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How gym battles work in Pokemon Go

Wondering how to deal with those gym battles in Pokemon Go? Here's how you defeat your enemies and help your friends.

Seamus Byrne Editor, Australia & Asia
Seamus Byrne is CNET's Editor for Australia and Asia. At other times he'll be found messing with apps, watching TV, building LEGO, and rolling dice. Preferably all at the same time.
Seamus Byrne
4 min read
Watch this: Pokemon Go: What are gyms?

Is Pokemon Go stealing your battery life as you battle to be the best and claim your rightful place? The augmented reality Pokemon game is topping app store charts and game servers are melting under the stress of so many people desperate to catch 'em all.

Unfortunately, there is very little documentation for the game so people are still very confused about how it all works. I've spent the first few days working hard to uncover the mysteries and help other trainers in their quest for glory.

A lot of confusion stems from the gym system and how best to battle enemies or assist your own team. Gyms are the critical hubs of Pokemon Go where you assist your chosen team, and there are many personal benefits for engaging in gym battles. So while you can ignore gyms and just roam the world catching Pokemon, you'll power up your team much faster by using gyms to your advantage.

Pokemon gym

Gyms loom large in the Pokemon Go landscape.

Screenshot / Seamus Byrne

Gym basics

If a gym is white, that means no team currently owns it so you can give it a Pokemon and instantly take control. That Pokemon will live in that gym until it is defeated by an enemy trainer, at which point it will return to your collection to be used again.

By this point, finding a white gym is unlikely. A gym will usually house one or more Pokemon, depending on how many trainers have combined to take control of a gym for their team. As a gym levels up, more Pokemon can be added to defend it from outside attack. How you approach a gym will depend on whether it's controlled by an enemy team or by your own.

When in battle there are two elements to combat. Step one, tap your screen as fast as you can to perform rapid basic attacks. Step two, when you build up your special attacks (the little blue boxes that slowly fill up) you can tap and hold for a moment to trigger your special attack. Doing this consumes one blue box.

Defeating an enemy gym

Pokemon effectiveness systems are part of the game -- fire trumps grass, water trumps fire, etc -- so check which Pokemon are defending the gym and choose wisely. But most importantly, it's a question of your Combat Point (CP) level.

Essentially, use your strongest Pokemon to battle. If there is more than one Pokemon in a gym, it will take multiple battles to defeat the gym and claim it as your own. Battling an enemy gym is a process of wearing down its prestige level, which reduces how many Pokemon it can house. Then next time you battle you will need to defeat one less Pokemon, making the battle easier, bringing you closer to a final victory.

Between battles you can heal your Pokemon using the potions you receive through visiting the Pokestops marked on your map. So you can use your best Pokemon repeatedly by healing them up between attacks. Each battle also gives you experience points, helping you gain more levels and in turn more powerful Pokemon.

Pokemon gym

Click a gym to take a closer look at how powerful the defenders are.

Screenshot / Seamus Byrne

Assisting a friendly gym

When your team owns a gym, it needs multiple trainers to work together to build its defences. When you battle a friendly gym, you are helping to build its prestige level and give it room for more friendly Pokemon.

Battles work in the same way as enemy gym battles, except you aren't harming the gym or the Pokemon at all. Your own Pokemon will take damage, so you will need to heal up, but if you repeatedly battle the gym you will eventually give the gym enough prestige to make space for adding an extra Pokemon. Add one of your own to make it even harder for enemies to take down your team gym.

In one example, I trained at a level 3 friendly gym five times to push it to level 4, allowing me to add a fourth Pokemon to the gym and make it very well defended.

Gym battle benefits

You'll earn experience points for your trainer by battling at gyms. But you'll also earn daily rewards for having a Pokemon on a gym team.

In your Shop menu you will find a shield in the top right corner, which has a count of how many Pokemon you have guarding gyms. There is a 21 hour countdown associated with the shield and when it is ready you can claim Pokecoins and Stardust for each Pokemon that has remained attached to a gym at the end of the timer. For each, you get 10 coins and 500 dust, up to a maximum of 100 coins and 5000 dust per timer.

A new timer starts when you claim the last one, so you can adjust when you want your timer to start to suit the time of day you expect to be able to play (and aim to control more gyms toward the end of your daily timer).

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