Created By: DougSMachina on April 24, 2011 Last Edited By: Koveras on February 23, 2012
Troped

Overnight Conquest

They beat us before we knew there was a war.

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Trope
In Real Life, wars are a messy and tiresome affair. Hostilities can escalate for months long before the sides even exchange the first shots. Even the best war machine in the world will still take its time securing the enemy lands, trench by trench, if not because of fierce resistance on both sides of the frontlines, then because marching in too fast will stretch the lines of communications and supply too thin for normal operations.

In fiction, however, the dramatic rules require the invaders to appear larger than life, to establish them as a credible threat unbeatable by normal means. The simplest way to emphasize the superiority of the invader's military might and technology is to establish that they completed their takeover before the invaded state even knew they were there. The survivors will later refer to the invasion as the "One Week War", or the like.

Alien Invasions often receive this treatment but it is not limited to them; for instance, rogue AIs usually take nanoseconds of processing time to peg humans as the enemy and launch a Robot War. However, it is almost always some fantastic element that allows for this trope to occur and bypass the standard logistical problems.

A large-scale subtrope of Curb-Stomp Battle and, in many cases, Easy Logistics. A common setup for Back from the Brink scenario. Home by Christmas would be when someone is expecting this kind of war, only for things to turn out much less than expected. Compare also Easily Conquered World, wherein the defenders fail to offer any resistance to much weaker invaders.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • This is pretty how the Kushan Empire invaded the Capital City of Windham in Berserk. Moments after the King of Midland dies, Emperor Ganishka and his troops come storming in and take over the joint.

Comic Books
  • Marvel Comics has a 2012 Crisis Crossover called "It's Coming" which deals with a Bad Future in which The Phoenix is supposed to come back to Earth and reduce it to an ash-filled wasteland devoid of life. In the future, they call the cataclysmic event "The Six-Second War".

Film
  • In Canadian Bacon the Canadian-American war ends before hostilities can even begin when the Americans realize that all their nuclear weapons can be remotely controlled from Toronto. The American President surrenders to the Canadian Prime Minister who is not even aware that anything out of the ordinary is happening.

Literature
  • Robert A. Heinlein's novel Sixth Column (AKA The Day After Tomorrow). The PanAsians use their vortex beams and A-bomb rockets to defeat the United States in less than a day.
  • The Mouse That Roared: the Mirconation of Grand Fenwick declares war on the US with the premise that they will lose and then get repaired, pumping money into the Fenwickian economy. Then they accidentally capture the Q-Bomb and win. This is before anyone in the US even knows the war is going on.
  • At the beginning of The Ellimist Chronicles, Toomin and his friend are playing a war game. Toomin's side is defeated so quickly he has to watch the replay in slow motion to find out what happened.
  • Cain's Last Stand makes a very big deal that an invading Chaos force is progressing far faster than it has any right to, and even seems to be growing. They find out that it's because Warmaster Varan has the ability to instantly brainwash any who hear or see him, including over a public-address system. In addition, Necrons have weapons that desintegrate targets and can teleport to just about anywhere they please, resulting in a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • The prequel book of The Tripods indicates it only took a few weeks after the Trippies started passing out Caps for the world to end up with more Capped than Uncapped. Some pockets of fighting went on for a while, but it's obvious by the end of the prequel that the Capped are in control.

Live-Action TV

Video Games
  • Between the first incursion in Half-Life and the thoroughly subjugated world of Half-Life 2 is "The Seven-Hour War".
  • The Psychlos of Battlefield Earth beat down humanity in about nine hours. Presumably all the mighty warriors responsible have since left to conquer other galaxies and left the dregs on this backwater; it's the only possible explanation.
  • In the Strangereal continuity of the Ace Combat series, the Belkan war began on March 25, 1995 and would have ended with Belka's victory on April 2, if it were not for the single remaining ace (that's you) who delivered his country Back from the Brink.

Community Feedback Replies: 68
  • April 24, 2011
    Deboss
    I think "They beat us before we knew there was a war." is worth consideration.

    Commonly a set up for a Back From The Brink situation.
  • April 24, 2011
    Rolf
    I know it happened couple of times in real world history, but I can't recall details.
  • April 24, 2011
    Topazan
    • The nuclear war that devastated the world of Fallout only lasted two hours.
  • April 24, 2011
    Ekuran
  • April 24, 2011
    Fanra
    We already have a lot of real life war examples under Curb Stomp Battle, including The Six-Day War.

    Is this really different then Curb Stomp Battle? If so, when launched someone needs to go to Curb Stomp Battle and move all the war examples over to this, and, of course, put a link to this trope up in the description of Curb Stomp Battle explaining that this trope is for wars.
  • April 24, 2011
    DerScotten
    This was attempted by Haven in The Short Victorious War.

    From Wikipedia (has quotes, so I added it): The Short Victorious War is the third Honor Harrington novel by David Weber. Its title comes from a quotation by Vyacheslav von Plehve in reference to the Russo-Japanese War: "What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution." That quotation is one of the novel's two epigraphs; the other is a quotation from Robert Wilson Lynd: "The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions."
  • April 25, 2011
    SpiritOfSahara
    During an episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor and Donna stumble upon two species who has been at all-out war with each other longer than anyone can remember - the reason and beginning of the war is only hinted at in legends. After a while Donna is able to figure out that the war has been going on for just a week, and the reason nobody remembers is because every day, both sides uses clone technology to replace the soldiers that has died during the day's battles. EDIT: Discard if uneccessary - I didn't read the description properly.
  • April 25, 2011
    Ghilz
    Real Life example:

    The Anglo Zanzibar War lasted 40 minutes (45 according to other sources). It is regarded as the shortest war in history.

    Listverse.com has a list of 10 shortest historical wars
  • April 25, 2011
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Robert Heinlein's novel Sixth Column (AKA The Day After Tomorrow). The PanAsians use their vortex beams and A-bomb rockets to defeat the United States in less than a day.
  • April 25, 2011
    Koveras
    In Mahabharata, the Kurukshetra War went on for just 18 days, during which literal millions of people died. Making this trope Older Than Dirt.
  • April 25, 2011
    Lavalyte
  • April 25, 2011
    terrafox
    Real Life example: Operation DESERT STORM, the ground war lasted 100 hours.
  • April 25, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The Mouse That Roared: the Mirconation of Grand Fenwick declares war on the US with the premise that they will lose and then get repaired, pumping money into the Fenwickian economy. Then they accidentally capture the Q-Bomb and win. This is before anyone in the US even knows the war is going on.
  • April 25, 2011
    BraveHoratio
    It's worth mentioning that it was believed for some time that any nuclear war would be like this. Two examples:
    • In the Doctor Who episode "The Leisure Hive" they visit a planet whose entire population has been has been wiped out by war, apart from a handful of sterile survivors. The war lasted 20 minutes, to which Romana remarks "As long as that?"
    • The Tom Lehrer World War III song. The final line is: "We'll all be heroes when the war is over - an hour and a half from now!"

    Jokes about France pre-emptively surrenduring might also belong here.
  • April 25, 2011
    ElCheViva
    Real life: The shortest war on record took place between Britain and Zanzibar. Zanzibar surrendered after 47 minutes
  • April 25, 2011
    troacctid
    • At the beginning of The Ellimist Chronicles, Toomin and his friend are playing a war game. Toomin's side is defeated so quickly he has to watch the replay in slow motion to find out what happened.
  • April 25, 2011
    randomsurfer
    @Brave Horatio: The line from the Tom Lehrer song is "I'll look for you when the war is over." (Sung to the narrator's mom.)
  • April 25, 2011
    TwoGunAngel
    Home By Christmas would be when someone is expecting this kind of war, only for things to turn out much less than expected.
  • January 29, 2012
    Oreochan
    Bump.
  • January 30, 2012
    Koveras
  • January 30, 2012
    Treblain
    This needs a better name. Absurdly XY is a snowclone, and it shows, since "absurdly" doesn't make sense for this trope.
  • January 30, 2012
    mythbuster
    The Toledo Border War, also a Real Life example of "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" Michigan and Ohio couldn't agree on who owned Toledo, so they declared war on each other over it, without involving the US government. In pretty much the only way a war breaking out can be a Crowning Moment Of Funny, the militias got lost on the way to the battlefield and didn't find each other until a peace treaty had been signed.
  • January 30, 2012
    Oreochan
  • January 31, 2012
    nielas
    I assume that this includes cases where the conflict is extremely short because one of the sides is utterly incompetent so in contrast the other side comes of as completely badass and powerful even though they are nothing of the sort.

    • In Canadian Bacon the Canadian-American war ends before hostilities can even begin when the Americans realize that all their nuclear weapons can be remotely controlled from Toronto. The American President surrenders to the Canadian Prime Minister who is not even aware that anything out of the ordinary is happening.

  • January 31, 2012
    Koveras
    Does anyone mind if I update this YKTTW? The OP hasn't been spotted in a month.
  • February 1, 2012
    aurora369
    In Defcon, a game about nuclear warfare, a typical war is about two hours realtime, after which the world is totally wrecked. A Real Life Cold War-era nuclear war would be just as short.
  • February 1, 2012
    Lavalyte
    The war of the Psychlos against humanity in L Ron Hubbard's Battle Field Earth series was over in 8 minutes.
  • February 4, 2012
    DougSMachina
    @Koveras: Go ahead, I decided I didn't really know what I was getting at (and it seemed like there were more real life examples than fictional ones).
  • February 5, 2012
    Ryuuma
    Most Shonen Anime and Manga will sometimes have a "war" which ends up being a single giant battle in which enemies are routed by the main heroes. Of course if this counts...
  • February 5, 2012
    Dcoetzee
    If this is a split from Curb Stomp Battle, make sure examples are moved from there and not duplicated.
  • February 5, 2012
    Telcontar
    I'm certain there is a war in the Discworld that began at breakfast and finished at supper on the same day, or something like that. I'll try to dig up the reference.
  • February 6, 2012
    Koveras
    I have reworked the write-up to be more definitive, and added the examples I saw fit.
  • February 7, 2012
    Arivne
    Re: the title: I don't think impetuous is the word you're looking for. Impetuous is the personality trait of acting quickly or rashly, jumping in before you're ready, and so on.

    For example, in Larry Niven's Known Space stories the Kzinti were impetuous: they always attacked humanity before they were ready, and lost each time.

    Improbably Quick Victory? Improbably Fast Victory?
  • February 7, 2012
    Koveras
    I agree that the word choice is poor, but I couldn't find any better. "Victory" can be used in a variety of contexts, including sports, which this trope is not about.
  • February 7, 2012
    Duncan
    Would Time Travel examples count, where one side goes back in time to before there even was a war? As in Star Trek First Contact where the Borg take over Earth in the past?
  • February 8, 2012
    Chabal2
    Quite a few battles in Warhammer 40 K background are this, to showcase just how powerful the various factions are (especially Necrons, what with One Hit Kill weapons and instant teleportation across the galaxy). In the game, however... There are also a few mentions of battles where the long drawn-out fighting comes to a very sudden stop, usually via Keystone Army effect (a siege is broken when the traitor governor is given a teleport beacon that allows a Terminator squad into his fortress, a Lictor drives the cardinal leading the resistance mad with terror, anytime a Tau Ethereal is killed...).

  • February 8, 2012
    NoxArtemis
    Anime & Manga: This is pretty how the Kushan Empire invaded the Capital City of Windham in Berserk. Moments after the King of Midland dies, Emperor Ganishka and his troops come storming in and take over the joint.
  • February 8, 2012
    Koveras
    ^^^ Time travel is a set of tropes onto itself, so I am not sure. Your example has too little context to me. If the Borg take over the entire Earth within a day or two, then it is this trope, regardless of when this happens.

    ^^ Can you name any specific examples? Your write-up was a little vague...

    ^ Added.
  • February 8, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^^^^ @Koveras: "Victory" can be used in a variety of contexts, including sports, which this trope is not about."

    Then Improbably Quick Conquest or Improbably Fast Conquest?
  • February 8, 2012
    Chabal2
    ^^ Let's see... Cain's Last Stand makes a very big deal that an invading Chaos force is progressing far faster than it has any right to, and even seems to be growing. They find out that it's because Warmaster Varan has the ability to instantly brainwash any who hear or see him, including over a public-address system. In addition, Necrons have weapons that desintegrate targets and can teleport to just about anywhere they please, resulting in a Curb Stomp Battle.

  • February 8, 2012
    Koveras
    ^^ That sounds better. Which one do you prefer?

    ^ OK, adding.
  • February 8, 2012
    Earnest
  • February 9, 2012
    Arivne
    I'd go with Improbably Quick Conquest because it sounds more alliterative.
  • February 9, 2012
    KingZeal
    • Marvel Comics has a 2012 Crisis Crossover called "It's Coming" which deals with a Bad Future in which The Phoenix is supposed to come back to Earth and reduce it to an ash-filled wasteland devoid of life. In the future, they call the cataclysmic event "The Six-Second War".
  • February 9, 2012
    randomsurfer
  • February 9, 2012
    chicagomel
    • The Tripods might fit this; the prequel book indicates it only took a few weeks after the Trippies started passing out Caps for the world to end up with more Capped than Uncapped. Some pockets of fighting went on for a while, but it's obvious by the end of the prequel that the Capped are in control.
  • February 19, 2012
    Koveras
    Bumping for hats.
  • February 20, 2012
    Unknown Troper
    The German invasion of Denmark in May 1940 took about ten hours start to finish.
  • February 20, 2012
    TBTabby
    In Battlefield Earth, the human race was conquered in nine minutes.
  • February 20, 2012
    Vidor
    Battlefield Earth has been noted twice in comments, but for some reason is listed under video games, which doesn't really seem appropriate.

    Real Life examples would include the French defeats of 1870 and 1940.
  • February 20, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    Veni Vidi Vici for a name? (also one of the most famous historical examples)
  • February 20, 2012
    pawsplay
    I think One Week War is general enough. In any case, this trope should probably split off some examples from Curb Stomp Battle once launched.
  • February 21, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ One Week War conveys unnecessary implications.
  • February 21, 2012
    Azkar
    • Battlestar Galactica Reimagined begins with the near-obliteration of the human race in a surprise attack that's over before anyone's realized what's going on.
  • February 21, 2012
    pawsplay
    So Overnight Conquest? Something like that?
  • February 22, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Again, conveys implications about the conquest's duration.
  • February 22, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Nazi Germany defeated poland pretty quick.
  • February 22, 2012
    pawsplay
    "Overnight" is often used metaphorically. "Improbably" is snowclonish, and in this case, misleading; not all of the examples of this are going to be cheerful absurdities.
  • February 22, 2012
    Shnakepup
    "Improbably" is accurate, though. Any examples that would fit this trope would be improbable, for the reasons outlined in the description.

    Saying "overnight" or "one week" or any definite time-based term will lead to inaccuracies, since people would inevitably take it literally.
  • February 22, 2012
    Azkar
    I think overnight's fine. It's hyperbolic enough that it should be clear the word's being used metaphorically.
  • February 22, 2012
    pawsplay
    Lots of things are improbable. But it's hard to rate the probability of an alien invasion being quick, and it's sort of meaningless to rate the probability of historical events that did, in fact, happen. So you are left with Quick Conquest. I think "overnight" gives a little more sense of how quick we are talking about. Maybe some others will chime in.
  • February 22, 2012
    Koveras
    So, should I launch it already or not?
  • February 23, 2012
    pawsplay
    The first paragraph could probably use a qualifying sentence at the end to the effect that in real life, some conquests are accomplished with shocking rapidity compared to the norm, although not literally overnight, and are not this trope.
  • February 23, 2012
    Koveras
    Why aren't they this trope?
  • February 23, 2012
    pawsplay
    If you can come up with examples, then they are. The closest I can think of is Cortez's conquest of the Aztecs, in which it took three months to seize Tenochtitlan.
  • February 23, 2012
    Koveras
    The previous replies here contained several RL examples, in fact...
  • February 23, 2012
    pawsplay
    None of those look like actual conquests, though. Even The Anglo Zanzibar War seems to be about a change in political status in a country that was already a political dependency. Conquest does not mean the same thing as victory, coup, etc., it means actual consolidation.
  • February 23, 2012
    Koveras
    Right. But since there are no RL examples, anyway, there is no point in addressing them IMO, is there?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=7n5l69am1xy1usscatpvc4p3