A group of Green tanks attacks a Tan barracks. Smoke on one of the tanks offers a visual sign that it is damaged. Army Men: RTS takes place in the fictional Army Men universe, where Tan and Green army men wage war across two different worlds: their native plastic world and the real world. RTS only takes place in the real world, however. A key concept of several other games, plastification, the transformation of plastic soldiers into regular, immobile toys after spending too much time in the real world, is ignored in RTS.
The story centers around a house. It had been under control of Green officer Colonel Blintz. After part of his head was shot off in a battle, Blintz disappeared, only to later reappear as a leader of Tan forces. The house fell into Tan hands, and Sarge was dispatched to terminate the traitor and regain control of the region for Green.
Several paratroopers attack a tower as reinforcements drop in. A few large pieces of plastic are visible from where other tan units were destroyed.Army Men: RTS's gameplay requires the acquisition and control of two resources; plastic and electricity, which are necessary to construct combat units and buildings. Plastic, which is required for all normal units, is taken from everyday objects, including Frisbees, dog bowls, and toys. Additionally, whenever a unit or structure is destroyed, a chunk of plastic worth a fraction of its initial cost appears where it was destroyed. Plastic is 'harvested' by Dump Trucks. Electricity, which is required for vehicles and Radio operator equipment, is drawn from electrical objects, such as batteries, toasters, and walkie-talkies. A particular structure, the Resource Depot, must be built to collect the resources gathered by the Dump Trucks.
Players use their resources to construct buildings and units. Since both factions have access to the same buildings and units neither side has an innate advantage over the other. Some buildings construct new units while others provide defense for a base. The production buildings can be upgraded to produce better units. Units are either infantry or vehicles. Infantry troops are cheap to produce but are not as tough, while vehicles tend to be costly. Vehicles range from passive (dump trucks and base-building bulldozers) to aggressive (tanks and half-tracks) to defensive (mine layers) to suicidal Dum-dums, robots armed with firecrackers). Aside from grunts and grenadiers, infantry units have a special task; minesweepers clear out traps, snipers are potent anti-infantry units, and mortar men can annihilate buildings from afar.
Due to the nature of each unit, players must be able to counter whatever they are facing. A group of snipers could wipe out a force of grunts with ease, but the same group of snipers would be helpless against a half-track. Countering the half-track with a tank would leave a weakness to choppers. Players must balance both the relative strengths and weaknesses of their forces and their opponent's forces with the cost of producing the units.
Level balance can be changed by other factors. Power-ups, which can improve the speed, health, or damage of whichever side finds them first, cause a disparity between the sides. Heroes, powerful versions of the regular infantry, can cause great damage before being destroyed. Insects, chiefly ants, act as free units for whichever side is allied with them. The secondary objectives of single player missions often deal with one of these things.
The Windows version of Army Men: RTS allows for multiplayer with up to eight people. A copy of GameSpy Arcade was bundled with the game. Players can team up in multiplayer matches, or the battle can be a free-for-all. Victory occurs when the opposing side has no Headquarters and cannot build one in three minutes. Aside from GameSpy Arcade, connections can be made on a LAN or through a direct connection between players. Most people are part of a Clan when using Gamespy Arcade.