Pokémon Go shares much in common with its handheld predecessors: The game offers Pokémon to catch, items to use and monsters to battle. But each of these offer some unique differences from the games Pokémon fans grew up with, perhaps none more so than gym battles.
Understanding how gyms work in Pokémon Go requires some trial and error, as well as a lot of explanation. Bear with us as we walk you through the world of gym battling and, hopefully, lead you on the path to victory.
HOW DO I FIND A GYM?
Just like PokéStops, Pokémon Go players must walk throughout the actual world in order to locate Pokémon gyms. These are specially marked, just as PokéStops are, but they're even easier to spot: Look for the giant, colored towers with a Pokémon sticking out of them. For more specific locations, check out our guide on how to find the closest gymsto you or anywhere else in the world.
HOW DO I ENTER A GYM?
There are two conditions you must meet before they can enter a gym in Pokémon Go. First, you must reach level five. That should be easy to do: Go out there and catch Pokémon and visit PokéStops to gain experience. Once you hit that milestone, you must join a team — Valor (red), Mystic (blue) or Instinct (yellow) — to start competing at gyms.
You'll be prompted to do so the first time you enter a gym, and whichever side you shack up with is the side you belong to for the rest of your playthrough. If you need help choosing, we've got some tips for you. Otherwise, pick a side, and you're good to go.
HOW DO I BATTLE A GYM?
What you need to know first is that there are two kinds of gyms: rival and friendly. Rival gyms belong to either of the other two teams that you don't belong to. Team Valor's rival gyms are marked in yellow (Instinct's) or blue (Mystic's), for reference.
You can battle either kind of gym, but the motivation behind the battle will differ.
HOW DO RIVAL GYM BATTLES WORK?
Rival gym battles are a matter of lowering your opponent's prestige level.
You can find this number after selecting the gym you wish to face. After selecting a gym, you'll see a set of information on the screen, including the name, level, the trainers stationed there, the species and combat power of their Pokémon and their prestige level. The prestige level is located at the upper right-hand corner and is generally some multiple of 1,000. This varies based on the gym's level.
The point of fighting your team's rival is to lower their prestige. Every time you beat a trainer defending that gym, you'll knock points off the gym's prestige level. Once it drops to zero, the gym is up for grabs. This makes gym battles a fight for honor, as well as a fight for territory, as you can claim the gym for your team.
To make that happen, you'll have to win some fights. Choose up to six Pokémon — preferably those with the highest combat power, but also take into account the types of Pokémon you're about to go up against — to take on the trainers at the gym, then choose the button in the lower right corner to engage in battle.
Now, here are the basics on battling in Pokémon Go, no matter what kind of gym you're visiting.
Attacking is one of the biggest changes from the Pokémon games on handheld. First of all, battles are no longer turn-based affairs. Instead, to attack another Pokémon, get ready to get to it as soon as the whistle blows. To unleash a standard move, tap the screen. Special moves — type-based, more powerful attacks — can be initiated by holding your finger on the screen once the appropriate meter is full. Fights are one-on-one, no-holds-barred, so you'll want to make use of both liberally.
Swipe the screen to dodge your opponent's attacks. This is especially important if your Pokémon is the wrong type or at a lower combat power than the enemy. Healing can only be done at a battle's conclusion, so pay attention to the health of both your own Pokémon and the enemy; that information is listed at the top of the screen.
HOW DO I WIN A GYM BATTLE? AND WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I WIN?
Use Pokémon with moves that are super effective against the enemy. It's good to study up on the Pokémon type chart if you're rusty on which types are strong against which. Also, make sure to pit Pokémon of comparable skill and combat power against each other to ensure your victory.
Once you win against a rival trainer, the gym's overall prestige goes down. Defeating every trainer that's posted at the gym will lead to a decrease of 2,000 points. Remember that once that number hits zero, it's all yours for the taking.
HOW DO I CLAIM A GYM FOR MY TEAM?
To claim a gym, you must leave one of your own Pokémon there. You might not want to give up your best fighter, but it's a good idea to leave behind a strong Pokémon to help preserve your team's honor, as that gym will now proudly boast the color of whichever side you belong to. Now any rival team members who come by will have to take your Pokémon on as you continue along with your own journey.
HOW DO I HOLD ONTO A GYM AFTER I’VE CLAIMED IT?
For the most part, you'll want to ensure your Pokémon stays fighting fit and keeps on winning. This is mostly out of your hands; just hope for the best, and that no especially strong trainers pass on by.
As part of the game's big gym revamp, there's another component to defending your team's gym. Pokémon now need to stay motivated in order to keep fighting. Every Pokémon stationed at a gym has a heart above its head, which depletes over time. As a Pokémon becomes unmotivated, its combat power goes down — making it even easier for a rival to take it over.
To keep its spirits up, you can feed any Pokémon at a friendly gym. Touch them to give them a berry, which will increase their motivation. You'll also get some Stardust and experience as a reward for being helpful.
OK, WHAT ABOUT MY OWN TEAM'S GYM? CAN I BATTLE MY OWN TEAM?
You can! Gyms belonging to your team are considered friendly, but they do allow for battling. These battles exist for training purposes, however, so it's a good idea to visit the spots that your own team is already holding down to help strengthen your party for those rival gym battles. They'll pick up experience, win or lose.
Not only can you train your Pokémon at your team's gyms, but you can help to fortify its presence at these places to ensure that no rivals can take them down.
HOW DO GYM BATTLES AT FRIENDLY GYMS WORK?
Mechanically, battles play out in the same way as they do at rival gyms. Entering training mode involves sending out one Pokémon against the set of trainers who've claimed this gym for your team already. With each trainer you topple, the gym's prestige will increase.
Attaining enough prestige points will successfully level up the gym and give you the chance leave a single Pokémon behind to defend the gym. This is also possible if the gym has an open slot available for a battle-ready trainer. Although you will receive your Pokémon back if a rival beats in battle, it's still smart not to give up your best monster in the name of your team. Assuming your team's defense is good enough, you won't get that critter back for quite some time.
ARE THERE REWARDS FOR WINNING GYM BATTLES?
Raising your team's prestige level thanks to your strong defenses is bound to feel good, and leveling up your Pokémon is useful for taking on enemies. When you're stationed at a gym, you'll also pick up items for each day that your Pokémon remains undefeated. These include PokéCoins, which are otherwise available for actual real world dollars, along with Stardust, which you can use to power up your Pokémon.
The gym revamp finally introduces badges as well. There are four tiers of badges to collect: basic, bronze, silver and gold. These are won through interactions with the gyms, whether by battling, claiming and holding your spot at a gym or motivating the Pokémon there. You can even get them by swiping on the new PokéStop part of each gym, and you'll get more items from these PokéStops as you earn badges. To achieve higher tiers, you'll have to interact often with gyms.
There's much more to learn about Pokémon Go, and we've got details on a bunch of that stuff. Our big FAQ will help you out with the basics, but if you want to branch off into catching Pokémon, lowering data consumption and more, we've got that covered too.