We Have Reserves

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Longshanks: Archers.
English Commander: I beg your pardon sire, but... won't we hit our own troops?
Longshanks: (pretending surprise) ...Yes. But we'll hit theirs as well. We have reserves. Attack!

There are a lot of ways to have a character Kick the Dog. In a war movie or battle sequence, if you want to show that a general, king, or commander is evil (really evil, not a Punch Clock Villain and way beyond a Designated Villain), all you have to do is show his casual and/or utter disregard for the lives of his own troops by either knowingly ordering them into certain slaughter or giving an order that ensures their slaughter. Retreat is, of course, forbidden; he expects Attack! Attack! Attack! without a second thought, and a Last Stand before retreat. (And he usually does it from perfect safety.) General Failure will often upgrade this from a last resort to his preferred tactic.

After a moment like this, the character might as well have asshole printed on his forehead. Bonus points if he refers to his troops as being trash or somehow subhuman, or if he does it not because he sincerely believes that doing this is necessary to win, but in pursuit of his own glory/making a name for himself. A We Have Reserves commander is very much a Bad Boss, and a reason why there is such a high mortality rate among Redshirt Armies, Faceless Goons, Mooks, and the like.

Note that this does not have to be done strictly in a war setting, and works just fine if, say, the Big Bad or The Dragon decides to sacrifice someone in a Quirky Miniboss Squad, or a small band of Mooks. Employing this under such circumstances when he probably does not, in fact, have reserves, is a form of the Villain Ball.

Callousness is necessary for it to be a suitable Kick the Dog moment. A general who throws troops into a battle knowing they will all die but knowing a victory here will save more lives can be pardoned of it if he shows that he is aware of the cost. (Drowning My Sorrows and Bad Dreams are popular tropes for demonstrating that awareness.) The same thing applies for a commander of a stricken vessel who sometimes must seal off sections of a ship and doom the crew inside lest the entire ship is lost. An inexperienced officer who inadvertently does this may only be a moron or having a moment of panic while in command for the first time, and might still be redeemable if shows Character Development because of it or improves his tactics.

Compare You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and You Have Failed Me... for similar moments from a Bad Boss. Shoot the Messenger and Even Mooks Have Loved Ones also rely on the Big Bad feeling that his mooks are completely expendable. Also compare The Neidermeyer and Zerg Rush. A Father to His Men is the opposite character type. Contrast Expendable Clone, where a character is his own reserves.

Examples of We Have Reserves include:

Anime and Manga

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion‍'‍s Gendo Ikari.
    • More like Rei Ayanami. With Shinji, he knows that Unit 01 will most probably allow him to win ("Ikari, are you truly satisfied with this?" *smirk*) And if he fails, there is the Dummy System. and concerning Rei, he cares about her (in his own twisted way) more than she cares about herself...
      • Played straight with other pilots though. In the Unit 03 incident where he casually orders it destroyed with the pilot Touji in series, Asuka in the Rebuild films still inside, and acitvates the Dummy system when Shinji won't do it and based on his comments about needing Shinji and Rei together in Rebuild, it's hinted he deliberately took the chance to elminate Asuka, so she wouldn't become a unknown extra factor in his plans..
    • Rei's mantra "If I die, I can be replaced!" is a rare case of a character invoking this trope on herself! She can. We have the technology.
  • Mad Scientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi of Bleach is a particularly horrific example. He turns a number of subordinates into living bombs without them knowing it, and tells them to simply convince two protagonists to come with them. Instead he detonates them while they're standing around the protagonists, including one who survives his comrades exploding because "A bomb isn't supposed to come back after being used".
  • Mad Bomber Kimblee of Fullmetal Alchemist turns fellow soldiers into living bombs in the anime and indiscriminately used one as a human shield in the manga.
    • In the manga, Amestris' entire philosophy during the Ishval Civil War was this. Naturally, the soldiers like Maes Hughes did not take kindly to this, and Amestris officers were frequently shot by their own men. This was, however, less a matter of callousness but a deliberate attempt to kill as many people as possible on both sides.
  • In Naruto, Orochimaru kills the squad of teenage ninja (minus Dosu, who was already dead) he had infiltrating the chuunin exams in order to use their lives to resurrect several deceased ninja leaders just to help him win one fight. One of the resurrections even ends up failing and kills its component ninja anyway. He even told Kakashi earlier that he considers any of his subordinates without special worth worthless pawns.
  • In the anime Now and Then, Here and There, an insane king orders a superweapon fired on a battlefield where his own men are fighting the enemy. Thing is, he didn't have reserves (not enough, anyway), and spent an episode or two freaking out over it before deciding to kidnap more people to draft into his army.
    • The fact that they're children makes the use of this trope even more effective than usual at establishing its user as a Complete Monster.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, a Federation commander starts what turns into a string of Kick the Dog moments when he deliberately marches mobile suit teams into traps in an attempt to cause a nuclear blast when their reactors go off, destroying or at least uncovering the Zeon base hidden in a mountain.
    • In Gundam Seed the Earth Alliance activates a cyclops system hidden beneath their Alaska base when it comes under attack by ZAFT. The system basically nukes everthing within 10 miles of the base and kills nearly everyone defending it. This actually helps the Atlantic Federation as it kills off most of the Eurasian political moderates and allows the Earth Alliance to pursue a more genocidal path towards ending the war. This is what causes the Archangel crew to finally defect from the Alliance.
      • Muruta Azrael and Lord Djibril, leaders of Blue Cosmos, and by default, the Atlantic Federation both use this as their strategy. They believe their men to be expendable, and in Azrael's case, actually classes some of his soldiers as equipment, rather than personnel.
    • Crossbone Gundam has a particularly extreme example. The Jupiter Empire tends to be very strict with its resources (like air, water, and MS) because these things are a lot harder to come by so far from Earth. This attitude, however, does not extend to human beings; early on, the heroes learn that their well-intentioned mercy is pointless, as the pilots they capture and release get executed by the Empire as punishment for allowing their MS to be destroyed.
  • Subverted in the Bokurano manga: It is eventually implied that the adults who were assigned to assist the main-character children in their battles for the fate of the universe (literally) are actually there to kill any children who refuse to fight, because under the series rules such a refusal would otherwise doom the universe, while killing them will just automatically switch control to their replacement. A subversion, because it is implied that this is the right thing to do; the one child who figures it out (on his own) agrees that he might not be able to fight, and tells them to kill him quickly if it comes to that point.
  • In Claymore, it is revealed fairly early on that the shadowy organization in charge of Claymores sends them on suicide missions whenever they become too dangerous. Possibly justified by the tendency of Claymores to suffer Super Power Meltdowns.
    • this doesn't really count since they are not throwing them against those opponent because they do not care if they die but because they want them' to die because they are too problematic. This trope still applies for this series however since the slaughter at Pieta was pretty much this (the organization throw all of its "less valuable" warriors into a battle they could not survive without hoping for them to accomplish anything worthwile aside from slowing the enemy a little).
  • During the final arc of Code Geass Lelouch (the protagonist) takes this trope to an extreme, having Mind Controlled an entire army into being his slaves (making them all to wear masks that make it clear that these are not longer human beings, just pawns) and then using them in battle in ways that would ensure their deaths (using them as bait, or sending them to be used as shields against nukes) without concern. How bad this makes him look us exactly what he is pretending to be, for the sake of uniting the world against him and bringing about world peace.
    • This was basically the strategy of the Chinese Federation, who used 4th Generation mechs when the rest of the world had 5th-9th Generation Knightmares at their disposal. However, they had way more troops than the other countries, hence their invocation of this trope.
  • Often demonstrated by the villains in One Piece, usually in contrast to the protagonists who are shown to be caring for their crewmates and avoid innocent casualties. Examples: Captain Kuro who uses a randomly striking killing technique while his men are in the area and planned to off them ALL anyway to cover his tracks ("They are worthless except to further my plans!"); Enel who would destroy a kingdom full of his own subjects because only he deserves to live in the sky; and of course massive idiot Spandam who doesn't really care about (accidentally) invoking ten battleships to obliterate Enies Lobby and all its staff and soldiers if it gets him his success. The most multi-layered Bastard award goes to Crocodile, who while posing as a local hero protector of the populace, incites a civil war in Alabasta, and during the climax of which has a massive cannon aimed at the centre of the warring parties (including his own agents provocateur among them) to wipe them all out in one swoop. More than that, the cannon's giant bomb is rigged with a timer to go off even if it isn't launched, which Crocodile's own elite agents guarding the cannon don't know!
    • Averted to hell and back with Captain T-Bone, who rips apart his officers cloak to make bandages for his men and when later facing the Strawhats, his first concern is what happened to the troops they had to have gone through.
    • Even if they aren't necessarily the villians, the marines show this behaviour too as the doctrine of "Absolute Justice" implies that any evil should be erradicated at any cost, this is shown during the Buster Call in Ennies Lobby when one warship was destroyed(along with one thousand marines) by the others in order to kill only one criminal, one of the captains even shot a marine who hesitate in following the order.
  • In the third volume of Hellsing, Tubalcain Alhambra sends waves of Brazilian police officers to attack Alucard, fully aware that they are no match for him, so that he will use up most of his bullets to make it easier for Alhambra to fight him.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Shishio sends a group of four monks to recruit Aoshi, knowing that they will get drawn into a conflict and probably all die, but it will give him a chance to measure Aoshi's skills. Aoshi picks up on this and calls Shishio's Dragon Soujiro out on it after the Curb Stomp Battle, saying he thinks both the tactic and Shishio are heartless and despicable. Unusually, Soujiro jabs back at Aoshi, saying that it was just as heartless for Aoshi to kill 4 men without hesitation knowing that they were only pawns who were no match for him.
  • Meleagros and Atalantes in Heroic Age are willing to do this, being as prideful as they are, they would do anything to win at all costs.
  • Gorg Bodolza plays it straight in Macross Movie when advised that he probably shouldn't fire his Wave Motion Gun on Lapramiz' Mobile Fortress as there are thousands of his own ships in the line of fire. He orders the attack regardless. In retrospect, a bad idea, as witnessing the resultant massacre gives Breetai Kridanik second thoughts, which later end up turning the tide of battle.
  • In Saikano, a JSDF commander orders the evacuation of the regulars but not the reserves before unleashing Chise, so that the enemy won't see it coming. In a moment of perfect Ax Craziness and Laser-Guided Karma, she taunts and kills the command group a couple pages later.
  • Xanxus from Katekyo Hitman Reborn is like this, so much that when the Varia were battling Zakurou, Kikyou and Bluebell, and Zakurou asked him what it felt like to watch his men killed, Xanxus said 'Would you be distracted seeing a bunch of ants dying?
  • In Sengoku Basara, many of the villains seem to take this attitude, but none more so than Mouri Motonari, who regards all his men (and indeed his opponents' men) as disposable pawns... and for that matter uses the term "sacrificial pawn" far more than any decent commander should.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Fiamma of the Right doesn't care about his teammates in God's Right Seat. He declares that as long as he lives, he can get new members.
  • In the English dub of Axis Powers Hetalia, America has a great plan to defeat the titular Axis Powers. Russia's role? Keep sending in cannon fodder!
  • In Freezing, Scarlet Oohara may be willing to perform excruciatingly painful experiments on young girls in order to reinforce the only capable fighting force against the Novas, but she does genuinely care about her subjects and doesn't want to hurt them any more than necessary. Too bad the brass are demanding quick results, even if forcing things could result in the girls' deaths, and always remind her that they could get new girls in.
  • The Big Bad of the final Bleach arc tore apart murdered two of his Arrancar minions with paper-thin justification. When pointed out that Arrancar were a valuable resource, he simply replied that having captured Hueco Mundo, they could make them at will.

Comic Books

  • Starr from Preacher (Comic Book) does this at least once, sending an entire US tank division against the Saint of Killers. Starr's reaction to them being butchered mercilessly by the guy who replaced the Angel of Death is to shrug, say that he didn't really expect it to work anyway, and call down a nuclear strike on the spot.
    • Starr's former Bad Boss, D'Aronique, similarly ordered waves of his own men into certain death against the Saint. Although at least D'Aronique had no idea who the Saint was, his callousness to the deaths of his men is horrifying.

Grail Officer: Requesting permission to withdraw the next charge, sir.
D'Aronique: Denied. Instead you will lead it.

  • In the X Wing Series arc "Battleground: Tatooine", the Imperial captain Semtin heads to Ryloth after a criminal he wants; the Rogues follow. The relative sheltering this criminal, bribed by both sides, decides to have them compete in a not-quite Combat by Champion to see who gets him, and the Rogues impress the judge, but the Imperials did fulfill the stated goal. Plus, Semtin bribed the judge, snuck in and grabbed the criminal, and fled with him, abandoning fourteen seasoned troopers on Ryloth, where they faced being sold into slavery. The troopers, who gained a great deal of respect for the Rogues during the contest, immediately pull a Heel Face Turn and go after Semtin, who had this to say before he was shot.

Semtin: I told you the mission would involve sacrifices! You should be willing to give up your very life for your Emperor!
Sixtus: For the Empire, yes! For the personal gain of its officials... never!

  • In the "Retreat" storyline of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Twilight allows his troops to be massacred by the three Wrathful Goddesses because he's curious to see the goddesses in action. When one of his subordinates calls him on it:

Twilight: They're mortals. Got to die sometime.

    • Well to be fair, Twilight was actually Angel in disguise trying to undermine the plot against Buffy, so it's understandable that he wouldn't care about the soldiers.
  • Played absolutely straight by Jhiaxus in the Transformers Generation 2 comic, in which his reponse to staggering losses is to throw another wave of troops into battle with the Warworld and the Swarm.
  • In a short appended to a The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers tale, Fat Freddy's Cat has a particularly successfull campaign against the cockroaches that live under the oven. From memory, paraphrased:

Cockroach junior officer to cockroach commander: "General, the entire brigade has been wiped out!"
Rommelesque cockroach commander, peering through field glasses: "There's plenty more where they came from."


  • As illustrated by the quote above, Edward the Longshanks of Braveheart. He actually does it twice in one battle; in addition to the example in the quote, he begins the battle by ordering his commander to send in their Irish conscripts first because "Arrows cost money. The dead cost nothing".
  • Imperial Stormtroopers and TIE fighters in Star Wars are considered 100% disposable. Even Star Destroyers, massive expensive warships crewed by 37,000 people, were treated casually by Vader; in The Empire Strikes Back he ordered these enormous ships into an Asteroid Thicket. While his captains had convened to holoconference with him and plead to leave the asteroid field, an asteroid takes out the bridge and one of them fades away, and he effectively sneers it off.
    • There are a few exceptions to this in the Expanded Universe novels. For, example in The Last Command, Grand Admiral Thrawn states than he is less than happy over the loss of four--four! Luke kills that many in his first firefight on the Death Star!--stormtroopers, less than forty regular army troops, and a single assault vehicle, who were convinced by a private contractor to attack a group of people who were discussing going against the Empire.
    • Thrawn's attention to his troopers and machines becomes the rule later on, when the Empire is no longer the massive entity it used to be and is struggling to survive.
      • Even Thrawn did have his moments of counting on reserves. Notably, when it came to the Noghri commando units that he sends to capture Leia and her children, he dismisses the fact that a second one of these units has failed and been wiped out, essentially says that their loss is really not worth worrying about and that sooner or later one of those units will succeed.
    • The Prequel Trilogy puts an interesting twist on this already-established trope, in that the droid armies of the Separatists are cannon fodder compared to the clonetroopers. The EU and novelizations make this a bit more clear, but its obvious even in the movies. The Separatists basically co-opt all of the big industrial groups in the galaxy, who already have their own large mercenary armies (think Haliburton and Blackwater), composed of droids. They can manufacture billions upon billions of droids, literally rolling off the assembly line ready for battle. They're completely willing to expend these droids because they're not really "alive" and utterly replaceable. In contrast, the clonetroopers/early stormtroopers were actually a step away from this trope when they first appeared on the battlefield. Clonetroopers take about 10 years to create, which is drastically less than a normal soldier and you can make them in large numbers but that's nowhere near the matter of hours it takes for a droid to roll off the assembly line. However, as the films explicitly state, droid soldiers tend to be fairly stupid, while the clonetroopers have free will and can think for themselves, adapting to the situation and even gaining experience. The Separatist forces actually consistently outnumbered the Republic for most of the war, because they could just keep replacing war droids. The problem of course was that the clonetroopers ultimately proved to be a better fighting force, repeatedly winning against numerically superior droid armies.
    • Revulsion over this is what drives Gara Petothel's defection to the Republic in Wraith Squadron, after Trigit decides to sacrifice the tens of thousands of crew members to keep his Star Destroyer out of Republic hands. Trigit's boss, though, is a little more canny - in Iron Fist he decides to hire a fleet full of mercenaries and pirates to get shot at in lieu of his troops during a major attack.
    • After the Vong Invasion and the Empire coming back, they seem to have stopped this; the TIE Fighters have shields (and had since the days of Thrawn), and stormtroopers know how to aim now.
    • The Vong themselves go through this much faster—their low-level soldiers have no qualms about giving their lives in battle. Later, Supreme Overlord Shimmra is seen chewing out his high officers because they've thrown away too many men and are having trouble holding their conquests.
  • Done humorously in the movie Mystery Men, where Casanova Frankenstein kills his own men for no other reason than to mention to the heroes he is so evil and uncaring that he kills his own men.
  • In Batman Forever, Two-Face fires indiscriminately at Batman while one of his goons is in the way.
    • Similarly in Batman: The Animated Series, Tony Zucco, (an extortionist who set up the "accident" that killed Dick Grayson's parents), shoots at Batman with a Tommy gun, despite the fact that multiple mooks are likely to be hit as well and beg him not to.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark has Indy in a fight with a group of Major Toht's henchmen. Towards the end of this he ends up wrestling one of them for a gun. Toht gives his other henchman the order to "Shoot them. Shoot them both!". This doesn't work too well, since both Indy and the mook now want to use the gun on the same target.
    • Similarly, The Last Crusade has a Bad Boss who sends one mook after another into a series of Death Traps before Indy shows up and he figures out how to force him to do it.
    • In Temple of Doom, Mola Ram pushes his own men off the bridge as he attempts to make Indy fall off.
  • In the third X-Men movie Magneto takes a step away from his usual place as an Anti-Villain to order a group of weak mutants to lead a charge. When they get mowed down (revealing the other side's secret weapon, guns that shoot Power Nullifiers), he comments "That's why the pawns go first".
  • 300.

Xerxes: Imagine what horrible fate awaits my enemies when I would gladly kill any of my own men for victory.
Leonidas: And I would die for any one of mine.

  • Semi-averted in Saving Private Ryan. Captain Miller started to fall into this tactic while still shell-shocked from landing on Omaha Beach during D-Day, twice ordering small groups of his squad to try to charge a machine gun position. After this he realizes what he's done, and instead has his Cold Sniper take out the machine gunner, while Miller risks his life to distract the gunner.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the Big Bad orders the Protector destroyed once he learns that the Galaxy Quest crew escaped, even though many of his men are still on board.
  • In the first Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, Jack is at least willing to hire a hundred men to his crew and then give up their souls in order to pay off his debt to Davy Jones, an act which even Jones can't believe Jack is capable of. But in the third film, after a brief taste of death, Jack is willing to throw the entire population of Shipwreck Island—his brothers in arms—at Jones and the IETC armada.
  • The 1957 Kirk Douglas film Paths of Glory is about a French general in World War I ordering a desperate plan to at long last break through the German lines, knowing full well the attack is certain to kill most of the men used in it (he even has the statistically probable numbers worked out). And he's doing it mainly to earn a promotion.
    • During the battle, when the rest of the French soldiers have come up out of their trench and advanced across the no-man's land, a SNAFU has caused the French B Company to still be hanging back in their own trench. The French General orders his artillery to fire on B Company in the hope that they'll be scared out of the trench and attack.
  • In Zulu, a 1964 film depicting the Battle of Rorke's Drift, the Zulu open the assault by getting close enough to the defended position that the British can easily shoot those in the front ranks. Lieutenant Chard remarks that King Cetshwayo is "testing our firing strength . . . with the lives of his men."
  • In Gallipoli, Colonel Robinson orders three waves of men to attack the Turkish Trenches at The Nek, even though all three are completely gunned down. He justifies it as a diversion for the British on Suvla. In reality, it was a diversion for a New Zealander attack.
    • Based on a real battle, however in real life there was a fourth wave of men sent
  • Slightly indirect version in The Dark Knight. The Joker pulls a bank job working with what at least some highly skilled thieves, who kill each other one by one under orders leaving the Joker with all the money. Apparently the Joker has no worries about finding other people to work for him.
  • Enemy at the Gates opens with the Red Army advancing on the German front lines at Stalingrad. When each troop passed the Commissar, they were handed either a rifle or a single clip, and were then forced to charge against the well-armed Germans, and were gunned down by NKVD machine gunners if they tried to retreat.

Commissar: "The man with the rifle shoots! The one without follows him! When the man with the rifle gets killed, the one who is following picks up the rifle and shoots!"


  • In the fantasy series The Death Gate Cycle one of assassin Hugh The Hand's jobs was to kill a mercenary captain who tended to take all the money his company was paid for a job, then order them into situations where as many of them died as possible so he wouldn't have to split the pay.
    • Hugh was also hired to kill a human army captain that had repeatedly over the course of his career sent many men to their deaths while he ran away. While doing this again, Hugh caught him and listed the names of everyone who had wanted him dead before killing the man.
  • Discworld:

Scum. That's what he called his own soldiers. It's like that bloody civilized game you showed us, Teach! The prawns [sic] are just there to get slaughtered while the king hangs around at the back!

    • Lord Rust seems to have studied in Hong's class. See what happens with any army he's entrusted to, though his tactics seem to be born from blatant stupidity, rather than malice. One would imagine an army commanded by the troll Sgt Detritus would be more effective, if only because Detritus would lead from the front and scare everyone away.
    • While temporally displaced in Night Watch, and in command of a barricade that got out of hand, Vimes notes that a thousand soldiers could take it, but only the last fifty would make it up by climbing the bodies of their fallen comrades.
    • The yardstick for measuring any General in Discworld seems to be "massive casualties." While having those casualties coming from the enemy is preferred, having most of them come from your own troops is still perfectly acceptable.
      • Conversely, Generals who manage to achieve victory with relatively few casualties are looked down upon as somehow not playing by the rules.
  • In the Honor Harrington series, we have the People's Navy. How closely they fit the characterization aspects of this trope changes over time as Haven suffers serial revolutions. The first government depicted gleefully sacrifices their "worthless Proles" for the aristocracy's betterment; the second theoretically have more respect for the common man, but they're fanatics, ready to shoot any officer who won't steer his ship into the meat grinder themselves. The restored Republic of Haven is much less callous about the quality of quantity.
    • That does not mean that the restored Republic is not willing to do this. Its President learned ruthlessness as an urban guerilla (to be fair, she wasn't exactly a terrorist as she mostly aimed at Secret Police rather than bystanders but she was never squeamish). And thus she is quite capable of ordering people to die exchanging casualties. That does not mean she likes it, in fact she very much does not, but simply that there is no other way to fight the Manties and with new weapons coming on line they were in a hurry.
    • The Solarian League Navy is noted on the Honor Harrington page itself as being so large, even their reserves have reserves.
  • Interesting subversion in Ender's Game. Ender, nearing a mental breakdown from stress, is given a wargame situation where the enemy outnumber his forces 1,000 to 1. Trying to be removed from the strain, he orders a suicide mission that destroys the enemy homeworld... except the simulations he's trained with since graduating from Battle School haven't been simulations at all, and he's sent the entire Earth fleet on a suicide mission that destroys the enemy home planet. When this is revealed to him, he lapses into a coma.
    • Actually, some ships are kept as reserve, and they survive. How else can the "simulation" still run after the planetary destruction?
    • This is forshadowed by a battle in Battle School, in which Ender's army is forced to fight two deeply-entrenched armies. Realizing that even his genius tactics can't defeat them, he has the entire army make a formation and charge the enemy lines. Just in case, he has five boys perform he victory ritual if they can get close enough to the enemy gate. Surprisingly, he wins, although most of his army is "destroyed". Colonel Graff then changes the rules requiring the other army to be fully "destroyed" before victory can be declared. Ender explains that he didn't expect to win and has a mini-breakdown after that, refusing to participate in battles.
    • In Shadow of the Hegemon, this is the strategy used by the Indian army when invading Burma, and everybody is quick to point out how stupid it is. Just because you have the world's largest army doesn't mean your supply lines are up to the task, especially if the enemy keeps harassing them. Of course, this is all part of the Big Bad's Xanatos Gambit in order to allow China to strike and take India in under a week before proceeding to take Thailand. Strangely, the book takes the Adults Are Useless approach, with no adult seeing how bad this strategy is.
  • Jaime Lannister of A Song of Ice and Fire may be trying to go the route of The Atoner, but when he finds himself caught between two oaths he means to keep (never raising arms against a certain family, and as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, ending that family's defiance of the King), he tries to Take a Third Option and convince the enemy lord to surrender without a battle by giving a To the Pain speech full of how he'll win due to We Have Reserves.

You've seen our numbers, Edmure. You've seen the ladders, the towers, the trebuchets, the rams. If I give the command, my cousin will bridge your moat and break your gate. Hundreds will die, most of them your own. Your former bannermen will make up the first wake of attackers, so you'll start your day by killing the fathers and brothers of the men who died for you at the Twins. The second wave will be Freys, I have no lack of those. My westermen will follow when your archers are short of arrows and your knights so weary they can hardly lift their blades.

    • Tywin Lannister also used this at times, for example putting all the least experienced soldiers on the same flank so that enemy will break their lines and rush into a trap. For extra Kick the Dog points, he set his son Tyrion to lead them without informing Tyrion of the plan.
  • The Posleen from John Ringo's Posleen War Series are genetically engineered just for this tactic.
    • Averted at one point, where a group of semi-trained human soldiers are blocked by a small number of Posleen, and refuse to move forward. A Colonel arrives, and orders a soldier to advance: when the soldier refuses, the Colonel kills him. He then orders a second soldier to advance: the soldier and several of his fellow soldiers do so, and take the Posleen position with a few additional casualties. When he is asked about killing the first soldier, he says that taking the position cost some soldiers their lives, both from the Posleen and from him, but *not* taking the position would have allowed the Posleen to wipe out the entire squad and more soldiers behind them. He is not happy that he had to kill the soldier, but he stated that his way far fewer soldiers died.
  • A plot point in several of the Heralds of Valdemar books:
    • The Black Gryphon: One of the generals thinks nothing of throwing the flying troops (the gryphons) into hopeless situations, and forcing mages to spellcast into exhaustion. Most of the army believes this is due to incompetence with some Fantastic Racism thrown in; in actuality, it's due to a lot of Fantastic Racism and a secret Face Heel Turn.
    • By The Sword: Kerowyn reads the mind of her mercenary company's employer and finds that he plans to sacrifice them to avoid paying them. She resigns via an Insignia Rip Off Ritual, and the entire company follows her.
    • Ancar of Hardorn is absolutely ridiculous about this (and several other things), and his troops only go along with it because they are brainwashed. When some of the good guys manage to release the brainwashing on a company of troops, they apply this trope to themselves and attack the rest of the army with no heed to their own safety, having nothing left to live for.
    • In Winds of Fury, Big Bad Mornelithe Falconsbane becomes an unwilling ally of Ancar and ends up turning the latter's existing tactics Up to Eleven, virtually guaranteeing Valdemar's destruction by Zerg Rush unless the heroes can assassinate the entire leadership of Hardorn.
  • In the Sword of Truth series, the Imperial Order has this methodology, partly because they believe the next best thing to killing unbelievers is to die while killing unbelievers, partly because they believe individuals are worthless, and partly because the army is so massive that even if they lose a million men, that's still barely a dent in their forces.
  • An attacking goblin horde in Piers Anthony's Castle Roogna used a rather literal goblin-wave tactic - they crossed the moat by filling it up with drowned goblins, and scaled the wall by climbing over each other until the army was running up a huge pile of trampled-down goblins.
  • Several commanders in Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels.
    • In First & Only, Dravere is explicitly described as saying that if he could throw enough bodies at the Eye of Chaos, he could close it. The attack of the Jantine Patricians at the climax, to overwhelm the Ghosts' Hold the Line forces, puts it into action.
    • In Ghostmaker, Sturm orders the bombardment of an area where he knows the Ghosts are operating on the grounds that they have enemies in there. He specifically regards the Ghosts, and Gaunt, as trouble he would be well rid of.
    • In Armour of Contempt, a wave of Imperium troopers, so tightly packed that the dead were carried along, unable to fall where they died, assault the walls of a city several times. Eventually, they are successful, but at horrible cost.
  • This is the default tactic of both Saruman and Sauron's armies in JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Of particular note is the command style of the Lord of the Nazgul during the Siege of Gondor: "Yet their Captain cared not greatly what they did or how many might be slain; their purpose was only to test the strength of the defence and to keep the men of Gondor busy in many places." The passage also notes that as he's riding on his horse he deliberately tramples the fallen (who would mostly be his own men), which says something about his attitude.
  • Used in World War Z by both the Russian and Chinese armies, often to horrifying effects. If one didn't know that both those countries have a history of such tactics, (see the real life section below) they might think Max Brooks was making it up or had an ax to grind with those countries.
    • The primary problem with using this strategy on zombies is that they use the exact same tactics by instinct, and they recruit by killing. So by sending your own people to die, you inflate the ranks of your enemies. Nice.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Encarmine, Iskavan is told that he and his Word Bearers had been sacrificed to lure the Blood Angels to Shenlong, and having served that purpose, they will get no reinforcements. Then, Iskavan's reaction to the news is to start a rampage with women, children, and the wounded.
    • In Deus Sanguinius, the Warmaster points out that he sacrificed them for this. He gets no sympathy.
  • The Big Bad in any David Eddings series will inevitably have this mindset. In the backstory of The Belgariad, the Dark God Torak marched millions of Angaraks off to the West in a suicidally insane war that left not one survivor to return to the East. In The Malloreon, his successor as Child of Dark, Zandramas, similarly views her minions as utterly expendable, sending them to certain death against the heroes multiple times simply to slow them down, or on the off chance that one of them will get lucky and prevent her from having to see the Prophecy to its conclusion. And of course, the demons in that series behave this way with respect to the human troops under their "command", force marching them for days without a care for the death and suffering—or rather, reveling in it.
  • Emperor Ezar Vorbarra in the Vorkosigan Saga has this mindset and takes this trope a step further - he has the army mount a hopeless, bloody attack on another planet in order to get his insane son killed off without anyone suspecting assassination. Too bad about all the other soldiers who were killed ...
  • An interesting example from Iain M Banks' The Culture: the protagonist is freaked out when he realizes how much the Emperor personifies this trope, even though the reserves he so casually sacrifices aren't people but pieces in a very elaborate game. The reason he is freaked out is that the game is expressly designed to mirror the player's values and philosophy—meaning that the superficially charming and civilized Emperor has revealed himself as Ax Crazy.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 novel Chapter War, the Howling Griffons' attitude toward the 901st Regiment. Admittedly a penal unit, but they send them up against space marines—twice.
  • Empress Jadis in The Magician's Nephew brags that she "poured out the blood of her armies like water" in the civil war with her sister for control of Charn. And then trumped that by speaking the Deplorable Word, an unspecified spell which destroyed Charn and killed everything on it except herself.
  • Subverted Trope in the Legends of Dune trilogy, where Omnius and his Thinking Machines fights battles in an entirely logical and efficient manner. A massive fleet will not engage the inferior enemy if the casualties are above the acceptable parameter, even though machines aren't really supposed to care about casualties. It falls to his ruthless Brain In a Jar generals, who do fit this trope, to come up with tactics that surprise the enemy. One of their tactics - dropping an entire cruiser on a city to destroy the scrambler field emitters that are keeping the machine forces from invading.
    • On the other hand, the Butlerian Jihad forces will not hesitate to lose hundreds of lives to destroy several machines, as exemplified by the takedown of the Humongous Mecha Ajax by hundreds of angry slaves armed with primitive rocket launchers and even more primitive clubs.
  • The Draka use their slave soldiers (called "janissaries" in reference to the Ottoman military units) in attrition situations that their elite shock troop Citizen army cannot finesse, thereby saving the much more precious lives of the Master Race. A Draka officer is reprimanded at one point for showing too much concern for the lives of his janissaries.[1] Eventually the Draka engineer aggressiveness out of their slaves, and the janissaries are replaced by the part-baboon, part-dog, part-human ghouloons who serve much the same purpose.
  • Cultural-divide example in Codex Alera: when the Marat go to war, the first wave of an attack is always the green recruits, the warriors who most recently became of age. The ones who survive that are considered to have been smiled on by The One, and get to participate in the battle proper.
  • In Shadowmarch, Autarch has no qualms about letting his soldiers die meaninglessly, as long as he accomplishes his goal. During the siege of Hierosol, he ordered full scale attack through the breach in city's walls, despite being warned of massive casualties it will cause among his troops. He explained that his soldiers should be happy to fight and die for their autarch.
  • This trope is mixed with Spare to the Throne in The Horse and His Boy: The Tisroc isn't concerned about Rabadash dying—he has sired other potential heirs.
  • This seems to be the attitude of the Young Army in Septimus Heap, given the callous disregard for survival they have.

Live-Action TV

  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Vorta Keevan gives the heroes his battle plan because being taken prisoner would be better for him than being stranded and wounded with a bunch of Super Soldiers about to go Ax Crazy from withdrawal. Particularly nasty since his soldiers are warned that they've been betrayed, but are too loyal themselves to disobey.
    • It should be said this wasn't a major departure from standard Dominion tactics; the genetically engineered Jem'Hadar were programmed to see themselves as disposable, all willing to attain victory for their gods The Founders at any cost.
  • Like most tropes, this shows up in Doctor Who, sometimes on the Planet of Hats. Still, a human example: Henry Van Statten seems less concerned with his guards than he is with a certain relic they're fighting for their lives against.
    • Somewhat subverted: The foolishness of this begins to dawn on him when he orders them to take the relic alive, only to realize that nobody's left to take the order.
  • One episode of Smallville had a teaser sequence with Lex Luthor testing his latest experiment. The test involves the Super Soldier charging down a hallway, killing mooks, breaking into a heavily fortified room and assassinating a target. When it's over, what does Luthor say with glee? "Get fresh guards... I wanna see him do it again"
  • In one episode of Robin of Sherwood, when Robin Hood threatens to kill some of his Mooks, the Sheriff coldly replies: "Soldiers have a way of dying; it's an occupational hazard."
  • In Blackadder, this is outright stated to be the entire basis of British tactics in the First World War. Bonus Bastard Points for the instructions, "Climb out of the trench and walk very slowly towards the enemy," the phrase "Operation Certain Death", the apparent fact that it's taken Field Marshall Haig three years to realise that, "Everyone gets killed in the first ten seconds," and the portrayal of Haig formulating his battle plans in the last episode by setting up toy soldiers on a table and sweeping them off. And lets avoid making comparisons between this fictional portrayal and the real life Haig.
  • An interesting variation of this happened in NCIS, during the investigation aboard the ship they weren't allowed to know about. After they recover the nuclear weapon and leave, a missile blows up the secret ship. One of them asks, "How did they know we got off?" The answer? "I don't think they knew."
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Spike and Holland Manners give speeches to the respective protagonists about how evil works like this: that every apocalypse they prevent will surely be followed by another one and that they have an unlimited number of soldiers on their side, all who need just one good day to kill them.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Imperial Guard commonly employ this tactic; Commander Chenkov of Valhalla in particular has a reputation for throwing away the lives of his men, the gaining of which is quite a feat for a Guard commander, though at least he has the balls to dive into the meatgrinder with them and lead from the front. The fluff claims that his bolt pistol has killed more cowards than enemies, and that he once took a fortress that had withstood siege for years without artillery or armoured support at the cost of 10 million casualties (though this is the Imperium we're talking about - they could cover those losses with one round of draft slips). The new Codex highlights his knack for reserves by giving him the special rule "Send in the next wave!", which allows him to call up a new squad of Conscripts once the previous squad has been wiped out, as described wonderfully by 1d4chan:

"Do you want to take that point? I mean, REALLY take that point? Seriously, how many dudes do you want to throw at that point? Chenkov can throw that many guys at the point, AND MORE."

  • Also, the Orks, whose entire warfighting strategy is "assault the enemy with troops stretching back past the horizon." In Dawn of War, Warboss Gorgutz is actually lauded by his own troops for being willing to hurl countless numbers of Boyz at enemies like the Space Marines and Necrons, fully aware that many are going to die. It helps that Orks consider an exciting battle against a worthy opponent to be jolly good fun.
    • Gretchin are considered even more expendable than Orks. One noted use for Gretchin mobz in past editions was removing minefields in much the same way as a stick removes a bear trap. If there were more mines than gretchin, they died to no notable effect, generally prompting loud bursts of Orkish laughter.
    • The Gretchin have several other great jobs, such as being stepping stones in rough terrain, bullet shields, and EMERGENCY RATIONS
  • Some of the Tyranid flavor text has them sending Mooks to assault enemies, just to make them use up their ammunition before sending in the big guns. As a matter of fact, those same mooks have no digestive tract; they are not intended to survive the battle they're built for, and if by some fluke they do, the more important creatures just eat them when their purpose is served. Of course, any Tyranids that the hive fleet sends to attack a planet are just going to be digested and recycled into new Tyranids, so it's not quite as asshole-ish as some of the other examples.
    • The 4th edition Codex even gave Gaunts (The Nids' ranged Mooks) the Without Number rule as a buyable upgrade; if a unit with the rule was wiped out, you were allowed to put a new unit just like it on the field.
    • The 5th ed fluff for the Gargoyle describes a siege on a heavily guarded fortress world by the Tyranids. The gribblies won because they sent in so many flyers that their corpses blocked laser cannons capable of punching through a moon.
  • The Lost and the Damned faction of Chaos is explicitly employed this way, as it is essentially composed of gibbering mutants, demons (who can't be killed, only sent back to the Warp), and human traitor rabble. Generally they run at Imperial forces who waste ammunition gunning them down. More disturbingly they usually do so with a smile on their face.
  • In fact, out of the whole 40k universe, the Tau and the Eldar are remarkable for the fact that they don't have reserves. The Tau get around this by using someone else as their Reserves, while the Eldar cope by using stealth, guerilla tactics or - even better - just tricking someone else into fighting their battles for them. For everyone else, though, it's mainly just lots and lots of reserves.
    • The Necrons also don't have reserves, since they have no way of making more of their own kind outside of converting the rare blank into a pariah. They make up for this with teleportation and auto-repair technology, ensuring that no Necron is ever permanently destroyed.
  • Even the Dark Eldar have reserves, in a weird way (though not usually in tabletop terms). Almost all of the Dark Eldar race are clones quickly and cheaply, with live born children (called Trueborn) are considered special and are pampered and taken care of (and get their own unit). Oh and if you kill one of the leaders, so long as they get some of the corpse (not all, some) back to the Haemonculi within a certain amount of time (usually a day) then the Haemonculi can regenerate their entire body. So even if you kill the leaders, they'll be back later. Some Haemonculi have consider death to be an interesting experience. Reserves indeed.
  • Just about the only faction that doesn't have reserves are the Space Marines. That said, they rarely need them, traditionally being sent in for quick strikes and special operations that the Imperial Guard can't handle alone, and if they ever do need reserves, they can just borrow some from the Guard.
  • The Skaven from good old fashioned Warhammer Fantasy Battle have a racial rule called life is cheap which lets them bypass the game's taboo for shooting into close combat. Which doesn't seem quite that impressive until you realize they're one of the few armies with ready access to Gatling guns and flame throwers in the game's renaissance setting.
    • This is a bit of an interesting example in that sacrificing their own troops is actually a necessity. Skaven are literally designed for it, breeding like the rodents they are based off of and eating more than the average human due to their high metabolisms. If not for this they would suffer from severe overpopulation and political instability (well, more than usual) as a result. Of course, this doesn't mean they aren't evil little bastards.
    • In the background Dark Elves do this with slave troops (one story has them herd their recently captured slaves onto the battlefield where they shoot them down to serve as cover, interfere with the enemies cavalry and to demoralise the enemy (it works)) though it doesn't happen in the game itself.
    • Chaos Dwarfs also have disposable slave troops, mostly Hobgoblins but other Goblinoid races as well, while they couldn't fire into combat they did have a large amount of area of effect weaponry that was fairly indescriminate, also in past itinerations they had a magic item that caused Hobgoblin heroes to explode........
  • Orcs and Goblins in Warhammer Fantasy. Green life is cheap.
    • As is that of the Bretonnian peasants. Fortunately they have longbows and can kill at distance and run away should things get queasy.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Kobolds tend to use such tactics, since they are possibly the weakest and fastest-breeding humanoid race. The soldiers are proud to do it, too.
    • This is expanded upon in the sourcebook Races of the Dragon—Kobolds intentionally cultivate the opinion that they are weak and pathetic so that people will leave them alone or otherwise underestimate them, but at the same time, an individual kobold's outlook on life is that it doesn't matter if he dies, as long as his city survives. This pseudo-communist outlook covers all of kobold society from the top down, and influences kobold city defense—the older (and thus, not as likely to breed) kobolds will happily throw themselves en masse at an enemy to give the rest of the city enough time to escape.
    • Goblins are likewise content to get mowed down en masse because they breed even faster than kobolds. Orcs do it too, but mainly just 'cause they're dumb, overconfident, and have no sense of tactics.
    • 4th Edition has a feat for players which increases the power of area attacks if you include allies in the area. Reserves or not, you're expendable if I want my +2.
      • It should be noted however that there are a lot of area attacks in 4E that ONLY target enemies. Chilling Cloud for example allows Wizards to target enemies in melee without risking damaging their allies. Invokers, Divine Controlers, specialize in these sort of 'party safe' spells and can benifit greatly from Coordinated Fire without invoking this trope.
    • In the Planescape setting, the modrons often use Zerg Rush tactics when they form into armies (which is rare) but it makes sense if you consider their Hive Mind mentality and how they reproduce.[2] The worst example is the Great Modron March (an event that occurs every few decades where a vast army circumnavigates the Great Wheel on a mission of exploration), where the dangers involved often cause them at least a 90% casualty rate. To drive this point home, Decatons - modrons who function as healers - do not participate in the March - they are regarded as unnecessary for such an endeavor.
  • The Cheiron Group in Hunter: The Vigil hire people to go capture supernatural creatures for experimentation... with their only preparations being a book filled with half-truths and outright fables. Hey, with the way the job market is, if anyone dies, we can hire new ones!
  • YOU, the player, in Paranoia. Your life in Alpha Complex will inevitably result in you dying in a number of horrible ways, but it's okay, because you have plenty of backups where that came from.
  • Eclipse Phase may or may not count for this. Given that actually dying isn't that big of a deal, and that a fair amount of character types (robots, nano-swarms, etc) probably couldn't feel pain anyway, there is certainly a healthy disregard for the value of life. Within the fiction of the rule books grazing team mates with plasma rifles to hit the bad guys, sacrificing yourself to buy time, straight up murdering a friend and exploding your head with an anti-matter bomb (all for the sake of the mission) shows up. And that's just in the first short story. Basically, everyone is totally expendable and people dying is an accepted part of the trade and just not a big deal.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has a card called "Human Wave Tactics" that allows a player to replace low-level normal (no effect) monsters at the end of the turn they're killed. (Ironically, all eligible monsters are absolutely useless offensively. Having hordes of monsters in your graveyard, however...)
  • Green or white small creature decks in Magic: The Gathering are often centered on this.

Video Games

  • Enough Plumbers, a free online platform game, has this as part of its gimmick- with the reserves being clones of the protagonist.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin plays this straight, with everyone you're supposed to dislike being shown treating their troops like, well, pawns in chess. Meanwhile, anyone sympathetic is guaranteed to give Big Bad Caulder a lecture on the importance of human life. (The one character who says nothing either way is decidedly gray in most other aspects of characterization).
    • Hawke directly uses this line of reasoning before the battle Rain Of Fire, fought around an active volcano (to force the heroes into a land battle rather than an aerial one). And he's the most sympathetic of the villains.
    • Meta example: Mech Spam tactics. These tactics involve taking advantage of the fact that, at most, one unit can kill a single unit per player phase by using large amounts of cheap, weak Mechs (as in Mechanized Infantry) to block attacks on strong but fragile artillery units, which in turn can be used to kill units who attack the Mechs.
  • Suikoden II: Luca Blight kicks off the game by slaughtering his troops under a false flag.
  • The City of Villains Mastermind Archetype, 'Traps' has a move that allows you to turn your own minions into walking bombs. If you're using Zombies or Robots, they just plain blow up, while more human minions such as mercenaries, thugs and ninjas - will try to put down the bomb and run away. Which doesn't always work very well, seeing as the bombs have pretty short fuses.
  • Command & Conquer infantry (and sometimes even tanks), thanks in particular to the Command and Conquer Economy, just mass and charge!
    • In Kane's Wrath there is a Nod subfaction, the Black Hand which even encourages this as their main tactic, given how good their infantry is, so you can eventually overwhelm nearly any enemy.
    • This trope is pretty much invoked by name in the first level of Red Alert 2's Soviet campaign when you build your first Conscript.

Lt. Sofiya: Pay no heed to casualties Comrade Commander, for every Conscript that dies in this glorious crusade, there are a thousand more eager to replace him.

  • Zerg Rush! Ironically enough, the actual Zerg don't count as this as their troops are mindless drones under a Hive Mind.
    • The Infected Marines however fit the bill, they are created merely as human bombs to do serious damage to the enemy.
    • Starcraft's Terrans - Marines had an average of 2 seconds combat time before death, which was considered totally acceptable until sheer numbers of losses started to cost more to replace them all the time. The use of Medics increased that time to a respectable 5 seconds!
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Kefka poisoned the water source that both Doma and sieging Empire troops used to break the siege by killing everyone.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Heidegger's response to a threat was to throw more troops at it. One of the most powerful SOLDIERs escaped from one of Hojo's labs and is heading for Midgar? Send out half the army to take him down! And watch as half the army is completely devastated. By the end of the game, he doesn't have any more troops to throw at the heroes, and instead goes into battle himself.
  • Both the undead and the demons in the Warcraft series follow that line of thinking. The undead because they can raise the casualties of both sides, the demons just don't care.
    • Not forgetting the human commander who sends the Blood Elves to face the Undead with no support, because "The only good nonhuman... Is a dead nonhuman", even though the Alliance is already desperately short against the Undead already.
    • World of Warcraft features the Battle for Light's Hope Chapel, where Arthas ordered his death knights to attack in order to draw out Tirion Fordring, and when he appears explains he expected them to get cut down. As death knights are his few free-willed servants, they were not pleased.
    • And then there's the Battle of Wrathgate. Horde and Alliance finally came together to fight the Lich King at the Wrathgate, but the Lich King slew Saurfang, the leader of the Horde's army, though the rest of the fighters were holding their own. Grand Apothecary Putress interceded in the fight, launching barrels of plague at the armies, forcing the Lich King to retreat...and utterly decimating the armies of both the Horde and the Alliance, as Putress walks away saying "Death to the Scourge...and death to the living." Naturally, no one's happy about that, so along with Wrynn/Thrall, you siege the Undercity and take out Putress/Varimathras (depending on faction). This act alone severed any possibility of the two factions working together, even if the Horde had nothing to do with it.
  • Disgaea encourages you to treat Prinnies this way, what with them exploding when thrown and only ever costing 1 HL to revive after battle. Doing this doesn't even count against "Allies killed" for purposes of determining which ending you get.
    • The Nintendo Hard PSP platformer spinoff Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? uses this in an interesting way: The game has no one-ups, but instead you start with 1,000 Prinnies in reserve, with the player character being whichever Prinny happens to be next in line. You're going to need every single one of those Prinnies too, since they die in a single hit on the hardest difficulty setting (and only get two extra hits on the easier difficulty).
  • A recurring theme in the entire Metal Gear series, where the Patriots, an Ancient Conspiracy, have a tendency to view anyone as disposable.
    • Although ironically, if you do kill enough soldiers and backup units in 2 & 3, you can stop worrying getting an alert raised.
  • In the "Chronicles of the Sword" mode in Soul Calibur III, your player character's emperor, Strife, becomes increasingly paranoid by your character's military successes and growing popularity, and decides to throw your character around to increasingly suicidal or demeaning battles, trying to both deny your character's unit any glory and to get them killed, despite being his empire's version of basically a Special Forces Unit. Ironically, the replacement he finds to oversee the battles you were commanding before he starts to try to get you killed screws the pooch on it so badly he'd probably have lost the war and gotten himself killed if your unit wasn't worth a damn.
  • Near the end of the 9th Fire Emblem, Ashnard purposefuly gives the Crimean Army an advantage by dividing his forces, just so he can fight Ike, because he is impressed by his strength.
    • The Begnion Senators in the sequel are even worse. They forbade retreating, ordered troops into volcanic caves just to see if the enemy was still alive, continued fighting after the majority of their forces retreated in direct violation of orders, so they executed him, their finest general, and when their particular province was attacked the units were more concerned about bounty than, say, living.
  • The generals leading the good guys in Valkyria Chronicles. The aristocratic generals really don't give a damn about the "peasant" militia and generally palm off all of the suicide missions to them. Fortunately, Welkin's superior tactical planning manages to overcome this and the generals suffer a well deserved Karmic Death.
    • Of course the heroes aren't much better, what with not giving a rat's ass about the thousands of their own countrymen dying in a blink of an eye.
  • The Total War games run on this trope, up until Rome, you didn't have any city population so as long as you can pay for them you can just keep pumping out a never ending wave of weak cheap units you can just throw at anything until it dies (in fact in the 2D game the enemy will often run away rather than agree to a fight if you have a large enough army invading). The Newer games however do, so early on your going have to use your forces wisely but once you get your economy going and a good population grow you can just send waves and waves of green peasent solders to weaken the other nations so your vets (which you want to live) can break them.
    • That said though, avoid getting the green peasants to rout. Too many units rout at once and your Vets will break quite easily.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, General Shepherd calls in an airstrike on top of his own men to stop Captain Price and Soap from getting to him.

Price: Since when does Shepherd care about danger close?

  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Darth Malak orders the destruction of Taris despite the presence of his own troops occupying the planet (cut content would have established that the Sith organized a hasty evacuation, but no reference to it remains in the final game).
    • Another example from Malak, at the finale when he learns the heroes are rampaging through his base, he orders all of his troops, including apprentices, to attack. A surprised admiral asks if he really thinks that will work, to which he scoffs and says it is only to slow them down.
  • In Star Wars Battlefront, there's a game mode called Galactic Conquest where either 1 player faces off against the computer or 2 players face each other trying to conquer planets one by one across the galaxy. Each planet conquered will give a different bonus that a player can use in battle. One of these is called secondary reinforcements and it has some elements of We Have Reserves. The way it works is that at several points in the battle when your troop count falls to a certain number you will suddenly get new troops added to the count, imitating a new wave of troops coming into battle. These troops seem to be even dumber and, (believe it or not) have worse AI than usual, but sheer numbers will often overwhelm an opponent or at least give the player a chance to kill off all the enemies or capture all the command posts by themself. (As a side note, nothing sucks more than being in a close battle, glancing up at the troop counts for both sides, seeing that both sides have about 40 troops left and thinking to yourself Hey, I can still win this only to see the other side suddenly get another 20 men added to their count. Cue the Oh Crap).
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed sums up Darth Vader's policy this way:

Juno Eclipse: I don't understand. Why would Vader allow us to destroy so many Imperial targets?
Starkiller: To sell the deception. Credits, starships, Imperial lives... they're all meaningless to Vader.

    • In the second game, Baron Tarko has a similar attitude.
  • In Overlord, this is your attitude towards your own Mooks. Fun ensues.
  • Many Real Time Strategy games will end up either encouraging this in their players, or doing so as their AI. Most noticable in the first Command & Conquer game, when using ground troops against the laser towers. Laser tower = one guaranteed dead enemy soldier, or one very heavily damaged enemy vehicle, every few seconds. Infantry = lots of 'em, I can crank them out so fast I can't deploy them fast enough, and eventually.
    • While various factions in various games incur bonuses for sacrificing troops. Examples: C&C Red Alert Yuri's Revenge where Yuri can feed troops (own or mind-controlled enemies) to the Meat Grinder for cash. Starcraft and Warcraft III where Zerg and Undead can 'eat' their own troops for energy/mana.
    • Strongly averted in Company of Heroes. The costs of getting a unit or vehicle to the frontlines is much, much more than the cost of reinforcing or repairing it (compare 270 manpower units for a basic rifle company, compared to 30 units each for each member of the squad, up to five). In addition, the American units gain veteran bonuses as they survive in combat, and veterancy only survives if the unit does: if your elite unit of riflemen are all killed, they take their elite status to the grave with them.
  • Real Time Tactics games, generally avert this trope by giving you fixed units in the game, though this gives another problem of destroyed units being Lost Forever (except in World in Conflict which allowed reinforcements to replace lost units). Some modern RTS also avoid the "We Have Reserves" type gameplay by taking psychological issues of individual units into account, which makes sending troops into suicide missions tactically prohibitive.
  • A rare example of this trope in play with a military that does value its personnel's lives is in Mass Effect. According to the Codex, fighter groups that launch torpedo bombing runs on larger ships will always suffer casualties due to virtual intelligence-controlled GARDIAN laser point defense; the only way to defeat these defenses is to overwhelm them with sheer numbers until they overheat. As a result, fighter wings always take heavy casualties when attacking an enemy fleet.
    • It should be noted though that while the first fighter waves are always hit, it's not as if everybody in the first wave dies. Indeed, because the strength of the lasers drops off the greater the distance to the target due to beam diffusion, it's rare for the GARDIAN systems to score more than a few actual kills. What generally happens instead is that the first waves of fighters take a bit of damage and are forced to return to base.
    • This is implied to be the krogan military strategy in a nutshell. There are always more krogans, forever—the only way that the Council was able to defeat them was by reducing the rate of viable pregnancies to one in one thousand, and even then, it was still enough to sustain their population.
    • Geth apparently have no survival instinct, due to being a purely software species. The geth don't have a sense of individuality, and the individual perceptions of each geth program can be shared so that all geth experience them together. As a result, geth don't place much value on individual mobile platforms; if one is destroyed, the geth in that platform transmit their memories and experiences to the nearest carrier, and that data is uploaded to the total gestalt geth Mind Hive, effectively making the geth immortal.
      • However, they aren't stupid - they will still try to preserve mobile platforms if possible in order to to maximize combat effectiveness and resources. Not to mention what happens to the programs within mobile platforms not connected to the geth collective.

'Legion': No carrier, no carrier, no carrier, no...(*thunk)]

    • If Commander Shepard has the 'Ruthless' background, his/her military claim-to-fame is being the Butcher of Torfan, where s/he ordered his/her men forward, knowing many would be gunned down, also knowing it would ensure victory. Torfan was a base used by batarian slavers responsible for hitting human colonies, and the attack is a response meant to curb this trend: Ruthless Renegade Shepard makes no apologies, as part of the "get the job done at any cost" mentality. Ruthless Paragon Shepard is somewhat haunted by the experience, but s/he believed sending a message to discourage repeats of Mindoir and Elysium was more important. Even then, Ruthless Shepard arguably crosses the Moral Event Horizon anyway - s/he also killed the batarians that had surrendered.
    • Harbinger's thoughts on losing his own troops:

Leave the dead where they fall.
The dead are useless.
Ignore the fallen.
Kill one, and one hundred will replace it.
This form is irrelevant (to his current host)

    • Well to be honest Harbinger is of a......different mindset
      • This seems to be the entire modus operandi of the Reapers when it comes to their indoctrinated servants - husks can only attack in close quarters and don't know how to take cover. How they treat the loss of actual Reapers is probably different.
    • Okeer gives us this wonderful quote:

I say let us carry the genophage with us. Let a thousand children die for every one that lives. We will climb to victory atop a mountain of our dead--for that is the krogan way.

  • In Prototype, the Blackwatch explicitly state that they are using the United States Marines as the "shock troops" for the occupation of Manhatten and the war against the infected. Their purpose is to take casualties and take the blame for the destruction of the city, to cover up Blackwatch's operations. At one point, one of the Web of Intrigue nodes indicates that Blackwatch anticipates Marine casualties per week to be between one thousand to two and a half thousand. Putting that in a perspective of modern military terms, total Coalition casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom - a full-scale war against an entire country - were less than a thousand over a month-long period.
    • The current US casualties list from March 2003 to the time of this typing (September 2009) is 4,334. That's over six years. Blackwatch figure the Marines will lose that many in about three weeks.
    • The Marines are thrown a bone in the end when they get all of the credit for saving what's left of Manhattan from the Infection and a nuke.
  • The Joker is very much like this in Batman: Arkham Asylum, leaving his cohorts in multiple lurches without batting an eyelash, making You Have Failed Me... comments as they get taken out one-by-one by Batman, and insulting anybody who fails him, including Harley Quinn. Mad Love, indeed.
  • This is one of the things that makes the Space Pirates a serious threat. Absolutely everyone is expendable, from mooks to commanders, as long as the goal is accomplished. They will blow up entire planets just to kill one person, and the troops down there are even ordered to stay so they can stall.
  • Notably averted in Original War from Altar Interactive, a RTS with RPG elements. In the single player game (and multiplayer with the right settings), every person who dies is actually Killed Off for Real. Each of them has a name, skills and a face. You know them. When any of them dies, it's a loss not just for the war cause (the reinforcements are very limited) but for you as the commander personally. Over the whole storyline - if you let four guys die in the first mission, you are going to have to do without them for the rest of the game. The Russian/Soviet faction in the game employ this trope quite a bit though and the Arabians even more so - even then though, the losses are permanent and the soldiers are not very happy about it.
  • The military tactics of Thomas "Stonewall" Flathead in Zork Zero seem to match this. He routinely took 90+% casualties in military operations (Mainly suppressing tax riots against his brother the King's 90+% income tax), and held unit strength up with unlimited conscription powers.
  • Mouri Motonari from Sengoku Basara refers to his soldiers as "pawns" and will sacrifice as many of them as needed to fulfil his plans without batting an eyelid. Heck, he even has the ability to attack his own troops in-game.
  • In the Fallout mythos, this is how the New California Republic eventually beat the Brotherhood of Steel after a long war. The Brotherhood possessed advanced technology (as the entire point to their order was to preserve technology over human life) but their elitist and isolationist nature meant that replacing their troops was difficult while the NCR was a republic free to conscript thousands of soldiers.
    • The Legion is a more straightforward example; whereas the NCR values even the most lowly recruit's livest, the Legion regards themselves as expendable and that anyone who tries to capture them will not get them alive.
  • Fear Effect. The Shop, the organization Glas used to work for, sent Glas and his entire squad on a mission. Said mission caused the squad to end up in an ambush that left them all dead or captured, except for Glas. Glas tried to order the squad to abort, but it was too late. Glas unexpectedly encounters his brother Drew and Drew shoots him in the back. Drew claims that the Shop knew that the squad would be ambushed on this mission, but it sent the squad on it anyway. Glas and his squad were not informed of this. Does anyone realize how much the idea of knowing that an ambush is going to occur and not warning anyone about it makes no sense at all?
    • In the second game, Baron Tarko has a similar attitude.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics has this happen a lot. Spells (positive or negative) target everything within a range, either centered on a tile or a character. Since spells have a timer before they are cast, it's possible to do a lot more damage to your own forced than to the enemy.
    • On some maps and party builds, using a "muddle" (bottling up enemy troops in a tight area using your own troops to block tiles moving out) to bomb the ever-loving hell out of enemies is considered a valid tactic.
  • Necromancers in Guild Wars can raise undead minions from the corpses of fallen enemies that constantly lose health. You can heal them, but the longer they live, the faster they lose health. The proper way to use them is to let them soak up most of the enemy melee attacks or using spells to make them explode when they're close to the enemy.
  • This is, essentially, how the Darkspawn fight. They're a mindless horde born by the thousands, driven by a single will. The Battle at Ostagar was doomed from the start, as their tactics relied on an enemy comprised of trained soldiers, not mindless brutes who don't care whether they live or die. That's why the Blights are so dangerous. The only way to stop them is to eliminate that will by killing the Archdemon.
  • Section 8 (video game): Prejudice: When Thorne calls in a bomber to try and kill you, it might frag some of his own troops. One of your allies points out his nonchalance about this.
  • Can be invoked by the player in Sins of a Solar Empire, especially early on. If an enemy player or CPU invades one of your planets, and you don't have a sufficiently sized fleet yet to meet them, you can start cranking out ships and send them into battle one at a time in an attempt to delay the enemy forces until your main fleet arrives, or you can build enough defenses to whittle them down. Can get expensive over time, which can be painful early on as you don't have a lot of resources coming in yet to keep making the units.
    • Alternatively, players can split their forces, and send the bulk of their forces to invade an enemy planet, while keeping a small portion behind to deal with enemy invasions, or in case their main fleet needs assistance. Which can prove to be useful should you end up fighting a multiple-front war.

Web Comics

  • As Evil Overlord Card-Carrying Villain Xykon of Order of the Stick is a very Bad Boss, he and his Dragons and allies do it repeatedly. A few examples:
    • Responding to a group of his ogres demanding to be paid by killing them and turning them into zombies.
    • Dragon Redcloak (a goblin) orders a group of hobgoblin (whom he despises) Mooks up a dangerous trail so they would cause an avalanche and ensure the safety of the others. Later he sends in unarmed troops against a guard monster, so it will fall asleep after eating them, and orders a human-wave style attack against a fortified city. After one of them dies saving his life, he realizes what he's doing and reacts with horror at what he is becoming and promptly stops the wasteful spending of lives.
    • "Sacrificing minions - is there any problem it can't solve?"
    • In the Azure City siege, the death knight has hobgoblins throw themselves at the wall and die by the hundreds so that their bodies will create a ramp he can ride up.
    • In a bonus strip from No Cure For the Paladin Blues, Xykon kills a mook who has succeeded in slaying a dragon, because the XP he gained from this elevates him beyond a simple mook now—and also makes it possible for him, as a high-level caster, to get a bit of XP that he wouldn't get for killing an unleveled mook.
  • This webcomic strip, part of the Crossover Wars.
  • Prince Ansom used this against Parson in the first book of Erfworld; and nearly succeeded, although Parson was very good at exploiting the weaknesses of that strategy:

Parson: Ansom's thinking he can overwhelm us with numbers, but that's additive. I've been playing with this combat system for a week now. And it's all about force multipliers.

  • In the end though, Parson could only defeat the Ansom's forces completely by having his Dirtamancer and Croackamancer (meaning his earth elementalist and necromancer) work together to reanimate the dead volcano they're in. This ends up destroying both armies. It leads to a long What Have I Done period for Parson.

Tarvek: If we sacrificed every minion we had, we might take out one of them.
Gil: That's a terrible plan!
Minion: Thank you, sir!
Gil: There are another twenty of them! We don't have enough minions!
Minion: Er...

Web Original

  • The SCP Foundation never seems to run out of D-class "employees", and given the length of the franchise, the claim that all of them are irredeemable death row inmates often pushes the Willing Suspension of Disbelief a little far, especially when you factor in the claim that a D-class who survives whatever experiments they are subjected to for 30 days is then executed; given what they are put through, this is often considered a Mercy Kill. A common fan theory is that there is a limited supply of such inmates and the Foundation uses cloning technology to obtain most of them; given the technology they have access too, this would be incredibly easy.

Western Animation

  • In Generator Rex, White Knight is a particularly Jerky example because not only does he sacrifice the Redshirts and tell them to their face that he was doing so, he says that they themselves should be aware of that by now, and should therefore not be offended.
  • Also played for humor in Futurama with Zapp Brannigan, who once sent, in his own words, "wave after wave" of his own men to fight the Killbots, knowing that the enemies had an exact (though horrifically high) limit of how many humans they were programmed to kill. The humor comes in that this was taken as a perfectly viable strategy by others. ("Kif, show them the medal I won.") In another instance, upon realizing that an error in judgment has resulted in all his men being killed, he reasons that at least they won't have to mourn each other.
    • In a deleted scene from Love's Labours Lost In Space a single Killbot, Corpse-A-Tron, is shown to have a kill limit of 999,999.

Bender: Sir, I volunteer for a suicide mission! (Lousy patriotism circuit!)
Brannigan: That's commendable, son, but when I'm in command, every mission is a suicide mission.

  • Another time in, he actually used this tactic with SHIPS.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: After speaking against a general's plan to throw freshly-recruited troops at the front line, not only does Prince Zuko get half his face burned off, but he gets banished and sent on a Snipe Hunt, too.
  • At the end of Beast Wars Megatron succumbs to this, killing more of his soldiers than the Maximals ever did. Presumably he assumed that when you have a giant warship and superpowers (even by Transformer standards of being big immortal war machines) you don't need a lot of help.
    • By the time of the less popular sequel series, Megatron took this to the logical extreme with his Vehicon hordes. He had so many that the Maximals tore dozens into scrap metal every battle without making a dent in his overall forces.
  • In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the general preparing for battle splits his soldiers into two operations: Operation Human Shield, consisting of the black soldiers, the all-important first attack wave expected to take heavy losses, and Operation Get Behind the Darkies, consisting of everyone else. Naturally, OHS, being lead by Chef, subverts the entire plan—by ducking.

Chef: Operation Human Shield, my ass!

    • Not to mention Operation Human Shield members were literally tied to the outside of tanks to supplement their armor!
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar special "Dr. Blowhole's Revenge", the titular villain threatens the penguins with his nearly endless supply of minions:

Dr. Blowhole: So what if they cut down ten, twenty lobsters? We've got MORE LOBSTERS!

    • His lobster minions pause in their cheering at that statement and look a little worried. King Julien however has a similar approach to tactics and doesn't look concerned at all.
  • In the Looney Tunes short “Mad as a Mars Hare”, Bugs Bunny Gets Volunteered for a mission to Mars because, as mission control bluntly tells him, “Rabbits are expendable.”


  • In more fantastical settings, most necromancers and other undead-using sorts will gleefully send legions of their troops off to get re-killed, on the basis that no actual lives are being lost. Well, except for the enemy's, of course. And that just adds to your own numbers. The dead do not kill, they recruit. (Depending on how the necromancy is represented, even the destroyed undead can be somewhat reconstituted.)
  • In Magic: The Gathering, decks built around Goblins not only employ cheap creatures whose only purpose is to get a bit of damage in at the opponent before dying any one of numerous ways, but creatures that give you beneficial effects for intentionally sacrificing them.
    • Similarly, the Rise of the Eldrazi expansion introduces Eldrazi Spawn, token creatures generated by other cards, whose sole use is to be sacrificed for mana so you can summon your ridiculously powerful but ridiculously expensive Eldrazi.
    • The Thrulls of the Fallen Empires set were treated this way by their masters the Order of the Ebon Hand. The Order's downfall began when they made two big mistakes: 1) they let the Thrulls' breeding get out of control, and 2) they started creating more intelligent and powerful Thrulls capable of using magic.
    • Just pray that this goblin deck does not include a copy of Coat of Arms...
  • The human body is like this. It creates millions of white blood cells to fight bacteria. The body continues to create blood cells until the infection is defeated.

Real Life

  • Demetrios the Besieger would throw his men at the walls of enemy cities, not out of necessity, but out of anger or thirst for glory. When his own son pointed out how his men were dying for nothing, Demetrios lashed out at him, saying "Why so distraught? Are rations due from you to the dead?"
  • An attitude similar to this served the Romans well during their expansion. While they were perhaps not as callous about it as many other examples of this trope, they were willing and able to sustain casualties that would cripple any rival state. It didn't work so well against the Germanic tribes, though.
  • The French knights deliberately chopped their way through their own crossbowmen to try and attack the English at the Battle of Crecy 1346. The Genoese crossbowmen in the French service were completely ineffective against the the English longbowmen (their belt-and-hook crossbows, while powerful, accurate and fast-firing, were considerably shorter ranged than the English longbow) and, as a result of being outranged, having been forced to march with strung crossbows in the rain, and not being able to use their heavy shields, they took heavy casualties and quite reasonably legged it. The mounted knights, "the flower of French chivalry", began slaughtering them for retreating before charging the English lines.
  • During the battle at Guilford Courthouse during the American Revolution, Lord Cornwallis found his army facing severe defeat and ordered his artillery to fire grapeshot into the mass of men on the plain, American and British alike. The tactic worked and the Americans withdrew, but at a shattering cost to Cornwallis's army.
  • In the US Civil War, Union General Grant was accused of this, being given the appellation "Butcher" Grant by some on the Union side after his high-casualty battles in Virginia. But he didn't spend his men needlessly (and deeply mourned the battle of Cold Harbour, the one high-casualty battle that was genuinely pointless), and was distinguished from previous Union generals by advancing after high-casualty battles rather than retreating, something which made the men happy because they could see they were actually making progress.
    • Official policy of the North was that, as succession was illegal, the south never left the US. Under that, Sherman's march to the sea was destroying settlements that nominally belonged to his side en masse to deny their resources to the enemy.
  • Some WWI commanders would shoot those attempting to retreat without orders, or who refused to go over the trenches. It was a sort of preemptive punishment for treason. Although the number of men so shot is grossly overexaggerated, there were men who were under two suspended sentences of death for desertion or sleeping at their posts. The armies on all sides got so sick of this that many of them mutinied late in the war and refused to take place in any further assaults on the enemy, as it always just resulted in piles of bodies and minimal progress.
    • The entire point of the WWI strategy of attrition warfare was basically "we have more reserves than them!", with the result being the "lost generation".
    • General Charles Mangin, a French division commander and Nivelle's right-hand man, is alleged to have given the following pep talk just before an attack:

"Gentlemen, we attack tomorrow. The first wave will be killed. The second also. And the third. A few men from the fourth will reach their objective. The fifth wave will capture the position. Thank you, gentlemen."

  • Hitler gave orders amounting to no retreat, no surrender to armies in both Russia and North Africa, telling them to fight to the last man. In both cases his generals and field marshals refused to follow these orders.
  • Popular belief is that this has been done frequently by the Soviet Army, although both professional and armchair historians question how much of this is truth and how much is image and propaganda.
    • The Soviet Union did have "punishment units" (also known as "prison battalions"), in which convicted (or otherwise considered even more disposable) people were assigned to lead attacks, and clear minefields by marching through them.
    • Another thing the Soviets did was to replace losses by mass impressment along the way. In fact, the notorious atrocities in Berlin were largely the responsibility of these forces, many of whom were traumatized and some of whom were criminals to begin with. The Russian vanguard behaved more or less professionally and while they treated the population roughly and helped themselves to goodies, the epidemic of gang rape was more the responsibility of troops to the rear. It wasn't so much that atrocity was the policy of the Soviet government in occupied countries (except of course when the NKVD was rounding up usual suspects that the government specifically wanted). It was more that they did not give a hoot. Partly because Stalin, was, well, Stalin. And partly because it had been an extremely bloody war for them in any event.
    • Their army recruitment slogan at the time was "Die For Russia".
    • While probably not senselessly throwing away troops that were considered replaceable, this actually was the primary reason for the Soviet victory and Germany losing the war. Even with Soviet casualties much higher then the German ones, and the Wehrmacht having far superior equipment in most cases, in 1943 it became clear that the soviets would be able to win just by keeping to press forward until the Germans were exhausted.
  • The official policy of Egypt in the War of Attrition 1967-1970, after they lost the Six Day War. As said by President Nasser:

"If the enemy succeeds in inflicting fifty-thousand casualties in this campaign, we can go on fighting nevertheless, because we have manpower reserves. If we succeed in inflicting ten-thousand casualties, he will unavoidably find himself compelled to stop fighting, because he has no manpower reserves."

  • During the First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein believed that the lesson from the Vietnam War was that Americans wouldn't support a war that would cost them 10,000 casualties. He, meanwhile, had hundreds of thousands to spare and none of his subjects could protest the attrition. It turns out that Vietnam was a very different set of circumstances, and Hussein suffered as many as 30,000 dead and his armies were all but obliterated, while only inflicting 392 deaths on the enemy.
  • In nature, reproductive strategies are split between animals that have a small number of young and raise them carefully, and ones that have lots of young (or, typically, lay lots of eggs) and don't care for them at all, trusting that there are enough that some will survive. The latter strategy is a lot less energy-intensive and is generally used by more basic and short-lived species, while the former is particularly common among some birds and nearly all the larger mammals.
  • A more subtle phenomenon happens in a war between comparable powers: that is powers capable of copying or countering each other, rather then having an inimitable weapon like the Hordes From the East did, when one starts with a performance advantage and one with a material advantage. The casualty rise on the first will sooner or later reach a point where it will counter the performance, because for instance officers will bleed off and the turnover will include large amounts of New Meat. In the meantime the second power will start to learn from the First; the excess of officers who have seen and survived the first power's tricks will end up promoted. As a result performance changes until the materially superior power is also qualitatively superior.
    • For instance, in the beginning of the Pacific War, Japan was unquestionably superior in quality (it was also superior in material actually available but more was waiting to come on line for the Allies). They won a number of spectacular victories. In late 1942 through 1943 the odds were even but the Allies were getting better in both quality and quantity. And after that the Allies pretty much had the whip hand.
  • In the Strategic Bombing Campaign over Europe in World War II the US Eighth Air Force won by finally figuring out that trying to hit a "pinpoint" target from a heavy bomber was like trying to hit a nearby telephone line from a passing subway train by throwing a golf ball while being hit on the head with a golf club (and in any case the bomb was likely to land on some poor schmuck, which is one reason they headed for cities where there was a multiplicity of poor schmucks). In any event, tactics were changed to make the bombers the bait and provoke as many dogfights as possible on the assumption that Germans would run out of planes and pilots first.
    • Note, though, that is not the technical definition of the term "reserves". Reserves are units hoarded to bandage a breech in your line or exploit one broken in the enemies. The technical term for "trading casualties until the superior force wins" is "attrition", although that is only one context of the term. Thus using your reserves for We Have Reserves is usually suboptimal although it sometimes cannot be avoided.
      • There is an indirect relation between the two concepts. As a weaker army starts to be unable to take the stress of combat it will be tempted to draw on reserves until it is out. "We have reserves" really means "they have none." The result to use a gross allegory is rather like a starving man dissolving his muscle when all the fat is gone. When that point comes however there is no more need for attrition because the superior force can do basically whatever it wants to with it's reserves, and what it wants to do will usually be to launch a blitzkrieg. It is to be noted that there are all kinds of ways to arrange this some both more humane (so to speak) and more clever and artistic then merely killing off Cannon Fodder. For instance in World War II The Allies made an effort to lure as many enemy units as possible to be out of place doing nothing when the blow fell, thus effectively getting the same results as a Verdun wannabee. This did not always work of course and there was a lot of hard fighting to do in any event. But that shows the link between We Have Reserves and the actual use of reserves-as well as how cleverness can subvert this trope.
  • Iran in the Iran-Iraq War is documented to have cleared minefields by gathering up spare children, then telling them to go forward and become martyrs.
  1. Specifically, he's chewed out for acting to minimize Janissary casualties out of an emotional concern for their well-being, as opposed to a pragmatic motive of avoiding wastage.
  2. When a modron dies, its body turns to dust and its life force is absorbed by Primus. Then, a modron of the rank immediately below the slain one evolves to fill the slain modron's position, and then a modron below that one's position is promoted, and so on down the ladder, until a new monodrone is created from within Primus.