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"When our flag flies over the city, our enemies' defeat and humiliation will be beyond question! Our vengeance will be complete."
Sgt. Viktor Reznov, Call of Duty: World at War
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When a war breaks out, the different factions will each have their objectives and goals. Since they are at war, these goals will often be different. But one thing they will all have is a desire to take each other's capital city, or if they can't actually capture it, then at least inflict enough damage on it to create shock.

This is Truth in Television. The taking or bombing of an enemy capital is a sure way to let the enemy know that things are REALLY bad now. The former especially, as it is often the battle that ends a war, particularly if the political leadership was captured or killed in the process. However, just as often, the fight will continue, although the losing side's military may have taken some serious damage. In these cases a Government in Exile will be formed.

Capital cities that are unfortunate enough to be near the border are often the most vulnerable. However, on the flip side, the war may not end immediately in such cases since their will still be a lot of country left and likely a strong military force still very much in the game. Capitals that are further away are much more difficult to attack, but by the time you fight your way there, the enemy will likely be much more depleted. In either case, then retaking the capital will now be the highest priority of the faction that lost it.

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This trope also applies to a Civil War as well, since the government will want to hold on to the seat of power to show they are still in charge, while taking it can help the rebels signal that the old regime is falling.

This can be seen as a super-trope of Washington D.C. Invasion, which deals with similar scenarios in the United States capital.

When the objective is taking out the enemy commander, you have Straight for the Commander. Expect there to be a lot of Monumental Damage as well, given how many nice, shiny landmarks are often sitting there waiting for a tank shell or a bomb to hit them. Urban Warfare is a given here, especially when fighting takes place in the capital itself.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Episode 22 of Simoun features the desperate battle for the capital of Simulacrum, which ends the war. Since the main characters are all Simulacran pilot-priestesses, they actually lose the war and this is essentially their last combat sortie.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • The city planet of Coruscant serves as the center of galactic civilization, and whoever the dominant government in the Galaxy is at the time will want to control it. It has seen more than its fair share of war.
    • The Phantom Menace begins with the Trade Federation invading the planet Naboo. When the droid army arrives in the planet's capital of Theed and captures Queen Amidala, Viceroy Gunray declares "victory". However, the Queen escapes and later returns to lead La Résistance in a Capital Offensive of her own by storming the Royal Palace and capturing Gunray.
    • In the run up to Revenge of the Sith, the Separatists launch a surprise attack on Coruscant. The main attack is a diversion, while General Grievous sneaks in and captures Chancellor Palpatine.
    • The Force Awakens. In the Back Story the New Republic take Coruscant but they set up rotating capitals by election afterwards. The current one is Hosnian Prime when the movie starts. Unfortunately, the First Order doesn't plan on capturing it. They DESTROY it along with the other planets in the Hosnian system with their new Starkiller Base weapon, along with the Senate.
  • Red Dawn:
    • In the original film, the Soviets destroy Washington off-screen with a tactical nuclear weapon. They also hit two other cities that were "key points of communication". However, they are trying to take the U.S. intact so these (and some directed at nuke silos in the Dakotas) are the only ones used. And despite severe damage to their capital, the United States is very much still organized and holding off the Soviets after the initial attack. Eventually repelling the invasion.
    • The 2012 remake subverts this. Washington is never mentioned, and since the story takes place in Washington State we don't get much info. However, since it is stated later by the Marines that the Russians occupy the whole Eastern Seaboard, it can be assumed Washington is part of it.
  • In the opening move of Independence Day, the aliens destroy Washington DC and several other national capitals, including London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Jerusalem, Amsterdam, Tehran, Beijing, and Tokyo.
  • The plot of Star Trek: First Contact is the Enterprise trying to stop a Borg attack against Earth — specifically, Past!Earth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • During the Earth-Minbari War, the Minbari bypassed several Earth colony worlds and attacked Earth directly, resulting in the Battle of the Line.
    • The Centauri do something similar during The Narn-Centauri War, withdrawing from several active combat zones when they find out the Narn homeworld will be vulnerable and bombarding it with mass drivers from orbit until the Narns surrender.
  • Later episodes of Space: Above and Beyond sometimes reference Operation Round Hammer, the United Nations' offensive against what they believe is the Chig homeworld. It is first delayed by the appearance of a Chig Ace Pilot nicknamed Chiggy von Richthofen, then gets bogged down.
  • Many battles of Game of Thrones are centered on either King's Landing, the capital of Westeros, or the seats of the individual kingdoms, particularly Winterfell.
    • "Blackwater" features Stannis Baratheon's spectacular attempt to seize King's Landing.
    • In Season 3, Robb Stark plans to regain the initiative by marching on Casterly Rock, the home of House Lannister. He's betrayed at the Red Wedding before he can do so.
    • In Season 5, Stannis and his newly reinvigorated army march on Winterfell to liberate it from the Boltons and rally the North behind him. It ends in a failure.
    • "Battle of the Bastards" is centered on Jon and Sansa leading their loyalist forces to reclaim Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton. They succeed.
    • In Season 7, Tyrion plans an offensive against Casterly Rock, to help deprive Cersei of her wealth and power along with inflicting a blow to Lannister morale. Unfortunately, he’s working from out-of-date information, as the Rock’s gold mines have long been dry and the Lannisters have only left a small garrison to defend it. The Unsullied take the Rock, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory.
  • In Star Trek, Earth is the capital of the United Federation of Planets and headquarters of Starfleet. As such, when an enemy power attacks the Federation, they usually try to mount an assault on Earth.
    • The "Best of Both Worlds" two-parter features the first Borg invasion, which consists of a beeline to Earth in order to assimilate humanity.
    • During the Dominion War, Starfleet is concerned about redeploying their forces as it may allow the Dominion to launch an offensive against Earth. The Breen do just this near the end of the war. Martok is impressed by their audacity, even the Klingons never tried that.
      • This is retconned by Star Trek: Discovery, where Klingons are at the edge of the Solar System and preparing to deal a finishing blow to the Federation by attacking Earth. They're stopped by L'Rell threatening to blow up Qo'noS.
    • The finale of DS9 features the Federation Alliance's march on Cardassia Prime.
  • In Andromeda, the ship accidentally travels back in time to just one year after she ends up being trapped at the event horizon of a black hole. They encounter a High Guard ship, whose captain explains that what's left of the fleet (about a hundred ships out of thousands) is gathering for an assault at Fountainhead, the historical homeworld of the Nietzscheans, hoping that such a blow will disorganize the enemy. However, the crew already knows from historical records that the assault will never happen, as the Nietzscheans learn of it and stage an ambush at Witchhead Nebula (which results in a Pyrrhic Victory for them).
  • Soviet Storm: World War II in the East has the Germans doing this to the Soviets during Operation Barbarossa, by taking Mink and Kiev, the capitals of Belarus and Ukraine. Later, the Soviets repay the favor by attacking Berlin.

    Literature 
  • Some more Star Wars examples from the Star Wars Legends:
    • The Rebels, now having already declared themselves the New Republic, take Coruscant in the X-Wing Series. They then find the Imperials have left them some nasty parting gifts....
    • One old EU story has an odd variation. The planets Coruscant and Alsakan fought a series of wars (17 to be exact) over the millennia of the Republic's existence over who had the right to be the Republic's capital!
    • In the Dark Empire comic series, the Imperials, led by a mysterious Dark Side figure who turns out to be Palpatine Back from the Dead recapture Coruscant and force the New Republic to set up a Government in Exile.
    • The New Jedi Order has the Yuuzhan Vong capture Coruscant after a particularly gruesome battle in which they suffer massive casualties and the Republic defenses are unintentionally damaged by an inept, corrupt, and idiotic political leadership. The Republic Chief of State is killed and the government sets up a temporary capital on Mon Calamari. In the final novel of the series, the Galactic Alliance (the new name given to a re-organized Republic) and its allies (which now includes the Imperial Remnant) liberate Coruscant, and deliver such a massive blow that the Yuuzhan Vong surrender, ending the war.
  • Gate: As a show of power, the JSDF sends jets to bomb the crap out of major buildings in the capital city. This still isn't enough to persuade some of the politicians not to attack the Japanese.
  • The second half of Mockingjay, the third novel of The Hunger Games, is centered around the rebels' offensive against the now-isolated Capitol.
  • Military thriller Victoria sees this happen multiple times in the Second Civil War it chronicles. After full-scale battle is joined, the corrupt US Government tries to advance on Augusta, Maine, where the main rebel faction has proclaimed its capital, but their forces end up bogged down in upstate New York and the offensive fails. Then, the rebels (aided by breakaway states forming a New Confederacy in the Deep South) begin to move on Washington.
  • In The History of the Galaxy, the First Galactic War finally ends when the Free Colonies launch a desperate all-or-nothing attack on Earth, managing to punch through the so-called Hammer Line (the star systems within a single jump of Earth, all heavily-fortified). The assault is successful, and the Terran Alliance surrenders. Subverted in that the assault would have been a resounding failure that would have left the colonies defenseless, had the admiral in charge of the defense not disabled 90% of the automated defenses just before the battle. His reasoning was that there was less than a billion people left on Earth after the 30-year conflict. Had the colonists lost the battle, the AI-controlled fleets of the Alliance would've swept through the Free Colonies unopposed, laying waste to what now constituted the majority of humanity.
  • In later Destroyermen novels, The Alliance forces manage successfully take the Celestial City, the current capital of the Grik Empire, located on Madagascar. The surviving Grik pull back their forces and set up shop in Sofesshk, the ancient Grik capital, located on the north bank of the Zambezi River in Africa. The Alliance continually sends bombers to assault the city to keep the Grik from becoming too complacent.
  • In Honor Harrington, the two battles of Manticore happen because either the Havenites or the Solarian League decide to attack the Manticore binary system. Both attacks are a failure, although the first one results in the largest-scale battle in history. The latter is a Curb-Stomp Battle, as the Solarians learn the hard way that their "undefeatable" Space Navy is thoroughly outclassed. Then, in book 19, Honor takes the Grand Alliance fleet into the Sol System and browbeats the League into ending the war and rewriting the constitution to prevent bureaucrats from taking power again, while also blowing up most of the space-based industry in the system and scuttling hundreds of Solarian warships.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Avalon Hill's Third Reich. Capturing the capital of a minor country puts it immediately under a player's control. If the capital of a major country is captured that country's player can try to retake it on their next turn. If the attempt fails the country falls. The Soviet Union is the only exception: they do not surrender if the Axis captures Moscow.
  • Some editions of RISK have an optional rule that gives each player a capital (actually not a city, but one of the normal regions) which, when conquered by an enemy, cause that player to immediately lose the game.
  • In Axis And Allies a country whose capital has been captured can't produce new units, though the player can use their remaining units to try and retake it. One of the victory conditions for each side is to capture two enemy capitals.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat
    • The penultimate mission of Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies follows the capture of the Erusean capital Farbanti, which (almost) ends the Usean Continental War.
    • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation also has a battle for a capital, but for your own capital, Gracemeria, which you liberate from the enemy's occupation after having to abandon it early in the game.
  • Call of Duty:
    • The first game and World at War featured the Soviet assault on Berlin, Germany during the closing days of the European Theatre of World War II.
    • Modern Warfare 2 had the Russians launch an invasion of the United States on the Eastern Seaboard. Washington, D.C. is one of their first targets. Several levels take place in D.C. wrapping up with the retaking of The White House.
      • The last D.C. level actually ends with Corporal Dunn stating that he can't wait to go to Moscow and "burn it down". Sadly, however, the third game never gave us a level in Moscow. Never trust a Sequel Hook folks.
      • Fortunately though, the third game did take us to some other important capitals. Namely London, Paris, Prague, and Berlin. the latter three are being invaded by Russia. The former is the victim of a major terrorist attack. Terrorist attacks were also used in some of the other capitals too to weaken the defenses before the invasion began.
  • The Battlefield series.
    • Battlefield 1942 featured Berlin as a map.
    • Although it happens off-screen, Washington, D.C. is under siege by the Middle Eastern Coalition in their invasion of the U.S. east coast. The backstory of one map states that the Americans are attempting to send reinforcements to break the siege.
    • Battlefield 3 has a U.S. assault on Tehran during a fictional U.S.-Iran war.
  • Downplayed in Crusader Kings II. Capturing an enemy capital province is surprisingly not very useful: while they typically contain large numbers of holdings you can occupy to increase warscore, there isn't any inherent warscore bonus for occupying the capital province specifically; you can often win just as easily by occupying other provinces or by completely destroying the enemy army. On the other hand, capturing the enemy ruler automatically grants 100% warscore, and if he isn't personally leading his troops, he'll be at his capital and can be captured after a siege on it.
  • Age of Empires series: While the AI tends to use The All-Seeing A.I. it is the reason on why assaulting the capitals a very important matter, mostly because most farms AND the market are there. If the player cripples an opponent or gets crippled it is a possible lost game unless it is a Crazy-Prepared scenario.
  • Civilization series: A very dangerous gambit to do but it is sometimes important to do as in some capitals there are either important wonders or are dangerous buildings like the Ironworks/Moai Statues which make the capitals the real producers of enemy units. In some versions, there's also a possibility that capturing the capital of a civilization will cause the entire civilization to split into two rival factions. In the Brave New World expansion of V, capturing all enemy (starting) capitals is the requirement to fulfill the Domination Victory condition (previously it was "be the last civilization in possession of your own starting capital", which made it possible to get a Domination Victory without even going to war by letting other civilizations capture each other's).
  • The first Ghost Recon game had three of these. First, at the end of the first act of the story, Russian forces capture Tblisi, capital city of Georgia. Later in the second act, the Ghosts, assist NATO in liberating the Lithuanian capital Vilnius from Russian occupation, complete with securing the (heavily damaged) presidential palace. Then, in the final mission, NATO and rebel Russian forces assault Moscow, with the Ghosts, being tasked to slip through the city and secure the area near the Kremlin.
  • Mostly subverted in World in Conflict.
    • None of the major capitals on either side are shown to be attacked on the ground (although Bonn, West Germany might be in trouble). Paris is experiencing some Soviet air raids (which would certainly count), but that's about it. West Berlin might technically count as the West German government in Real Life considered it their de jure capital and the city of Bonn as just a temporary one. However, since it is completely surrounded by East Germany, it was not an option, and the Soviets make it their first target when they attack.
    • One of the trailers for the game seemed to show Washington, D.C. getting attacked, and possibly nuked. But one should Never Trust a Trailer because this never happens in the game.
  • Act Of War Direct Action. The final act of the game sees the Consortium terrorist organization staging a massive attack on Washington, D.C., taking over the Capitol Building and even The White House, and nearly capture the President when Marine One is shot down.
  • Fallout 3:
    • The game's main storyline involves a battle for control of the ruins of Washington, D.C. in a post-nuclear war America. The Enclave especially has an interest in securing the Capital Wasteland due to their (rather dubious) claim to be the legitimate heirs to the government of the U.S. (they are actually descended from a group of conspirators that operated inside the government behind the scenes).
    • The nuclear war itself was a subversion. Because on one hand, D.C. was just one of many, many places to get nuked. But on the other hand, one can take a look at the D.C. ruins and see that it was hit especially hard. Indeed, one can look at the conditions in the Capital Wasteland and compare them to the Mojave Wasteland of Fallout: New Vegas and (to a lesser extent) the Commonwealth (Boston) of Fallout 4. Las Vegas was spared much of the destruction as Mr. House's private defense systems stopped most of the missles, and Boston only suffered a single hit from one high-yield nuke that missed hitting the city directly. But Washington, as the nation's capital, was hit multiple times, and sustained far more damage.
    • Traveling around the D.C. area also reveals that China had a large-scale espionage/infiltration operation going on. The player can even find that some of them are still alive, having been turned into long-living ghouls by the radiation. Normally this would not count, except that the Chinese had a number of elite commandos among their operatives in addition to spies, showing that they may have been planning some kind of commando or terrorist attack on the city. There is even a Chinese command truck that can be found at some point that further gives credence to this.
    • In the Back Story of the series, it hints that before the nuclear war the U.S., having kicked the Chinese out of Alaska, were invading China itself and closing in on Beijing. This would offers some hints that the Chinese regime may have triggered the nuclear exchange as a Taking You with Me towards the rest of the world.
  • Rise of Nations: Taking an enemy's capital by force activates a countdown that will end in an instant victory unless retaken in time by enemy forces. If the capital is the last city, then the game instantly ends.
  • Empire Earth:
    • The German campaign has a level in which the player (working for an unspecified Chancellor whose political affiliation is not mentioned in 1939) takes out the capitals of Poland, Norway and France. The final level is an Alternate History where Operation Sealion happened and succeeded: here destroying Buckingham Palace causes the royal family to flee to Canada.
    • The second level of the Russia campaign has you take out the capitals of Hungary, Sweden or Norway.
  • Fire Emblem Tellius: Early in Path of Radiance the kingdom of Deain launches a full invasion right into Crimea's capital city, quickly overwhelming the defenders and eliminating the ruling family, with the exception of Princess Elincia. Later, under the authority of the Begnion Empire, Ike leads an army into Deain, eventually taking its capital, Nevassa.
  • Hearts of Iron III has a point system for various cities and provinces. If the enemy captures more points than morale, then the country surrenders. Obviously, capitals are worth a lot and often are a driving point to surrender.
  • Resistance: In the alternate 1950s where an alien race attacked Earth instead of the Axis Powers, the aliens sweep through Europe with stunning quickness after having already overrun Russia (where they first arrived in the Tunguska Event of 1906). The first game sees the joint U.S. and British forces trying to retake London, which had been abandoned by the Brits months earlier, and destroy the massive tower. Which proves to be a Instant-Win Condition against the aliens on British soil.
    • In the Back Story, one of the things that proved just how frightening the aliens are, is the fall of the Polish capital Warsaw. Out of a city of 2 million people, only 1,000 survived. This is because The Virus is used on any humans that aren't killed to prepare them for transformation into more of the creatures.
    • Prior to Resistance 2, before they launched their main attack on America, Washington had been assaulted by the aliens during a Presidential speech. This forces the U.S. to move the government to Denver, which is inside the massive Liberty Defense Perimeter. Sadly, it falls too, along with the rest of America, with the Perimeter being obliterated. So much of the government is killed, that the military has to directly take charge of what's left.
    • Resistance 3 has an opening cutscene which recaps the story, and includes alien foot soldiers marching in front of the Eiffel Tower. And the game finally gives us a true Happy Ending by letting humanity win. Humans begin retaking the world, which includes a mention by an Irish fighter that they have retaken and secured safe passage to Dublin, the capital of Ireland.
  • Turning Point: Fall of Liberty: Washington, D.C. is one of the first places to fall to the Germans during their invasion of the Unites States. Later, La Résistance attacks the White House in an effort to kill Stevenson, The Quisling President installed by the invaders.
  • Splinter Cell Chaos Theory: When North Korea launches an invasion of South korea, it doesn't take long for them to send an attack force to Seoul. Truth in Television since Seoul is uncomfortably close to the border. The player, as Sam Fisher, has to navigate through the streets as a major battle between U.S. South korean and North Korean forces rages.
  • In EndWar, part of the win conditions for defeating a superpower is taking their capital city in a three part battle. These capitals are Washington, DC for the United States, Paris for the European Federation, and Moscow for Russia.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series:
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Both campaigns end with an assault against a capital — the Soviets make an amphibious landing in England and move at London (the main headquarters of the Allied Forces and capital of the sole unconquered Allied nation at that point in the campaign) while the Allies push to Moscow in a bid to remove Stalin from power one way or the other.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: In the Soviet campaign, the Reds hit Washington, DC first to destroy the Pentagon. It's used in an especially interesting fashion in the Allied campaign, where they use the Chronosphere to teleport a strike force straight into Moscow to take the Kremlin and avoid a scorched earth campaign by the retreating Soviets.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: Happens in the Allied mission "Forever Sets the Sun", where Allied forces attack Tokyo and destroy the Imperial military, killing or capturing most of their leadership. Also in the Imperial mission "Crumble Kremlin Crumble" which is the Empire of the Rising Sun's invasion of Moscow.
  • Starcraft:
    • Late in the Terran campaign, Mengsk leads the Sons of Korhal in an offensive against the Confederate capital world of Tarsonis, which he defeats by using Psi Emitters to draw the Zerg there to overwhelm the military and populace.
    • Later, the UED comes to Korhal, where now Emperor Mengsk has established his seat of power in an effort to capture him. Mengsk escapes thanks to intervention by Jim Raynor and the Protoss, but the UED still takes control of Korhal.
    • After the Zerg manage to locate the Protoss homeworld of Aiur, the Overmind declares that it is where he will be made manifest and sends the Swarm to secure it.
  • Starcraft II:
    • Korhal is again invaded this time by the Zerg, in Kerrigan's drive to defeat Mengsk once and for all.
    • The Protoss campaign begins with them attempting to retake Aiur, but they are derailed as Amon corrupts the Khala, taking control of many Protoss through it.
    • Shortly after Amon's Zerg mount an invasion of the Dark Templar's homeworld of Shakuras which is thwarted when Artanis and Vorazun decide to lure as many Zerg there as possible before initiating an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • Advance Wars: Most infantry can capture cities and buildings in two turns, but one CO can do so in one. Thus one risky strategy with her is to send troops straight for the enemy HQ to win.
  • In Galactic Civilizations taking the capital planet is a viable strategy for ending a war quickly. The wide empty spaces and unrestricted travel make it difficult to intercept a fleet with good life support and drives before it makes a beeline for the homeworld, and usually the homeworld is the most developed and highly populated planet so its loss tends to encourage the rest of the Empire to surrender shortly after as their economy tanks and their sphere of influence implodes. It's particularly effective with minor races as they don't colonize and only rarely conquer other planets. On the other hand, they usually have a sizable fleet in orbit and the high population makes them difficult to conquer without resorting to Orbital Bombardment.
    • The reliability of this strategy depends heavily on circumstances, however. On larger maps, where specialising planets is a viable strategy, races with low-quality homeworlds may well have their economic, research and industry powerhouses on planets they located during the expansion phase, meaning that while losing the homeworld is a pain, it's not going to be a deathblow unless everything else has already gone to hell; the "capital" will simply be reassigned to another planet.
  • Out of the 9 different mission maps in Heavy Weapon, the final one before the plot twist takes place in the enemy's capital city.
  • While it's entirely possible to take an enemy capital planet in Sword of the Stars, it doesn't provide any additional benefit to taking a very nice planet (only original capital planets can be class 10 with a highest potential population) and robbing the enemy of one. In this case, another enemy planet is simply designated as capital. With the Zuul, the capital is actually likely to be useless, as the Zuul are permanently in overharvest mode, so they drain their colonies' resources. The capital, being the first world they possess, is likely to be entirely drained of resources by the time you take it. This can be remedied by asteroid mining other systems and delivering resources there, but it might not be worth it.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Sith call for a diplomatic sit-down to discuss a ceasefire with the Republic. However, this is just a distraction. During the talks, a massive Sith fleet attacks the Republic capital world of Coruscant. The Jedi Temple is destroyed, killing many Masters and Knights. The City Planet is sacked. However, the Sith are perfectly aware that they cannot hope to hold Coruscant, once the Republic fleet comes back. Instead, the goal is to do as much damage as possible to cripple the Republic. Then The Emperor suddenly decides to turn fake talks into real ones, offering to leave Coruscant without dealing it any further damage in exchange for a few far less important worlds and a ceasefire. The Republic officials agree, while all other Sith Lords are left scratching their heads in confusion.
  • In Warcraft II, The Horde attacks the capital of the Kingdom of Lordaeron (actually called Capital City), the largest member of The Alliance, hoping to break the Alliance into more manageable chunks. According to the canon, Gul'dan's betrayal and the approach of the Alliance army (plus Lord Greymane cutting off Horde reinforcements, moving through Alterac) forces Orgrim Doomhammer to pull out his forces, even as the walls of the city are about to fall. Also, during the First War, the capital city of the Kingdom of Stormwind is canonically sacked by the Horde (although not completely destroyed). It's rebuilt by World of Warcraft.
  • World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth opens with the Forsaken losing the Undercity and control of Lordaeron while the Night Elves are driven out of Kalimdor when Teldrassil, the tree housing their capital, is burned.
  • In the first Ravenmark game, the Kaysani Reconquista carves a bloody path through the Empire of Estellion and its ally the Commonwealth of Esotre, eventually assaulting both capitals, Atium and Silvergate, respectively. Both cities are only saved by the timely intervention of the heroes, turning back the Reconquista.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the final battle takes place in Denerim, the capital of Ferelden, which is in the process of being overrun by the Darkspawn.
  • In Master of Orion 2: Battle for Antares, victory can unsurprisingly be achieved by conquering Antares, the homeworld of the Antarans who have begun attacking the galaxy after everyone thought they had gone extinct.
    • In something of a subversion, Master of Orion 3 reveals that the conquered world wasn't actually their homeworld at all, but just a staging post for their raiding fleets, and far from knocking the fight out of them it just annoyed them enough to launch a full-scale invasion.
  • Sniper Elite and its reboot Sniper Elite V2 take place during the Battle of Berlin, just as the Soviets are already in the process of entering and taking the city from the remaining German forces. Unlike most other examples, the Soviets are depicted here are Dirty Communists, and are also enemies to be killed.

    Western Animation 
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Cobra does this twice during the course of the series.
    • The first occurred when they tricked the world into thinking that an Alien Invasion was coming, and that San Franscisco and Vladivostok were going to be attacked. This diversion caused both the United States and Russia to move the bulk of their militaries towards those locations. Cobra then launched two raids against the White House in Washington and the Kremlin in Moscow to sieze the valuable military secrets of both nations. The Joes and the Russian Oktober Guard have to work together to stop them.
    • The second was a full-scale invasion of Washington ordered by Serpentor at the end of his 5-part debut arc. However, the other Cobra characters point out to him that while he occupies Washington, the rest of America is still free and in the fight, and both the President and Vice President were away at the time of the attack. This realistically Lampshades how difficult attacking the U.S. mainland really is for conventional militaries. Serpentor should have listened to his subordinates as the Joes lead the retaking of the city in a Curb-Stomp Battle.
    Cobra Commander: [to Serpentor] This is insane! You can't possibly hold Washington, much less conquer the entire United States. I know. I've TRIED!
  • Played with in the Umbara arc of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Seizing the Umbaran capital is a priority for the Republic forces, but that isn't the main story of the arc. Instead, the show focuses on the 501st and their efforts to provide support for Obi-Wan's troops, who mostly seize the capital offscreen.

    Real Life 
  • Decisively subverted during The American Revolution in 1777. William Howe, commander of the main British army in New York, decided to mount a sea-borne invasion and capture the rebel capital of Philadelphia rather than meet the other main British offensive of that year, a thrust south from Canada by John Burgoyne designed to cut off New England from the rest of the rebellious colonies. Howe captured Philadelphia, a victory which did not change the strategic situation at all due to the loose nature of the Continental Congress (capturing the city where the delegates met only meant they fled into the interior to reconvene at Lancaster and later York, Pennsylvania; the ability of each of the colonies to raise their own troops wasn't affected). Meanwhile, Burgoyne's army was defeated by the Americans at Saratoga and was captured shortly thereafter in the biggest turning point of the war (it was this battle that convinced France to openly support the Americans).
  • During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon managed to take Moscow after the Battle of Borodino. However, this trope was averted. The capital had already been largely abandoned and set ablaze in order to deny the French Emperor the prize. He spent about a month there before pulling out, faced with the harsh Russian winter. Low on supplies, his Grande Armée was quickly whittled down to a tiny fraction of its former self by the unforgiving elements and by constant Russian hit-and-run attacks. This contributed heavily to Napoleon's eventual defeat. Actually zigzagged in that Moscow was only the second capital of the imperial Russia after Saint Petersburg, which was never endangered.
  • The Burning of Washington during the War of 1812 is the only time the U.S. capital was overrun by an invading foreign army. The British burned a number of important structures, including the White House. While generally considered a major defeat for the Americans, the British were unable to do much to capitalize on the successful raid, a few weeks later being turned away in an attempt to take Fort McHenry and seize the nearby city of Baltimore.
  • The Mexican-American War ended when the U.S. Army captured Mexico City.
  • American Civil War
    • In the weeks proceeding the war Washington, D.C. almost got completely surrounded before the war even broke out! Maryland almost joined the Southern states in secession, and if that had happened, D.C. would have been surrounded on all sides by Confederate territory. A show of force by the Union Army got the state government to back down.
    • Both sides were aiming for this during the war. The Union ultimately succeeded in taking Richmond as the CSA fell apart after the Union pushed deep into the South.
  • World War I had a few.
    • After the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand II, the Austro-Hungarian General Staff originally wanted to quickly invade Serbia and seize their capital using overhwelming force sometime in July-August 1914 while the weight of international opinion was still on their side. However, they spent too long building up their forces and missed their window of opportunity. When war broke out in September, the Russian invasion of Galicia-Podolia and German East Prussia meant that the Austro-Hungarians had to shelve their plans for a Serbian Capital Offensive that year.
    • The German Army General Staff consistently favoured the course of action which reaped the greatest possible rewards, without accounting for the odds of success. Accordingly, they couldn't resist executing a Capital Offensive against France which held a possibility of winning the entire war in the space of just two years... even though they themselves were perfectly aware that the odds of them successfully pulling it off were nothing short of astronomical. The offensive foundered well short of Paris, having produced appreciably worse German losses and a diplomatic-geopolitical 'own goal' (the invasion of Belgium speeded British entry by many months, if not years) than if it had never been attempted at all.
    • In the late stages of the war Imperial Germany posed threat to Petrograd, then-capital of Russia. Expecting the enemy to take the city, the Bolsheviks largely pulled out and hastily designated Moscow as the capital once again. However, Leon Trotsky managed to rally the defense of the city and held it against the invaders. Despite this, Moscow remains the capital to this day.
  • World War II featured several.
    • In the Lower Yangzi Campaign of August-December 1937 the Imperial Japanese Army aimed not only to win the battle at Shanghai (Aug-Nov) but to secure the economic hub and national capital of Nanjing. The IJA believed that if this could be accomplished, the government of the Republic of China (under the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek) would have no choice but to sign a humiliating peace settlement with Japan. Nanjing was taken at a considerable cost to Chinese civilian dignity and life, but no surrender was forthcoming.
    • In the Wuhan Campaign of June-October 1938 the IJA attempted to capture the Republic of China's emergency capital along the mid-reaches of the Yangzi river. Despite the capture of the city and the destruction of virtually the entire Chinese fleet, Chinese surrender was still not forthcoming. Instead, continued Japanese brutality inspired the Chinese declaration that there would be no surrender, and that the war would only end with the total ousting of the invader or the utter destruction of independent China.
    • Fall Weiss, the September 1939 German invasion of Poland. While the Capital was an important symbol and logistical hub, the primary concern was with preventing Polish forces from conducting orderly withdrawals into the interior of their country. Soviet incursions from Belarus and Ukraine prevented withdrawals to the national redoubt area of Galicia-Podolia provinces (in the foothills of the Carpathians).
    • The Norwegian Campaign of April-June 1940 placed special emphasis upon the rapid seizure of Oslo, which was accomplished rapidly but not with sufficient surprise to capture King Hakon or the country's military-political leadership. Norwegian resistance persisted after the capture of the Capital and was bolstered by the arrival of a Franco-British force, but then quickly crumbled as said force was recalled to France.
    • The second phase of Fall Gelb (after the Belgian-Ardennes encirclements of the first phase that May). The June offensive to break through the badly-outnumbered French Army's staunch defenses in Artois and Picardy aimed to take Paris. After a gory slugfest with the French artillery, which matched the Germans' despite the French Army's 2:1 numerical inferiority, German mobile forces eventaully ground through the French defenses and into the undefended spaces beyond them. After the encirclement of half of the remaining half of the French Army, and the capture of Paris, the French abandoned planning to withdraw to a national redoubt area in Brittany and sued for peace.
    • "The Blitz" of September 1940-April 1941, when German attempts to destroy the Royal Air Force devolved into vengeance/morale-attacks upon British cities in general and the capital of London in particular. As one would expect of an anti-city campaign which failed to produce true firestorms capable of destroying entire conurbations in a matter of hours, the hoped-for effects of widespread civilian demoralization and industrial disruption did not manifest themselves.
    • Operation 25, the April 1941 Italo-German-Rumanian-Bulgarian invasion of Yugoslavia, had the capture of the Yugoslav Capital and railway hub of Belgrade as an ultimate objective once the encirclement and capture of Yugoslav forces in the border region had been accomplished.
    • Operation Marita, the April 1941 Italo-German-Bulgarian invasion of Greece, also sought to secure the enemy state's capital in a single campaign. As in Yugoslavia, this ended the hostile state's effective control of its territory but did not give the Axis powers effective control in turn.
    • Operation Barbarossa, the June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union, envisioned the largely or totally unopposed capture of the symbolic capital of world Socialism (Leningrad) and the political capital of the USSR (Moscow) by the end of August 1941. This was thought possible because the German Army believed that the Soviet troops massed within 200km of the Soviet-German border constituted 1/3 of the military strength that the Soviet Union had on-hand and could mobilise within two months. In reality, it was closer to a fifth of that figure and by mid-July 1941 German forces had run out of supplies and been halted by heavy resistance halfway to Leningrad and Moscow.
    • The Tikhvin Offensive and Operation Taifun, the German Army's October 1941 attempts to tighten the Siege of Leningrad and besiege (or capture) Moscow. Despite initial success in encircling Soviet forces deployed without a sufficient 'depth' of defence, neither came close to its objectives in anything but a highly superficial sense. Both critically overextended German forces for the Soviet Winter Counter-Offensive of December 1941. German losses in December-January 1941 made a near-future (sooner than 1943) German victory over the Soviet Union impossible, and rendered eventual German defeat likely.
    • This was one of the purposes of the 1942 Doolittle Raid, to demonstrate that the Japanese could be attacked in the heart of Tokyo itself. It did cause Japan to quickly recall one of its fleets from the Indian Ocean, giving the British a much-needed respite.
    • August 1944, with the Allies liberating France and approaching Paris, La Résistance seized the moment to launch a massive uprising that drove the Germans out of the city. Free French and U.S. forces entered shortly afterwards. The liberation of Paris was a sign that the war was nearing its conclusion, though it would still be nearly a year before Berlin fell (see below).
    • The Poles attempted this as well, but was sadly averted. At the conclusion of Operation Bagration, the Red Army had dealt a killing blow to the Wehrmacht and pushed all the way to the gates of Warsaw. Seeing this, the Polish Home Army believed the liberation of their city was at hand. However, they didn't realize that the Red Army had exhausted their offensive abilities and Stalin had no intention to allow a Poland with close ties to the West to exist in his sphere of influence. By the time the Soviets entered Warsaw in January 1945, the Home Army had been wiped out and the city had been flattened.
    • As the Allies invaded Germany in the closing months of the war, Berlin was left to the Soviets, who proceeded to take it in one last bloody battle. Quickly surrounding the city and brushing aside its 85,000 defenders were some 1.5 million Soviet combat troops. It was the final major battle in Europe during the war. Hitler committed suicide as the Soviets closed in. With Hitler dead and the Allies rapidly occupying virtually all remaining areas under German control, the new Fuhrer — Admiral Dönitz — surrendered unconditionally a week later.
    • Japanese military figures later claimed that the threat of using the atomic bomb on cultural center and former capital Kyoto was a significant influence on their decision to surrender. In reality, of course, they had cared no more for that particular city than they had for any of the 62 others than they had let the USNAF destroy (before the ground-battle-winning potential of the American's new tactical weapon had been revealed on #63 and #64).
  • Seoul was taken by North Korea during the initial stages of The Korean War, and then it was taken back after a lot of tug-of-war-styled stalls. It was pretty clear that the North would have wanted to capture the city for themselves since it was the political and cultural center of the peninsula for centuries, if it weren't for the armistice.
  • Without American support after over a decade of war, South Vietnam's defenses crumbled within weeks of the North's renewed offensive. By April 1975, Saigon was the last major point to fall, and its capture marked the end of the Vietnam War.
  • In the Salvadorean Civil War this was known as "la ofensiva", this was in part due to the government's officials not willing to take the peace talks seriously (several high ranking officers including the president wanted to just kill them all by eating their own propaganda), and the rebels (FMLN also known as "la guerrilla") devising a plan to bring the war to the capital city and some other important points. This accomplished the pressure to make sure the Peace Treaty talks worked.
  • The capture of Baghdad, punctuated with the famed toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue, helped mark the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unfortunately, for the Americans, capturing the city turned out to be the easy part. Occupying it turned out to be a different story...
  • Terrorist groups have their own variation of this trope. Setting off a big attack in a major capital will get one loads of attention, and makes up for the fact that they don't have any conventional means of hitting the seat of government. The 9/11 attacks saw the Pentagon get hit, and the 2015 Paris attacks would also be included in this variation. Unfortunately nowadays, since terrorist groups are not an actual nation, while this does get the world to sit up and take notice of them it goes in all the wrong directions, making the world even more determined to wipe the terrorists out.

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