Attack Pattern Alpha

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

USS Prometheus Computer: Specify attack pattern.
The Doctor: Attack pattern... Alpha?
USS Prometheus Computer: Specify target.
(the Doctor and the EMH Mark II exchange glances)
The Doctor & EMH Mark II: ROMULANS!

Star Trek: Voyager"Message in a Bottle"

When the good guys are in The Army, part of The Squad or even on a space ship, they're bound to get into a lot of fights, and what better way to show that you take this seriously than by going into Attack Pattern Alpha? Attack patterns are a convenient way of saying, "The good guys attack the bad guys and they know what they're doing," without going into any detail whatsoever.

Attack Pattern Alpha has almost as many names as Gandalf; usually it's a Greek letter followed by a number, and possibly a color. For a team, it usually involves choreographed moves with all team members going into stock poses with their weapon of choice, perhaps with an All Your Colors Combined thrown in for good measure. For less colorful occasions, it will be all team members attacking from different directions or even feinting to distract an opponent.

Space ships or fighter planes will usually go into a formation, do some fancy flying and shoot to blow stuff up. This can get hilarious if the show heavily recycles footage, as last week's Wronski Feint can become tonight's Attack Pattern Alpha.

Related to Time for Plan B. If done excessively, this can become Calling Your Attacks. Not to be confused with Alpha Strike.

Examples of Attack Pattern Alpha include:

Anime and Manga

  • One issue of the Cowboy Bebop manga has Faye, Jet, and Spike being interviewed about the bounty hunter life when suddenly work becomes a more pressing priority. Jet calls for the team to adopt Formation C. The interviewer is slightly disillusioned to learn that Formation C is "Wing it." It doesn't help when she's told that Formation A is "Take it as it comes," and Formation B is something like "First come, first served."
  • Digimon
  • Ozma Lee in Macross Frontier names the SMS attack manoeuvres after Fire Bomber songs.
  • Not even Code Geass is immune to this.
    • It once calls out attack pattern Sigma, instead of Alpha. Justified in that the formation really looks like the Greek letter sigma and it actually does work as a mid-battle ambush.
    • It gets somewhat ludicrous at the end of R2, when Lelouch throws around intricate (and poetic) formation names to his army in preparation for his battle with Schneizel, though the strategies do serve to reinforce the Chess Motifs.
    • The Four Holy Swords do this constantly.
  • One Piece
  • Naruto
    • "Manji formation" in an early episode. Manji formation apparently means "stand in a rough circle, all facing outwards, in front of the guy you're supposed to be protecting, leaving his back totally exposed."
      • Presumably, their fourth member (Kakashi) was covering the fourth side and the target's back, which would explain why the assassin ended up hitting the target from the front. Just... from farther away and out of sight.
    • Team 7 and Team 8 try "Formation B" against Tobi, but it doesn't work because he's an Intangible Man.
  • Lampshaded in Angel Densetsu: "I call this strategy triangle attack alpha!" "So, basically is just surrounding a guy and jumping him together, right?"
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Subaru and Teana have at least two (and quite possibly three or more) Cross Shifts. They use Cross Shift A against some drones, which consists of Subaru seemingly acting as a diversion while Teana shoots from behind (one stray shot almost hits Subaru). They also use Cross Shift C against Nanoha during the mock battle in Episode 8, which mainly consists of Subaru attacking Nanoha head-on and Teana jumping down on her with Dagger Mode while she's distracted by an illusionary Teana elsewhere (this doesn't end well).
  • In Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, Goryo, an executor who is skilled at using tactics in exorcisms, uses Maneuver 108 with Ebisu in an attempt to corner and trap a spirit.
  • Gundam
    • Mobile Suit Gundam has the Black Tri-stars and their Jetstream Attack. It didn't work too well. In fairness, the Jetstream Attack (which involves the Tri-Stars lining up and attacking the enemy one after the other) was developed back when only their side had Humongous Mecha and their opponents had ineffective tanks and fighter planes. When faced against an opposing pilot with actual skill and a decent machine, they were thwarted handily.
    • The Jetstream Attack also shows up in Gundam Seed Destiny (used by Expies of the Tri-Stars), G Gundam (used by random thugs against Domon; fails spectacularly) and even Yakitate!! Japan (by the actual Tri-Stars. Kinda.).

Comic Books

  • In the Marvel Universe, Captain America (comics) and Cyclops are fond of announcing maneuvers along these lines.
  • X-Men
    • X-Men who train in the Danger Room together sometimes come up with such codenames for their maneuvers. ("Colossus! Fastball Special!")
    • Sentinels also have a tendency to use attack patterns in battle.
  • Even Deadpool is known to use them, albeit in a less than traditional way : "Oh, no-- he sees us! Quick -- evasive strategy 423! Hide behind the person in front of you!"
  • Parodied in Fantastic Four, when a PR man accompanies the family on a "Sunday drive" (visiting another dimension and saving a Starfish Alien from predators).

Ben: Mission accomplished! Gimme a lift, Suzie?
Sue: Maneuver 17-A?
Ben: Oh, my Aunt Petunia, stop showin' off 'cause we got company! I can barely remember our phone number, okay? Just let down a friggin' line!


Fan Works

  • In Stephen Brian Ratliff's Marissa Picard storys [sic], the title Mary Sue has a playbook consisting of a wide variety of Attack Patterns, all starting with her own name. Many use the names of classical composers to distinguish them from all the other Marrissa Attack Patterns.
  • From Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:

Calvin: Engage Emergency Protocol #5557490!
MTM: Whatever.


Calvin: MTM, initiate emergency protocol number 2235!
MTM: I can't believe you can remember all these numbers.



  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie has Plankton initiating Evil Plan Z, after he remembers that the alphabet doesn't stop at Y.
  • In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, during the snowspeeder battle on Hoth, Luke orders "Attack Pattern Delta"—which appears to be flying in a single file line. Although if you keep watching, you'll notice that the four snowspeeders line up in a straight line, curve to the right as a group, and then split into pairs to take out two walkers. Presumably the split is where they get the name "delta"..
    • The EU confirms that "Attack Pattern Delta" in this context refers to advancing in single file and then peeling off at the last minute, to present a smaller target to the AT-AT's relatively clumsy weapons. See the article on Wookieepedia.
    • One of the Star Wars arcade games treats Attack Pattern Delta as an offensive action, where three snowspeeders concentrate their fire on a single point in an enemy's armor.
    • Repeatedly parodied, usually taking the form of "Attack Pattern Delta consists of flying straight at the enemy in the only direction they can actually shoot back".
    • The expanded universe also mentions a "Base Delta Zero" naval code—which meant destroying everything on the surface of a planet. (This info is also on the Earthshattering Kaboom page).
    • The Expanded Universe has established quite a collection of these. See here.
  • The film Real Steel has a slightly different use of this trope, with the robotic boxer "Noisy Boy" had several combination attacks programmed into his voice control including Gravity Slam Uptown, Shogun Trinity, and Full Metal Feud. Given the protagonist bought Noisy from the original Japanese owners, the protagonist has no clue how to use him, and just starts yelling random combos to very poor effect.
  • Played with in the Bowery Boys movies. Just before a fight, Slip Mahoney would instruct the guys, "Routine five!" or something like that. It actually just amounted to going in and randomly throwing punches.
  • From Doctor Strangelove: "Wing Attack Plan R? R for Romeo?" The plan is, of course, to nuke the borscht out of Russia, should the normal chain of command have broken down (e.g., from a Soviet nuclear first-strike).
  • The eponymous Plan 9 from Outer Space, which "deals with the resurrection of the dead." Plans 1 through 8 must have been embarrassingly bad.
  • In Starship Troopers, main characters Rico and Diz develop a football play called "flip six three hole", which when adapted to combat involves Rico somersaulting over an opponent, turning 180° in the air and kick ass.
  • From, of all places, Blazing Saddles. The end result was the women stampeded and the cattle raped.

Hedley Lamarr: What are we going to do about Rock Ridge?
Taggart: I got it, I got it! We'll work up a Number 6 on 'em.
Hedley Lamarr: Number 6? I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that one.
Taggart: That's where we go a-ridin' into town, a-whampin' and whompin' every living thing that moves within an inch of its life! Except the women folks of course.
Hedley Lamarr: You spare them?
Taggart: Nah, we rape the shit out of them at the Number 6 Dance later on.

  • Played with in Men in Black. Agents K and J are preparing to shoot the evil alien's ship:

K: (fiddles with his gun) Set for pulsar level five, sub-sonic implosion factor two.
J: What?
K: Just shoot the damn thing on the count of three! One...

  • XXX: State of the Union uses one of these this, both to establish a shared history between two characters, and in its Attack Pattern Alpha sense:

Gibbons: You get any exercise in here?
Stone: Twelve to 1 every day on the yard.
Gibbons: 12:06 tomorrow. Bravo Delta High Sign.
Stone: High Sign?
Gibbons: High Sign. Be just like old times.
Stone: You better hope not. Because last time out didn't have such a happy ending.


Rudy Gunn: What happened in Panama?
Al Gordinio: We weren't in Panama, we were in Guatemala!
Rudy Gunn: Then why is it called a Panama?!
Al Gordinio: We thought we were in Panama!

  • Red Cliff, being an adaptation of the famous battle of Chi Bi as told by The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, features several classic Chinese battle formations (organized via flags and drumbeats) that go at least as far back as the Warring States period: in Zhou Yu's introductory scene, he is drilling his soldiers in the "Goose" formation (one that Zhuge Liang disses as "past its time"); later, Cao Cao's land army is routed by a "Turtle" formation; and in the climactic final battle, the Wu troops storm the opposing shore in a very Roman-looking square formation.
  • During the climax to WarGames, the WOPR runs a series of nuclear war simulations on the monitors at NORAD. They are given names like "Hong Kong Variant," "Cuban Provocation," "SEATO Decapitation," and "Iceland Maximum". They might mean different things e.g. who launches their nukes first, but they all end up at same final state.


  • In Transformers, "Roll out Strike Package Bravo." All the scenes in the AWACS were not scripted, Michael Bay just asked the real-life Air Force controllers to talk as if they were really in battle. One controller later said that Michael Bay really liked the phrase "Killbox 1-Alpha".
  • The Flying V in The Mighty Ducks. The only time it might fail is if the Ducks are playing the Final Boss team. Justified, as that formation would work well against a more stick-handling defense (which the earlier teams tend to be), but a more physically aggressive defense (which the Final Boss team always seems to use) can easily break it up.
  • Star Trek V the Final Frontier had fun with this as well. With Klingons eavesdropping on the comm channel, Kirk needed a shrewd way of telling the bridge crew that he intended to have his shuttle land at full speed without even trying to avoid a crash:

Kirk: Stand by for Emergency Landing Plan... B.
Chekov: What's Emergency Landing Plan B?
Scotty: I don't have a clue...
Kirk: B, as in... "barricade".
Scotty: He can't be serious.

  • Star Trek: Insurrection also has the Riker Maneuver, which consists of collecting as much volatile gas as possible, dumping it in front of the enemy ships and running. However, this was named for him afterwards, which seems to be fairly standard with there also being the Picard Manoeuvre (using a FTL jump to present a duplicate sensor reading a ship with no FTL sensors), and the below example. The Defiant and NX-01 also do one called L-4, which is essentially an aerial loop IN SPACE to get behind a pursuing ship.
  • Riker orders Defense Pattern Kirk Epsilon in Star Trek: Nemesis during the Bazen Rift battle.
    • This makes for a bit of Fridge Brilliance: Kirk was the first Starfleet captain to engage a warship that could fire while cloaked. The battle in Bazen Rift involved the Enterprise-E and two Romulan Warbirds fighting a warship with this ability turned up to eleven. It makes sense that defensive tactics for this situation would be named after Kirk.
    • Meanwhile Shinzon initiates the realspace battle with "Attack Pattern Shinzon Theta".
  • Briefly played for laughs (and for awesome) in The Avengers:

Captain America: Hulk? Smash.



  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe is, naturally, chock-full of these babies. Attack Run Rancor Alderaan Niner, anyone? Or how about a Cracken Twist, or a Thrawn Pincer? Not an Ackbar Slash, though. Never an Ackbar Slash.
  • Subverted in Ender's Game: every team in Battle School has a large collection of formations and manoeuvres they use, letting the commander quickly and easily control everything his team does. Ender, on the other hand, tends to give his team much more general instructions, and the resulting flexibility lets them make mincemeat of their opponents.
  • The James Bond novel Diamonds Are Forever has the hitmen Wint and Kidd use codes based on American Football signals between each other.
  • Samuel R. Delaney's Babel-17, quite apart from the languages, incorporeal navigation and biological modification going on, features a captain directing a fleet via clinical psychiatry terms. When the heroine grabs the mike off the captain and turns the tide of a battle by speaking to the ships in the same kind of language, she explains that it all made sense in the Babel-17 language she's been deciphering, indicating that there may be more to Babel-17 than just words.
  • Justified Trope in Honor Harrington, as the tactical officers are frequently shown analyzing various tactical situations beforehand and devising firing and movement patterns for use in such situations. Crews are later drilled in these patterns, which are, quite naturally, given reference names.
  • Warhammer 40,000 novels

"Damocles, form and cover, Hades spread!"

    • Abnett's Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies both use a combat language called Glossia, which is an elaborate and often invented-on-the-spot system of attack patterns and generally useful code.
  • Justified in Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy. When Soviet bombers are making a last-ditch attack on the American-led NATO strike fleet that is tasked with retaking Iceland, one of the radar controllers orders the carrier aircraft into Plan Delta. From the context of the scene, this is presumably the plan worked up to deal with bombers closing from two directions, with heavy radar jamming support. Also, since Strike Fleet Atlantic had been clobbered by Soviet bombers much earlier in the book, having multiple plans to deal with the threat a second time makes good tactical sense.
  • Dune has entire battle languages for the Sardaukar and household troops to give orders or report without being understood by their enemies.
  • Subverted in one of the Shadowrun novels, when an ex-government assassin gets mentally caught up in his training, and starts barking out code names for maneuvers to his teammates... who are street-thugs with no clue what he's talking about.
  • In one of the Star Trek novels, Attack Pattern Alpha is described as salvo-firing forward weapons, then rolling to the right to avoid return fire.
  • In The Sea of Monsters, this trope is very nearly named outright when Percy, Clarisse, and Grover take on Polyphemus using "attack plan Macedonia."
  • In The Ringworld Throne, Luis Wu teaches Chmee's son Acolyte the value of predetermined actions, and in training until performing said actions are second nature. He compares it to an astronaut being trained so that the first thing he does in an emergency situation is put on his pressure suit without actually having to think about doing it, and then asks if wtsai (the Kzinti knife-fighting martial art in which Acolyte has been trained) has a "a default maneuver; a move that is used when you are surprised or if you aren't really sure which move to use." Turns out there is one: the disembowel.
  • In the Sea of Monsters Percy Jackson and company use 'Attack Plan Macedonia' on the Cyclops Polyphemus. It doesn't work so well for them.
  • The True Game has a wide variety of these, whose names are derived from the setting's Character Class System (twelve individual magical talents in various combinations). The first three books (in order of publication) are named after some of these, specifically King's Blood Four, Necromancer Nine, and Wizard's Eleven.

Live-Action TV

  • Used in every Star Trek series. It's just one shade above "evasive maneuvers", which is the third most popular Trek command in combat (after "Red Alert" and "raise shields").
    • Played with in Star Trek: Voyager, as noted in the page quote above. The Doctor finds himself on the experimental Prometheus, and is trying to order it to defend itself from Romulan attack. The computer asks for an attack pattern. "Attack pattern... Alpha?" he tries, which is of course a valid pattern.
    • Done repeatedly in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, where a character would come up with a computer program to deal with the problem of the week and name it after himself. The climax would occur when the character would charge into the room and yell "Computer, run program My Name One!", which would then flood the room with Applied Phlebotinum and destroy the Negative Space Wedgie. The previous program of the same name would always be overwritten (or at least renamed to something less immediate), since they would never have to deal with that particular problem again (at least not on-camera).
    • The actual phrase "attack pattern ___" (typically Delta, Omega, Theta) comes up a lot when Sisko's commanding the Defiant, and yet it never looks quite the same each time. In one episode where he ends up in the mirror universe, he orders mirror-O'Brien to use Delta against a massive Klingon juggernaut. O'Brien has no idea what Sisko's talking about, so he specifies "port to starboard, hard." Presumably, he walks O'Brien through the rest of the steps.
    • In that same mirror universe episode, Sisko orders a run at the aforementioned Klingon juggernaut, which mirror-O'Brien dubs "pattern suicide".
    • Series/Star Trek: TNG also used a variant of this where they replaced the greek letter name with the name of an in-universe historical character. In one battle Commander Riker ordered "Attack Pattern Kirk One". A pleasant nod to a previous Enterprise captain, it also reveals that starfleet captains may have innovative combat maneuvers named after them.
    • The Picard Maneuver. In-universe, this is a tactic that exploited Faster-Than-Light Travel: if you time it right, the enemy will detect not just your ship but also the limited-to-lightspeed image of where-it-used-to-be, and then hopefully shoot the wrong one. On set, this was the nickname the other actors gave to Patrick Stewart's habit of tugging his costume's tunic down every time he sat down to ensure a camera friendly appearance (all the actors were instructed to do it, but Patrick Stewart did his in a most aggressive manner). In a Peter David spin-off novel, other captains call it the same thing.
  • The Doctor, in the Doctor Who episode "Aliens of London", gets a squad of soldiers holding him at gunpoint under his command simply by shouting "Defence Pattern Delta" after someone screamed. Whether this is because he knew of the command structure (he worked for UNIT, after all) or simply relied on the fact that they didn't know who he was and were accustomed to following orders is not clear.
    • The Daleks actually get one in "The Stolen Earth". Strangely, "Dalek Attack Formation Seven" seems to consist of just standing in a straight line. Not known for their creativity, Daleks.
  • Airwolf, "Condemned". "Strike Plan Beta" means nuke the place.
  • Played with repeatedly in the original Get Smart, where agents were constantly having to ask, "What was plan x again?"
  • Power Rangers RPM had the Zords use "Attack Formation Delta", which appears to be military speak for "turn left" and the Megazord used "Attack Sequence Mustang", which means holding up the shield. Not really an "attack sequence", and it's hard to see where horses come into it, but whatever....
  • In the second episode of Torchwood, Jack tells the team to get into 'standard formation' when approaching a meteor site. This episode focuses on how Gwen is an outsider in this close-knit unit, so, of course, standard formation changes.

Tabletop Games

  • Of all the factions in Warhammer 40,000, only the Tau do this to any extent.
  • Several old Champions supplements dealing with superhero teams had code phrases the team used in combat. For example, in Red Doom, the Supreme Soviets team used codes such as "Purge" (two members team up against a single opponent) and "Vietnam" (harass the enemy constantly, don't give them time to think).
  • One old Paranoia adventure included a guard and a guardbot. When the guard said "Execute Option A" and fired at something, the guardbot would automatically fire at the same target.
    • Special Order 00000.0 commands the Vampirebot 666 to kill everyone in the room but the speaker (or something to that effect).
  • The Brand X Hero's Guide for the free RPG Men And Supermen encourages this kind of thing among superhero groups. By calling for "Maneuver A" or "Maneuver B", the leader can give instructions without informing the opposition of what their intentions are (such as getting hostages clear of the battle, f'rinstance).
  • Diplomacy has a large number of named opening approaches for every side, many named by the late Richard Sharp in his book The Game of Diplomacy, such as the "Balkan Gambit" (Austria moving a fleet from Trieste to Albania and an army from Budapest to Serbia, the movement of the second army naming the specific variation).
  • This is an entire class of starship maneuvers in the Star Wars Saga Edition RPG. They grant several persistent bonuses to fighters in flight, but you can only have one active at a time.
  • BattleTech, predictably, has many maneuvers that sound like this. But the term Alpha Strike was reserved for when a Mech pilot decides that blowing out the heat sinks (and potentially blowing up the 'mech) is a lesser risk than not firing all the weaponry onboard at once.
  • Role Master had three types of Combat Languages in its Arms Companion supplement. The Class I version was short, simple commands that could be shouted and easily understood in the noise of combat, such as "Charge!", "Flank right!" and "Fall back!".
  • Chess names a wide range of studied openings and gambits that run in fairly set patterns, frequently using the names of prominent players, key pieces, or locations in what is not necessarily intuitive to any outside the field of study. Talk to a chess player about a Ruy Lopez/Spanish Opening, Sicilian Defence, Two Knights Defence, or the older Giuoco Piano, and they will probably understand, predicated on the obscurity of the referenced opening.
  • Likewise the game Diplomacy, which also has a lively literature on the subject of opening theory for each of the seven powers featured.

Video Games

  • Star Fox
    • In Star Fox 64, Fox orders his team to go into "All Range Mode" on several occasions. Which mainly means that the following fight happens in a specific area rather than the usual rail stage.
    • In Star Fox Assault's opening, a Lylat officer orders his units to use "Battle Formation V", as in the shape of the formation.
  • Command & Conquer: Generals -- Zero Hour subverts when playing against the superweapon general Alexis Alexander. As one of her in-game taunts she broadcasts: All forces! Attack Pattern Alpha! Ha! Just kidding, General... Who would name a flight pattern "alpha"? Best not mention that her upgraded Aurora bombers (faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than anything short of a tactical nuke) are named Aurora Alphas, then.
  • Squadrons in the Homeworld series of space RTS can have different formations depending on situation, like forming a wedge when attacking or spacing out when on the defensive. They're almost playing with the trope, though, as the formations actually have descriptive names like "X" and "Sphere".
  • The Crab Spider Epic Archetype in City of Villains has an ability referred to as the Omega Maneuver. Said maneuver consists of the Crab Spider teleporting a bomb into the midst of an enemy group.
    • The Council loves this trope in both CoV and its partner game City of Heroes. All of their seemingly endless variations on "Attack formation (something)" essentially boil down to "everybody hit somebody".
  • In Final Fantasy X, if all three Magus Sisters are available simultaneously, Yuna can command them to "Work together!", and they will join forces to deliver the almighty Delta Attack. Although this command appears in several other games in the series, it's unique in Final Fantasy X recycled from Final Fantasy IV in that it's a joint attack where each Sister does her own thing, not a combination attack.
  • Enclave Soldiers in Fallout 3 have a tendency to shout "Attack pattern (insert greek letter here)" when attacking the player in groups. Whether they actually change tactics after this voice clip is used, this troper does not know.
  • Similarly, enemies in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas, have a variety of battle tactics and messages that they shout to each other. Occasionally, if the player is killed, the soldier that kills him or her will radio to his friends "LIMA OSCAR LIMA, over." Fun if you know the phonetic alphabet.
  • Iji has the Alpha Strike, but this one is pretty close to the actual Military Alpha Strike. See Real Life below.
  • Squad formations are used heavily in Operation Flashpoint. As squad leader the player can order their men to assume any one of several formations at any given time. Each one is suitable for a different situation—column is best for fast movement, wedge is the general-purpose combat formation (for when you're not sure where the enemy are), line concentrates fire to the front, and so on.
  • In the Japanese version of Cannon Dancer, the Teki refer to their final joint attack as "Die Rudeltaktik."
  • As per the Star Trek examples above, it's used in Star Trek Online.
    • Attack Patterns Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omega are all Tactical techniques which are extremely useful in battle (Evasive maneuvers, as mentioned above, is also available). Who knows what happened to Gamma.
      • While they are super useful as buffs or debuffs, they do not in any way change the movement or fire pattern of your or your allies ship(s). Similarly, they have "Dispersion patterns" for mines and torpedoes.
    • Also has what came to be called alpha strikes from A.I. opponents. When presented with multiple enemies, the entire enemy fleet would target one player at a time, focusing fire, and eliminating them almost instantly, before doing the same thing to the next player. Patches have since changed it so that this can't happen often.
  • The Mechwarrior series, as with its Battletech progenitor, allows an Alpha Strike that fires all available weapons simultaneously. Practically guaranteed to overheat the mech and force a temporary shutdown, but if you need that enemy Atlas dead immediately (Protip: you do), it's probably your best option. Except for certain loadouts/games where you'll explode from the sudden heat buildup.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online has the "Fellowship Maneuver", where every member gets to choose one of four effects (damage, damage over time, healing, power restoring), that combined make up a coordinated attack. If players sucessfully mixes effects in specific orders, the attack ends up more powerful than if they'd simply all have choosen the same effect, and may also have other benefits like summoning a oathbreaker to help out in the fight.
  • If a team manages to organize themselves enough to do one in Team Fortress 2, the effect on the opposing team can be devastating.
  • Defied in Road of the Dead. A piece of dialogue has a US Army soldier report that his unit is doing one of these, only for his commander to abandon the codes, as they are fighting a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • The Escape Velocity fandom has three well-known maneuvers that take advantage of the series' AI tactics:
    • The "Monty Python Maneuver" makes use of the series' partial aversion of Space Friction to fly away from multiple targets while shooting backwards. The name refers to the instances in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the knights yell "Run away!"
    • The "Not the Nine O'Clock News Maneuver" allows the player to land on blockaded planets. Instead of blasting your way through, you lure the enemy away from the planet, then double back around the enemy fleet.
    • The "Qaanol Maneuver", named after its inventor, involves using an absurdly fast ship to draw the enemy's fire while your escorts make the kill.
  • Stars! uses Simultaneous Turn Resolution, so each fleet uses assigned rules of engagement to decide what to do when it meets a fleet or starbase of another faction. A players can make custom Battle Plans in addition to standard ones. Each selects primary and secondary targets, tactic (e.g. inflict maximum damage, minimize incoming fire or just try to disengage immediately), who to attack and whether to jettison cargo before battle. The latter matters because ship's movement is reduced from extra mass, but mostly for "armed freighters meet some unarmed freighters, yarr!" (not often necessary, as instead of wasting a design slot on Master of None, you can simply mix pure warships with unarmed supply ships) and in generally unlikely situations (e.g. the enemy patrols are too weak to kill your freighters with 1-2 shots they'll land before disengagement, yet you can neither keep them away nor give your freighters escorts). Unarmed ships heed only the option to relieve themselves of cargo and start to disengage right away no matter what the rest of the plan says, as there's nothing else they can do.
    • So e.g. a plan with Primary target "bombers/transports", Secondary "armed ships" and Tactic "maximize net damage" gives a much better chance to kill ships dangerous to planets without starbases before they'll disengage, but of course their escorts won't take losses as fast, and will hit your ships more in return, maybe even wipe out a fleet that would crush them with no losses if targetting armed ships first per Default plan (but let disengaging ships get away).

Web Comics


Alex: Executive decision! Plan Sigma-9!
Tristan: Which one was that?
Riley: Something about running away, I think.


"Okay team, run 'Destiny Red'"
"Uh, which plan is that again?"
"Spam. Forever."


Western Animation

  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy has the trio go into "Defense Formation Alpha"(?) when on-again off-again villain Nergal showed up to court Billy's aunt.
  • The Powerpuff Girls make fun of this. Blossom called out "Attack pattern Alpha Omega Atari!", and the girls flew toward the monster, while their beam trails looked like the Atari logo. Well, Atari was once part of Warner Communications.
  • Teen Titans. The H.I.V.E. make great use of this: "Gamma formation!" and, of course, "Attack pattern Alpha/Delta/etc." itself.
  • Xiaolin Showdown. "Dragon Ex Kumai Formation!" Also "Wudai Orion Formation!" It's basically the same, but instead of just increasing their elemental powers, it goes a lot further and turns them into color-coded silhouetted forces of nature.
  • Word Girl has several of numerically identified "emergency plans" ranging from "spray the giant robot with water" to "take a bite out of the statue made of meat". The latter was immediately Lampshade Hung by the Interactive Narrator.
  • Subverted in the Kim Possible episode "Rufus vs. Commodore Puddles": "Full Frontal Assault by Giant Canine: that's a four-one-slash-five-S scenario." Later: "That looks like a four-nine-slash-E-Z scenario: Rescue by Giant Subterranean Rodent."
  • Transformers Animated
    • At one point, the Autobots use an attack pattern called Omega Formation to attack Blitzwing. Of course, since the Animated Autobots aren't exactly paragons of military competence, it doesn't end well.
    • A later episode has Ratchet order the ship (which is about to crash) to deploy its "emergency defense mode, code name: Omega" which prompts the ship to transform into its robot mode: Omega Supreme. Optimus had tried to do the same thing in the first episode, but the ship was being stingy with Energon at the time and overrode him. That and Omega Supreme was still Only Mostly Dead at that point.
  • Biker Mice From Mars absolutely loves this trope (well, at least the 90's version did). They seemed to have an applicable plan for just about every situation they encountered, and never used the same formation twice. Which is justified because they actually are soldiers with a high degree of training and military experience.
    • Also lampshaded during the "Biker Knights of the Round Table" two-parter, when Throttle calls out for a manuever they've never heard of before, then explains he's just "added it to [their] repertoire".
  • Code Lyoko: Used infrequently by the Lyoko Warriors. Mocked in episode "Music Soothes the Savage Beast":

Odd: Lateral crossing pattern and pincer strategy.
Yumi: What's that in English?
Odd: Let's go!

With later Ironic Echo...

Yumi: Lateral flying pattern and pincer strategy.
Odd: Are you speaking English?

  • The Tick tried to get Arthur to play along with specialty attack naming. One special move was supposed to be Arthur catching the Tick in mid-air... too bad the 7-foot galoot was too heavy for Arthur to lift!
  • Captain Simian and The Space Monkeys invokes this trope every time they split their big ship into a bunch of little ships.
  • In the original 1987 DuckTales, Huey, Dewey and Louie frequently resort to "plan B" when they don't get their way. "Plan B" means "lie down on the floor, cry, scream and kick". Uncle Scrooge usually gives in.
  • Dexter's Laboratory, Dial M for Monkey short "Last But Not Beast". When Dexter accidentally releases a giant monster in Japan, a group of attack ships commanded by Agent Honeydew appears and attacks it. She orders the ships to use Attack Pattern Omega.
    • Didn't Dexter also call a formation with his family's Combining Mecha in the same episode?
  • Metalocalypse's Charles Ofdensen: "Put the boots to him... medium-style."
  • In ReBoot Megabyte has command of a significant military force so this sort of thing pops up from time to time.

Megabyte: Prepare for operation plan code 214.
Binomes: NO! Not plan 214! (Screaming)
Single Binome: I kinda like it.

    • For the record this is plan 214.


  • Mornington Crescent has names for its various gambits and maneuvers much like Chess, though they're generally invented on the spot.

Real Life

  • The term "Alpha Strike" is, in fact, an actual military term. It refers to when an aircraft carrier scrambles all of its planes at once for a single attack. This is the basis for the use in fiction, denoting an attack utilizing all available weaponry on a single target.
  • The earliest recorded use of this would be in the Sun Bin's Art of War (a descendant of Sun Tzu); Sun Bin described several specific formations to be drilled into the army, with flag, drums and horns being the way to communicate this. It is also expected that these formations were in use for a time before, as both Sun Tzu and Sun Bin used tried and tested methods in their works.
    • Ancient Japanese military formations were described by names, and troops were drilled into how to get into these formations quickly and efficiently when the signal flags were waved. These were derived from the Chinese practices.
  • A US Army infantry platoon has 9 basic battle drills numbered 1, 1A, and 2-8. They cover activities ranging from reacting to an ambush to knocking out a bunker. Learning them is one of a new soldier's most important responsibilities.
  • Gaining an advantage through tactical manoeuvre is truly one of The Oldest Ones in the Book and was one of the earliest indications of warfare evolving into an activity taken up by professional, trained armies. Before the widespread use of firearms, the ability for a force to retain close order cohesion and stay organized on the battlefield was of great tactical advantage. The use of drill to teach soldiers how to move effectively under order during situations of duress separated a disciplined military (and some mercenary companies for that matter) from an untrained rabble that only knew two tactics: "charge" and "rout". Various methods were used to get units to change formations, manoeuvre, attack, and withdraw; musical instruments were common around the world and standards and signal flags were used to give orders and identify friend from foe. Form line and advance or form square and hold ground may not have the dramatic ring of "Engage attack pattern upsilon zeta!" but the essential concept of predefined manoeuvre for tactical advantage remains the same.
    • Different armies used different signaling devices, but the concept remained the same, whether that signal was given with a flag, a drum, a horn, or in some other manner. In modern times, radios have mostly taken over. Regardless of which method is used, its important to make sure that only friendly forces can interpert it, which is why such messages are often given code names or other forms of encryption (that, and making them easier to order on the fly)
      • Fighter aircraft have many types of often colorfully-named maneuvers—the Thach Weave, the Pugachev's Cobra, the Split S, etc.
  • "Schema F" is a still-used German proverb for doing something the usual way. It evolved out of an attack pattern used during WWI.
  • American gridiron football plays often use this sort of naming, especially when calling audibles. Z-95 I-right flex!
  • Any sports team has a series of codes and signs to alert teammates to the intended play; American football even has the huddle time period to plan out the exact move.
    • Apparently, "Blue 32" is the only play ever used in football, according to TV.
      • In real life, colors and numbers are usually meaningless, unless the play must be changed after the lineup because of how the defense lines up.
    • Each team has different calls in rugby union for scrum plays and lineouts.
    • Or the Lions infamous "99" line out call, which was "punch the nearest Springbok
  • In classical fencing every action has a name, and every part of the torso has a number based on its location and whether you attack palm up or palm down. This allows for easy description of attacks and defenses, and popular composed attacks have their own names, such as the "One-Two" (Feint attack by passing your blade below your opponent's into the opposite line, pass again below his parry, and lunge.)
    • In England at least, the numbers are generally given in archaic French.
      • Classical fencers in the US do as well. However, practitioners of Olympic fencing generally just use modern English numbers.