chests and bandits attacking villages are almost obligatory for an FE feel. That being said, if you don’t feel like your chapter needs a strong anti-turtle incentive, I wouldn’t feel inclined to add one. If so, try it out and see how you like it.


I think the best way is to just make timelimits for additional rewards like sidequests where pure turtling is just slow enough not to make the threshhold.(Renault does not really count because one can just yolo a rescuer in there to get him quickly).

“Turtling: Gameplay strategy that emphasizes heavy defense, with little or no offense. A player who turtles minimizes risk to themselves while baiting opponents to take risks in trying to overcome the defenses.”

I really don’t get how they could find turtling an exact opposite of strategy, when it actually is another form of strategy, but a highly defensive strategy at that.

As for how they view turtling as cheesing = poor game design, we already have other forms of cheesing (Warp Skip, Boss Abuse, Arena Abuse, Reinforcement Blocking, etc.) that are sometimes just as bad (or worse) than turtling.


The short of it is that any problem the game throws at you can often be solved by going really slowly. It removes difficulty from the game and can make a “hard” map seem trivial.

Anti-turtle incentives provide the player with a real reason to play fast. Playing fast encourages thinking through strategies, getting creative, and taking risks, all of which lead to more exciting and engaging gameplay experiences.

In most contexts, the best way to use anti-turtle (as others above have mentioned), is to make it so that users get additional rewards by playing quickly. The game should be beatable even if you play slowly, but it shouldn’t give you the same rewards as the player who plays faster.

In some cases, it makes sense to use anti-turtle as a punishment for playing too slowly (like escape maps), but these use too often or without proper playtesting can be annoying.

Lastly, good anti-turtles require playtesting to get the timing down right.


All those forms of cheesing you mention are easily avoided when making a ROMHack, however. They’re also not any LESS frowned upon in the community, so I honestly don’t get why you brought them up? Don’t give a warp staff, don’t put an arena in, make reinforcements spawn elsewhere if a spot is blocked, etc.
(Boss abuse is a bit harder to avoid but still not as in-depth as anti-turtling). As Dan said, you have to playtest and be precise to make anti-turtling work.

And admittedly, strategy is a wide term. I could have better phrased it as “active” strategy. Being forced to move most of your units a turn, take out as many enemies in a turn as possible, etc. Turtling is a very passive strategy, you generally don’t move too many people in a turn, and you’re doing pretty much the same thing for a number of turns straight. I always associate lategame FE7 with turtling which is why I’ve never been able to replay the game because I just get so irrevocably bored, and I think that’s the issue at the heart of this.

The FEHacking community (and also a lot of people outside of the community) is VERY different from “casual” Fire Emblem players. We’ve devoted ourselves to the series, finding interesting strats, LTCs, efficient play, you name it. Turtling just isn’t interesting for most people in the community. It’s a blatant example of why most people on this forum kinda hate 3H even though it’s considered a huge success and a great game elsewhere. It all depends on playstyle, but the more intense playstyle of a LARGE portion of this community generally lends itself to disliking turtling.

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I like utilizing reinforcements (NOT SAME TURN) and side objectives like recruitables, villages, thieves, etc. to prevent people from turtling the entire map.

I’d advice against the following:

-Hilariously overpowered reinforcements: Unless there’s a story justification, like Hardin and his swarm of Generals, please don’t. It’s never fun to see and is rarely ever done properly without feeling too stressful or completely BS; in some cases you can even trivialize the reinforcement spawn if the enemies aren’t strong enough
-Same turn reinforcements if they can immediately attack the player: If the player’s units suddenly die from an enemy they couldn’t see was coming, then your chapter has become Trial and Error, not Fire Emblem.

The chapter should be beatable with all the rewards if you play at a casual’s pace, but when it becomes turtling


These are all issues, for sure, but 1) they’re all solvable through the game’s designs the same way anti-turtle incentives can be used to counter turtling and 2) why is it relevant in this discussion?

I think the point to take away is that turtling should not be encouraged by the game’s design. If I get the same exact reward for playing slowly and safely, why would I bother trying to play quickly for no gain? Risk/reward scenarios create more interesting gameplay IMO.


True. As for me bringing that up, I’ve already played a good number of FE Rom Hacks that have those kind of cheesing methods, not just turtling. Only a couple of FE Rom Hacks them I found lacked some or most of those cheesing methods.

I never really seen FE7 lategame as turtling, outside of the first part of the Final Chapter and maybe two chapters after Battle Before Dawn (though I just see those two chapters as more of Nino training chapter instead lol) imo. I just viewed the lategame of FE 7 as poorly done map design with some questionable gameplay decisions.

While I generally agree, if a player encountering a hard map feels that their best bet for making it through is to turtle for a period of time, it may be a sign that the map’s difficulty is too high in places. So watching when and where a player chooses to turtle can be just as useful information for building a map as trying to deploy anti-turtling measures.

This part’s directed back to the conversation as a whole, not who I quoted. Personally I know I’m a slow player so I have nothing against players who want to turtle. If that’s how they choose to play the game, that’s fine by me. I’ll still provide incentives to work for, using time limits, side objectives, recruits, etc, but I’m not going to outright punish a player for choosing that option. It’s a legit tactic that might be boring, but it’s something the player can choose on their own to do if they really desire.


Agreed 100% - playtesting and getting lots of perspective to inform the design of the map is critical.


Think of it this way: a risk-averse player will turtle while a confident risk-loving player will naturally move fast of their own volition, no incentive required. The latter player won’t turtle if they think it’s a boring playstyle. By not implementing AT incentives, you let each player beat the game their own way and no one feels left out.


That’s a nice idea that doesn’t have a relation to reality. An intelligent player will quickly recognize that there’s no reason to strain themselves and push for risky maneuvers if they don’t garner any actual advantage for doing so. They will then rightfully point out that the game is easy, and arguably not fun (saying the burden is on the player to make the game fun for themselves is asinine; it’s the developer’s job to do that).


Fire emblem is a game about risks, if you do not encourage fast play, the player themselves make the game unfun because safety is unfun. In gameplay, you ask the player to negate risks, but you need to control how they go about it, else players can and WILL ruin their fun by negating any risks from ever being a possibility by doing things like bait and switch.

Negating risks is fine if the player plays an active role in it, like for example killing an effective weapon at range, or using terrain to survive an enemy phase. The issue is when you don’t have to care about any strategy because the map just allows you to completely break it with slow play.

Things like chests and thieves are nice to reward fast play, but they do NOT stop slow play. If you’ve ever played a fire emblem game you KNOW you don’t absolutely need anything in chests (Unless you’re Archanea) and can do without it. And even if you get it, the issue of slow play is not solved since you can just camp it out after you secure the loot. You’re just delaying the moment the issue arises, not really fixing it.

Just murder the player with bolting or something if they go too slowly. Simple and gets the job done. If going slow is bad, then you as a designer need to discourage it.


I agree with most of the points made so far, so I don’t feel a need to add much on that front.
But I will share a great video that I feel explains the role of anti-turtle perfectly.

The first half in particular is incredibly relevant to fire emblem.


That video was pretty cool, and I think it gives some insight into an approach that Fire Emblem doesn’t have a lot of: making not turtling the easier option (or comparable to choosing to turtle). Right now the closest thing you get to that is securing chests/villages before thieves get them, but that makes the game easier in the long run and isn’t really immediately rewarding, and most of the other anti-turtling measures already discussed can be more punishment-feeling that rewarding-feeling.

The Doom example, for…example, could be like an increasing morale buff to units that secure battle victories on consecutive player phases, so that picking the next fight ASAP can actually make some fights easier. The DMC example showcases the ability to get higher score by doing cool shit, but that doesn’t really translate well to Fire Emblem by default. However, if you could make something like the FE7 ranking system have a noticeable (and UI-indicated) effect on gameplay, it would incentivize people to play fast and broad (as in training weaker guys) with their units, both things people tend not to do if left to their own devices.

But it’s not like I would know how to do any of that shit so chests and thieves it is lmao

higher score by doing cool shit…
…FE7 ranking system have a noticeable (and UI-indicated) effect on gameplay

Advance wars ranking system when?

It was pretty trivial to S rank things generally, but it still felt nice.

(Also, 7743 was saying that the fe7 tactics evaluation code isn’t in fe8, which is too bad.)