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Space-Filling Empire

When writing alternate timelines or playing around with maps, counterfactual historians sometimes don't see the point of coming up with lots of different countries, especially for regions they know little about such as Africa, Asia and Latin America. There may also be a need to make sure that the entire earth is PVP Balanced in more warlike stories. So what they do is just fill the map with large polities, even when there would be little plausibility to a single empire ruling said territories. This is derisively referred to as a Space Filling Empire.

The number of empires will be at least three, the minimum number needed for alliances and betrayals, and popularised by the pictured setup of 1984.

This trope is so prevalent that the AlternateHistory.com wiki even has its own page for it.

Contrast Balkanize Me. See also "Risk"-Style Map and Spreading Disaster Map Graphic. Several types are found in United Europe, Expanded States of America, and Middle Eastern Coalition. Can lead to One-Federation Limit. May not leave much room for Settling the Frontier.


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • In Code Geass, the world is divided into three main superpowers; the European Union (all of Europe, Russia, and Most of Africa) the Holy Britannian Empire (North and South America, Parts of Africa, most of the Pacific) and the Chinese Federation (East, South and Central Asia, including Indonesia and India). There is also Japan (independent, but invaded by Britannia in the opening of the first episode) and the Middle-Eastern Federation (taken by Britannia in the first season). Australia is the only one to stay uninvolved for the entire series. Predictably, almost all of the important events take place in Japan.
  • Gundam 00 has the world largely split into three power blocs, at least in the first season: The World Economic Union (the Americas, Australasia, and Japan, dominated by the United States); the Human Reform League (Russia, China, India, most of the rest of South, Southeast, and East Asia except for Japan, dominated by China); and the Advanced European Union (current-day EU plus Turkey and Israel/Palestine).
  • Heavy Object has the Legitimacy Kingdom, the Capitalist Corporation, the Information alliance and the Faith Organization. Unique in that location has no bearing on which country belongs to which group meaning there are constant skitmishes between neighbouring countries belonging to different groups.
  • Valvrave the Liberator: The militaristic neo-Prussian Dorssian Military Alliance controls Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Russia. The nominally democratic ARUS controls the Americas. Western Europe, and the western half of Africa. They both run significant areas of the Dyson Sphere where most of humanity now lives.

     Comic Books  

  • In American Flagg, the Plex represents the former governments of the USA and USSR, but (particularly since the Plex seems to be largely abandoning Earth for its Mars-based "temporary" headquarters), the world's true superpowers are now the fascist Brazilian Union of the Americas and the communist Pan-African League, which has also conquered Italy.

     Literature  

  • The best-known example is 1984: The world consists of just three countries, Oceania (the Americas, the British Isles, Australia, and Southern Africa), Eurasia and Eastasia (which are pretty self-explanatory). The remainder of the world (the northern half of Africa, the Middle East, Southern India, Southeast Asia, the polar regions, and the Pacific islands) is a permanent buffer zone with control constantly shifting from one side to the other, and where the three powers wage endless war against each other so as to divert resources and attention away from domestic reform. Alliances constantly shift so no side gains an advantage, but officially Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.
  • The United States of Africa from the Star Trek Expanded Universe.
  • The Draka series: OK, the Draka empire's insane growth is sort of the whole point, but areas like South America seem to randomly agglomerate for no real reason except to cut down the number of polities in the final wars.
    • This is mentioned in one book. Someone from the Draka universe comes over to an Earth like ours and is astounded at how many countries the modern world has. It's taken for granted due to their world's experience that as the world develops an inevitable result is the reduction in individual states as they all merge.
  • Jennifer Government has the Corporate States of America spanning several continents.
  • In John Birmingham's Wave trilogy a South American Federation controls an unknown number of formerly independent nations including Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay. By the third book, Angels of Vengeance there are hints of a grand alliance of the Anglosphere (Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the remnants of the US and Canada) coming together to replace NATO.
  • German sci-fi series Mark Brandis has just two blocks left: The EAAU (European-American-African Union), with Australia as an associated member; and the UOR (United Oriental Republics), Asia except for the Asian parts of the former Soviet Union.
  • The eponymous Vampire Empire by Clay and Susan Griffith is a subversion as it's only an empire in the eyes of the humans it's displaced. Yes it occupies much of the northern hemisphere including all of Europe, Russia, China, Japan and most of North America but in reality it's compsed of clans who rarely cooperate. Played straight however with Equatoria, descended from the Victorian British Empire which occupies India, the Middle East and the British Empire's African holdings, also with the American Republic which controls Central America, the Caribbean, the Yucatan and parts of South America and the Japanese Empire, relocated to Singapore and controlling Asia east of India and south of China.
  • Half Crown in Jo Walton's Coins series involves a conference set in London in which Britain, Japan and Nazi Germany are negotiating spheres of influence, specifically the dividing up of the former Soviet Union and the potential divvying up of the US.
  • In Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series the Grik Empire controls, at least (the exact extent is unknown) India, southern Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Persian Gulf and most of the eastern coast of Africa. Meanwhile the Dominion controls Mexico, Central America and an as yet undisclosed portion of South America. The Alliance is heading in this direction, controlling the Philippines, parts of Indonesia and Australia and most recently, Japan and the Hawaiian Islands voluntarily and Sri Lanka by conquest.
    • It now looks like North America has at lest two more countries one of which pushed the Dominion out of Mexico for a time and their rivals on their other border, plus there's another mystery faction with radio that may side with the Grik.
    • And one led by some Czechen guy that's north of Girk controlled India.
  • In The Martian General's Daughter by Theodore Judson the Trans-Polarian Empire controls North and Central America, Eastern Asia, Western Europe, the Baltic nations, North Africa and Turkey as well as Mars, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and several asteroids. It's in a state of decay however. It used to control the entire northern hemisphere of Earth and by the end of the book the other world colonies have died due to a metal eating plague and both North Africa and Central America have fallen out of it's sphere.
  • Harry Turtledove's Colonization trilogy (the sequel to the Worldwar series) starts with Earth divided in only a few states. The Race controls all of Latin America, Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Poland, the Middle East, Australia, and most of Southeast Asia (including China and India). The US and Canada stayed the way they are, as did the USSR. The Greater German Reich controls much of Europe. Imperial Japan controls much of Oceania (except for Australia) as well as Indonesia and the Philippines. Britain only has the original island. "Free France" is made up of several islands in the Pacific. A few other countries are separate from these main players but they don't really play into the world politics.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky duology takes place in an Alternate History where Jesus was killed as a baby and was replaced by a different Messiah. Thanks to the Redeemer's efforts, the Roman Empire never fell and remains stronger than ever to this day, now known only as the State with its ruler, the Possessor, having his capital in Lutetia (alternate Paris). The State controls most of Europe and has colonies in Africa and the Americas. Several vassal nations serve as the buffer zone between the State and its on-and-off enemy the Russian Khanate (Russia never threw off the Mongole yoke and becomes a mix of both cultures). The Chinese Empire is the most advanced nation in the world and controls most of Asia. The Ottoman Empire is the weakest of the major powers. Smaller nations are mentioned, such as the Aztec Empire that constantly clashes with the State's colonies in America, and Judea, which is a tiny vassal nation of the Ottomans.
  • In the "An Orison of Sonmi-451" segment of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas Nea So Copros controls East and Central Asia and whatever is still inhabitable of Oceania (the Philipines and Indonesia are specifically mentioned). Colonies in Africa are also mentioned.
  • In the Venus Prime series, most of Earth's nations have become part of either the North Continental Treaty Alliance (basically North America, Europe, and Russia) or the Azure Dragon Mutual Prosperity Sphere (China, Japan, and some of the Middle East). There's also apparently an alliance between South America and Africa, and a bloc made up of India and various countries in Southeast Asia.
  • Although it's downplayed because its not the main focus of the book, in the Alternate History classic For Want of a Nail, the German Empire takes over most of continental Europe and absorbs much of the Middle East in a like manner.

     Live Action Television  

  • Very early in its existence, the Sci Fi Channel produced a daily sci-fi/soap opera short called FTL Newsfeed, in which the Earth of 2142 has consolidated into five or so super-states.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Cyberpunk RPG NeoTech combines this with Balkanize Me, some regions balkanizing (eg. North America) and some consolidating (eg. Europe). In Africa countries have been split and joined apparently at random.
  • Done with the first map ever printed of the planet Mystara, which depicted a major hunk of continent as "the Empire of Dorfin IV", and showed the Empire of Thyatis (whose actual boundaries were much less) encompassing the entire "Known World" region. Averted and Lampshaded by Bruce Heard's Voyages of the Princess Ark article series, which revealed this map to be a complete fraud, perpetuated by a Deadpan Snarker who'd named its various Space Filling Empires after his wife, his mistress, and his dog.
  • Averted in the majority of the timelines of GURPS. Even Reich-5, which was conquered by the Axis powers, is still full of minor nations that were too insignificant to directly take over and/or voluntarily joined the Axis.
  • In the Lord of the Rings Special Edition Risk game, the 1-on-1 Good vs. Evil set up has roughly 1/3 of the territories (most of the unaligned ones) occupied by 2 neutral troops each. This is to help balance the game at the outset, creating enough of a hindrance that neither player can simply sweep across the board on the first turn, but also giving the players a chance to use their strategic defensive positions without having to conquer half the map first.
    • The main Risk series also has this mechanic for two-player games, likely for similar reasons. The difference is that the two Powers choose their 14 territories, rather than going from a list.
  • In BattleTech, the majority of the Inner Sphere is ruled by a grand total of five Feudal Houses.

     Video Games  

  • Done in the online game The Spectrum Wars, dividing the earth up into major regional power blocs in order to lessen the disparity in power between major superpowers and the third world. For similar reasons, the United States and its military was usually split in half by a civil war in the backstory.
  • Space-filling empires are the typical result of a game of Civilization or Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri. Justified in the case of the latter, as there are only seven groups of human settlers, and a few of them usually get eaten up. Civilization will sometimes have "Barbarians", who may have cities, but they are always hostile, exist to get swallowed by larger civs and never appear beyond the early game.
    • The "minor civilization" mechanic originated in the Rhye's and Fall of Civilization mod, using them in place of pre-unification civilizations (such as with China), for people native to the Americas and Africa that don't fall into one of the base game's civilizations and the remainders of larger civs that fall apart from civil war.
    • The Civilization IV expansion Beyond the Sword comes with a mod called "Next War". There are four states: the Pan-Asiatic People Co-Operative, America Inc., The Great Southern Empire, and Europa.
  • The Strangereal Earth of Ace Combat is less exaggerated than other examples, but still has considerably fewer nations than our Earth. Notably, superpowers Osea and Yuktobania are approximately the size of South America, while the continent of Anea is divided into only three countries.
  • The world of Earth 2150 is dominated by only two nations: the United Civilized States in the West and the Eurasian Dynasty in the East, with the Lunar Corporation controlling all of the Moon. Granted, this is the aftermath of World War III, but there's no reason why there should not have been more smaller empires.
    • There are still independent tribes. It just that they are not of real importance.
  • DEFCON has the entire world split between roughly comparable atomic superpowers, even Africa and South America! The only land that sits out the war is Australia and New Zealand.
  • Paradox Interactive go to great lengths to try and avert this one, typically releasing numerous patches to rebalance nations to stop, for example, France or Ming China devouring all of their neighbours as far as the Caspian Sea in Europa Universalis III
    • Not that this stops anyone from trying... or succeeding. One player managed to take over the entire world as the Xhosa, a one province pagan minor country with a built-in technological handicap.
      • Recently, played straight. Paradox realised that they can't keep this impossible and keep the game fun for beginners, so they added an achievement for world domination... as Okinawa.
    • In one PVP Balanced designed-for-multiplayer map in Hearts of Iron II: Doomsday, the world is divided equally between six (or was it nine?) gigantic empires that each control an equal share of the globe. Hilarity Ensues when the Russian Empire is fighting communist Europe.
  • To historical sticklers, Total War is considered to be playing this trope despite the above-average number of factions it offers (in some games, upwards of 20). Prior to Empire Total War, "Independent" regions did exist, but were controlled by the "rebel" faction where each city/region was completely independent from all other "rebel" regions, was incapable of expanding (or even defending its territory properly), any diplomacy with the greater factions (or other rebel cities), and would generally be eaten up by the first empire to send a sufficient number of troops its way. By around 50-100 turns of game-start, there would normally be no remaining rebel territories - the world would be divided between all major factions.
    • Also, smaller countries and/or city-states that in history were quite independent though sharing cultural resemblence to one another were often merged into single centrally-controlled empires. This happened to the Greek City States in Rome: Total War, and most Muslim factions in Medieval: Total War, amongst others.
    • Empire changed this a little by introducing lots of "minor" nations that could be engaged diplomatically and would generally behave like the larger factions (with some caveats to prevent them from expanding). Of course, the number of Major factions (empires) vying for power was considerably smaller than in previous games as a result.
    • Inverted in Rome: Total War with the Romans of all factions: Instead of one unified empire, it was split into three houses with agendas in somewhat different areas of the map. Of course, all factions had to stay mindful of the wishes of the senate, but this was more of a guideline.
      • This was done (At least as far as I know) so that 1) The Roman faction wouldn't have to divert it's attention in three different directions at the same time (the Romans are supposed to expand into Gaul/Germania, Spain/Northeast Africa, and Greece/Asia Minor/Egypt/Near East), and the make the Civil war actually work.
    • When the first expansion for the first game came out it had a bug which made the rebels into an organized faction. Since they started with more than half the map but didn't count as a faction when calculating victory it was possible to win by digging in in your capital with your starting units while all the other factions were overrun in the first few turns.
  • The second XCOM game, Terror From The Deep, has a multitude of countries creating empires. Notable examples include the United States apparently comprising all of North America, The European Union, Southeast Asia, and the Oceanic Alliance (Japan and Australia being the major participants). Notably, there's also a lot of empty space in the Geoscape, representing countries or alliances that aren't funding the X-Com project, and are therefore not particularly important or worth protecting.
  • In the backstory for the Fallout series, the USA had already annexed Canada and was invading Mexico with the goal of annexing it when the nukes started flying.
  • Dawn of War: Dark Crusade uses a "Risk"-Style Map to represent the twenty or so territories being fought over by seven different factions, occupying a single continent. Frankly ridiculous in Soulstorm, where the number of territories is roughly the same... but now spread over four planets. Any given faction could conquer two territories and be ruling over half the planet.
  • In Evil Genius, the world is divided up between several NATO-like alliances with varying degrees of logic. The United States and Japan form P.A.T.R.I.O.T., Europe and her former colonies form S.A.B.R.E., Russia and Cuba are H.A.M.M.E.R., what's left of Asia forms A.N.V.I.L., and the oddest is S.M.A.S.H., an alliance of Africa, South America, and Antarctica.
  • Homefront has North Korea steamrolling right over all of Southeast Asia just like Japan did in World War II, despite there being several very strong armed forces in the area.

    Web Original 
  • Lampshaded in Look to the West: most of West Africa becomes officially known as the Space-Filling Empire after its main architects, a Mr. Space and a Mr. Filling.
  • Yakutia in Superpower Empire: China 1912.
  • Decades of Darkness has this with the US which conquer most of the Americas, maybe the Russian Federation which includes most of Eurasia and various member of the Restored Empire like Central Africa.
  • The Chaos Timeline has the New Roman Empire, Russia and the German technocracy. However, the trope is mostly avoided by introducing "Chaos" - wide areas of the world, esp. in Africa, where the governments change every few months and the borders every few years.
  • The Agglutination and the Americans subdivides the world into 11 supercountries. The titular Agglutination (yes, the bolding is important) was the first to be created and, through various methods, conquered most of South America, southern Africa and parts of Australia, and others (including Hockey Stick!, SuperMexico, *Ia and others) united so they would be better-equipped to fight the nation, once it was clear that the nation meant serious business. In addition, two countries, Russia and North Korea (which now renamed itself to simply Korea) avoided being conjoined into these supernational groups, and a small part of South Africa remains separate from the Agglutination. Their world map looks like this.

    Real Life 


The SoullessOtherworld TropesTidally Locked Planet
Magic MapMap TropesSpreading Disaster Map Graphic
Sliding Scale of Alternate History PlausibilityAlternate History TropesMiddle Eastern Coalition
Space FighterSpeculative Fiction TropesSpace Friction
1984ImageSource/LiteratureThe Aeneid

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