So I’m currently stuck between the peninsula-map and this one .

Between the two, which would make more sense for the federal government to have control over 17 years after zombies and a virus both wiped out 82% of mankind? What map would be more realistic if the government wanted to retake and liberate the entire country?

Also, because I know people are gonna bring it up:

  • Washington was initially abandoned by the government but in the city, there were stranded soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen as well as various federal and city law enforcement officers who all formed a joint coalition to try and hold onto the city while fighting zombies, gangs, and marauders. After a year in hiding, the government reorganized itself and with whatever remaining military forces still under its command, the government came back into Washington and liberated the city.

  • President Obama worked to expand federal control. He consolidated federal control in the old borders of DC before expanding the borders to one of the maps above.

  • My zombies; the majority of zombies in my world are like the Walking Dead and World War Z zombies where they’re slow and move in herds/hordes whenever possible. However, they’re all capable of increasing their speed up to a regular jogging level if needed. A new type of zombies (named the “Enforcer” class) has also been discovered. They’re physically stronger than the regular zombies and also have the mental capacity of a 6-7 year old (however, they cannot speak). They’re also much more aggressive and can take control of a group of zombies. Enforcers are also able to utilize basic tactics and strategies, such as luring people in or “ordering” zombie groups to attack in waves.

  • The government is based in Washington for practical and symbolic reasons. The infrastructure is already there to support a federal government and holding onto Washington gives the government legitimacy since they’re now in possession of important national symbols like the White House, the Capitol, Supreme Court, and National Mall as well as historical artifacts like the Freedom Documents.

  • $\begingroup$ The "practical reasons" don't make much sense, although I can understand starting in DC for symbolic reasons. Realistically they're going to start from wherever the survivors held out during the initial attack. An island (like New York City) makes some sense, or a military base. If the army re-takes Washington and then the rest of the country, the borders would be continually changing. It doesn't make a lot of sense to draw a map of the borders unless they stop changing for a while. Or perhaps if your characters build a wall around DC, you might map it. $\endgroup$
    – workerjoe
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ Do the words "federal government" and "liberate" really belong in the same question? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Yes? I get what you mean but "liberate" is the term governments and politicians use when they want to get rid of something and want to distract people from remembering how much it cost to do so. "Freedom is priceless" or something. Would totally make sense during a zombie apocalypse because it would have been very expensive in all the ways and the government would not want to remind people of that. Because then people would wonder why it was so expensive and the answer is usually "incompetence of politicians" to some degree. $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2020 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ You should also be mindful of natural and artificial barriers. You have a bump in your borders that spreads over mountais. It seems to not add any additional resources. It could be safer to maintain borders at the mountains. Similar with highways, they could be made the borders to ease with patrolling. $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2020 at 6:39
  • $\begingroup$ @SokPomaranczowy you mean the bump near Martinsburg? That bump there contains the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, which is home to the 167th Airlift Wing of the WV Air National Guard. I thought about making the border flow against the mountain but the airport was already so close to the mountains that I just decided to incorporate it. Plus, there are also other strategic sites and locations in that bump. $\endgroup$
    – user69268
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 14:50

4 Answers 4



I live in Washington DC and I can speak to the local geography. The biggest difference between the two maps is whether or not you include the waterfront of Saint Mary's county. As @Kepotx points out, there is a tactical advantage to waterfront real estate. The end of the peninsula is a state park called Lookout Point, which was a military base created for the War of 1812. As the name suggests, it's a great place to watch for enemy movements. Someone swimming with the ability of a 7 year old should be easy to detect. Even more important is the fact the peninsula contains Naval Air Station Patuxent River (pictured below). Both maps contain Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling and other military resources, but you'd be well served by having another airbase from which to launch operations.

Naval Air Station Patuxent River

Food is another reason to expand your waterfront. There's a long history of seafood in the Chesapeake Bay. DC has two beautiful rivers but you don't necessarily want to fish them.

Is there a reason that the peninsula map has that extra bit of land on the west near Martinsburg? It makes sense to have the border near the mountains/I-66 since mountains give you a terrain advantage.

Option 3: Raven Rock

In reality, the US federal has long made plans to abandon Washington DC in the case of a nuclear war or other cataclysm. The Raven Rock compound has played into many of these plans. There's even a book about it with the subtle title Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself – While the Rest of Us Die.

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    $\begingroup$ That bulge near Martinsburg contains the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, which is home to the 167th Airlift Wing of the WV Air National Guard. I thought about making the airport a satellite FOB where troops get deployed to every couple of months but it was already so lose to the new borders that I just decided to incorporate it into DC-proper. $\endgroup$
    – user69268
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 21:47
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    $\begingroup$ @user69268 got it, now I understand. If air bases are important to you then you definitely don't want to lose the NAS on the peninsula. $\endgroup$ Commented May 14, 2020 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ Underground strongholds are great short-term fall back plans, but most foods and medicines can't be stored for that long. Certain dehydrated fruits and grains can last up to 30 years, but most of your canned meat and beans will go bad after 6, and at 15 your peanut butter will expire leaving you without any proteins. After 17 years, Raven Rock will need to be supported by above ground farms meaning that the government will need to claim some above ground territory to survive. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 3:22

Peninsula map

Assuming zombies can't swim, ocean is a very good border. Even against other humans, number of people coming from seas is limited by logistics, much more than in land, and it will be easier to see. You have more land, without the struggle to defend a border.

It's not only good for defense, but it is also a good source of food, river + sea will give you lot of fish.

Again, water is safe. May you trade with other cities, you would probably try to have a secure trade route, and as sea is safe, sea route may be a good thing to have.

Given those advantages, I think conquering land in the south-east until reaching the coast would be a good priority.


If we are making the assumption that the Federal Government has survived and actually has communications and can exert control over Federal institutions across the country, then we have both a plausible starting point for a story, and an answer to your map issue: a map of the Continental United States plus overseas territories and possessions. This would include marking all surviving things like the Diego Garcia base in the Pacific Ocean to National Parks scattered across the nation. Without the ability to command the manpower and resources across the United States, any claim to be the Federal Government is a fiction - the "President" is effectively the warlord of Washington DC (regardless of which map you are using).

Indeed, other warlords who have access to better resource bases may be far more able to establish effective claims to the territories of the United States, although how much they would choose to claim and how much they would actually control is probably more a measure of their resource base, ambition and common sense. The warlord of the nearby Shenandoah Valley would have access to fairly rich agricultural lands, nearby coal deposits and a reasonably defensible perimeter against foot armies and groups with limited mechanization or numbers. His opinion of the "President" might simply be to blow off Washington's edicts, unless they have the power to actually enforce them.

And this is the real crux of the matter. Nations can fall apart without a "zombie apocalypse" if the government no longer has the power to enforce its laws, collect taxes or control its territory. The dismemberment of China in the 1800's or indeed a lot of the history of Colonialism is simply stronger and better organized forces sweeping aside weak local rulers and displacing or coopting the pre existing structures and institutions. The collapse of the USSR was similarly due to the Communist party apparatus no longer being able to enforce their edicts, or even muster enough popular support to remain in power - the USSR essentially evaporated.

If the President can still call on the Marines in 29 Palms or Pendelton, then any would be "Warlord of Los Angeles" is going to have a difficult time asserting their independence or claims to LA, the rest of California or the United States. Similarly, people moving in from Canada or Mexico are not going to be able to assert claims to "Alta Mexico" or the Oregon Territories if there is still an effective US military force willing and able to defend the borders (while local warlords might do this as well, it is for the protection of their territories, not that of the Sovereign United States).

So the actual issue with the Washington map is it only one of the multitude of places that still remain true to their oaths to defend the Constitution from "All Enemies Foreign and Domestic", and with the resources to make it stick. The larger area makes sense from the perspective that there is more farmland available to support the population, and any potential invaders will have to fight through fortified farms, local strong points and barricades if they are determined to take Washington by land (the British, of course, simply Sailed up Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River during the War of 1812 to burn Washington), but without the control of the resources of the pre apocalyptic United States, it will only be one of a multitude of micro nations, and not even the strongest (What happens when the Warlord of Richmond decides to finish the Civil War on his terms?).

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    $\begingroup$ 'Yeah, wut?' +1. Governments control people, not zombies. The military is next door, and they won't see a difference between the two maps because both of them require gigantic walls (actually the non-peninsula wall would be smaller. In reality it'd either be tiny, or the whole shabang, +2. And this reads like you didn't even look at the maps, +3). $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 2:00
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    $\begingroup$ The maps are irrelevant to the actual nature of the question. If the President is going to assert control over the United States, then he needs the resources, loyalty and cooperation of the surviving government apparatus throughout the United States, otherwise he is simply the Warlord of Washington DC. If he does have the access and cooperation of American assets, then it doesn't matter if he is in Washington DC or a cabin in the woods. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 19:15

Okay, so, first problem with both maps is that the Raven Rock Mountain Complex is not included in either. Being the US government's hiding hole in the advent of exactly the kind of apocalypse that is described, it would probably be the effective administrative capitol even if Washington DC was reclaimed and reinhabited. I buy that DC would be used as a symbolic capital for legitimacy's sake, but in a world where zombies are still a threat, and especially one where that threat seems to be increasing again, whatever was left in DC would probably get packed up and lugged back to Raven Rock, just in case.

With that out of the way-

What people are missing is the idea of a 'buffer.' If the surviving government, rather than annexing right up to the waterfront, set up a de-facto military government for the regions around DC in order to catch and pick apart the kinds of hordes that practically took down civilization, they'd be significantly more secure in their control of the District of Colombia itself. Of course, the welcome side effect is that in this period of massive instability, the capital would be significantly better protected if a popular uprising or rebellious state decided to move on them. As for farmland, I find it realistic for the soldiers to grow crops, given it has happened historically and being exposed in an open field is now a much more dangerous thing without a weapon and training.

It's defiantly a neo-feudal thing, which might not be what you're going for, but without the kind of manpower, established economic force, and broad-scale public safety against what are effectively wildlife attacks, a decentralized defense-in-depth makes a lot more sense than sending out the airplanes and tanks as a single unified army to annihilate the threats one at a time.

With zombies in particular, small, local and largely self-sufficient fortified garrisons protecting an urban center with the kind of immigration pull a resecured DC would have makes even more sense. Even when Americans in DC lacked voting rights, it still attracted a massive urban population, as any capital tends to.

With few exceptions, they will be fighting smaller, more numerous hordes, only coming together when the government detects a particularly large horde. When that happens, small and manned fortifications would be able to keep the horde distracted until help arrived, given how most zombies tend to only target a single thing at a time. This can result in some great moments, if zombies appear that are significantly more tactically-minded, leading a horde straight past the bunkers to the city of DC. The military would have probably gotten quite used to the strategy, and response times would have gotten slow after 19 years of learning how the things worked.

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    $\begingroup$ The neo-feudalism idea with a military government to rule the areas outside of DC-proper is really intriguing. The thing is though, sadly yeah, I want a unified force and unified state and I feel like a military government ruling in the name of the federal government as well as a decentralized defense doctrine might be somewhat problematic (but this is a really interesting idea. I’m definitely incorporating it into my world in some way if you don’t mind). And what do you think about satellite settlements or colonies being established away from DC in strategic and resource-rich areas? $\endgroup$
    – user69268
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 3:17
  • $\begingroup$ Anyone who tells you not to use their ideas has never tried to write anything. Lift, and lift frequently, from anyone and everywhere. $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2020 at 3:24
  • $\begingroup$ I think small settlements would spring up wether the government liked it or not, no nation has yet managed that level of control over the movement of people. It would seem real out of character for the USA of all nations to stomp on them. They'd be built a lot sturdier though, less 'frontier village' or 'commune' and more 'walled township.' I think the smaller they got the better fortified they'd be, ranging from 'open metropolis' to 'Farmer Brown's Bunker,' but I could be convinced otherwise. $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2020 at 3:47

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