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A phase where the focus is upon increase the amount of a game world on controls.

In some games players can gain control of parts of the game worlds. Those games where a part of game instances typically focus upon this activity are said to have Expansion phases.

Note: The pattern dealing with additional content to games is the similarly named Expansions.


Master of Orion and Civilization series have Expansion phases in their gameplay arcs following initial exploration. The Europa Universalis series has this to a lesser extent in the form of nations with the idea group "Quest for the New World" being able to explore and colonize areas of the world without existing organized settlements.

Matches in the Starcraft series typically start directly with Expansion phases since players are likely to know the maps being played already.

Using the pattern

While there are some basic requirements of Game Worlds in terms of size for Expansion to be possible, more specific patterns control if and when it occurs in gameplay instances. Having Ownership of parts of Game Worlds can be seen as one definition of the pattern, and this can be enabled either by occupation of Territories or by Construction of Bases or Installations. Entrenching Gameplay or the growth of Area Control and Zone of Control stemming from these can be the most direct indication that one is in Expansion phases of a game instance. Given players Gain Ownership goals can make moving in Expansion phases literal commandments to them.

The possibility of Expansion and the rate at which it is possible can be controlled rather easily in game designs. This through limiting Expansion possibilities until access to the right New Abilities, Technologies, or Units have been achieved. By introducing costs related to Expansion, it may also be required that players have achieved sufficiently good Gameplay Engines. When the gameplay making up Expansion focuses on Construction or the creation of Gameplay Engines the end of the phase can be described as a Construction/Scoring Phase Shift and modified by the specifics of how such a shift occurs.

The location of these in Game Worlds - as well as the size and terrain in these - greatly affect the directions Expansion will take and how long this phase can continue in games. The possibility of Pottering can also affect how long players wish to stay in the phase if they can choose.

Expansion is typically design to be a gameplay phase occurring after Game World Exploration. This can be followed by Exploitation and then optionally Extermination. The use of all four of these X phases define 4X games[1].


Due to that it often makes use of Area Control and Construction, the presence of Expansion is likely to give rise to Abstract Player Construct Development in a game. It is often part of the Middlegame of a game when Maps are not known at the beginning of gameplay, otherwise it is likely part of the Startgame (as is the case in most game instances in the Starcraft games).


Can Instantiate

Abstract Player Construct Development, Middlegame, Startgame

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Area Control, Bases, Construction, Entrenching Gameplay, Gain Ownership, Installations, Ownership, Territories, Zone of Control

Can Be Modulated By

Construction/Scoring Phase Shift, Game Worlds, Gameplay Engines, New Abilities, Pottering, Technologies, Units

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Quick Games


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Wikipedia entry for 4X games