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Turf War Basics and Line Theory

An in depth break down of the basics of Turf War

  1. The Apple BOOM
    Turf War Basics and Line Theory

    v1.0 Original (6 June 2015)
    v1.1 Updated Map Graphic (7 June 2015)

    Practice all of the tech skill you want, if you don't know what you're doing, you won't be able to go anywhere. This guide is here to give you a new way of looking at Turf War so that you can hopefully be credit to team.


    There is a basic layout for almost all maps that looks like this.
    Basic Splatoon Map Layout.png

    There are three main sections to these maps, home base, enemy base, and the middle. These sections are all connected by 3 corridors, providing easily defensible choke points. Each of these sections have different value and priority to them.

    The first in value and priority is the middle. It is equally accessible by both teams, and is the only spot that isn't replicated somewhere else on the map. If both teams hold only their base, the score is 1 to 1 in sections. If a team gets the middle, it tips to 2 to 1 for the win.

    The second in value and priority is home base. Your team has a much easier time getting to and inking home than the opponent. It is less valuable than the middle, as it will not tip the scales to a win, and prioritizing it over the middle will give the enemy team the win. It is more valuable than the enemy base, though, as it is still needed to win. If the enemy inks your base while you hold the middle, and you never address it, you lose 2 to 1 in terms of sections.

    The final section on the list is the enemy base. It is final in priority for two reasons. The first is that it is easily taken by the enemy as it is where they spawn. The second reason is that it isn't needed to win. If you hold your base and the middle, you win 2 to 1. The enemy base never needs to be touched.

    With the basics out of the way, it is obvious that both teams will be in a constant battle over the middle, making higher level turf war matches look a lot like splat zones. It is from this natural tendency that what I like to call Line Theory comes from.


    Because of this battle for the middle section, 3 new sections emerge, your area, enemy area, and the line of contention.

    The first two areas are the area of map that each team controls. These areas are defined with 4 boundaries, the 2 side walls of the map, the owner's spawn point, and the line. To win Turf War, your area must be larger than the enemy area. You make this happen by moving the line.

    The line of contention is where the bulk of the skirmishing goes on. It is where both teams are attempting to fortify their position and push back the opponent. It is usually inside of the middle of the map, but can get pushed forwards and backwards due to how the teams are performing.

    In line theory, the main object of the game is to move the line until both your area is larger than the enemy area, and it is in an easily holdable position, the final point. It is extremely important that you do not move past the final point, or you open your team up to being wiped and losing the map.


    Judd mentions (among other very useful things, talk to him often) two openings that you can utilize in Turf War, the defensive and offensive openings.

    Offensive openings are when the bulk of your team runs as quickly as possible to meet the enemy or the final point, if available. The offensive style is the one usually taken up in random battles. Its strength is in taking control of the line early and setting the tone of the rest of the match. Its weakness is that the team will not be as cohesive in their defense when running for the enemy, and can be picked apart easily by a ready team.

    Defensive openings are when the bulk of your team slowly moves through home base inking all of the reachable territory. Its strength is in having a fortified area ready for the match and a unified team with full supers. Its weakness is that it gives up all control of the line in the beginning. A good opponent can use the opportunity to set the beginning line at their final point and possibly hold it for the rest of the match for the win.

    There are many different variations on the two with no right way to execute either.


    Once your team is at the line, holding it is the first priority. The only time when this does not matter is when the enemy has the line at their final point. Holding is mainly done by threatening area, punishing mistakes or disrespect, and defending against breaks.

    Threatening is simple to do. Make sure your opponent knows that you are able to hold an area, and they will not directly approach. The most obvious way to do this is for a charger to have a fully charged shot ready with the laser sweeping over areas it thinks opponents may be, telling them not to encroach.

    Punishment is what happens when an opponent ignores your threats. When they encroach on an area you control, follow up on the threat by splatting them. A good team will have next to 0 deaths due to punishment.

    Defending breaks is more nebulous and related directly to the break being attempted. It mainly consists of making sure no one passes through the line, and keeping good cohesion when opposing force gets overwhelming.


    If the line is not at your final point, at least a part of your resources will be dedicated to this task. If the line is at their final point, all of your resources should be dedicated to this task. There are two ways to go about this, overwhelming force and covert ops.

    Overwhelming force is the main way to break the line against strong teams. It is about identifying or creating a weak point in the enemy defenses and pushing through. This can be done through concentrated effort of normal force or directed supers. Most small skirmishes at the line are an attempt to break with overwhelming force.

    Covert Ops is when a player slips through unnoticed into enemy territory. This is next to impossible to do against strong entrenched teams, but is an easy way to break the line against less experienced ones.

    Once the line has been broken, the breaking team has two options, harass the enemy base or pincer the rest of the team for a wipe.

    Harassing the enemy base is mainly done by throwing down ink in their territory. They have to respect it and send a maintenance crew back to cover it up or they risk losing due to not actually controlling the area behind the line. It also is threatening because at any time harassment can turn into a pincer attack.

    A pincer attack is actually a form of breaking the line with overwhelming force, but it distinctly comes from a team attacking from the front and back, and it usually threatens to shatter any form of defense the holding team has on the line, setting up for a wipe. This is the main reason opponents in your area must be dealt with, or a tactical retreat needs to be organized.


    In the final seconds, the match becomes more intense. There is no longer time to work with to make up for mistakes and out plays, so the winning team becomes more entrenched and the losing team becomes more desperate. More punishment will happen as the losing team takes more risks to have a final break and more supers will be used as there is no time left to save them for. There is nothing to be done to prevent this from happening, but players must be aware if they want to succeed. A losing team that ignores this concedes the match, and a winning team that ignores this is in danger of being overwhelmed by a more desperate opponent.

    I hope this has been a helpful rundown of Turf War for everyone. I hope to go over specific roles that deal with line theory in the future. Also, I know Saltspray Rig does not adhere to this as much, but as a parting note, think of the bottom section as a small middle and the top section as a big middle.

Recent Reviews

  1. VideoGameVirtuoso
    Good theory and concepts presented about Turf Wars, and how they apply towards the metagame.
  2. Phlox
    Really great guide on the basics, and a lot of this also applies to Ranked Mode. Only thing that I may add is certain map-specific tips on the line as some of these maps can be confusing (Saltspray Rig, as has already been said, is a major one. Flounder Heights is also this to some extent, although this one was released far after this guide was made.)
  3. Robochao
    Good opening to a discussion, but needs more!

    You do touch on the absolute necessities on how to approach Turf War mentally, but the Super Jump mechanic is left out and can't be neglected. It actually scatters the line break situation into more than just retreat or get pincer'd.

    Super Jump is an ability that is offered to every player without cost and complicates the situation of a broken-up team. A team is absolutely able to win even without retreating or sending a maintenance crew for clean-up - I've seen plenty of situations where one team responds to a base invasion by a continuous counter-aggression on the enemy base and spawn point. When you have a team of 3-4 in your base, your one teammate constantly inking their home territory does not ensure a territory advantage.

    Then you have maps like SSR which can have either more than one line of contention or possibly none at all (absolute chaos!).

    Looking forward to more :)
    1. The Apple BOOM
      Author's Response
      I thought Super Jumping was an implied thing, but after reading your review, I think you are right in that it isn't addressed enough. I will be adding it soon.
  4. Cholly266
    I thought of the map this way at the end of games when trying to estimate who covered more turf before Judd dropped the flag, but I never thought of doing this mid match. Wow I feel dumb. This is a useful way of looking at the game! I think the strategies that arise from the theory could be applied to Saltspray Rig, which you mention. Keep up the good work.
    1. The Apple BOOM
      Author's Response
      Thanks. I plan on doing a Saltspray specific guide in the future, but I want to get down the 4 basic weapons first.
  5. jpmrocks
    Amazing work!
  6. missingno
    Excellent summary, I've gotten into too many arguments trying to explain these concepts to people who think the base is a bigger priority than mid or want to risk spawn camping when they could safely hold a choke point instead.

    ASCII diagram needs fixing though, put it in a [CODE] block for a fixed-width font and multiple spaces not getting ignored.
    1. The Apple BOOM
      Author's Response
      Updated the graphic with a simple PNG.
  7. <π.
    From what I read everything was solid and made a lot of sense.

    My biggest issue The ASCII picture was really primitive and hard to understand. I almost think you could have done just as well without it. But a picture (or pictures) could have really brought this to the next level helping to illustrate your points clearer.
    Next for whatever reason (maybe I just want to play splatoon?) I had trouble just sitting still and reading it straight through. It didn't keep me hooked or interested even though the information was intelligent.

    So why 4 stars? If I have all of these issues?
    I think this is a great read for people who are just getting into splatoon as a competitive game. far too many people try to play death match and don't think about controlling space which is the main point of the game.
    I think this very clearly explains what the actual rules of engagement are and what the real goals look like.

    I look forward to more work from you TAB.
    1. The Apple BOOM
      Author's Response
      I definitely plan on updating this, so thank you for the feedback. I also appreciate the realistic 4 out of 5 instead of just "10 out of 10, would read again."
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