Hollywood Tactics

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It is magnificent, but it is not war. It is madness.

Pierre Bosquet, regarding the Charge of the Light Brigade

Let's face it: most writers are not exactly the world's greatest tactical geniuses, so whenever a war's going on, expect a lot of dumb decisions from tacticians. To pour salt into the wound, these tacticians are sometimes explicitly said to be tactical masterminds. Some of the less-optimal strategies include:

  • Charging with light cavalry exactly once, in the middle of the enemy lines. Light cavalry are usually used for flanking, since their attacks lack either the power or the sheer crushing momentum to penetrate enemy lines. Heavy cavalry such as knights would often strike the center of the enemy lines, but they relied extensively on their armor, momentum, and the great reach their weapons and mounts granted them; even so, knights preferred to use combined arms tactics and softened up the enemy with missile fire before they charged and even heavy cavalry preferred to hit the flanks.
  • Following in the vein of old-style fights, complete and total lack of formation in armies that should have them. Soldiers would not usually break off from their formations to duel individually; battles were basically two masses of humans pushing against each other until one gave up. If you're dueling enemy soldiers unsupported, something's gone horribly wrong, unless you're part of a Bronze Age-type culture. Skirmishers are an exception to this; these are lighter troops that are designed basically to irritate the enemy with minor attacks so that their formation will be off balance when the main attack arrives (they are the martial equivalent of a left jab in boxing). The musketry equivalent of this is soldiers in the middle of a bayonet charge stopping to fire, sometimes even dropping to one knee. Another exception that crops up are Iron Age cultures, like the Celts and Dacians, that placed high value on individual heroism on the battlefields. The discipline and organization of Roman armies led them to victory while being outnumbered in several battles.
  • Arrows on Fire: not necessarily a bad idea in and of itself, but rarely used for any reason other than Rule of Cool. Waiting until night to use them might be a bad idea, however, and is astonishingly prevalent. In actual practice, a flaming arrow is much less lethal than a normal arrow. If whatever is being used for fuel doesn't prevent the arrow from penetrating entirely, the flames would cauterize the wound. These were more effective as psychological warfare and required significant preparation to use, not to mention they reduced range and accuracy. Much better, however, if you intended to actually start a fire. Burning out a town in a raid, destroying stocks of supplies, and doing it in a way where you only need to get close to the target and not defeat the defense. Hollywood's good for this at least, even if it is a pretty solid Kick the Dog (cue terrified defenseless villagers fleeing) and casts the users of the tactic as the villain pretty clearly.
  • Assaulting castles as a first resort. In The Middle Ages, this was only done very rarely, and even then they usually just waited outside the castle walls until the enemy starved or surrendered. This process could take months or even years. Even so, a siege was by no means a fait accompli. Until as late as the 18th century, sieges would just as often result in the attacker retreating for logistical reasons.
  • Open-field, Napoleonic-style infantry battles with modern or futuristic weapons. We tried this in World War I, and it didn't go well. Napoleonic tactics eventually evolved into trench warfare.
  • Modern armies fighting only with small arms, and no aerial or artillery support.
  • Always using More Dakka for anti-armor or anti-air (or against a single, agile target), rather than guided missiles (in a setting that has them, of course).
  • Always using missiles or other weapons that take a long time to reload, even when a quick firing weapon would be more useful.
  • No attempt to flank the enemy or distract them with covering fire.
  • No attempt to protect vulnerable sides of one's own forces, especially advancing ones. Including lack of both turrets and escorts for fighting vehicles that have blind spots, so that any enemy who managed to hide in a pothole can jump onto their backs or chuck incendiary at a spitting range.
    • Mahabharata already mentions warriors attached to shock forces, specifically tasked with guarding their flanks and rear - called "padarakshan" for infantry and "chakra-rakshakas" for chariots. Ancient Greeks used hypaspists (shield bearers) on flanks of a phalanx (which doesn't turn around easily) to protect phalangites, though they also could attack with the phalanx, or temporarily converted for skirmishing or pursuit if there's no threat. They also protected archers.
  • In space battles (or using aircraft), failing to consider the third dimension. This is of course to make The Captain look awesome to the Plebs when he averts it.
  • Despite having the technology to lock and fire on an enemy beyond visual range, holding off doing so until one can See the Whites of Their Eyes. Not to mention simply not having BVR (beyond visual range) technology in a setting that has other high-tech weapons and sensors (Minovsky Physics notwithstanding).
  • Any use of obsolete weapons, tactics, or styles of warfare alongside the very weapons and technology that rendered them obsolete (e.g. swords alongside guns, mounted cavalry alongside tanks etc.). The use of this trope in this case does make sense in some ways (largely because there are many real life historical cases), as long as the story is set during the transition with realistic results, obviously.
    • Alternatively, assuming that certain weapons automatically rendered specific weapons, tactics, and styles of warfare completely irrelevant because specific technologies appeared. One of the worst examples is a line of arquebus-using gunners being able to mow down knights to show how far technology supposedly advanced. The term "bulletproof" was coined because plate armor was capable of stopping arquebus shots at any significant range.
  • No combined arms of any kind, meaning every other branch of the military is made obsolete with one weapon.
  • Having access to Applied Phlebotinum that is good at concealing your presence, and then either doing something obvious to give away your presence, or making loud noises while sneaking around.
  • Mook Chivalry, where the bad guys will, for no clearly explained reason, politely attack the hero one at a time instead of taking advantage of their superior numbers.
  • Waiting until the last second to do a maneuver when not waiting is far more advantageous.
  • Putting your general in the front lines. At least, so long as him fighting isn't a major part of your strategy. Though historically, whether your general fights from the front or not had a LOT to do with the local culture and concept of what a proper war leader is like. Alexander the Great always fought in the heat of battle, and his men wouldn't have followed him if he had preferred a nice tall hill behind the lines.
    • Generals have always gotten near the front lines simply to keep touch with things and would today if armies were not so sprawled out. As it was, some generals like Rommel tried it with light moter vehicles or aircraft in the place of horses and the heliocopter gives a possibility of reviving that tradition.
      • Some American generals in Vietnam tried to hard as far as that goes. Using the possibilities of a mobile headquarters thriftily was a lost art, and there was strong temptation to overmanage while Wellington was a child of generations of technical skill and knew how to ride along the line saving his commands for critical times, and the rest of the time simply ostentatiously keeping a Stiff Upper Lip.
  • The use of cover that is either totally useless or downright dangerous. As in "You men stack the barrels of gunpowder and torch oil over there as a breastwork".
  • "Cooking" grenades is generally considered a bad idea, despite what a lot of modern First Person Shooters would tell you. Grenade fuses are not precise, so counting to two or three seconds may simply result in the grenade exploding in your hands in the middle of throwing. Generally, fears that grenades will be picked up and thrown back are unfounded; most people's response to seeing a grenade getting tossed at them is to dive for cover, and most people going for a grenade will be either knocking it away or get blown up in the process. There's a reason why most foxholes will have a "grenade chute" that they can kick incoming grenades into rather than throw them back.
  • Training programs that actively kill, injure, or psychologically destabilize recruits, by particularly cruel profanity-bombing sergeants and scientists who develop drugs/technology to keep them in line. The training programs used by most modern countries, while harsh and hostile, are designed to break down recruits and turn them into competent, disciplined soldiers. Pushing recruits to the point of death, injury, or becoming headcases does not produce effective soldiers and are generally avoided in Real Life. This doesn't stop authors from portraying The Spartan Way as some form of desirable ideal.

This is often used to add drama to the story. After all, a story about an army performing a last-ditch attack against a superior foe is more dramatic than the same army slaughtering the other one because it forgot to defend its flanks. Alternately, it could just be because it looks cool. On the flipside, artillery barrages, Gunship Rescues, the mechanical speed and precision of a Cold Sniper blowing heads apart all have a macabre beauty if you're an observer, not a receiver. Furthermore, an Enemy that can defeat a Badass Army acting competently and using its advantages to the fullest comes across as much more dangerous and respectable than one that Curb Stomps a bunch of barely-trained, poorly-equipped conscripts.

Most insidiously it may be done because Hollywood's politics sometimes insist that the military is always bad/wrong/evil, which is most likely to show itself in the force in question operating something like the Red Army circa 1941 minus artillery or armor.

Tends to be averted in the works of writers who actually served in the military, or even have significant military experience, including (among others) John Ringo, David Drake, and Robert A. Heinlein. These are obviously less common than writers who demonstrate this trope, however.

Sister Trope to Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure. Supertrope of Onrushing Army. When played for laughs, this is General Failure.

Examples of Hollywood Tactics include:

Advertising

  • This Philips Carousel spot, which includes, among other things, police looking out the windows after a suspect while several other suspects are firing weapons right outside the door. Don't even try and figure out a sequence of events where police have somehow penetrated past several of the criminals, and have had time to summon SWAT, but don't have a secure perimeter.


Anime and Manga

  • Many of the Contractors in Darker than Black are bad about this, apparently buying into the "you're just walking guns" view and throwing everything at their enemies without bothering to actually make plans about doing so. However, the more competent ones tend to use better tactics; Wei, for instance, thought to aim for the support his opponent was perched on, and November 11 used his knowledge of his enemy's behavior to set a trap that Hei only barely managed to ninja his way out of.
    • In fact, the survival lengths of the various contractors may be lampshading this. As a comparison, November 11 has relatively weak powers. Many contractors have one-hit kills, he only has ice powers. He survives the greater part of a season, by sheer competence with his powers and Badass Abnormal skills. August 7 can reality warp the area around his body. However, he behaves like a walking gun, and gets the Face Palm of Doom.
  • In Code Geass, no one has any real grasp on modern tactics despite having vast arrays of advanced weaponry that should have revolutionized warfare. Just look at the final battle, where the two sides positioned their flying mecha army in outdated Napoleonic-style INFANTRY lines. Oh, and Schneizel decided to arm his WMD arsenal in apparently unguided missiles.[1] Worst of all, at least three of the commanders involved (Lelouch, Xingke, Schneizel) are hailed as military geniuses.
    • Don't forget none of the sides appear to have any support fire other than the WMD, and the first part of the battle is pretending that Chess and War use the exact same tactics.
    • While the quality of the show's tactics are often lacking, it is worth noting that Code Geass actually subverts many of these tropes. Until they get well into the Lensman Arms Race they avoid the "using robots even when it doesn't make sense" tendencies in Real Robot shows as giant robots fight alongside tanks, rocket-equipped infantry, helicopters, fighters, artillery, and stationary guns. Lelouch's tactics rely heavily on terrain, flanking maneuvers, and manipulating the flow of information to the opposing side. Sea battles involve destroyers, aircraft carriers, and submarines just as much as they do amphibious robots.
  • One would think in Neon Genesis Evangelion that after the first few battles the generals of the U.N. would get the sense to spread out their ground forces and take cover, instead of lining them up just perfectly for a laser strike from an Angel. But no, they consistently order ground vehicles to line up and bunch up together in the streets.
  • The humans in Blue Gender seem to have studied all possible battle tactics in order to do the exact opposite. To sum it up, despite their claim that standard weapons are useless against the Blue, they run around packing weapons that are so pitifully weak compared to what they could be packing, that they frankly deserve to die for their stupidity.
  • In So Ra No Wo To, putting your infantry right in front of your tanks (even if they are lumbering SpiderTanks) and making them charge at each other in the nearest plain lampshades that even military tactics were lost in the Apocalypse.
  • Last Exile includes sky naval battles of rows of infantry standing and firing at each other in plain sight.
    • Justified since all battles in the setting were structured around some kind of chivalric code, mediated by the Guild. Operative word here is 'were'. It become a plot point when the Guild allows one side to break that code by launching a sneak attack from above in the very first battle shown.
    • Considering the apparent capabilities of Guild fighters, they aren't used to their full potential at all...
  • During the battle of Marineford in One Piece, Whitebeard's initial tactic of emerging right in the middle of Marineford harbor is visually impressive and carries shock and awe, however that is his only tactic, and left him totally surrounded. (He did, however, stop to notice the Marine warships on opposing sides, and ordered his pirate allies to use their ships to fire on them, correctly noting that it was a encirclement plan. But by then, it was too little, too late.) Meanwhile, the Marines used actual strategy, including combined arms, flanking, fortifications, and psychological warfare. It is testament to the pirates' impressive resolve and power that it isn't a total slaughter from the very beginning... though about halfway through, it becomes clear this will not end well for the pirates.
  • The SEARRS troops in My-HiME: Engaging targets on an open field without any attempt to use fire support, not even snipers. Knowing that the enemy has at least one air asset but not bringing your own air cover or even sufficient anti-air. No attempts made to locate and neutralise the enemy's headquarters to force a decisive victory. The list goes on.


Comic Books

  • Captain America (comics) is supposed to be the greatest battle tactician in the Marvel Universe, often leading teams of heroes into battle. Usually, he simply shouts "Hit them hard and fast" before a fight and that somehow translates into perfect battle tactics. In the early days, he would also tell the Avengers to switch opponents if they were involved in one-on-one battles. Not only is this not a good idea since it opens the heroes up to getting hit in the back but the villains should be able to hear him anyway.
    • Justified when you remember that Cap is also responsible for training most of the other Avengers. "Hit them hard and fast" more likely translates as "do exactly what we drilled, and remember your tactical tree so you can adapt on the fly depending on which predicted response the foes give." Remember, he was in the military; he knows the value of training.
    • When Cap has had occasion to lead squads of inexperienced people, or ones who have not trained together before, he does call out the plan step-by-step precisely because there is no pre-established playbook for his people to work from. And usually its a good one.
    • Cap is also consistently portrayed as one of the Marvel Universe's more talented strategists. Whenever there is a multi-team event, if Cap is present he will be the one coordinating the overall battle plan, and doing so very competently.


Fan Works


Film

  • In almost every film involving two units of cavalry charging one another with swords, they will attempt to hack at each other - in fact, cavalry were generally encourage to use the point of their sword, so as not to give the enemy a clear cut at their wrists. Related to this is the practice of cavalry hacking at the backs of infantry. In fact, it was more efficient to cut backwards at the enemy's eyes as you rode past.
    • They may sometimes have been encouraged to use the point but that is a bit of a one-sided argument still. Just to start with, unless they are Proud Warrior Race Guys (as indeed some cavalry were that being a fairly traditional combat role for such) with training all their lives, most troopers are not master swordsmen but just soldiers that got put on a horse. A successful thrust from horseback will jam the saber in human meat. An unsuccessful one will unbalance a horseman. And it is more efficient to get several cripples who are just as much out of the fight as one kill, especially if they are knocked off their horse. There is a reason historically why so many models of cavalry sword were curved toward the false edge: it makes it easier to cut with.
    • A lot of times though a cut will include a follow through like a razor cut rather then an ax-like hack. Those can create brutal wounds and are designed to.
    • What is not shown often in movies is that cavalry fights tended to be rather tricky things due to having to control their horses at the same time. Their are incidents when both forces rode through each other, reformed, and did not turn back to finish the fight and left surprisingly few casualties in the process. While that might be an interesting thing to see once in a while, it is probably not as cool as a Homeric melee.
      • Some fairly normal tricks would be to brutal looking for most people to watch (even though it is kind of, supposed to be a war movie), such as attacking a horse or letting one's own horse throw its weight (and hoofs) around lethally. Not to mention hard for a stuntman to pull off which by the way is probably responsible for a remarkable amount of Hollywood Tactics. Cutting the reins though would look well once or twice and was an effective technique. It might come to look like Flynning after a while.
    • A few quite fascinating fighting styles are seldom seen in film. It was for instance common for steepe warriors to use lassos as weapons.
  • In Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium, Grammaton Clerics engage in countless shootouts without any thought to taking cover, preferring to run right into the middle of large groups and start firing in all directions. This is handwaved at the beginning, when it's explained that the Clerics studied gunbattles and had developed some mathematical system to predict and avoid gunfire. This is leaving out the fact that gun battles are dictated by terrain and lines of sight, which are inherently unpredictable, and most gunfights are based on suppression and teamwork within a squad, with liberal use of machineguns and grenade launchers. Additionally, anyone with a machinegun or shotgun (let alone grenades or mines) could take down a Cleric by simply filling the area with lead. The Mooks also show very little regard for even basic cover, preferring to stand out in the open and uselessly spray bullets from the hip while the Clerics mow them down.
    • During the raid at the beginning, Prestor just stands in the doorway, while the rebels spray his location with submachineguns. Despite them knowing where he is, and him being illuminated by their fire, none of the bullets hit him.
    • Of course, based on Prestor's movements during the kata scene, simply dropping prone and aiming for his legs would end the fight within a shot or two.
  • Kurt Wimmer's Ultraviolet. Take the scene where Violet is Storming the Castle, and none of the mooks think to engage her with shotguns, use grenades, use machine guns, etc. This culminates in a scene where she walks across a long, exposed bridge which is the only way into the inner sanctum, without encountering a single sniper or mine. Then she gets to the pre-sanctum room, and the guys with swords are in front while the gun-toting guards are in back. Not only is it impossible for the guys in back to fire without hitting the guys in front, but they could've just shot at her while she was crossing the bridge.
  • Independence Day. Numerous city sized alien space ships appear all over the world, with the intent of annihilating mankind. How does the military start out attacking them? They only use fighter jets armed only with pissy little Sidewinders.
  • In the US Godzilla film, a giant lizard the size of a skyscraper attacks, and the military decides the best course of action is to attack with infantry soldiers armed with anti-personnel rifles. Heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, rocket artillery, any other form of armored fighting vehicle, bombers, fighters, gunships, battleships... basically anything else besides infantry are ignored almost entirely until the finale. Guided missiles are used early on, but not only are the missiles slow enough for GINO to outrun them they somehow can't lock onto her because she's exothermic.
    • They use tanks and MLRS when they first fire on GINO, but the range is just ridiculous. If you look carefully at that scene you will notice at least one MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) firing directly at the target at the same range as the infantry assault rifles. Hasn't anybody informed this guys that artillery rockets are supposed to be fired indirectly at targets miles away?
    • Also, helicopters. GINO is chasing helicopters around a city and for some reason the helicopter pilots completely forget that they can go up, out of her reach. They stay at head height the entire chase rather than just flying up and away.
  • King Arthur: You have a wall. A huge, fortified wall. Outside the wall is a horde of Saxon barbarians howling for your blood. Obviously, the most intelligent tactic in this situation is to open the wall's gates and allow the barbarians to march in so you could face them in a fair fight with your poorly armed and outmanned forces. I can certainly see how Arthur became legendary.
    • The Saxons landing north of the wall when they could easily have done so south of it and as a result not have to bother with crossing it at all also qualifies as "Hollywood Strategy" in case such thing exists. Oh, and entering through the same opening gate the vanguard used 5 minutes before being completely slaughtered wasn't very smart either. But honestly... how could they figure they would be attacked by siege machines that wouldn't be invented until almost 1000 years in the future?
      • And even then the aforementioned siege machines are put to good use: instead of firing right among the enemies, to kill, set on fire and break their ranks, the Druids fire in front of them to make some kind of fire barrier. The Saxons are clearly shown not even flinching; Arthur and his men win the battle just by their own swords after rendering every strategic asset they had completely useless.
    • The Saxons' Hollywood Strategy is made even worse by the fact that, unlike the Norsemen who would come a couple of centuries later, they were coming from what is now Germany, or possibly, if they were really Angles or Jutes going by the name the directors expect more people to recognise, Denmark. Not mainland Scandinavia. That means that they would actually have to sail past the wall to land where they did. Made worse still by the fact that travelling by sea was in those days still very dangerous...
  • Played for comedy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which Arthur's handful of knights charge the French castle on foot. Only Lancelot manages to reach the five-story stone walls, and he takes a single swipe at them with his sword before running away. Apparently John Cleese chipped the wall, which did not please the castle's keepers in the slightest. Terry Jones and Michael Palin revisited the locations and filmed them as part of the DVD release's special features. They found several chips still on the walls, apparently the result of multiple takes.
  • The In Name Only Starship Troopers movie, full stop. The tactics and military conduct in this movie are so bad that it makes you think they're deliberately trying to lose,[2] and would probably need an entire essay dedicated to it to do it justice. However, the film is a subversion; unlike most films all of their incredibly bad ideas don't actually work, and by and large the human troops are completely slaughtered. The writers’ intent seems to have been to use the enormous casualty rate resulting from them as a way to emphasize that War Is Hell, but the human characters just come across as idiots who don’t know how to conduct warfare instead (especially absurd because the entire culture is built around militarism). Notably, the Bugs actually do use decent tactics and combined arms given their limitations. They routinely stage ambushes and the basic drones soak up a lot of casualties, but they were literally born to be cannon fodder.
    • Let's count:
      • Ships parked shoulder-to-shoulder in orbit? Check.
      • Underestimating an enemy that can throw asteroids at you from across the galaxy? Check.
      • Invading with a ground army against an enemy with plenty of open-air targets instead of just nuking them from orbit to clear out the surface emplacements? Check.
      • No artillery, armor, air, or orbital support for your massive ground assault, even when clearly shown having carpet bombing capabilities? Check.
      • After landing, announcing their presence to all of Klendathu by exiting the landing craft screaming while the craft shoot off flares? Check.
      • Attempting the Zerg Rush when the other side is the Zerg? Check.
      • Using horrendously ineffective assault rifles (though to be fair, they have a slung-under shotgun) against an enemy that can survive an entire clip being unloaded into it? Check.
      • The only "tactic" on display is the Circular Firing Squad... one for each bug? Check.
      • No actual tactics whatsoever? Checkmate.
    • Bear in mind the above is from the Battle of Klendathu. Afterward, the Federation gets a little more clever, but their main planetary force still seems to consist of nothing but plain old infantry, with no mechanized support whatsoever, and airborne support showing up for all of one scene and then promptly forgotten about. Word of God tries to Hand Wave this by stating that the Klendathu terrain was horrible for tanks and the like, but that doesn't explain why they don't use their airborne capabilities more often, for either transport or attack.
      • Even worse in the original, they were packing only rifles, no form of heavier weapons whatsoever, when even MGLs were man-portable, never mind RPGs.
    • Morale and training among the soldiers appears to be incredibly poor as well, as the first attack disintegrates into a confused rout literally moments after the first engagement and a few casualties. The Terran military also has a strangely bipolar way of maintaining discipline and unit cohesion. Serious offenses quickly result in corporeal punishment and refusing to fight is threatened with summary execution by shooting, but not only do they organize random parties after a minor engagement, they also do it right in the middle of enemy territory. They're also a-okay with fraternization among the troops, even though actively encouraging romantic attachments between them could seriously undermine their units' combat effectiveness.
      • The training itself throws all forms of safety and sense out the window, without any cover from stray shots in live fire exercises for the troops marching around it, not even a wall.
    • When the people on the ship notice the giant asteroid heading toward Earth, rather than firing their rockets immediately to get out of the way, they wait until the last possible second to dodge out of the way of the giant, seemingly unguided asteroid, which clips off a large part of the ship. Despite this, the captain of the ship compliments the pilot as the best damn pilot in the fleet, instead of telling her she's an incompetent screwup and a showoff that got a bunch of people needlessly killed. She's also never court-martialed, demoted, or even reprimanded for nearly killing hundreds of people and causing millions in damage by recklessly flying out an interstellar spaceship from spacedock in her first ever piloting duty, an action she even has the nerve to laugh off right afterwards.
    • Briefly averted in the third film, where Colonel Rico rallies his troops and they make the best of their weapons and terrain (using grenade launchers to force the bugs back while the troopers advanced, with troopers walking along the tops of the trenches to give them covering fire). Indeed, his defense of Roku San proved to be quite effective, until the perimeter defenses were shut down by The Mole. Later, the military's introduction of mech units proves to be a vast improvement as well.
      • To be fair it is not uncommon for "entire cultures built around militarism" to be more then a little competence deprived. That is usually in the areas of strategy and logistics and policy though. Tactically Proud Warrior Races tend to do well enough and obsessive practice does tell. Though if they go for a long period without a war or have some kind of social or technological roadblock they can end up being slaughtered for using elegant weapons from a more civilized age. Militarists by definition fetishize war and that is not always conducive to doing it well.
  • In Star Trek: Nemesis, Enterprise security is fighting a Reman boarding party - both sides ducking behind conveniently-placed pylons and only coming out of cover to take a few pot-shots at the general direction of the opposing side. Maybe it's just me, but somehow the words "hand grenade" spring to mind. Even if they don't have anything equivalent to the concussion grenades in the future, they could use, say, an overloaded phaser, for crying out loud!
    • The old series often mentioned that to take a ship you needed to capture the bridge and engineering simultaneously or else the defenders would flood the life support with anesthetic gas and knock out everyone. This is never mentioned in the films.
      • Which is something of an example-inside-an-example: why wouldn't there be more than two places for dedicated defenders to do this from?
        • Because then the attackers would just go to this third place and use it to easily take out the bridge and engineering. Placing the two sets of controls in the two places that if you've already lost them both then you've lost control of the ship anyway is an acceptable design compromise.
      • Probably someone delicately told the authors about those "gas mask" things that were introduced back in WWI, and that when a Boarding Party plans to visit an enemy spaceship (and one that uses Force Field Doors, at that) without closed suits with their own air supply, they use not even "Hollywood Tactics", but "Terminal Idiocy". Which makes gas flooding system obviously useless for the stated purpose, unless both sides are laughably unprepared otherwise.
    • Worse: Remans are horribly light-sensitive, and none of them are wearing goggles. Did no one think to turn up the lights?
    • One review pointed out that the climax of the movie hinges on the Enterprise's transporter systems being down. Every single person on board apparently forgot about the independent units in the shuttlecraft. Also, shuttlecraft.
    • When Picard is giving covering fire so Data can break through an encrypted hatch, none of the experienced Reman troops use a basic tactic known as 'fire and manoeuvre' (in which one fires while the other advances) preventing Picard from ducking out to shoot at them.
      • This is very common throughout Star Trek. Don't even start with their lack of dedicated Marines instead of sending senior command personnel into the field. (And if you must, ask yourself why Enterprise had MACOs but none of the other main works did. See more below.)
    • The entire Star Trek series is full of 2-D Space, which makes no sense since these are spaceships that can go anywhere. There's also a disproportionate number of Fixed Forward Facing Weapons, which makes no sense for the same reason.
  • Star Wars is either in love with this trope or owes it money.
    • In The Phantom Menace, the Trade Federation lands its mechanized invasion force in the middle of a swamp, at least a day away from the capital of Naboo, Theed. Theed is surrounded by large open fields - in other words, perfect terrain for an army composed mainly of droids and heavy tanks.
      • Not to mention "blockading" a planet by stationing vessels only within 10 degrees or so of the equator, leaving a polar approach or departure completely open. Which Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan saw on the way in. And then took an equatorial route on their way out.
        • Blockading is already hard enough on a 2D surface without strategic choke-points. In 3D space it's totally impossible. Interestingly, Star Wars universe actually allows for blockading, as the hyperspace routes are 1D pathways. You can just blockade entire systems using them as your focus. But this is disregarded because of the Rule of Cool: you can't display a nice bunch of mega-spaceships around a planet.
        • Stuff with the Trade Federation is understandable when you consider this was an army commanded by businessmen, who are following Darth Sidious's orders and individuals with no military training often actually do make the kinds of blunders they did when commanding an army. Plus they had it easy since Naboo's security force have little to no means in standing against a fully mechanized army.
        • Yeah, except businessmen do not always do all that badly. The Venetians and Hansa sacked robber barons castles practically for entertainment. The East India Company won several land wars in Asia. And what profession was it Napoleon ascribed to British (hint: he did not say they were a nation of cattlemen)?
    • Attack of the Clones had thousands of infantry in a slowly advancing skirmish line in an open field battle involving lots of heavy weapons, and Revenge of the Sith had numerous occasions of clones running headfirst at heavy armed and armored droids (and they were being cut down by the dozens as a result).
    • The Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back is pretty good by Star Wars standards, considering the Imperials were denied aerial and orbital support by the shield generator and ion cannon while the Rebels were only stalling for time with the weather conditions (high winds, low visibility, heavy snow) plausibly denying use of heavy artillery by either side. It still has the Rebel pilots charging headfirst at vehicles that could only fire forward, and the Imperials having vehicles that could only fire forward. The ground rebels not only use cover, but also use it for supported firing positions, largely because the extras were played by Norwegian army soldiers.
    • All of the capital ships in Star Wars suffer from a severe case of Arbitrary Maximum Range. The Battle of Corsucant in Revenge of the Sith shows enormous cruisers flying practically right beside each other and trading broadsides like ships of the line did in sailing days. (Admittedly, this was probably the point.)
  • Shows up in the attack on Troy in the film of the same name. The Greeks seem to think that running at massive stone walls will somehow get them into the city. The idea of simply surrounding the city until they run out of food is completely beyond them. Not that the Trojans are much better. They reckon that the best way to meet such a threat is to deploy all their outnumbered forces outside the wall (Historically the Greeks were bad at sieges until the time of Alexander, as your levies would want to go home in autumn, which meant that wars could not be decisively won through siege). At least it shows how spectacularly bad this is, as storming the wall is met with heavy casualties that forces a retreat, and Hector voices how foolish going outside the wall to attack the Greeks is (the Trojans are largely basing their tactics off of bird signs).
    • Note that in the original myth the war lasted TEN YEARS, rather than the few engagements depicted in The Film of the Book, extended by Troy having allies continuously joining the fight and preventing the city from being completely surrounded, not to mention it being on a plateau and having a mountain on one side. However, in the myth the Greeks do also run up walls, and Patroclus nearly gets into the city by climbing up the walls.
    • In the myth, Hektor's wife begs him to hold off the Greek assaults from inside the city, using bows. The Trojans were well aware that this would be safer, but kept fighting outside. The Trojans fought on the open plains because their city's honor was as important to defend as the walls surrounding it.
      • A lot of Ancient Greeks felt that way in real life. If they cannot keep their homesteads from being held hostage to an invader they have to find a Proud Warrior Race to pay protection to (it was a matter of honor but sometimes honor is well described as an intuitive grasp of game theory). Furthermore they wanted to be Home by Harvest and the consequences of defeat in a plain battle and an unfavorable negotiation afterwords were often not as bad as those of a lengthy war.
      • Of course ten years siege of the same city is a little overdoing it and it is hard to think of that many real life sieges that were even a third that long.
      • There were also gods fighting in the myth and I doubt Ares would be satisfied sitting around behind a wall.
  • Well, lets take Ultraviolet as the example, but every darn movie where the Big Bad's minions capture the main character by surrounding them and pointing guns at them. Pointing guns at the center of the circle they're standing in. At least Ultraviolet shows what would actually happen if you tried this Heroine ducks, minions kill each other, they do this for like three minutes, dumbasses.
    • Same thing happens in Total Recall when Arnie is using the hologram watch thing to fool some Mooks into thinking they found him.
    • This is lampshaded, averted, and used as evidence that someone lied about his resume in the movie Ronin. In planning an attack on a convoy, Sean Bean suggests putting guys on either side of the street. Robert De Niro immediately points out that they'd be shooting at each other and calls him an idiot.
  • In Kingdom of Heaven the only guy (at least on the crusader side) who even tries to use tactics is the main character. Everyone else does things like trying to march through miles of desert in full armor without any water to attack people who are threatening your fortified city.
    • The Battle of Hattin happened pretty much like in the movie. In fact Kingdom of Heaven is much more faithful to the actual history then the preceding Gladiator was. The biggest differences to actual history are the compression of the events of the movie which happened over at least a decade in history; the age of the main character, which in reality was about the same as his father in the movie, and the fact that he is actually a mash-up of the three, I think, Ibelin brothers, that actually existed and neither was born outside of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
    • Averted in the case of Saladin. When his armies and those of Jerusalem are facing each other outside Kerak, despite having slightly larger numbers, Saladin backs down. Confronted by one of his generals afterward who rages that the results of battles are determined by God, Saladin counters that yes, they are. But also by planning, tactics, lack of disease, and availability of water. Since he came into Kerak half-cocked expecting to face a relatively small garrison instead of the entire Jerusalem army, he decides to fall back and wait for a better opportunity.
  • In Avatar, the Na'vi attempt an unsupported, unarmored cavalry charge against a prepared line of space marines armed with machine guns. This tactical error could be excused by the Na'vi's lack of knowledge about human weaponry, except that in this particular battle the Na'vi are actually being LED by an ex-space marine.[3]
  • Chronicles of Narnia: The defenders have their archers on clifftops and sit at the bottom of a narrow and highly defensible draw. Rather than use their superior position to their advantage, they decide to charge the enemy over open ground, beyond the range of their supporting archers, with a non-expendable person leading the way. The bonehead army is swiftly and predictably routed.
    • They didn't have too many options. It was either stay put and be pounded by the Telmarines' artillery, or charge.
    • The same thing pretty much happens in the first film as well. Lining up and trying to face a numerically superior army (it's also apparently superior in weaponry, though the evidence doesn't really support this) instead of, say, having the cavalry try and maneuver around an enemy army doesn't really occur to them. It also fails to use their one advantage, as they have a diverse and disciplined army while the enemy is just an intermixed horde.
  • Soldier contains this in spades. One of the more notable examples is the supposedly superior genetically-enhanced soldiers who evidence very little basic tactical sense. No evidence of any proper small unit tactics or knowledge of how to use cover at all. And that's just the start.
  • Braveheart. Historically, the Scottish army during the Wars of Independence used massed pike formations known as schiltrons, combined with use of rough, often swampy terrain and the over-eagerness of Anglo-Norman knights, a tactic which was used successfully at the Battles of Stirling Bridge and Banockburn, but broken up by archers and heavy cavalry at Falkirk. The movie instead depicts every battle as wild, berseker charges across an open field into the English lines, succcess or failure being apparently determined for the most part by narrative necessity. It does acknowledge the use of massed pikes at Stirling Bridge, but in response to a single cavalry charge, and they are soon abandoned.
    • The English charge at Stirling Bridge is a peculiar aversion in that it is actually less stupid than the historical events; the film depicts a charge across flat ground at a foe apparently lacking polearms, while historically it was a charge across rough ground and across a narrow bridge at massed pike, ending exactly as you might expect.
      • Gibson could have filmed the Stirling Bridge sequences on the actual battlefield, but the actual bridge was just so inconvenient to work around. A local told him that the English had the same problem.
  • In Saving Private Ryan, the squad comes across a machine gun nest apparently operating all by itself and decide to take it out. However, despite having the element of surprise and a sniper, the Captain orders them to charge it over open ground directly into the killing zone the Germans had created. And he sends the unarmed Medic up the middle for no reason. The troops start What the Hell, Hero?-ing before they even start the attack. To make it worse, this very "charge the MG nest" strategy had several of his men killed on D-Day. Possibly the scene is meant to show the Captain succumbing to PTSD.
    • Then there's the film's climax, where an unimportant and replacable bridge is defended at all costs. Major Winters, of Band of Brothers fame, said he never would have done something that pointless, to which he was told it wasn't dramatic enough.
  • The Last Samurai. So after more than a year of training the Japanese army has a well trained officer corps, soldiers who can finally shoot straight, and all the cutting edge military equipment that the late 19th century has to offer. In the final battle, however, once the samurai retreat from the initial artillery barrage, they send their troops over a hill in pursuit and run headlong into a samurai ambush that ends up destroying the majority of the army.
    • Justified. The order to charge the samurai hiding behind the hill is given by Omura, a wealthy diplomat with no military background. The military leader of the army tries to tell him what a spectacularly bad idea this is, only to be overruled.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean has elements of this in the second two films (such as the climactic battle in the third one), but averts it in the first. The pirates note that the Black Pearl is going to come at the stern ("crossing the T") so that they won't even be able to return fire. It's only some quick thinking by Elizabeth that nets them a 90 degree turn and gives them a chance to shoot back.
  • The "using arrows on fire at night" tactic is used in Timeline. Subverted, though: The point of the fire arrows was so that the attackers wouldn't be prepared for the "night arrows," which were simply unlit arrows.
  • In Con Air, the National Guard and state police are moving in on the convicts' plane at Lerner Airfield. In long shots, you can see that the airfield is surrounded by open desert on nearly all sides, and the guardsmen have Humm-Vees and other offroad vehicles. They could and should have approached from multiple directions and focused on reaching the plane first. They choose instead to drive directly through an aircraft graveyard, setting them up for an ambush which the cons spring on them, killing dozens and slowing them down enough that the plane takes off again. Perhaps the idea is that the good guys didn't want the bad guys to see them coming, but it's not made clear in the film.
    • The good guys are a scratch detachment of 'Everybody who was available and nearby and could rush there immediately', from several different departments. They have had no time to plan, they have virtually no knowledge of the situation above a simple "there are bad guys at the airfield", and its arguable whether they're even all on the same radio frequency. With no ability to coordinate their movements and no pre-existing drill, 'everybody stick together in one bunch and follow the main road in' is about the only plan they can use.
  • Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies have been parodied in DM of the Rings in this respect (as pictured above).
    • In the battle before the gates of Mordor in The Return of the King, the heavily outnumbered and surrounded Army of the West break ranks and charge into the enemy, whereas in the book they hold their formations on higher ground and let the enemy come to them.
    • The Rohirrim defenders of Helm's Deep let the Orcs neatly form up outside the fortress without shooting - until one bowman prematurely does, which (only then) provokes the Orcs to charge. In the book, their scouts or advance-guard shoot at every Orc stupid enough to carry a torch on the trip up there, before retreating into the fortress.
    • The Rohirrim cavalry charge head-on at the giant Oliphaunts, swatting at their legs. Goes exactly as one would expect. However, this was due more to real-life considerations than artistic license. According to the DVD commentaries, going by the book - shooting the Oliphaunts in the eyes - was deemed too gruesome and reminiscent of animal cruelty toward real elephants to be filmed.
    • The third movie also includes an intentional example. Faramir is forced to make an unsupported cavalry charge across open ground against a fortified position. Said position being an urban environment with lots of rubble in the streets that would handily take away all of a horse's speed and maneuverability. This goes about as poorly as one can expect and was meant to display Denethor's failing sanity.
      • Especially considering that those men would have been better fit to help defend Minas Tirith, which was far more practical than charging the conquer Osgiliath as well as being far more defensible. This also cost Gondor their elite Ithilien Rangers, who were also in the charge.
        • In the book only half of Osgiliath was conquered. Farimir was ordered to defend the part that was still held and blocking the passage of the river.
    • The Orc general lines up the men saying, "Pikes in front, bows in back." That is a sergeant's job. If a general has to do it, he deserves to get beaten.
      • The Rohirrim charge down on the pikes. Apparently horses are kamikazes.
        • Hobson's choice. The Rohirrim expeditionary force is composed of nothing but cavalry; they have no infantry element, and given how thoroughly they're outnumbered stopping and trying to turn it into an archery contest is only going to get them all killed. At this point, 'hey diddle diddle right up the middle and pray we get lucky' is the best item on a menu of bad options.
        • If horses could do that it would be a normal tactic not a desperation one (one horse dying is worth the price of getting it to collapse in the enemy formation). The point is that horses have wills of their own and don't commit suicide. And they would not have known that any other maneuver would get them killed assuming such to be the case.
      • By the way, why the heck were they carrying the full charge at a gallop? The horses would be winded and the formation disordered.
        • We see that the charge started as a trot, shifted to a canter, and only increased to a full gallop shortly before making contact with enemy lines... which is exactly how you're supposed to be doing it.
  • Justified in Zulu. The faux-Medieval spear charge of the Zulus and the pseudo-Napoleonic-volley fire of the Welsh makes sense when one considers that both armies had not yet come across a foe that was cutting edge in weapons technology. The Zulus were not fools and thought that rifles were formidable weapons, because they had faced Boers before. They just thought spears still had a place. Likewise the Welsh had been trained in colonial warfare and did not know what artillery or machine guns could do.

Literature

  • The Romans, Persians, Axumites, Marathans, Rajputs, and Kushans usually have decent tactics in Belisarius Series. After all they have all spent centuries in constant warfare and have some idea how to go about it. The Persians a couple of times make absurd errors once at Mindouas where they are saddled with an incompetent general and once in India where the Persian nobles pressure the king into letting them make a vain charge(and in any case the king makes lemonade out of a lemon by letting his internal rivals kill themselves off while he makes a flanking maneuver). The main Malwan army is composed of peasants grabbed from wherever who are virtual slaves, led by generals more concerned with luxury then good craftsmanship and priests from an unpopular religion foisted on the Malwa empire by their rulers. They perform accordingly.
  • Using Hollywood Tactics is a good way to die in the Wheel of Time series. Mat won a One Sided Battle when 10,000 soldiers made a charge against him, and his army all knew how to use crossbows. The result is that while Mat lost some people, he killed the entire enemy army.
    • Dumai's Wells at the end of the sixth book, where the enemy army's Zerg Rush tactics were defeated in a very bloody fashion.
    • And the Aiel are basically the Zulu, from the ridiculous running speeds to the spear-wielding and war chants down to the page relevant tactics: split the army into four divisions, one to pin, two to the flanks, and a reserve.
    • Rand himself tends to employ Hollywood Tactics at times, with similar results. He's usually self-aware enough of his poor strategic skills to let his generals make the battle-plans, but when he's being stubborn like in the battle with the Seanchan in Path of Daggers expect a bodycount in the thousands.
  • Eldest has a whole bunch of tactical mistakes, including:
    • Firing trebuchets in the middle of a fighting crowd.
    • Flaming ballista bolts.
    • As pointed out by this reviewer, Eragon has its share, too. ("It's like Helm's Deep, but retarded.") The most glaring example: failing to take advantage of the fact that the numerically superior enemy has to pass through tunnels which can easily be collapsed on top of them or have the entrances turned into choke points to render the greater numbers worthless. Instead, the Varden prefer to allow the enemy to march out of the tunnels and form ranks, hoping that hastily improvised defenses will slow them down.
      • This one is (surprisingly enough) averted in the original book, though, where the dwarves do take advantage of collapsing the tunnels to redirect the invaders to choke points. The trouble is that the city is built over a huge network of tunnels, making the process very difficult so they don't collapse the city, too (the real problem here is why a city intended to be the last stronghold of the dwarves would be built over such an unstable network of tunnels, although it's possible the tunnels were created before the city was turned into a fortress).
    • Note that in Brisingr, Roran refused orders from a superior who insisted on using really stupid tactics. And was whipped for this.
  • Subverted in Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan: humanity is able to beat a Martian invasion because Martian 'strategy' consists of light weapons and infantry, announcing their position over radio to the militaries of Earth and stretching their armies to attack every country at once. The book portrays this as terrible planning on the part of the Martians... until we learn that actually, Rumfoord had deliberately made them use terrible tactics, in order to make them easy to beat, yet still seem like a scary enough enemy to encourage the nations of Earth to co-operate.
  • In S. M. Stirling's Emberverse novels, gunpowder and electricity suddenly stop working, forcing the characters to painfully re-learn medieval military tactics. A more specific example: in A Meeting at Corvallis, Sauron-wannabe Norman Arminger ignores pointed warnings from his subordinates and, instead of picking off the various factions opposing him one at a time, launches a massive three-pronged attack that instantly unites everyone against him and ends in general retreat.
  • The achingly bad Novelization of Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars has this in spades. Among the most Egregious examples of tactics in the book is a scene where a Juggernaut artillery walker attacks a Nod machinegun emplacement. Does it use its cannons to bombard it from a distance as artillery emplacements are supposed to? No. Does it blast the emplacement directly with its cannons? Nope. It charges the emplacement and steps on it. Aside from the obvious stupidity of doing that, what kind of idiotic commander puts his artillery close enough to the enemy that it can step on their gun emplacements? Especially when the Juggernaut only has legs because it is supposed to stay out of the line of fire in the first place? (We have a trope page for the Fix Fic Tiberium Wars, by the way.)
  • In the Discworld novel Jingo, Lord Rust appeared to be an avid student of these tactics. He seriously intended to re-enact the strategy used by his nation in a famous battle, simply because it was a glorious battle - ignoring the fact that the strategy he was planning to use was used by the side that lost. He defends his decision based on examples from other famous battles, ignoring his aide's comments that in said battles, the winning army was A) larger than the other side's, B) better equipped/experienced than the other side, C) extremely lucky, or D) entirely fictitious, as the battle came from a children's story. It's a good thing that Vimes showed up and aborted the battle...
    • The Discworld books in general have explained that the Sto Plaines generals are more concerned about becoming famous for their battles than winning them. They refer to the result of battles as "Glorious Casulties" and their tactics are explained as sending their army against the opposing one and counting the resulting losses; if they won it was a nice bonus.
    • Conversely, the book introduced the reader to the famous general Tacticus, whose book Vimes reads at some points. Tacticus is considered a very dishonorable general by Ankh-Morpork's nobility, simply because he not only won battles but managed to keep a large part of his army alive in the process, mainly by avoiding this trope.
    • Sergeant Colon also talks about his time in the armies. He mentions one commander who made them form up in arrows to march on the enemy, as that's how they were depicted in his books.
    • In the book Pyramids the Tsortean and Agatean armies are lining up to face each other, and both sides build a load of wooden horses and hide in them.
    • Averted in Eric, when the besieging army builds a wooden horse, and when the defenders are all gathered around it waiting for it to open, they sneak in through the back door.
  • Averted and played straight in Codex Alera. The Alerans, being the descendants of a displaced Roman Legion that ended up in another world, use classical Roman tactics, particularly the famous, highly-disciplined shieldwall. These tactics are, however, adapted to make greatest use of the Alerans' control over their furies, with specialist formations within the Legion made up of troops who are best at a particular discipline. Firecrafters are used as siegebreakers, metalcrafters and earthcrafters are used for shock attacks, woodcrafters serve as scouts and snipers, etc. The biggest problem that the Alerans have is that their overreliance on furies, coupled with an extremely conservative mindset that breeds arrogance ensured that the Alerans forgot many mechanical principles and thus tended to discount enemy technology that doesn't rely on furies. When they encountered Canim troops with "balest" crossbows, they were utterly unprepared for how powerful they were, and the idea of using seige engines instead of furycraft to bring down walls or fight massed enemies never occurred to them until Tavi and his mentor uncovered ancient catapult plans and sent them to Bernard, who did build them to fight the Vord.
  • The battle tactics used in The Malazan Book of the Fallen series aren't necessarily bad; they'd probably work pretty well if used by Real Life generals during ancient times. However, in their world, magic exists, and it can be just as powerful, if not more powerful, than any modern weaponry, something which most generals seem completely unprepared for. Most of the time, marching their soldiers across the countryside in large formations just makes them sitting ducks for High Mages, who can kill hundreds with a single sorcerous blast.
  • The Starfist series contains several blatant examples, particularly with the issue regarding uncombined arms. For example, tanks are not used because they were rendered "obsolete" because of "Straight Arrow" anti-tank weapons that essentially consisted of a one-shot unguided missile launcher/kinetic kill weapon - essentially a high-tech AT4 or RPG fused with an anti-armor rifle capable of penetrating tank armor. While such a weapon would be effective against tanks, all it is realistically providing is a reliable, relatively short-ranged anti-tank weapon portable by infantry. Realistically, it would cause a significant shift in armored cavalry tactics (use of more infantry screens, less use of armor in built-up terrain, etc), but not a complete decommissioning of the entire armored cavalry branch. The whole notion gets quite savagely lambasted here.
    • The general impression given by the Starfist books is "light infantry are better than everything" which has decidedly never been the case since World War II, but the books are insistent on the infantry in general and the Space Marines in particular being the very best. Artillery and aircraft and armored transport are present, but all the combat boils down to foot infantry fighting enemy foot infantry. The aforementioned issue with tanks is just one symptom of a sort of antipathy the books have in general toward the idea of modern, mechanized warfare.
    • The real galling part of it is that somehow, the Straight Arrow manages to obviate the very real, pressing infantryman's need for heavy mobile support weaponry. The availability of potent anti-armor weaponry won't take away the fact that the troops on the ground are going to need firepower support when faced with strong, dug-in opposition. But the light infantry don't have any support weaponry beyond man-portable gear, despite the fact that flying, missile-armed drones are available in the setting. One would expect to see cheap, teleoperated, tracked or wheeled drones with support weapons, design to be compact and lightweight (and above all else disposable) to be used to support the infantry in response to the Straight Arrow, with armored vehicles serving as a mobile cavalry outside urbanized areas where they can use their extreme range to bombard targets from outside an Arrow's range.
  • In the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the character Hile Troy is hailed as a military genius by the people of the Land (and he was also a brilliant tactician on Earth), but his battle plan is terrible. He relied on only one scouting party to gather intelligence, and even if everything were to go according to plan, he would march his army hundreds of leagues to a canyon in the lower land to ambush the enemy army. Meanwhile his army would be tired and low on provisions, so the enemy would have to be vanquished in a only a matter of days. If the enemy chose not to take Hile Troy's bait in the canyon, then the land would be defenseless with Troy's army holed up at Doom's Retreat. And just like the real world, the best case scenario is not what happens, rather Lord Foul's army is too big and his scouts are delayed in delivering intelligence to Hile Troy.
  • In Mockingjay, Beetee discusses videos of how people in the past had all sorts of nifty military weapons, such as jet planes and satellite lasers. Hey, what about those guns that fire really long distances... you know, artillery? That and laying siege to Capitol would have been a better option than sending in waves of men and women to just die needlessly. This is basically the only reason why any notable characters die.
  • In the first half of World War Z, every single armed force of the world (save for Israel and... that's all) holds the Idiot Ball until the world gets really screwed. Armies make bad decision after bad decision that caused the apocalypse. This reaches its peak at the Battle of Yonkers when... let's just say we're gonna need multiple, heavily detailed bullet points to even begin scratching the surface here. This is one of THE crowning examples of the trope.
    • They don't bring enough ammo to deal with all the zombies that come, despite knowing the capital importance of that battle. This is Handwaved as the military being overconfident, but the handwaving is unconvincing as it goes directly against the normal US military doctrine which says that There Is No Kill Like Overkill, that is also used as a PR strategy ("Shock And Awe") as well as for serious warfighting.
      • In addition to the fact that mankind wasn't out of the Bronze Age before it became standard military practice to always leave a generous safety margin in your supplies whenever possible.
    • They blatantly waste the little artillery ammunition they do have by firing full salvos at a few dozen scattered zombies in the van, while completely ignoring the gigantic horde of zombies in plain view less than half a mile behind them. This is entirely contrary to sound artillery doctrine, which is to aim large salvos at the center of large concentrations of enemy and not at their outermost leading edge or at small isolated groups.
    • The formation used is straight out of the Hollywood manual. The military entirely ignores available high ground and sets up their fighting positions at the lowest point on the map, without so much as placing even lookouts or snipers or artillery observers on nearby high points. While the military does perform with minimal competence in setting up at a natural terrain chokepoint, they then entirely fail to have the combat engineers erect fortifications or clear lanes of fire to best take advantage of that chokepoint.
    • Likewise, all of their strength is laid out essentially in a single line with no defense in depth, minimal or no interlocking fields of fire, and no reserve element held back to reinforce against penetrations as needed. The military state of the art had advanced beyond this kind of tactical layout before the end of the Bronze Age. The Assyrians understood the concept of holding back at least some elements in reserve in order to have them available to reinforce vs. enemy breakthrough or exploit sudden opportunities.
    • Also, in a classic Hollywood Tactic, the artillery does not fire very far (if at all) outside of visual range, despite MLRS having a maximum range of approximately 30 miles. And a minimum range of several miles.
    • The military doesn't have even a rough order-of-magnitude estimate of the number of zombies they're actually facing. This despite having every form of aerial and satellite recon potentially available and facing, well, zombies, who don't actually hide or have the ability to attack anything outside of arms' reach — especially not anything flying.
    • For some reason, most tanks are given sabots, anti-tank non explosive weapons useless against large crowds of humanoids, instead of the much more logical antipersonnel munitions appropriate for that case. This is particularly egregious because in recent history the Army was ready to design an entirely new ammunition type for the Abrams main gun for use in Iraq (optimized for use against obstacles and improvised fortifications), rather than choose to use sabot for a job it was not good at.
    • They dig foxholes and use an infantry static defense backed by stationary AFVs, instead of using a mechanized defense and maneuver warfare. Foxholes are used as protection vs. gunfire and artillery, two things zombies have absolutely none of. In addition, pinning themselves down in foxholes entirely negated one of the two greatest advantages that humans have over zombies, their superior mobility.
    • In addition, apparently no provisions were made for a fighting retreat if necessary. The fighting retreat is the classic tactic used by a smaller mobile force (especially cavalry and armored cav) with excellent ranged capability when confronted with an advance by a much larger but slower force with poor ranged capability if there is nothing at the battle site itself that needs to be defended vs. capture, i.e., the exact tactical situation being faced at Yonkers. This is a tactic that was old before the Persian Empire was young, and yet apparently they've never heard of it.
    • The zone the army fought on wasn't checked against hostile, letting zombies pop out, attracted by the sound of gunfire, and attack the lines of soldiers from behind. Failing to provide for flank guard and/or rear guard when laying out fighting positions is an error as fundamental as holding onto the grenade and throwing the pin instead of the other way around. The military has standard procedures for maintaining at least some kind of watch on flanks and rear for units all the way down to a single fire team (four men). Sweeping an area for concealed enemy units before setting up camp on it is even more basic than that. And yet the military at Yonkers, despite being present in at least brigade strength, fails to do either effectively.
    • While air support of at least some kind is present, it is both grossly inadequate in strength, composed of the wrong type of aircraft, carrying the wrong type of ordnance, and assigned to the wrong mission. They sent advanced high-performance multi-role fighters instead of dedicated ground-attack aircraft like A-10s or B-52s, they used long-range stand-off weapons intended for killing single tanks miles away instead of area munitions intended for killing large groups of infantry right beneath you, and what helicopters were available were apparently all tasked to the job of carrying news media as opposed to, y'know, shooting at the enemy.
    • Also, no close air support is even started until the zombies are already danger close, instead of the Air Force bombarding them the whole way in. Given that a good B-52 arclight strike could have destroyed most of the zombie horde before it even reached Yonkers, this is another one in the 'inexplicably idiotic errors that even Private Dumbjohn could have figured out was a bad idea, yet an entire room full of generals somehow failed to' category.
  • Tactics is not that bad in Lord of the Rings actually, at least when you allow for supernatural and near supernatural heroics. Logistics is kind of odd though. It is barely explained how Sauron obtains food (there are giant factory farms crewed by slaves), and it is not explained how he transports it. The good guys don't explain it at all. And some battles take place in wilderness where there are no peasants to rob, um forage.

Live Action TV

  • Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers. "We do not retreat, whatever the reason." A rather stupid tactic for a group known as 'Rangers', whose job often involves bringing back information on mysterious aliens of terrifying technological-superiority.
  • Doctor Who. Particularly noticeable in the new series' version of the Sontarans, said to be "the greatest soldiers in the universe", whose tactics consist of standing out in the open and shooting UNIT - rapidly shifting to standing out in the open and getting shot by UNIT when UNIT figures out how to overcome their gun-wedgifying Techno Babble field.
  • Though the main characters in Star Trek: Enterprise constantly use classically bad Hollywood Tactics, the M.A.C.O.s actually used real small-unit military tactics. Which makes sense as the Starfleet personnel were mainly civilian pilots and scientists, while the M.A.C.O.s were a combat-trained Space Marine unit. (T'pol claimed that she also had combat experience, but she never showed it. Of course she wasn't on the show for her military skills).
    • No one even seems to understand body armor; even simple stab resistant suits would have saved the lives of dozens of security personnel. And there is a substance that can stand up to phasers and is light enough to make decent body armor: an episode of DS9, "Blaze of Glory," mentioned barrels made of phaser-proof material, and said barrels were light enough to be jostled around by people. They weren't rare or expensive either, as said barrels were strewn all over the place. How come no one ever thought to make armor from those?
      • Justified in the case of Enterprise and TOS, as the technology may not have existed at the time. TNG, Voyager and DS 9 were all contemporaneous, though, so this trope is played straight there (unless it was invented after Voyager got stuck in the Delta quadrant, in which case they wouldn't have known about it and wouldn't have had access to it if they did).
    • This trope is even more glaring in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine since the series is far more militaristic than other Star Trek series. A list of all of the poor tactics would take up a page of its own, but one of the worst examples has to be the Jem'Hadar. Having the ability to shroud themselves from the naked eye and sensors they, naturally, close to close quarters and make themselves visible before attacking whereas the smart way to use such an ability would be to keep oneself shrouded and move invisibly along the battlefield wreaking havoc unseen.
    • The Jem'Hadar also do the same "stand straight up and march like a 17th century Tercio" routine that Star Wars armies love, while the defending Federation forces shoot at them one-at-a-time with single bursts from a phaser rifle, instead of throwing a grenade into the Jem'Hadar ranks.
    • The Borg use NO tactics at all, but they still win because of We Have Reserves, Zerg Rush, AND the ability to adapt to enemy weapons and tactics. They don't care if their units are wiped out, because the next units they send will have adapted to the weapons/tactics the enemy used to defeat the previous units. All that, and a Hive Mind which keeps morale from being an issue.
    • An administrative/strategic example in Star Trek starting with Star Trek: The Next Generation would be the combining of the tactical officer and chief of security into a single role, essentially meaning that one person has to be both chief of onboard military police and the ship's "gunner." Also, there seems to be no separate 'naval combat' department. See something wrong here?
    • Hey, let's send a ship captain, a medic and a security chief on a dangerous, secret and politically dicey mission instead of commandos who are actually trained for such operations. Let's also make sure the ship captain we send has information the enemy wants. Nothing bad is going to happen because of this at all. While we're at it let's send bridge officers on away and combat missions instead of purpose-trained marines like every other navy in history.
  • Also from Gerry Anderson, the titular Mysterons of Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons. If you intend to wipe out "all life on Earth," whether in a "slow, but nonetheless effective" manner or in a single strike, you do not announce every plan, complete with schedule, to the world's security organization.
    • Considering they broadcast all their plans in the form of simple riddles, never try the same thing twice, never change their stated plans, it's clear they're treating the war as a game. The interesting thing about the series is, despite the limitations they impose on themselves, the Mysterons sometimes manage to win.
      • The Mysterons had declared a "war of nerves," which most of the fandom has decided means the Mysterons were engaging in psychological warfare rather than attempting conventional destruction. If they just wanted humanity dead, well...
  • M*A*S*H:
    • In The Sniper, a sniper is terrorizing the 4077th and keeping the doctors from helping the wounded. Hawkeye comes up with the suggestion that they surrender to the sniper. He argues that this would allow them to attend to the wounded, but fails to explain how this makes any sense. No one else seems to notice the flaw in this plan. Blake says he can't surrender because he has to be ordered to surrender, which is not true, either. Hawkeye gets a white flag and attempts to surrender, but it doesn't work out so well, and he's still not surprised. Perhaps this was part of the 1970's values dissonance and his attempt to surrender was an appeal to anti-Vietnam War sympathizers.
      • From beginning to end, M*A*S*H was anti-war, and unique at the time to not portray war and soldiers as glorious people, so they took every opportunity to portray the violent, dirty, and scary aspects of war.
      • Also, negotiating battlefield truces to allow opportunities to recover wounded were hardly unknown practice.
    • In an early Christmas episode, Hawkeye has to climb down a rope, from a chopper, in enemy territory, under fire, while dressed as Santa, to treat a wounded soldier, and all without being shot once, rather than the pilot landing to drop him off then taking off.
      • There wasn't anywhere to land. The terrain was broken, full of trenches, and possibly mined.
  • In War and Remembrance, Adolf Hitler, excellently played by Steven Berkoff, goes into a rage at even the most sensible redeployment that implies moving rearward. And yes that is Truth In Television at least according to the testimony of captured German generals. Admittedly they had an inherent bias to claiming it was all Hitler's fault. But Hitler does at least seem to have given such orders repeatedly in Real Life.
  • V: The Final Battle was full of Hollywood tactics. Some examples:
    • The aliens in the movie tend to stand around out in the open in brightly-colored uniforms, despite knowing that there are rebels who will attack them. When shooting starts, they tend to flock together, making themselves an easier target. At least those brightly-colored uniforms were bulletproof in the second miniseries.
    • The aliens also tend to yell, "Halt!" a few seconds prior to shooting at anyone and continue to shoot even after their targets have rounded a corner or closed a door in front of them.
    • The humans have their stupid moments, too. When Donovan made a bargain for his son, he agreed to trade himself for his son. The aliens meet the humans in a canyon where the humans have a very nice ambush scenario set up. Donovan and his son trade places in a tunnel, but no one thinks that maybe Donovan should just turn around and run back to safety, even though the aliens are completely at their mercy and the humans have no reason to honor the bargain, except to advance the plot and get Donovan aboard the mother ship again. Instead, he just happily walks into the custody of the aliens and ends up blowing the cover of two Fifth Column agents. All it would have taken would be a line of dialogue about how the Vs have air support, which was their main advantage over the humans. It counts as a stupid moment for the Vs two, since the Resistance's other leader and their tactical mastermind-slash-weapons supplier is at the meeting too. They could have killed three birds with one stone and kill them too, thus decapitating the resistance in one blow.
  • The series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a doozy. Buffy's plan to even the odds in the coming battle of her gang of Potential Slayers vs. the hundreds of uber-powerful vampires lurking in the Hellmouth is to have Willow cast a spell that will upgrade them all to full Slayer status. Fine. But instead of waiting safely for a few minutes until the spell is complete and then entering the arena fully powered-up and prepared, they instead inexplicably charge into the Hellmouth and hide out on a ledge hoping not to be seen. They are of course immediately spotted, and have to begin the fight severely outgunned and hold the line until Willow finishes casting. Plus, she couldn't call in a few favors from Riley and get some grenades to help deal with the large number of Turok-Han that would be swarming at the base?
    • For that matter, they are trying to keep an army of vampires from swarming out of a hole in the ground underneath the high school. Except that its daytime. There's tactical idiocy on both sides here - the First Evil, for not timing its attack for nightfall, and the Scooby Gang, for not simply blowing up the high school (like they've done once before) and leaving said hole in the ground exposed to the outside environment.
      • In the First Evil's defense, it is possible to reach the Sunnydale sewer system (and thus anywhere in town) from the school basement without going outside. The Scoobies are still idiots for not taking advantage of the part where they have a) uncontested control of the high school in the previous days before the battle, b) an entire town and adjacent National Guard armory that's already been evacuated of people they can loot and c) a proven explosives expert, and combining them to both destroy the connecting tunnel to the sewer and remove the basement roof and everything above it, leaving the entire Hellmouth exposed to the sun.

Tabletop Games

  • Certainly possible in a game of Warhammer 40,000, depending on you and your opponent, and frequently justified -- unlike all warfare since about 1400, armour is more powerful that ranged weapons, so human wave attacks, swordfighting etc are likely to be more common. The background fluff offers more examples:
    • Until their competence was upgraded in recent codices, the Imperial Guard were infamous for taking the WWI approach to warfare, favoring wave after wave of frontal assaults. Nowadays this trope is either played straight or avoided depending on the regiment or commander in charge. The Armageddon Steel Legion can pull off blitzkrieg-style onslaughts with mechanized infantry, and the Elysian Drop Troops carefully coordinate air support for their tactical insertions.
    • Meanwhile, the Mordian Iron Guard take to the battlefield in close order drill wearing brightly-colored dress uniforms,[4]. They also won't retreat without an explicit order. And while just standing there and pouring shots with "First Rank, Fire! Second Rank, Fire!" could be disastrous against a proper army (with camouflage, heavy weapons and all), it can work well against the barbaric mobs screaming "Blood for the Blood God!" (or "WAAAGH!") and only making potshots on the run until in close combat. The more savvy Generals and Commissars are aware that Mordian troops are recruited from law enforcement and use them mostly as military police. While Colonel Chenkov of the Valhallan Ice Warriors got a medal after killing ten million Imperial soldiers by sending them against an enemy citadel without armor or siege support.
    • While the Space Marines can use fancy tactics to win battles, and certain chapters are known for using a great deal of subtlety and finesse to achieve their victories, the Adeptus Astartes' superhuman physique and formidable wargear means that a Drop Pod assault right into the enemy's front lines is a valid and quite successful option. Note that since their military/religious doctrine holds that "camouflage is the colour of cowardice," they're going to be wearing their chapter colors the whole time.
      • Some chapters do dress in colours that could blend in with certain environments (Space wolves on an ice world). However some chapters have clashing chapter colours (Ultramarine sergeants wear red helmet on blue armour, allowing them to be spotted by their own men and snipers alike. That is, when they decide to wear a helmet at all!)
    • Gleefully embraced by the Orks, whose response to any problem is generally screaming "WAAAGH!", blazing away with their inaccurate weapons, and trying to get into close combat with the foe. Due to their numbers and brute strength they can often get this to work both on or off the tabletop.
    • The Eldar take pains to avert this since they're a race on the verge of extinction. They use a combination of psychic foresight and a swift, highly-mobile army to strike without warning, achieve their objectives, and withdraw, ideally without taking a single casualty.
    • Averted by the Tyranids, frequently to their opponents' detriment. Though they appear to be a tide of mindless beasts, the Hive Mind directing that tide is quite intelligent, able to lure enemy tanks into dense terrain where a single Carnifex can tear them apart, send burrowing organisms to disrupt the enemy's rear and sow terror and confusion, or send hordes of expendable Cannon Fodder to use up the enemy's ammunition before the real attack.
      • Also averted by them on the strategic level. In response to an Imperium tactic of burning planets the Tyranids are on the Tyranids have started breeding specifically to endure this. Additionally one of the Hive Fleets is attacking the galaxy from below, something that humans unused to thinking in three dimensions didn't even suspect for a long time.
    • A minor alien race called the Thyrus has this as their Hat. Their entire military strategy on any scale is based around what looks cool, and as a result they're impossible to predict on the battlefield - an impressive and dramatic defeat is as valued as a total victory, and huge casualties on both sides is their most-desired outcome.

Theater

  • In Arms and the Man Captain Bluntschli explains to Raina why her husband to be, Sergius, was totally insane to take his entire division and charge straight into a nest of entrenched machine guns. It turns out that the attack worked and won the battle for Sergius's side but that was only because the machine guns were sent the wrong ammunition.


Video Games

  • Somewhat rectified, non-canonically, by the Star Trek Elite Force games, where Janeway and Picard realize the need for a small-scale tactical assault team. Said Hazard Team is remarkably effective at situations involving the application of extreme firepower. Sadly, they are never heard from outside the games, despite the obvious potential in the various series.
    • They also have personal shield generators, which is something that would be of tremendous use on any battlefield (except desert worlds with giant worms).
  • Can actually be a valid tactic in the Total War series due to the inaccuracy of guns, provided you have a general with enough morale bonuses under his belt. Works a little less well against cannons. Does not work at all, for obvious reasons, in the Napoleonic conversion.
    • All the Total War games avert this. In Rome: Total War, for one, trying anything you've seen in a movie will probably make your automated advisor yell at you, including completely surrounding the enemy in an inescapable ring, as in the page picture. Your advisor will warn you to leave your enemy a way to escape, because if they have a way to retreat, they'll break and run when you overwhelm them, letting you run them down and capture them for profit. If they're completely boxed in, they get morale bonuses and can cause a lot more damage to your guys than they otherwise would have. Even peasants can do serious damage to units of armored knights when they've gone into "fighting to the death" mode.
      • Though the trope is justified when fighting against Egypt in Multiplayer. The Egyptians' faction-specific strengths make them almost impervious to attack with conventional tactics. Their archers outrange and out-kill those of any other faction, and if you try to charge them with cavalry their chariots will cut you down. It has become accepted fact in the Tournament community that the only way to beat them is to play as the Britons, load up on high-morale armoured swordsmen and chariots, and order the charge in the first second of the battle.
    • And yet the enemy even in Napoleon has no problems charging cannons that can be set to fire grapeshot and temporarily boosted to reload faster. Of course, this is only possible because, unlike other games, Empire and Napoleon have unlimited ammo for artillery (but not infantry).
  • At first glance, the Battle of Ostagar from Dragon Age has this in droves. We see such gems as: archers only firing one volley before sending in the hounds and soldiers, the army lining up outside their fortifications, archers firing into a melee and having the entire battle plan rely on flanking the enemy... who aren't even attacking in organized regiments. That is until we learn that Loghain Mac Tir, the King's greatest strategist, deliberately set up the entire battle to ensure that the Ferelden army at Ostagar would lose and King Cailan would be killed. Coupled with the fact that King Cailan himself is...not the brightest strategist and is focused on glory and storybook-style victories, and this actually becomes quite believable.
    • Ostagar is a bit questionable of an example. Darkspawn don't operate like a normal army, the walls were breached, and the number of Darkspawn was rapidly increasing. In addition, their tactics were working up until Loghain pulled out.
    • Also, the archers only fired one volley before the Fereldan countercharge started because the darkspawn were charging straight at them from out of the forest without stopping to form up or dress their lines. In the time it took the enemy to cross the range band from 'within arrow range' to 'getting too close', the archers only had a chance to fire once. And given that the darkspawn outnumbered them meeting the charge standing in place would have been a worse idea than trying to break the darkspawns' momentum by first sending in the war hounds and then hitting them with a countercharge. Cailan, despite not being the most profound of thinkers (to put it mildly) was still using reasonably competent tactics once the battle was engaged. The strategy was flawed, but that as mentioned above that was not Cailan's fault.
      • To amplify the archery concern above: it is important to note that darkspawn, being effectively undead, are capable of moving indefinitely at a sprinting pace without tiring and still fighting effectively at the end of their run. Cailan, whose prior combat experience would be only with human enemies, would thus vastly underestimate the amount of time it would take a charging darkspawn horde to cross the intervening space (as human opponents could not possibly cross a battlefield that size without spending most of the distance walking, unless they wanted to arrive at the other end so exhausted that they could be effortlessly cut to pieces). And while Duncan is highly experienced at fighting darkspawn he is not experienced at maneuvering army-size formations, this being the opening battle of the first Blight in several hundred years.
  • The two cutscenes of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn that show actual wars being waged are both utterly ridiculous instances of Gameplay and Story Segregation, considering that using cavalry, infantry and archers/mages correctly is kind of the whole point of the series. Instead, Begnion's greatest commander has... one million-man box - no divisions or formation, just a box - of spearmen, plus himself, who has a sword. All of them are on foot. When they engage the laguz, it turns into an enormous brawl, with everyone spreading out to dance around ineffectively at each other. It did include at least one ballista and a few armor knights, though not in any discernible formation.
    • The first cutscene at least did have some attempt at tactics, with a concerted flanking maneuver by the hawk and beast tribes. There are a lot of clever tactics mentioned during conversations that are supposedly being used at some point during these battles, but the animators were apparently too lazy to draw up some sort of a semblance of how an actual army might look.
    • Sacred Stones has Ephraim decide that it's a really good idea to assault a castle filled with at least forty enemies using only himself and his three most trusted knights. Because they had the element of surprise. The only reason they survive is because the player himself knows what he's doing and/or due to the Crutch Character that's with you. Does that count as Gameplay and Story Integration? He's said to be a worthy commander renowned for his tactics. Despite this, he shown to be both Book Dumb and Too Dumb to Live in various other cutscences.
  • Shown in the opening cinematic for Age of Mythology and its expansion. However, considering pretty much every unit and tree shrub in it is an example of Shown Their Work, this was probably for Rule of Cool.
  • Pretty much any game where starships are boarded by the enemy at any point. Both the attackers and the defenders display Hollywood Tactics; the defenders because they never think to just seal the outermost bulkheads, trap the attackers between sets of blast doors (assuming their ships are even designed with bulkheads and blast doors which, given how catastrophic a hull breach IN SPACE would be, they really ought to be) and then decompress the chambers. The attackers use Hollywood Tactics, perhaps out a bizarre case of genre-savviness, by not considering the possibility that this could happen and equipping their troops with anything that would allow them to breathe in a vacuum.
    • Averted in the Halo novels, where the crew of the Pillar of Autumn promptly starts depressurization once the Covenant board. Even in chambers with living people in them. This is just to buy time for the escape pods, since the Covvies soon get smart and break out breathing gear.
    • However, the level Long Night of Solace in Halo: Reach plays this straight on the defenders part. They are too stupid to simply seal the bulkheads. Granted, the Covenant are largely unfamiliar with the technology but you'd expect them to at least understand how to open and/or close a door.
  • Throughout the Halo series, marines are shown to be riding on the hulls of tanks. This tactic is known as tank desanting. While it had been used extensively throughout WWII by the Russians and Americans during Vietnam, it was mostly just to get from one place to another and soldiers would dismount as soon as combat ensued. Riding on a tank while under fire is an extremely dangerous thing to do given how attractive tanks are as targets from enemy fire. One would think that centuries in the future, we would not revert to tactics from the middle ages of armored warfare. Bungie basically admitted it was working off of Rule of Fun.
  • At the beginning of the Halo: Reach mission "Tip of the Spear," the humans are seen attacking the Covenant with a huge crowd of Warthogs and a few Scorpions. Apparently they all forgot that the Warthog is a recon vehicle, and the tanks should go first.
    • This also presumes they had more than a few Scorpions. After several days of Convenant invasion, when you gather together a bunch of stragglers, survivors, and the lost and make them into a counterattack, you're not going to have everything up to the standard TO&E. And Warthogs are a lot more likely to survive the initial 'run away and hide in the boonies' phase than Scorpions.
  • Gets interesting in Mount & Blade: Warband multiplayer, particulary on Battle servers with random maps. Basically, it's a medieval combat simulator. Lately, there have been servers with sizes up to 200-300 players. Sometimes they use strategy and tactics. Sometimes it's every man/woman for him/herself. There are the skilled players that really can hold the gate or enemy advance on their own and there people who in a room with ten enemies manage to hit the only ally in range. It's awesome when a spontanuous shieldwall is made, covering the archers while the enemy cavalry is going for the loners and the flanks. Without built-in voice chat, co-ordination is fairly difficult but sometimes they still manage to pull off very nice manoevres. The 'everyone for himself' scatter tactic is the most common though, closely followed by 'stick together'.
  • Although it is never addressed in-game, some level of tactics is definitely required to survive X-COM games. Many a Let's Play of X-COM spend a few minutes with the player outlining suppression strategies they plan to use while arming their men and then watch as they fail spectacularly. After they get together competent Psi/Molecular Control teams, tactics rarely venture beyond "make enemy kill themselves". In the early game your lightly armed and unarmored troops tend to get slaughtered by the aliens in any sort of firefight. A good tactic is to just blow up everything with high explosives and follow that up with cannon fire and grenades.
    • An ironic thing is that one of the most effective tools on real life battlefields, smoke grenades (or equivalents), are usually ignored or missed by a majority of players. With them, the games become much easier, since they heavily reduce the enemies' vision range and accuracy. Of course, it would also be easier if the transports came with windows or external cameras, or close air support, or even just a helicopter overhead to spot for the ground forces.
  • In Metroid: Other M, Commander Adam Malkovich sends his men and Samus to investigate various areas of the Bottle Ship alone while he watches the security cameras from the control room, allowing them to be picked off by a saboteur and other factors. This is a decorated Commander, a former general in another military force, and he seems to have no idea of basic infantry tactics. Then again, this is the same guy who apparently thought restricting Samus' defensive measures as well as her offensive armament was a good idea.
  • These trailers for two Star Wars games, The Force Unleashed and The Old Republic respectively. Rule of Cool aside, Did Not Do the Research is an understatement - the stuff some of them do is just illogical. Particularly notable is the fact that the troopers have both high-ground, surprise, and ranged weaponry against an opponent who largely deals in melee attacks, but their battle plan requires them to fire a few shots, then announce their presence by yelling loudly as they run up to the Sith and try to shoot them. Of course, given who their successors are, this is par for the course.
  • Dawn of War contains numerous examples of this, either for Rule of Fun/Acceptable Breaks From Reality reasons, or one of the reasons listed in the Warhammer 40,000 example above (being in the same setting).
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, General Lee "Wait-And-See" Oliver is a definite follower of this since as a Glory Hound General Failure, what he really wants is one big glorious slaughterfest on Hoover Dam that will make sure that he goes down in history and outshines Chief Hanlon, an actually competent tactician, at the cost of countless NCR soldiers. Robert House even lampshades this, referring to Oliver's "tactics" as Tunnel Vision. This is because his only move is to fortify the Hoover Dam with troops to prepare for an impending Legion attack and nothing else. He is apathetic to the situation everywhere else in the Mojave, even when the Legion establishes itself in the Mojave and engage in regular attacks on the NCR to crippling effects (i.e. Searchlight, Nipton, Nelson, Forlorn Hope, etc.). To that and to the regular Fiend raids, Oliver maintains his orders to hold position and not pursue, even when it's clear how these are all affecting their supply lines and morale. Upon closer inspection, the NCR is so bogged down by this and everything else that they are unable to take notice of or respond to further sabotage attempts (into McCarran itself), the involvement of the Great Khans, the breakout of the NCR Correctional's inmates and the total unpreparedness of their troops that it becomes clear that the NCR would've been slaughtered were it not for the Courier's intervention.

Web Comics

  • Cry Havoc mainly averts this, but plays it straight when it comes to psychers. Their psychic powers can make them virtually bullet proof, and allow for some very hollywood-esque tactics including a one (wo)man Zerg Rush against dug in opponents. The rest of the time, the dogs of war and rebels use real tactics such as suppression, maneuver, misinformation, combined arms, and ambush reaction.
  • Parodied in this Sluggy Freelance strip (or at least it parodies Video Game tactics, anyway).

Torg: Alright, we'll need some of the townsfolk to chop down trees, mine for gold, and set up solar collectors in case we need to build more troops. Do we have any dragons yet?
Val: Why are the cute ones always insane?

  • Here's how to conduct a battle if you're an Orc chieftain in Dominic Deegan who is also a Native American. Your warband occupies a hilltop overlooking your enemy's camp. Many of your warriors are master archers, while the enemy tribe has shown no ranged weapons and no defenses beyond teepees. You must carry the day, but you're not counting seconds. It follows that you should take your enemy by surprise by leading a charge down the hill. Keep your archers back, but have them hold fire until the ranks have mixed and the enemy is occupied with your fighters. Then pour arrows into the melee, where they only hit enemies. Fight nonlethally with your clubs, hammers, spears, and rain of arrows on a ballistic trajectory, since only the enemy chief is evil. Have all of this work until the chief overwhelms you with his magic, then give the order to kill by yelling it really loud in the middle of a battle. Get rescued by two different groups of allies that snuck up on everybody on what is largely a flat, featureless plain. Celebrate.
  • Schlock Mercenary occasionally mocks this. The slang term for soldiers who use inertiics of their armor to fly away from cover is "skeet". The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries advise:

Maxim 22: If you can see the whites of their eyes, somebody's done something wrong.
Maxim 42: "They'll never expect this" means "I want to try something stupid."
Maxim 43: If it's stupid and it works, it's still stupid and you're lucky.
Maxim 47: Don't expect the enemy to cooperate in the creation of your dream engagement.


Web Original

  1. Shields
  2. Reach
  3. Archers (being archers, Aragorn isn't real)
  4. Being in a shield wall
  5. Line-on-line fighting (formation dynamics and losing ground)
  6. Armour (and what it does to endurance)
  7. Skirmishers (light troops engage when and where they have an advantage, thus try flanking and Hit and Run Tactics if they can)
  8. Trading blows (hitting in melee range isn't hard, being hit less is the trick)
  9. Firefights (it's about cover and concealment)
  10. Discipline and formations (stragglers get picked off, turtling groups get encircled and then picked apart)
  11. People on the floor (leaving enemies behind is likely to end badly)
  12. Big monsters, elites, vehicles etc. (support troops covering flanks of heavies/elites are vital)

Western Animation

  • G.I. Joe. Just to start, the opening for the movie has COBRA's apparent goal to be destroying the Statue of Liberty. After somehow getting an airship right above it, instead of using a missile or dropping some bombs, they send hundreds of paratroopers (who would be falling all over each other if they're that close) and a couple air vehicles down to set one time bomb at the base of it and they have ships for backup which didn't even try to do anything until they were within about twenty feet of the island and got blown up by Joe fighter planes.
    • How about GI Joe? What kind of commander would let an enemy get that close to a sensitive target full of civilians just so the infantry could engage them? For that matter, if US military had that much time and forewarning to prepare an ambush, then why weren't a squadron of fighters simply scrambled to shoot down that big transport miles from harm's way?
  • Transformers sometimes falls into this trap for large battles, especially aerial. For the most part it does squad-based action pretty well, if a bit static. (Thank goodness nobody ever thought to make giant robot-sized grenades a standard!) In the third movie, some prototypes of anti-Cybertronian grenades, usable by humans, show up.
  • Both the first and second Star Wars Clone Wars series display countless, repeated examples of this trope from the Jedi and the Republic in general, despite A) the clones being outnumbered by several orders of magnitude by the Separatist droid army (the latter manufactured in factories across the galaxy while the clones are only produced in a few small cities on one planet), and B) the Republic on the brink of winning the war by the time of Revenge of the Sith, pushing the Separatists to a handful of Outer Rim fortresses. This is despite the clones being allergic to cover and commonly meeting the droids (entirely viable) Zerg Rush tactics with their own, having minimal-to-non-existant armoured or aerial/orbital support, and generally being utterly useless unless a Jedi is around to help them (especially in the second series). The few examples of competency, for example the unbelievably badass ARC troopers in the first series, just rub salt in the wound.
    • The largest example of this is displayed in the first few minutes of the pilot film. Despite the clones having ample cover and artillery support to hold off the large amount of incoming droids, once Anakin springs his 'ambush' (a staggering 5 soldiers), the clones immediately jump out of cover and charge the enemy droids head-on. They predictably get slaughtered.
    • However, the combat in Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been getting better. Newer episodes have featured armored units engaging artillery and flak cannons ahead of the main landing zones to ensure the gunships have safe places to deploy. Clones use carpet bombing tactics to uproot entrenched opposition. When sent against armored units without support by the resident General Failure, the clones have been quick to adapt and begin using missile launchers and mortar teams, while two recon troops hijack enemy fighters and provide close air support.


Real Life

  • The famous, glorious, bloody waste of human life known to posterity as the Charge of the Light Brigade just about edges in - the order sent to the Light Brigade was to "charge the guns"; perfectly reasonable, except the officer in charge of the LB couldn't see the guns the order referred to, assumed it was the ones they could see, and got pretty much all of them killed for no reason.
    • Matters weren't helped by the fact that Lucan and Nolan, the officer who brought the message, were very definitely NOT on best speaking terms. Nolan may have indicated the fateful guns as an attempt at sarcasm (which he was then horrified to find being taken seriously) or he may have misunderstood Lord Raglan's order, which was an entirely sensible one to retake captured guns being pulled away by unsupported Russian soldiers elsewhere on the field. Either way, there are indications that he died trying to correct his mistake. Even so the Light Brigade managed to massacre one of the Russian battery crews and then hack their way back out.
      • Another theory is that Nolan knew exactly what he was doing. He was a proponent of cavalry charges against artillery, and saw this as a perfect chance to prove his theories were correct. (And to a certain extent, they were. The charge worked, and the British captured the Russian guns. It was the Russian counter-attack, and the brigade's subsequent retreat, that caused most of the casualties. If the Heavy Brigade had followed the Light Brigade, as they should have, they would have been able to repulse the counter-attack, and the whole incident might have been recorded as a great British victory.)
        • Except they were maintaining formation while in transit, making themselves easy targets.
  • Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. The Confederacy and the Union had been duking it out at Gettysburg for about three days (July 1–July 3, 1863). The North's position was so well established that the South had attempted two major flanking maneuvers and had been repulsed both times. The Union had better-fed, better-equipped, and better-trained soldiers than the South. Still, both armies had inflicted a similar number of casualties on each other. It was anyone's game. But commanding general Robert E. Lee knew that the Union could not be allowed to gain reinforcements or further fortify their position. Between the two armies lay a large, open field. As an act of desperation, Lee decided he should take the least predictable course of action possible... running straight up the gullet in a dramatic but moronic attack. Never mind that they had to run into cannon range whilst leaving their cannons at ineffective range. Never mind that this sort of attack can only succeed when your forces outnumber the enemy pretty handily, but the South was outnumbered by the North.
    • It must be mentioned that Lee didn't realize the enemy's disposition when he gave Longstreet the order. Pickett did ask Longstreet whether Lee knew the situation had changed. Longstreet ignored him, and told him to charge anyway. All three blamed Lee in memoirs and such afterwords, Longstreet going so far as to say he and Pickett saw it as suicide from the beginning.
    • What makes this especially bad is that, almost seven months prior, Lee had scored a major victory at Fredericksburg when his opponent (General Burnside) did the exact same thing to his own defensive line. A famous quote from that battle: "A chicken could not live on that field when we open up on it."
    • Early on the third, the Confederates tried to use an artillery barrage to eliminate Union artillery. Henry J. Hunt, commander of the Union artillery, couldn't really see to return fire—but he deliberately stepped down counterbattery fire slowly to give the impression that the Confederate barrage was working. (That is, that the Union guns were going silent one by one because they were being destroyed.) Alexander fell for it; Lee followed suit. Hence, it's not like they knew they were heading straight down the throats of working cannon; that came as an unpleasant—albeit brief—surprise. See here.
      • One factor that may have played a part was that not long before Gettysburg Lee had succeeded in sending an army that outnumbered his by a factor of 2 or 3 to 1 into full retreat at Chancellorsville, which may have led him to seriously underestimate the morale of the Union troops and commanders. Also worth remembering: a charge every bit as foolhardy as Pickett's succeeded magnificently later that year as the Army of the Cumberland stormed Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga, sending their Confederate opponents into headlong retreat.
      • Yet another factor was simply a matter of where they charged from. Halfway to the Union forces, Pickett's men encountered a fence, and this obstacle broke their momentum and under sustained fire at a much closer (and therefore more lethal) range than before it was impossible for the Confederates to regain the lost momentum.
  • The start of World War I. Pretty much everybody fighting on the Western Front until they learned from their mistakes.
    • The French still wore their Second Empire uniform which included red trousers, and the officers thought it chic to die in white gloves. Their tactics consisted of a light-artillery cannonade and then a pas de charge. Their cavalry still wore breastplates and plumed hats. It was in every way a Napoleonic army fighting a modern war except that the French Artillery was cranked up to... oh... probably about fifty, compared with Napoleon's day. Fortunately, this was mainly in the very opening rounds of WWI, where modern uniforms were in short supply and recruits had to be given the old ones.
      • The poor uniforms were at least justified by the fact that the French had been planning on phasing them out in favour of a new colour, only the source of the dye for the new uniforms was... the German Empire.
    • The Germans used infantry in close formation when charging, in an age of automatic weapons.
    • The British in World War 1 were even worse than the French. At the Somme, their infantry were required to walk towards the enemy lines while the French were actually charging. As the war progressed, they started evolving, very, very slowly, using grenades and flamethrowers. This was resisted by a lot of British officers didn't like the idea of change, to the point that they were enthusiastically campaigning against using tanks, even after their astonishing successes at Cambrain. Then the Americans joined in 1917, and started learning all the brutal lessons all over again. Not to mention that the initial German invasion plan involved massive, audacious marches without accounting for degrading footwear or Belgian resistance, among many other factors.
      • The walking thing at least was given the justification that British tactics called for a "creeping barrage" of artillery fire, essentially using artillery shells as a curtain of explosives and keeping it in front of the infantry; running would've made coordination impossible. Unfortunately for the Brits, the creeping barrage only worked when it was properly coordinated with the infantrymen's advance, when used with surprise against an unexpecting enemy. The Somme's grisly results were an example of poor strategy and coordination.
      • The first day of the Somme, where the infamous walking order was issued, did not use creeping barrage. By all accounts the order to advance was not given until several minutes after the initial barrage had concluded, allowing German troops time to re-man the trenches. Apparently the only British unit to do well on the first day were a detachment of Northern Irish troops who, allegedly due to being drunk, ignored the standing orders and ran across No Mans Land, and were only forced to withdraw when their support failed to make it across.
        • The walking order was perfectly reasonable. Have you ever tried running 500 yards to a mile wearing full 1908 pattern webbing, additional ammo bandoleers, and carrying shovels, picks, empty sandbags, etc (all required to reverse captured trenches)?
        • The walking order was felt necessary because the troops (Kitchener's new army) were considered untested and inexperienced, and would have difficulty keeping formation. Another cause was most of the artillery shells used were of the conventional High Explosive (HE) type, which would not be able to destroy barbed wire (as Armor Piercing would). This is because HE is easier to produce - both because of the high demand for shells and because experienced munitions workers had gone to the front, leaving an inexperienced workforce to pick up the slack. Because the attack involved a huge mass of men, it was felt they would easily be able to occupy enemy trenches, and so were required to carry a full load to repel counterattacks, instead of a light load which would have made it easier to get across.
        • The creeping artillery barrage was intended to keep the enemy under cover while your own forces advanced. If it succeeded (which usually involved a few casualties due to friendly artillery fire), there was no need to run. If it failed, all the running in the world wouldn't save you. The biggest problem was insufficient damage to the barbed wire and other structures that impeded attacking troops long enough to allow the enemy to start shooting back.
    • Lack of a maneuverable strike force able to take advantage of any breakthroughs and attack the rear and flanks of the enemy. In the early stages of WWI there was only one option: honest-to-goodness guy-on-top-of-a-horse cavalry that already became mostly obsolete. Tanks and armoured vehicles would later fill this role, but the first versions weren't powerful enough to field anything faster or better armored than weak infantry support tanks (as in, slowly moving machinegun nests). Consequently, warfare quickly degenerated to the choice between doomed attacks and stalemate of two lines of trenches with artillery behind them. The only major break through the lines was done by Brusilov. Which still did not go as far as it could, since Russian army was not ready to support this success on strategical level [5] - though the advancing units weren't actually stopped by hostile forces, once they exhausted and stopped moving, there weren't reserves close enough to move on. The belated support - in the way Brusilov himself opposed - was worse than nothing: by the time more troops arrived, Germans were ready, so the follow-up turned into yet another doomed straightforward march into meatgrinder (half a million of losses, but little result).
      • Train tracks could be built rather easy behind ones own lines and of course could not be built in front without the enemies permission which he was usually not sporting enough to give. Landlines take awhile to lay on the wrong side of no mans land too and wireless wasn't as well distributed then. As a result a breech could be plugged before the attackers own command even knew there was a breech in the first place, and in any case the defender can always get reinforcements faster by rail then the attacker by foot.
    • Rather neatly subverted when Hollywood Tactics actually resulted in a victory for the Australian Light Horse Brigade. The charge was so fast and straight-forward that the Turkish defenders didn't have time to re-adjust their gun sights before they were overrun. The Turks expected the Light Horse to dismount and attack on foot as they were not proper cavalry, but a mounted infantry unit, intended to engage on foot, only using their horses to reach locations quicker than regular infantry.
  • Interestingly reversed at Minden (1759) where an unsupported infantry charge in column formation by the British and Hanoverian reserves against the centre of the French force resulted in a victory, rather than a slaughter you'd expect. Said infantry were under constant bombardment throughout the advance and fought off repeated charges by the best cavalry in Europe.
    • The Allied infantry did form up in line for combat, and they happened to be charging against comparatively little artillery and virtually no small-arms fire because incredibly the Franco-Saxon centre consisted entirely of cavalry. (At that time, the only army to have horse artillery - one battery of it - was the Prussian).
  • In the Battle of Leuthen (1757), Prinz Charles Alexander of Lorraine formed his troops into a single line about three miles long and concentrated his cavalry on one end of it. He was practically begging to be flanked. The funny thing is that he did it to avoid being flanked. It failed.
    • Also, technically speaking, the Austrian army was for the most part deployed in several lines (two of infantry plus cavalry). And the Prussian position was also very long, with fewer men, only Frederick the Great did a better job of massing forces against the Austrian left while keeping the left and centre busy with feints and holding actions using small forces.
  • The battle of Marignano between the Swiss and the French. Granted, the Swiss pull this intentionally, to show the superiority of the pike over the cannon. And they might have too, if not for the Venetian reinforcements!
  • As mentioned in the Kingdom of Heaven example above, Hattin.
  • The psychological attacks made by the Whites during the Russian Civil War. Involved soldiers marching straight to the enemy lines, without ducking, ignoring bullets. Some generals added twists to the basic tactic: the Volunteer Army men smoked cigarettes while marching, General Slaschev's men ate sunflower seeds. The aim was to intimidate the Reds with the Whites' fearlessness. Usually it didn't work, but sometimes it did.
  • Too many medieval armies to count fell into this due to chivalry. The Teutonic Knights fell victim to this during the battle of Lake Peipus. Abandoned by 4500 Estonian infantry, 500 Teutonic Knights failed to retreat as any sane commander would have ordered, instead charging straight into the centre of a balanced army of heavy cavalry, horse archers and Novgorod militia. 400 of the knights were killed, 20 of them members of the order, as their retreat was cut short by the ice underneath them giving way.
  • The Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe also counts as this. The European armies at that time were centered around chivalry and honor. Tactics used were about as advanced as charging the enemy army, with the expectation that God would let the righteous win the battle. The Mongols on the other hand had very disciplined soldiers and excellent tactics. They also had simpler objectives: not having any desire to catch feudals alive to ransom back, or leave garrisons to occupy anything, they just attacked anyone who apparently picks a fight with them, to have one foe less while they pursue another enemy. The Hungarians and the Poles had their armies completely annihilated through simple but brutally effective tactics.
  • The Iraqi Army in 1991 deploying in Kuwait with its right wing sticking out like a "kick-me" sign.
  • The Battle of Flodden (1513), the Scots got the high-ground, but it was so high that they couldn't depress their cannons enough to actually hit the English, who made good use of their own cannons. Placing most of their officers[6] in the front line didn't help either, and the slope of the hill was such that they struggled to maintain formations when they did eventually charge.
  • Repeatedly, on both sides, at the Battle of Waterloo, mostly by cavalry commanders.
    • Soult's initial attack on the British line was for some long-lost reason ordered to advance by division column, presenting a huge target which was promptly shot to pieces.
    • The British cavalry under Ponsonby defeated the first French assault and, apparently under the impression that they could win the battle in the opening stages, surged across the field until they reached the artillery positions, which they couldn't disable as they hadn't brought any spikes. Exhausted and out of formation, they positioned themselves perfectly for a French counterattack which all but wiped them out.
    • Not long afterwards, Marshal Ney on the French side attempted to sweep aside what he thought was faltering British resistance with a massed cavalry charge. The results were predictable to anyone who was not Marshal Ney. Later in the day Ney wanted to try the same thing again (with a better chance of success this time) and Napoleon told him where to get off.
    • As the Prussian army arrived and defeat loomed for Napoleon, he ordered the Imperial Guard forward in a glorious last-ditch charge. Napoleon had crushed a similar last-hope advance by the Russian Imperial Guard at Austerlitz and Wellington did the same thing to him.
  • Custer's Last Stand.
    • This is to (Non-native) Americans what the Charge of the Light Brigade is to the British. The reasons why this turned into a Curb Stomp Battle instead of a cake walk are still being debated but several points are generally accepted.
      1. Custer decided to attack a force that outnumbered his significantly.
      2. While having no intelligence, or even a rough guess, at the disposition or composition of enemy forces in the area.
      3. This smaller force was split up into even smaller, separate units.
      4. The force with Custer was killed to the last man. The only survivor from Custer's group was a horse.
      • Partly justified because any hint that he had a chance to give battle would rightfully make Custer want to seize it. Irregulars usually can't take the stress of a pitched battle as well as regulars who have a Vast Bureaucracy that can reliably produce more or less fungible troops. The splitting up does sound odd though.
  • Subversion. One common though often dramatic feature of Hollywood Strategy (as opposed to realistic tactics) is for the Evil Overlord to try to conquer people primarily with numbers and for the good guys to be exceptional badasses. It does not work that way in real life. A power that has little advantage but numbers is not going to trust to them to go conquering because it is expecting them to travel hundreds of miles under conditions that make unfit soldiers a liability. Meanwhile, the defender is close to a place to recruit reinforcements and will likely outnumber the attacker soon. Conversely a real Badass Army is likely to be commanded by a conqueror, simply for the obvious reason that the way to become a Badass Army is to stay alive while killing a lot of people. The easiest way to do that is to be an army that serves the sort of ruler that likes conquering people for the heck of it.


  1. though, admittedly, no one uses guided missiles in the series, so this may just be an example of Schizo-Tech
  2. some theorize that this is indeed the case
  3. The closest thing they have to an excuse is the fact that the marine in question wasn't with the troop doing the charge at the time. The group he actually is with, leading directly, does much better.
  4. Actually a Justified Trope in their case, as they live on a side of their planet in complete darkness because the other side is lethally hot, and they frequently fight Chaos. They use the uniforms and drilled formations to be able to actually see each other and keep morale up to be able to fight at all against insanity-inducing Chaos.
  5. unsurprising, with Commander-In-Chief being the same man who first looked forward to the Russo-Japanese War despite being plainly told it's logistically impossible, and then allowed the other side to strike first
  6. which is to say, the entire Scottish aristocracy, most of whom - including the King - died in the battle, throwing that country into disarray