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Pieces of game worlds that are owned by agents of those worlds.

Games with game worlds can have struggles over these worlds as part of their gameplay. This divides the game worlds into Territories owned by different players, possibly separated by wilderness, which become resources in the competitions or rivalries between them.


Go is probably the oldest game that concerns claiming Territories as one's own.

The Civilization series and other grand strategy games such as Axis & Allies, Risk, the Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, and Victoria series, all let players expand their domains by taking over other players' Territories. All but Axis & Allies, Risk, and the Hearts of Iron series also support the colonization of "wilderness" areas.

Having control over the steadily decreasing numbers of Territories in Greed Corp is vital for winning the game.

The gameplay in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, and in many cases the Battlefield series and Team Fortress series, can be described as team battles over Territories.

Many Real-Time Strategy Games such as the Command & Conquer, Starcraft, and Warcraft series, do not use Territories even if the core gameplay in these games revolve around controlling access to resources in the game worlds. The same applies for wargames such as Advanced Squad Leader.

Using the pattern

Territories is primarily used in games as a way of formalizing Area Control in game systems. Inserting the Territories pattern in a game design requires that one provides ways of defining areas owned, why this is important for gameplay, and what players can do to change the Ownership of Territories. An alternative to Territories is to use Bases or a combination of both.

Assigning Ownership to Tiles is the typical solution for defining whom owns what part of a Game World, be it Tiles in grids of squares (e.g. the Civilization series), grids of hexes (e.g. Civilization V and Greed Corp), or custom-shaped areas (e.g. Axis & Allies, Risk, and the Europa Universalis series). Go shows that the empty space between placed Tokens can define Territories and the Battlefield series than it suffices to only keep track of a few locations to structure gameplay.

The presence of Territories imply that Ownership can change and that players can have Gain Ownership goals. The reasons for these goals provide one set of design options regarding Territories. Besides simply having certain Territories, or control over a certain percentage of all Territories as Enforced Goals, players can be motivated to seek control of parts of Game Worlds because they contain beneficial Environmental Effects, Installations, Resource Generators, Resource Locations, or otherwise are Strategic Locations. Requiring control over Territories to access Location-Fixed Abilities, either through what the Territories contain or by their inherent nature, is another reason to want control over them. Causing Damage to the common Health of enemy Teams or avoiding receiving it provides a motivation in the Battlefield series. While Territories in themselves are usually passive game elements, they can instantiate Zone of Control (as for example done in the Civilization series).

How players should be able to Gain Ownership of Territories can be solved in several ways. Being the only player or Team in an area is a common solution and links Territories to Eliminate goals; possibly after Camping in the areas for some time to prove real control. This is also one way to make Area Control important to Gain Ownership but having one may not automatically confer the other; Controlling areas in the Victoria series do not give Ownership of these, these are Transfer of Control effects of peace accords. Likewise enemy Units can move through areas in the Civilization series and pillage these but this does not confer Ownership. Investments, e.g. sending settlers to areas in the Europa Universalis series or "deploying" them in the Civilization series, are typically used to convert wilderness areas into Territories.

While Territories can formalize aspects of Area Control, e.g. access to Location-Fixed Abilities, the two patterns can also work independently of each other. One example of this can be found in the Europa Universalis series where Territories allow their owners to produce new Units there by not if another player has Area Control over it.

When Territories are Abstract Player Constructs they can usually also be subject to Naming and Abstract Player Construct Development.

A special case of Territories which has many design choices already implied is Private Game Spaces.

Interface Aspects

Ownership of Territories often need to be presented in game interfaces, or rather, in the Game Worlds themselves. This is typically done through having a colored overlay on the Game Worlds, and by being a form of Geospatial Game Widget breaks Diegetic Consistency.


Territories change Game Worlds and Levels by dividing them into the domains of the players. Using Territories is one way of providing the Ownership pattern in games, and since very rarely the Ownership is permanent Territories also typically provide Gain Ownership goals. This is more likely if the Territories contain Location-Fixed Abilities that are Privileged Abilities due to being scarce (e.g. the supply points in Diplomacy). Being game elements that can change Ownership can make Territories into Resources, especially when they contain Resource Generators, but can also cause Tension and Risk/Reward choices of what Territories to defend.

Territories can be used to define Abstract Player Constructs even if they relate to parts of Game Worlds since these parts are not considered part of a player's Focus Loci. Adding new Territories can in these cards be a way to provide Abstract Player Construct Development and when this becomes the focus of gameplay Expansion phases come into being.


Can Instantiate

Abstract Player Constructs, Area Control, Expansion, Ownership, Privileged Abilities, Resources, Risk/Reward, Tension, Zone of Control

with Abstract Player Constructs

Abstract Player Construct Development

with Area Control, Eliminate, Investments, or Transfer of Control

Gain Ownership

Can Modulate

Area Control, Game Worlds, Levels, Location-Fixed Abilities

Can Be Instantiated By

Private Game Spaces, Tiles

Can Be Modulated By

Abstract Player Construct Development, Camping, Environmental Effects, Geospatial Game Widgets, Installations, Naming, Resource Generators, Resource Locations, Strategic Locations

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Diegetic Consistency when used together with Geospatial Game Widgets


New pattern created in this wiki.




Karl Bergström